Saturday, October 31, 2009

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween

I hope that whether you are hanging out with the kids or having grownup fun tonight, I hope you all have a safe and Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Prom Night

I had never seen this movie before so when I saw it a store for $5 I snatched it up and figured even if I only watched it once it was still cheaper then going to a movie. So I brought it home and let it sit around for a few days and almost forgot I bought it.

Well the other night I was cleaning up a bit and found the DVD amongst a few books so I figured why not watch it. I didn't get around to it until I was ready for bed so I put it in my portable DVD player, put the earphones in, and enjoyed a wonderful 80s movie.

The opening scene has the creepiest game of hide and go seek that I have ever seen. These kids are playing in a abandoned building and the seeker yells out "The killers are coming, The killers are coming". It's shot wonderfully and has the perfect sense of menace to it. Well needless to say one kid meets the end of her life and the others swear themselves to secrecy.

Skip ahead 6 years later and the older sister (Jamie Lee Curtis) of the dead girl is dating one of the kids who caused her death and they are getting ready for the Senior Prom. One by one they are getting rewarded for their past behavior.

I figured out who the killer was pretty early in the movie despite a red herring that is fed to us on a silver platter. Half way through the movie I began to doubt myself and shift the blame to someone else but that quickly went out of my head and I became convinced I was right the first time.

If you like cheesy 80s slasher/horror movies (the way I do) then this is a must see. Try to get to it before Halloween if possible, that way your brain is already wanting to be scared.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Four Hamilton High School seniors have been hiding the truth of what happened to ten-year-old Robin Hammond for six long years. But someone saw what they did ans i preparing for revenge--a prom night killing spree. Hooded, masked, and wilding an axe, he'll stalk his prey in the dark, empty halls, striking when his victims are alone. And just as the spotlight falls upon the newly crowned king and queen, the killer will show everyone what his favorite game to play is...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

This book came out a while ago and I always meant to pick it up every time I went to the bookstore. Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite authors and her Valdemar books are amongst my favorite books of all time. So when this book came out I was so excited that I started bouncing in my chair as I was reading about it. Then life set in and I didn't pick up until recently.

This is the first book of a series that takes place between the Last Herald Mage trilogy (my favorite) and the stand alone book, Burning Brightly. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with the Valdemar books that probably won't make much sense to you. Just know that it takes place before most of her other Valdemar books.

The book takes place while the new Heralds Collegium is being built along with a new Bardic and Healer Collegiums. The main protagonist is a typical example of what can be found throughout the Valdemar books. Mags is a young man who has been living, working as a virtual slave in gem mines. The description of his daily life is monstrous and this causes you to take an instant liking to him. Well that and the fact that he is generous and kind without thinking about it. That he in very small ways tries to look out for the younger children and thinks about others more than most kids in his situation would.

The rest of the story is typical (by which I mean wonderful) of these books. Young man is Chosen by one of the wondrous Companions to become a Herald in the service of Valdemar (the kingdom they live in). The young Herald Trainee goes to Haven (capital city) to start training and is caught up in a situation that tests their skill and courage. I say typical because this is the way a lot of the books start. There is a reason for it though, it works for the type of characters that Heralds are. Heralds have to be tough, resilient, and kind. Now not all the Heralds come from a miserable background but would that make a good story?

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series as I always love to read the history of a Kingdom I want to live in, about the Heralds I want to be like, and about right trumping wrong.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Mags had slaved at the gem mines for as long as he could remember, completely unaware of how unusual his paltry existence was--until some strangers on huge white horses forced their way past the mine owners and carried him away to Haven to become a herald Trainee.

Suddenly the whole world opened up for him. He was warm and well fed for the first time in his life, and he had Dallen, his Companion, who seemed more miraculous than an angel. There was political upheaval in Valdemar's capital, for the ancient was of training heralds--the system of one-on-one mentoring that had been successful for centuries--was failing. Many veteran Heralds had died in the wars, and there were too many Trainees to go around. A Herald's Collegium was being built, and many thought it was wrong to train Heralds in classrooms the same way the Bardic and Healer Trainees were schooled. But dissent among the Heralds was not the only discord in Haven, for the court had been infiltrated by foreign "diplomats," who seemed to be more interested in seeding discontent than in actual diplomacy...and Mags seemed to be the only one who'd noticed...

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are posting comments on other people's blogs. You then play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take up a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week and then post your bests ones on Thursday.

Here are mine for this week:

Veeder: Wild vines that grow throughout the woodlands of South Carolina and Virginia. They can be identified by their brown stems with heart shaped green leafs that are speckled with purple spots. The only other way to identify them is when you accidentally walk through a rather large patch of them and find yourself trapped amongst their stems. Of course that won't do you much good because once you are trapped you can never get out and you will find yourself being slowly consumed to feed the carnivorous vine.

CawCaw: Small, annoying black birds that never seem to shut up. Their cawing can get so loud at times that small babies and the elderly will find blood oozing out of their ears and will experience horrible headaches that last for days.

Pligger: Genetic crossbreeds that were created by overly full of themselves scientists in a secret lab that should be bombed out of existence. They are a horrible cross between pig, lion and tiger. They have the snout and forelegs of a pig, the mane and body of a lion, and stripes and back legs of a tiger. They were made to be front line soldiers in the upcoming Cross dimensional Wars. They were found to be uncontrollable and all know specimens have been destroyed. Of course there is always the chance they weren't all found.

