Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones


Title: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Year: 2013

Stars:  Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aidan Turner, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Durand, and Jared Harris

Director: Harald Zwart

Writer(s): Jessica Postigo Paquette (screenplay) based on book of same name by Cassandra Clare

Studio: Constantin Film

Distributor: Screen Gems (US), Entertainment One (UK)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld.

Taglines:
There is a world hidden within our own.

Worlds will collide. 

You have been chosen.

Favorite line:



What I liked: Jamie Campbell Bower's performance as Jace was dead-on perfect. I especially loved the scene where Clary walks in on him at the piano in the library for his facial expressions alone. I also liked how they streamlined the action from the book. What do I mean by that? Well, for example, where in the book Jace and Clary keep bouncing off the Institute as they go from one errand to another, the movie not only tries to get the most of their treks out into the world, but also has Alex and Isabelle come along more often, simultaneously adding fluidity to the narrative while allowing the opportunity for all the characters to have more screen time. In other words, it takes my biggest problems with the book and fixes them. I actually prefer its narrative to that of the book, truth be told.

What I didn't like: The world of the Shadowhunters is pretty complex. There are Shadowhunters who fight demons, and there are Downworlders, commonly referred to as vampires, werewolves, mages, and fairies. There are runes that, when written on the skin of Shadowhunters, imbues them with certain abilities. There's a cup, a sword, and a mirror known as the Mortal Instruments, empowered because of their association with the angel Raziel. The angel Raziel is important because a long time ago, he came down from Heaven, bled into a cup, and offered it to humans who became the first Shadowhunters, granting them Buffy-like powers so they could better fight the demons. Throw in a bunch of personal history affecting the various adults and a villain with a dangerous mix of delusions of power and total paranoia, and its no small wonder what the pacing can come across as a bit staggered.

Overall: Hollywood's gotten crazy lately adapting young adult series for the big screen; already this past year  The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, and Warm Bodies have graced our theatres, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Vampire Academy, and Divergent all forthcoming over the next year or so and no doubt dozens more to come after that. I love book adaptations; screenwriters basically take your favourite books, pillage the best parts to bring to life, then twist and restructure making it more suitable for a big screen narrative while throwing in a dash of surprise, whether you've  read the books or not. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones lives up to this tradition and does a fairly good job of it. Yes, its bogged down by trying to explain its own mythology and history, but ultimately, the actors do a terrific job of bringing the characters to life and the action plays out well. I know that the author of the books has a horrible reputation for plagiarism and cyber-bullying, among other things. It's important to remember though that a movie is more than the book it's based on. Where a book is the brainchild of a single individual, a movie is brought to life by the actors, screenwriter, director, and countless crew members. Their work and efforts deserve to be seen and judged for their own merits, without the taint the books incur for their creator's past. 

Would I watch a sequel: Yes, so they had better follow through with its (currently postponed) production!

My rating: ☺☺☺☺/5


It's currently in theatres so I would definitely recommend making the trip to view it.

REVIEW: Maryjanice Davidson's Undead and Unsure

Book: Undead and Unsure

Author: MaryJanice Davidson

Series: Betsy Taylor, Vampire Queen

Publishing stats: August 6th 2013 by Berkley Hardcover

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: It’s no surprise to Betsy that her trip to Hell with her sister Laura landed them in hot water. Betsy isn’t exactly sorry she killed the Devil but it’s put Laura in a damnable position: assuming the role of Satan (she may not have the training but she looks great in red)—and in charge of billions of souls as she moves up in the world. Or is that down?

But Betsy herself is in an odd new position as well—that of being a responsible monarch suddenly in charge of all things more earth-bound: like her vampire husband Sinclair who has gone from relieved to ecstatic to downright reckless now that he can tolerate sunlight. And if Sinclair isn’t enough to contend with, Betsy’s best friend Jessica is in her sixth (and hopefully last) trimester. Considering she’s been pregnant for eighteen months, she’s become a veritable encyclopedia of what not to expect when you’re expecting. Oh, the horror…

And speaking of growing pains, Betsy and Sinclair’s adopted little BabyJon is finally starting to walk. And if the increasingly unpredictable toddler is anything like his extended family, precisely where he’s headed is anyone’s guess.

First line: “The devil's dead, and the Antichrist is pissed.”

***** If you're behind on the series, below may contain minor spoilers *****

What I liked: Like in the second and eighth books of this series, this book featured a sprinkling of chapters told from a perspective other than Betsy, the regularly scheduled narrator. Not only does this let the reader in on information Betsy wouldn't be privy to, it also allows for other characters to be fleshed out and gives direct insight into their psyches. The treat here was that the character sharing the spotlight with Betsy this time around was none other than Eric Sinclair. It was surprising; I didn't expect the tone his thoughts took, didn't anticipate the emotions driving his actions, and most certainly didn't see that last twist coming until it had run me over and backed up to wham me again. Which, really, is par for the course where Sinclair is concerned.

What I didn't like: This books featured events that are no doubt going to have a huge impact on the future of the series. Unfortunately, they all happen at the end. Until that point it's basically Betsy planning Thanksgiving, Betsy fretting over her relationship with Laura, Jessica being pregnant, Sinclair being in the sun and, oh yeah, Betsy goes to Hell. It's literally the last three chapters that contain all action, so to speak. Don't get me wrong, the lead up is funny as all sin, but it just seems like a splash of ordinary life with OMFGPLOTPOINTS! tacked on the end.

