Friday, March 30, 2012

TV News - Game of Thrones Season Two

Last minute reminder, everyone! 

Don't forget that Season Two of Game of Thrones premieres Sunday night, April 1st. 

Check your local listings for times!

Movie Review - The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012) * * * * *
Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kavitz, and Donald Sutherland

From IMDB:
"In a not-too-distant future, North America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives."

My Thoughts:
So yesterday I wrote a little bit about The Hunger Games, and my thoughts on the novel.  If you missed it you can find it here.  So I thought that today I would write about the movie, which Bob and I saw on Sunday morning.  I didn't think that we would get to see it on opening weekend, but I guess everyone was still at church or something, because the theater wasn't nearly as crowded as I thought it would be, and there were also far fewer teenagers than I expected.

Some spoilers to follow!  Once again I'm not going to talk much about the story itself, as most people are pretty much aware of the basic plot of the movie, which very closely follows the book - leaving out very little in the way important information, and pruning back some of the slower portions of the story which makes the movie tighter and even better paced than the book.

What the writers did do brilliantly was the things they added in. My biggest problem with the book was that the reader was locked into Katniss' viewpoint only, and thus had no idea what was happening in the world outside the arena.  The movie very cleverly adds some scenes that show us how the games are run, how viewing the games is affecting Katniss' family and friends at home, and how hard Haymitch is working on her behalf from the outside.  There are also several amazing scenes between Seneca and President Snow where they discuss how to handle what they are beginning to perceive as her defiance, and how to best give the viewers what they want to see.

These additional scenes worked well as the movie progressed because of the way they show how the process works from the outside of the arena.  As the Game Makers view the tributes' efforts to survive they tweak the surrounding through their holographic displays to achieve various reactions, and watching their skill at running and maintaining the games properly, and their pride in their own work, was especially horrifying in its' own right.

Jennifier Lawrence does an amazing job as Katniss - I know some have complained about her "wooden facial expressions and dead eyes" but I took that as part of the characters struggle to not fall apart from all the fear and terror she's experiencing, and her attempt to stay strong.  And she really does manage to convey that fear quite well.  Josh Hutcherson did ok as Peeta, though I felt he was a little subdued, but the scene where he talks about not wanting to let the circumstances change who is was incredibly well done.  The two characters that I felt were played especially well were Woody Harrleson's portrayal of Haymitch, which was outstanding, and Elizabeth Banks, who plays the role of Effie fantastically.

For those who are concerned about the violence in the film, I actually ended up feeling that the movie is far less violent than the book itself.  The scene where the Tributes first enter the arena is an absolute bloodbath in the book, but the movie handled it very tastefully through the judicious use of the ShakeyCam, which I know many people hate, but which definitely lent a sense of urgency and confusion to the scene, and also helped to disguise what could have been a very gory scene, yet still drives home the awfulness of the situation.

One of the more emotional moments in the movie, and this surprised me because it wasn't the one I expected, was a flashback moment where Katniss is remembering the death of her father in a mine explosion and the difficult times that followed.  It's a very short sequence, showing the explosion at the mine which then transfers to her tiny home exploding in slow motion, as the walls and furniture blast apart in a cloud of smoke and dust and then slowly reverse and all come back together again, representing the destruction of the family and its' reconstruction.  It's a beautiful moment of cinematography and was extremely well done, and hugely emotional.

I could easily go on and on about all the things that I liked about The Hunger Games.  In fact, I enjoyed it far more than I did the book - it's tighter, more focused, and better paced than the original material, in my opinion, and the only things I didn't like about it were the things that I felt were flaws in the book itself, mainly the world-building aspects of the story.

I'm giving The Hunger Games movie five stars.  I loved it and I can't wait to see it again.  Bob quite enjoyed it and had no trouble following the story even though he hasn't read the book.

My only caution would be that if you have younger teens and are concerned about the violence, you might want to view it yourself before you take your kids. But if you've already allowed them to read the books then that particular aspect shouldn't be a problem.

Have you seen the movie yet?  Leave me a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with me!  And may the odds be ever in your favor!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review - The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
1. The Hunger Games    2/20/2012    * * * *
2. Catching Fire
3. Mockingjay

From Goodreads:
"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.  

