Sunday, November 28, 2010

R.I.P Leslie Nielsen

The first time I saw Leslie Nielsen in anything was in Tammy and the Bachelor with Debbie Reynolds. It was one of my favorite movies growing up (what can I say I loved old movies). And then of course as the years went by I grew to know him as Dr Rumack from Airplane! and of course Frank Drebin from Police Squad/Naked Gun. He was a funny funny man, iconic in his own way.

From Yahoo news: LOS ANGELES – Leslie Nielsen, who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in "Airplane!" and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" comedies, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

The Canadian-born actor died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home at 5:34 p.m., surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John S. Kelly said in a statement.

"We are saddened by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen, probably best remembered as Lt. Frank Drebin in 'The Naked Gun' series of pictures, but who enjoyed a more than 60-year career in motion pictures and television," said Kelly.

Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York. With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a movie leading man.

Nielsen first performed as the king of France in the Paramount operetta "The Vagabond King" with Kathryn Grayson.

The film — he called it "The Vagabond Turkey" — flopped, but MGM signed him to a seven-year contract.

His first film for that studio was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic "Forbidden Planet." He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."

He became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

As the doctor aboard a plane in which the pilots, and some of the passengers, become violently ill, Nielsen says they must get to a hospital right away.

"A hospital? What is it?" a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the illness.

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now," Nielsen deadpans.

When he asks a passenger if he can fly the plane, the man replies, "Surely you can't be serious."

Nielsen responds: "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."

Critics argued he was being cast against type, but Nielsen disagreed.

"I've always been cast against type before," he said, adding comedy was what he'd really always wanted to do.

It was what he would do for most of the rest of his career, appearing in such comedies as "Repossessed" (a takeoff on the demonic possession movies like "The Exorcist") and "Mr. Magoo," in which he played the title role of the good-natured bumbler.

Nielsen did play Debbie Reynolds' sweetheart in the popular "Tammy and the Bachelor," a loanout to Universal, and he became well known to baby boomers for his role as the Revolutionary War fighter Francis Marion in the Disney TV adventure series "The Swamp Fox."

Unhappy with his roles at MGM, he asked to be released from his contract. As a freelancer, he appeared in a series of undistinguished movies.

"I played a lot of leaders, autocratic sorts; perhaps it was my Canadian accent," he reasoned.

Meanwhile, he remained active in television in guest roles. He also starred in his own series, "The New Breed," "The Protectors" and "Bracken's World," but all were short-lived.

Then "Airplane!" captivated audiences and changed everything.

Producers-directors-writers Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker had hired Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges and Nielsen to spoof their heroic TV images in a satire of flight-in-jeopardy movies.

After the movie's success, the filmmaking trio cast their newfound comic star as Detective Drebin in a TV series, "Police Squad," which trashed the cliches of "Dragnet" and other cop shows. Despite good reviews, NBC canceled it after only four episodes.

"It didn't belong on TV," Nielsen later commented. "It had the kind of humor you had to pay attention to."

The Zuckers and Abraham converted the series into a feature film, "The Naked Gun," with George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley as Nielsen's co-stars. Its huge success led to sequels "The Naked Gun 2 1/2" and "The Naked Gun 33 1/3."

His later movies included "All I Want for Christmas," "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" and "Spy Hard."

Between films he often turned serious, touring with his one-man show on the life of the great defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow.

Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

He grew up 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle at Fort Norman, where his father was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The parents had three sons, and Nielsen once recalled, "There were 15 people in the village, including five of us. If my father arrested somebody in the winter, he'd have to wait until the thaw to turn him in."

The elder Nielsen was a troubled man who beat his wife and sons, and Leslie longed to escape. As soon as he graduated from high school at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, even though he was legally deaf (he wore hearing aids most of his life.)

After the war, Nielsen worked as a disc jockey at a Calgary radio station, then studied at a Toronto radio school operated by Lorne Greene, who would go on to star on the hit TV series "Bonanza." A scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse brought him to New York, where he immersed himself in live television.

Nielsen also was married to: Monica Boyer, 1950-1955; Sandy Ullman, 1958-74; and Brooks Oliver, 1981-85.

Nielsen and his second wife had two daughters, Thea and Maura.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club

The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club
Written by: Laurie Notaro
Paperback: 225 pages
Publisher: Villard
Language: English
July 2002, $14.00
Genre: Anthology/Humor

“Ive changed a bit since high school. Back then I said no to using and selling drugs. I washed on a normal basis and still had good credit.”

Introducing Laurie Notaro, the leader of the Idiot Girls Action-Adventure Club. Every day she fearlessly rises from bed to defeat the evil machinations of dolts, dimwits, and creepy boyfriendsand thats before she even puts on a bra.

For the past ten years, Notaro has been entertaining Phoenix newspaper readers with her wildly amusing autobiographical exploits and unique life experiences. She writes about a world of hourly-wage jobs that require absolutely no skills, a mother who hands down judgments more forcefully than anyone seated on the Supreme Court, horrific high school reunions, and hangovers that leave her surprised that she woke up in the first place.

The misadventures of Laurie and her fellow Idiot Girls (“too cool to be in the Smart Group”) unfold in a world that everyone will recognize but no one has ever described so hilariously. She delivers the goods: life as we all know it.


+++++++++++++

I first fell in love with Laurie Notaro a couple of years ago after reading We Thought You’d Be Prettier. She was someone I immediately related to through her stories about her life and the absurdity of it all sometimes. I laughed. I nodded my head. I tried to find some fantastical way in which I could become Laurie’s friend just because her mind seems to work the way that mine does, except I don’t have the gift for writing. I have the gift of reading…oh yes I do, but writing is not exactly my strong suit. I also admire putting it all out there. Being self deprecating. Using snark. All of these I find to be awesome traits.

So why did it take so long for me to read this first one? Well apparently my local bookstores are not as enamored with funny women as I am and rarely got her books in. And plus she was just a little far down in my to be read pile. But she was there. I was in the mood for a pick me up and this book was the first one I went to.

And it is hilarious. From jobs that are full of the suckiness, waking up neighbors, being mistaken for a homeless person, her mother’s idea of whom her future husband should be and being the ugly friend, these stories are great. While I was never the heavy drinking, chain smoking gal that Laurie was in her youth I can relate. Maybe because I am part of the Idiot Girls’ Adventure Club without really trying. I laugh out loud when I read her which is saying a lot.

Things I loved: I really enjoy vignette tales because I can pick up the book before bedtime or while waiting in line and finish one of the stories and not feel totally guilty about not continuing because I will miss something because each story is self contained. These were originally in her newspaper column (I live in a city so small that no one does a fun column like this, which is sad because lets face it I would read the newspaper more if there were columns like this. Even Sioux Falls used to have my friend Rob’s column which consisted of all this pop cultury and geeky).

Laurie Notaro is the kind of woman I want to go hang out with. Even when faced with some unlucky situations, she emerges with laughter and how is that not just wickedly cool. I need that in my life sometimes. I think what I really like is that these situations are normal, ordinary…yeah probably happened at least once in my life, but somehow she makes them so much more entertaining and exciting then when it happened to me. That’s why she is fantastic. She can write the wit, the snark and the entertainment. Somehow my ability to do that only exists in my head and then I censor myself, maybe because I was that goody two shoes when I was younger, but then somehow decided I didnt give as much of a frak anymore.

I also think I like her because while I wasn’t the total slacker, there is this idea that after your 20’s you’re supposed to be doing something with your life. Well she did more than my retail slumming managerial job which was my 20s. She actually wrote a column for an Arizona paper. I also think its funny because a lot of the time she reflects on her youth and wonders, how did I get here? I somehow still ask myself the same thing.

Things I didn't love so much: I didn’t always get some of the humor but that may be due to Laurie being slightly older than I am. I was still just a kid when the 80’s were around being born in 1978. Occasionally the humor is a bit lowbrow, but even I like that kind of stuff now and again. Prissy is not me after all.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. At least grab it from the library. I cant imagine that you would not nod your head or laugh at least once.

Part of: Stand Alone. Though she has other books that are collections of her columns and essays as well.

