Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Hotel Transylvania": Cute-- but Not Magical

Overprotective, meddling parents seem to be a staple in animated films. Disney and Pixar have long understood the universal appeal and gave us movies like "Finding Nemo" "Mulan" and "Tangled'; all of which had very different takes on this trope and yet delivered something both parents and kids could equally enjoy. Sony Studios recently decided to give it a go with Hotel Transylvania, a sweet father/daughter story that, while cute, struggles to reach the near perfection that the other studios seem to find so easily.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is a single father struggling to raise his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) after the tragic death of his wife Martha. Fearing that the human world is too dangerous for Mavis he builds a hotel that will be a sanctuary for monsters from human kind.  As Mavis' 118th birthday arrives she reminds her father of a promise he made to let her leave the castle and explore the human world when she came of age. Dracula agrees to let her go, but sets up an elaborate ruse that scares Mavis into returning to the castle and vowing to never venture beyond its borders again.

But Dracula's plan backfires when a human by the name of Johnny (Andy Samberg) is attracted by the commotion of Dracula's big deception and follows Dracula's minions all the way back to the castle. Dracula frantically tries to hide Johnny's presence and disguises him as a relative of Frankenstein (specifically his right hand) and tells everyone his name is Johnny-stein.

Johnny ends up posing as a party coordinator and his youth and enthusiasm brings much needed life to the castle. But Dracula becomes concerned when Mavis and Johnny "zing" with the look of love-at-first-sight and frantically tries to find a way to get Johnny out of the castle before Mavis and his other guests realize Johnny is human.

"Hotel Transylvania" tries hard to live up to the bar set by Pixar and Disney and it almost succeeds. Visually the film is terrific. It's colorful and imaginative and everyone from Frankenstein to the Werewolf (and his many, many children) are artfully rendered. There are times when the various creatures do hearken back to something out of "Monsters Inc." so, unfortunately, the audience never has that I've never seen this before feel, but it is truly pretty to watch.  However "Hotel Transylvania" can't compete when it comes to the smart stories and wry dialog audiences have come to expect from today's kid-friendly fare. Whether it's Elatigirl's wistful sigh as she looks at her rear-end in her new superhero costume or Buzz Lightyear learning that Zorg is his father, Pixar never forgets to give a nod to the adult viewers. "Hotel Transylvania" instead opts for fart jokes and nose picking.

"Hotel Transylvania" is a cute movie that most people will enjoy. It's not hard to sit through and it has a sweet story that reinforces all the messages you want about familial love and understanding. But it's only really enjoyable on a superficial level. There are none of those misty-eyed moments that pop up in films like "Up" or "Toy Story 3" nor does it evoke any particular nostalgia. Mostly, it's a nice bit of entertainment that will tickle the funny bone of small kids. You'll probably end up buying the DVD for your little ones- but you probably won't sit down and watch it a second time once you do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Honest Movie Trailers

I don't know how I missed these. If you haven't watched these yet, you should. They're hilarious. Mostly I agree with their take on the movies they spoof-- but I will stand up and be counted as someone (specifically a girl) who likes Captain America. (NSFW)








Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Iced by Karen Marie Moning
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: October 30, 2012
Pages: 512


The year is 1 AWC—After the Wall Crash. The Fae are free and hunting us. It’s a war zone out there, and no two days are alike. I’m Dani O’Malley, the chaos-filled streets of Dublin are my home, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

I have never read Karen Marie Moning before, but I have heard a lot of good things about her books. Even though "Iced" is related to another series I'm hoping that I can pick this one up and jump right in because the story sounds awesome.

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Quintessence by David Walton
Publisher: Tor
Date: March 19, 2013
Pages: 320


At the edge of the flat Earth, there is a place of wonders.

Quintessence is an Alternate History/Fantasy set 500 years ago in the Age of Exploration, full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only about one thing: quintessence, a substance he believes will grant magical powers and immortality. And he has a ship.

Fleeing an inquisition, physician Stephen Parris follows Sinclair to an island that perches on the edge of the world, bringing his daughter Catherine with him. The island is teeming with fantastical animals and alluring mysteries, and may hold the secret of immortality.

I'll admit, I was first really taken in by that cover. I love the idea of using sailing ships and sea monsters in a fantasy setting, and from the description it looks like this book delivers that and potentially even more in this "mysterious island" setting.

An Unearthly Podcast: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

The Unearthly Podcast returns to talk about Doctor Who: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".
Please be advised that there may be occasional strong language.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Gunmetal Magic" by Ilona Andrews- Great Heroine but Lackluster Plot

~Official Synopsis
After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. She tries to put herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda, and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. Now she must work with Raphael as her search for the killer leads into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta. And dealing with her feelings for him might have to take a back seat to saving the world…

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews has been very successful thanks to some top notch world-building that envisions a post-apocalyptic world in which magic and technology overlap. When a magic wave hits the world is alive with potent and deadly magic that makes technology obsolete and vampires a reality. One can use technological devices like computers, or guns, when the magic is down- but you better be prepared for the magic to return as your gas powered car won't get you home when the magic reigns supreme.