Overall: I love this series; it's quirky, it's funny, it's surprising, it's innocent. No matter how bad things get, they'll always get better. No matter the tragedy, the betrayal, the horror, or the body count, sooner or later it clears up and bright skies shine through. I love the MaryJanice Davidson brand of comedy; her books never fail to have me laughing out loud, be they Betsy, Fred the Mermaid, or Alaskan Royalty. This book was by no means my least favourite (Undead and Unworthy still holds that claim - between a geographically divided cast, psycho Laura, and judgmental werewolves the plot was just too...un-Betsy), but I was disappointment by the pace of events. It was a little like going to a Spiderman movie where Spiderman only gets twenty minutes of air time (Oh, wait, that's happened - thanks a lot Spiderman 2). Point being, it was a good book, funny and with a great ending, but its flow of action left much to be desired.

Would I read this author again: Yes - she's hilarious.

My rating: ☺☺☺/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #42 - Favorite Books Featuring Travel in Some Way!

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Unfortunately, when you're a character in a book - especially a book where magic is the norm and fangs commonplace - chances are good that getting away from it all is just going to land you in a whole different kind of trouble and mayhem.

So, without further ado, I present this week's Top 5 - my favourite books featuring travel in some way!

#5 - Michelle Rowen's Blood Bath & Beyond


After having spent all five books of the original series in Toronto, vampire fledgling Sarah Dearly and her boyfriend Thierry kick off the start of their new mystery spin-off series (or would this be a sequel series? O_o) by taking this couple on the road and relocating to the dazzling city life of Las Vegas where, naturally, their bad luck follows.

#4 - Jennifer Estep's By a Thread


After tying up the first major arc of the series, Gin decides to do what every heroine dreams of doing and heads to the seaside for a well-deserved vacation with her boyfriend, sister, and stepbrother. Lucky for Gin, she ends up in a town where her sister's best friend is dating her ex and a power-crazy vampire is up to no good. Definitely one of those instances of good intentions going horribly off track.

#3 -  Ilona Andews' Magic Rises


Yes, this book is still a month and then some away from release but, people, let's think about this for a moment: after five books of Kate and Curran staying within the city limits of a magic-eaten Atlanta, this book will have them setting sail and crossing the ocean to Europe. Are you thinking about it? Yup. Exactly. Need more be said?

#2 - Nalini Singh's Archangel's Kiss


So, while Elena and Raphael are based in New York City, they're both no strangers to travel. This book, however, is the first time they head off somewhere within the timeline of the main story. It starts off in the tropic-like Refuge of the angels - where Elena's period of rest and healing is marred by a would-be assassin stalking the halls - and then takes a trip to the Forbidden City - where you get zombie servants and, say it with me now, a would-be assassin stalking the halls.

#1 - Kresley Cole's A Hunger Like No Other


It begins with Emmaline being taken hostage of a half-crazed Lachlain who has only just gotten free from two centuries of torture. A forced road trip to Scotland ensues, with the narrative taking side-trips to New Orleans every now and then to check in with Emmaline's family, and, after a teleport and some epic battle scenes in Eastern Europe and a near-death experience and a marriage in New Orleans, a Scottish happily ever after ties everything up. Talk about your continent jumping...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #41 - Best Book Sidekicks!

Ah, sidekicks. They aren't the ones to save the day or get the girl and if a villain targets them it's more because the villain's looking for an indirect strike against the hero than as a proactive move against a real threat. Yup, it's a hard role, that of the sidekick, but also more important than you'd think. After all, When you're not being held captive or threatened, you're supporting the hero (or heroes) in a whole slew of ways, including emotionally, physically, and, yup, even comically. Not everyone can be a sidekick, it takes a special kind of person, one with the sort of personality that can shine through to the bright side even when tied to a chair with a sword blade to their throat.

Which brings us to this week's Top 5 Best Book Sidekicks!

#5 - Finn Lane from The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep



He's not just Gin's brother, he's her source for all the gossip and cold hard facts she could ever hope for on her targets, a crack shot, and better-than-reliable back-up. Add to that the fact that Finn well and truly understands his sister, that he supports her unconditionally yet isn't afraid to call her on her BS and, really, what more could a first class assassin ask for?

#4 - Ilianna and Tao from The Dark Angels series by Keri Arthur


I could tell you about how this trio has a awesome relationship of many forms; they're business partners in a restaurant, they're roommates, they're friends, they're family. I could tell you about how they have complimentary skill sets and a stronger-than-steel bond. But, really, what makes Ilianna and Tao such great sidekicks is their willingness to have Coca Cola at the ready when Risa returns from a hard day of butt kicking.