Also Recommended: We Thought Youd be Prettier also by Notaro, I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and anything by Chelsea Handler

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hunger Games: Katniss and Rue

So I love io9.com for all things geeky. They posted a fan made trailer for the upcoming Hunger Games movie. As a trilogy that I absolutely loved, I really dont want them to Twilight it up. This fanmade trailer was made by some actors who are using it as an audition tape. I kinda loved it. In fact I have watched it three times. Katniss is pretty good, though the girl playing Rue would make a better Prim. What do you think?



Your Highness Trailer



Lets face it, sometimes that is exactly the kind of high fantasy you are looking for. I am so seeing that one. You know the more trailers I am seeing of late, the more I am thinking that 2011 may kind of rock for film

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I Love Wednesday: Doctor Who

So last night Craig Ferguson had a Doctor Who themed evening of absolute wicked awesomeness. Seriously, best episode ever. It also reminded me why I love:

*Craig Ferguson: Not only did he have a Doctor episode, but Matt Smith was decidedly charming which is frustrating because I am still grieving over David Tennant leaving. *sniffles* But seriously Craig Ferguson…frakking hilarious. His explanation of Doctor Who = priceless. Scottish blokes make me smile.

* Daleks: Not the new pastel/Technicolor ones, but the old school Daleks. Like the one he had on set. I wonder how I can get one for cheap and how geeky would it then make me. I could dress him up for the holidays. Would be priceless.

So lets discuss why I love Doctor Who as a whole. For those who haven’t seen or heard of Doctor Who….really? Shame on you. In a nutshell it is a series that has been on since the early 60’s about a Time Lord named the Doctor who travels throughout time and space in his policebox shaped Tardis which is a spaceship and time machine all in one. He is the last of his kind and he spends his life standing up for those who don’t stand up for themselves, in righting wrongs and saving the world…or mostly Britain from the Big Bads. But a life can be lonely, thankfully he has a knack for meeting companions who travel with him and who tend to be as adventurous as he is.

Why do I love Doctor Who. Well here is Why.

1. The Doctor: I remember watching Doctor Who when I was a kid with Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor. What do you mean there is four? You see, our good Doctor has the ability to regenerate, it helps with the whole bummer of death. In this way the Doctor is immortal. When one body dies, he simply regenerates into another. It came about when the first actor decided to leave the show, so they came up with the brilliant plan of why there was a new face, but the same Doctor. It also gives the sctors some leeway with the portrayal. With the revivals starring Christopher Eccleston (the 9th Doctor), David Tennant (The 10th Doctor) and now Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor) all of them are the Doctor and the character as a whole is essentially the same at the core, however each is distinct. Which in a way makes sense. New teeth, new hair…a chance to have a different style, try out new catchphrases and make it your own. Which is probably would I would do if I had the ability to regenerate.

Anyway, so I watched Doctor Who with Tom Baker as a kid. Loved it, but then I strayed away. What can I say, I am a Gemini and things like Battlestar Galactica, the Bionic Woman and Amazing Stories lured me away. When the show came back five years ago, I was a happy camper. While not a hard core fan throughout the ages, I had a fond appreciation and was excited to see where they were going to go and how they were going to play it.

While the Tom Baker Doctor Who and the Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who are two different creatures, they are still Doctor Who. The Doctor is a good man. He knows that there is more out there in the world and the universe. In fact he was the one that said “Outside these doors, we might see anything. We could find new worlds, terrifying monsters, impossible things. And if you come with me… nothing will ever be the same again!” He has a lot of love for mankind (he has two hearts in fact) and his compassion never seems to cease. He is a hero who doesn’t use weapons, relies on his intellect and his sonic screwdriver.

Which brings me to David Tennant’s 10th Dcotor. Yep, he’s my favorite. Not only did he make me laugh, but I finally understood how heartbreaking being a Time Lord must be. Even though he found true companionship with Rose, it wasn’t meant to be. And the last episode had me in tears, big giant sobbing tears. Not only was Tennant fantastic when it came to his brilliant acting, but he made the Doctor very human for me. In fact he felt the most human to me. There were amazing episodes with Tennant and I miss him. Allons-y!

2. The Tardis: She stands for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”. She can travel in any point or time in space and she is a hell of lot bigger than she is on the outside. But she is an old girl as well which is how she got stuck in the police box mode. Normally the TARDIS would disguise itself, a sort of built in camouflage so that it would blend in to whatever time and place they were in. But then it got jammed up and the TARDIS has been stuck ever since.

I love the Whooshing sound. Or the fact that there is a Wardrobe room with any conceivable costume known to…well I guess the Time Lords. I would have a hey dey in there as well as a library and a swimming pool and did I mention I love the whooshing noise?

3. The Monsters: Lets see we have the Daleks, the cyberman, the Slitheen, the Weeping Angels, the Ood and the Krillitane. I love the monsters and there are even cute ones like the Adipose.

4. The Companions: The Doctor’s life is a lonely existence and how much fun is it to travel time and space by yourself? So he finds someone else to share that existence with. Companions who keep him grounded, who make him just a little bit more human, and who share his crazy sense of adventure. Luckily for him most of them have been rather comely. Rose has been my favorite, but I love Donna Noble for calling him on his absurdity some times and for her humor. And I actually quite like Amy Pond, mostly because I think she thinks like me and has my non linear train of thought sometimes.

5. The Grandness of it All: Doctor Who is a great show that can make you laugh and cry. Can scare you (Blink anyone?) and can be quite clever. Plus it also spawned Torchwood which I could also talk about for hours. It’s a great show that you should be watching.

So are you a Who fan? What do you think about Matt Smith? Of bow ties and Fezs? Of River Song and the 10th Doctor?

Cowboys and Aliens



Umm....yeah this is why Daniel Craig is a bad ass and why I heart Jon Favreau. Why is it not summer already?

A Kiss In Time

A Kiss in Time
Written by: Alex Flinn
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen (reprint)
Language: English
April 2010, $8.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

Talia fell under a spell... Jack broke the curse.

I was told to beware the accursed spindle, but it was so enchanting, so hypnotic...

I was looking for a little adventure the day I ditched my tour group. But finding a comatose town, with a hot-looking chick asleep in it, was so not what I had in mind.

I awakened in the same place but in another time—to a stranger's soft kiss.

I couldn't help kissing her. Sometimes you just have to kiss someone. I didn't know this would happen.

Now I am in dire trouble because my father, the king, says I have brought ruin upon our country. I have no choice but to run away with this commoner!

Now I'm stuck with a bratty princess and a trunk full of her jewels. . . . The good news: My parents will freak!

Think you have dating issues? Try locking lips with a snoozing stunner who turns out to be 316 years old. Can a kiss transcend all—even time?


+++++++++++++

I didn’t choose this one to read. This was for the young adult book club that I go to every month. I haven’t read any of Alex Flinn’s other books and it certainly isn’t the sort I would pick on my own. Why? Because the prose even from the back blurb involved the words hot chick and bratty princess. In short it looked like the book version of one of those CW or ABC family movies. Just not my cuppa tea. I wanted to like it, but it was too cotton candy for me.

A Kiss in Time is a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Talia is a spoiled little princess of Euphrasia. When she pricks her finger everyone still falls asleep, but the entire country magically disappears off the map. A few hundred years later, Jack is off in Europe on an educational trip he could care less about still pining over his hot ex-girlfriend who ripped out his heart and stomped on it. He and his bumbling idiot of a friend, decide to ditch their tour group. They get lost and magically find the missing country of Euphrasia along with our sleeping beauty which apparently no one else has been able to do for a few hundred years.

And then there is a kiss. A kiss on a comatose girl. Like you do. She awakes. Sadly she is still just a spoiled brat because Jack is hardly her idea of what a Prince Charming should be. Oh but wait, she would rather hitch a ride with him rather than stay with her parents and an antiquated idea of how her life should be. Though granted she really doesn’t give her parents adequate enough time to really process everything that has gone down and how much the world has changed without them being in the thick of it. Oh and then there is the worry of the witch who cursed her in the first place.

