Monday, October 28, 2013

The Blair Witch Project

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Blair Witch Project follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods... but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror.  As the three become inexplicably lost, morale deteriorates.  Hunger sets in.  Accusations fly.  By night, unseen evil stirs beyond their campfire's light.  By day, chilling ritualistic figures are discovered nearby.  As the end of their journey approaches, they realize that what they are filming now is not a legend... but their own descent into unimaginable horror.

It's not often that I fall in love with a horror movie when it first comes out.  I've never been a big fan of slasher movies, and this move to torture porn, just annoys the hell out of me.  There is nothing scary about those movies, they're just gross.  How anyone over the age of twelve can be scared by those movies, is beyond my thought process.  For that matter, how anyone over the age of ten can even find most of those movies interesting, boggles the mind.   I want a movie that plays with my head, makes my heart race, and keeps me interested the entire time I watching it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that The Blair Witch Project is the perfect scary movie, because it's not.  I can name about ten movies of the top of my head that terrify me more than this one could ever dream of doing.  But, it does what I want a horror movie to do.  It's takes a simple premise, builds a story around it, and allows the imagination to kick in and fill in the gaps.

When it first came out in 1999, I wasn't buying into the fake hype that this was a "real" movie.  I couldn't even tell where that idea was coming from.  I was watching TV interviews with the actors involved, something that would be impossible had they all died in real life.  Despite all the hype, I found the idea intriguing so I finally talked a friend of mine into seeing it with me, and I was it was love at first sight.

To be fair, the theater was not the right venue for this movie.  In a crowded theater, full of idiotic teenager who can't take anything seriously, it's a little distracting.  It's a little hard to focus on the screen, when those same idiotic teenagers are either laughing of screaming.  Even with all the crap going around me, I found my flight or fight response kicking in.  My pulse was racing, my breath was catching, and I found myself jumping a few times.

Where this movie shines though, is watching it on your couch, cuddled up with the lights off, and nobody else around.  This is the kind of movie that really screws with your head when nothing is around to distract you.  The first time I watched this at home, my instincts didn't want me to walk into the basement.  I actually had to force myself to walk down the stairs.  For any of you who have seen the movie, you know why a basement would not be a good thing.  This movie has to have one of the creepiest endings to ever grace the silver screen.  I watched this movie the other night, and that ending still scared the crap out of me.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she in enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful surroundings, the street food, the elusive guy next door.  Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn't come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.  Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect.  But who is Lily Hayes?  It depends on who's asking.  As the case takes shape - revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA - Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her.

There is really no way to separate Cartwheel from the real life story of Amanda Knox.  I tried the entire time I was reading it, but the parallels are so apparent, I'm not sure there are a lot of people who will read this book and not think of Amanda Knox.  And for me anyway, because I couldn't separate the two, I was never able to fully engage with Lily, her family, or those around her in Buenos Aires.

And that leads me into another winding thought process that may not make sense to anyone but myself.  When it comes to themes explored in a work of fiction, I know that part of it is author's intent and part reader interpretation.  I'm rarely convinced that authors intentionally incorporate all the concepts that critics, academics, and readers would like to ascribe to their works.  I've read a few reviews, both from other bloggers and from critics, that read like a doctoral thesis from a psychology major.  And while I'm sure the author did explore some of the themes being highlighted in these reviews, I'm almost positive some of the others are all in the reviewers heads.  I'm never sure if this is because these types of reviewers can never just relax and enjoy a good story, or if it's because they are simply belong in a Loony Tunes cartoon.

I know the whole reason someone is sitting down, reading this review, is to find out if I liked the book or not.  To tell you the truth, I'm still trying to figure that out for myself, so I put forth my humblest apologies on not being able to answer that most basic of questions.  If I was forced to offer up an opinion, it would be more ambivalent than anything else.  There was nothing that annoyed or offended me, but there was really nothing that grabbed my attention for longer than a few minutes at a time.  I enjoy the author's voice, but I'm not sure that had any real affect on my reading experience.  And one really bizarre side effect, I have even less interest in the Amanda Knox case, than I had before I read this book.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Synopsis From Back Cover:

1845:  New York City forms it's first police force.  The Great Potato Famine hits Ireland.

These two events will change New York City forever...