#3 - Jess, Marc, Tina, Sinclair, Nick, Antonia, Garrett and more from Betsy Taylor, Vampire Queen series by Maryjanice Davidson


In the beginning, it was just Betsy and her best friend Jess. Then she saved Marc from his almost-suicide. And then she fell in love Sinclair who came as a matched set with his majordomo Tina. And then the werewolves found out about her and sent one of their own, Antonia, as a sort of ambassador-cum-babysitter-cum-spy. And  then Antonia fell in love with Garrett, a slowly recovering vamp savage. And then Jess got together with Nick. And on it went until her house had more in common with the Hotel California than 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

#2 - Cookie from Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones


Technically, she's Charlie's assistant. And next door neighbour. And best friend. And cheerleader. And fan club president. And alibi. Okay, so the list goes on a bit long. Putting up with a boss/friend/neighbour/so on who is the Grim Reaper and frequently targeted for death is no easy thing, but Cookie pulls it off superbly.

#1 - Pony from Elfhome series by Wen Spencer


When he first pops up in  the first book, he's just a random elf assigned to guard the newly elfin Tinker. By the book's end, however, he's become so much more, willingly binding himself to Tinker in ways that are still being made clear two books later. He's an awesome blend of big brother, best friend, and sexual tension, all wrapped up in a pretty package with a gooey, golden-hearted centre.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

WINNER of Jennifer Estep's Deadly Sting Giveaway REDRAWN!

Unfortunately, May wasn't able to accept the prize and so the winner of the Jennifer Estep contest for a copy of her latest Elemental Assassin installment, Deadly Sting, is going to have to be redrawn. So, without further adieu....



  Van Pham!

Congrats Van! Please send me your snail mail address as soon as possible (you should find a notification e-mail from me in your inbox) so I can pass it along to get your book in the mail as soon as possible.

As for the rest of you, once again, be sure to scoop up your own copy of Deadly Sting posthaste and thanks for participating. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Ms. Estep for stopping by and taking the time and effort to contribute to Calliope's Domain and its readers, especially at what must be such a busy time for her.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

WINNER of Jennifer Estep Deadly Sting Giveaway

Someone cue the drum roll....

Winner of the Jennifer Estep contest for a copy of her latest Elemental Assassin installment, Deadly Sting, is....DUM DUM DUM


  May!

Congrats May! Please send me your snail mail address as soon as possible (you should find a notification e-mail from me in your inbox) so I can pass it along to get your book in the mail as soon as possible.

As for the rest of you, be sure to scoop up your own copy of Deadly Sting posthaste and thanks for participating. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Ms. Estep for stopping by and taking the time and effort to contribute to Calliope's Domain and its readers, especially at what must be such a busy time for her.

Until next time, my lovelies, read on!

Friday, March 29, 2013

EXCERPT & CONTEST - Jennifer Estep's Deadly Sting!

THE SITCH:
Alrighty then, boils and ghouls, today we have an extra special treat; Jennifer Estep, author of the Elemental Assassins series, has provided yours truly with an exclusive except from her newest release, Deadly Sting, a great edition to the fast paced, perpetually surprising series about a (semi-retired) assassin trying to get through life in corrupt and morally rotting city. You can read my review of this book, complete with links to purchase it, right here and be sure to scroll down after the excerpt for the contest details!

So, without further ado:



Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot.

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

DEADLY STING EXCERPT: 

A soft, feminine laugh floated through the air, followed by a series of high-pitched giggles. Bria and I looked at each other, then over at Finn. Apparently, all had been forgiven because the two saleswomen had practically draped themselves over him by this point. Red had her hand on one of his shoulders, while Blonde was cozied up on his other side, toying with his jacket sleeve. Finn’s head swiveled back and forth between the two women, as though he was watching an intense tennis match. It was a wonder his neck didn’t break, as fast as he was snapping it from one side to the other.
“Good luck getting those statements,” I murmured.
Bria smiled, showing a hint of teeth. “Oh, luck has nothing to do with it, big sister.”
She strode over and planted herself in front of Finn and his adoring entourage.
“Bria!” he said. “I was just telling these two lovely ladies how brave they were when that terrible dwarf rushed into the store.”
“Of course you were.” Her voice was mild, although she raised her eyebrows at him.
Finn gave her a sheepish grin, but he immediately disentangled himself from the other two women and stepped forward. His sudden movement made the saleswomen teeter in their heels and almost crash into each other, but Finn didn’t care. He leaned down and murmured something in Bria’s ear that caused a fierce blush to bloom in her cheeks. Red and Blonde both frowned, but Bria just smiled at them. They all knew that she had Finn’s full and undivided attention now.
He finally quit whispering to her and straightened up, a teasing grin on his handsome face. Bria stared back at him, her blue eyes warm and soft.
“I’m going to hold you to that,” she murmured. “Tonight.”
Finn’s grin widened.

BIO INFO:
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Deadly Sting, the eighth book in her Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, was released on March 26. For more information, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

CONTEST INFO:
The bad news (because bad news should always be given first - gives the good news the chance to redeem it) is that this contest is unfortunately open to US mailing addresses only - sorry folks!

The good news, however, is that up for grabs is a copy of Deadly Sting and, believe me, you do not want to miss out on this little gem! It's like...imagine James Bond went to a high society event on his day off, but, of course, with this being Bond things go wrong faster than you can blink and next thing you know there are hostages and weapons and death. Well, it's a lot like that but with magic tossed. Now, tell me, how can anyone resist that?! All you have to do is (1) follow Calliope's Domain (links to do so are located on the sidebar) and (2) comment on this post, including your e-mail address in the message and voila! you're in! Normally, contest would close in exactly one week, but I'll be out of town a week from now so I'm going to give this contest TWO weeks. Yup, TWO! Winner will be chosen on Friday, April 12, and I will announce the winner the very next day, Monday, September Saturday, April 13. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW: Jennifer Estep's Deadly Sting

Book: Deadly Sting

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Elemental Assassin

Publishing stats: March 26th 2013 by Pocket Books

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot.

