Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fangs, Camera, Action!

In Morganville, Texas, Someone is Always Watching.

Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, life has changed- dramatically. The resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedoms, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again- almost.

Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theater company. Yet when one of Eve’s cast mates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. As she and Claire investigate, they soon realize that not only is the subject of the film the vampires themselves, but that this project is a whole lot bigger- and much more dangerous than anyone suspected.

Title: Fade Out
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires, Book 7
Start & Finished: 12/26/09-12/27/09
Published: November 3, 2009
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 237
Genre: YA-Paranormal

NOTE: Seventh book so their may be spoilers below!

The Big Bad from the previous books in Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series has been vanquished but that doesn’t mean that everything is rosy in town. Fade Out explores the darker parts in the underbelly of Morganville and of course, Claire is smack dab in the middle of it as usual.

After the big story arc of the series ended in Carpe Corpus, I had every confidence that Caine could continue to wow her readers in Fade Out and I was right! It wasn’t the best book in this series but it’s at least second best… especially since again, there is no cliffhanger! The author did leave one or two plot threads that I’m sure we’ll get the answers to in later books but there aren’t any really big ones. Fade Out actually reminded me of Eagle Eye more than anything but I still thought Ada made a delightfully good bad guy (it‘s established in Carpe Corpus, the previous book)… and she’s not the only one either!

There was one thing I wasn’t that crazy about in the book and though I’ll always love Claire (especially since she has grown up so incredibly much since Glass Houses), for the first time we get to see just how jealous she can be. I didn’t blame her because Kim definitely wasn’t one of my favorite people but it was a bit too much at times for me. I really hope that less action (which, if you’ve read the series you know that’s not saying much because in the previous stories every page is action-packed) doesn’t necessarily mean more drama and angst.

This is the seventh book in this series so I wouldn’t advise starting here even if the story can almost stand alone because you miss many important plot points. Also, you may not quite ‘get’ Myrnin without a little back-story and he’s one of the best secondary characters. Besides, this is an incredible series so you won’t be wasting your time here. I’m really hoping that Ms. Caine writes in the play (A Streetcar Named Desire) being rehearsed in this book in the next story Kiss of Death!

“You ever feel like your life is kind of out of control?”
“I just went to work for a vampire, was scared by a spider, and got knocked down by a tanning bomb. And that’s just my day, not my week.”

Morganville Vampires
1. Glass Houses (2006)
2. Dead Girl's Dance (2007)
3. Midnight Alley (2007)
4. Feast of Fools (2008)

5. Lord of Misrule (2008)
6. Carpe Corpus (2009)
7. Fade Out (2009)
8. Kiss of Death (2010)

First Paragraph: Eve Rosser’s high-pitched scream rang through the entire house, bouncing off every wall, and, like a Taser applied to the spine, it brought Claire out of a pleasant, drowsy cuddle with her boyfriend.

Rachel Caine & Morganville Vampire Wikipedia
Fanpop Morganville Vampires

Rachel Caine blog

Ellz Reads

Source: Bought with Christmas gift card at Barnes and Noble

Picture Explanations
Bunny Slippers: Myrnin has a very odd sense of fashion…
Limo: The vampires of Morganville usually travel in style.
Spider: Ada sends these after Claire.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The War is Almost Over

Welcome to Morganville, Texas. Don’t stay out after dark.

In the small college town of Morganville, vampires and humans lived in (relative) peace-- until all the rules got rewritten when evil vampire Bishop arrived, looking for the lost book of vampire secrets. He’s kept a death grip on the town ever since.

Now an underground resistance is brewing, and in order to contain it, Bishop must go to even greater lengths. He vows to obliterate the town and all its inhabitants-- the living and the undead. Claire Danvers and her friends are the only ones who stand in his way. But even if they defeat Bishop, will the vampires be content to go back to the old rules after having had such a taste of power?

Title: Carpe Corpus
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires, Book 6
Start & Finished: 12/26/09
Published: June 2, 2009
Publisher: JAM
Pages: 241
Genre: YA- Paranormal

NOTE: This is the sixth book in this series so while I really tried not to post any spoilers whatsoever one or two may have slipped through.

The first story arc of Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampire series comes to a close in the sixth book Carpe Corpus. The title means Seize the Body and it refers to the main plots of the book: "Bishop’s struggle to take over Morganville and the fighting that goes on around it [as well as] the relationship between Claire and Shane."

“Dark places in Morganville really were full of things that could eat you,” and it’s been that way long before Claire Danvers came to the town and accidentally stumbled upon the fact that the vampires are the ones in charge. Now however, Morganville is hell and more dangerous than ever but when things hit rock bottom they can only go up… right? Well, Ms. Caine answers that question in the course of the book with very little downtime (though what time there is its pretty good) in the mad rush to the finish.

With Bishop and his minions, a “living, steam-operated Frankenstein of a [vampire] computer, built out of wood and scraps”(Ada was created by Myrnin who I really has bigger parts in future stories), and a desperately needed cure almost within reach, it’s little wonder that I have to replace Feast of Fools (#4) as my favorite book in this series. I have heard this story compared to Buffy a few times (most stories like this usually are) but Claire reminds me of season one to two of Willow more than anything but a whole lot more gutsy.

Being the wrap up story to this particular storyline means it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and everything is resolved for the first time in this series history. The Morganville Vampires is far from over though and though Rachel Caine says she doesn’t have a “roadmap” after Fade Out (which she claims really is a true stand-alone story), since she had planned on ending the series after this book but I’m sure she still has a lot of plans left for one of my favorite series.