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

My Thoughts:
I think that I've mentioned before how I decided to boycott/avoid/remain-cool-by-not-following-the-crowds regarding The Hunger Games, back when I rebooted this blog in the summer of 2010 when Mockingjay was released.  It seemed like the entire internet went insane with anticipation as the release date drew closer, and once it arrived it seemed nearly impossible to go online to a book blog anywhere with it being mentioned.  So I ignored it and went about my business, thinking that maybe "someday" I'd check it out to see what all the fuss was about.

When the movie was announced, and casting began, I followed along, but not really caring who was cast, and again ignoring the "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" badges popping up everywhere.  Not until this last fall when the movie trailers began did I start to think that this story might be interesting, and as my desire to watch the film grew to a fevered pitch, I finally decided that I should read the book first.  And I am sooooo glad that I did!  I downloaded the book to my NookColor, and very nearly read it straight through in just a day and a half.

So, because reviews and information about the book are plentiful, I'm not really going to talk much about the story itself.  Unless you're living under a rock you already know the basics anyway.  Instead, I'm just going to talk about what I liked and didn't like.

Generally speaking, I LOATHE books that are written in first person present tense.  It presents such a limited point of view and almost always sabotages the story itself in some manner.  But I have to admit that in The Hunger Games, it "sort of" works.  Not really, because there's tons of things that could have made the story better if we weren't locked into only Katniss' POV, but you quickly get used to it and because of the quick pacing of the story, you have very little time to even think about it.

That's the other thing, the pacing is great.  The story grabs you by the throat and drags you along so quickly that once you're in, you're in it for the long (short?) haul.  You can't put the book down for fear of what will happen next.  The only exception to that is a section towards the end where Katniss and Peeta spend what feels like a VERY long time in a cave.  It's really only a few days, but it felt like forever.  But then suddenly the pace picks up again and we're hurtling headlong to the end and BOOM it's over!

I also liked that even though the story is aimed at teens, and is about teens, the author doesn't really shy away from the horror, the icky, the evil, and the violence.  It's all there, it's all in the open, and it's all horrifyingly awful.  There's no way that you can kid yourself into believing that the government is right, or good, or that this is the best way to do things.  Around the web discussions are even now taking place regarding why the general population hasn't revolted against the evil of the government at some point in the previous 74 years since the Hunger Games were instituted, and there are no easy answers, and the author doesn't try to sugar coat that fact.

What I don't like?  Well, the world-building aspect of the story is shoddy in places, for one thing.  The story moves so quickly that one doesn't always realize it (or even care) at first, but there are plot holes that are miles wide regarding the way the world works and how the government is set up.  (Just one example that has been used before on other blogs and reviews, but District 12 produces coal for the Capitol. But the level of technology enjoyed by the Capitol - levitating high-speed electric trains, invisible force-fields, hover-ships with cloaking shields - is so far BEYOND coal energy that I'm not really even sure what the Capitol did with the coal once they got it). I'm more than willing to suspend my disbelief about a lot of things when it comes to my reading, so it didn't bother me THAT much, but at the same time I think an author really should try a little harder to make everything work and fit together.

What did bother me, and does still, is how an entire nation of adults could somehow find it acceptable that the government allow such an atrocity as the Games to exist in first place.  In the story we are told that the Games have been happening for 74 years, and I can sort of see how the current population might (MIGHT!) be desensitized to the horror of having 24 teens fight to the death.  If that's all you've ever known, well, I suppose that's all you know.  But how did the population manage to swallow their objections during the first five, ten, twenty years, when people could still remember what it was like to NOT revel in the blood & violence perpetrated by and against children?!  How does a society get to this point in the first place?

Well, this cautionary tale of a dark and violent future certainly makes for interesting discussions regarding morals and ethical dilemmas, that's for sure!  As you can see above, I gave The Hunger Games four stars, and I am very glad that I read it.  I don't know that I would be willing to re-read it, which is the only reason it doesn't get five stars.  But it is certainly worth the read, and in spite of my issues with the story, I would even go so far as to say that I think more people SHOULD read it.

Have you read The Hunger Games?  What did you think of the book?  Leave me a comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree with me - But only about the book itself, please!  We'll talk about the movie next time!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Warlord of Mars

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their To Be Read (TBR) Lists if they like your teasers!


