Saturday, May 30, 2009

A HitWoman?

From the author of the acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series comes an exciting new heroine whose most secret identity is both lucrative...and lethal.

Regulars at Nadia's nature lodge don't ask what she does in the off-season. And that's a good thing. If she told them, she'd have to kill them. She's a hit woman for a Mafia family. Tough and self-sufficient, Nadia doesn't owe anyone any explanations. But that doesn't mean she always works alone. One of her contacts has recruited her in the hunt for a ruthlessly efficient serial killer cutting a swath of terror across the country. The assassin is far too skilled to be an amateur--and the precision of the killings is bringing the Feds much too close to the hit man community for comfort.

To put an end to the murders, Nadia will have to turn herself from predator to prey as she employs every trick she knows to find the killer. Before the killer finds her...

Title: Exit Strategy
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Nadia Stafford, Book 1
Start & Finished: 3/5/09- 3/7/09
Published: 2007
Publisher: Bantam Books
Pages: 480 (paperback)
Genre: Mystery- Crime/ Thriller

Job’s usually considered only for men have over the past few decades, opened for women as well. The traditional hitman however is still thought of mainly as male but Kelley Armstrong’s character Nadia- or Dee as she likes to be known on the job, is one of the the very few hitwomen in her chosen profession. When a fellow “co-worker” goes rogue in Exit Strategy, she teams up with her mentor and her mentor’s mentor to take him down.

"The idea for Exit Strategy came from me thinking 'If I was to write a thriller, what would I want to do?' I absolutely love crime thrillers. That is primarily what I read. My horror/ paranormal background goes back further but currently I'm more of a thriller reader," said author Kelley Armstrong in an interview about her book. She had planned for this series to be a bit of a back-up fail-safe in case her Women of the Otherworld series failed. Her paranormal series was wildly successful while her thriller didn’t garner much attention at the time. Recently, mainly due to fans, many people are giving Nadia the chance to let her story be heard.

Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books are one of my favorite series but I was a little concerned about Exit Strategy since its not what I’m used to from this author. However, I can’t say I was really surprised that I enjoyed it and the characters, yet I was really in no hurry to finish the book. Naida being a hitwoman and essentially killing for money didn't bother me in the least though. She's not a bad person and she only kills criminals so I never had a problem with her job even if it is just a glorified form of paid vigiantilism. In a way, she's a bit like a toned-down female Dexter except Dee is a bit more “approachable”. More so than almost anyone else in her merry band of mercenaries even though I do like Jack a lot too.

The author doesn’t lay everything out about Naida’s story all at once but draws it out slowly throughout the course of the book (how and why she used to be a cop, her cousin’s murder, etc.) and some things aren’t totally explained in Exit Strategy either. For the most part though, everything you need to know about the characters is presented… just not everything you may want to know so I’m hoping the second book in the series Made to be Broken will answer more questions and give me another great adventure too.

Nadia Stafford
1. Exit Strategy (2007)
2. Made to Be Broken (2009)

~Note: Thanks to Carolyn Jean (aka Carolyn Crane) from The Trillionth Page for sending this to me!

Related Posts: Many Bloody Returns anthology, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon anthology, Dates from Hell anthology, Industrial Magic, Haunted, Broken, No Humans Involved
Links: Author Wikipedia, Nadia Discussion Board
Interview: McNally Robinson Booksellers, Mix- A Mixture of Hot Trends, Facebook (video), Bitten by Books

Picture Explanation:
Casino: In their search for the Helter Skelter’s identity Jack and Dee had to go to a run-down casino
T-Shirt: Nadia’s favorite sleep shirt, the place where she went to college.
Hot Chocolate: A night ritual when she can’t sleep which she shares with Jack during the case. Glock 33: Jack’s “present” to Naida when she accepts his offer to work on the “case”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New York City is Overflowing with Faeries!

Since the dawn of time, the Faerie have taken. . . .

For seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her.

Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie's enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year.

This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will swing wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something different is happening . . . something wondrous and strange. And Kelley's eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her.

Now Kelley must navigate deadly Faerie treachery—and her growing feelings for Sonny—in this dazzling page-turner filled with luminous romance.

Wondrous Strange is a richly layered tale of love between faerie and mortal, betrayal between kings and queens, and magic . . . between author and reader.