”Dad. Don’t try to tell me I’m too young. I know what I feel about Shane.”
“I’m not trying to do that at all,” her father said. “I’m trying to tell you that right now, being in love with any boy in this town is dangerous. Being in love with that boy is suicidal. I wouldn’t be thrilled under normal circumstances, and this isn’t even close to normal.”

Morganville Vampires
1. Glass Houses (2006)
2. Dead Girl's Dance (2007)
3. Midnight Alley (2007)
4. Feast of Fools (2008
5. Lord of Misrule (2008)
6. Carpe Corpus (2009)
7. Fade Out (2009)
8. Kiss of Death (2010)

First 2 Paragraphs: “Happy birthday, honey!”
In the glow of the seventeen candles on Claire’s birthday cake, her mother looked feverishly happy, wearing the kind of forced smile that was way too common around the Danvers house these days.

Rachel Caine & Morganville Vampire Wikipedia
Fanpop Morganville Vampires
Rachel Caine blog

YA Reads
SF Signal
The Ya Ya Yas

Source: This was bought with a gift card I got for my birthday/Christmas present

Picture Explanations
Morganville Sign: Cute isn’t it?
Common Grounds: Claire has two important scenes in Oliver’s coffee house.
Bloody Fingers: We learn the way to get in touch with your vampire Protector is to smear your blood on their bracelet. It is not a pleasant experience!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have a Furry Christmas!

Let’s face it- the holidays can bring out the beast in anyone. They are particularly hard if you’re a lycanthrope. Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner have harvested the scariest, funniest, saddest werewolf tales, by an outstanding pack of authors, best read by the light of a full moon and with a silver bullet close at hand.

Whether wolfing down a holiday feast (use your imagination) or craving some hair of the dog on New Year’s morning, the werewolves in these and eleven more frighteningly original stories will surprise, delight, amuse, and scare the pants of readers who love a little wolfsbane with their mistletoe.

Title: Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
Editor: Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner
Start & Finished: 12/12/09-12/23/09
Published: October 7, 2008
Publisher: ACE
Pages: 340 (total)
Genre: Anthology-Paranormal/ Christmas

With the success of the birthday/ vampire themed anthology Many Bloody Returns, Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner decided to do another themed anthology with stories contributed by authors from various genres. After batting around a few ideas (zombies and Arbor Day for one), it was decided that the theme for their latest anthology would be called Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (ironically both poisonous plants). As you can probably concur from the title, the stories featured within are about werewolves and Christmas. A werewolf is not a “big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth” and though some of these authors have never published paranormal before, none make the mistake of making the Weres cuddly creatures.

Vamps and birthdays? And now Weres and Christmas? What will these ladies think of next? Mummies and Valentine’s Day? Somehow it wouldn’t surprise me a bit and I can already see the title: All Wrapped Up in You. Both of these anthologies are odd (yet incredibly unique) ideas but they inspired some great authors to contribute incredibly fun stories. Some are just set around Christmas, some add to well-established Christmas legends, and a few even twist those legends but all were amazingly good.

Title: Gift Wrap
Author: Charlaine Harris
Pages: 18

In New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris’s “Gift Wrap,” Sookie Stackhouse is all alone for Christmas and feeling mighty sorry for herself, until she has an unexpected encounter with someone who has bigger problems than loneliness.

Sookie Stackhouse; the heroine of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mystery series (which recently became the hit HBO show True Blood) is having a boring Christmas Eve in Gift Wrap thinking about how alone she is, when she decides she needs “a mission, a project, a task, [or] a diversion.” She got just that when she comes across a “naked, bleeding, muddy” man in her woods named Preston. After helping him to safety, Sookie decides to keep him safe when his attackers come back for him. Since she enjoys protecting and helping people this is a perfect tailored Christmas gift for her!

It isn’t necessary to have read any of the books in the series to enjoy Gift Wrap though there are a few slight spoilers to show where the story takes place (probably right after From Dead to Worse, the eighth book). I thought that this was one of the oddest short stories I’ve ever read by Charlaine Harris (I actually discovered her books via an anthology several years ago) but I did enjoy learning a tiny bit more about the fae and Sookie’s grandfather that are only a recent addition to the series. Preston is pretty much a throwaway character that we’ll never see again but I did think he was better than some of Sookie’s previous beaus.

First Paragraph: It was Christmas Eve. I was all by myself.

Title: The Haire of the Beast
Author: Donna Andrews
Pages: 7

An unnamed girl agrees to translate a spell for her brother Tom to turn into a werewolf but decides to take it for a test run on her ex-boyfriend first because “if the spell didn’t work, the powder would give him only a few stomach cramps,… and if it did work, it wouldn’t be Tom hauled in by Animal Control and maybe waking up in a cage.” The Haire of the Beast is the first paranormal story by the mystery writer Donna Andrews; she is the author of two series: The Meg Langslow stories and the Turing Hopper.

Revenge is a dish best served… furry. The Haire of the Best was a really fun story! Ms. Andrews had never published a paranormal story before but she did a great job with this one. It still “sounded” like her since it took a more academic approach to the werewolf thing. So far as I know it’s not related to her series characters at all though I think it would be something Meg would find amusing!

First Sentence: “Why on earth would you want to be a werewolf?” I asked.

Title: Lucy, at Christmastime
Author: Simon R. Green
Pages: 4

Sitting and “drinking wormwood brandy in Strangefellows, the oldest bar in the world,” Leo Morn sits talking to the same person as he does every year on Christmas Eve, his Lucy. Simon R. Green’s Lucy, at Christmastime is the shortest story contributed to the Wolfsbane and Mistletoe collection.