Blockmon: Ancient Aztec guardians that were used to secure temples and royal palaces. They were composed of large blocks of stone stacked on top of each other. They bore the crude outline of a human but were 15 times the size of an average adult male. They were normally armed with large stone spears but they were not necessary as they were more than capable of simply stomping on any trespasser.

Downder: Specialized term for thunder that is produced while a storm is winding down. It tends to be less severe and is no longer capable of scaring small children and dogs.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Favorite Fictional Characters --- Michael Meyers

I will pass on Jason and Freddy. Laugh at Chucky and Pinhead. Oh, but Michael Meyers is another story. Now I know this isn't the best picture of my silent, slasher hero but it will have to do for this post.

Of all the great unstoppable killers in the history of cinema there is no other that even holds a candle to him. The star of 9 films (2 of them really bad Rob Zombie movies) and a body count any psychopath can be proud of he is a star of the silver screen.

The first time I saw the original Halloween movie it scared the crap out of me. I was 13 years old and really didn't want to watch it at the time. Not because I would be scared, quite the opposite actually. I didn't think it would scare me at all. I remembered watching the first Friday the 13th movie and the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie and neither one scared me one bit. To me it was a human killing other humans, nothing all that scary. My mom made me watch it though and it terrified the hell out of me. There was something so creepy about Michael.

Jason Voorhees was just as silent as Michael but he wasn't as scary. Michael has a presence about him that is amazing. Whether it's the way he cocks his head or the way he walks he is a killing machine that oozes terror. Now that last thing I have to say is that by typing this I've talked myself into watching the first two movies tonight after I put my son to bed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taken by Norah McClintock

Two girls have recently disappeared near the town where Stephanie lives, and there is talk of a serial killer. She is concerned but is sure that it could never happen to her.

But then it does. Tied up and alone, she manages to escape her captor and run for her life. Bus she is in the middle of nowhere, with no food, no shelter and no way home.

I have never been a big fan of YA fiction but lately I've been exposed to some really good examples lately. This book was one of them and I'm so happy I read it.

Stephanie is an engaging character who finds herself in a hopeless situation and has the strength and courage to meet it head on and get herself to safety and her family. Unfortunately all is not what it appears to be once she is home and only by staying strong is she able to discover the truth of what happened to her.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday for 10/26/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Last week was a slower week for me as far as new acquisitions go. I didn't get any review or contest books is but as usual I did end up buying a few.

I finally got around to buying Foundation by Mercedes Lackey in paperback. I picked it up from Barnes & Noble in paperback when I stopped in there to get a cup of African Autumn tea.

I stopped into a small independent bookstore called Watermark Books on the spur of the moment while I was driving by. I went in to ask if they had a certain book and the sales associate was so good she had me buying a completely different book. I picked up The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Which seems to be the first book in a series meant for middle schoolers but is 485 pages long.

I picked up the hardback of The Art Thief by Noah Charney at the Friends of the Library Bookstore for $1.50.

I don't go into Best Buy that often anymore but on another whim I decided to go and picked up the DVD set of Ghostbusters 1 & 2 for $6.99 and the new CD by Michael Buble Crazy Love.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview and Giveaway with Dakota Banks, author of Dark Times

I am so excited to present to you the wonderful Dakota Banks who was kind enough to answer a few questions and give two lucky winners the chance to win a signed copy of Dark Times, the first book in her Mortal Path series. I had the privilege of reviewing the book back in September. You can find my review here. Needless to say I love it.

She is a brilliant author with an interesting background and childhood. Which included growing up in a converted funeral home. With her passion for archaeology and the paranormal she is able to blend them together to create a wonderfully fleshed out world.

So with no further ado I present to you Dakota Banks in her own words along with an excerpt from the next book in the series, Sacrifice. Giveaway details will be at the end.

First of all I just want to thank you for you time and the opportunity to speak with you. I would like to start off with a basic question. When and how did you decide that you wanted to write a book?

I've known I wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. I wrote science fiction short stories in high school and got hand-written rejection letters, the key word here being rejection. Then the haze of life drifted in, or maybe the Mists of Avalon, and when I awoke again to the idea of writing, I had gotten to the point where my husband had stopped using individual candles on my birthday cake and instead bought those big, dramatic candles shaped like numbers. If I was going to be a writer, I'd have to stop using the excuse that I didn't have time to write. So one day I typed "Chapter One," and kept on going. I'd like to say that I started writing just then for the joy of it, but what actually motivated me to start at that particular time was a contest deadline and prize money. I love writing and can't imagine doing anything else, but it took a deadline and dollars to get me to start my first book. Oh, the shame of it. Plus I didn't win.

That first book, a futuristic thriller, was good enough to get me an agent. Although publishers liked the writing, they weren't too taken with the main character, since there wasn't a clear main character. After numerous rejections, I finally got the hint. I needed to write something that I loved and that was salable too. I developed a series based on virtual reality recreations of homicides. Full immersion VR, where you step into the life-sized scene. There are five of those books published under a different name. I eventually went back and rewrote my first book, using what I'd learned over the years, and it's published now too. So I can legitimately say I published the first book I ever wrote.

