Monday, December 29, 2008

Mrs. Mabb
The Ladies of Grace Adieu

What a strange story? How did Susanna Clarke come up with this one? I think Mrs. Mabb is my favourite in the collection so far. Venetia is such a wonderful, determined character. She knows that she is not crazy. There is something in her, drivnging her to save her love, Captain Fox. With some expansion, I could see this being a lovely fantasy-adventure love story movie. I look forward to the second half of Clarke’s collection.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Undead and Unreturnable

MaryJanice Davidson brings us another book in the Undead series. I love Betsy. She is the most unlikely vampire queen. The story begins with Betsy, her human best friend and her sister (who is the daughter of the devil) staring at Betsy’s never-used grave. The plot and tombstone were paid for, so it was set up. Very morbid, I must say, but interesting. Betsy again winds up in danger, the worse kind any of the vampires can think of, exposure! Does Betsy want her whole history of being a vampire printed for all her subjects (especially the bad ones) to see? Sinclair and Tina certainly don’t want it to happen. I can’t wait too see if the revealing book is published.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

For anyone who is a fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger Born is welcome addition to the canon. Even if you don’t read graphic novels, try this one out. If you’ve never read a Dark Tower novel, this is a great way to start. It was a great idea for Stephen Kin to partner with Marvel Comics (home of his and some of my favourite characters.) They did justice to his work, which is not just my opinion. King’s letter at the end of the story emphasizes how happy he is with the final product.

The Gunslinger Born isn’t a retelling of the fourth Dark Tower book, Wizard & Glass. I feel it’s more of a coupling; Wizard & Glass is the launching pad from which The Gunslinger Born springs forth. Many of the events that occur in both books are the same, though truncated in the latter. There are also new glimpses in the lives of the people in Roland’s world. We see the Crimson King, Marten, Walter & John Farson. It’s as though the reader is given a behind-the-scenes peek at the workings of the ‘Good Man’ and his followers. If you want to prolong your journey to the Dark Tower, pick up The Gunslinger Born

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Ladies of Grace Adieu

So they didn't know they ate mice? Did they turn the men into mice by accident? The Ladies of Grace Adieu, the first and title story of Susanna Clarke's collection, leaves the reader thinking that there will be another story to follow. It feels as though the ladies will appear again, along with Mr. Strange, in a future narrative, whether it be a novel or another short story. I haven't read Susanna Clarke's novel, Johnathon Norrle and Mr. Strange but after this story, I might have to. I look forward to the rest of the stories in this collection.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Jane Austen Book Club

I adored this movie. The women fit so well together. The men were perfectly selected. You don’t need to read Jane Austen to love the movie. It’s not really about the books. It’s about these characters, men and women, coming together and sharing something in common. That thing just happens t be Jane Austen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Undead and Unappreciated

I’ve done it again. I’ve read another fluffy book about vampires. (I can’t stop thinking about Twilight and how much I’m itching to see the movie.) Undead and Unappreciated is the third book in MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series. It’s fun, easy to read and doesn’t involve any thinking at all. The vampire queen is a lovable woman of the modern era. The king is a throwback, but styled to appeal to modern women. The queen’s surprise sister keeps you interested. I’m sure all the Undead books are going to be full of this sort of crazy, impossible, entertaining stuff.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Eclipse & Breaking Dawn


Again, I couldn’t put the books down. Each book was such and adventure. I am even more in love with the characters, especially Edward. I think Breaking Dawn (more than Eclipse or New Moon) was able to do what Twilight. Breaking Dawn had strength on its own. It left the reader with a nice ending, making this installment of the story feel complete. Not that we would ever think it a conclusion to the series. It leaves us with the knowledge that all the characters we’ve grown to care for are safe and that danger is a distant thing in the future. I am eager to read more about all the Cullens and the wolf pack; Stephanie Meyer’s next book will be eagerly anticipated. I hope she doesn’t wait too long.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

New Moon

I’ve done it again. I’ve read the second book in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series in 3 days. I can’t help it. I constantly want to know what’s happening with Bella and Edward. What is the next big thing that’s going to happen to this couple? Will Bella get what she wants? Will they be together forever? I have to know. I’m halfway through the series and I don’t want it to end.

The only thing I didn’t like about this installment was Jacob Black. I like him and his character. I’m not surprised to see werewolves. Having them so close and one in love with Bella creates an interesting conflict. I just wanted less Jacob and more Edward. I’m sure we’ll see more of Jacob in future books and maybe the vampires and werewolves will eventually get along. I just need more Edward and Bella in the future books. I can’t wait to read Eclipse.