After his war against the First Born, John Carter waits anxiously to determine the fate of his beloved Dejah Thoris...

The Tease:
 "For six long Martian months I had haunted the vicinity of the hateful Temple of the Sun, within whose slow-revolving shaft, far beneath the surface of Mars, my princess lay entombed - but whether alive or dead I knew not.  Had Phaidor's slim blade found that beloved heart? Time only would reveal the truth."
 -Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

What's your Tease?

Progress update - The Barsoom Series

The Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice BurroughsThe Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Finished Book 1: A Princess of Mars - 03/13/2012. * * * * Finished Book 2: The Gods of Mars - 03/26/2012. * * *

Just a quick update as I'm working my way through this series.  I've just finished the second book in the series and I'm still trying to decide if I want to review the series as a whole or each individual book as I finish it, which is why I haven't done any reviews yet.  But I'm still enjoying the adventures of John Carter, so I'm now moving on to the third book, Warlord of Mars.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review - Explosive Eighteen

Stephanie Plum Novels, by Janet Evanovich   
One for the Money    10/18/2007
Two for the Dough     11/19/2007
Three to get Ready    11/24/2007
Four to Score           11/25/2007
High Five                  11/26/2007
Hot Six                    12/6/2007
Seven Up                  3/10/2008
Hard Eight                3/11/2008
To the Nines             3/16/2008
Ten Big Ones           3/17/2008
Eleven on Top         5/2/2008
Twelve Sharp          5/12/2008
Lean Mean Thirteen    5/13/2008
Fearless Fourteen         8/18/2008
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen   9/25/2009
Sizzling Sixteen           11/4/2011
Smokin' Seventeen    11/11/2011
Explosive Eighteen     2/1/2012 * * * *

From Goodreads:
"Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.

Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated."

My Thoughts:
Explosive Eighteen is another riotous romp through Stephanie Plum's life - or what's left of it upon her return from her "vacation" in Hawaii, and I have to say that it was much better than the last few books in the series.  A good plot, decent pacing, and hilarious hijinks all collide to create a fun, funny, and light-hearted reading experience.

Although I really do believe that with the series closing in on 20 novels, we as readers need something new from the author.  The stories are starting to feel more than a little recycled, and Stephanie needs to make a decision between Morelli and Ranger already.  I realize that both men love her in their own ways, but at some point it begins to feel unrealistic that the two men just let her bounce back and forth between the two of them. The stories are becoming predicitable - you know that Lula's going to be on some new diet, Grandma Mazur (who I ADORE) is going to cause a ruckus at a funeral, and Stephanie is going to somehow destroy a car - but not necessarily her own.  It's all great fun the 10 or 15 times, but with the framework of the stories beginning to feel stale, how much longer can it continue? 

However, the central mystery in Explosive Eighteen was not stale, and quite a bit better than some others in the series.  Upon returning home from the airport, Stephanie finds a mystery photo in her carry-on bag, and throws it away.  Suddenly people are crawling out of the woodwork trying to get that photo, now that she no longer has it.  But who is the mystery man, and why does everyone want his photo?

I'm giving Explosive Eighteen 4 stars, because is spite of my issues with the series, this novel felt more fun and humorous, which made it a nice, light, enjoyable read.

Have you read Explosive Eighteen yet?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Gods of Mars

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their To Be Read (TBR) Lists if they like your teasers!


John Carter once again finds himself back on Barsoom - But this time he wakes up far away from Helium and his family there.  Captured by the Holy Therns, a race of Barsoomians who claim to be the holy priests of the goddess Issus, he manages to escape, only find himself in an even worse predicament - as a slave to the black pirates!

The Tease:
 "We heard the guard moving about from cell to cell, and finally, his rounds completed, he again entered ours.  When his eyes fell upon my they fairly bulged from his head.
"Where have you been?" he roared.
"I have been in prison since you put me here yesterday," I answered.  "I was in this room when you entered.  You had better look to your eyesight!"
 -The Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

What's your Tease?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Movie Review - John Carter

John Carter (2012) * * * * *
Director: Andrew Stanton
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe

From IMDB:
"Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior."