It is a retelling of a timeless tale, but I am not sure if it was quite my thing. As I said maybe I would have loved it if I was a teenage girl, but I am not anymore. In fact I am at the age where I am beginning to contemplate having a future sixteen year old. *gasp*

Things I didn't love so much: Normally I actually like having alternating chapters with different voices and perspectives. The problem with this story is that I am not really attached to either voice. I don’t think either of them has depth or was very distinct and to be honest if you didn’t have the chapter names would you have been able to tell the difference sometimes?

I don’t like Talia which I probably shouldn’t since she is the Sleeping beauty in our Sleeping beauty retelling. She is self centered prissy little diva. When we first meet her she is cruel, acts like a toddler when she cannot get her way even though she has 20 different rooms full of gowns. I don’t like her. She is a spoiled brat, one dimensionally so. And then by the end she is selfless and absolutely wonderful? A bit of a stretch how quickly that occurs and with no real life changing events. She is a Rachel from Glee without the nice bits that make Rachel endearing. Maybe I am still reeling over the bad taste that Nomansland left, but are teenage girls that horrible? I don’t remember being that ignorant and…annoying? To be honest Malvolia’s curse was the best thing that could have happened to her.

For that matter I don’t really like Jack either. Jack is the typical teenage slacker who would rather spend more time at the topless beaches in Europe, but who also has a healthy dose of angst that puts season two Angel to shame. Talk about the stereotypical teenage boy. In fact he is just as beastly as Talia is. Maybe this is why they are meant to be together forever. Though to be honest the way that the book really should have ended is that they both grew tired of their little romance and broke up six months later because they realized neither of them had really grown up. As a couple they are a couple of brats with moments of actual personality and depth. But like an ABC Family movie or CW sort of show, we’re not supposed to look behind the curtain and see how much of a parody it all is.

In fact most of the book is like a pre-teen Disney-esque film. The ending is tidy, there are a few laughs, but in the end there is no real substance. I keep asking myself was teenage life always that easy? Was it always this superficial? Maybe this was meant as a light funny read, but is it wrong that I wanted more. I wanted serious problems like identity to be dealt with…well seriously. You can still make it fun. And enjoyable, but with character development and dimensions.

And lets talk about the ending…really? The trials Jack goes through, the whole misunderstanding, and then the giant understanding of all that has happened almost like it happens every day, etc. Lets just say the last 40 pages were…meh.

Things I loved: I like retellings of classic fairytales. Just not this one. I think I would love more if I were a teenage girl. I did enjoy the whole Medieval Times that Euphrasia turned into. I guess that is one way to make it all work and make sense. And to be honest I would love to stay at a hotel like that. Would be quite enchanting.

The king’s wrath was almost justified. It was due to Talia’s disobedience that she put the entire kingdom in peril. All because she was thinking about herself and not anyone else. But that happens a lot with Talia.

Again, like Nomansland I liked the idea of transporting the princess into a modern world. I just wanted more out of it. It’s a book I wouldn’t read again, nor will I keep it on the shelves. I hear that Alex Flinn is actually a good author and that Beastly was quite good, but I keep asking myself…am I just too old?

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. Or not. Maybe try Beastly instead.

Part of: Stand Alone.

Also Recommended: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley (also a Sleeping Beauty retelling though not modern), or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire.

2.0 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Red Riding Hood



Little Red Riding Hood is a great story. It's one I grew up on, and while this is undoubtedly a decidedly sexier, darker version of the tale I think I kind of want to see it. It is directed by Catherine Hardwicke who yes did the original Twilight movie, but she also did Thirteen. Plus I love her cause she worked on Tank Girl and that is a far underrated film in my opinion, but maybe that is just me and Nic and our love for it. plus it has Gary Oldman and who doesn't love Gary Oldman...that's right only strange people hate Gary Oldman. I heart him to pieces. Looks a little Twilight to me but with a werewolf and lots of sexy sexy, but meh I would rather see it than most other films. Then again as I look at that opening weekend in March of 2011 it is going up against the Jane Eyre remake with Mia Wasikowska which also has Michael Fassbender in it and Battle: Los Angeles.

Lets hope this means there are better films out there next year then there was this year. What do you think about the film. Interested in seeing it? Do you dig Gary Oldman in purple cloaks?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nomansland

Nomansland
Written by: Lesley Hauge
Hardcover: 243 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Language: English
June 2010, $16.99
Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult

Sometime in the future, after wars and fires have devastated the earth, a lonely, windswept island in the north is populated solely by women. The women have survived against all odds by working hard in their fields. Their lives are tough.

Among these women is a group of teenage Trackers—expert equestrians and archers—who are in training to protect their shores from the enemy. The enemy, they’ve been told, is men.

When these girls come upon a partially buried home from the distant past, they are fascinated by the strange objects—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, makeup—found there. What are they to make of these mysterious things, which introduce a world they have never known? And what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs?


+++++++++++++

My name is Smirking and not only am a biblioholic, but I also tend to be drawn in by pretty pictures. That’s right, occasionally I will spend my hard earned money on books that have pretty covers. Such was the case for Nomansland. Lets face it that is a very pretty cover. So much so that I had to figure who the artist was, Cliff Nielsen (who did lots of X-Files artwork as well as some other amazing artwork). That being said it is always disappointing when a book does not live up to its amazing cover or even its awesome concept.

Keller is a Tracker, whose sole job is to protect the shores of their community from invaders. In her community there are no friends, no vanity, no laughter, and certainly no boys; nothing that a normal teenage girl would grow up with. But she is not the average teenage girl. She has grown up in a strictly disciplined life of rules and regulations where men are savages and routine helps keep everything together. They are dystopian Amazons. Keller has always done what has been told, always followed the rules and excelled at her duties. But then Laing, a fellow Tracker shows her a world she has ever known; a world that has now been lost where girls paint their nails and say words like “lame”. Keller has never had a friend before, nor has she ever rebelled and the story that follows should have been both beautiful and tragic.

I have heard comparisons to The Giver, but unfortunately it is not a book that I have read, so I can’t really say the same. I do know that I was disappointed. Disappointed because there were glaring pot holes that were the size of James Cameron’s Avatar ones. For example Keller is the only girl of the group who wants to read words from the Past, wants to know what the world was like before the Tribulation, but she has no idea what a snake is. I mean this literally. She sees a snake in the forest and has no idea what it is. For girls who are so utterly clueless, who do not know the written word, I find it hard to believe how easily Laing and the others become stereotypical teenage girls. They suddenly know how to put on lipstick, know how to use the word ‘lame’ correctly, etc so easily all through looking at teen magazines that they cannot even begin to read. It bugged me a lot. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief no matter how hard I tried. It was too easy, too convenient.

However there is a good story there, one of a girl whose curiosity opens a new world. A story where one young woman has to choose between the life she knows and the life she discovers is out there. Has her life been based on a lie? Is there something more? And what price are you willing to pay to know and understand that world that not only once existed but may still be out there. Keller is trying to find her place, find out who she is and what that means. These are great things about this book. And this is just the surface detail. When you delve a bit deeper, you also have feminist concepts, the frivolity of modern teenage life (though here it was a bit too one dimensional and stereotypical, but then maybe that is because I am no longer a teenage girl). As I said, amazing concept, just poor execution.

Another thing that really bugged me about the book was that I didn’t feel any real connection to any of the characters. While some of them showed promise like Keller or even Amos none of them were fleshed out, none of them made me empathize or curious and that can be intensely frustrating when everything hinges on your protagonist and her story through her eyes. If you don’t have a connection with the character, it is hard to like it all especially since she is the one you are supposed to connect with.

Things I loved: I like the dystopian Amazon angle. I like the way the community rejects all things feminine, all things they believed brought the destruction of the society. These are things that make you think. After all our current society is one that bases so much on appearance. It is a trap, a Pitfall as Keller might say. Not everyone follows the rules though. Ms Windsor wears skirts, pleats her hair and wears things like lipstick. Keller and the other girls are kept ignorant of so many things. They know that you either become a Tracker or a Breeder, but I doubt they know where the ‘Seed’ actually comes from. So it is interesting to see how one teenage girl’s room for the Time Before changes the little band of Trackers and how it changes Keller’s view of the world. Keller has to choose what is more important, how much she is really willing to risk, and how much of her life has been based on fear and lies.