Timothy Wilde tends bar, saving every dollar in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams.  But when his dreams are destroyed by a fire that devastates downtown Manhattan, he is left with little choice but to accept a job in the newly minted New York City Police Department.

Returning from his rounds one night, Tim collides with a girl no more than ten years old... covered in blood.  She claims that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of Twenty-third Street.  Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her, but as the image of a brutal killer is slowly revealed and anti-Irish rage infects the city, the reluctant copper star is engaged in a battle that may cost him everything...

I'm almost positive that this will be my last mystery review of the year.  I was finishing this one around the time I was starting to feel burned out on my favorite genre.  I'm not saying this book was the nail in the coffin, because it wasn't.  I actually loved this one, the narrative voice was a standout for me, and it kept me entertained the entire time I was reading it.  Instead, I blame Bev of My Reader's Block and Yvette of in so many words....  They have been feeding my addiction for years now, and that addiction is finally wearing me down.  I have always been a mystery lover, especially those of a certain age.  But it's been getting to know those two wonderful bloggers, that has caused my addiction to really take off.  So I'm giving it a rest until the beginning of next year.

I have been wanting to read this book for a while now.  It's been recommended to me over and over again by those who love mysteries, and even a few that just enjoy a well written book, regardless of genre.  For whatever reason, I kept putting it off, and putting it off some more.  Then lightning struck, the heaven's opened up, and a ray of light hit my bookcase in such a way, that it made not picking up the book all but impossible.  I was a moth being drawn to a flickering light, with no way to escape my fate.

I have to admit, my fate was in pretty good shape by the time I turned the last page, and closed the book for the final time.  I got lost in the New York City of old, and quickly found myself getting involved with the characters lives, and caught up in their action.  Much like 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan, The Gods of Gotham drew me into the streets.  It allowed me to breathe in the same air, smell the sewage and mud running in the streets, feel the heat of the fire that gutted a huge section of the city, and live the terror that the Irish were feeling in a new city, hated by everyone else around them.  It made the city, and the time period, a living breathing entity.  And I thank Lyndsay Faye for her brilliant ability to spin a yarn.

Monday, October 21, 2013

5 and 1/8 Of My Favorite Halloween Cartoons

No matter how old I get, I'm a kid at heart when it comes to cartoons.  I'm that guy who probably remembers almost every cartoon that came on in the 80s.  Yeah, I know it's pretty nerdy, but I can live with that.  When you add my love of cartoons to my love of Halloween, I get as happy as a seven year old on Christmas morning.  Needless to say, I've been watching a lot of my favorites, especially since Halloween is only ten days away.  I wanted to share a few of my favorites.  I hope you love them as much as I do.  Quick side note, I couldn't find a full version of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, so a clip will have to do.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Tarmon Gai'don, the Last Battle, looms.  And mankind is not ready.

Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kindoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle.  As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward - wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders - his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.

Egwene al'Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader.  As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership int he face of increasing uncertainty and despair.  Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower - and possibly the world itself.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.  What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

So here starts what Robert Jordan intended to be one book, and with Brandon Sanderson at the helm, it turned into three.  For those of you who don't know, Robert Jordan died before he was able to finish his epic series, and it hung in limbo for a while.  Eventually a decision was made, with a lot of input by Jordan's widow, to ask Brandon Sanderson to finish the series.  One Sanderson took a look at the notes, the decision was made to break it into three books, instead of just one.  After finally finished the series, I think it was the right decision, though I will always wonder what would have been different, had Jordan lived to finish on his own.

I like Sanderson's take on the characters and the way he seems to be a bit more willing to wrap story lines up and allow characters to have a finality to their story line.  The Gathering Storm mainly centers around Rand al'Thor and Egwene al'Vere.  Rand is trying to fight off the madness and paranoia that channeling saidin, when it was still tainted.  It's driving him into madness, forcing those around him to fear for themselves and the world.  He does manage to kill two of the Forsaken, both of them women, which he has always been reluctant to do.  Semirhage did bring it on herself.  She used a domination band to force Rand to torture and almost kill Min.  He frees himself, kills her, and turns on Cadsuanne, banishing her from his presence.