My Thoughts:
John Carter, as you already know if you pay any attention to the media in general, has some problems.  It was ridiculously expensive to make, has a stupid name that doesn't mean anything (don't even get me started on that), and Disney's marketing machine totally dropped the ball when it came to producing trailers and advertisements that actually told people what the movie was about.  In fact, most of them didn't make any sense unless you ALREADY knew what the movie was going to be about!   Then on top of all that, half the critics didn't care for the movie for mostly frivolous reasons and predicted that no one would go see it, which then became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Even the critics who did like the movie predicted that it would flop, simply because the people who would normally go see a movie like John Carter had no idea that it was the kind of movie that they would like - because trailers that are a montage of someone jumping super-high tells NOTHING about the story!  Which is all Disney's marketing machine showed us, thereby fulfilling that earlier prophecy.  Still with me?

Here's the deal - John Carter was AN AMAZING MOVIE, Y'ALL!  There, I said it!  It's a really, really, really good movie, and if you like Sci-Fi, or Fantasy, or Planetary Romance, or Action-Adventure, then you're probably going to like John Carter.  Even though it is a stupid name for a movie.

If you have read "A Princess of Mars," which the movie is based on, you'll notice that there are a few differences. The movie is very faithful to the spirit and feeling of the book, and to most of the major events of the book, while the few things that the movies changed, left out, or added, all made the story stronger, tighter, and more engaging.

However, knowledge of the original novel is not necessary to follow the storyline.  I've read several reviews where individuals who hadn't read the book claimed they couldn't keep track of what was going on, what everyone's name was, and who the bad guys were.  My only response to that is that if the viewer is of at least average intelligence, he or she should have no trouble following the plot, even if they  haven't read the book.  Bob saw the movie with me, and he hasn't read the book, and he followed along just fine.  It's just not that complicated - so some reviewers should just stop being haters.

The special effects are incredible, which is to be expected, and while I've seen some people complain about the 3D, I thought it worked well.  It's got great pacing and writing.  Add to that the surprisingly good acting, some well-placed humor, and a female lead who is most definitely NOT the "fainting-damsel-in-distress," (Hooray for strong female characters!) and it all adds up to a really fun adventure.

Simply put, in my opinion, this movie is great like Star Wars was great when it first came out.  And for the disapproving reviewers who have complained that John Carter is a derivative rip-off of Star Wars, I would like to once again point out that Edgar Rice Burroughs dreamed up air-speeders and floating warships quite a few decades before George Lucas did, and John Carter was dueling aliens with swords long before Luke Skywalker.

So please, stop listening to the reviews who claim they "couldn't follow the plot."  Go see the movie yourself, and I'm guessing you'll enjoy it.  I give John Carter 5 stars for being a great, fun, and all-around good movie.  What more could you ask for?  So go see John Carter, even if it does have a stupid name.  Bob liked it, and I think you will too.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review - A Princess of Mars

The Barsoom Series (John Carter of Mars), by Edgar Rice Burroughs
1. A Princess of Mars * * * *

From Goodreads:
"The first published book by the creator of Tarzan of the Apes that introduced the world to intergalactic Civil War soldier, John Carter. 

Two years before Edgar Rice Burroughs became a worldwide celebrity with the publication of Tarzan of the Apes and its twenty-two sequels, which together have sold more than 30 million copies, he published the futuristic sci-fi romance, A Princess of Mars. A Princess of Mars tells the story of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who inexplicably finds himself held prisoner on the planet Mars by the Green Men of Thark. With Dejah Thoris, the princess of another clan on Mars, John Carter must fight for their freedom and save the entire planet from destruction as the life-sustaining Atmosphere Factory slowly grinds to a halt.

A Princess of Mars is the first in Burroughs' eleven book Barsoon series, following the continued adventures of John Carter."

My Thoughts:
I tried to read A Princess of Mars before we went to see the movie adaptation John Carter, but I didn't quite finish it in time.  I'll talk about the movie later though.