After six books I wanted to try something different, a series that would allow me to switch to paranormal. Dark Time is the first book in the urban fantasy/paranormal thriller genre for me. It is so exciting to be writing in this area, but scary because it is almost like starting all over. Okay, it is like starting all over. There's not a great deal of cross-over from techno-thriller readers to paranormal. But I strongly feel that if a writer isn't doing something she loves, it's apparent to the readers. So even in the bottom-line-oriented publishing world, a writer has to follow her heart, and that could mean writing in different genres at different times in a writing career.

Where did the idea for Dark Time come from?

Dark Time was a long time in the making, since the idea was born during the early days of the Iraq war, when the Iraq National Museum was looted in 2003. Iraq includes the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and has treasures from ancient Mesopotamian civilizations, among them Sumeria. The theft and senseless destruction of so many artifacts in the museum hit me hard, as it did many others around the world who have been working to restore the museum's collection.

I've been an amateur archaeologist for years, with a particular interest in the Sumerian civilization. Some of those artifacts have been around 3,000-5,000 years. That got me thinking first about what if there were ancient artifacts that were much more resilient and couldn't be destroyed by mere humans? And if there were artifacts, why not stretch it more and have ancient gods still here? Why not a human or two from that time period, although they wouldn't be fully human anymore? As a writer, these ideas excited me because there was a lot of wiggle room in them--paranormal elements with ancient legends coming to life in the present, a quest for artifacts, personal stories that could play out on both a very big stage and a small one, drama, romance, action. The ideas were so big and powerful that it took a long time to create characters and a story structure from them.

Why Sumerian/Babylonian mythology as an inspiration as opposed to Native American, Celtic or some other myth system?

I'd have to blame the Epic of Gilgamesh I read years ago for that. Many who read one of its various translations--the original is written in cuneiform on twelve tablets--are briefly caught up in the imaginative story of the legendary god-king and the Sumerian gods who are sprinkled in it, then slip back to other things they can relate to more easily. In my case, I got stuck in it, like an insect in amber, and it generated an interest in civilizations in the Mesopotamian region. Gilgamesh is an epic poem from roughly 4,200 years ago that tells the story of the Sumerian King Gilgamesh, who may or may not have been a real-life character from about 4,700 years ago. Recent discoveries support the existence of Gilgamesh, which makes me wonder what he did as a real man that inspired such legends. Of all the tales told about him, the most human to believe is that he started his kingship with the unsavory habit of deflowering virgin brides on their wedding days, leaving the grooms to twiddle their, er, thumbs and causing plenty of marriages to start with humiliation and anger. A perfect setup for a murder mystery, and exactly the type of behavior Maliha Crayne (Dark Time's protagonist) would bring to a halt.

There's another reason I couldn't resist using Sumerian myths. The Sumerians believed that their gods didn't originate on Earth. According to their myths, the gods (or Annukai) came from another planet, Niburu, supposedly a part of our solar system but with a wildly eccentric orbit. Niburu approaches Earth every 3,600 years. All of this is speculation and myth; not proven fact. About 450,000 years ago, the Annukai transferred from Niburu to Earth to search for gold. The Sumerian creation myth revolves around these aliens and their actions here. To get in on the 2012 frenzy already beginning to build, the story is that Niburu will return to Earth's vicinity in 2012 and one of two things will happen. It will collide with Earth, or the Annukai will come back to Earth and be pleased--or not--with the humans they created and refined long ago. I don't believe all this, but I do eat it up, and it's definitely timely!

I've always wanted to ask an author why the abundance of protagonists in the genre are women. Is it that most authors in the genre are women? Are most of the readers women? Or is it another reason I've never even thought of?

The contemporary urban fantasy genre is currently heavily shaded toward vampire, werewolf, faerie, and shape shifter stories. I'm going to stick my neck out (hah!) and probably get blasted, but I think there is a strong undercurrent of sexuality running through these stories that are fantasies women have about exotic, powerful creatures. Women readers relate better to women protagonists when it comes to sex or emotional issues, and there are a lot of women authors writing material that caters to these fantasies. A woman reader loses herself in the female protagonist's world and has two dark, dangerous vampires fighting to possess her, or two alpha werewolves, while discovering that only she can stop the war that will throw the world into chaos for centuries. Beats doing the laundry any day--I can vouch for that! The best of these books also contain deep character development, especially on an emotional basis, that creates a bond to the character and helps the woman reader put herself into the scene.

I think this is the "mainstream" of urban fantasy right now, but there is also traditional urban fantasy that predated the sexy vampire craze and continues alongside it, and a lot of that is written by male authors. A good example is one of my favorite authors, Charles de Lint, and his series of books set in the imaginary city of Newford. Also consider these vampire stories: They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon; I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; and Salem's Lot by Stephen King. (My thanks to the Goodreads October Newsletter for refreshing my mind about these three.) Not much in the way of pervasive sex there.

I think there's room within urban fantasy for stories that have strong female protagonists who create an emotional bond, but are coupled with a lot of action: a thriller-fantasy. I had a great time researching and writing Dark Time and book two, Sacrifice, due out in August 2010. They're the type of books I love to read because I can get the fantasy (paranormal) punch while exploring some new territory as a reader.

As I said in my review I loved the cliffhanger ending. Can you give us a hint at what is in store for the next book?