Needless to say, he isn't really that sane right now, he tries to force Tuon (god, I hate her) into forming an alliance with him.  It doesn't go well, she turns him down, which infuriates him even more.  For her part, she decides to attack the White Tower, thinking they were supporting him, but more on that later.

In a rage, he tracks down the Forsaken Graendal.  He tracks her down, and destroys the palace she is in with balefire.  Luckily for her, she realizes what's about to happen and allows Aran'gar to die in her place.  You almost feel sorry for Aran'gar though.  She was Balthamel, one of the thirteen Forsaken, and one of the first to awaken.  He was killed while our heroes were on the search for The Eye of the World.  He was resurrected as the gorgeous Aran'gar.  Aran'gar was just as dangerous, and used his/her new female body to the fullest advantage.  It would really suck to die twice, at the hands of the same man.

Rand's use of balefire upsets Min and Nynaeve, who turn to Cadsuane for help.  Cadsuane sets events into motion that brings Rand to the brink of kill his father, Tam.  When Rand realizes what he is about to do, he disappears and when he is seen again, he is calmer and at peace again.  But he is more determined and ever to bring things to ahead.

Meanwhile, Egwene is still being held prisoner in the White Tower, but her behavior is winning over support. Her subtle manipulation of those around her, is slowly forcing them to think of her as the real Amyrlin Seat.  I'm starting to really like Egwene again, and I almost respect her more than most of the other characters.  Her strength and characters in the face of adversity, is amazing.  The way she reacts to finding a dying Verin in her room is rather interesting.  I would have expected that Egwene, at finding Verin is of the Black Ajah, would have been infuriated beyond belief, but she didn't react that way.  She allowed Verin to confess everything and was able to forgive her as she died.  On a personal note, Verin broke my heart here.  I loved her character and while I understand the need for this, I was devastated by her death.

When the Tower is attacked by the Seanchan, it's Egwene who rallies the troops and beats back the invasion.  And after Eladia is carried off by the Seanchan, and thank the lord for that, it's a rescued Egwene the Tower turns to make itself whole again.

Both characters go through a wide array of changes, and their characters develop in ways I'm not sure I ever saw coming when I read the first book.  They almost have nothing in common with the Two Rivers youth they were introduced as, and they are probably two of the most fleshed out characters in fantasy.  I also think it's fitting that their stories end in similar ways, though not til the last book.

Other Books In The Series:

The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven 
Lord of  Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter's Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TV Guide Picks The 60 Greatest TV Kids Of All Time

Some of these lists I care more about than others, of course if I didn't care about the subject, I wouldn't take the time to do these posts.  This is one of those lists, that while I'm not sure I particularly like the list they put together, I'm not going to take a lot of time to argue about it either.  Child characters are so hard to judge, especially since there are so many of them.  Hell, there are whole channels devoted to these characters; Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, ABC Family, and various others.  One interesting tidbit about this list, they really didn't include any of the obvious characters from those stations.  So there is no Hannah Montana, Lizzie McGuire, or the annoying twin boys from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, or any of the group from Pretty Little Liars.  In my opinion, the list is better for it.  

So here is the list TV Guide put together, and my comments will be at the end.  As usual, after the top ten, the rest are listed in alphabetical order.

1.  Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), The Wonder Years
2.  Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox), Family Ties

3.  Angela Chase (Claire Danes), My So-Called Life
4.  Bart Simpson (Nancy Cartwright), The Simpsons
5.  Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

6.  Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman), Diff'rent Strokes
7.  Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert), Roseanne
8.  Eric Cartman (Trey Parker), South Park
9.  Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers), Leave It To Beaver

10.  Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), Freaks and Geeks
11.  Wednesday Addams (Lisa Loring), The Addams Family
12.  Kathy Anderson (Lauren Chapin), Father Knows Best
13.  Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta), Welcome Back, Kotter
14.  George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera), Arrested Development
15.  Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick), The Brady Bunch

16.  Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye), Punky Brewster

17.  Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate), Married... With Children 
18.  Chris (Tyler James Williams), Everybody Hates Chris
19.  Barbara Cooper (Valerie Bertinelli), One Day at a Time
20.  Eddie Corbett (Brandon Cruz), The Courtship of Eddie's Father
21.  Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), Star Trek: The Next Generation

22.  Sally Draper (Kiernana Shipkas), Mad Men
23.  Luke Dumphy (Nolan Gould), Modern Family
24.  Patty Greene (Sarah Jessica Parker), Square Pegs
25.  Stewie Griffin (Seth MacFarlaneZ), Family Guy
26.  Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), The Walking Dead
27.  Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond), Leave It To Beaver
28.  Sue Heck (Eden Sher), The Middle
29.  David Hogan (Jason Bateman), Valerie, The Hogan Family
30.  Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris), Doogie Howser, M.D.  