The Silent Blade


R.A. Salvatore has given us another fantastic tale staring the famed dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden. In this story, however, we find another drow rogue. Jarlaxle is quite an interesting character. Drizzt is joined by the usual band of heros and villains, though I’m a little sad that Cadderly wasn’t included this time around. There is also the unexpected. Who really knows at this point the way Wulfgar will turn? The Silent Blade is another fine addition to the Legend of Drizzt.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Twilight

I can’t believe how much I love this book. I can’t stop thinking about it. Yes, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is not some brilliant work of fiction. It’s not a fine wine. It’s crack. I want to know what happens to Edward and Bella. Yet, I’m also scared to read the rest of the series too quickly. I’m going through withdrawal now, but what’ll I feel when I have no other books to look forward to? It'll be torturous! I didn’t know I was going to become so obsessed with this book. I’m even excited for the movie. Who could predict that a book written about teens and vampires could have me so enthralled?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shopaholic and Baby


Sophie Kinsella has created yet another fabulous novel starring the incomparable Becky Brandon (neé Bloomwood). This installment of Becky’s life tugged at my heartstrings more than the others. She’s pregnant, happy and excited about her future with Luke when along comes the ‘red-haired bitch’. I can’t imagine, during what is supposed to be a magical time for a couple, to have your husband’s super hot ex-girlfriend show up and make a play for him! The way Venetia Carter treats our heroine is reprehensible.

Becky continues to make some crazy choices. She (as always) shops too much. She also makes some great decisions and helps not only her failing company, but Luke’s business as well. If she could only focus her powers, Becky would be unstoppable. She just can’t seem to get over this unstoppable shopping habit. I am excited to see what Becky has in store for us next.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Ringmaster’s Daughter

The Spider is the Ringmaster. He had a web of 'performers' that he controlled, his artists. He had a lost daughter. There were people who wished him harm. The Spider was the Ringmaster.

Who is Petter at the end of the story? By the conclusion, he was an extraordinary man who wanted to live an ordinary life; he wanted to be ordinary. I don't know if that could be true. Petter always lived life in a unique way, due to his abilities and manner of thought. Though, his extraordinary life has been damaging. Can he be average now? He says it is what he wants. It is left up to the reader to decide what the character will do.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Golden Compass




I needed more Bond. I know that doesn’t start me off with how good/bad the movie was, but it’s what I was left with when the movie was over. It was decent. It could have been better (in that it needed more Daniel Craig/Lord Asriel), but it was a good movie. In general, it was kid friendly. It had that magical/fantastical quality. Just be prepared for the polar bear fight scene. Parents might need to cover younger eyes.

The girl in the movie is beyond just pretty or cute or whatever. She is expressive and intelligent. She is a strong, young female character that little girls can admire. Nicole Kidman is delightfully bad. You know she is going to be a villain as soon as she appears on scene. She is simply too beautiful and elegant to be good. Daniel Craig’s character was rougher, ruder, so of course he was the good guy.
I wasn’t a fan of the ending, though. The final battle was great. It’s after the battle that is the problem. Yes, even if the little star hadn’t gone on about what they had left to do, there were still obvious loose ends. I suppose I just didn’t like the way she listed everything, like an itinerary. It really took something away from the ending.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Juno

I can’t even express how fantastic Juno is! Juno is a quirky, weird, simply strange girl and she’s wonderful. This film was everything and more than I thought it would be. Ellen Page, Jennifer Gardner, Jason Bateman, were all fantastic. So were Juno’s parents, best friend and boyfriend. Juno was thoroughly well cast. Each actor brought their own characters to life, thus making the story more real. I think everyone has to see this movie if they haven’t already. If you’ve seen it, then see it again!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Undead and Unemployed

Oh, poor Betsy. She’s only been Queen of the Undead a few months and already people are trying to killer. Not just living people either, dead ones too! Betsy is all attitude with a large portion of denial. Thankfully, she’s working through that. She’s a regular girl, the last you would think could be the Queen. She is, however, and she is taking her responsibilities (mostly) seriously. MaryJanice Davidson’s second Undead book was as fun as the first and I think it could stand on its own. You don’t need to read Undead and Unwed to understand just how fun and frustrating Betsy Taylor’s life can be.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla


Stephen King’s fifth Dark Tower novel was fantastic. Many of its final moments were surreal. Each of the lead characters, including the addition of Pere Callahan, were given strong storylines separate from the goal of the novel. They are gunslingers. They quest for the Tower, but they also do what gunslingers are supposed to do. They help.