The title, Sacrifice, is meaningful and refers to events that made me cry when I wrote them. I can also offer a short excerpt from Sacrifice below. It's not the beginning of the book, and it's still unedited, so it may change in minor ways. This is the setup to an action scene as Maliha visits the lab of her friends, scientists Ty and Claire Rainier, who are analyzing a specimen from Africa that she sent to them.

Sacrifice Excerpt

At various times in the past, Maliha's fighting outfit had been made of loose cotton, silk, or leather, but it had always been black.

Wear black to hide the blood, Master Liu said.

Tonight she slipped on the black cotton trousers of the ninja and tied strings around her calves, nipping in the wide material. The top wrapped around her and secured with ties, and she filled the hidden pockets with throwing stars. Tabi socks and boots, with their traditional split toes for better gripping, followed. The bottom of her trousers tucked nearly inside her boots, and at the top of each boot she fastened a sheath with a short knife for close-up fighting. Maliha braided her black hair into one heavy braid down her back, and then tucked it inside the back of her top. She wasn't ready to use the mask and hood, so she put them up her sleeves, where they were held in place by forearm ties.

With her throwing knives strapped to her thighs, she moved through the lobby of the building and tossed a wink at the wide-eyed door attendant.

"Late Halloween party," she said.

"Uh …" he said, and she was out the door into a November night with a sliver of moon in the sky. It was exhilarating to be out on the streets, dressed to kill.

Even now I understand the temptation to be Ageless. The power, fearlessness, answering to no one but the demon, the decadence …

She shook herself out of the memory before those thoughts could take hold.

Moving rapidly, her cold breath trailing behind her, she headed south to the University of Chicago. Flitting through the parks that lined the lake shore, she came to Jackson Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood. From there it was a straight shot west along the Midway, a large grassy area that was the site of the 1893 World's Colombian Exhibition, an event Maliha remembered well. She'd ridden the first Ferris wheel there and ridden the same one again at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

The route from the lake shore to the Midway wasn't the most direct way to go, but she felt like running and she liked to stay to the green areas whenever she could. When she passed the crenellated towers of Harper Library, she left the Midway. It was only one long block past the hospital to get to the buildings of the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The Rainiers' lab was located in an older stone building with Gothic arches. Maliha knew of a window with a broken lock above a side doorway that projected out from the building like a Lego block stuck onto its side. The window had been that way since Maliha moved to Chicago, although it had been fixed twice in the interim—and Maliha promptly broke it again to preserve her access. Because of the Rainiers, the building was a useful place to her, and it was, after all, in her backyard.
She climbed the outside of the building, using the ridges and curves of the Gothic features as handholds. She didn't have far to go, about ten feet to a flat section of stone roof atop the projecting doorway. The window was topped by arched glass, but she was interested in the bottom panes. She lay down on the stone roof and placed her rubber-soled boots on the glass. Pushing up with her legs, she expected the heavy window to rise enough for her to slip underneath it, but it didn't move.

The window's lock had been fixed again.
Impatient to get inside, Maliha didn't want to try anything else, like
breaking in through the building's door. There was an electronic lock on the door, and it wouldn't yield without time and tools. Glass, though, yielded to many things, among them a swift kick from one of her boots. She swept the broken glass out of the way as best she could, put on her mask and hood, and dropped ten feet to the floor inside the building, landing with the relaxed knees of a trained parachute trooper.

Maliha made her way carefully through the halls, dimmed except for security lights every twenty feet or so. Professors Ty and Claire Rainier didn't rate prime facilities, which for Maliha's purpose was fine. Larger, better-equipped labs were crowded with grad students who worked all hours of the night. Most of the time, the Rainiers worked alone.

As she approached the door, she heard noises coming from the lab. The sound of glass breaking was followed by a muffled scream. She ran the last thirty feet and did a handspring that brought her feet-first toward the door. The door sprang open, torn off its hinges. She landed with a roll, ending up behind a solid lab bench. Taking a quick look, she was horrified at the scene.

Bright lights flooded the lab. She blinked and tried to adjust her eyes rapidly. There were two men dressed in black, but they were blocky and moved with no grace. They were not trained martial artists. She dismissed them, but not the guns they held. Even the hired muscle could get lucky.

Claire was tied in a chair in the center of the lab, her head slumped forward so that her chin rested on her chest. Ty was on the ground, clutching his belly and groaning. There was broken equipment all around. A tall, thin man stood next to Claire. His hair hung in greasy lanks and he wore a long, heavy robe. There was a bulge in his coat pocket that was probably the canteen containing the specimen. He turned his face toward Maliha and for the briefest moment their eyes met. His were black, flat, and emotionless, a snake's eyes fixed on its prey. Just as she ducked back into the shelter of the lab bench, she saw him pick up a piece of broken glass from the floor.

Maliha knew his intent as though their minds were one.

She rolled out from behind the bench and planted a throwing star in the wrist of the nearest gunman. He screamed and dropped the gun. As she passed by him, she finished him with a blow to the throat, then turned her attention back to the real danger in the room.

Dakota, I want to thank you once again for the time you spent in answering the questions so thoroughly. After reading that excerpt, I can't wait to get my hands on Sacrifice.


All right boys and girls just for reading this far in I'm going to give you the details of the Giveaway now. Two lucky winners will each receive a signed copy of Dark Times. Dakota has graciously offered to ship them anywhere in the world so this contest is open to everyone.