The series has mostly focused on the character of Kate Daniels and her efforts to keep humans safe in a magically altered Atlanta.  "Gunmetal Magic" is an offshoot of the main series and tells the story of Andrea Nash: a were-hyena who kept her true nature a secret from her employer, the Order of Merciful Aid, because of a deep shame of her animalistic side. Andrea has always been someone stuck between two worlds. Never fully accepted as a Were, because of her inability to fully transform, she is also looked down upon by the normal human population and cast out of the Order when her secret is revealed.

Andrea ends up at a crossroads of sorts. She has to learn to embrace her Were nature and become a member of the Atlanta pack in order to stay in the city. But an abusive childhood makes her incredibly reluctant to join--as does the fact that her former boyfriend is the alpha male of the clan she would have to join. When she's called in to investigate a the murder of several Weres, apparently by snakebite, Andrea is forced to decide if she wants to be a member of the pack, or if she should go it alone and leave Atlanta for good.

If there's one thing that stands out as an outstanding feature of "Gunmetal Magic" is has to be Andrea herself. She's a great heroine. She has had an uncommonly rough life so she's learned to be tough. There are scars, physical and mental, but Andrea does everything on her own terms and doesn't allow herself to be manipulated into anything.


The one thing that bothers me with a lot of paranormal romances are the way the male leads are generally written. Too often they are presented as reformed bad-boys; and Raphael, Andrea's love interest, is no different. In earlier books Raphael is an unabashed womanizer. He's lazy and spoiled and something of a narcissist. But when Andrea comes into the picture he's a changed man-- or, more accurately, the story is re-written in "Gunmetal Magic" to make Raphael less objectionable as Andrea's love interest. The re-imagining of Raphael in "Gunmetal Magic" would have us believe that he is a successful business man who really wasn't that bad in the earlier books. He's was womanizer but only needed the right woman (namely Andrea) to tame him.

The problem with Raphael is that he really isn't that likable. He's idealized physically, but that particular fact only makes the relationship seem more superficial in the face of his personal shortcomings.   Like most books that feature a romance as a big part of the plot there are a number of misunderstandings that keep the two characters apart. The way Raphael handles his anger and hurt is to lash out and try to humiliate Andrea-- so it's hard to root for him as the romantic interest. The would-be other love interest, Ronan, is more likable but the story dictates that Raphael and Andrea are meant for each other, so....

However, the love story is only a small part of the book and that ends up being a good thing. Like all of Andrews' books "Gunmetal Magic" is full of action and magic and those aspects end up being the strong point of the story. Andrea finally embraces her Were nature and it's fun to watch her give in to her wild side. We learn a lot more about Andrea's past and there's even a cathartic moment when she's given the chance to confront someone from her former life--though it does occur in an entirely too-convenient circumstance.

The story itself is slightly convoluted and involves the resurrection of an Ancient Egyptian god. One complaint I have about that aspect of the story is that Andrews seems to have developed a habit of injecting nonsensical rules as part of the storyline so that the main characters have to save the day in isolation from other, powerful allies (I had the same complaint with Fate's Edge). The god in this story, Ineptu, is the one to tell Andrea that she cannot complete certain tasks with the help the Atlanta pack and limits the world-saving efforts to a small group of heroes. The logic never makes much sense and takes something away from the overall plot.

The action is also good, but sometimes silly. I couldn't help but roll my eyes a bit at the part where Andrea attacks a monster with a jackhammer- (it's as awkward as it sounds).  But it's the nature of light paranormal fiction to keep an almost frantic pace, so I can't knock "Gunmetal Magic" for essentially doing what it's supposed to do. Despite some flaws it's still a very readable book and Andrea is a genuinely great lead character. The magic is as imaginative as ever and some good twists and turns will definitely keep readers engaged until the last page. "Gunmetal Magic" doesn't tread new ground in paranormal fiction, or even in the Kate Daniels mythology, but fans of the series should enjoy Andrea's story.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rants & Raves

Rave – Imperial Commando 2 written by Matthew Stover? rumors have started that author Matthew Stover may be returning to Star Wars to write the next (concluding?) novel in the Commando series. For those who don’t know the series, it started as Republic Commando (featuring special operations during The Clone Wars) and eventually became Imperial Commando, which had one novel (501st) before the author (Karen Traviss) of the series left to pursue other opportunities. Unfortunately, 501st left off on a cliffhanger with lots of unresolved plots – and many fans have been asking if Del Rey would somehow resolve/continue the series. Now, some fans are not pleased with the choice either because Stover is seen as different in tone from Traviss, or because they’d just rather see him write something else – but from my perspective I think he brings the correct amount of darkness and grit to the series, and he has the opportunity to not only resolve those plots, but perhaps make it better align with The Clone Wars and allow the series to reach out to new readers without requiring them to play catch-up (and read the entire series to that point). I hope this rumor turns out to be true, I could hardly ask for a better choice other than bringing back Traviss’ herself (and judging from her outline for the next book, it may be best that she wasn’t brought back to complete it). I won’t be surprised if we get this announcement at NYCC in a few weeks.