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

First line: “That would look fabulous on you.”

***** If you're behind on the series, below may contain minor spoilers *****

What I liked: The action of this book takes place primarily over the course of a single night. A night. Not even twenty-four hours. Now, I've read books before with small time windows, but Ms. Estep packs an unlikely amount of action into the small number of hours she has to work with; she even introduces new and significant characters. But that's not what's most impressive. What's impressive, most impressive is the amount of development the larger series arc receives in this book. In a single night, a mysterious future character is introduced, one who can't help but have an impact, and one who, given his/her connections, can't help but fill the currently vacant Big Bad role. Owen and Gin's relationship takes a tiny step closer to reconciliation. Gin's past tragedy is not only touched upon, but further fleshed out. Do you want to know what this book is? It's the TARDIS - much, much, much bigger on the inside than you can possibly imagine.

What I didn’t like:
I want to slap Owen. I realize this book takes place over just one night and, hey, that's not much more than a snapshot, after all, but OMG, I want to slap him. I understand why he and Gin are currently on a break. I understand his reasoning and I understand Gin's acceptance of that reasoning. I mean, heck, if she pushes she'll end up with the rest of their relationship from then on tainted and overshadowed by doubt and questions. Letting him have the time to work through things on his own solves that problem. That being said, Owen didn't go into this relationship blind; he knew who Gin was, knew what she was, and he claims to have loved her. And yet he's all surprised when she holds true to character and makes the choice to save lives rather than spare pain. He had a rather sweet moment at the end of this book but, honestly, if this goes on past the next book, I'm going to start to feel like they're being kept apart for the sake of drama and suspense alone. Ashland isn't a safe town, not by far, and Gin is definitely one of the city's more at-risk (for sudden death that is) citizens. Owen needs to work his head out and fast; before it's too late and both his chance and Gin are lying cold in the grave.

Overall: This is the eighth book in this series and one of the things I love most about it is that even while relationships, circumstances, and villains change, the characters still remain true to themselves. A lot has happened leading up to this book, including the defeat of the archvillian in book five, the return of old loves and the true reunion of sisters in book six, and an unbelievable break-up in book seven. You'd think Ashland would run out of evil doers by this point but apparently Ashland is a lot like Gotham on that front. The thing about this book, about this series, is that in spite of what's going on in the story (and this was not your average hostage situation by far), is that at the core its characters remain the same. Gin will always do what needs to be done to protect her family, will always feel guilt for those innocents caught up as collateral damage, will always see herself as a cold-hearted psychopath even as she strives to protect her friends, family, and innocent strangers from the ruthless, murdering monsters in power. Finn will always be suave, flirtatious, arrogant, and greedy. Bria will always be brave, stubborn, strong, and realistic. And so on. It's that vein of consistency that tips this series from "good" to "great" and this particular book is a stellar example of the hows and whys of that.

Would I read this author again: Yes - did you not read above? LOL

My rating: ☺☺☺☺/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #40 - Favorite Female Movie Characters

Did I miss a week? Yes? No? I don't even know, having been the busiest of busy beavers lately. But, hey, I'm here now and, really, does anything else matter?

...You're right - it does. So how about we get his bad boy on the road?

This week's theme is my Top 5 Favorite Female Movie Characters and, as anyone who knows me can tell you, I have a wealth of resources to draw from so, if it's all the same, I think I'll skip my usual introductory babel and get straight to the good stuff.

So, without further ado, I present my Top 5 Favorite Female Movie Characters!

#5 - Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Belle is my hero and has been since I first saw the movie when I was just three years old. She looks like me with brown hair and brown eyes. She loves to read and, what's more, she loves to talk about what she reads. She a bit of an odd duck who doesn't quite fit in among the townsfolk. And then she goes on to have an adventure in an enchanted castle with talking furniture and an amazing library and saves the Beast from a potentially eternal curse. As Lumiere says, "Don't you see? She's the one! The girl we have been waiting for! She has come to break the spell!"

#4 - Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) from Batman Returns
She starts off a mousey, mild mannered assistant whose boss tosses her out the window when she uncovers records of his dirty dealings. Cue a bunch of cats, some chugged milk, a little smashed neon and a reincarnated leather jacket and - presto! - Catwoman was born. She flirted with Batman, toyed with Penguin, and  messed with her aforementioned murdering boss. To quote Penguin, "You're Beauty and the Beast in one luscious Christmas gift pack"

#3 - Alice from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
Alice tries to escape the pressures and monotony of her life by following a rabbit down its hole and into "a place like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter." It's a place of impossible things and, in due course, Alice is shrunk, stretched, scratched and stuffed into a teapot! Fast forward, and she's told she needs to be the champion and slay the Jabberwocky. What I love most? Not once does Alice break down in tears or bemoan her fate or close her eyes and wish for home. Sure, she thinks it's all a dream at first and, okay, she balks at first but ultimately she finds her muchness and saves the day. "I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Count them, Alice," she says, "One, there are drinks that make you shrink. Two, there are foods that make you grow. Three, animals can talk. Four, cats can disappear. Five, there is a place called Underland. Six, I can slay the Jabberwocky."