Title: Wonderous Strange
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: Wondrous Strange, Book 1
Start & Finished: 3/5/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 327 (trade paperback)
Genre: YA- Urban Fantasy

Debut author Lesley Livingston travels through myths and legends of the Faerie in Wondrous Strange, the first book in trilogy. This story is above all a love story “brimming with action, romance, and luminous shades of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” inspired by the author’s trip to New York and influenced by her master’s degree in Shakespeare and Arthurian Literature. Livingston has recently finished writing the "manuscript revisions on Book Two in the Wondrous Strange trilogy,” which is as yet unnamed and is currently working on the third.

Mythology absolutely fascinates me, especially legends about the Fae, which is why I’ve read just about every urban fantasy that comes out from Laurell K. Hamilton to Melissa Marr. There were some similarities to Marr’s own Faerie series, or more accurately, it had the same kind of “feel” to it but as much as I loved reading Wicked Lovely, I do believe Ms. Livingston’s characters and world that she has created is even better.

When I heard about Wondrous Strange from a review done by Beyond Books, I knew it was something I had to read (not to mention the beautiful cover that helped draw me in too). Thankfully, the owner Cat volunteered to send me this delightful story and once I did get around to reading it, I absolutely fell in love. Kelley and Sonny were a perfect couple, almost like Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward but in this case the girl is the more powerful and I laughed and “aw”-ed my way through this story just as I did the first Twilight. A good majority of the laughs came from Bob (aka Puck or Robin Goodfellow) and Lucky (a kelpie) though.

The little ironies in the story are quite easy to guess but it is a wonderfully exciting journey through the novel anyway. All manner of interesting creatures from the Faerie realm populate its pages and although it is labeled under the genre of young adult, it really is only a few steps away from being written for adults. I’m really looking forward to seeing which direction the author will take us next and I’d like to know if Kelley will continue to stick with acting. The author claims, “The next two books are a direct continuation of the story, so you will definitely being seeing more of Sonny and Kelley. In addition, company. (And maybe a new face or two!),” and I can hardly wait.

Wondrous Strange Trilogy
Wondrous Strange (2008)
Darklight
Unkown

Links: Author Blog, Myspace,
Interview: Author Tales (Story Siren), Cover Art (Book Nymph), 10 Questions (IB Teens), Amazing Interview with Yankee Romance Reviews

Trailer:


Author Interview:








Picture Explanations
Carousel: Sonny takes Kelley for a ride here in Central Park while using a bit of faerie magic to make her see experience the past.
Central Park: Where a good bit of the story takes place since the faerie gate is there.
Tavern on the Green: There is a place in faerie parallel to our world that the Green Man owns and operates.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Famous Fossil Sisters

A classic about three self-sufficient orphans who set out to make a name for themselves in the world of show business. Originally published in 1937 and unavailable in hardcover for a decade, Ballet Shoes is the first and best-loved of the "Shoes" series by Noel Streatfeild. In a gift edition or in paperback, Ballet Shoes is perfect for budding ballerinas and anyone who's ever dreamed of being a star.

Title: Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Start & Finished: 3/4/09
Published: 1937
Publisher: Random House, Inc
Pages: 233 (paperback)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction- Classics/ Contemporary

Noel Streatfeild was a daughter of the Bishop of Lewes, a volunteer during both World War I and World War II, and even an actress during her life but what she is probably most well-known for was being an author. More specifically, a writer of mainly children’s books including Ballet Shoes. It was published on September 28, 1936 and is known as her best novel. It was even declared by the Library Association as "one of a number of "books which should always be in print" in 1948 and in 1991, the Library of Congress recognized it as the Children's Books of the Year.

For a book that has been heralded as a contemporary classic ever since it was first released, very little actually happens during Ballet Shoes. It’s not an adventure story, nothing big or extremely exciting ever happens, and it’s rather a quiet story altogether but it was still very well written and I really liked it. I can see why it is still remembered today so fondly (J.K. Rowling claimed it was one of her favorites) too and I’m not sure if it’s because the author is British or if it’s because it was written in the late 1930s, but the writing style did remind me of C.S. Lewis and Dodie Smith a little as well.

In the last sentence of the book the author has one of the characters ask, “I wonder”-- Petrova looked up-- “if other girls had to be one us, which one they’d choose to be?” I found this an interesting question for the character to pose and maybe a tiny bit out of character at that but each of the three Fossils’ are very unique in their own way. Pauline likes to act, Posy is a born ballerina, and Petrova does both as a means of helping out the family when really her heart is set in the sky as she would love to be able to fly planes. As much as I loved the characters for their individualities, I think Pauline was my favorite (not just because she played title role in Alice in Wonderland either) and the one I would have liked to have been the most like at her age.