Mr. Green is a new author for me so I’d like to know if the world featured in Lucy, at Christmastime is one from this author’s various series because it seemed really neat with the fairies, the demon girl reporter, and various others. This story honestly couldn’t be longer than four pages because it’s so sad and upsetting. I really only enjoyed the descriptions of that world’s inhabitants (especially Rudolph who is “lying slumped and extremely drunk in a corner, muttering something about unionization.”) which is why I’d like to try a book by this author some day.

First Sentence: You never forget your first; and mine was Lucy.

Title: The Night Things Changed
Author: Dana Cameron
Pages: 27

Brother and sister, werewolf and vampire respectively and as the rest of their kind the Fangborn do, each work to save the world from evil. In The Night Things Changed however, the new evil they are hunting just happens to be something new that they aren’t quite prepared to deal with… Dana Cameron is the author of the Emma Fielding archaeological mysteries and is a professional archaeologist herself.

The world building that Dana Cameron does in so short amount of time is really astonishing. The werewolves and the vamps in The Night Things Changed are called Fangborn, also known as “Pandora’s Orphans, the ones the ancients called ‘Hope,’ supposedly trapped at the bottom of the box.” However, according to the actual Fangborn legends, “the first Fangborn got out, and it’s a good thing they did too, for when evil is released into the world, so was means of destroying it. Vampires and werewolves, the first to clean the blood and ease the pain, the second to remove irredeemable evil when [they] find it.” I really wasn’t prepared for this story since I have actually read a book by this author before and didn’t enjoy it very much. I can tell you that if she ever decided to switch from mystery to paranormal, she definitely could!

First Paragraph: I pounded up the stairs to the roof and slammed open the door; the wintry air lashed my face. My sister the vampire was stretched out on her stomach, nearly naked, under the pale December sun.

Title: The Werewolf Before Christmas
Author: Kat Richardson
Pages: 22

He knows when you’ve been naughty, he knows when you’ve been nice and Matthias is definitely on the naughty list this year! After chowing down on Rudolph, Mattie finds himself leading Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve and using his keen werewolf sense of smell since his nose isn’t so bright… completely against his will though. He might as well be related to Ebenezer Scrooge! The Werewolf Before Christmas is Kat Richardson’s first werewolf story though the heroine of her Greywalker paranormal detective series has come up against some other creatures that go bump in the night.

The author did a fair bit of research on old Kris Kringle/Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas (among many other names he goes by that make it into the story) and managed to incorporate those little nuggets throughout the story yet Richardson manages not to get too bogged down with details either. The idea of a werewolf leading Santa’s sleigh could have made this story into a comedy but it really wasn’t and that’s what makes it so unique. I’ve read the first book in Richardson’s Greywalker series and though I really loved it I still haven’t gotten around to picking any of the others up. Thanks to this great short story I might be doing that sooner rather than later.

First Sentence: ‘Twas the night before Christmas- well, the late afternoon, in fact, but who could tell at the North Pole in the middle of winter- and Matthias the werewolf was knee-deep in reindeer guts.

Title: Fresh Meat
Author: Alan Gordon
Pages: 27

Someone is hunting werewolves this Christmas and has found one in guard dog trainer Sam Lehrmann… they didn’t count on his close connection with his canines though! Alan Gordan is the author of the Fools' Guild Mystery series and Fresh Meat was his first werewolf story. He has said that he has plans for writing a book with these characters soon.

Stories about dogs that act almost human have always fascinated me which is why I wasn’t at all surprised with how much I enjoyed Fresh Meat. I had never even heard of this author before but I was impressed with how easily the story flowed since he keeps you guessing right up until the very end. This wasn’t even a mystery yet everything is revealed in increments.

First Paragraph: “Your order is ready, Mister Lehrmann,” called Bert, emerging from the back room wiping his hands on a bloody towel. “Two sides of beef, so fresh they were mooing yesterday.”

Title: Il Est Ne`
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Pages: 27

In New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn's "Il Est Ne'," Kitty is stuck spending Christmas alone in a Waffle House, until she ends up playing Christmas angel to a brand-new werewolf. But when dead bodies start to stack up like pancakes, she has to decide if he's been nice or very naughty.

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the Kitty Norville series which is about a werewolf who happens to be a radio talk show host and Il Est Ne’ takes place right before the third book Kitty Takes a Holiday. Her holiday this year isn’t very jolly but she does get to do what she does best- help someone. Even if there is no place like home for the holidays, Kitty helps make being on the road bearable.

The Kitty books are among my favorite werewolf series to date so I was very excited to see a story by her included in the collection. Besides Patricia Briggs and Charlaine Harris, she’s the reason why I wanted to read Wolfsbane and Mistletoe in the first place. This was a great little story that has no real bearing on the actual series but yet fits entirely in that world so it makes a great read while waiting for the next book in the Kitty series to come out.

First Paragraph: Hugging himself, shivering, David curled up under the reaching bows of a pine tree. A moonlit drift of snow glowed silver just a few feet away, outside his shelter. More snow was falling, and he was naked. If he simply relaxed, he wouldn’t be that cold. But he was afraid. More afraid every time this happened.

Title: The Perfect Gift
Author: Dana Stabenow
Pages: 13

This isn’t the first short story by Dana Stabenow I’ve read since she contributed to the anthology And the Dying is Easy but like a few other authors’ in this anthology The Perfect Gift is her first story with a werewolf in it. Set in her home state of Alaska (just like all of her work), there have been several killings that look like they were done by animals when Detectives Lobison and Romanov get a tip that will lead one of them into a whole new world.