#2 - Evelyn O'Connell from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns
She starts off something of an uber-geek, showing up the Cambridge scholars who'd refused to admit a woman into their midst by deciphering the location of the lost Book of the Dead. She sets off to put together her own little expedition team to head out and retrieve it and, somewhere between there and becoming a best-selling adventure writer, she encounters mummies, curses, gods, magic and past lives and becomes quite the bad ass thank you very much. And that's in addition to being a wife, mother, and sister to some very taxing males. In her own words, "I-I may not be an explorer, or-or an adventurer, or-or a treasure seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am...I...am a librarian..."

#1 - The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Oz, the Great and Powerful
The Wicked Witch gets a raw deal. I mean, heck, in The Wizard of Oz she shows up in Munchkinland to find the Munchkins celebrating the fact a house had just fallen out of the sky and crushed her sister to death. When she then asks to have the only remaining piece of her sister - her shoes - she gets told nope, sorry, they clearly must be powerful little beauties for you to want them so badly so we'll just keep them. And if you've seen Oz, the Great and Powerful you know her lot hasn't improved much. To say nothing of Wicked. Got to love a character that so dynamic, managing to stir feelings of pity while still leaving no doubt to her evilness. And she only gets better with time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Title: Warm Bodies

Year: 2013

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Cory Hardrict, John Malkovich

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer(s): Jonathan Levine (screenplay) based on book of same name by Isaac Marion

Studio: Mandeville Films

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Genre: Zombie romance

Synopsis: After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

Taglines: Cold body. Warm heart.

He's still dead but he's getting warmer

There's nothing hotter than a girl with brains

Dead sexy.

Bros before brains

Love means never having to say you're undead.


Favorite line:
R: What am I doing with my life? I'm so pale. I should get out more. I should eat better. My posture's horrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter.
What I liked: It's Romeo and Juliet with zombies. Really, what more could a girl ask for? What's more, I love how the movie compensates for their hero being an inarticulate zombie by having him narrate the voice-over. Doesn't hurt either that R's inner-voice has a knack for sarcasm and irony (see my above favourite line for proof). 

What I didn’t like: Well, for one thing, it was over too soon and the chances of sequel are slim since the ending left few, if any, strings lefts hanging. There's also one scene at the end where you sort of have to tilt your head and ask yourselves if the characters are paying attention to what it is they're actually saying because, while they realize the larger implications, they seem to be rather blind to their immediate ramifications.

Overall:
I loved it! It proved to be a zombie movie where, praise the gods, the zombies weren't lame. Sorry, but I never got behind the zombie thing. I mean, heck, they SHUFFLE for crying out loud - how can you not outrun that?! Plus, there's no ambition to them; they just want to eat you. Is it wrong of me to want my villains to actually have plots and schemes and thus be a challenge? This movie, however, took zombies and made them something more. Sure, they're still shambling, undead, flesh-eaters. Heck, a major plot point with the hero is that he ate (and at some points eating) the heroine's former boyfriend. But they're still people, still have humanity, still want more than to be slaves to their hunger...until they don't and then they further devolve into a skeletal state with a beast-like mentality focused on their next meal. As R says, they'll eat anything with a heartbeat and while zombies will as well, at least the zombies feel conflicted about it. This is hands down one of the quirkier romances I've seen, and definitely well worth the admission fee!

Would I watch a sequel: Yes, but I find a sequel unlikely

My rating: ☺☺☺☺/5

It's currently in theatres so I would definitely recommend making the trip to view it. Sure, Valentine's Day is in the past, but it's still one of the quirkiest romances around at present.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #39 - Favourite Female Book Characters

The heroes makes us swoon, no question, but more often than not it's the heroine who gives the story its voice, who acts as our eyes and ears within a story, who we most relate with. Her sarcasm, humour, seriousness, and opinions set the tone for the story and can be the difference between a reader connecting with a book and get stuck on the outside. And, of course, we all have our favourites.

So, without further adieu, I present this week's Top 5 - my favourite female book characters.

#5 - Risa Jones (of Keri Arthur's Dark Angels series)
She's snarky, she's powerful, she's loyal, she's kickass, she's brave, she's unbelievably complicated and the best part of all? She's addicted to Coca Cola. She drinks it like other people drink coffee and, OMG, she has her friends trained to pour her glasses of coke following any emotional upheaval or  bad guy skirmish. That alone is an incredible feat - I can barely train mine to keep an emergency bottle in their fridge, should I drop by. That's a heroine anyone can get behind!

#4 - MacKayla Lane (of Karen Marie Moning's Fever series)
She starts off a bubbly, sun-loving, fun-loving blonde and over the course of the book she's...well, she's like a blade being forged in fired; she goes through hell, literally in several instances, and comes out the stronger for it. She's not as bubbly at series end - suffice to say the darkness has rubbed off her more than a bit - but she's still sun-loving and fun-loving and, hey, even blonde. She's a real inspiration on several levels.

#3 - Jane True (of Nicole Peeler's Jane True series)

From the beginning, Jane has been a woman who has been confident about her own identity. Sure, she has an intricate support system and she may not believe herself capable of saving the world, but when it comes to who she is - and what she is - Jane is a character who makes no apologies and simply is as she is, take her or leave her. I took her. She's worth it.