I also really wanted to like Keller. She is not your average heroine. In fact her life, her world view has been shaped far more by her life in the community than she would care to admit. In many ways, and sometimes a bit too heavy handed, she is like Ms. Windsor. She is the girl who can and is willing to do the jobs that so many others find hard to do like putting down a lame animal. If Keller does as she is told, continues to live the life she has known she could be Ms. Windsor. And Ms. Windsor is a crazy woman. In fact, she is wonderful to read simply because of how frakking nuts she is. Want to hear a rant, listen to her rant on Eve from the Bible or the Bible in general, let alone the world and society from the Time Before.

Things I didn't love so much: I absolutely hate that the book seems to suggest that the moment you give a girl makeup, high heels and teen magazines that she becomes a vain, irritating defiant little bitca. Really? You introduce femininity and suddenly you become the downfall of society. I am all about feminist notions, being the smirking woman that I am, but this fell flat. It was heavy handed, it was stereotypical and to be honest not that interesting. In fact it was exactly how I predicted the story to go and that was unfortunate. Apparently once you give a girl some high heels and nail polish all she cares about is beauty contests and men (which these girls had not seen before). It’s rather insulting to be honest. These girls find a house full of objects from the Time Before: bicycles, computers, books, etc and the objects they go to are fashion magazines and makeup? These are girls who have never seen a snake before. They don’t know what Monopoly is or a TV. Wouldn’t you explore all of those things first? Beauty and vanity would be far from my concerns. Apparently not if you are a teenage woman in Nomansland.

Actually now that I think about it, the book isn’t exactly ‘yeah with feminists’ either. In fact the community is all about rigid rules, no laughing, no sisterhood in the sense that we think of sisterhood, no names ending in Y, you either are a fighter or a breeder, long hair equals vanity and creativity is sorely lacking. I wouldn’t want to live there either. It would be uninteresting and not the idealized Amazon women yeah thing I had going in my mind. So either you’re a shallow vapid teeny bopper or a mean, would cut off my left breast sort of woman. There is no happy balance in Nomansland.

The prose isn’t always amazing either. Sometimes it gets fairly repetitive and as the story unfolds, but then again there are moments that shine. For example when she describes a bicycle or a computer keyboard. In this way her descriptions are fantastic as Keller describes objects from the Time Before.

I think the most disappointing thing was…the fact that there was a good book in there. The concept was great, the cover art intriguing, but it all just felt forced and fell utterly flat. That is disappointing when you see so much potential and then somewhere it gets lost. The voice doesn’t ring true, the story you wanted to read somehow forgotten. Kind of like how the movie Daybreakers was for me.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. Though to be honest I am not sure if I would do even that. The cover is really pretty though. Apparently I need to go read The Giver now.

Part of: Stand Alone, though I see potential for a sequel.

Also Recommended: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for a decent dystopian future, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood for something a bit more adult.

2 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks and most of that is just because there was a decent concept and a pretty cover.


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale

Ironside
Written by: Holly Black
Paperback: 323 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Language: English
July 2007, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben's coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure only of one thing -- her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can't see or speak with Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn't exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.

Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth -- that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother's shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But when Kaye returns to the faerie courts, a battle of wits and weapons is being waged over Roiben’s throne, and she soon finds herself at the center of it all.


+++++++++++++

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me Tithe as a birthday present because she knew how much I loved faeries. I fell in love with Kaye and Roiben as well as Holly Black’s storytelling. It helped that there were references to the Popcorn Zoo in New Jersey which was close to where I went to high school way back when. There is something magical about putting changelings, the Unseelie court and the like amidst modern day New Jersey and New York. It makes Smirking a happy camper.

Of course it did take me a while to read Ironside because…well, it took forever to get it in paperback. I have this thing on my bookshelf, a bit OCD I know, but if one book is paperback then they all have to be paperback. Putting a hardcover in the mix just doesn’t look right and vice versa. So, it was a wee bit before I got my hands on one of the paperbacks that didn’t have those new photography covers that I am not overly fond of.

Before I go into the review, I will say that there will be spoilers, though I will try to keep them minor. If you have not read Tithe and Valiant, please do. They are great books. That being said you have been forewarned.

The book begins with Roiben and a very adult like remembrance of the queen who cast him aside. He remembers the flame of her hair, the strange smile as she cast him to the hungry Unseelie Court. He remembers what he endured in the dark court, the things he was forced to do and forced to watch all because Nicneven thought it amusing. The chapter ends with a great quote. “The flavor of the blood stayed with him through the long years of his service. Even when a pixie accidentally set him free, even when he’d won the Unseelie crown. But by then he could no longer remember whose blood it was, only that he had grown used to the taste.” I love the quotes that begin each chapter. It makes me giddy. Not sure why, save for my love of random quotes and poem fragments.

We then go back to Kaye and my how her life has changed since we first met her. And yet she is still that teenage girl. The one who is curious and doesn’t understand all that life has to offer. She is young. She makes mistakes, but we are seeing her grow up and that is why I heart her to pieces. Finally feeling stuck and utterly lost in both the human world and the world of the fey, Kaye decides to come clean about who she really is to the woman she has called mother for her whole life. It doesn’t quite go as expected and so she decides to find her human counterpart…the real Kaye and make things right.

The Courts are a bit of in an upheaval though. Roiben’s coronation is coming up, but it seems that Lady Silarial, Queen of the Shining Court wants to rule both Courts and she is willing to use Roiben and whomever else to do it.

Things I loved: I love how adult this trilogy has been. Lately when I read young adult stuff, they water things down. The prose can be far beneath what a 15 and 16 year old should be reading. The characters are stereotypical or one dimensional, etc. I remember when I was a teen the young adult books that I loved had real things going on in them. It wasn’t just about boys or something you could read out of Sassy or Seventeen magazine. Holly Black doesn’t water things down for me. These are stories about monsters, where blood is tasted, bargains are made and hearts are broken. The faeries in these stories are not Tinkerbell, they enjoy playing with humans and with their own kind. And the golden Shining Court…the supposed good Court, is anything but. Just because you live in the light does not mean you are automatically a white hat.

The characters aren’t infallible either. Roiben is certainly not the knight in shining armor. He made be a good guy and wants the Unseelie Court to change and evolve, but has shades of gray on his tarnished armor. Kaye is not as sweet as she appears either. She has something that is extremely powerful, Roibens true name in the world of the Fey, names hold true power. And of course Corny, well he is definitely not a black and white sort which is why I find him to be one of the most interesting characters in the trilogy. He wants things that are bad for him, he likes pain, and has addictions to all of the wrong things.

I like the impossible task. Even though it means that Roiben and Kaye are apart for most of the story, I think It made me lust after Roiben even more. Despite everything he has done, he fell for one sweet pixie. She has made him a better man and he has made her grow. The mushy part of me gets all warm and fuzzy when I think about it. I was wondering how on earth Kaye was going to find a fey that could lie. And while the solution may have been convenient, the quest wasn’t what the story was about. I didn’t quite care how it was solved as long as Kaye and Roiben would wind up together in the end.

And even though yes there is romance it is only a fraction of the book; another reason I like this trilogy. Holly Black doesn’t spend one book or 25 chapters on romance. Everything is balanced. We have a plot, we have character development, all of the things that some books fail to balance these days.

The story moves swiftly and smoothly, one of those books that you cant seem to put down. You hear yourself saying, the end of the chapter and I will stop….then 6 chapters later you find yourself completely hooked and unable to turn that bedside lamp off. Or maybe that was just me.

Things I didn't love so much: I didn’t love it as much as Tithe, but enjoyed it better than Valiant though all three books are very well done. I wouldn’t recommend people to start here if they haven’t read any of them because Ironside is more like a sequel to Tithe (a bit more so than Valiant though Valiant has some very important characters and one or two events that are integral). It just doesn’t work as a stand alone or at least not a very fleshed out stand alone.

Buy or Borrow: Buy or at least Borrow. If you have read any of the other books of the trilogy, well worth finishing off the tale (though there are a lot of loose ends that could possibly warrant a revisit to the world if not Roiben and Kaye) or if you like tales of the Fey in general.