Another fairly short story, also with serial killers in it, The Perfect Gift wasn’t a very noteworthy addition to the collection. I did find the beginning interesting, especially when I re-read it after I finished the story but there isn’t very much concentration on that. It’s a pity Stabenow didn’t play that part up a little because I felt like this story ended a bit too abruptly.

First Sentence: “They’re overgrazing their range.”

Title: Christmas Past
Author: Keri Arthur
Pages: 25

In “Christmas Past,” by New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur, Hannah gets an unmerry-- and possibly life-threatening-- Christmas present when the hunky werewolf who dumped her last Christmas Eve turns up as her partner on a hunt for a vampire serial killer.

There is a vampire out there sucking Christmas donation collectors dry in the story Christmas Past and it has caught the attention of the Para-investigations squad. Hannah's a human who can sense evil and her partner on this case just happens to be her ex. While staking out for the vamp and reminding herself constantly, "No. He's bad for our health and we don't like him, remember?" Poor Hannah has got it rough this year!

The best thing about anthologies is getting a small taste of an author’s work to whet your appetite for more and that’s exactly what happened when I read Christmas Past. I vaguely remember hearing about Keri Arthur here and there but now I certainly know what the fuss is about! By the second page I was already invested in these characters, so much so that I thought for sure that they had their own series. Unfortunately that’s not the case but there is several other series she has written that have the same elements in it.

First Sentence: Normally, I love Christmas.

Title: SA
Author: J. A. Konrath
Pages: 40

The longest story in this collection, J.A. Konrath’s SA is of course about a werewolf who is just finding out what he is and that he’s been eating bad people but also about a group of therianthropes (humans who morph into animals such as a boar, a cheetah, a tortoise, and even coral) too. Oh and “Kris Kringle and his magic red suit are using Satan’s Claws- which became Santa Claus over time- to kill therianthropes with the help of… the Salvation Army.”

SA started off extremely gross but it got much more interesting pretty fast and though it was mostly a silly story I still found parts of it funny. Other parts were a bit ridiculous but on the whole… no, it was still ridiculous. I still have to give credit for it being the most original, if slightly out there story in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe though.

First Sentence: Robert Weston Smith walked across the snow-covered parking lot carrying a small plastic container of his poop.

Title: The Star of David
Author: Patricia Briggs
Pages: 28

#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs’s lone wolf David Christiansen mends fences with his daughter and gives a young man an unusual Christmas gift he’s sure never to forget in “The Star of David.”

Author of the Mercedes Thompson series Patricia Briggs has written a wonderfully interesting story starring a minor character from her first Mercy book in The Star of David. David is a werewolf that is estranged from his daughter when one of the kids that her foster agency placed has a bit of a problem and she only knows of one person to call… papa.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy and Alpha & Omega books are both some of my absolute favorite paranormal series which is why I was so eager to read her story in this collection. It’s been awhile since I read Moon Called but I still remembered David from it. I’m so glad that she decided to explore his character further and if she ever decides to write another series about the werewolf mercenary I’ll be one of the first in line to pick them up.

First Paragraph: “I checked them out myself,” Myra snapped. “Have you ever just considered that your boy isn’t the angel you thought he was?”

Title: You’d Better Not Pyout
Author: Nancy Pickard
Pages: 22

Nancy Pickard is another mystery author who has never written about the supernatural before contributing her story You’d Better Not Pyout. In it, two Russian vampires decide that Santa Claus must be a vampire himself and go to the North Pole to get set up for life only things don’t exactly go their way…

The werewolf in this story was more interesting than the vampires in my opinion but it seemed like she had a smaller part. This was another evil Santa story but I liked it a whole lot more than the others because the idea of a vampire Santa actually makes sense. A very interesting take on the Santa myth so well done Ms. Pickard!

First Sentence: “I’m telling you,” Pasha argued, “it explains everything.”

Title: Rogue Elements
Author: Karen Chance
Pages: 34

In Karen Chance’s Rogue Elements someone is kidnapping werewolves, and not just any wolves at that: every one is the daughter of an important clan leader. Desperate to find his daughter, Sebastian Arnou does the unthinkable: he goes to the War Mage Corps, and although they agree to help, few have much experience with Weres. The exception is disgraced war mage Lia de Croissets, whose mother happened to be a high ranking member of an important Were clan. Someone with a werewolf mother isn’t much trusted by the Corps, and a mage with a human father is equally suspect as far as the clans are concerned. But her knowledge of Were customs and her background in human magic make Lia unmistakably the best person for the job. Whether they will be enough to keep her alive is another matter.

This was a surprisingly complex short story that feels a bit like a novel and I enjoyed every second of it. I’m not sure if this world relates to Karen Chance’s two series or not but I’ve been wanting to try her books for awhile now and I think I may just have to do that soon. If she manages to make a short story so detailed I can only imagine what a full-length novel would be like. Rogue Elements was easily one of the best stories in the collection.

First Paragraph: “There’s no such thing as a half werewolf,” I said, trying not to growl. I’d been dreading this conversation for six months. It figured my boss would wait until now to bring it up. Way to ruin my Christmas Eve.

Title: Milk and Cookies
Author: Rob Thurman
Pages: 19

The first young adult story in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe is Rob Thurman’s Milk and Cookies and it’s the story about a thirteen year old boy dealing with a bully around the holidays. He’s also trying to make his little sister’s Christmas a happy one too.