This book was written by a British author intended for British girls and as there is a constant struggle for money, it is talked about a lot- however, having never been outside of America the shillings, pounds, etc. was like another language to me. Speaking of which, there is a bit of French in the book as all of the Fossils learn it in their dance academy but you really don’t need a working knowledge of British money, French, or even ballet terms to enjoy the story. Ms. Streatfeild enjoyed working with the characters from Ballet Shoes so much that they have appeared in Curtain Up (aka Theatre Shoes), The Painted Garden (aka Movie Shoes), and a minor character from the book appears in Apple Bough (aka Traveling Shoes).

Link: Author Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author Article, Book Article, The Fossil Cupboard Message Board

Picture Explanations
Illustrations by Ruth Gervis (Streatfeild’s older sister)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Edinburgh’s Best Friend

A big story with a small hero, The Adventures of Greyfriar's Bobby is a magical film for the whole family. Bobby, a friendly small terrier, befriends Ewan, a young boy. The adventures they share change their lives and the city they live in forever. Based on the true story of 'Greyfriar’s Bobby'.

Title: Greyfriar’s Bobby
Release: October 29, 2005
Genre: Family
MPAA Rating: PG
Writer: John Henderson, Richard Mathews, & Neville Watchurst
Director: John Henderson
Music By: Mark Thomas
Produced By: Christopher Figg & Alex Swan
Distributed By: Piccadilly Pictures
Run Time: 104 minutes
Official Site

Between the legend, the story based on the legend written by Eleanor Atkinson, and the films based on both, the true facts behind the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby have been lost in the myth until the recent British film was made. The book Atkinson wrote about Bobby helped his legendary deed become known worldwide in 1912 but she did get many of the facts wrong. This film does correct some of them (such as who Bobby’s owner really was) but it did “take liberties” as well, mainly Bobby himself but for the most part, it remained true to the documented facts about Edinburgh’s smallest hero.

In many stories, Bobby was a Skye terrier (an almost extinct breed) but in the new film, they used a West Highland White Terrier instead. The dog trainer Gerry Cott said, "We had to make a choice, but this is something that has been contentious. When we started to talk about this film, we had to make a choice: 'Who is Greyfriar’s Bobby? In the end we decided against the Skye terrier and the Cairn Terrier for various technical reasons so, our Greyfriar’s Bobby is effectively a wild West Highland Terrier. By that I mean we allowed him to grow long hair, not be coiffured and clipped as they would now but to look as he might more than 150 years ago. So that's our Greyfriar’s Bobby.”

The legend of this little dog was something I knew of only vaguely until I read the book Atkinson wrote based on it and it was only later that I realized she had made up quite a few of the people and things in the story but I enjoyed it regardless. I was a bit wary of seeing this newest version of Bobby’s story before I watched the Disney one but I was convinced it was well worth seeing because of the gorgeous location and talented actors attached to it.

There were several things that bothered me during the movie like how the main character was really the boy Ewan played by Oliver Golding instead of Bobby. Not to mention how overly evil the bad guys were compared to the characters James Brown (played by James Cosmo), Minster Lee (Greg Wise), and the Lord Provost (Christopher Lee). I was also hoping that the real life statue memorial of Greyfriar’s Bobby commissioned by Lady Burdett-Coutts would make it into the film, as it would have helped make the ending a bit less abrupt. Regardless, it was still a great take on a heartwarming story but I wasn’t very surprised to learn that it didn’t do very well at the time of its release.

Related Post: Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson
Links: Imdb.com, Wikipedia, BBC New Premiere, More Premiere, etc. (Video- have to click launch in a standalone player), Greyfriars Bobby’s Friend Remembered (Video)
Interview: With Oliver Golding (Ewan)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mozart Was a Cahill

Amy and Dan Cahill are spotted on a train, hot on the trail of one of 39 Clues hidden around the world. Police report a break-in at an elite hotel, and the suspects sound suspiciously like Amy and Dan. When there's a Clue on the line, anything can happen.

Title: One False Note
Author: Gordon Korman
Series: The 39 Clues, Book 2
Start & Finished: 3/3/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: Scholastic Inc
Pages: 174
Genre: YA Fiction- Adventure

The author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series Rick Riordan came up with the idea of the 39 Clues series and he published the first book The Maze of Bones. However the books in the 10 book series are going to be written by different authors and Gordon Korman had the honor of penning the second novel One False Note (and is currently working on the eighth) in this globe-trotting “multi-media adventure series” that brings together reading and online games (not to mention the collectible cards that come with each book).