I was so happy with Wolves of the Calla. It is a bit longer than the last Dark Tower installment, Wizard and Glass, but it felt shorter. There wasn’t the sense of wordiness I got with the fourth book. There was a story to tell and King told it. I couldn’t wait to keep reading, to know what happened next.

I have to admit that there was one thing that I didn’t like about the book, the illustrations. I don’t know who decided on them, but I don’t feel like they properly represented the story. Of course, each reader pictures Roland and his ka-tet differently in their minds, but if they say a character is supposed to have red hair or another is supposed to have black hair with streaks of grey, I would like that reflected in the drawings placed within the pages of the novel.

Another thing I have to mention (I hope this doesn’t ruin anything for someone who hasn’t read the novel yet) is the ‘shout out’ to Marvel Comics. Marvel, as some people might know, published a Dark Tower graphic novel. It is a story in addition to the seven book series. I haven’t read it yet, but it is sitting on a shelf next to the other novels. As a fan of Marvel and someone who has started to be interested in graphic novels, I’m glad of the match. I’m excited to see what future collaborations will bring.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dreamgirls


Another movie I was surprised at how much I liked it. I thought Jennifer Hudson was the star of that movie. She was fantastic as Effie. I also thought the filmmakers did a good job at keeping the theatre quality within the film. You could tell it was a theatrical production, but without any detriment to the movie. The only problem I had with the movie was that I felt it was a little long. I don’t know if that was because all the songs were full-length tracks. After awhile, you start wondering when it’ll be over. I think Dreamgirls is definitely worth seeing and I’m a bit sorry it took me so long.

21


This was a movie that I honestly thought I wasn’t going to like. Kevin Spacey and Lawrence Fishbourne are both good actors, but from the previews and what I knew of the storyline, I really had no interest in seeing it. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. I really enjoyed 21. I thought Jim Sturgess was a great choice for the lead character. He played the innocent swept up the in the excitement of a dangerous world so well. I was glad that we picked this movie up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Passage to Dawn


I am so happy with the ending to Passage to Dawn. It is as good a feeling as you can get from a Forgotten Realms novel, I think. As soon as the poem was recited, I knew who the 'tortured soul' was. To me, it was obvious; I was so happy that I was right. The end left me excited to read The Silent Blade.

I'm enjoying the novels on Drizzt by R. A. Salvatore; glad I was introduced to them. Drizzt is such an interesting character, who is surrounded by interesting friends. Each character is strong in their own way. I also have to say that his female characters are wonderful to read. Even his enemies garner some thought. If you want some good stories, with well developed characters, definitely dive into the Legend of Drizzt.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Jewel of Medina Pulled By Random House Amid Fears of Islamic Violence

The novel, The Jewel of Medina hasn’t even been published yet, but it’s already causing controversy. Author Sherry Jones had her book deal. She sent it off to have someone read it, give notes and then it was over. The full story is included in the second link below. Emails were leaked, websites were in an uproar and violence was feared. Violence was feared because of a piece of “historical fiction”. What is this? 1939? Too many threats and Random House pulled the book.

I’m a bit surprised, as are the people at the Writers Write blog (the first link below). I could see it getting banned in some countries, but to not have the US publish it seems a little odd. Are they so concerned about a violent reprisal? If Random House thinks that Jones’ book will sell, then it should be published, right? Of course, a Dutch cartoonist in 2005 drew a few cartoons and 100 people died. Can Sherry Jones get another house to dare to publish her book?

Regarding the subject matter of the book, I’m not so sure it was a good idea to write it in the first place. Some critics called it soft-core pornography. I don’t quite agree with that, but I don’t know how appropriate it is to pen an account of a religious figure’s first time having intercourse with his very young bride. I don’t dispute a writer’s desire to tell the story of an important historical figure. After all, we have films like The Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments. Anne Rice’s most recent books are Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: Road to Cana. She is definitely someone who knows about sexuality in a novel. Yet now, she is writing about Jesus Christ. I think the problem is that they fear Jones is turning Aisha into a violent, overtly sexual being. From the excerpt I’ve read, I can see why that would be feared by a strict religious community. So, while I might now like it, I think if Random House or another publisher wants to publish it, they should.
http://www.writerswrite.com/wblog.php?wblog=811081
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/aug/09/fiction.terrorism

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Evil Dead: The Musical

“It’s like the musicals you love, only evil.”

Evil Dead: The Musical is too awesome! It is full of camp, slapstick, blood and gore. It’s hilarious. I barely stopped laughing the whole time. They’ve captured the essence of the characters and blended the first two movies wonderfully. They make fun of the movies, Sam Raimi and themselves. I could not have asked for a better production!