31.  Rudy Huxtable (Keshia Knight Pullman), The Cosby Show
32.  Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), That '70s Show
33.  Laura Ingalls, (Melissa Gilbert), Little House on the Prairie

34.  Patty Lane (Patty Duke), The Patty Duke Show 
35.  Buddy Lawrence (Kristy McNichol), Family
36.  Parker Lewis (Corin Nemec), Parker Lewis Can't Lose
37.  Webster Long (Emmanuel Lewis), Webster
38.  Malcolm (Frankie Muniz), Malcom in the Middle
39.  Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), Veronica Mars
40.  Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford), The Rifleman
41.  Samantha Micelli (Alyssa Milano), Who's the Boss? 
42.  Dennis Mitchell (Jay North), Dennis the Menace
43.  Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Saved by the Bell
44.  Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick), The Munsters
45.  Ricky Nelson (Ricky Nelson), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
46.  Buffy Patterson-Davis (Anissa Jones), Family Matters
47.  Jo Poiniaczek (Nancy McKeown), The Facts of Life
48.  Blossom Russon (Mayim Bialik), Blossom
49.  Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), Friday Night Lights 
50.  Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron), Growing Pains

51.  Will Smith (Will Smith), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
52.  Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lyn Sigler), The Sopranos
53.  Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Game of Thrones 
54.  Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato), Ugly Betty
55.  Opie Taylor (Ron Howard), The Andy Griffith Show

56.  Corky Thacher (Chris Burke), Life Goes On
57.  Dee Thomas (Danielle Spencer), What's Happening!!

58.  Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), Family Matters
59.  Wallace (Michael B. Jordan), The Wire
60.  Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty), Beverly Hills, 90210

So there is their list, and for the most part, it leaves me feeling rather blah.  I think a lot of the characters they picked are pretty predictable.  What's worse in my opinion though, is that most of them are pretty interchangeable.  I'm not sure what makes one character from The Facts of Life, Growing Pains, Family Ties, Diff'rent Strokes, Modern Family, Who's the Boss?, or the various other show with multiple kids, better than another.  Nor am I really clear why so many of these characters came from shows that are almost cookie-cutter copies of each other.  But as I said earlier, at least they didn't pick Hannah Montana for the list.

Obviously there are a ton of shows that didn't make the list, and could have easily supplanted some of these characters off this list.  Bewitched, Lost in Space, Good Times, 227, Eight is Enough, Happy Days, Party of Five, The Waltons, My Two Dads, Voyagers!, The Partridge FamilyFlipper, Home ImprovementFame, and another couple dozen more, all have child characters who are just as deserving of being on the list.

I'm going to be honest with you right now, I love cartoons, always have, always will.  But I really can't stand the few cartoon characters that made the list.  They epitomize everything I dislike in a cartoon.  I would have rather seen characters from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Josie and the Pussycats, Galaxy High, The Mini Monsters, The Littles, Lazer Tag Academy, Wildfire, or even Dungeons & Dragons.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the cuter guys that did not make the list for some bizarre reason.  So I have to give shout outs to the guys of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Kyle XY, The Vampire Diaries, The Powers of Matthew Star, Seaquest DSV, and The Hardy Boys.

The last group of characters that weren't really represented on this list, are the ones from TV shows made for kids.  I'm talking about shows like Sesame Street, Kids Incorporated, The Electric Company, Lazy Town, The Power Rangers, The Mickey Mouse Club, and about another couple dozen shows that have captivated young children for years.

I guess I could have listed the characters from the shows I mentioned above, but I think most of you will know who I'm talking about.