Rave – Adam Christopher writes Star Wars? I’m going to begin my own rumor, though I’m going to explain where it comes from. I won’t be surprised at all to learn that Adam Christopher (of Empire State and 7 Wonders) is brought in to write either a Star Wars novel or comic book. Why do I feel this way – well it has a lot to do with his twitter feed. He’s been interacting a bit recently with the editor from the Star Wars line of books. He’s been talking cryptically about a “project SW” that he was outlining. He asked his followers for recommendations of Star Wars books to read. I’m adding all those together and thinking he’s at least been asked to present a proposal/outline for a Star Wars story – we’ll see if it leads to anything. Meanwhile, he’s a big fan of superheroes and comics, and with the powers of the Jedi it seems a good fit (similar to the theory that fantasy authors who are used to characters with magic are a good fit for the Star Wars universe). If you’re curious about his work, check out his recent novels (mentioned above).

Rave – more Marvel Now! Lots of Marvel titles are relaunching in the wake of Avengers vs X-Men (but not restarting/resetting like DC did) – some of which I’m excited about, some not so much. While I really like the idea of Cable returning to X-Force (I’m a fan of the original series), I’m not really feeling the rest of that team. However, a team I’ve previously had no real interest in – the Thunderbolts – has a line up now that looks really intriguing, talk about a group that doesn’t play well with others. I like the premise of both groups (X-Force on the run, Thunderbolts being an aggressive proactive strike force) so I may have to check them both out.

Rant – books are too long. Yes, I said it. There were some tweets/stories about a week ago about how YA books are popular with adults because they are shorter (and lack some of the extreme sex/violence present in too many adult books today). I’m not sure about the latter reason, but the former is definitely a plus for me. I fondly remember paperback books which were only 200 pages – tops. Even Stephen King recently mentioned his fondness for those kinds of books (with his new Hard Case Crime novel being that kind of book – of course, that’s putting aside the fact that most of his novels are of tremendous size), but I’d gladly read more books at shorter page counts (and maybe lower price points) than the new model (huge books, everything starts as a hardcover) – it takes me forever to finish a book. That’s the main reason I was intrigued by Amazon’s announcement about “serial” novels – sounds like a bit of a return to the smaller size, with new releases coming more often.

Rave – Forgotten Realms: The Sundering – I haven’t read many Dungeons & Dragons novels, but this crossover series written by an interesting range of authors (R.A. Salvatore, Paul S. Kemp, Erin M. Evans, Richard Lee Byers, Troy Denning and Ed Greenwood), featuring some of the most well known characters in the Forgotten Realms universe, heralding a new direction for the books and the game, sounds like a winner. Heck, this might even prompt me to catch up on some of these authors’ prior works.

Rave – Sword of the Jedi series. As I’ve said a few times during my reviews of her books in the Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi series, Christie Golden was the “find” of that series in terms of introducing a new author into the stable who are capable of putting out compelling Star Wars books. Unfortunately, I feel like Jaina (who is the Sword of the Jedi) was one of her weaker attempts at trying to capture the appropriate reactions of an already existing character (having put her through too many soap-opera like plot twists), but still I applaud the idea of giving this author (and this character) a new series (trilogy) to cut loose and make a story that’s not tied into a multi-author series.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Unearthly Podcast Pilot: "Asylum of the Daleks"

Hey everyone, SQT has been gracious enough to host An Unearthly Podcast, my new podcast about BBC's Doctor Who Series 7. Please be forewarned that on rare occasions there might be some strong language included.

New "Hobbit" Trailer

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five) by Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Random House
Date: November 27, 2012


After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.

Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

I can't help but like this good natured series. Atticus isn't the same as all the other heroes featured in popular paranormal fiction. He's not maudlin or overly snarky- he's long lived and just glad to still be around. His best friend is a wolfhound of uncommon intelligence and between the two of them this series is a lot of fun to read.