It’s currently playing at the Diesel Playhouse in Toronto. Evil Dead will be there only until September 6th, so get your tickets fast. I saw the show in the middle of the week and it was still pretty packed. There is also a production in California. Where it’s off to next, I’m not sure. You should also check out the Facebook group.

The truth is, I can’t get over how much fun I had at this show!

I have a couple of fun and/or useful links below.

http://www.evildeadthemusical.com/
http://www.dieselplayhouse.com/
http://www.bruce-campbell.com/pilot.asp
http://www.willowstheatre.com/evildeadmedia.htm

Monday, August 04, 2008

Undead and Unwed


Undead and Unwed is like Lestat meets Becky Bloomwood. It’s vampire ‘chick lit’ and very enjoyable. Betsy (Elizabeth) Taylor is the most unlikely vampire queen. She’s definitely no Queen of the Damned. In one week she has to deal with dying, being brought back undead, overthrowing the crazy bad guy and having her ‘stepmonster’ steal her designer shoes. It’s a lot to take, but for a regular girl, she handles it all quite well.

Undead and Unwed is a light, fun read. MaryJanice Davidson creates a world that feels like anyone can fall into. The typical dark and brooding vampire is a joke. Betsy is a regular, though unlucky girl, that now has to drink blood (ew!). The story is a wonderful distraction. If you need a novel or few (this is the first novel in a series) to take to the beach or the cottage, MaryJanice Davidson can supply them for you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Dark Knight

Everyone needs to go see The Dark Knight, if you haven't seen it already. It was dark and disturbing. The Dark Knight is an excellent telling of Batman's struggles with himself, his enemies and his city. There were parts where I actually needed to hold Craig's hand; I could see the danger coming. I know Harvey Dent's potential for darkness and I know the Joker's sneaky subterfuge. I was waiting for the betrayal of Gordon's men and wasn't disappointed.

Spoilers

The new suit was fantastic. Christian Bale was fantastic. Heath Ledger was creepy, the most insane version of the joker I think I've ever seen. You could tell from the Joker's final lines that they wanted the possibility of bringing the Joker back in future Batman movies. I loved Two-Face’s face. It was like many of the cartoons and comics I’ve seen. Scary and wonderfully raw; one of my favourite things. The Joker too, the makeup was crazy! Each suit, each costume for all the characters, was so precise and individual, I can’t help but be amazed by it.


Am I gushing yet? I think I might be. The Dark Knight is breaking records and it should. It really is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. You don’t need to have seen Batman Begins or really know anything about Batman to enjoy this movie. It exists for all movies lovers to enjoy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A New Generation in Crayons

Seriously? Multi-cultural crayons? Is this a marketing ploy or a real chance at integration? I remember colouring with crayons as a kid. Your task is to draw a picture of your family. I find the "flesh" coloured crayon, thinking this doesn't look right. I quickly learned that I would have to seek out the brown crayons. Sadly, however, there was only one shade of brown. Family drawings as a little girl became not the simple activity I'm sure the teachers thought it was. I always finished the drawings, but they were never right and never left me with the intended positive feeling.

So now we have these multi-cultural crayons. All sorts of faces can be represented, supposedly. It's strange and funny and great and interesting all at the same time. The Grand and Toy tag line is: An assortment of skin hues that give children a realistic palette for colouring their world. Amazon.com’s product description is: Draw pictures of friends, relatives, and children from around the world with 8 colors: mahogany, apricot, peach, burnt sienna, sepia, tan, black, and white.

I've found some criticism of the black and white crayons being included in the box. (http://flickr.com/photos/hondawang/955690504/) According to Crayola, that's for "blending" which makes sense, right? An artist would agree?

I noticed the crayons while ordering supplies for my workplace. It just happens to have a similar product code to some tabbed dividers I needed. Just the sight of them brought up all these thoughts. What I want to know is: does the advent of these crayons mean that race matters less or more? One thing I know is that in my next drawing, I’d like to represent the many faces of my friends and family.


Below are a few places where you can purchase these crayons. They also have pictures and brief product descriptions.

http://www.crayola.com/products/list.cfm?categories=CRAYONS
http://www.grandandtoy.com/sites/corp/MercadoSearchResult.aspx?FirstPage=1&NewPage=1&search=52-008w&sort=
http://www.amazon.com/Box-8-Multicultural-Crayons-Standard/dp/B000F8V2DQ
http://www.amazon.com/Crayola-58-7801-Multicultural-Washable-Markers/dp/B00021TO54/ref=pd_bxgy_t_img_b/002-9237738-5468049
http://www.nhpr.org/node/15995


Monday, July 14, 2008

Chance/Soon/Silence from Alice Munro’s Runaway

Could you wait around for a man’s wife to die?

