Sunday, September 27, 2009

Evil at Heart: A Fast Paced, Gory Thriller

Evil at Heart is the third book in the thrilling Gretchen Lowell series. With the escape of Gretchen (from the previous book Sweetheart), the media is going crazy. There are Beauty Killer tour buses; people wear “Run, Gretchen” t-shirts; Gretchen’s face graces the cover of practically every periodical. Archie Sheridan is relaxing in the psych ward of Providence Medical Center, finally kicking his Vicodin addiction and getting help for the years of emotional and mental torture Gretchen inflicted on him. Meanwhile, eyeballs and a spleen are found at a rest stop bathroom. Then other body parts are found at former Beauty Killer crime scenes, prompting police to assume that Gretchen is back or that there’s a copycat killer on the loose. Can Archie be convinced to leave the psych ward and pursue the killer?

At the forefront of this novel is the influence of the media. Every news channel, magazine, and newspaper is running stories about Gretchen Lowell. Because of the extensive media coverage, people are seeing her as a celebrity: someone to look up to or admire. I think the media in reality is very guilty of doing this. The constant coverage of dubious figures creates interest in them and a fan base. In the novel, there are fan clubs and “I Heart Gretchen Lowell” sites, as well as a Beauty Killer manicure and look-a-like contests. I was shocked that people were going to crazy about her. Gretchen Lowell becomes part of everyone’s life because she’s everywhere, whether they like it or not. I never thought about this in the course of the first two novels, but it really makes sense. This is the aspect of the book that I found the most interesting.

Needless to say, I love this series. An insane and calculated mind like Gretchen’s really can’t be found in any other novel. Every time I try to guess what will come next, I am horribly wrong and surprised. The plot twists and turns and goes places I never expect. I love that the steampunk subculture plays a small role in this book, as well as a back suspension scene that could have been taken right out of Takashi Miike’s film Ichi the Killer. This book is a fast paced read with surprises around every corner. If you are in any way squeamish, you should probably skip this series. For the rest of us, I can’t wait to see what comes next for Archie and Gretchen.


Contagious Review

Contagious picks up shortly after Infected ended. Perry Dawsey, the only survivor of the triangle parasites, joins a government team to find and contain other people affected by these parasites. Unfortunately for his group mates, Perry is only interested in killing the affected. The government has to find the triangles constructs, destroy them, and try to get living ones to dissect without the public knowing about it and trying to prevent Perry from killing all of them. This novel is a great fast paced thriller that holds on to you and doesn’t let go.

This book features a variety of very detailed characters, including the crazy Scary Perry Dawsey, the struggling new President of the United States, and two of his rivaling aids. None of them is entirely good or evil and have their own motivations and drives. You feel for each character, no matter how annoying or psychotic they might be.

There are a couple of great additions to Contagious that did not appear in Infected. The government plays a much larger role. There is an added political angle within the president. He has to negotiate between his ideals and how to deal with the very real situation he was unwittingly thrown into. How much does he tell the American people? Are Americans citizens expendable to stop a hostile alien invasion? Another great addition to the story is the alien perspective. The alien's motives are pretty clear with this, as well as their frustration with the humans (especially Perry).

Contagious is an excellent sequel to Infected. It takes the story and its characters to the next frightening level. I highly recommend this novel.


Hatter M: Mad with Wonder

Hatter M: Mad with Wonder is the continuation of Hatter Madigan’s search for Princess Alyss in 19th century England. This graphic novel starts at the fifth year of his adventure. He hears of an exceptional young girl in the southern United States and continues his quest there. On his adventures, he encounters a circus sideshow, an insane asylum, and the Civil War. This series of graphic novels is an addition to the story in The Looking Glass Wars, not merely a retelling, like so many others are.

Hatter Madigan is one of my favorite characters from The Looking Glass War series. I enjoyed seeing other sides of him, as well as some glimpses of his childhood. He is a mysterious character and his narrative sheds more light on his character and his motivations. Not only is he constantly vigilant, but he cares very deeply for his friends and is genuinely good at heart.

The change in scenery was one of my favorite parts of the book. In The Looking Glass Wars, the story only takes place in Wonderland and Victorian England. This book takes it to the United States where the Civil War is raging, leading to a new cast of characters, a new backdrop, and a different color scheme. It kind of expanded my view on the series to encompass more of our world, instead of limiting the story.