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment stating your favorite mythological character. It could be a god, goddess, hero, or creature. Please include your email address with your comments. No email, no entry. The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM CST on Friday Nov. 6th.

You can earn extra entries by doing the following, leave a separate comment with email address for each entry.

+1 for following my blog through Google Friend Connect

+1 for twittering/blogging/or adding this giveaway on your sidebar

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Agatha Christie Challenge --- The Secret of Chimneys

Well I finished my latest book in the challenge last night and I'm still loving what I read. The Secret of Chimneys is now among my favorite Agatha Christie books.

There is a new super couple in the Christie world for me. The characters of Anthony Cade and Virginia Revel are so great together. The chemistry they have is amazing and makes me think that Agatha was very much in love at one point in her life. Anthony is that rugged, good looking adventurer we all wish we could meet. Virginia is that witty, fearless woman that you can't help but admire and adore. Together they are perfection and I really hope (though won't hold my breath) for another appearance from them.

The basic storyline, actually there is no basic storyline, this is one of the most convoluted story lines to date and I loved every moment of it.

You take everything you want in a mystery story and throw it all together into one beautiful mix. Royals in disguise, murder, memoirs, jewel thief's, secret identities, humongous mansions with secret rooms, codes, and I could go on and on but this book has it all. And it works together. From a lesser author this would not have worked, but under Agatha Christie's skill is all blends perfectly.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. But the parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets. It contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail-and leads to the murder of a stranger who's been shadowing Anthony's every more. Discovering the dead man's identity means retracing his steps-to the rambling estate of Chimneys where darker secrets, and deadlier threats, await anyone who dares to enter.

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are posting comments on other peoples blogs. You then play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with a authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week and then post your best ones every Thursday.

Here are mine for this week:

Scorpus: The sister of Cerberus who guards the back door of Hades. She is normally depicted as a giant scorpion with three heads; dog, human, and lioness.

Coffeniur: A connoisseur of coffins. These strange individuals can normally be found trying out different coffins in the local funeral homes.

Monkev: The name of the most notorious monk of the 17th century. He was personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of women he considered to be to pure and innocent to be allowed to live in such a depraved world.

Weroc: Strange creatures found in the deepest ocean trenches. In their natural state they resemble giant Octopi. However when they are feeling threatened they can alter their shape to resemble a great white shark.

Xophia: Woodland fairies found throughout the forests of Minnesota and Michigan. They are widely known for their kindness to lost hikers. They will take the shape of fawns of rabbits and lead hikers to safety.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dracula

Well, how could I do a month of Halloween FFC posts and not include Dracula in the mix.

When I think of vampires, there is a pantheon of the elite that reign above all others. Carmilla Karnstein, Sir Francis Varney, Miriam Blaylock, Lestat de Lioncourt, and above them all stands Count Dracula.

How can you not love the this character in any incarnation. He is dark, mysterious, and there is just something so noble and regal about him. Plus how can you forget the almost sexual pull this character has over people. There is something so sexy about him that it's hard for you to get his image out of your mind. From his first appearance in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula all the way through the over 161 movies, Dracula is a star and he will never let you forget it.

Now I used the picture of Bela Lugosi as the Count from the 1931 version of "Dracula" directed by Tod Browning. I used this picture because this is my favorite movie version of him. There is just something so dark and menacing about him in this movie that I don't think anyone has been able to duplicate. I still get chills every time I watch him bend down and feed off of Lucy and Mina.

Christopher Lee comes in a close second for movie adaptations but he still doesn't hold a candle to the brilliant performance by Bela Lugosi.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Torchwood: Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale

I have been going through serious withdrawal from Torchwood (the best Sci Fi show ever) and I had been seeing these books around but had not picked one up before.

Well the absence of Captain Jack and crew became too much for me the other day so I had to go buy one of the books. This isn't the first book in the series but it was the first one they had available, so into my hands, out the door, and into my house it came.

I was not disappointed by the story, it felt like I was watching a really good episode of the show and it was nice to see Tosh, Owen, and Ianto again. Those three characters are highly missed by me and I wish they could be brought back to life on the show.

So anyway back to the story the basic concept is you take the legend of Jenny Greenteeth, make her the last survivor of an alien race, strand her on Earth, and make her bent on taking control by creating homunculuses of herself. She uses a bacteria that infect human males and uses their bodies as incubators to grow the little tots. Now I know this sounds cheesy as hell and it sort of is, but it's done in a way that only Torchwood can do. Nothing was lacking in this book the humor I expect, the danger and action that compels the storyline, and the oh so wonderful Captain Jack. Captain Jack makes Torchwood for me and he doesn't let me done in this book. I can't wait for my next trip to the store so I can buy the next book in the series.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Dr. Bob Strong's GP surgery has been treating a lot of coughs and colds recently, far more that is normal for the time of year. Bob thinks there's something up but he can't think what. He seems to have caught it himself, whatever it it - he's starting to cough badly and there are flecks of blood in his hanky.

Saskia Harden has been found on a number of occasions submerged in ponds or canals but alive and seemingly none the worse for wear. Saskia is not on any files, except in the medicals records at Dr. Strong's GP practice. But Torchwood's priorities lie elsewhere: investigating ghostly apparitions in South Wales, they have found a dead body. It's old and in an advanced state of decay. And it is still able to talk.