#2 - Kate Daniels (of Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series)
She's the daughter of a man so powerful that he's been worshiped as a god more than once over the centuries. She's the spouse of a man who can take the form of a prehistoric lion and who leads a pack of almost two thousand shapeshifters. She's sent gods running with their tail between their legs, or at least those gods she let live. She's got buckets of attitude, loads of spunk, and enough power to cow the powerful...and somehow still ends up in situations you would've have thought toddlers knew to avoid. Epic.

#1 - Charley Davidson (of Darynda Jones' Charley Davidson series)
She's the Grim Reaper - a lost soul magnet and portal to Heaven. Every demon this side of Hell wants to get their hands on her, every other ghost wants her help in some way or another, and her love life? Well, her love interest in the son of Satan. Need more be said? What I love most about her though is her sense of humour and the healthy helping of sarcasm that comes along with it. Charley, simply put, is the most-like-me character I've ever read...super powers aside.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #38 - Favourite Romance Novels!

Ah, romance. The stories that tell you about two souls battling the odds, overcoming obstacles, defeating prejudices, and ending up living happily ever after. Eventually. Sometimes we're talking vampires, sometimes werewolves, sometimes fae or witches or demons or humans or a combination thereof. Sometimes it's set in the past, sometimes the future, sometimes the present, sometimes whole other worlds. No matter what though, these are stories meant to pull at your heart and illustrate just how enduring love can be, despite the difficulties it faces.

#5 - Seducing the Vampire by Michele Hauf

This book has a couple who must overcome social status (she's nobility, he's illegitimate), prejudice (she's a pure blooded vampire, he's a vamp/werewolf halfbreed), a scorned lover (his brother and a pure blooded noble to boot) and, oh yes, her death (which is actually an immobilization spell that leaves her trapped in a glass coffin underground in Paris' catacombs...needless to say she wakes up insane two hundred years later).

#4 - Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
A retelling of Cinderella, this story has a prince in an arranged marriage meeting his cousin's finacee who's actually a woman impersonating her ill sister at her wicked stepmother's insistence. Both these characters have determination and wit playing in their favour, but Kate's deception and Gabriel's pride keep getting in their way and tripping them up right to the end.
“Give me one last time,” he begged. “Please, please. I beg you.”

“I—” She stopped and started again. “I’m afraid, Gabriel. You’ll break my heart.”

“Mine is already broken.” 
#3 -  Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
“With the world securely in order, Dain was able to devote the leisurely bath time to editing his mental dictionary. He removed his wife from the general category labeled "Females" and gave her a section of her own. He made a note that she didn't find him revolting, and proposed several explanations: (a) bad eyesight and faulty hearing, (b)a defect in a portion of her otherwise sound intellect, (c) an inherited Trent eccentricity, or (d) an act of God. Since the Almighty had not done him a single act of kindness in at least twenty-five years, Dain thought it was about bloody time, but he thanked his Heavenly Father all the same, and promised to be as good as he was capable of being.”
Enough said.

#2 - And One Last Thing ... by Molly Harper
The main character, Lacey, notifies her cheating husband that she plans to divorce him in an email. An email that takes the form of his monthly business newsletter. Which she forwards to all his clients and business associates. It's glorious. And disasterous. But mostly glorious. When Lacey then flees the town scorn by running away to the family cabin, she meets Monroe, former cop turned successful writer and gets to work on some writing of her own. In true Harper style, this book is a through-through romantic comedy that would do the likes of Pretty Woman and 27 Dresses
and their ilk proud.




#1 - A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
After spending centuries chained to wall and being tortured daily by flames as a prisoner of vampires,  Lachlain MacRieve rips off his own leg (don't worry - it grows back) in order to reach his destined and long-awaited mate who just happens to be a half-vampire. Their relationship goes downhill from there but somehow manages to come around to a happily ever after. It's an amazing story of overcoming the obstacles and defeating the odds to find your happiness. What's not to love about that?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

REVIEW: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

Book: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Series: Stand-alone

Publishing stats: April 2006 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published December 1817)

Genre: Victorian Romance

Cover Blurb: While enjoying a six weeks' stay in fashionable Bath, the young and callow Catherine Morland is introduced to the delights of high society. Thanks to a new literary diet of the sensational and the macabre, Catherine travels to Northanger Abbey fully expecting to become embroiled in a Gothic adventure of intrigue and suspense and, once there, soon begins to form the most gruesome and improbable theories about the exploits of its occupants. An early work, but published posthumously, Northanger Abbey is a satire on the Gothic mode typified by the novels of Ann Radcliffe, as well as a witty comedy of manners in the style of Jane Austen's later novels and, ultimately, an enchanting love story.

First line: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

What I liked: If Catherine Morland was the heroine of any other type of novel, she'd be branded too stupid to live within the first ten minutes of her adventure. She always believes the best of people, thinking that any wrongs they commit were done through ignorance rather than intent, and yet at the same time she allows the Gothic novels she reads to have her suspecting a general of murdering his wife (her justification being that his daughter's comment that she hadn't been home when her mother passed away). Enter Henry Tilney whose wit, humour, and compassion  paint him as the perfect match. And that's what I loved most - the pairing of Henry and Catherine and the balancing of their personalities. It was remarkably well done in true Austen style.