The blending of fact and fiction made this book very magical. It had fantastical elements, but was grounded with aspects of reality. The treatments that Hatter Madigan undergoes in the insane asylum were actually used in that time period. At the insane asylum, Hatter Madigan drew a set of playing cards. At the very end of the graphic novel (please keep reading after the preview of the next book!), there’s a section called “Greetings from the Hatter M Institute for Paranormal Travel,” in which Hatter’s playing cards are found to match the original illuminated playing cards that inspired Frank Beddor to write The Looking Glass Wars! The way that fact and fiction intertwine is very unique in this series.

I loved Mad with Wonder. The ending made me wonder what happens next and made me anxious for the next book!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweetheart: A Thrilling Sequel

Archie Sheridan, the pill-popping hero cop from Heartsick, is back. He hasn’t seen serial killer Gretchen Lowell for months (after seeing her once a week for 2 years) and is trying to put his life back together with his ex-wife and his children. Then a girl’s body is found in the woods, reminiscent of Gretchen’s first victim, but this time it’s tied up with Susan Ward’s story about the Senator Castle’s past affair with 14 year old Molly Palmer. Gretchen Lowell escapes from prison and Archie is the only one who has the chance to capture her. Can he separate himself from her forever and send her back to jail?

My favorite character in this novel is Gretchen Lowell, the contemporary of Hannibal Lecter. Her prowess at manipulating people is still a big part of the story, but a softer side of her is also shown. She actually cares about Archie and maybe loves him in some twisted way. It was nice to see her a little vulnerable. She is the villain, but she’s also sort of an anti-hero. I want her to get caught, but some small part of me wants her to succeed and get away because she’s a compelling character. I can see a small glimpse of why Archie is so obsessed with her. Their relationship is more fleshed out in this novel, rationalizing her power over him.

The story is fast paced and exciting. When Gretchen calls Archie from his children’s school after she escaped, my heart was pounding. I couldn’t put this book down. The two plot lines were handled very well and resolved in interesting ways. I can’t wait for what the future holds for these characters.


Bliss Review

Bliss in the Morning Dew goes from living in a commune with her hippie parents to living in regular society with her uptight grandmother in the late 1960's. She doesn't know anything about typical society or who to trust in it. She meets Sarah Lynn, the aloof popular girl that everyone falls all over themselves for, and Sandy, a kind hearted outcast. Which one experiments on cats and is obsessed with the occult? Who should she trust? In addition to her social problems, the ghost of a girl who committed suicide keeps trying to lure her to a creepy room at her school.

The plot of the story is framed by quotes from the Manson murder trials and the Andy Griffith show. This may initially sound odd, but the quotes really capture the mood or theme of the chapter to follow. The juxtaposition of sociopathic murderers and the idealized society is very effective. The Manson murder trial quotes represent the mentality of the mysterious villain in the book. It's disturbing that people in reality can commit such atrocities and have the attitude that the Manson family did. On the other hand, the Andy Griffith quotes reveal Bliss's only reference for normal society and what to strive for.

I really liked the view of society that was used. Even though this is a young adult book, the racism of the time isn't sugar coated at all. I was genuinely shocked when young girls started spewing racial slurs and stereotypes like it was acceptable. Bliss has the same reaction because she hasn't been a part of “normal” society. There is an immediate kinship felt with Bliss.

Overall, the book was compelling. The creepy journal entries with the plot and the different quotes made a very interesting form. This book is a good introduction in to the horror genre. It isn't too scary or intense, but still holds one's attention. The main characters were multi-dimensional and believable, while some of the minor ones didn't evolve during the story at all. My big problem with the book was that I was incredibly unsatisfied with the ending.


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Infected is a complex and enjoyable novel. A devastating disease has infected only a few people so far. The infected become psychotic and paranoid, causing them to mutilate themselves and murder indiscriminately. The narrative follows Margaret Montoya and her team of doctors and CIA agents as they scramble to find living infected subjects to learn more about the disease and eventually cure it. The novel also follows Perry Dawsey from the initial infection to his descent into madness. The duality of the healer and the infected, the insane and the sane, really showcases Scott Sigler's ability to write unique and interesting characters.

This book will make you laugh and it will make you cringe with disgust. This book made me forget that I needed to eat or sleep until it was finished. The explanations and scientific observations of the disease from the spore stage to the mature stage are astonishingly detailed and believable. When reading this novel, I couldn't help but think of World War Z, with the unique character voices, or the film The Signal, with its unique look at insanity. I'm curious to see how widespread the disease will get in the next novel in the series (Contagious) and how society will handle it.


Severance: Morbidly Poetic

“After decapitation, the human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one half minutes.”

“In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute.”