Jim's can't wait to read selections is:

Helix Wars by Eric Brown
Publisher: Rebellion
Date: Oct. 11th
Pages: 432


The Helix is a vast spiral of ten thousand worlds turning around its sun. Aeons ago, the enigmatic Builders constructed the Helix as a refuge for alien races on the verge of extinction. Two hundred years ago, humankind came to the Helix aboard a great colony ship, and the Builders conferred on them the mantle of peacekeepers. For that long, peace has reigned on the Helix.

But when shuttle pilot Jeff Ellis crash-lands on the world of Phandra, he interrupts a barbarous invasion from the neighbouring Sporelli – who scheme to track down and exterminate Ellis before he can return to New earth and inform the peacekeepers.

I've wanted to read Helix for ages, and the military scifi look of this novel has done nothing but increase my desire to go back and read that book. I believe the intention here is not a sequel, but a new series set in the same universe, so potientially it's not necessary to read Helix first, but it still seems most prudent to me. Still, this one goes on my list of books I want to read very soon. I've also seen this book dated as coming out Sept. 25th, so be aware that Oct. date may not be correct.

Giveaway! "Daughter of the Sword" by Steve Bein

It's always hard to pick which book to put up for a giveaway- but this time it was fairly easy thanks to all the good things I've been hearing about Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein.

Daughter of the Sword

Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.

Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Tuesday October 2, 2012. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded.

Open everywhere.

**Contest Closed**

Winner- "Iron Wyrm Affair" by Lilith Saintcrow

The randomly selected winner of a copy of "The Iron Wyrm Affair" by Lilith Saintcrow is--

Jenna Miller; Tigard, OR

Congrats Jenna! The book is on its way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Snow White and the Huntsman"-- Beautiful but Miscast

Fairy tales never go out of fashion; a fact that has been made clearer than ever with two retellings of Snow White this year alone. The first, "Mirror Mirror," was cute but no more satisfying than a cream puff filled with the lightest of fillings. I looked forward to Snow White and the Huntsman a little more than "Mirror Mirror" thanks to the casting of Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth but still had expectations too low to motivate me to see the film in the theater. However, if there's anything really great about low expectations it's that they're very easy to exceed. Luckily for me, "Snow White and the Huntsman" did manage to do that.

If "Mirror Mirror" is a cream puff, then I must compare "Snow White and the Huntsman" to a big, colorful trifle.  Visually the movie is just stunning. I almost wish I had seen it on the big screen just because it was so beautiful- and I wouldn't have felt it was a waste of money had taken the time to see it when it first came out. It is by turns Gothic and horrible when set in the dark forest and full of wonder and color when the setting moves to the fairy sanctuary. There are echoes of Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth" "Hellboy") in the spectacle even if it never quite reaches that level of weird. The setting gives it a rich texture and the casting mostly adds to the layering and depth, with one notable exception.

The story of "Snow White" has always been one about vanity. Interpretations vary but the usually accepted tale is one of jealousy on the part of the aging Queen as she sees Snow White surpass her as the "fairest of the all." But "Snow White and the Huntsman" attempts to create a narrative that goes beyond simple envy and bases the Queen's power on her ability to hang on to her youth and beauty. Charlize Theron is a great pick to play Queen Ravenna. She's a stunning woman and audiences need no convincing to believe that she could bewitch the King into marrying her and she doesn't hold back in her performance as a woman who isn't just desperate but completely unhinged. The script offers some back story, however brief, and Theron commits to it fully. I wouldn't say it's fun, precisely, to watch her pace and scream her rage at the other characters and her stridency walks a fine line between believable and wearying to watch. But before that part of the story can be overplayed the plot moves on to the main bulk of the film and focuses on Snow White.

Snow White (Kristen Stewart) spends most of her life imprisoned in a tower after Ravenna kills the King. Her captivity is explained by a throwaway line suggesting that "royal blood" may be useful to Ravenna at some point but it's a flimsy, unconvincing device.  Yet it pales in comparison to the terrible casting of Stewart in the part of Snow White. I haven't been a follower of Stewart's career. I've never had any interest in "Twilight" but I have heard mutterings of Stewart's lackadaisical acting skills and it is a well deserved criticism. There are so many shortcomings in her portrayal it's hard to know where to start...

First off, for a young woman who has spent most of her formative years in a tower, there is no wonder, amazement or horror on her face as she returns to the world after a long absence. Everything is greeted with a slightly quizzical brow and an even slighter smile or frown depending on the circumstances. But I could overlook that flaw as her reactions aren't really written into the script as part of the dialog.  Where the film really falls apart is when it attempts to persuade the audience that Stewart's Snow White possesses a character that captivates all who know her. She's said to virtually glow with purpose and has a charm so strong that even the animals can't help but kneel at her feet. But when William (Sam Claflin) the son of Duke Hammond muses on her beauty and charisma to the Huntsman (Hemsworth) it's laughably out-of-sync with Stewart's performance.