Rick Riordan is a genius because he combines an amazing adventure with indirect learning in all his books and I truly enjoyed learning about famous people in a roundabout way (just like his Greek gods and mythical creatures in his main series). One False Note isn’t any different just because it’s written by another author, Gordon Korman picked up the reins about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart right where Riordan left off about Benjamin Franklin.

The books in this series are SO neat, like The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure all mixed up into one storyline. What’s even more impressive is that even though the authors vary from book to book, most people would hardly even notice! Amy, Dan, their au pair, and even their cat Saladin are very consistent too.

In an interview Mr. Korman said, "The bar was set by that first book and I had to figure out a way using my own situation to create that same level of excitement and danger and entertainment for my own book." In my opinion, he did very well and now I just have to wait for the next book The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis in which the characters go to Japan in search of the next clue.

The 39 Clues
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (2008)
One False Note by Gordon Korman (2008)
The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (2009)
Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (2009)
Rest TBA

Links: Series Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author Wikipedia, 39 Clues Site
Interview: Author Bordersmedia

~Note: Dedication reads- For all the brother -sister teams from the Mozarts to the Cahills, from a grateful only child.~ GK





Picture Explanations:
House: The home where Mozart was born.
Nannerl Mozart: This was Wolfgang Amadeus' sister, whom is was said was just as good as he was but wasn't allowed to perform being a girl.
Statue: An Austria monument of the composer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shrink to the Vampires

Denver psychologist Kismet Knight counsels vampires. Her life changed forever when she discovered a dark preternatural underworld and became involved with gorgeous, eight-centuries-old Devereux, the powerful leader of a vampire coven.

Still adjusting to her new role as an expert on all things paranormal—as well as her unexpected notoriety and new clientele—she schedules what she believes is simply another radio interview. She couldn’t be more mistaken. Not only does the radio host behave very strangely, but an ominous, on-air call turns Kismet’s world upside-down—again.

Shortly thereafter, Maxie Westhaven, a tabloid newspaper reporter in search of a juicy story, befriends Kismet, leading her into a bizarre world of role players, lost souls, and death. Enter Victoria Essex, Devereux’s building manager and resident witch, who discloses a startling secret of her own.

Meanwhile, Luna, Devereux’s hostile, femme fatale personal assistant recognizes a perfect opportunity to throw a wrench into her boss’s blossoming relationship with the human psychologist and, to complicate matters further, Kismet’s old boyfriend, self-absorbed psychologist Tom Radcliffe, shows up with his own outlandish request.

Title: Dark Harvest
Author: Lynda Hilburn
Series: Vampire Psychologist, Book 2
Start & Finished: 3/2/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: Medallion Press, Inc.
Pages: 383
Genre: Paranormal

A recent newcomer to the world of the vampires in Denver, Kismet has attracted yet another insane vampire into her midst in Lynda Hilburn’s Dark Harvest but what do you expect from the Vampire Psychologist? Hilburn’s alter ego is up to her eyeballs in vampire games during the second book in this series when a self-proclaimed Vampire Slayer (who just so happens to be vampire himself) comes to town.

“Why vampires? There's just something darkly appealing about the extraordinary nightwalkers. They started out human, so remnants of emotions, thoughts, learned behaviors still exist and enhance -- and conflict with -- their new, nocturnal realities.” That’s very, very true when it comes to her main hero in the series Devereux, an “old-world gentlemen” who is of course gorgeous, protective, and very interesting as well. A bit over-protective at times, he does have the heroine’s best interests in mind and at heart.

The previous novel The Vampire Shrink had many problems for me and I’m pleased to note that the author has fixed quite a few of them. I’m especially pleased that Kismet is a whole lot more accepting of the vampire situation. There were times during Dark Harvest where she thinks about blaming her mental health for things that happen but it's not long before "she can't deny the truth any more."

There is still quite a lot about this world that Lynda Hilburn has created that I don’t quite understand or at times still dislike but I still can’t help but enjoy the characters and even the story itself most of the time. I did feel like the author was a little too wordy for my taste though and Dark Harvest wasn‘t quite as amusing as The Vampire Shrink either. Again, I was left with more questions at the end like: who was she in a past life that Hallow was so gleeful about not telling her? Hallow is the second deranged vampire that Kismet and Deaveraux had to fight, Is he right about the fact that she draws energy to her? And most importantly, will there be a third book soon?