And my last comment will be to show a few pictures of characters who really should have been on the list.  I'm not sure how these characters were left off, and I almost think it's criminal that they weren't included.  Two of them are pretty similar, so they may have negated themselves.  Two more of them are from soap operas, but they are characters who have been played by the same actress for years, so we were able to see them grow up on screen.  For the last two picks, one is a commercial success and the other is a group of kids that really can't be separated.

Richie Rich (Sparky Davis), Richie Rich

Ricky Stratton (Ricky Schroder), Silver Spoons

Starr Manning (Kristen Alderson), One Life to Live, General Hospital

Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough), General Hospital

Little Mikey (John Gilchrist) Life cereal commercials

All the kids from Full House

Monday, October 14, 2013

Archangel by Michael Conner

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Archangel is set in an alternate universe Minneapolis, in the late 1920s, after a decade of devastating plague.  Hun, a blood disease that appeared during World War I, ended the war and is killing more people every year.  Like other great cities, Minneapolis is a shadow of it's former self, isolated by the breakdown of civilization.  Whites are dying while blacks are immune and trying to forge a new social compact in a radically changed society.  And a mysterious woman calling herself "the Archangel" broadcasting the music of the jazz age - and the real, uncensored news - from a pirate radio station.

Danny Constantine, a young newspaperman, discovers a weird series of murders that looks like the work of a vampire.  But in a world of bad news, even his own paper doesn't care to print his discovery.  Danny has been alone in the world since his wife dies of Hun, and his investigation becomes his personal crusade, involving him with an embittered black police officer, a doctor seeking a cure for the disease, and the social forces contending for power in the crumbling city - and finally, with the Archangel.

I'm not sure if most of you know that I'm originally from Minnesota or not, but it's a huge part of who I am, and the reason I read this book.  I live in Kansas now, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of moving back home.  I will be one of those odd people who actually retires back north.  Minnesota is in my blood, and I never tire of reading books that are set in such a grand state.  So when I saw this book at the library book store for less than two dollars, and was set in a version of Minneapolis very different from the reality, I knew I had to get it.  Of course, it took a few years to read it, but the deed is finally done.

I will have to admit that I'm not normally charmed by alternate reality fiction, especially when it's about the past, but for some odd reason, I was hooked on this book from almost the beginning.  I think it had to do with the characterization, both good and evil, and in the way the author was able to flesh them out in such a way, that I bought into the narrative.

Of course the plot, on it's face, is believable, but maybe not on such a global scale.  I think it's perfectly rational, if stretching the science a bit, for a pandemic to kill off one race and the leave the others alone, we already have diseases that only afflict people with certain racial backgrounds.  I'm just not sure setting in the 1920s, made the idea of a pandemic doing such a thing, plausible or not.  I understand that it's during World War I, and that Spanish Influenza spread like wildfire, but in my head at least, the two diseases would have to spread differently.  I'm probably over thinking it, but that's just who I am.

What really won me over was the idea of using such a global catastrophe to explore race relations in the 20s, given the backdrop of one race slowly dying out.  Of course, I didn't live back then, but the way it was talked about, felt real to me, and sheer violence in thought, from both sides, made me sick at times, but it felt a little similar even today.  I know we like to say race relations have improved over the years, and I think for the most part, that's correct.  But there are still segments of all the communities that have resentment over one issue or another, and in many ways, they still rear their ugly heads.  So it was interesting to see both white and black characters in the book say and do things, that while it would make me sad, wouldn't surprise me if I saw it happen today.

Even the mystery of who is doing the killing is cleverly worked into the overall narrative.  It's what allows all the divergent characters to come into contact with each other, which allows for some explosive and dynamic relationships.  I fell petty hard for most of the characters, including the main bad guy.  I understood where he was coming from, in a rather twisted and egotistical way, he felt real.  At times, I forgot I was reading a book that did not happen.  I'm not sure how these characters would have been written had the Hun not happened, but I am sure that they couldn't have been written any better than this.

Friday, October 11, 2013

5th Annual List of Sexy Vampires

Who knew that it's almost impossible to run out of sexy vampires to highlight every year.  I never thought I would still be doing this list all these years later, but damn, there are some fine ass vampires gracing our screens.  I know that vampires aren't for everyone, and the vampire as a sex object can get old over time, but when they look like those on this list, who cares how cliche it is.  I'm sure all of you would gladly bare your neck for at least one of the bloody thirsty fiends on this list.  For that matter, I think quite a few of us wouldn't mind if a few of them took an interest in us.  And if nobody on this list gets your blood pumping, why don't you check out the previous lists from 2009, 2010, 2011, or even 2012.  If nobody gets the blood flowing, then there is no hope for you.  So with no further ado, here are ten luscious vampire men and women for your perusing pleasure.