What I didn’t like: Given that what I liked best was the pairing of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney it should come as no surprise that what I liked least was that there was so little of them together! In fact, what you get of their interactions is a few snippets of conversation, more often than not with his sister in attendance. I would have loved more of these two but, alas, instead there's more interaction between Catherine and the dastardly Mr. Thorpe. A waste. Like reading lots about Elizabeth and Wickham and being skimped on the Darcy airtime.

Overall: The book gives the impression of being but a brief window into this world; it's like a brief vacation taken in Catherine Morland's life. Incidentally, it actually does span Catherine Morland's six week visit to Bath and Northanger Abbey. Its tone is written as a third-party account, the narrator occasionally lapsing into first person to offer criticism, opinions, and explanations of the events and characters as they develop. It's definitely a memorable and engaging style. It was definitely over too quickly; several points, such as Thorpe's villainy (so to speak) and Catherine's romance with Tilney, could have used more fleshing out. I realize that this book is nearing its two hundredth anniversary, but I rather wish that Austen had written a sequel of sorts or perhaps an epilogue to show just what shape their happily ever after takes. Not to mention what becomes of the Thorpes and Catherine's brother, James.

Would I read this author again: Yes - Mansfield Park is up next!

My rating: ☺☺☺☺/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at pretty much anywhere, there are tons so many different editions out there! But, in the interest of keeping true to Calliope's Domain style, here are some links anyways!  Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #37 - Sexiest TV Characters!

When it comes to sexy, TV has more than enough options to go around, regardless of your personal tastes and opinions on the matter. Blond, ginger, browm? Check, check, check. Brains, brawn, magic? Check, check, check. Pick your poison and TV has someone on some show on some network that will suit - the tricky part is finding him or her. After all, there are a lot of shows and a lot of networks out there to peruse and who know when you'll come across that special someone?

So, without further ado, I present Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Sexiest TV Characters!

#5 - The Tenth Doctor - David Tennant (Doctor Who, BBC)
Allow me to sum him up with two quotes from the series:
"See, there's the thing. I'm the Doctor, but beyond that, I - I just don't know. I literally do not know who I am. It's all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy?  [he winks at Rose] Am I an old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck? I mean, judging by the evidence, I've certainly got a gob." 
- The Christmas Invasion (Season 2, Episode 1)
"He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun...He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe...and... he's wonderful." 
- The Family of Blood (Season 3, Episode 9)

#4 - Steve McGarrett - Alex O'Loughlin (Hawaii Five-0, CBS)
Steve is the sort of man with a clear concept of right and wrong and, were it not for the fact he was running a governor sanctioned task force, he'd no doubt be considered a vigilante. I mean, heck, he's held suspects over the edge of roofs, tied them to the hood of his car for high-speed pursuits, and dropped them into shark infested waters. And that was just in the first season. Sure, his sanity may be a little questionable, but what's not to love about a guy who's just trying to do the right thing at any cost?

#3 - Damon Salvatore - Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries, The CW)
For over a century and a half, Damon worked to save the woman he loved from eternal imprisonment only to learn that she had never been imprisoned to begin with. He then falls for his brother's girlfriend, a woman he believes deserves better than him, and sets about securing her happily ever after even if it doesn't include him in any role beyond friendship. For a man cast in the light of villainy, he's got one noble heart inside him.

#2 - Dean Winchester - Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, The CW)
He fights monsters, he conquers evil, he saves the world, and he looks out for his little brother. He drives all over the USA in a '67 Chevy Impala playing at Lone Ranger (well, in the sense he rides in, saves people, and leaves than the lone part - he's partnered with his brother after all). He cops attitude to Satan himself, snaps sarcasm at angels, and stares down heathen gods, all of it with a cheeky grin. What can I say? The man knows how to rock the swagger.

#1 - Oliver Queen/The Hood - Stephen Amell (Arrow, The CW)
There is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to handle a car, how to make an engine purr and how to make all that steel and power take to the roads with a grace and sleekness you'd never expect of a machine. Except, that is, for a man with a bow. Be he Robin Hood or Legolas, there's something about a man who can take a bent stick with taunt string between its ends and turn it into weapon. To say nothing of his ability to aim. Enter Oliver Queen; wealthy playboy by day, avenging archer by night, with a tortured past, a heart of gold, and a tendency to brood. Oh, and did I mention that there hasn't been an episode yet that hasn't featured a shot or two of a shirtless Oliver training? *sigh* Need more be said?

Friday, February 8, 2013

REVIEW: Nora Robert's Morrigan's Cross

Book: Morrigan's Cross

Author: Nora Roberts

Series: The Circle Trilogy

Publishing stats: August 29th 2006 by Jove (first published as hard cover January 1st 2006)

Genre: Romance

Cover Blurb: In the last days of high summer, with lightning striking blue in a black sky, the sorcerer stood on a high cliff overlooking the raging sea...

Belting out his grief into the storm, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith rails against the evil that has torn his twin brother from their family's embrace. Her name is Lilith. Existing for over a thousand years, she has lured countless men to an immortal doom with her soul-stealing kiss. But now, this woman known as vampire will stop at nothing until she rules this world—and those beyond it...