Links: MySpace Page, Paranormality Author Blog
Interview: Amberkatze’s Book Blog, Darque Reviews Blog, Author Island, Ask Wendy



Picture Explanations
Taking Notes: Kismet treats her vampire patients the same way she would treat her normal ones.
Coffee: Maxie is a coffee junkie and she gets to know Kismet by taking her out to coffee.
Radio Show: Due to her rise in popularity during the last book, Kismet is booked on a radio show. Unfortunately, she wasn't aware of the host...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

She's a Ghost Magnet

There's something about almost dying that makes a girl rethink her priorities. Take Nicki Styx-she was strictly goth and vintage, until a brush with the afterlife leaves her with the ability to see dead people. Before you can say boo, Atlanta's ghosts are knocking at Nicki's door. Now her days consist of reluctantly cleaning up messes left by the dearly departed, leading ghouls to the Light . . . and one-on-one anatomy lessons with Dr. Joe Bascombe, the dreamy surgeon who saved her life. All this catering to the deceased is a real drag, especially for a girl who'd rather be playing hanky-panky with her hunky new boyfriend . . . who's beginning to think she's totally nuts. But things get even more complicated when a friend foolishly sells her soul to the devil, and Nicki's new gift lands her in some deep voodoo. As it turns out for Nicki Styx, death was just the beginning.

Title: Dead Girls are Easy
Author: Terri Garey
Series: Nicki Styx, Book 1
Start & Finished: 3/2/09
Published: 2007
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 372 (paperback)
Genre: Paranormal- Romance

“My name is Nicki Styx, and I’m a dead chick magnet. A psychic magnet, if you will. One near death experience, and my life was changed forever. Now restless spirits seem to sense a kindred one in me, and they all want to tell me their stories.” An interesting beginning but hardly one that can sum up Terri Garey’s spunky heroine with a wicked sense of humor from her debut novel Dead Girls Are Easy.

Garey’s book was one of the best paranormals I’ve read so far this year. It was hilarious and interesting, and just plain fun! The characters are great; especially the main one and I loved her kitschy little shoppe that she co-owns with her best friend Evan (who is a doll by the way). Another thing I liked is that I’m a bit partial to the setting as it takes place in Atlanta- Little Five Points to be exact.

The Nicki Styx series is everything that the show Ghost Whisperer wishes it could be. While most of the time the TV show either goes for the scary or the heartwarming with the main character being mostly a good girl, Garey and her character Nicki Styx are the complete and total opposite. Well, that’s not to say that the book was not heartwarming at times as it is, but as Nicki said, she’s “one tough cookie” and while her Joe does remind me of Meredith’s Jim, I believe that if I had to choose, I’d pick these books over the TV series any day.

I do wonder why the author decided to write this series. Did she watch the show and become fed up with it and decided to put her own spin on a girl who sees dead people? Did she hear about the show, think it was a good idea and go from there? Or was it something else altogether? Well the author claims she found herself thinking one day: “What if someone who thought the dark side was really cool (i.e., a Goth girl) actually had to deal with ghosts and spirits on a regular basis? How would it change them?” Regardless of how she came about Nicki Styx, I’m just glad she did and I can hardly wait to read more in this series.

“And what do I get out of it? Scared shitless and sleepless, that’s what. Dead people jumping up like Pop-Tarts to impose their unfinished business on me. Dying isn’t what scares me-- it’s living like this that does.” I leaned forward, hands clasped. “Do I look like Mother Teresa to you?”

Nicki Styx Series:
1. Dead Girls Are Easy (2007)
2. A Match Made in Hell (2008)
3. You're the One that I Haunt (2009)
4. Silent Night, Haunted Night (2009)

Links: Author Blog, HaperCollins Author Page, Handbags and Gladrags Homepage
Interview: Tampa Newspaper, Blog Interview, Romance Novel TV

Picture Explanations
Emergency Room: When Nicki died she came back with a little something extra.
Little Five Points: Takes place here
Voodoo: Nicki's friend died and her soul is in deep trouble...
Baron Samedi: is one of the loa of Haitian Vodou and features prominantely in the book.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Treasure Island in Space

From the directors of Disney's Aladdin and The Little Mermaid comes a spectacular new motion picture for the entire family. Buckle up for thrills and excitement as a classic story of friendship, courage and self-discovery gets an incredible, futuristic twist for an all-new generation. It's "a truly wonderful tale combined with stunning animation." (Paul Clinton, CNN).

The greatest adventure of all time is now a thrilling DVD experience. With sensational bonus features and revolutionary 2-D and 3-D animation, Treasure Planet is an out-of-this-world sensory experience the whole family will enjoy.