A slightly disturbing story but I still liked it and I had a feeling I knew what the big twist was all along too. Still, it was quite a bit different from most of the stories included in this collection. I almost hesitate calling this a “young adult” story since it does feel a bit younger than that but only at times since the main character Nicky is a bit older than his years. This was the first time I had ever even heard of this author before but I’m a bit curious now so I may pick up the first in her Cal and Niko Leandros series.

First Sentence: Christmas sucked.

Title: Keeping Watch Over His Flock
Author: Toni L.P. Kelner
Pages: 18

A recent contributor to the paranormal world with her vampire short story in Many Bloody Returns and the co-editor of Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, Toni L. P. Kelner takes her first stab at writing about werewolves in Keeping Watch Over His Flock and what a stab it is! This is the only other young adult story where the teen in it is spending Christmas with the Alpha of his new pack when a young girl goes missing in town.

There was so much I loved about Keeping Watch Over His Flock such as Dogwarts (yes, like Hogwarts only for werewolves and no, that’s not the official name), the fact that though it takes practice the wolves can change into just about anything and I really loved the pack’s story of the first werewolf and how it tied into the traditional Christmas story too. Easily one of my favorite stories in the whole collection so it’s fitting that Wolfsbane and Mistletoe ends on a high note.

First Paragraph: Maybe half the members of the pack were in wolf form, with the others still human, and Jake wasn’t sure which he would rather look at- the bared teeth or the stern frowns. So instead he aimed his answers at the Christmas tree with its twinkling lights. There was something unreal about having his whole life decided in front of a Christmas tree, but that’s what happened when you broke virtually all of a werewolf pack’s rules on Christmas Eve.

Picture Explanations
Shotgun: Sookie protects Preston. “ ‘Oooo, I’m scared,’ said the Man Mountain in an assumed falsetto. But as I swung open the front door and he got a look at the shotgun, I could see that he truly did look as if he was having second thoughts. Good.”
Brownies: The girl in the story puts the concoction into brownies and leaves them on her ex-boyfriend’s porch.
Bar: The setting of the story
T-Shirt: Claudia wears this in her story
Bishop of Myra: Also known as Santa Claus among other things is one of the main characters in this story.
Doberman: The main character trains all kinds of guard dogs, this is Waldo.
Waffle House: Kitty meets a new werewolf at a Waffle House
Wolf: The werewolves are out on Christmas Eve
Elf Shoe: Hannah dresses up as a donation elf to catch the killer and she really hates the shoes!
Salvation Army: The helpers of the evil Santa Claus
Wolf: David in wolf form “the perfect killing machine covered with four-inch-deep, red-gold fur.” African Wild Dog: A pack of these take Ingrid in as a baby when her parents abandoned her after learning that she is a werewolf.
Christmas in Front of the Fire: There is a really important scene that takes place at a Christmas party.
Cookies: Nicky’s little sister still believes in Santa.
Rudolph: He doesn’t guide Santa’s sleigh in this one!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Muppets Take On Dickens

Charles Dickens' classic holiday story sparkles with humor and whimsy in the hands of the always hilarious Muppets! Michael Caine stars as penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge in a performance that's anything but "bah humbug!" Alone on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by ghosts who transport him to his past, present and future- and that's not a pretty sight! but along the way he comes upon poor, kind, humble, Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) and his famly, including Tiny Tim who teaches Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas. Complete with original music and dazzling special effects, this heartfelt holiday movie is exceptional entertainment your family will enjoy for every Christmas to come.

Title: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Release: December 11, 1992
Genre: Family- Christmas
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Writer: Jerry Juhl
Director: Brian Henson
Music By: Miles Goodman & Paul Williams
Produced By: Martin G. Baker & Brian Henson
Distributed By: Jim Henson Company & Buena Vista Pictures
Run Time: 89 minutes
Muppet Official Site

There is no other book that has been adapted quite as much as Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and yet there always seems to be a way to make a fresh unique version and none more so than The Muppet Christmas Carol. This first Muppet film to be made after Jim Henson’s death as well as his son Brian Henson’s directing debut but it certainly doesn’t show it. “The idea of putting the Muppets in a Dickensian, which is a very dark world in a Dickensian London, it seemed that that was going to be the dynamic of the picture all the way through. The light irreverent tone of the Muppets crashing with the heavy tone of Dickens.”

Michael Caine is such a wonderful actor and according to Brian Henson, he was one of the first choices for the part. I’m honestly not sure if it’s because of his performance or because it’s him and I’ve always liked him as an actor but when Scrooge starts to cry I couldn’t help but tear up myself! Kermit is easily my second favorite character (he plays Bob Cratchit) in this film but there are quite a few original Muppets in the film too. Most of those such as the Ghost of Christmas Past, I found to be quite creepy looking (actually the Ghost of Christmas Future won’t be winning any beauty contests either) but I just love the voice (Jessica Fox) for it. According to the director, this puppet was probably one of the most difficult ones in the entire film since she was filmed in a tank of baby oil (but eventually changed to water) however, it did pull off a very ethereal look. The Ghost of Christmas Present is the absolute best character though. He’s a huge, jolly, and very fun character and his song Feel’s Like Christmas is my second favorite in the film.