Using these two concepts, Butler writes a short story for each decapitated victim using only 240 words. Little to no punctuation was used, which made it slightly uncomfortable for me to read. The language, however, is very descriptive and poetic.

I was impressed at the cast of characters, fictional and factual, that Butler chose to write about. These characters included a dragon, Marie Antoinette, Medusa, a chicken, and even the author himself. Some of the characters were beheaded by accident, like John Martin, a boy who was “decapitated by subway after lifting sidewalk grate and falling onto the tracks below.” Others were beheaded as punishment, most notably from the French Revolution. Each of these mini-narratives had an individual voice, unique to each character. Just by the language, you could tell what their education was, their place in history, and their culture.

My favorite passage was that narrative of Pierre-François Lacenaire, “criminal and memoirist, guillotined for murder, 1836.” He described the guillotine as his fiancée, very eloquently. “…all her thin body is rouged for me, all but her bosom which is naked and unadorned, polished bright…” This unlikely juxtaposition was the most poetic and descriptive of all the stories.

Overall, this compilation of short stories was well written and strangely compelling. It was a very short, yet enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone with a morbid streak.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)

Sucks to be Me is the delightful narrative of Mina Hamilton, a snarky teen with a big decision to make: whether or not to join the ranks of the secretive vampires. She has to deal with a lot of issues, both normal and supernatural, including boy problems, vampire school, regular school, and prom! Imagine, having to make a life changing decision in a month with only your parents, your eccentric Uncle Mortie, and Grandma Wolfington (AKA Ms. Riley, vampire teacher) for guidance.

Mina is the definitive teenager, complete with gross outs and swoons over boys. She is instantly likeable from page one, with her insightful and funny outlook on life. She alludes to pop culture vampire lore like the Stephenie Meyer novels and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles throughout the novel. Also, Mina’s English class reads Dracula in the course of the novel, and she is outraged at how vampires and even women are portrayed in the novel. (I personally totally agree with her and think it’s a completely overrated novel.) The vampires are shrouded in secrecy, but are pretty normal underneath it all. Kimberly Pauley really reinvents vampire legend in a unique and fun way, not caving in to typical expectations.

Despite the comedic elements of the novel, there are some real issues underneath. When someone makes any decision in their lives, they need to make it for themselves, not their boyfriend or parents or their peers. This can translate to anyone, anywhere, in any situation. The novel also illustrates the importance of family: not just blood relatives, but the people that are most important to us in our lives.

This novel was cute, light, and funny mixed with a dash of seriousness and angst. I hope this is the first in a series.


Vampires that Terrify: The Strain

The Strain is a story of terrifying vampires threatening to overtake the world. With all the influx of vampire romance stories, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Twilight, the romanticized, sexy version of vampires has risen into popularity. This novel brings back the inhuman, frightening vampires, whose only interest in the human body is for food and transmitting the virus. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan created a wonderful novel to strike fear in our hearts and make us, once again, fear vampires.

The characters are extremely diverse, from an aged Holocaust survivor and a CDC employee to a young Mexican gangster and a vapid socialite. This not only shows the talent of the writers in creating believable and different characters, but the diversity of New York and the magnitude of the vampire disease. The descriptions made me immerse more into the story. It made the pacing slow a bit, but the trade off is worth it. It made me feel as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a book.

As I mentioned before, the vampirism was caused by a disease that completely changes or destroys the structures in the human body. It is so refreshing to finally see a different take on vampires, away from the dark, brooding, romanticism of recent series. The CDC characters and the details of what was happening internally were similar to Scott Sigler's Infected and Richard Preston's The Cobra Event, which are some of my favorite books. If you like books about diseases, I highly recommend this book. I can't wait for the next installment!

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Guillermo del Toro at the Meltdown Comics for the launch of this book. I told him I greatly enjoyed his book and he told me to tell the world, so I am happy to say that I have done so.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jennifer's Body

My sister and I saw Jennifer's Body last Thursday (midnight showing at the Arclight in Hollywood). I was really excited to see it. I love campy, cheesy, funny horror with gobs and gobs of blood and gore. Reality, alas, did not live up to my expectations.

Here is the summary from
Nerdy, reserved bookworm Needy and arrogant, conceited cheerleader Jennifer are best friends, though they share little in common. They share even less in common when Jennifer mysteriously gains an appetite for human blood after a disastrous fire at a local bar. As Needy's male classmates are steadily killed off in gruesome attacks, the young girl must uncover the truth behind her friend's transformation and find a way to stop the bloodthirsty rampage before it reaches her own boyfriend Chip.