Hoyt is no match for the dark siren. But his powers come from the goddess Morrigan, and it is through her that he will get his chance at vengeance. At Morrigan's charge, he must gather five others to form a ring of power strong enough to overcome Lilith. A circle of six: himself, the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms and the one he's lost. And it is in this circle, hundreds of years in the future, where Hoyt will learn how strong his spirit—and his heart—have become...

First line: There was a storm in him, as black and vicious as that which bullied its way across the sea.

What I liked: I love those stories where the hero or heroine is from another time or world and finds themselves displaced into ours in the present day. Seeing them try to figure out computers, cars, and television, to say nothing of fast food and soda pop, is always a real delight and I particularly love when they start making comparisons between their world/time and ours. This book has half the main cast playing the displacement game; Hoyt is hopping forward in time and Larkin and Moira are crossing over from another world. I particularly loved the interactions between Hoyt and his brother Cian, his vampiric brother Cian who not only got himself to the present day by the long route, by living through the interceding years, but had the sardonic, embittered sense of humour to make the most of his brother's ignorance.

What I didn’t like:
There's nothing wrong with the noble and honourable knight; he's stood as the heroic ideal for centuries after all. Unfortunately, as with everything else, virtue can be had too much as well - almost sickeningly so. Hoyt, his love interest, Glenna, Moira and Larkin have very clear ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, and stubbornly hold to them regardless of consequences. Don't get me wrong, it's admirable to hold on to your honour and beliefs. But when multiple worlds are relying on you to live long enough to face the big bad evil witch and her bigger and badder army risking your life - especially when you know your training is lacking and your chances of success are low is pure idiocy. And to do so repeatedly is just annoying. Especially when there are other characters about pointing out how dumb they're being.

Overall: I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I love Cian - he was a great character that was a pretty good blend of sarcastic humour and classic vampire. Hanging around his brother and being drawn in to this battle preparation thaws him somewhat, but at book's end he's still the same dark and broody vampire he is at the start. What's more, he serves as a stand in for the reader (or at least this reader) and gives his cohorts a much needed reality check several times, though more often than not they dismiss his advice as coming from the vampire. The plot was intriguing, weaving history and religion together with magic and mayhem for a delightfully suspenseful and complex story. Unfortunately, the goody-goody quality of some of the heroes is too over the top; there's being moral and doing the right thing and then there's being stupid and risking too much. I understood where they were coming from, but it got to be tiresome more than once. What's more there are times where the story lagged, where the balance of Glenna and Hoyt's romance and their larger mission seemed off, and where the action seemed squeezed in. More than once it seemed like Lilith's appearances and mentions were more for the sake of reminding the reader she was around than for any actual development. Overall, therefore, my opinion of the book was rather lukewarm.

Would I read this author again:
Yes - even if this book had been wretched, which it wasn't, Nora Roberts has written in so many other genres and styles that it would be utterly ridiculous to judge her whole volume of work based on but a single piece!

My rating: ☺☺/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Top 5 Sundays #36 - Series I Plan to Start in 2013!

Books are like the animal kingdom; even as new specimens evolve, there's still so many more already out there just waiting to be discovered. This week's Top 5 post is all about the future - the Top 5  Series I Plan to Start in 2013 - but as we set out to explore my goals here, I just wanted to clarify that new to me doesn't mean new to the world. It's a big, dense book orchard out there, folks, and it's not always the low hanging fruit that peeks interest and curries favour. Did that metaphor makes sense? O_o Oh, well, either way you get the idea. 

#5 - The Novels of  Jane Austen
Alright, so if you want to be technical this isn't really a series. But they are six books written by the same author that share similar (if not the same) settings, themes, and tropes. I just finished Northanger Abbey and am planning on hunting down another target in due course.

#4 - A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Do I want to read this series? Do I not? I keep going back and forth on this and quite simply can't decide. On the one hand, I like the television series well enough and if the plot of the book's even half as good (and these things tend to have the book as doubly good), it should be one hell of a read. At the very least, I want to read the first book to know if the rest are worth pursuing. And, hey, also? Wolves.

#3 - The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
So, for the record, it's not always movies and television that sparks my interest in a series but sometimes it does give the little extra push of incentive that takes a series from "Oh, that seems interesting!" to "OMG! Must find! Must find!" It helps that books has the whole "normal girl learns of not-so normal origins and finds herself drawn into conflicts of previously hidden/unknown magical world" plot device working for it.

#2 - Celestial Blues series by Vicki Pettersson

On the one hand, you've got rockabilly girl Kit Craig, an eternally optimistic and peppy reporter, and on the other hand, there's angel-turned-human Grif Shaw, an embittered former private detective whose own unsolved murder is a cold case fifty-years frozen.  And they're working together. Colour me intrigued. Plus some generous soul gifted me with a copy of the first books months ago, so really I've no excuse not to get reading this one.

#1 - Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie
So, um, remember when I said that it's not always movies and television sparking my interest? Well, I want to state for the record that my sudden desire to delve into Agatha Christie has nothing whatsoever to do with that episode of Doctor Who - "The Unicorn and the Wasp" - that featured Agatha Christie and sang her praises. No, not at all, nope. And Murder, She Wrote has nothing to do with my interest in Christie's Miss Marple series. (^_~)