Paul Williams did an incredible job writing the songs for this movie, especially the first number Scrooge, One More Sleep till Christmas, Thankful Heart (performed wonderfully by Michael Caine whose exuberance is what makes it so special), and Feels Like Christmas. How these songs haven’t become more popular is beyond me. The other composer Miles Goodman did an equally good job writing the evocative score of the film too. His work in this film has “well-known Christmas carols sprinkled all through it” but a good bit was original material and I really liked it.
Compared to any other Muppet movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol looks a bit more like Muppet Treasure Island since they both have the same production, set, and photography designers. However, the similarities end there since “by having Gonzo play Charles Dickens it allowed Jerry Juhl really to write the most faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol.” This may be “wacky” adaptation of the classic with all those Muppets running around but a good majority of the dialogue and characters are taken straight from the book. Somehow, the Muppets just work in this film because they aren’t treated any differently than the human actors but they are just different enough that little jokes and comedic pieces (such as when Rizzo falls in a bucket of water and comes out as a ratsicle) aren’t out of place or out of left field. I may not have seen too many adaptations of Charles Dicken’s wonderful story but I have a feeling that this may just be one of the best.

Featured Songs
One More Sleep Till Christmas
Marley And Marley
When Love Is Gone (not in theatrical release)
It Feels Like Christmas
Bless Us All
Thankful Heart

Finale - When Love Is Found / It Feels Like Christmas

Muppet Wikia and Wikipedia articles

2000-Brian Henson (director)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dysfunctional Family Get Hijacked On Christmas

Denis Leary plays an unfortunate cat burglar, who is abandonded by his partner in the middle of a heist and is forced to take an irritating Connecticut couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) hostage. He soon finds that he got more than he bargained for when the couple's blackmailing son and despicable in-laws step into the picture. Before long they're driving him nuts with their petty bickering and family problems. The only way for him to survive is to be their referee and resolve their differences before he can be nabbed by the police.

Title: The Ref
Release: March 9, 1994
Genre: Christmas Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Writer: Marie Weiss & Richard LaGravenese
Director: Ted Demme
Music By: David A. Stewart
Produced By: Ronald M. Bozman, Jerry Bruckheimer, & Jeffrey Weiss
Distributed By: Touchstone Pictures
Run Time: 93 minutes

The Ref aka Hostile Hostages, isn't a traditional holiday film. It isn't meant to warm the cockles of your heart... maybe the "sub-cockle area" perhaps, but mostly it's just a vehicle for Denis Leary being his hilarious self ("Lady, your husband ain't dead. He's hiding," which he says to the Llyod's (played by Kevin Spacey) mean mother) with a bit of Christmas thrown in here and there.

Poor Gus (Denis Leary)! He kidnaps a couple (Kevin Spacey & Judy Davis) with no intentions of harming them just to realize he has kidnapped one of the most dysfunctional families in Connecticut. Many critics disliked this rough little gem saying that "too much animosity [had] been fueld [throughout the film] for everything to be tidied up in a cinematic speech or two" and though I can see how they arrived at that conclusion, I just can't concur (though the ending between Gus and the family seemed a little unrealistic to me). I've always felt like Leary pretty much became this dysfunctional couple's marriage counselor and Dr. Denis Leary (sorry, Gus as he is known in The Ref) made them work out there differences instead of yelling at each other constantly, though there is still a ton of that.

There were a few problems with the movie though such as how annoying all the extra unneeded characters are: drunk Santa, the Lieutenant that Jesse (the son who is played by Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.) blackmails, and practically everything having to do the police. I mean, did we really need to see the cops sit around and watch It’s a Wonderful Life? Still, The Ref has been one of my favorite movies to watch during the holidays for years and it will continue to be so too.

The movie script

Fan Trailer:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Haunted by Her Past

The Movie Town Theater is holding its first ever Film Noir Festival, with Penelope Thornton-McClure handling book sales for the guest speakers, including screen actress Hedda Geist. The legenday femme fatale has been out of the spotlight for decades. Unfortunately, the moment she steps back into it, she’s nearly killed. Then other guests start to die, and Penelope wants to know why her little town’s film noir weekend has taken a truly dark turn.

With local police on the wrong track, Penelope enlists the help of Jack Shepard, PI. Okay, so Jack hasn’t had a heartbeat since 1949, when he was gunned down in what is now Pen’s store. But the hard-boiled ghost actually remembers Hedda’s dark past and Penelope is sure he can help solve this case-- even if he and his liscense did expire more than fifty years ago…

Title: The Ghost and the Femme Fatale
Author: Alice Kimberly
Series: Haunted Bookshop, Book 4
Start & Finished: 12/4/09- 12/6/09
Published: May 6, 2008
Publisher: Prime Cime
Pages: 235
Genre: Mystery

Film noir, an old murder, and new ones galore pop up during Alice Kimberly’s fourth book in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series The Ghost and the Femme Fatale. As usual, Pen and Jack are right smack in the middle of the chaos created by Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi (they are the married couple that also write the Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse Mysteries).

“I, Penelope Thornton-McClure, single mom, widow, and independent bookshop owner, was far from a professional sleuth. Sure, I was a longtime fan of the Black Mask school of detective fiction; but a few years back, when the Rhode Island Staties were eyeing me as a person of interest in a murder investigation, I’d needed more than a fictional detective, and I got one.” His name is Jack Shepherd and he was a PI in life so it’s only natural that he is one in death as well and he has been coaching Pen how to be a sleuth since their very first “meeting” in The Ghost and Mrs. McClure. Three books later, and Pen has finally come into her own in The Ghost and the Femme Fatale.

Like all of the books in this series so far, this cozy mystery really delivers! This was the first time I didn’t have even the slightest clue who the murderer was because there were so many good suspects but nothing quite fit for one reason or another and as Jack said, “If the pieces don’t fit, the puzzle ain’t solved.”