And what is it saying is "Water hag"...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Health Insurance Now

I'm not normally political, actually I am but I've been trying to leave it off my blog. I wanted to focus on books, movies, and music; the fun stuff that brings us together as a community. I didn't want to spout off my political views though I have many, and as anyone who knows me can attest too I'm not normally shy about sharing them.

I've actually toyed with the idea of starting a political blog but I don't think I would have the time to be as active on it as I would want to. So now I'm having to post this here, on this blog, because I need somewhere to put my reactions to this story I just read.

Here is the link, I'm not going to try and clean it up because if I do, I know I will mess up and break it somehow.

It is from the Journal Sentinel Online website. The Journal Sentinel is a paper out of Milwaukee, WI and one that I visit from time to time.

I found myself getting rather emotional over this story and more than a bit frustrated. The story is about a family who is having to make hard, hard choices just to make sure they have health insurance. The wife has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is having a rough go of it. The husband had lost his job, his severance package was expiring, he has not been able to find a job, and their health insurance was about to get too expensive for them to afford.

The needed the insurance though to cover the cost of the wife's chemo and medical bills. So what does the husband and father of three find himself doing at the age of 39 and while his wife is sick and suffering a relapse of the cancer.

He joins the Army, which is a heroic thing to do, but it should not be the last option for a husband to make in order to have health insurance for his family. He has to be away from his family for 4 years while his wife suffers without him being there. No family, No individual should ever have to make this choice.

We need universal health care in this country so families don't have to tear themselves apart in order to get coverage. I'm tired of the bickering and fighting over the issue and wish those fighting the idea of providing health coverage for everyone would realize that there are real people, real families that suffer due to the lack of health insurance. I wish they would realize that doing nothing is not an option anymore, that those who die every year simply because they lack coverage are victims of a system in disorder. That living in a country where millions of people without health insurance is a problem. That it is an economic, moral, and public policy emergency that needs to be fixed so situations like this never happen again.

Mailbox Monday for 10/19/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

A bit of news on how I'm changing Mailbox Monday. I'm no longer going to provide links to books themselves. Most of the time they end up as broken links and don't work anyway plus I don't want anyone to think I'm working with/for the websites I link to. I'm also going to start including any CDs or DVDs I acquire during the week as well.

So with no further delay I present my acquisitions from last week.

First up are the two books I won from Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century.

I received the teachers edition of A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Under by Richard Peck in one volume.

And a ARC of Posh and Prejudice: A Diary of Chav Novel by Grace Dent.

I also received a bound galley of Primitive by Mark Nykanen from Bell Bridge Books during a BBAW giveaway.

Next up are the books I purchased from a used book store. I was in the mood for vampires so I bought 4 vampire novels.

Clan Novel: Gangrel by Gherbod Fleming in paperback

Clan Novel: Setite by Kathleen Ryan in paperback

Bound In Blood by David Thomas Lord in trade paperback

Desmond by Ulysses G. Dietz in trade paperback

I made a trip to the Dollar Tree Store and picked up The Righteous Men by Sam Bourne in hardcover for a $1.

Saturday night after work I went to Barnes & Noble to renew my membership and I ended up walking out with three books.

A paperback of The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

A hardcover of Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan off the bargain table

My first Torchwood novel (I've been missing Captain Jack) Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale in hardcover.

On my trip to Wal Mart I picked up the DVD of the 1980 version of Prom Night starring Jamie Lee Curtis for $5.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

10 Kids I will Not Babysit

I love kids. They are the only people I have infinite patience with but even I have to draw the line somewhere. There are just some kids that are down right bad or even dangerous and why would I want to put myself in a precarious position. Now some of the kids I mention aren't deadly but all of them are creepy and would give me nightmares if I had to watch them while their parents were out on the town.

As a side note I never realized how much Stephen King doesn't like children, 4 of the finalists on the list came from his imagination.

First up is Charlene "Charlie" McGee from "Firestarter". Can you really blame a guy for not wanting to be around her? Who wants to be turned into ash because you sent a cranky kid to bed?

Now I know this isn't one kid but a group of kids but there was no way I could leave them off the list. The children of Gatlin, NE from "The Children of the Corn" have got to be some of the scariest around. Not only do they seriously dislike adults but they hang out with some creepy guy called "He Who Walks Behind the Rows". Now what kind of idiotic name is that?

Now I know that Cole Sear, from "The Sixth Sense", is neither dangerous or evil. However, I really don't feel like babysitting a kid who talks to dead people and animated, electronic teddy bears.

I'm not even sure there is enough money in the world for me to watch Damien Thorn from "The Omen". Not only is his father the Big Evil One, but he really doesn't get along with his mother and has a habit of being attacked by other primates.

Now just because Danny Torrance, from "The Shinning", is psychic that doesn't mean he is a bad kid. I just get creeped out by the whole redrum thing and besides do I really want to ask his father for my fee?

Then there is adorable Gage Creed from "Pet Semetary". Such a sweet young child until he died and his father had to go and bury him in the wrong plot. Now he is a scalpel wielding murderer who took out his mom and tried to eliminate his dad. I don't want to be next.

Young Henry Evans from "The Good Son" isn't quite old enough to shave but ever since the death of his brother he hasn't been the same. I'm just not sure I would feel safe enough with just the two of us in the house.