And Stewart only continues to suffer in comparison the more she interacts with the rest of the cast. Hemsworth is the kind of the guy who owns the screen with his masculinity. He doesn't have to have to do much to make you want to watch him and just as he easily conveys Thor's stouthearted goodness in "The Avengers" he is no less adept at conveying his grief at the loss of his wife with little more than a soulful gaze. Part of the plot in "Huntsman" hints at the possibility of a love triangle between Hemsworth, Claflin and Stewart but it's impossible to believe that someone as full of energy as Hemsworth would find the lifeless Stewart appealing. It must be said that the script doesn't do Stewart any favors either. The speech she gives to rally the troops against Ravenna is clunky on its own, but even more awkward when given by Stewart.

The dwarves, always essential to a Snow White story, are present but not integral to the plot. Which is a shame because the casting included Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins- two men I'm always happy to see on screen as long as possible. The apple and the kiss are also there but slightly tweaked to give the film its own unique sensibility and all of it comes together fairly well. The smartest thing about the film is that it doesn't particularly attempt to pit Theron and Stewart against each other in a contest of beauty. Ravenna is really fighting the ravages of time and the threat of Snow White's purity-of-character is really the 'fairest' characteristic that threatens her rule. But when the two women come face-to-face it's hard to think they should have been pitted against each other in any way. Theron is tall, gorgeous and imposing. Stewart is slight of stature and, while very pretty, lacks the forcefulness that Theron conveys so effortlessly. Snow White's defeat of Ravenna is a letdown because it just isn't convincing. You know she'll prevail because the tale of Snow White says she must, but if this story existed in the real world Ravenna would wipe the floor with Snow White.

Ultimately "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a very uneven film. It's beautiful and atmospheric and I could spend all day in its lush setting. Most of the actors do a fine job and if Snow White had been cast with a young woman who could convey some emotion (Jennifer Lawrence or Dakota Fanning for example) it could have really earned the comparisons some have made to films like "Lord of the Rings." But between Stewart's wooden portrayal and a wobbly script the movie can only be said to be passably good, but not great.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Items Received

Misfits: Season One

After being sentenced to six weeks of community service, five ne'er-do-well teenagers discover that a freak storm has given them superpowers. But they soon learn they're not the only ones who've been given strange -- even dangerous -- new abilities.

The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien, Wayne G. Hammond (Editor), Christina Scull (Editor)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s complete artwork for The Hobbit, presented for the first time in celebration of the 75th anniversary

When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he was already an accomplished amateur artist, and drew illustrations for his book while it was still in manuscript. The Hobbit as first printed had ten black-and-white pictures, two maps, and binding and dust jacket designs by its author. Later, Tolkien also painted five scenes for color plates, which comprise some of his best work. His illustrations for The Hobbit add an extra dimension to that remarkable book, and have long influenced how readers imagine Bilbo Baggins and his world.

Written and edited by leading Tolkien experts Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien showcases the complete artwork created by the author for his story—including related pictures, more than one hundred sketches, drawings, paintings, maps, and plans. Some of these images are published here for the first time, others for the first time in color, allowing Tolkien’s Hobbit pictures to be seen completely and more vividly than ever before.

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

And Lucifer said: “Let us rise against Him now in all our numbers, and pull the walls of heaven down…”

The year is 1348. Thomas, a disgraced knight, has found a young girl alone in a dead Norman village. An orphan of the Black Death, and an almost unnerving picture of innocence, she tells Thomas that plague is only part of a larger cataclysm—that the fallen angels under Lucifer are rising in a second war on heaven, and that the world of men has fallen behind the lines of conflict.

Is it delirium or is it faith? She believes she has seen the angels of God. She believes the righteous dead speak to her in dreams. And now she has convinced the faithless Thomas to shepherd her across a depraved landscape to Avignon. There, she tells Thomas, she will fulfill her mission: to confront the evil that has devastated the earth, and to restore to this betrayed, murderous knight the nobility and hope of salvation he long abandoned.

As hell unleashes its wrath, and as the true nature of the girl is revealed, Thomas will find himself on a macabre battleground of angels and demons, saints, and the risen dead, and in the midst of a desperate struggle for nothing less than the soul of man.

Blood Zero Sky by J. Gabriel Gates (Digital ARC)

Unprofitables are banished to work camps to pay off their credit. Other tie-men and women look on apathetically. Fair is fair. Everyone knows you shouldn't use more credit than you are worth to the Company. They turn their attention to the next repackaged but highly coveted N-Corp product on the market, creatively advertised on the imager screens that adorn virtually every available flat surface. All the while, their mandatory cross-implants and wrist-worn "ICs" keep them focused on the endless cycle of work and consumption to which they are enslaved.