Part of: a Trilogy.
Tithe (Book One)
Valiant (Book Two)
Ironside (Book Three)

Also Recommended: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr for more fey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for another awesome trilogy and the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sandman Slim

Sandman Slim
Written by: Richard Kadry
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Eos
Language: English
July 2009, $22.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Book One of Sandman Slim

Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you're James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark's back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you'd expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.


+++++++++++++

A couple of years ago I picked up Butcher Bird, also by Kadrey and loved it. It was snarky, it was fun and I really enjoyed it. So when Sandman Slim came out I thought I would give it a go. It looked like it would be similar and we all know how much I love the snark.

I will say one thing. Richard Kadrey has a voice all his own. While there can be comparisons to John Constantine, my favorite Mr. Taylor from Simon R Green’s Nightside series or others, Stark holds his own. As does Kadrey. Sandman Slim is gritty and dirty like a pulp fiction novel, but fun and imaginative as well. While I didn’t love it as much as Butcher Bird (for reasons I am still trying to figure out, maybe I will get to it by the end of the review), it was still a nice change of pace than what I usually read of late.

James Stark was a bad ass before he went to hell by his best buddies who really didn’t like the fact that he was the better magician. For eleven years he has been in hell becoming cozy with Azazeal, being his slave, his whipping boy, his personal gladiator and then an assassin. Fun times. But who wants to be in hell forever? Stark didn’t and so he escaped to find those old best buds and let them know that revenge is indeed sweet.

Things I loved: You don’t exactly like James Stark, but you cannot help but kind of root for him to win. He’s angry. He’s damaged. He’s not the man you want to bring home to meet the family and he is full of razor edged wit. In one way he kind of reminds me of Avery Cates from Electric Church. There is no hope in Starks world, not really. He knows that eventually Hell will catch up to him and he will go back, but until then he hopes to wreak as much havoc as he can on those who wronged him and took away the woman he loved. He’s out for revenge and completely unapologetic about it. I mean how would you feel if you had been sent to hell just for shits and giggles and because your mates were jealous. That’s not saying that Stark was a boy scout before he got cozy with Satan and his minions. Because he really wasn’t. But he wasn’t exactly a bad guy either. More of a gray sort.

He’s an antihero. He has a soft spot for things and kind of hates himself for it. He doesn’t want to be the one that saves the world, but inadvertently does it. He’s the type that hates the heroes in the stories, who convinces himself that the only reason he is doing a good deed is because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…that he had no choice. It’s how he deals with secretly being one of those white hat types. Okay so more of a dark grey sort of hat.

The action is fairly fast paced, but it is very scattered. There are a lot of puns, over the top quotes almost like watching an action film. But it works with everything. There are no apologies, not from the characters, not from the story or from the prose. It is what it is. You either like it or you don’t. In a way that is refreshing. In another frustrating because I wanted more from this book.

I loved the stealing of various cars through out the book, the abundance of Tom Waits references as well as old horror flicks. I quite enjoyed the doctor (who isn't all what he seems), other characters both good and bad (who doesn't love a decapitated head that loves porn, which by the way reminds me of Bob from the Dresden series), that both heaven and hell are full of pompous bastards and that Sandman Slim didn’t give a frak. The fact that Lucifer remains as awesome as he did in Butcher Bird is a plus. Having keys in your heart, knowing that there are doors that will take you anywhere and that you are really hard to kill…also cool. Ooh and you got to love Veritas for answering questions truthfully albeit with a heavy dose of snark and you all know how much I love the snark.

Things I didn't love so much: Sometimes the rules of magic and the rules for the various monsters and oogie boogie can be a bit…well wonky. It stays consistent for the most part and makes sense and then other times it feels like it mutates to serve the story’s purpose at that moment alone. It certainly changes the rules at the end to set up for the sequel. Now this isn’t necessarily a really bad thing, but just an annoying one because I know Kadrey can do better.

The same can be said for Kadrey’s treatment of the female characters in the book. They are not ideal. Candy, well I mean her name is Candy and she is just eye candy, a fanboys little wet dream. I also really like Allegra but she turned into a little girl halfway through the book instead of a woman who at first seems to hold her own. I enjoyed Shrike far more from Butcher Bird. But maybe that’s just me and all of my wicked girl power sensibilities.

Buy or Borrow: Buy or at least Borrow. While I did not enjoy it as much as I did Butcher Bird, I know that I will pick up the next in the series, because lets face it you knew there would be others, Kill The Dead. Give it a go.

Part of: a Series. Sandman Slim novels
Sandman Slim (Book One)
Kill The Dead (Book Two)

Also Recommended: Simon R Green’s Tales from the Nightside, or the two novel versions John Shirley did of my favorite frak you brit, Hellblazer.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Changes

Changes
Written by: Jim Butcher
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Roc Harcover
Language: English
April 2010, $24.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Book Twelve of the Dresden files

As Chicago's only professional wizard, Harry Dresden has faced demons, vampires, werewolves, dark sorcerers, and hosts of horrors from beyond the mortal realm.

But nothing could have prepared him for this....

I answered the phone and Susan Rodriguez said, "They've taken our daughter."

Long ago, Susan was Harry's lover - until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her body and soul torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. For both her sake and Harry's, Susan disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered the secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it - against Harry. The Duchess blames Harry for the death of her husband, and she has desired revenge ever since. Susan's secret is the key that will force Harry to take the battle to her, on her own ground, where the might of the Red Court holds sway.

To prevail, he may have to do the unthinkable. For the raging fury of Harry's untapped power has always proved to be his greatest temptation. And now he may have no choice but to embrace the darkness within himself.

Because this time, Harry's not fighting to save a client, the Council, or the world...

He's fighting to save his child.


+++++++++++++

I remember why I picked up the first Harry Dresden book. It was because James Marsters (aka Spike from Buffy/Angel) was doing the audio book. As a big James fan, I was immediately pleased as punch to get my James fix. It helped that I got hooked into the series. It’s been 12 books and while the series has good and bad outings, above all it has been a very enjoyable ride. The Dresden Files are those books that even though I have piles and piles of to be read books, I still go out and buy the latest installment. I can’t help it. I am hooked.

The book opens up with a simple phone call, a phone call that will change Harry Dresden’s life forever. Not only does he have a daughter, by old flame Susan Rodriguez, but she has been kidnapped. How to process all of that? Harry’s life is already a bit complicated with the war with the vampire Red Court, the Black Council and its machinations, and training ‘grasshopper’ Molly Carpenter. This is of course on top of trying not to piss off Marcone enough that he decides their ‘truce’ is far too bothersome and making sure the rest of his life doesn’t get too chaotic. But Harry’s the White Knight and no one messes with family.

Changes are a coming and they are big. Holy cow are they big.

I have one word that summed up my reading of the last chapter one afternoon….What? That’s all I could think. That was it? NO way. That being said I cant review this without giving something away as subtle as I may try to be. It is the book for Changes after all. So read no farther unless you are a spoiler whore and read the last pages before reading the whole thing (this being that you haven’t read this one yet)

Things I loved: There are some things you never mess with. One of them is children. Now I have grown to love Harry over the series. He is infallible, gets his ass handed to him quite a lot, but in the end he is one of the good guys. Even if it hadn’t been his daughter in danger. Even if he had the chance to choose all over again. I think he would make that same choice. His decision came out of nowhere, but it was a decision that needed to be made. Harry is hella powerful, but not that powerful. He needed that extra boost to save everyone (his brother, his daughter, his grandfather…and all of those wacky people he is loyal to and calls friends), his own well being didn’t factor in. He knew he had to do it to fail only marginally as far as he was concerned. Just enough to save his daughter, his own life didn’t matter in the end. I think maybe he believed that Mab would send in the cavalry if she even remotely thought that her new little toy was not going to make it. Or maybe he is just that crazy. He just knew that he had to save his little girl the way a mama bear protects her cobs. No one hurts family. No one hurts his child.