Title: Treasure Planet
Release: November 27, 2002
Genre: Animated- Adaptation/ Science Fiction
MPAA Rating: PG
Based On: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Writer: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards, Ted Elliott, & Terry Rossio
Director: Ron Clements & John Musker
Music By: James Newton Howard
Produced By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Roy Conli, & Peter Del Vecho
Distributed By: Walt Disney Pictures
Run Time: 95 minutes
Official Site

An adaptation, or more accurately, a re-imagining of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island had been pitched to the Disney company by the director’s Ron Clements & John Musker since their directorial debut with The Great Mouse Detective but they were repeatedly turned down. They directed three more animated films before they ever got the green light to begin work on what they had hoped would be the “first big space adventure Disney [had] ever done,” (Lilo and Stitch released earlier the same year beat them to that title) called Treasure Planet.

They can fiddle with the original storyline as much as they please so long as the “adaptation” still captures the essence of the story which this film fortunately does. The story was unique and so was the technique employed to make it as they used 70% new technology (CG animation) and 30% old technology (traditional animation) but they blend together almost seamlessly to create a wonderful experience.

I also loved how they brought the characters to life too. Long John Silver (voiced by Brian Murray) is one of my favorite characters of all time (mainly thanks to the original 1950’s Disney version) and he was perfect in the film- even if he was a cyborg! I also really loved the look of Jim (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he always seems a bit younger in the book and all the films I’ve seen. Awesome soundtrack too, especially John Rzeznik‘s (the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls) song which was Jim‘s theme.

The last few years before Disney stopped making animated films they produced several really good films but not any really great ones and unfortunately Treasure Planet was one of these. It cost quite a bit to make and was a financial failure too- one of Disney‘s biggest! However it was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar anyway but it went to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away instead. It was a wonderfully, inventive adaptation/ re-imagination of classic story regardless though.

Related Posts: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Disney's Treasure Island (1950), Muppet Treasure Island
Links: Imdb.com, Wikipedia
Interview: Writer Rob Edwards, Q&A with Producer Roy Conli, Ron Clements and John Musker Interview

Trailer:


Monday, May 11, 2009

A Modern Odyssey

Percy Jackson's seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get . . . well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of Percy's friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.

In this fresh, funny, and hugely anticipated follow up to The Lightning Thief, Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their beloved camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family -- one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

Title: The Seas of Monsters
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 2
Start & Finished: 2/27/09- 2/28/09
Published: 2006
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Pages: 279
Genre: YA- Adventure
Official Site

Rick Riordan’s bestselling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians continues with the second book The Sea of Monsters, which continues almost an entire year after the first book The Lightening Thief. Perseus (Περσεύς) was one of the few Greek demigods (or Half-bloods) to ever survive his adventures so it was only natural that Percy Jackson’s mother would name him after the great hero- despite the fact that Perseus was Zeus’ son and Percy is Poseidon’s’.

In the newest book Percy discovers new friends and enemies (old ones too), while facing many battles along the way. Percy’s new friend Tyson seems to be a kind of simpler-minded Grover and he does handle the role Grover would normally occupy but I liked him a lot too. I know I’m going to have a hard time ever thinking of a Pegasus again without thinking “chickie-ponies”! I do hope he appears in future books as well.

Again, I was reminded strongly of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for a couple of chapters and then the story really came into its own. Percy and his friends even get to experience an updated version of Odysseus' odyssey- complete with the cyclops Polyphemus- on their quest to rescue their friend Grover and to find the Golden Fleece in order to save the camp. Riordan doesn’t overburden you at any point with the old myths, instead he makes them as fresh and exciting as if they were brand new. In an interview he said, “I think mythology has endured so long because these old stories describe something timeless. Hearing the exploits of the gods and heroes, we learn a lot about the best and worst of human nature.”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
1. The Lightning Thief (2005)
2. The Sea of Monsters (2006)
3. The Titan's Curse (2007)
4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)
5. The Last Olympian (2009)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (omnibus) (2008)
The Sword of Hades (2009)

Related Posts: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
Links: Author Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author Blog,
Interview: Reader's Guide + Interview, Miss Erin

Picture Explanations
Guinea Pigs: C.C has quite a collection of these...
Polyphemus: The cyclops Percy and his friends need to get past in order to get the Golden Fleece needed to save the camp.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Naomi, Florida Needs a Friend

Based on the best-selling book, Because of Winn-Dixie is the heartwarming "tail" of a young girl (AnnaSophia Robb) whose life is changed by a scruffy, fun-loving pooch she names Winn-Dixie. The special bond between them works magic on her reserved dad (Jeff Daniels) and the eccentric townspeople they meet during one unforgettable summer.

Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Release: February 18, 2005
Genre: Family
MPAA Rating: PG
Based On: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Writer: Joan Singleton
Director: Wayne Wang
Music By: Rachel Portman
Produced By: Trevor Albert & Joan Singleton
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox & Walden Media
Run Time: 106 minutes
Official Site

An unhappy little town is brought together not through tragedy or heroic deeds but by a lonely little girl new to town and the dog she finds in a Winn-Dixie grocery store causing chaos in the 2005 film Because of Winn-Dixie. Based on the modern classic, award-winning book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, this rather simple story translated to the screen very well. Especially since it stayed very close to the DiCamillo’s original book and had the “same kind of dramatic structure” as well.

AnnaSophia Robb plays the main character India Opal Buloni (“sometimes the kids at school, they call me Lunchmeat”) in her very first starring movie role opposite Jeff Daniels (101 Dalmatians) who plays her father the preacher. For only an 11-year-old girl, she was a total natural and according to her cast mates, quite the professional too. However, the real star of this picture may not have gotten top billing but he sure did make the movie what it is and that was Winn-Dixie himself. He was played by two rare French breeds called Picardy Shepherds named Lyco and Scott. Can’t forget the fabulous Dave Matthew who plays the pet shopkeeper Otis either as one of the most amazing moments in the film happens in his store.

Besides the dog, of course what makes this film really special is the setting. I think Jeff Daniels said it best, “"There's just a different feel in the South that I think Wayne captures real well, not only in how he pulled the performances off, but also in the look." The really tiny town is run-down, neglected and just plain lonely but as Opal shows in her drawings over the course of the film, Winn-Dixie and her really bring it back to life. “Winn-Dixie was better at making friends than anyone I had ever known,” and in doing so Opal finally gets those friends she was praying for.

Because of Winn-Dixie isn’t a preachy movie (we never even learn what denomination the preacher is a part of) but it is a good family film even with some of the dumbed-down parts (the cop for example- totally unnecessary). Opal tells Otis “Music is better if someone's listening,” at one point in the film and that’s equally true for book to movie adaptations. They’re always better when the director has read and loved the book because then they can really capture the essence that the author has created- just like this film does.

Related Posts: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Links: Imdb.com, Wikipedia, Complete Script
Interview: IGN with Jeff Daniels

Trailer:


AnnaSophia Robb on Ellen:


AnnaSophia Robb on the Today Show (with Lyco):

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Between the Numbers Time!

Turn on all the lights and check under your bed. Things are about to get spooky in Trenton, New Jersey.

According to legend, the Jersey Devil prowls the Pine Barrens and soars above the treetops in the dark of night. As eerie as this might seem, there are things in the Barrens that are even more frightening and dangerous. And there are monkeys. Lots of monkeys.

Wulf Grimoire is a world wanderer and an opportunist who can kill without remorse and disappear like smoke. He’s chosen Martin Munch, boy genius, as his new business partner, and he’s chosen the Barrens as his new playground.

Munch received his doctorate degree in quantum physics when he was twenty-two. He's now twenty-four, and while his brain is large, his body hasn't made it out of the boys' department at Macy's. Anyone who says good things come in small packages hasn't met Munch. Wulf Grimoire is looking for world domination. Martin Munch would be happy if he could just get a woman naked and tied to a tree.

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has Munch on her most-wanted list for failure to appear in court. Plum is the all-American girl stuck in an uncomfortable job, succeeding on luck and tenacity. Usually she gets her man. This time she gets a monkey. She also gets a big guy named Diesel.

Diesel pops in and out of Plum's life like birthday cake: delicious to look at and taste, not especially healthy as a steady diet, gone by the end of the week if not sooner. He's an a bounty hunter with special skills when it comes to tracking men and pleasing women. He's after Grimoire, and now he's also after Munch. And if truth were told, he wouldn't mind setting Stephanie Plum in his crosshairs.

Diesel and Plum hunt down Munch and Grimoire, following them into the Barrens, surviving cranberry bogs, the Jersey Devil, a hair-raising experience, sand in their underwear, and, of course . . . monkeys.

Title: Plum Spooky
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Plum Between-the-Numbers, Book 4
Start & Finished: 2/26/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 309 (Hardcover)
Genre: Popular Fiction- Mystery/ Humor

The famous fictional New Jersey bounty hunter created by Janet Evanovich stars in a new adventure called Plum Spooky. It’s the first full-length novel that is a part of the Between-the-Numbers series which takes place as its name suggests, between the main Stephanie Plum series. These spin-off stories were created for many reasons but they’re not a part of the main series at all even if the characters do crossover into these. They’re very distinguishable from the main Plum books as they have a little bit of an almost paranormal edge and Stephanie gets another guy in her life called Diesel (who is a bit like a magic Ranger) and even though they don’t have the same kind of relationship, sparks do fly whenever he’s in town!