The story follows the adventures of John Carter, a Virginian gentleman who has been prospecting in the American southwest shortly after the civil war has ended, and has somehow been transported to Mars, or, as he soon learns, Barsoom, as it is called by the inhabitants of the planet.  Initially a captive of the barbarian four-armed Green Men (Tharks), he soon becomes involved in the politics of the planet, when the Tharks capture Dejah Thoris, a princess of the Red Men (a more humanoid race) from the city of Helium, and John Carter falls hopelessly in love with her and helps her to escape.  Dejah Thoris was going to be forced to marry the son of her Helium's greatest enemy, and ran away to avoid her fate, before meeting and also falling in love with John Carter.  As John battles against her enemies, the Zodangans, in an attempt to save her from her fate, he manages to unite the barbarian clans of the Tharks and becomes the greatest warrior in Barsoomian history, eventually saving the day, the princess, and the maybe also the entire planet, but perhaps at the cost of his own happiness.

Though ERB began writing it in 1911, A Princess of Mars was originally published as "Under the Moons of Mars" in 1914 as a serialization in the  magazine "The All-Story."  Several years later in 1917 was the first time it was published as a novel under the current title, and the book proved popular enough that Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) went on to write numerous sequels and other SciFi/Fantasy novels. ERB and the Barsoom series influenced many later generations of SciFi writers, and elements of his stories can be seen in many later novels and movies, and I think it's important to keep in mind that John Carter & Dejah Thoris came long before Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, for example, and not the other way around.  Many of the SciFi/Fantasy and Space Opera elements that we take for granted in our current fiction originated with ERB over 100 years ago.

The writing style  is very formal when compared to today's novels and evokes the romance of the early part of the 20th century, while still being eminently readable.  Veering at times into more of a travelogue than a story, interspersed with sword fights, air speeder chases, and epic battles, taken together as a whole, A Princess of Mars forms a completely enjoyable story of the classic Hero's Journey archetype.

I'm giving A Princess of Mars 4 stars.  I'm not sure how I managed to avoid reading it all these years, but now that I have read it, I can honestly say that I wish I had read it sooner.  Some might dislike the plot holes and false science present throughout the book, I can only caution readers to remember that it was written over a century ago, long before our powerful telescopes and Martian probes and rovers proved what the Red Planet is actually like, and to enjoy the story based on its own merits.

Have you read A Princess of Mars?  Disagree with my rating?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - A Princess of Mars

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their To Be Read (TBR) Lists if they like your teasers!

Several weeks ago I began reading A Princess of Mars, hoping to have it finished before the movie John Carter was released.  I set it aside to read Timeless by Gail Carriger, and now have returned to this classic sci-fi/fantasy novel - and I'm really enjoying the "old-school" style of writing!

The Tease:
 "Thus was the edifice of my brief dream of happiness dashed, broken, to the ground of reality.  The woman for whom I had offered my life, and from whose lips I had so recently heard a declaration of love for me, had lightly forgotten my very existence and smilingly given herself to the son of her people's most hated enemy."
 -A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

What's your Tease?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Movie Review - Underworld: Awakening

Underworld: Awakening (2012) * * * *
Directors: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy and India Eisley

From IMDB:
"When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrioress Selene leads the battle against humankind."

My Thoughts:
So, I wasn't really sure that the world need a fourth installment in the Underworld franchise, but I figured, I've seen the other three so I might as well see this one, too.  And I have to admit that it really was fairly enjoyable. Instead of following the same formula as the previous movies in the series, "Awakening" takes a sharp turn and takes the series in a whole new direction.  Through the voice-over in the opening sequence we learn that somehow humans became aware of the vampires and the Lycans, probably due to the war being waged between the two groups, and humanity banded together to destroy them both, nearly wiping out the Lycans completely and driving the vampire clans deep underground - literally.

What follows is a refreshing change, because instead of being sort of tragic love story, "Awakening" is all about Selene the fierce protector and avenger!  And she does it well!  The action and fight scenes are amazing, and the 3D was extremely well done.

I quite enjoyed "Awakening," far more than any of the first 3 movies in the series.  Fans of the series will most likely enjoy it, and it's not a bad place for newcomers to join in, as extensive knowledge of the previous films only enhances the moves, but isn't required to follow the tale.  "Underworld: Awakening" gets four stars from me, and even Bob thought it was pretty good.

Have you seen "Underworld: Awakening" yet?  What did you think? Leave a comment below!