I liked Susan. I liked the somewhat normal life she represented before things turned to utter shite. I admired her that she was keeping her blood thirst in check, that she was keeping her distance as much as I felt like it tore both her and Harry apart. But to deny Harry his daughter? Like Harry I cannot forgive her for that not matter how much I liked her. Then again what was Harry going to do. She would always be a liability for a man like Harry who makes a living and life out of making the bad guys lives a living hell. She would be a weakness, just the way that Murphy can and will be once their feelings are revealed (though problematic since they cant even reveal those feelings to themselves let alone each other). I hope someday he can know his daughter, that she is a force to be reckoned with in her own right and that Molly will be one wicked cool aunt.

Harry knows he cannot have that normal life. The one with the wife, white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog named Spot. Harry is always going to be the hero. It is what he is programmed to be, in his DNA. He sees people, good people in bad situations and cannot help but…well help them. He’s helping keep the Council on their toes, training other young wizards that maybe the Council isn’t infallible. Harry is the teacher now as much as he still the student. He’s learned a lot, grown a lot in these few years (okay I guess it is about seven or eight). He’s made allies, *gasp* friends, and certainly his share of enemies as well (which tends to happen when you are too snarky for your own good with the baddies and yet who would Harry be if he weren’t mouthing off?)

This book is about Changes and boy are there changes aplenty. It is more than the knowledge of Harry’s daughter, of the tides of war, of allies and enemies and how those relationships are changing because of the events of this book. It is about the decisions Harry makes to protect those he cares about and how it will indeed change his life, it is knowledge that maybe people way more powerful than you (oh lets say like Gods!) have an invested interest in you and may have been pushing pieces around you. And of course it is the ending which is a game changer all on its own. For Butcher, he gets gold stars for this. While remaining true to Harry’s character he has changed the game entirely. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing can be the same. How could it? All I know is that the first chapter of the next Harry book has a lot riding on it and I cannot help but sympathize with Butcher for the pressure that is on that. I have faith. Harry has his battle scars. He’s lost as much as he has won. It wont be as simple as pulling a Gandalf (which Harry would find immensely humorous me thinks) Things aren’t this simple. They never are with Harry. He has the potential to be a scary bad ass as much as he is the white knight in tarnished armor. And that makes him a threat to a lot of people in both this world and those we pretend don’t exist.

This booker is darker, but how cannot it not be. What wouldn’t you do for your child? How far would you go? But the snark we have grown to love is still there, it is just razor sharp sometimes. I feel like we are about to head down the rabbit hole and scary things are on the other side. But I love that Jim Butcher isn’t pulling punches. There is no continuation from Turn Coat. No linear plot line. It just happens and you are left hanging on for a breathless ride hoping it will stop and you’ll go back to the old Harry where there are still occasionally puppies and rainbows, but praying that it doesn’t stop. That clever little formula that you had and enjoyed from the previous 10 books, yeah, doesn’t count anymore. This changes everything, the turning point that made a good series into something more. In a way Butcher just pulled a Joss Whedon on me. No one is safe and anything can happen just when you least expect it. Bravo, good sir! Bravo!

I know I keep prattling on about the holy frak of it all, but that is all I can say. The book was wicked awesome. All you can say is WTF. What the Frak. And shake your head. Possibly a lot. Kind of like me. Still. Not only is he the Winter Knight, a position that will change everything, but well…that other thing. And then the explosions. Sigh. There are eight books left in the series and this book has me more excited about those final eight than I have been about a book series in a long time. This book more than lived up to its title. It invigorated a series and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Please sir, may I have some more?! I guess we will have to wit until ‘Side Jobs’ which is an anthology that comes out later this year. Apparently there will be a novella called ‘Aftermath’ which will deal with the events of Changes, 45 minutes later.

Other little loves: Loved loved Vadderung (yeah Norse gods!), the final battle scene (yeah, cinematically in my head it was epic), the ending (holy cliffhanger of all cliffhangers Batman!), Harry’s costume (love you for that Miss Leanansidhe), The ErlKing (Yeah!), Mouse (Oh how I love you and want you to be my puppy, sadly I don’t speak Mouse though), Toot ( I have pizza and am willing to share), Murphy and Fidelacchius (whoo hoo, Karin with a holy sword, grinning like a schoolgirl), The Beetle (sniff), the voice (whose is it? Hush now) and all of the usual suspects that make me happy.


Things I didn't love so much: Yeah, I got nothing. Except that it ended the way that it did. Curse you Mr. Butcher. Curse you. And your damned awesomeness.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. I cannot recommend this series enough. It starts off slow, but not only does Harry grow as a character, but Butcher’s writing grows as well. What is there not to like after all. No borrowing. Just buy it. You’ll like it. And if you don’t I would love to have a long thorough discussion on why the hell not. Especially when you look at it as a whole.

Part of: The Dresden Files
Storm Front (Book One)
Fool Moon (Book Two)
Grave Peril (Book Three)
Summer Knight (Book Four)
Death Masks (Book Five)
Blood Rites (Book Six)
Dead Beat (Book Seven)
Proven Guilty (Book Eight)
White Night (Book Nine)
Small Favor (Book Ten)
Turn Coat (Book Eleven)

Also Recommended: Simon R Green’s Tales from the Nightside or Christopher Golden’s Shadow Saga or The Menagerie.

5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks (Because lets face it he just turned it up to 11)

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Magic Bleeds

Magic Bleeds
Written by: Ilona Andrews
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
May 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Book Four of the Kate Daniels series

“Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic. When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it rose.
Kate Daniels works for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, officially as a liaison with the mercenary guild. Unofficially, she cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to handle—especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.

When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar midway between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years—and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father.

This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family…”


+++++++++++++

Once upon a time I picked up the first Ilona Andrews book, hoping to find something a bit different to tide me between the Mercedes Thompson books. I found it in the Kate Daniels series. Now we are four books into the series and I thought for sure that they would slow down as many series these days tend to do. Whoa was I wrong. What is even better is that this is a husband and wife team writing Kate, Curran and all of the rest of the inhabitants of Atlanta.

Suffice it to say you can begin with this book and not be completely lost and yet however it is like watching Return of the Jedi without watching New Hope and Empire first (yes I am pretending the prequels never happened, cause lets face it don’t we all want to wish it never happened kind of like the last Indiana Jones). My review will include spoilers, so first time Kate Daniel’s readers beware. I will try to stay vague, but I can only be so vague. This is a Smirking review after all and I am passionate about my books.

The book opens up with a very disappointed Kate. How can she not be when Curran is late and she humbled herself a great deal after the last book. Of course she has to put all of her feelings aside when the Steel Horse, a local bar is hit by something big. Something big enough not only to keep her clueless, but big enough to try and start an epidemic of massive proportions if it weren’t for some very quick thinking on Kate’s part. Eventually Kate discovers who is behind the attacks…family. And this time she cannot nor wants to do it with Curran’s help. He is the one who broke her heart after all.

Things I loved: I like Kate. I like her because her inner monologue mirrors my own. I like her because she is flawed like so many of the women heroes I love (can anyone say Kara “Starbuck” Thrace”) and yet she is fiercely loyal. Once you are in her good graces it takes a hell of a lot for her not to protect you with everything she has even if she is currently pissed off at you. Her entire life she has been told that being close to someone is a weakness, that it will only get her and those she cares about into really big trouble. But she is human. She cannot help but form friendships and fall in love. She cannot help but let those carefully constructed shields tumble down just a little bit.

I think that is why with the first chapter it hits home that much harder. I felt that punch in the gut when the infamous ‘Here Kitty, kitty’ former mercenary and general bad ass got her heart broken. It wasn’t being kidnapped or almost being killed, it wasn’t baddies or a boss that it is just an asshat that made Kate crumble. It was putting yourself out there, making yourself so incredibly vulnerable and not having it returned. I get that. I think anyone who has been in love has felt that absolute vulnerability and you pray and you hope that someone won’t shatter you when you feel at your weakest. Even though I knew it was all a misunderstanding, I also knew how much it must have hurt. We are seeing it all from Kate’s point of view. And it all felt extremely honest. As I said Kate doesn’t show her vulnerability because she has been taught that it will get her killed. And any strong independent woman can relate to that even if we aren’t kick ass magical heroines. In this way the book has magic, but its never really been about a magical Atlanta and sometimes urban fantasy gets lost in the setting and the magic of it all, that they forget about the most important aspect and that is the characters. The characters end up being forced or two dimensional. They don’t grow. They don’t lose. They are bound in clich├ęs. And while Kate is the kick ass heroine so proudly depicted on urban fantasy covers everywhere, she is a hell of a lot more real and authentic than most out there.