The film was ok, but I had much higher expectations. The dialog was insipid and extremely pleased with itself. It nauseatingly basked in its own clever juices. I was laughing mostly because I couldn't believe that certain piece of dialog had made it into the movie. Real teenagers would not be caught dead speaking like that.

As Fangoria points out, any hot actress could be interchanged in the title role. Jennifer before and after the demonic possession really didn't act any different apart from eating males from her class. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel sorry for her, but I definitely didn't. The character is brainless and bland.

I have no idea why this movie is rated R. There really isn't very much blood (which made me sad) and there is no nudity (much to many a fanboy's chagrin). There is an extremely gratuitous kiss between the two female leads that didn't actually mean anything at all. If you're going to have a kiss like that, at least let it have further implications in the film somewhere.

Overall, the film was disappointing. I read the accompanying graphic novel, which gave the back stories of all the boys that were killed and the events leading up to their deaths. I really liked it and couldn't wait for the movie afterwards. I think the biggest failing of the film was the dialog written by Diablo Cody. I hope Breathers: A Zombie's Lament based on the S.G. Browne novel is better.

Heartsick Review

Heartsick is a riveting, exciting, and suspenseful book. If you like movies like Silence of the Lambs, I can almost guarantee you will like this book. Archie Sheridan is a good and dedicated cop. However, his life in shambles because he was tortured by the notorious Beauty Killer, Gretchen Lowell, and was forever changed by the experience. He pops pills and is pretty much obsessed with the woman who tortured him. A new serial killer, the After School Strangler, is on the loose, targeting young girls with the same features. Archie comes out of his retirement to lead the team to stop him. Can Archie pull it together to save the next girl from being a victim?

A relationship such as Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan's has not been seen since Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. Gretchen and Archie's relationship is intensified beyond the latter couple's because of the ten day torture he suffered at her hands. Archie is an honorable, but traumatized cop. He has a drug abuse problem, much like Dr. House. Because of his fixation on Gretchen and substance abuse, he has lost his family, his wife, his friends, and pretty much his whole life as he once knew it. Archie is a likable character, despite his many flaws, and you truly want him to figure out the case and detach himself from Gretchen.

Gretchen is a fascinating character. She is a very prolific serial killer. She is unpredictable in both her mood and action. She literally influences almost every aspect of the plot from her cell in jail. Even the third person narrative that oscillates between Archie and Susan, his shadow reporter, passes over Gretchen, enhancing her mystery. Every scene with her was enjoyable for me because I just didn't know what to expect from her, whether she would smile and be sweet or completely tear down a person and leave them a quivering mass of nerves.

Heartsick is a riveting tale, featuring a suspenseful plot, complex characters, and (of course) murder, using fluid and easy language. I can't recommend this book enough. Whenever I read it, I just can't put it down.


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Silver Kiss

Zoë is a pretty normal teenage girl, except for the fact that her mother is dying of cancer. It has made her grow up very fast, assuming responsibilities not typically expected of others her age. She is also kind of a loner. It's hard to have friends when they don't know how to talk to you or how to act around you because of tragedy. Simon is a tortured, but alluring vampire, driven by revenge for his mother's death. These two lonely souls meet up and join forces against an evil force that is killing unsuspecting young women in a horrific way.

I remember really liking this book as a child. It generated my interest in the vampire genre that has flourished ever since (as you can see from my library). Upon rereading it as an adult, I found that I still liked it, but not nearly as much as my younger self. The plot is pretty predictable and cliché at times. Girl meets and falls in love with vampire. Vampire hates his own existence, mopes, and wants to eat girl. There are so many teen vampire books out there with similar plots. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the cheesier lines and predictable points in the plot. I also felt that the character development was a little slow, making me connect later with the characters than I would like.

Still, I feel that this book is special, despite its flaws. I really like that there is a fantastical plot line alongside a very realistic plot line. The juxtaposition of the two grounds it a little more in reality and makes the characters more believable. The Silver Kiss is more gory and horrific than most other books in the teen vampire genre, which makes my inner horror fan happy. Plus, the ending is beautiful and still brings tears to my eyes.

This book has gore, horror, romance, and action. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of other teen vampire novels.


Helluva Halloween Challenge

I am accepting Misty's Helluva Halloween Challenge! I love all things Halloween, so I couldn't pass up the chance to read books, watch movies, and write reviews of all things supernatural, horror, and generally spooky. There are no set rules, so join in on the fun! This challenge runs from now to October 31.