May Fields—the CEO's daughter—would like to believe she is above all that. Head of N-Corp's marketing team, the young woman who has almost everything anyone could want spends her days dreaming up ingenious ways to make workers buy more of what they already have and don't need. Even before May discovers that the Company is headed for its first loss in thirty years, she is feeling the stirrings of dissatisfaction with the system that has given her everything she's ever wanted . . . except the freedom to be herself.

When she is kidnapped by a member of the Protectorate—a secret order dating back to the American Revolution—May is suddenly faced with the frightening truth of what the Company's greed has done to our most basic human rights. Will she embrace who she is and join the battle to restore America's democratic freedom, or put her blinders back on and return to her safe and passionless life?

More prediction than fiction, Blood Zero Sky is a riveting, nonstop, and suspenseful gaze into the looking glass, destined to rise with the zeitgeist of our times to become the anthem of a generation.

Clean by Alex Hughes (Digital ARC)


I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero

Death is inevitable. Especially when you have an expiration date.

As a replicant, or “techno-human,” Detective Bruna Husky knows two things: humans bioengineered her to perform dangerous, undesirable tasks; and she has just ten years on the United States of Earth before her body automatically self-destructs. But with “anti-techno” rage on the rise and a rash of premature deaths striking her fellow replicants, she may have even less time than she originally thought.

Investigating the mysterious deaths, Bruna delves into the fractious, violent history shared by humans and replicants, and struggles to engage the society that fails to understand her — yet created her. The deeper she gets, the deadlier her work becomes as she uncovers a vast, terrifying conspiracy bent on changing the very course of the world. But even as the darkness of her reality closes in, Bruna clings fiercely to life.

The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead by Roger Ma


In the inevitable event of a vampire attack, the average citizen will be forced to engage in vicious hand-to-hand combat. To avoid serious injury, disfigurement, or death by exsanguination, you need to know the proper combat strategies and techniques to ward off a stronger, faster, more agile undead opponent looking to drain the life from your body. Are you prepared? With detailed illustrations and firsthand accounts from vampire combat veterans—as well as interviews with actual members of the undead—this manual provides you with the information you need to survive with your life and blood supply intact, including:

• Debunking myths, i.e.: vampire flight, animal metamorphosis, physical attraction to humans
• Crafting the most lethal vampire weapons from everyday materials
• The pros—and cons—of decapitation
• Weaponizing Ultraviolet (UV) light against an undead opponent
• Using the Domicile Histodiscordant Reaction (DHR), otherwise known as “The Vampire Invitation,” to your advantage
• Solo attacks, team-based combat, and much more…

The Vampire Combat Manual is your indispensable key to survival, whether in a one-on-one battle for blood or a face-off against multiple attackers. Don’t wait until the sun goes down—prepare yourself now!

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series delivers “military science fiction at its best”* in every action-packed adventure. Now the New York Times bestselling author puts the Alliance fleet’s enemy in the spotlight as the people of the Syndicate Worlds attempt to rebuild their lives after Admiral John “Black Jack” Geary defeated them…

The authority of the Syndicate Worlds’ government is crumbling. Civil war and rebellion are breaking out in many star systems despite the Syndic government’s brutal attempts to suppress disorder. Midway is one of those star systems, and leaders there must decide whether to remain loyal to the old order or fight for something new.

CEO Artur Drakon has been betrayed. The Syndic government failed to protect its citizens from both the Alliance and the alien enigmas. With a cadre of loyal soldiers under his command, Drakon launches a battle for control of the Midway Star System—assisted by an ally he’s unsure he can trust…

CEO Gwen Iceni was exiled to Midway because she wasn’t ruthless enough in the eyes of her superiors. She’s made them regret their assessment by commandeering some of the warships at Midway and attacking the remaining ships still loyal to the Syndicate empire. Iceni declares independence for the Midway Star System on behalf of the people while staying in charge as “President.” But while she controls the mobile fleet, she has no choice but to rely on “General” Drakon’s ground forces to keep the peace planet-side…

Dark Storm (Carpathian) by Christine Feehan

Awakening after all this time in a world of absolute darkness and oppressive heat, Dax wonders in how many ways the world above must have changed. But it is how he has changed that fills him with dread and loathing. Buried alive for hundreds of years in a volcano in the Carpathian Mountains, Dax fears that he has become the full-fledged abomination that every Carpathian male fears, a victim of the insidious evil that has crept relentlessly into his mind and body over the centuries.

But there are some things that never change.

His name is Mitro, the vampire Dax had hunted all these long centuries. Second in command to the prince of the Carpathian people he is the epitome of everything malevolent, and perpetrator of one of the most shocking killing sprees known to man—and beast. Even his friends and family weren’t safe from Mitro’s bloodlust. Neither was Mitro’s lifemate, Arabejila, an extraordinary woman with extraordinary gifts.