On top of our main duo, I love the secondary characters. From Raphael to Andrea, Saiman and Jim. Andrea, in particular, grew as well for me. While some may not like the choice she may have taken, Andrea is always going to have that dual nature, torn between two things that make her who she is. In her personal life she has chosen to, in her own way, be part of the Pack and be part of who she is. But in her professional life Andrea chose to stay with the Order. For her the Order means control over so many different aspects of her life including her personal. It is something she clings to and just like Kate, I get that. When life gets out of control, you just hold onto what you can and the parts of you that you can control, to some extent anyway. It hurts just a bit that she chose Order over the Pack and ultimately the Order over Kate, but give the girl time. I don’t think that Andrea trusts that when push comes to shove that Kate will have her back when it came to the Pack because I don’t think Andrea knows how she would deal with that, nor does Kate. After all the Pack, if they really knew about Andrea might shun her or at least a good deal of them would and no one wants to face that sort of rejection. I think Andrea already thinks she is a bit of a monster and a freak, no one wants to hear someone else say it or treat you as thus. Like any true relationship or life in general, there are doubts. I think I might like Andrea less if she didn’t have doubts, if she didn’t need time to process it all.

I cant forget Saiman. Saiman, he’s that bastard you love to hate because in his own way he’s a bit charming (In a Hannibal Lector sort of way). Both Kate and he know that he wants Kate for purely selfish reasons. And they both know that once he gets bored with her or no longer finds a use for her that they will be enemies. In his own way Saiman reminds me a bit of Edward from the Anita Blake series (back when it wasn’t just smut with little plot).

*What else….ooh I loved how my girl got her moxie back. Not that she ever really lost it, but I loved how it was Kate that saved the day and every bit of the day and not Curran. Her reaction to the vote…absolutely priceless. Kate may not be a were but she is an alpha through and through.

* I loved the romance elements, the humor and the bits that make me love this verse and these characters (catnip, Jim’s expression, glued chairs, etc). Any book that can actually make me laugh out loud and cry along with the characters has done something wonderful. For that those two get shiny gold stars.

* The overall plot is coming to a head. We know who Kate is now. We know her capabilities and that of her ‘family’. In this way I like how there is an end to this series, even though each book has its own plot and happies for me to read. There is an end. There can be only one as Duncan or Connor McLeod would say (though I was always a bit of a Methos girl myself). My bets are on Kate because she has what Roland doesn’t, people who love and respect her…and occasionally fear her (with good reason…she does own power words after all).

*Finally, I love the prose. As we get the details and the story from Kate’s point of view, we get her inner monologues. They are real. The language is wonderful. It’s witty, it’s sarcastic, it is sad and it is descriptive when it needs to be. I don’t think it tries to hard and there isn’t a huge use of adverbs (Bethany you know this is true with Meyer). So yeah on that.

Things I didn't love so much: Not really gripe, just a surprise. I truly expected to see people come after Kate after the Games especially Hugh D’Ambray. Roland seems to much of a Cronus (who ate all of his children such as Zeus) to let Kate even remotely live. Then again maybe Hugh has his own reasons for delaying the report and not just for the reasons Kate thinks. I don’t think we have seen the last of him and I do believe he will certainly play a part very soon.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. If you like Urban fantasy or series like Mercy Thompson, buy buy buy. No borrowing. Just buy it. You’ll like it. I didn’t even need the guarantee from the publisher. My only problem is these books are getting so awesome that the next will probably be in hardcover which just ruins the symmetry of my bookshelf. (I have this thing where if two or three are paperback, they all have to be paperback or vice versa. It’s an OCD bibliophile thing I know, but *shrug* everyone has their quirks.)

Part of: a Series. The Kate Daniels Series
Magic Bites (Book One)
Magic Burns (Book Two)
Magic Strikes (Book Three)

Also Recommended: Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs or perhaps the Harry Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Eclipse: A Review

Eclipse (2010)

Directed By: David Slade
Written By: Melissa Rosenberg, based off the novel by Stephanie Meyer
Genre: BOOK TURNED MOVIE?
Time: 2 hr 4 min
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke

Plot: As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: mortal or vampire.

Review: I should begin right off that I am not a fan of the books. I tried to read them, really I tried, but couldn’t which is saying a lot considering how much I do read. However, I have seen each of the films…because I was forced to. So I had low expectations but the girl’s book club was attending and I hadn’t seen a movie in the theatre in a while so I thought I would give a go. Now as I said I don’t know the story other than what I gleaned off of wikipedia after returning Twilight to the library after reading only four chapters of it. Sorry gang, if you are a lover of all things Edward and Bella I just couldn’t get into it. I’m sorry vampires should not sparkle. I don’t care how impossibly gorgeous they are.

So I went. I did not wear my “Then Buffy Staked Edward, The End” shirt. I was polite. I was being a very good Smirking. First off it made me giggle that almost every single trailer before the film was once a book. First we had “Eat, Pray, Love”, then it was “Charlie St. Cloud”, followed by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows”, as well as “Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. But I did get “Paranormal Activity 2” which is not a book, but a film that will probably give me the heebie jeebies all the same.

Things the film had going for it before it began the opening credits: First - The soundtrack. I loved the first one, liked about two songs from the second, but am completely digging the third soundtrack. A lot. Second Thing – David Slade. 30 Days of night wasn’t too bad. But Hard Candy…completely awesome. So yeah…that was about it.

So what did I think? It wasn’t horrible. I did far less mocking. I will say that David Slade seems to have improved on quite a few things. It looked pretty, the cast performed far better than they have previously (though sadly Jasper emoted more than Bella and Jasper is supposed to be the no emotions guy), Robert Pattinson looked kinda hot and he should smile far more often (Like the Twilight craze, I have not understood the Robert craze even when he was Cedric), Charlie is still the man (yeah Billy Burke for making him an interesting character), the vampires themselves weren’t all pasty in a chalky not good sort of way, and did I mention I like the soundtrack. Also there was actual humor and not the me making MSTK comments due to bad dialogue, bad shots and bad acting. There were funnies. I giggled (does he own a shirt, I’m hotter, Charlie in total for most of the film, etc). Improvements are always good.

But I do have my own gripes. I wont gripe on the story because as you know I don’t dig it. I will just say what I felt was a bit lacking in the film. As I said before Kristen Stewart needs to learn how to emote. The tortured girl thing is getting a bit tired. Bella is supposed to be in love, to be torn, to be angry, to be scared and that was all the same expression for Stewart. Which is a shame. From what I hear Bella was angry all the damn time in the book and we really didn’t get that. Sadly she seems to get typecast a lot which makes me wonder if the brooding tortured girl thing is just her personality in real life. It would be interesting to try and see her do something light and funny.

I love Bryce Dallas Howard, I do, but I kind of like the other actress a bit better. It would have been interesting to see her play a manipulative, cunning bitca and a half with Riley. And the Jacob thing. I don’t get it. Taylor may be all pretty for some but he comes off too boyish and not the Alpha he apparently is supposed to be. I blame this partly on just Taylor himself. He may have the muscles but his stage presence is still too much of a teen and not a man. Then again they are in high school. I think perhaps it doesn’t help that there is no real chemistry between Kristen and Taylor so you know she is always going to choose Edward. Both kisses were a bit awkward as if the actors were like oops kissing my friend, possibly like a brother or sister. It translates on the screen. There isn’t any real choice and I think this movie was trying to showcase this.

Rent/Cinema?: If you are a Twihard (Is that the correct terminology?) then go see it. Of the three films, this was by far the best though admittedly I wont be buying it any time in the near future. Though I think B will. However, the soundtrack, completely worth purchasing even if you don’t like the film or the books. Don’t let the fact that it is from the film turn you away.