Vargas, as played by Taye Diggs in the movie Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.  What more needs to be said, look at him, he's frickin hot.  He's also hell bent on finding an ancient artifact, running a nightclub, and being an all around badass.

Barnabas Collins, as played by Ben Cross in the television remake of Dark Shadows.  There is such a dignified air about this man.  He's tall, dark, and sexy; plus he takes what he wants.  There is nothing sexier than a man who knows his own mind.

Armand, as played by Antonio Banderas in the movie version of Interview with a Vampire.  Normally long hair on a man turns me off, but there is something about the profile and accent that can make me overlook the long locks.

David, as played by Theo James in the movie Underworld: Awakening.  When a man that looks like this, has those eyes, and can fight rampaging werewolves as easily as most of us open up a book, why would you not want to have him around.

Josef Kostan, as played by Jason Dohring in the TV show Moonlight.  If only all of us would be this boyishly handsome after 412 years.  He's cute, rich, and extreme healthy, what more could you want in a mate.


Rebekah Mikaelson, as played by Claire Holt in the TV show Vampire Diaries.  Tall, blonde, deadly, and fun, a great combination if you like that kind of thing.

Harmony Kendall, as played by Mercedes McNab in two different TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.  Harmony lives up to the dumb blonde stereotype, but with her Nordic good looks, who cares that she has the brain of a unicorn.

Star, as played by Jami Gertz in The Lost Boys.  She has a carefree attitude and loves a guy who rides a motorcycle, but he has to have a heart of gold.

Lucy Westenra, as played by Bai Ling in the movie The Breed.  This version of Lucy is a tough as nail vampiric enforcer, who loves a little human meat.  

Solina, as played by Jennifer Esposito in the movie Dracula 2000.  Of all the women who made this years list, Solina may have had the smallest role, but with looks like that, it doesn't take a lot of screen time to make men take notice for years.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Synopsis From Back Cover:

For over twenty years, Belasco House has stood empty.  Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, it is a venerable mansion whose shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity.  Two previous expeditions to investigate it's secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide, or insanity.

Now a new investigation has been mounted, bringing four strangers to the forbidding mansion, determined to probe Belasco House for the ultimate secrets of life and death.  Each has his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion, but can any soul survive what lurks within the most haunted house on Earth?

My good friend, Michelle of The True Book Addict, loves this book.  I'm not sure if it's one of her favorite books, but I know she really likes it.  Before this, I had only seen the movie, which was okay for me.  It was typical of the period it was made in, but it didn't blow me away.  I would gladly take the movie versions of Burnt Offerings or The Sentinel, over the movie version of Hell House.  But I still wanted to read this book.  I adore haunted house stories, so how could I go through life without reading one of the biggest of them all.

Needless to say, I went into this with high expectations.  In my head, I was comparing this to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  It's not really a fair comparison though, other than both books dealing with a group of investigators moving into a haunted house to find the source of the problem, they really don't have anything else in common.  Oh wait, they do have everything in common, so the comparison is fair.  Or at least, it's not unfair to the two books.

And it's with that comparison, fair or not, that Hell House just doesn't live up to what I was wanting it to be.  I'm a fan of Richard Matheson, I Am Legend is one of the best horror novels ever written, but his writing can not compare to Shirley Jackson.  Where Richard Matheson can creep me out, Shirley Jackson can mess with my head and have me creeped out for days after I've turned the last page.  So maybe this whole comparison thing won't work, maybe I do need to figure out a way to separate them in my head.

Belasco House definitely lives up to it's reputation of being the granddaddy of haunted houses.  It's a home with no working windows, so it gets no natural light from the outside.  It's surrounded by a moat with a miasma of evil hovering above it, shrouding the house in even more darkness.  And if there weren't enough, every type of ghostly phenomena, from apparitions to violent attacks, can be witnessed and experienced in the house.  Where Hill House screws with your head, Belasco House will rip it off and use it as a soccer ball.