Regan MacNeil from "The Exorcist" isn't bad she's possessed and she is sticking to that excuse. Between the yelling, screaming, and head turning I would never get a moment of piece while her mother is out shopping. Besides getting pea soup off your clothes is such a hassle and Mrs. MacNeil wouldn't pay the dry cleaning bill.

If for some reason I were to babysit Rhoda Penmark from "The Bad Seed" she would have to leave the tap shoes at home and would not be allowed near anything flammable. Bad things always happen when she gets mad and I'm partial to my life.

The children of Midwich in "The Village of the Damned" are just creepy as can be. Who wants to be around kids that can make you crash your car into a wall or shoot yourself. Of course with these kids you may have no choice but to watch them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fright Night

One of my favorite things about the month of October is it gives me the excuse to watch all my favorite scary movies all at one time. Well not really at one time, but you get the point.

This classic vampire film from 1985 isn't all that scary (anymore) but it is one of my favorite movies to watch once the weather starts to get a little colder and the nights start arriving earlier.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Meet Jerry Dandridge. He's sweet, sexy, and he likes to sleep in late. You might think he's the perfect neighbor. But before inviting Jerry in for a nightcap, there's just one thing you should know. Jerry prefers his drinks warm, red - and straight from the jugular! It's Fright Night, a horrific howl starring Chris Sarandon as the seductive vampire and William Ragsdale as the frantic teenager struggling to keep Jerry's deadly fangs our of his neck. Only 17-year old Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) knows Jerry's bloodcurdling secret. When Charley can't get anybody to believe him, he turns to TV horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who used to be the "Great Vampire Killer" of the movies. Can these mortals save Charley and his sweetheart Amy (Amanda Bearse) from the wrathful bloodsucker's toothy embrace?

The synopsis never even mentions Charley's best friend "Evil" Ed Thompson. He is probably one of the most annoying but funny characters to grace the silver screen. He is played by Stephen Geoffreys and is such a complete spaz that you can't but help love him while he is stealing scenes from his costars. Once he is turned into a vampire by Jerry Dandridge he gets even funnier. You almost feel sorry for him once he has his final showdown with Peter Vincent.

The other character I love in this movie is that of Peter Vincent. Played by the wonderful Roddy McDowall, Peter is the perfect combination of intrepid vampire hunter and washed up actor. The clips of his own movies are hilarious to watch and remind me of the old Hammer horror movies. I would hope they got the name Peter from Peter Cushing who starred as a vampire hunter in many of those movies.

So all I can say is for those of you who have never seen this movie, I implore you to watch it. For those of you who have watched it before, I ask that you give it another screening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are posting comments on other peoples blogs. You then play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with a authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week and then post your best ones every Thursday.

Here are mine for this week:

Spoll: Thought sensing spell used by witches and warlocks running for political office to gauge the mood of the electorate.

Hyclons: Devotees of the Cult of Halcyon Days. They can be identified by their permanent smiles and sunny dispositions that can not be daunted.

Inventie: Latin term for cast off inventions that never make it past the model stage. They are normally defective and do not perform the function they were designed to do. Some have been known to be dangerous and have to be carefully disposed of.

Bayst: Ancient Egyptian goddess who was the goddess of bays and river mouths. She was the twin sister of the goddess Bastet and was depicted as a human woman with the head of a seahorse.

Flesse: Liquefied cotton candy combined with wax and thread to form dental floss. Popular with kids of all ages but can be highly addictive and has been know to cause problems with some children.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Memory of Captain Lou Albano

One of the icons of my childhood passed away today and I just wanted to post a quick memorial to him.

Captain Lou Albano was a face I grew up with watching professional wrestling, back in the days when it was fun. He was one of the good guys and always a lot of fun to watch. Whether it was in the ring or ringside managing other wrestlers he was a professional.

That and you have to love a guy who started in a Cyndi Lauper video "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and a Saturday morning cartoon "Hulk Hugan's Rock 'n' Wrestling". I loved the cartoon and even without the other references Captain Lou would stay in my mind for that reason alone.

Favorite Fictional Characters --- The Sanderson Sisters

Now normally three evil witches bent on eating the souls of children in order to stay alive and young would not be very likable or on my list of Favorite Fictional Characters.

However, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson are not your typical evil witches. After being hung for their crimes in 1693 they are brought back to life, in 1993, after a virgin lights a black flame candle on Halloween night. At first they are a little confused by the sights and sounds of a modern Halloween but they come to realize that they are in a prime spot for taking back their lives.

Now because the sisters are played by Bette Midler, Kathy Njimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker the sisters are hilarious, likable and just fun to watch. Whether it's singing "I Put a Spell on You" and actually putting a spell over a Halloween party, kicking around the zombie they bring back to life, or how they interact with each other; they are hilarious and a lot of fun to watch. So much so that when they are defeated in the end, you almost feel sorry for them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 of My Favorite Halloween Candies (From 5th Grade)

I have no idea why I'm doing this post other than the fact that trick-or-treating is on my brain right now. My son and I are trying to figure out what he is going to be for Halloween. Now naturally the candy receptacle depends on what his costume is. Then that brought my brain to the last time I remember candy collecting. 5th grade is really the last time I remember going, I was a mummy. So with no further ado, I present my favorite treats from that year.

How can it get better than mini KitKats?