When I first started this series I wasn’t very fond of the main character though she’s supposed to be a "a younger version of Agatha Christie's feisty amateur sleuth Miss Marple" but I have to admit that she really grew on me and I thought she did an admirable job during The Ghost and the Femme Fatale. However, it’s because of Jack that I keep reading. Well that and the sparks between them which, I have to admit is a bit odd since Jack is a ghost but it does work. It’s this growing attraction between the two is what keeps ultimately pulling me back into the series too.

Haunted Bookshop
1. The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (2004)
2. The Ghost and the Dead Deb (2005)
3. The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library (2006)
4. The Ghost and the Femme Fatale (2008)
5. The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion (2009)

First Paragraph: The spring evening was cool, the 950-seat movie house was packed, and Jack Shepard was on the job, watching a too-young chippy enjoy a night at the pictures with her paramour.

2008-Idea Boutique
2009- Cozy Murder Mysteries

Picture Explanations
Theater Seats: The film noir festival was arranged once the old town theater was restored and many important scenes take place inside.
NY Times Square 1940s: Jack is able to transport Pen into his memories and he takes her to New York on one of his cases
Film noir posters: Takes place during a film noir festival

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Orleans Story with a Ghost

Welcome to New Orleans: City of Voodoo and Beauty. Of Hurricanes and Hauntings.

Rebecca Brown couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to live while her dad is away on business. She's staying in a creepy house with her aunt Claudia, who reads tarot cards for a living. And at the snooty prep school, a pack of filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda.

Then one night, among the oak trees in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to show Rebecca the nooks and crannies of New Orleans. There's just one catch.

Lisette is a ghost.

A ghost with a deep, dark secret, and a serious score to settle.

As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend- and she begins to trust Anton Grey- she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair?

Title: Ruined
Author: Paula Morris
Start & Finished: 12/1/09- 12/2/09
Published: August 31, 2009
Publisher: Point
Pages: 309
Genre: Paranormal- Mystery

After seeing a tarot reader who claimed that Hurricane Katrina had displaced New Orleans' ghostly residents as well as it's corporal ones, author Paula Morris was inspired to write about a ghost named Lisette and she called the book Ruined. A native New Zealander, the author and her husband moved to New Orleans about a year before Hurricane Katrina and fell in love with the city and it’s history. Ms. Morris has taught courses on the history of Mardi Gras, and on the city’s literary past. She also conducts literary tours too and all of this served her well in the writing of Ruined.

Though I have been to New Orleans previously (a couple of months before Hurricane Katrina and yes the author does reference projects about rebuilding New Orleans like ACORN but none are entirely out of left field. Ruined is not a "Katrina narrative" but the shadow of that storm does touch the book) , most of the places mentioned in Ruined such as the Layfatte cemetery, the Garden District, and even the Mardi Gras parades were places and things I’ve never seen before so I was impressed with the research that the author did on New Orleans for the story. I thought Paula Morris did a terrific job of bringing it all to life especially thea places that are no longer there, and events that happened so vividly that the ghost Lisette talks about.

The ghost and curse and the mystery of how they related to the main character is what kept me reading this book since I never connected to the Rebecca. She wasn’t a bad character, I just never felt like I knew her. She was a girl from New York staying in New Orleans and she hated it and that’s what I ultimately came away with at the end of the story. I felt like she spent more time reading about New Orleans’ history than actually getting out and exploring the city too. One of the best parts of the book is the walk to Lisette’s old home, especially when Lisette is talking about the places that used to be there. “It’s strange to think of how the past gets swept away,” Rebecca mused. She wondered how long it would be before Lisette’s house was demolished, cleared away with no trace, like all those houses and streets in old Storyville.
“The past doesn’t go away.” Lisette gazed up at her house. “You just can’t see it anymore.”

Ghosts have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, I was borrowing collections of ghost stories from the library when others were read The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve never seen a ghost before but that doesn’t necessarily mean one hasn’t seen me! Like I’ve always said, I’ll believe in just about anything until proven wrong. The setting was the best part of the book in my opinion and even that did have it’s issues but in the end I liked this story. I do know I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much if it didn’t have Lisette in it. Ruined did make me want to read more paranormal stories set in New Orleans though.

Special Thanks: I won Ruined from a no longer active blog called Must and Lust for Books.

First Paragraph: New Orleans, the summer of 1853. Yellow fever ravages the busy port city. Bells toll for the souls of the dead. Boats on the Mississippi River are placed in quarantine, their cargoes left to spoil, their crews felled by disease. Before the summer is over, eight thousand people will die.


What Bri Reads
She Knows
New Orleans Books News & Reviews
Cosmo Girl

Book Trailer/Author Interview


That evening two strangers had come to her rescue-- one a black ghost who she shouldn’t be able to see, the other a Patrician white New Orleanian she’d been told to avoid. Perhaps she’d never see either of them again. And if she did, Rebecca knew one thing for certain: Aunt Claudia would not approve.

Everyone on the street seemed to be having a great time, but to Rebecca the whole experience felt increasingly surreal, and at times almost sinister.

There was something almost contemptuous in the casual way the doubloons were thrown, and something desperate and eager about the way they were grabbed up. It was as though these men were acting out, in pageant-style costume, the way they saw their role in the city: as smug lords and masters, generous only when they felt like it, socially superior to everyone else.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On the Run

If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl-- someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I'm as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment-- not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.

Now I'm running for my life with three of my supernatural friends-- a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch-- and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

Title: The Awakening
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkest Powers, Book 2
Start & Finished: 10/12/09
Published: May 1, 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 357
Genre: YA-Paranormal
Official Site

While writing the second book in her Women of the Otherworld series, Kelley Armstrong was inspired by the scientist's experimentation in Stolen to write a young adult novel. Once she started writing (during the NaNoWriMo) however she realized that she had enough good material to write a trilogy called The Darkest Powers. In the first book The Summoning, the reader as well as the main character Chloe learns that she can see ghosts and during the second book, The Awakening the reader starts to find out why.