Are your parents really who you remember them to be?

Can you predict how your children will turn out?

Chance, Soon and Silence are the second, third and fourth stories in Alice Munro’s Runaway collection. They each centre on the woman, Juliet, at three different stages of her life. In the first, Juliet is in her early twenties, a scholar and in love with a married man. Juliet is surprise by her own actions, but I don’t think I am. In Soon, she visits her parents. It is several years later and I think she is hoping to recapture some sort of feelings from her childhood, but so much has changed. Silence is an unexpected, yet surprising turn for her life. She started surrounded by “silence” and now she ends that way.

Each of Munro’s stories stand on their own. However, setting them in sequence allows some questions to be answered for the reader. It is an interesting way to look at an individual’s life, how things change; that something you would never have considered twenty years ago is so natural now. I do still wonder about Juliet’s daughter and the reasons for her actions. Perhaps in one of the future stories we will get to revisit her.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Runaway

What happened to little Flora? Is Carla going to snap? Is Clark really one of those men that abuses without the physical violence? What will happen to Sylvia? At the end of Runaway, Alice Munro’s first short story in the collection of the same title, I’m left with these questions.

Runaway is a brilliant beginning to the collection. It is thoughtful and interesting. It makes me eager to read the other stories. The ending, though leaving the reader with questions was perfectly crafted. Munro remains one of my favourite short story writers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass




The main character of The Dark Tower series is a brilliant creation. I love Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, the cowboy, the knight. He is representative of a dead age. He is an interesting, multifaceted character. He is described as having the most piercing eyes; eyes to love and to fear. I just don’t think the story of his first love needed to be so long. I was itching to get back to Eddie, Susannah and Jake halfway through that section.

I hate to say this, but Wizard and Glass is probably the weakest of the series so far. I was captivated by the first three novels. I was able to read through them in what felt like no time at all. In the middle of this novel, I had to push myself along for a few chapters. I am itching to read books 5-7, I just hope that I don’t find myself wishing it was a hundred pages shorter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

The Hulk really was incredible. There was a real connection, not just with the actors playing Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, but with Betty and the Hulk. You get to see the human, the person trapped within Hulk, struggling to take control. Betty really reaches him; she is able to exhibit a control that even Bruce Banner can’t. They make it all seem so real.

The fight scenes are fantastic. The growth of General Ross’s character actually seems believable. Abomination isn’t just Hulk-like, he’s insane. I’m excited to see what happens to “Mr. Blue.” Liv Tyler is amazing as Betty Ross. Edward Norton is fantastic! He plays the quiet, unassuming Bruce Banner wonderfully. But he can get that, “Hulk” look in his eyes too. A fabulous summer flick!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Chaos Curse

The Chaos Curse, the final book in The Cleric Quintet leaves you saddened. It was a long and difficult battle. Many fought and many died. The battle allowed the inner truth of many emerge into the light or fade into the darkness. Who could have predicted Dorigen’s end or the Dean’s? Standing in the face of “evil” their choices revealed what lay in their hearts. Something that can be applied to real life. When presented with life and death choices, each having dire consequences, what would you choose? Kierkan Rufo, though he tries to blame Cadderly, makes his choice, but doesn’t take ownership of it. Cadderly blames no one for his choices. He understands circumstance, but he also understands free will. It is Cadderly’s choices which lead to his ultimate end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

This was an incredible novel. I think I might actually be a better person for reading it. It’s finished and I still can’t put the book down. It was utterly fantastic. It almost made me cry and most books don’t do that. The touching way that Khaled Hosseini described the plight of the characters was captivating. It made me feel so angry and sad that people could be treated that way. Not just the women, the two main characters, Laila and Mariam. I was upset at the way men are raised and recruited into these “jihad” forces.

Not only is the book a look at the personal lives of these characters, but it is also an interesting look at the history of Afghanistan told by an Afghan. I could go on about the characters, what happens to them, the invasions, the bombs. I could talk about how each government changes, in the most basic ways, the way women are treated. I could even talk about the outrage at having men Laila considers warlords, become ministers in government. I won’t though. It’ll give away too much about this story and this story you need to read for yourselves. If there is one book that I put on my “must read” list, it’s this one. Everyone should experience A Thousand Splendid Suns.

*On a side note, after The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, he was appointed a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Check out his website for more information on him and the UN site for the current situation in Afghanistan and refugees around the world.
http://www.khaledhosseini.com/
http://www.unhcr.org/