Janet Evanovich has written quite a few books and even collaborated with other authors but the Stephanie Plum books are her "bread and butter series." Therefore, although these particular books are slightly different than what her readers are used to, she does try to give her audience a "consistent reading experience" and she fully succeeds with Plum Spooky. Evanovich talks about writing differently than any other author I know (she calls books her "products") and in her interviews it seems like she takes an almost clinical approach to writing. She has even said, "You can't go wrong with monkeys (this book) and midgets (Plum Lucky)". However, as pretentious as that sounds, I did laugh almost throughout the entire novel as par usual with her books.

This writer truly isn’t out to write the next “Great American Novel”, she simply wants to entertain her audience, which she does consistently. On the other hand, once the book is through and I sit back to think about it critically, I felt like Evanovich just said, "What do people find funny nowadays? Ah-ha, monkeys and fart jokes!" so she put those in. Crude though it sounds, she just has this magical way of not only making her audience love her books by making them laugh so hard they’ll cry no matter what… flaming fart jokes notwithstanding.

Plum Spooky had many things against it right from the start, the least of which is that it is not one of the original Plums but for some reason I still liked it. I honestly think the character Diesel had a major hand in that so I was very excited to learn that January of next year Diesel will be getting his own series separate from the Plums. Yes, I should be disappointed in this book, especially since Grandma Mazur is only in a few scenes but nonetheless, it was extremely funny and entertaining- everything a great Stephanie Plum book should be.

Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Series
Visions of Sugar Plums (2002)
Plum Lovin' (2007)
Plum Lucky (2008)
Plum Spooky (2009)

Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen and Fearless Fourteen
Links: Author Wikipedia,
Interview: Bestsellers Books (Audio), Audio Excerpt



Picture Explanations
Fart Fire:
Elmer the Fire Farter helps Diesel and Stephanie out while in the Barrens
Pine Barrens: All of the characters spend a ton of time out on these roads in the Barrens
Monkey: This is Carl, he's shown up a few times in this series but has a HUGE part in this story

Other Blogger's Opinions: Savvy Verse & WitReadingAdventuresBooks & other thoughts, Un-Mainstream Mom Reads

Please leave your link if I've left you out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bringing a Town Together

When ten-year-old India Opal Buloni moves to Naomi, Florida, with her father, she doesn't know what to expect- least of all, that she'll adopt Winn-Dixie, a dog she names after the supermarket where they meet. Before long, Opal and her father realize- with a little help from Winn-Dixie- that while they've both tasted a bit of melancholy in their lives, they still have a whole lot to be thankful for.

Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Start & Finished: 2/25/09
Published: 2000
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 182 (paperback)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction

During the worst winter in Minnesota, Kate DiCamillo became homesick for Florida so to keep herself company she wrote a story about “longing for home and longing for a dog” and called it Because of Winn-Dixie. Her very first published story was a success and like some of her later books, it won many awards. The book was also recognized by being nominated for the Newbery Award in 2001, which was presented to Richard Peck for A Year Down Yonder instead.

According to the author, this story is meant to be a “hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South” and I would have to agree with her. It’s not a long book and it only took DiCamillo about six months to write but even so, it’s still very good and has a ton of heart. Winn-Dixie himself is just a figment of the author’s imagination however; all the characters still seem genuine and almost real… even the bird Gertrude!

Twentieth Century Fox and Walden Media collaborated to bring Because of Winn-Dixie to the screen in 2005. I did seem the film before I had read the book and I was quite surprised at how well it was adapted. Even the author (whom the director did take advice from her and even let her re-write some of the script) has said that the “imagery in the movie is so compelling and beautiful that it has replaced the imagery in [her] head.”

A story that is good enough to be nominated for an award shouldn’t be forgotten just because it doesn’t win, especially when it is a Newbery Award. I have yet to be disappointed with a book that has gotten their stamp of approval as they’re all charming- the ones about animals in particular. Winn-Dixie may have been a “stinky, funny, ugly, and friendly” dog but "it's hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor."

Links: Book Wikipedia, Author Wikipedia, About.com Article/ Interview
Interview: Scholastic (transcript), Kidsreads, Reading Rockets (transcript), Candlewick interview (PDF)



Picture Explanations
Gone with the Wind: Gloria Dump's eyesight is bad so Opal reads to her.
Winn-Dixie Sign: Where the two meet and where the dog gets his name
Bottle Tree: Gloria’s bottle tree

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