Movies I'm itching to see:
John Carter
The Hunger Games (OMG - it's sad how badly I want to see this!)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Mirror, Mirror
Wrath of the Titans

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review - Timeless, by Gail Carriger

The Parasol Protectorate   
1. Soulless       10/25/2010    * * * *
2. Changeless    11/2/2010    * * * *
3. Blameless    11/22/2010    * * * *
4. Heartless       7/17/2011    * * * * *
5. Timeless          3/6/2012    * * * * *

From Goodreads:
"Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle. 

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?"

My Thoughts:
I'm terribly sad to see this series end.  At the same time, I'm a little bit glad that the series is ending where it is, because this is the perfect place for this story to end, and Gail Carriger has provided her fans with the absolute perfect ending!  And now she is free to work on her other projects - two brand new series, still based in Alexia's world, but taking place in different times - and I can't wait to get my hands on those books!!

Timeless is nearly impossible to talk about without giving too much away or spoiling one or more of the many, many surprises.  We do get to see a point of view other than Alexia's for part of the book, and the continuing story of Biffy is delightfully sweet.  We learn more about Prudence herself and what it means for her to be Metanatural.  As Gail promised me in our interview last week, we do indeed learn more about Floote and his secrets, and what he's been protecting for Alexia's father all these years.  Of course, Ivy and her hats are present, along with the very mysterious Lefoux, and everything that you think you want to see happen, totally happens!  My only complaint would be that the ending feels a tiny bit rushed as everything wraps up.  But other than that, it's amazingly enjoyable, the perfect ending to a very special series of novels, and I hope that all of you out there who haven't tried this series will do so in the very near future.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

As always, please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts about "Timeless," or if you have posted your own review and would like to leave a link, I would love to hear what you thought!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Timeless, by Gail Carriger

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their To Be Read (TBR) Lists if they like your teasers!

Last Tuesday, I cheated a bit and had FOUR teasers - one from each of the first four Parasol Protectorate novels.  This week, I thought it would be fun to have a couple of teasers from the fifth and final book in the series.

The Tease:
 "Only Lady Maccon's good breeding kept her from committing the vile act of involuntary purging right then and there on the reed mat.  There was something particularly horrific about knowing that, because the queen was immortal, all those places where the chair speared into her flesh must be constantly trying to heal themselves."

"So it was that the Maccons found themselves floating low above the city of Alexandria in one of the famous nomadic balloons completely at the mercy of a man to whom they had not been formally introduced."
 -Timeless, by Gail Carriger

What's your Tease?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day Five of the Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week: Wrap-Up

Welcome back, my Little Addicts, to the final day of "Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week."  I had hoped to have finished reading "Timeless" by now and be able to produce a proper review for the book.  I deeply apologize that I have no actual review today.  Unfortunately, fate and life had other plans, and I find myself only halfway through "Timeless."  So all I can say at this point is that it is fabulous, and if you haven't picked or ordered your very own copy yet, you totally should because you will LOVE it!

So, since the review will have to wait until next week, today we will wrap-up the week with a recap, just in case anyone missed anything.

Day One - On Monday we took a brief look at the first two books in the Parasol Protectorate series, "Soulless," and "Changeless."

Day Two - Tuesday is, of course, always Teaser Tuesday here at SunnyReads, so we twisted the meme to our own purposes and had a special Teaser from each of the first four books in the series.

Day Three - On Wednesday we continued our look back at the series by focusing on books three and four: "Blameless" and "Heartless."

Day Four - Thursday was the official release day for book five in the series, "Timeless," although some store fronts and online retailers made the book available several days before this date.  (Apparently this is called a 'soft release,' something that I did not know).  Also the official release day for the "Soulless" manga!  But most importantly, Thursday was my interview with Gail Carriger, award winning and New York Times Bestselling author, and my very first ever Author Interview!  Gail chats about the series and characters in the Parasol Protectorate, and drops a few juicy hints about what we can expect from her two new writing projects!

A very special thanks goes out to Ms Carriger for granting the interview, and I'd also like to thank everyone who helped me with this project, and I hope you all enjoyed "Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week!"  I know it was lots of fun for me.