Given all of that, I still think Hill House scares me more. And that's because of Shirley Jackson and in the way she writes.  Granted, I would never step foot in Belasco House, but it's Hill House that epitomizes the haunted house of my nightmares.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vintage Mystery Challenge 2013, Completed!

The lovely Bev, at My Reader's Block, has been hosting The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge for a few years now, and I never fail to sign up.  This challenge has broadened my reading habits, and it's a joy to participate in every year.  So now that I'm done, it's time to recap everything I read for the challenge itself.  I ended up reading 16 books, and here they are in order.

1.  Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie - Get Out of Jail Free
2.  The Sleeping Bride by Dorothy Eden - Wicked Women
3.  The Confession & Sight Unseen by Mary Roberts Rinehart - Psychic Phenomena 
4.  The Deadly Travellers by Dorothy Eden - World Traveller 
5.  Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie - Repeat Offenders
6.  Lost Ecstasy by Mary Roberts Rinehart - Yankee Doodle Dandy  
7.  That Which is Crooked by Doris Miles Disney - Amateur Night
8.  Puzzle for Players by Patrick Quentin - Staging the Crime
9.  A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Colorful Crime
10.  The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong - Book to Movie
11.  Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie - Murder on the High Seas
12.  Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier - Scene of the Crime
13.  Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie - International Detectives
14.  The Great Prince Shan by E. Phillips Oppenheim - Maliscious Men
15.  Miss Silver Comes to Stay by Patricia Wentworth - Jolly Old England
16.  The Window at the White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart - Dangerous Beasts

Monday, October 7, 2013

Changes by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Mags was a Herald Trainee in the brand new Heraldic Collegium in Haven, Valdemar's capital city.  Though his background of unimaginable poverty and abuse set him apart from most other trainees, nonetheless he had found his own special group of friends.  Bear, Lena, and Amily were all students whose situations in life set them apart from more usual trainees, and together the four friends struggled to help one another find the solutions to their individual problems.

But Mags' friendship with Amily brought him to the attention of her father Nikolas - the King's Own.  The seemingly immortal Companion Rolan had chosen Nikolas to suit the specific needs of the current monarch, and those needs were for an agent who could collect information surreptitiously - a King's Own spy.  Nikolas recognized the same traits in Mags that Rolan had recognized in him.  Both were inconspicuous with an almost uncanny ability to fade into the woodwork.  Both could mimic low-class behavior and pidgin speech.  Both were unusually expert at observing the situations around them, and at ferreting out hidden motives.

So Mags began training as Nikolas' partner.  They worked in disguise at night in one of the seedier parts of Haven, where Nikolas had set up a false identity as a pawnbroker and fence.  Hiding in the shadows behind the desk, pretending to neither hear nor speak, Mags could better "observe" the clients, and even the surrounding neighborhood.  And Nikolas could send him out on "errands" to chase down leads.

But this new job was far more dangerous than Mags had ever considered.  For there were mysterious agents in the city - agents who sought to bring down the kingdom, and no one knew where they came from or who they worked for.  They were smart, talented, and preternaturally fast.  And most of all they were willing to do anything - anything - to bring Valdemar to ruin.

I suck at reviewing fantasy, so it's a good thing that this wasn't a review book.  As usual, I adore anything Mercedes Lackey chooses to write.  Her books, even if some of them repeat the same themes, are comfort reading for me.  I love the world she has created with the Velgarth books, which feels like a second home to me anymore.  Whether the book takes place in Valdemar, Karse, Rethwellen, Haighlei, or the lands of the Hawkbrothers, I feel comfortable as soon as I open the cover.

This is the third book in The Collegium Chronicles, which is the only series in the Velgarth books that is over three books long.  There are other series that take place right after the previous, but no others that are longer than a trilogy.  I actually read this earlier in the year, and didn't realize that I have yet to write a review of it.  It wasn't until I was started reading the fourth book, Redbout, that I discovered the oversight.  So here I am, months later, getting caught up.