But now that Dax has re-emerged, so too has Mitro. The ultimate battle between good and evil has been re-engaged. Between Dax and Mitro, a violent game has begun—one that has marked Riley Parker, the last descendent of Arabejila, as the reward.

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, Book 1) by Patricia Briggs, David Lawrence (Adapted by), Todd Herman (Illustrator)

Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson novels, “always enchants her readers" (Lynn Viehl). Now her Alpha and Omega series—set in a world of shifting shapes, loyalties, and passions—comes vividly to life in this collection of four comic books based on Cry Wolf, the first book in the series.

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’s learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all the pack…

Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, and the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, the daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret: She was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of, and some would consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or to attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

Ghosts of Memories by Barb Hendee

With her vampire protector Philip BrantĂ© and their human companion Wade Sheffield, a former police psychologist, Eleisha Clevon searches the world for isolated vampires—and offers them sanctuary. She wants to provide a home where she can teach them to follow the Four Laws that will protect them and their kind.

But not all vampires want to live by anyone’s rules but their own. Christian Lefevre has been posing a psychic, catering to the upper crust of Seattle society by making contact with their dead loved ones—and leaving his clients faint and weak after each encounter. Now Eleisha must confront the most deadly predator she has ever faced—or lose everything she has fought to protect…

Personal Demon by Susan Sizemore

Vampire Enforcer Christopher Bell is in Chicago to investigate rumors of a revolution, but when he comes across vampire hunter Ivy Bailey being followed through dark streets, what he finds is a ghost from his past. Over a century ago, Christopher fought the vicious London serial killer Jack the Ripper—and won. But now, the Ripper’s tainted soul is back—on the hunt once more.

Sand Witches in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome

Successful graphic novelist Willow Tate is a Visualizer, able to draw beings from the Otherworld—home to trolls and elves, night mares and bird fish, and many other fantastical beings—and “draw” them into our world. Somehow they all seem to end up in the weird little town of Paumanok Harbor, nestled in the popular Hamptons region of Long I sland.

As if Willow didn’t have enough problems coping with all these Otherworld visitors, now she has a stalker, her doom-seer father has a secret, and Paumanok Harbor has Otherworld sand-stealers. Willow has bodyguards but absolutely no idea how to solve any of these problems in time for Halloween, when the local witches hold their annual gathering on the beach—if any beach is left by then. Good thing she has the handsome, loving, local vet Matt to come to her assistance.

Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Winter is coming to Montana, and Shadowblade warrior Max is expecting trouble. People are hoarding everything. They are banding together, many flocking to the congregation of Benjamin Sterling, a fire-and-brimstone preacher. A charismatic cult leader who claims to be the Hand of God, he’s determined to create a human utopia and destroy all magic, starting with witches.

Unbeknownst to him, the "divine" voice he’s been hearing isn’t God but a demon that feeds on hate, death, and destruction. Conducting terrible, bloody ceremonies to boost his own power and that of the demon riding him, Savage starts a war between his congregants and the city. The preacher is the perfect puppet for the demon’s ambitions, and Max and her people at Horngate are all that stand in his way. They are woefully unprepared, but courage, loyalty, and friendship are powerful forces—and Max doesn’t like to lose.

The Demoness of Waking Dreams by Stephanie Chong
Ex-cop Brandon Clarkson is an angel with an edge. His tough exterior is the perfect camouflage for his job—hunting down the most dangerous criminals on earth. A self-reliant and demanding lone wolf, Brandon is the perfect angel to track and capture demoness Luciana Rossetti.

Beneath the surface of Luciana's cool, green-eyed beauty lurks the heart of a malevolent killer. In the winding streets of Venice, she lures Brandon into her dark world of pleasure.

They are perfectly matched. Angel and demon. Man and woman. But only one can win the battle of wills, of strength and of desire.

Alchemystic  by Anton Strout


Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…

Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.

Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…

Flash Point by Nancy Kress

Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America—and the fame game is on!

Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she's right to have them. TLN's Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life—on and off camera.

Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey

Mags, a young Herald trainee in Haven, the capital city of Valdemar, has very rare talents. Recognising this, the King's Own Herald trains Mags as a spy, tasking him with uncovering the secrets of a mysterious new enemy who has taken an interest in Mags himself. Why is an even deeper mystery. The answers can only be found in the depths of Mags' past, if he survives long enough to find them.

Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready


Ciara’s con-artist parents taught her three keys to survival: keep low, keep quiet, and most of all, keep moving. But managing WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll—not to mention becoming a vampire herself—has kept her in one place long enough to fall madly in love, adopt an undead dog . . .

. . . and make more enemies than she can shake a stake at.