Tune in next week for my review of "Timeless" (I promise!) - and if you've already finished the book and written your own review, let me know and I'll include a link to your review page!  You can email me the link at "SunnyReads (at) gmail (dot) com," or if you prefer, leave a link in the comments.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day Four of Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week: Author Interview

Welcome to Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week here at SunnyReads!

All this week we will be celebrating The Parasol Protectorate series as a whole, and specifically the release of the concluding book in the series, "Timeless - The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Fifth."

Today, I am very excited to share this with all of you!  Ms. Carriger was kind enough to agree to do this brief interview, (My first EVER!), and I'm very grateful to her for taking the time out of her busy schedule.  So without further ado - The Interview!


Award winning & New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger was born in small California town to a British ex–pat gardener with a tea habit and a woodworking Dane who sidelined as a philosophical scribbler.  She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning, including a BA with Honors in Classical Archaeolgy, an MA in Anthropology, and an MS with Distinction in Materials Archaeology. She ended up back in California with a tea habit inherited from her mother (she insists on Twinings gold label (black box) English Breakfast imported from the UK), a scribbling habit inherited from her father, and a penchant for gadding off to foreign countries in hot pursuit of fascinating ancient artifacts – dragging both habits ruthlessly in her wake.  When her writing and promotional duties allow her to be at home, she enjoys food, fashion, and fabulous shoes.  She names inanimate objects because it is rude to yell at them without calling them by name, and she rides a motorcycle named Carmen.

SunnyReads (SR): Anyone who is familiar with your work is probably also aware that you have studied and worked in the field of archaeology. I’ve read that you have worked on archaeological sites in Peru and Northern Italy.  Where else has archaeology taken you, and what do you miss most about being at an excavation site, since your authorial duties have kept you away from that work?

Gail Carriger (GC): Those are the only two overseas projects I worked on. I'm a lab tech by training so I've worked on a wide range of artifacts from 12th century Islamic to Romano British. I miss the work itself, being very meticulous and exploring ancient cultures, but I also miss spending an extended time on foreign soil. I enjoy the privilege of becoming fully immersed in a culture, not to mention eating as much of the local food as possible. As an author, the longest I've been able to get away is five days and then I was only a tourist.

SR: In your writing, you present some issues that would have been social taboos in Victorian England, such as the tolerance and acceptance of minority groups and different sexual orientations, and you handle these topics with amazing sensitivity.  Is the social commentary in your work and its’ relationship to current events deliberate?

GC: It is deliberate, but it is not meant to be a political statement. I was raised in a very open-minded alternative town much affiliated with the beat movement, and later, early 80s counter culture. It has affected, some might say skewed, my ideas of a Utopian society. As to queering up genre fiction, I have an entire blog post about that you can read here:

SR: That is a fascinating blog post and I highly recommend that anyone interested in the subject take a moment to read it.  So, moving on to a something a little more fun, this question actually comes from one of my readers (my Little Addicts, as I like to call them).
Rebecca would like to know: "Lord Akeldama is a favorite character for many of your readers, and one of his endearing qualities is his liberal use of various epithets, but I don’t think he ever uses the same one twice!  Does he keep a list somewhere, or does he just make them up as needed?"

GC: He makes them up as needed, and since he hijacks my blog for a semi-monthly "Dear Lord Akeldama" column there are ever more epithets in my life. He always calls Alexia something food or flower related. (I tend to write them down as I think of them, and I keep a long list in case of emergency epithet needs.)

SR: That must be a very long list indeed!!  
Now, with the release of "Timeless" today, I have to admit I personally am completely obsessed with the zombie porcupines that showed up in “Heartless,” and the mechanical ladybugs in “Blameless.”  How did you come up with these ‘creatures,’ and will we be seeing something similar in “Timeless?”

GC: No, but mechanimals, as they are called, have a key and long running role to play in my new young adult series, the Finishing School. Events in this series, which take place some 22 year before the Parasol Protectorate, will make the appearance of the zombie porcupines, in retrospect, all the more shocking.

SR: Oh very interesting!  Something to look forward to!  
Another thing that I’m curious about is Floote, who may be your most mysterious and enigmatic character, and who appears to keep a great many secrets from Alexia.  Is this for Alexia’s protection somehow, and will we learn more about Floote’s past and the secrets that he keeps in “Timeless?”