Mini Butterfingers come in a close second.

These guys are the whole reason I love malts. The strawberry ones are just as good.

There was one house that gave these out every year. This was the coolest candy to be found in the neighborhood.

A Halloween staple that never gets old.

Crunchy goodness that brings a tingle to your mouth.

Another one of those treats that was a speciality of one particular house. This was the only house my mom would let me keep the homemade goodies from.

The rootbeer DumDums were the only ones I loved as a kid, and the only ones I will eat now.

One of the most common Halloween goodies and still one of my favorites.

Kind of like Smarties but even better were Sweet Tarts. I still eat most of what my son brings home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Lost Boys

My roommate has a theory about what makes a good movie. He thinks that if a movie's opening sequence involves water the movie will be good. In this instant he is dead on in his thinking.

This is one of the best movies of the 1980s (1987) and one of the best vampire movies of all time. It has everything a perfect 80s movie needs.

The soundtrack is dead on and used effectively. The theme song of the movie seems to be "Cry Little Sister" (youtube video) and is used throughout the movie. Different snippets of the song are used to frame certain frames and seems to capture the essence of those particular scenes.

The cast is spectacular. Jason Patric, Diane Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, and Corey Haim all star in the movie. You can't get better than having both Coreys in a movie, well maybe if you added Rob Lowe in at the time. Speaking of Rob Lowe I always wondered why Sam (Corey Haim) has a poster of Rob Lowe pulling his shirt up on his closet door. I wonder what was being implied back then.

Jason Patric and Corey Haim play the sons of Diane Wiest who moves back in with her father after a divorce she didn't feel like fighting. Once their the boys meet new friends and start to have fun. In Michael's case (Jason Patric) he meets a beautiful girl who is otherwise engaged and is brought into the gang by it's leader David (Kiefer Sutherland). Sam meets the Frog brothers (one of who is Corey Feldman) at a comic book store and the quickly bond (which may be to strong of a word) over vampire comics.

Little does Michael know that his new friends are trying to initiate him into a gang of vampires controlled by some unknown individual. Once Sam discovers what is happening he calls in the Frog brothers for help and chaos reigns for the rest of the movie.

For anyone who enjoys a wonderfully written, strong vampire movie I strongly encourage you to watch it.

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Sam and his older brother Michael are all-American teens with all_American interests. But after they move with their mother to peaceful Santa Carla, California, things mysteriously begin to change. Michael's not himself lately. And Mom's not going to like what he's turning into.

Mailbox Monday for 10/12/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This last week was a little busier than the one before. I actually have books to post about this week. It's so exciting.

I bought Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris from Amazon.Com using the $15 gift card I won from Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

I recieved a audio book of $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner from a giveaway held by Beth at Beth's Book Review.

I bought 4 hardcover books from the Friends of the Library Bookstore.

Witch World: Swords & Spells by Andre Norton for 50 cents

The Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton for 75 cents

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt for 75 cents

Endpeace by Jon Cleary for 50 cents

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10 Houses I Never Want To Live In

One of my favorite genres of Horror, whether movies or books, is the haunted house. There is just something wonderful about a creepy home that has spirits of those gone before walking the halls and scaring the crap out of people. I decided to share some of the cinematic homes I would not stay in for a hour let along live in.

Who would want to live in 112 Ocean Avenue? The house from "The Amityville Horror" is truly one of the creepiest homes in movie history. From ichor oozing out of the walls to driving the inhabitants homicidal what more would you want from a haunted house? It also is the subject of a controversial book, The Amityville Horror - A True Story by Jay Anson.

The Allardyce House is truly a carnivorous structure feeding off and restoring itself from the lives of it's dwellers. Violence, blood, and death brings this dilapidated mansion back to life. "Burnt Offerings" is a wonderful movie and a still unread book by Robert Marasco.

The Belasco House, the centerpiece of "The Legend of Hell House" based off of a Richard Matheson book, it is the Mount Everest of haunted houses. Whether it's one spirit or many, this house is truly a repository for evil and terror.

Hill House, the massive home built by Hugh Crane, is the beginning and the ending of Eleanor Vance's life. Loud pounding on the walls, messages written on the walls, and rooms that close in on themselves will be enough to convince you this house is truly evil. This version of the house, the 1963 "The Haunting", is far superior to the remake and more closely resembles the house in the book The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

The dwelling from "The House on Haunted Hill" from 1959 is truly a place of murder and mayhem. With secret rooms and vats of acid in the cellar you may never come out if you go in.

The Nebbercracker house has a mind and life of it's own in "Monster House". When the spirit of a circus freak decides to take vengeance no one is safe from it's wrath.

Who would want a visit from Norman Bates in the shower? That alone is enough to keep me far away from the Bates House, the Bates Motel, the county, and the state.

Rose Red, the decrepit old mansion in Seattle, is definitely one crazy house. What else would you call a house that continues to change and grow all by itself? This is one of Stephen King's best works.

The Overlook Hotel, in "The Shining", is one hotel you will check in and never check out. From crazy twin girls to a ballroom full of people this hotel is one that is truly haunted and will drive you to kill.

First of all who would want to live in an old orphanage, especially one you lived in as a child? The spooky residence in "The Orphanage", is truly one of the creepiest I've seen in a long time. Anytime you movie into a home that is haunted by children, run the other way.