The main character of this trilogy is “Chloe Saunders, fifteen-year-old Steven Spielberg wannabe, her dreams of writing and directing Hollywood blockbusters shattered on the day she got her first period and started living the kind of life she'd once imagined putting on the screen. That's when [she] started seeing ghosts.” A few questions were answered in this book including just what the kids from Lyle House are (I was starting to operate under the theory that they were clones but Armstrong came up with something much more interesting) but many more questions were raised.

In my opinion, this was much better than the first book though it can be argued that The Awakening ends on a cliffhanger too. However, I felt that unlike The Summoning, it was at a pretty good stopping point and starting point for the last book in this trilogy The Reckoning. However, it isn’t the last in this series since Armstrong is planning on writing “a new trilogy set in the same world, with all new characters, about another Edison Group experiment.”

“Now, looking back on a life of doing what I was told, I realized I'd bought into the game. When adults patted me on the head and told me I was so grown-up, what they really meant was that they were glad I wasn't grown-up enough yet to question, to fight back.”

Darkest Powers
1. The Summoning (2008)
2. The Awakening (2009)
3. The Reckoning (2010)

First Paragraph: When the door to my cell clicked open, the first thought that flitted through my doped-up brain was that Liz had changed her mind and come back. But ghosts don't open doors. They will, on occasion, ask me to open one, so I can raise and interrogate the zombies of supernaturals killed by a mad scientist, but they never need one opened for themselves.

Chloe Saunders has her own MySpace!
Kelley Armstrong has created a blog for her character Chloe on livejournal
FanPop page

The Story Siren
The Book Smugglers
Free Book Friday Teens

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Second Alpha & Omega

Cry Wolf unlocked the doors to a unique urban landscape in “a great… new werewolf series.” Now Patricia Briggs invites readers to follow her even deeper intot that seductive realm of the unknown…

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son-- and enforcer-- of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be, either…

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan-- and it seems like someone else might be, too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all-- or risk losing everything…

Title: Hunting Ground
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha and Omega, Book 2
Start & Finished: 10/8/09
Published: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 286
Genre: Urban Fantasy

“Seattle is a city with a certain… panache. Never know what you are going to find when you come for a visit. Good food, friendly people, ancient legendary weapons.” Not to mention a werewolf summit, vampires, and even some fae thrown in for good measure. [There‘s] “Always something different” in one of Patricia Briggs’ novels and that holds true for the second book in her spin-off Alpha and Omega series, Hunting Ground. The sequel to Cry Wolf, Hunting Ground takes place during the author’s main series book Blood Bound which is the second Mercedes Thompson.

I first discovered Patricia Briggs through her bestselling Mercy Thompson books which led me to picking up an anthology called On the Prowl in which the author had contributed a story set in the same world starring different but slightly related characters. That story was the jumping off of a new series called the Alpha and Omega of which the first one was Cry Wolf and the sequel has come out.

The Mercy series will always be my favorite books by Patricia Briggs but the Alpha and Omega series is coming along nicely! Anna isn't quite as reticent as she was in the first book (she did have good reason to be) and it's even revealed that she has a bit of sass to her still. With being Charles mate her emotional wounds are really starting to heal.

An interesting note about this series: Charles shares equal POV time with Anna which I thought was unique. He has such a way of thinking and speaking that sometimes shows his age (200 years give or take) at times and then on the flip-side just how down-to-earth Anna helps him be. Also, it shows his struggle with being his father's (the Marrok- kind of like the king of the North American werewolves) "hatchet man." He's good at it and it's a necessary job but he doesn't like it and because of it, he keeps walls between himself and the world.

Not to mention that when Brother Wolf "speaks" it's an experience all it's own. Brother Wolf is the werewolf in Charles. Unlike all the werewolves that have been introduced in either of Briggs' series, Charles was born a werewolf not bitten and he has some different "abilities" than the others including the fact that his wolf and him are seperate beings but yet of one soul and one body. Briggs' werewolf lore is just so neat! Although Mercy was raised by these werewolves (Sam is Charles is brother by the way), she isn't one so the author barely skims the surface in those books. Yet here it's almost like an entirely different world!

Now that I've gushed about the characters I can talk about the plot. Well, not too much more than the synopsis above because the mystery will be spoiled but I do have to mention that the mythological angle was surprising and very pleasing as well. There was a hint here, I believe that one of the secondary (but important) characters used to be a mythological legend and I'm really, really curious to see if I'm right about that in the future books.

Alpha and Omega
1. Cry Wolf (2008)
2. Hunting Ground (2009)

Mercedes Thompson
1. Moon Called (2006)
2. Blood Bound (2007)
3. Iron Kissed (2008)
4. Bone Crossed (2009)
5. Silver Borne (2010)

First Paragraph: She observed him from her chosen cover, as she’d done twice before. The first two times he’d been chopping wood, but today, after a heavy snowfall appropriate for the middle of December. He was shoveling the sidewalk. Today was the day she’d take him.

Author Wikipedia

Fiction Factor
The Book Smuggler I, II
McNally Robinson

Picture Explanations:
Excalibur: There is a character in the book obsessed with Arthurian legends who believes he's found Excalibur.
Troll: The stone troll in the book is based on the real
Fremont troll.
Winter: It's December where Charles and Anna live.

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