2.5/4 popcorns

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Sunday Seven: Fictional Places

It was a busy week this week. One that was full of loss (Mike, we shall miss you terribly), but also full of laughter (Murder Mystery toga Party B-day party…kind of awesome. An excellent way to spend my 32nd by the way). I also cleaned my house big time in preparations for the notorious shindig. Which had me thinking about my eclectic taste when it comes to interior decorating. My home is one that has posters of Serenity, LotR, and Secretary in one room while I have Mucha and Waterhouse paintings in the other. It is a home where action figures share the same space as artistic sculptures and the 360 is sitting right next to a fresh vase of flowers. I have bookshelves and columns, an antique writing desk, candelabras right along with a life size Spike standup and some Tribbles.

But I love my place. I call it geek chic, which seemed to be the general consensus when I had everyone over on Friday which was one of the first times I had people over since the big move. Sadly it rained so we didn’t get to enjoy the deck which is bedecked with solar powered strings of lights, a gorgeous couple of dahlias, and some nice patio furniture. If it wasn’t so hot right now I would be out there as we speak sipping on some Sangria.

Anyway, this week we have the top seven fictional places I would love to live in. We are going literary this time, so bibliophiles please weigh in.

1. Lothlorien (Lord of the Rings): I always wanted to be an elf and I blame it all on Tolkien. When my dad would read the Lord of the Rings to my brother and I when we were children I wanted to be Galadriel or Arwen. And I really wanted to live in Rivendell or Lothlorien. The reason I choose Lothlorien is largely due to Galadriel herself. Not only is it the Golden Woods and full of trees, but due to Nenya, Galdriel’s ring the flora is constantly preserved from death and decay. Add to that that it also created a powerful ward strong enough that Sauron himself would have to come by and say ‘hey, how’s your father’ in order for it to be conquered. Plus, it is just beautiful.


2. Hogwarts (Harry Potter): I wish I wasn’t just a muggle. I wish that my little camping tent turned into a nice cozy bungalow and above all if I had to do boarding school all over again, I wish I could do it at Hogwarts. I mean what isn’t there to like. It is a castle, it has a room of requirement (so if I required let’s say…oh Ryan Reynolds, would he magically appear? Or maybe a good margarita), has a Loch, an enchanted forest (yeah Unicorns) and Hogsmeade is just a hop, skip and jump away. Plus there is the whole learning magic thing which would come in handy methinks.


3. The Nightside (The Nightside series) : In Simon R Green’s novels of the Nightside, the Nightside is the other London, a place where gods and devils coexist, where it is always 3 am and the car you are standing next to might just eat you. In John Taylor’s words it is “a place where dreams come true and nightmares come alive. Where one can buy anything, often at the price of your soul... or someone else's. Where the music never stops and the fun never ends.” Granted I would probably get eaten or bamboozled in about .25 seconds, but it would be great to meet people like Razor Eddie, Dead Boy or Julian Advent along with John and Suzie, to have a drink at Strangefellows and catch a glimpse of the impossible.


4. Discworld (Discworld Series): I love Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series. After all it is a flat world, balanced on four elephants who are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle. It is a place where Death is nice and occasionally snarky, where Rincewind is a wizard with absolutely no skills and Granny Weatherwax is just plain awesome. Magic is everywhere as is the humor, and the power of belief can be a dangerous thing. Still would be nice.


5. Wildcards Verse (Wild Cards): In George R Martin’s Wildcards universe in 1946 an alien virus rewrote human DNA. Many people died, some became jokers (aka mutations in not a good way) and others became aces. It’s a world where Mick Jagger is a lycanthrope and your power may be as simple as being able to levitate two feet off the ground, or maybe it is more significant like being able to fly. I wonder what my superpower would be? Or would I be a joker?


6. Alternate Atlanta (Kate Daniels Series): In the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, magic and technology are not friends. In fact it was because of technology that magic pretty much said up yours and came back with a vengeance. During tech times, your phone works, possibly the interwebs, and your car for sure. But when the magic is up electricity is a no go I am afraid, so keep a fireplace lots of candles and know your spells. It’s a messed up world where vampires are not sexy but predators that scuttle and are controlled by necromancers, the little old lady next door might be a banshee and because of magic huge city blocks have been reclaimed by Mother Earth. It would certainly make things interesting, but I figure the average person does ok.

7. The Galaxy (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, etc): I heart you Douglas Adams. I want to go to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and to Alpha Centauri so I can get my very own Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Granted, yes this means that Earth has gone kaboom, but the dolphins did recreate it, so that is a plus. Admit it, it would be fun. I don’t know about you but I have my towel ready and I plan on not panicking.

Honorable Mentions: Coruscant (Star Wars), Buffyverse (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), Lyras world (His Dark Materials) as I so want to see what my Daemon would be and Neverland (Peter Pan)

Do you have your own list to share, let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Legion....

Of Extraordinary Dancers. Yep, superheroes that dance. I first saw these guys last season on So You Think You Can Dance and was smitten. I watched that routine a dozen times and couldnt wait to see more. Apparently it is going to be a web series and as a girl who will watch anything with some awesome dancing (Yes I am addicted to So You Think You Can Dance and America's Best Dance Crew) I think it looks pretty cool.

LXD "Moments" Trailer from Jon M. Chu on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Game of Thrones



Just saw this before the True Blood premiere. Yeah! I knew that HBO was bringing Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels to my living room, but I hadnt heard anything for a while. Things that also make me happy...Sean Bean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jane Espenson doing some of the writing for the series. Winter is Coming.

The Sunday Seven: Vampires in TV

While I am not a huge True Blood fan (because I love the Sookie Stackhouse series of books and I hate how the orgy it up far too much in the tv show, but I guess you can enjoy both just on different levels), I still watch it simply because it has vampires in it and me and vampires are kind of like me and zombies. We're close. Anyway, vampires = yeah and there have been quite a few representations on tv. Here are seven of my favorite male bloodsuckers.

1. & 2. Spike and Angel(Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Angel): I adore the boys. Spike, for his snark and to die for cheekbones and hipbones and...because we really got to see his character grow and develop for the non shallow bits. And Angel, because he's the good guy, the hero and also not hard to look at. Joss Whedon created two amazing characters in these two vamps and I kind of heart them.


3. Henry Fitzroy (Blood Ties): Played by Kyle Schmid in the sadly short lived tv series Blood Ties based off of Tanya Huff's books, Henry Fitzroy was the bastard son of Henry the VIII who became a vampire. In the books he writes romance novels, in the series he writes graphic novels. Either way Henry is a great character and I love his relationship with Vicki.


4. Julian Luna (Kindred: The Embraces): Julian Luna, Ventrue Prince of San Francisco. Part of the also short lived (why are all the vamp shows short lived?) series Kindred: The Embraced which was based off of the World of Darkness Vampire: the Masquerade role playing game. Julian was elegant and intelligent, loving and yet unafraid to play the role of bad guy. I think what made him interesting was how much he clung to what was left of his humanity. A highly likable character, its sad that I didnt get to know more about his story.


5. Nick Knight (Forever Knight): Geraint Wyn Davies starred Nick Knight, a vampire who was over 800 years old. Wracked with guilt for his bloody past, Nick not only worked as a police detective helping others, but he spent a good deal of time trying to find a way to become human again. Forever Knight was one of those late night syndicated shows from the early 90's but I loved it. Still have the DVDs. Ooh I should rewatch.


6. John Mitchell (Being Human): Played by the lovely Aidan Turner, Mitchell was once a hero in the vampire community, arrogant and deadly. But like most of my choices he had a good deal of guilt and tried to change his ways. Now living with a werewolf and a ghost, Mitchell works as a hospital porter. He is softspoken and calm, and one of my favorites on the show. I hope they don't ruin him with the USA remake on Syfy.



7. Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows): My list would be sad if I didn't have Barnabas Collins. Looking for his lost love Josette, Barnabas was the perfect soap opera vampire. He was cunning, manipulative, but also could be kind. Cannot wait to see Johnny Depp put on the fangs for him in Tim Burton's version of Dark Shadows next year.


Honorable Mentions: Mick St. John and Josef Kostan (Moonlight), Eric Northman and Bill Compton(True Blood), Daedalus (Kindred the Embraced)

Do you have your own list to share, let me know and I will post it.