Changes continues the journey of Mags as he continues to come into his own as a Herald trainee, and a future spy for Valdemar.  He is still trying to piece together his past, which seems to be tied up with assassins from Karse.  The assassins are back and are determined to wreck as much damage as they can.  This time around they try to kidnap Amily, the daughter of Nikolas, the Kings Own.  For the most part, the action takes place in the last third of the book, which means the first two thirds are the build up and character development.  This isn't groundbreaking writing, but it's familiar and comfortable, and it's home for me.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cher Comes to Wordsmithonia Radio

Every once in a while I get in the mood to listen to one single artist.  I'm never sure what triggers those moods, but when it happens I can latch onto all their songs or just a few of them, and listen over and over and over again.  The other night I really needed to listen to one particular song by Cher, "Just Like Jesse James."  I think I listened to it about a dozen times, and a few days later, I'm still in the mood to hear it.  So I thought I would share that song, and a few others of hers that I really enjoy.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Window at the White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Politics and poker... that was the occupation and preoccupation of the members of the White Cat Club.

Once on the inside, a man's business was his own and nobody gave a damn if he was mayor of the town or a champion pool player of the first war.

It was a noisy, crowded, masculine kind of retreat, which explained the sign that hung proudly over the door:  "The White Cat Never Sleeps."

But murder entered the wakeful chambers of the White Cat, and it's victims slept the deep sleep of the dead.

So this will be my last Mary Roberts Rinehart review of the year, and I'm really not sure when I will have a chance to review another one.  Not because I still don't love her books, but because I don't have anymore to read.  What's worse, I think I've finally emptied the used bookstores in Wichita of their Rinehart books.  I can still find the books I already own, but I'm afraid there are no "new" ones to find.  If I have to end my Mary Roberts Rinehart love fest for a while, at least it was with a book I really enjoyed.  After the last few books of hers that weren't strictly mysteries, it was nice to get back to her writing at it's best.

One aspect of this book that I don't think I have ever touched upon before is the way she is able to tell the story from a man's perspective.  Almost all of her books are told in the first person, and she is one of the few that does an equally good job telling the story from the perspective of male and female characters.  Either way, the narrative voice comes across as authentic and natural for the time period and for who the character is.  Even when the smallest aspects of romance are involved, which there always is in a Rinehart mystery, if the narrator is a man, it never feels forced or fake in any way.  I wish I could say that about most authors, but from what I have seen in the past, that's not normally the case.

The other side of her books that I almost always enjoy, and do so here, is the way in which she incorporates all the side characters into the story.  Whether they are family members, doctors, police officers, or suspects; the secondary characters are always fun, and almost always as well developed as the main characters.  I wish modern mystery writers would develop that skill, though I will admit that some, like Louise Penny and Tana French, do a great job at it.

Challenges: VM (Dangerous Beasts)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Oddities & Entities by Roland Allnach

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Set in the mysterious space between the everyday world and an existence just beyond reach, Oddities & Entities traces a path through the supernatural, the paranormal, and the speculative.  With moments of horror, dark humor, and philosophical transcendence, these tales explore a definition of life beyond the fragile vessel of the human body.

It's not often that I agree to review a book by a small press or a self published author, but when Trish at TLC Book Tours is the one offering the book to me, it gets my attention.  This last round of offerings, I ended up picking up two such books, and Oddities & Entities by Roland Allnach, is the first of those two to be reviewed.

The collection of six stories started off with a bang.  The first story, "Boneview," was so good, it surpassed every expectation I had.  In "Boneview" a young woman can see through to the bones of everyone she sees, it allows her to see their overall health.  Her sight attracts an entity from the other side, an entity who befriends her with presents, but is so creepy, that it's fairly obvious the creature has an ulterior motive.  The story tracks her life from childhood to adulthood, it tells the tale of a young woman who goes from a artistic loner, to a happily married woman, and all the pain in between.  I'm not going to go to far into the details, because of all the stories in this book, it's the one I would want everyone to read.

The next two stories, while not as strong, still held my attention and kept me entertained.  The final three stories, I really could have done without.  They didn't seem as well constructed as the previous stories, nor did they feel as if they were as well grounded.  It was like a movie that starts of so strong, that you know you are going to love it.  Then for whatever reason, the director decides to make the movie way too long, which weakens the story and leaves it's audience bored by the end.  I'm not saying that I was bored by this collection, but I wish it had been shorter.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.