A psychotic DJ, a wanna-be necromancer, and a posse of vengeful hippies would all love to see Ciara get her day in the sun—literally. To protect Ciara, her fiancĂ©, Shane, has traded his flannel shirt and guitar for a flak jacket and crossbow. If she survives to walk down the aisle, will she recognize the man waiting at the altar?

In this final chapter of the award-winning WVMP RADIO series, Ciara must decide who to trust, whom to love—and whom to kill.

Wrayth by Philippa Ballantine

In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside…

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past.

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.

The Clockwork Sky, Volume One by Madeleine Rosca

From the award-winning creator of Hollow Fields comes the start of an all new, steampunk adventure trilogy!

London, 1895: Riots in the streets!

Erasmus Croach’s miraculous factory, Ember, has flooded London with steampowered automatons. The already suffering working class take to the streets to protest the jobs lost to these machines, and to quell the riot, Captain Thorn of Scotland Yard calls in Ember’s latest and greatest creation, the automatic police boy, Sky!

Meanwhile, Sally Peppers, Croach’s headstrong and brilliant niece, dreams of a life beyond manners and marriageability. When she escapes her overbearing governess on a motorized velocipede and joins a no-rules road rally through the slums, Croach sends Sky to bring her back, preferably alive.

Together, the impulsive Sally and the naive Sky crash headlong into a mystery involving rogue automatons prowling the sewers, children disappearing without a trace, and a dark secret so big it could overturn all of London. But the biggest mystery of all is why Sky is the first robot who can dream....

Edge of Oblivion by J.T. Geissinger

In a dark underground cell, Morgan Montgomery waits to die. A member of the Ikati, an ancient tribe of shape-shifters, Morgan stands convicted of treason. And Ikati law clearly spells out her fate: death to all who dare betray.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Thanks to her friendship with Jenna, the new queen of the Ikati, Morgan has one last chance to prove her loyalty. She must discover and infiltrate the headquarters of the Expurgari, the Ikati’s ancient enemy, so they can be destroyed once and for all. The catch? She has only a fortnight to complete her mission and will be accompanied by Xander Luna, the tribe's most feared enforcer. If Morgan fails, her life is forfeit. Because Xander is as lethal as he is loyal, and no one—not even this beautiful, passionate renegade—will distract him from his mission. But as the pair races across Europe into the heart of Italy, the attraction blooming between them becomes undeniable. Suddenly more than justice is at stake: so is love.

Sensual, thrilling, and action-packed, Edge of Oblivion will enthrall readers with nail-biting suspense and heart-pounding passion.

The Golden Door by Emily Rodda

The start of a stirring fantasy trilogy from Emily Rodda, the internationally bestselling author of Dragons of Deltora!

The walled city of Weld is under attck from ferocious flying creatures that raid in the night, bringing death and destruction. The Warden calls for Volunteers to find and destroy the Enemy sending invaders, and the heroes of Weld answer the call one by one, never to return. Rye is oficially too young to go, but his brothers are among the lost and he must find them. What terrors await him beyond the Wall?

Legends of the Dragonrealm: Shade by Richard A. Knaak

New York Times bestselling author Richard A. Knaak’s unforgettable Legends of the Dragonrealm series continues with this spellbinding tale of a powerful sorcerer trapped in a purgatory of his own making.

Survivor of a once-mighty race of sorcerers, the spellcaster known to those of the Dragonrealm simply as Shade struggles to find an end to the curse he brought upon himself millennia ago in his hope to escape death . . . and worse. Instead of immortality, he was condemned to an endless series of lives alternating between darkness and light, with “death” only resurrecting him over and over. His blurred features and unstable but terrible powers a threat to friend and foe alike, the hooded sorcerer must defy not only those who would manipulate him, but also his very self. Worse, he must do so always aware that even the land itself may have sinister designs upon him. . . .

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

In the steampunk world of Victorian London, a beautiful vampire seeks out the author of Dracula–to set the record straight . . .

If one is to believe Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale, Lucy Weston is Dracula’s most wanton creation, a sexual creature of the night who preys on innocent boys. But the real-life Lucy is nothing like her fictional counterpart—and she demands to know why the Victorian author deliberately lied. With Stoker’s reluctant help, she’s determined to track down the very fiend who transformed her—from the sensual underworld where humans vie to become vampires, to a hidden cell beneath a temple to madness, and finally into the glittering Crystal Palace where death reigns supreme.

Haunted by fragmentary memories of her lost life and love, Lucy must battle her thirst for blood as she struggles to stop a catastrophic war that will doom vampires and humans alike. Ultimately, she must make a choice that illuminates for her—and for us—what it means to be human.

Clockwork Angels: The Novel By Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart

A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme.

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman

This is the story Harry Ransom. If you know his name it’s most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world.

Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics.

Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it.

If you’re reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Dark and rich, epic in scope, with Black Bottle Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desperate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.