GC: Yes indeed. Many of Floote's secrets are finally revealed, as are the sins of the father, as it were.

SR: Very mysterious indeed! 
Now, I noticed in the FAQ on your website (which is a veritable fount of amazing information), you have a list of “Throw away temptation lines” for each of the Parasol Protectorate novels.  The line for “Timeless” is “Not for the faint of hat,” which seems to be an obvious reference to Ivy Hisselpenny.  Will she have a more prominent role in “Timeless?”

GC: Oh yes, Ivy is back in full force, along with her husband and assorted additional attachments. And nothing is funnier than Ivy's idea of appropriate travel attire.

SR: I shudder to think!  
Now, my very favorite moment in the series so far is when Alexia inducts Ivy into the Parasol Protectorate by administering the oath.  While reading that scene I dropped the book, jumped to my feet and hollered “YESSSSS!” which was a tad bit embarrassing as I was in the middle of a coffee shop at the time.  How did you come up with this scene and the oath itself - had you been planning it all along, or did it suggest itself as you were writing?

CG: I always knew Ivy understood more than she let on about Alexia's life. And I knew I wanted these books, as the series title implies, to detail the inception of the Parasol Protectorate secret society. The mantle of the protectorate (or should I say, the sunshade?) is taken up in full as a complete and covert operation by Prudence in the new series, the Parasol Protectorate Abroad, set some 20 or so years later. I'm delighted you liked that scene because it is, in it's way, the beginning of everything. I came up with it by imagining what Ivy would want from an induction ceremony, combined with how secret societies were viewed in Sherlock Holmes mixed with the antics foisted up the members of the Drone's Club by Wodehouse.

SR: Looking back over the five books in the series, now that "Timeless" has been released, what have been your favorite and least favorite scenes of the series, as far as what happens in them and how easy or difficult they were to write?

CG: That's a difficult question to answer. I think some of my hardest scenes were in Blameless, as I had a complete rewrite of most of that book, which required some scalpel work that still gives me a headache to think on. My two favorite scenes are the ending sequences with Lord Akeldama in both Soulless and Timeless. I also adore the last fight scene I got to write for Alexia in Timeless, it's really a doozy.

SR: I can't wait to read that!  Some readers may already be aware that you have two new series of books coming out in the not-too-distant future.  Can you tell us anything new about what we can expect from “Etiquette & Espionage” (Book 1 in The Finishing School series) and “Prudence” (Book 1 in the Parasol Protectorate Abroad series)?

CG: Well, I sort of already did. I can say that Etiquette & Espionage was a blast to write. I'm having fun with technology that shouldn't exist, and doesn't anymore; a protagonist with a crafty mind and no special powers except her wits; and the usual cadre of totally absurd and ridiculous side characters. I haven't started writing any of the Prudence books yet, but I do have her character well formed and I can say that she is what you might expect from a young lady raised by multiple eccentric parents. You can expect to see many familiar faces in the background as she carries out her various missions and assignments.

SR: Sounds fantastic!! Finally, even though you are creating new adventures in Alexia’s world with your other projects, as “Timeless” brings The Parasol Protectorate series to a close, what will you miss the most about working on this particular series?

CG: Oh, I shall miss Alexia's voice. She was a part of me for so long, I shall miss the way she regarded every problem and encounter in an entirely practical and prosaic way. Prudence has some of this, but she is more excitable than Alexia, and Sophronia (the Finishing School protagonist) is a natural spy, her mind is far more analytical and suspicious than Alexia's. Alexia had a strange kind of innocence and I will miss looking at the Victorian world through her eyes.

SR: I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, as I know you must be busy with the promotions for “Timeless.”  Best of luck, and thank you so much!!

Thank you for asking me such interesting questions!


Gail Carriger has several online homes:

And that's The Interview!  Thanks for joining me today, (and all this week), to celebrate the release of "Timeless."
If you haven't gotten your copy yet, you won't want to wait!  I've just started reading my copy and so far it's fabulous!

Don't forget, today is the official release date for both "Timeless," and also for the "Soulless" manga!

Check back tomorrow for the final day of the "Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week" here at SunnyReads!  See you tomorrow!