What Are You Reading Mondays 3

Bleh! I'm still reading Alice I Have Been from last week. I'm really enjoying it, but I have so much school work that I haven't really been able to read it. I really want to know what happens! I will be posting a review of this book and Hatter M Volume 2 when school work decides to slow down a bit

This is what I read this past week:
* Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
and that's all :(

Books coming up!
* Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
* Dark Visions #3: The Passion by L.J. Smith
and hopefully some more. I hope to get started on my RIP IV challenge some time soon.

Upcoming events
I'm so excited about some events coming up soon!
* The First Annual Long Beach Comic-Con is going to be at the Long Beach Convention Center on October 2-4. I'm going on Saturday October 3 with my boyfriend to see Kirby Krackle, Steve Niles, the Robot Chicken panel, and a screening of Trick r Treat (I've been waiting for this movie for over a year!!).
* The West Hollywood Book Fair is going to be on October 4. Many great authors are going to be there, such as E. Van Lowe, Amber Benson, Seth Grahame-Smith, Francesca Lia Block, and S.G. Browne.
* At the Borders in Torrance on October 7, Scott Westerfeld and Sarah Rees Brennan will be signing. I have wanted to meet Scott Westerfeld ever since I started reading the Uglies series, plus Leviathan looks awesome. My favorite of his books is Evolution's Darling, an adult sci-fi novel. My sister loves Sarah Rees Brennan, but unfortunately can't go with me because of work. Sarah's novel The Demon's Lexicon looks really great and I can't wait to read it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBAW Reading Meme

I saw this on Alea's blog and decided to steal it.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

I like to read while I eat meals or eat snacks. I pretty much read at every opportunity. My favorite reading snack is yogurt.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I only mark in books for school. Writing in my other books is a horrific notion.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?

I use Magic Cards for bookmarks. They are the perfect size and shape.

Laying the book flat open?


Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Mostly fiction, but the occasional nonfiction is ok.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard copies and eBooks for my eReader

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

I can put a book down at any point, but if I really need to know what happens, I'll keep reading and forget to eat and sleep.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Nope. Then I usually forget what the word was.

What are you currently reading?

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

What is the last book you bought?

Crashed by Robin Wasserman

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I usually read a couple of books for pleasure at a time, plus school reading.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

I like to read during the day in the comfy recliner chair in my living room. It's peaceful because no one else is home and my kitty sits with me. :)

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Both are good.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Watchmen by Alan Moore

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

There's really no sort of organization. I just put them wherever they fit. I have 2 bookcases plus books on top of the bookcases, on top of my desk, and on my keyboard

Monday, September 14, 2009

Frank Beddor and ArchEnemy

First, I want to say that Frank Beddor is one of my favorite authors. This is not only because he writes enjoyable novels (which he does), but also because he reaches out to his fans and is generally a nice person. When I got an advance reader copy of ArchEnemy from San Diego Comic-con, Frank Beddor wanted me to send the review to him. I devoured the book quickly and sent him the review, thinking I wouldn't really get a response based on previous experiences with other authors. I was so surprised when he not only sent the review to his entire contact list, but he sent me a copy of the graphic novel, Hatter M Vol. 2: Mad with Wonder (to be released in October). I recently saw Frank Beddor at the Mission Viejo Book Fair and saw his wonderful presentation for The Looking Glass Wars. It was exciting, funny, and made all the kids there go out and buy his books. Go check out The Looking Glass Wars series if you haven't already!

My ArchEnemy review:

ArchEnemy is the exciting conclusion to The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy. Wonderland is left without the power of imagination after King Arch's Weapon of Inconceivable Loss and Massive Annihilation has rendered the Heart Crystal powerless. If imagination is destroyed, it is also destroyed on Earth. Now Queen Alyss and her loyal followers have to restore the power of imagination, repress the uprising of the Unimaginative, figure out the motives of the enigmatic caterpillar oracles, and defeat Redd Heart and King Arch. The events to follow are suspenseful, riveting, and utterly unexpected.

This series is a rich and original re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland. It blurs genre lines and is unlike any other series out there. The world Frank Beddor has created is incredibly detailed and complete. In this fantastical world, imagination is a real and tangible force, from which great and terrible things can be created. One of the things I love about this book is in this fantasy world, there is great darkness and realism. The main characters have to deal with real life issues such as genocide, misogyny, racism, and torture. These aspects put this series above many others in the young adult genre.

I feel very much for these characters. I have read them in my childhood and now I see these well-loved characters in markedly different roles. I like that the plot is very unpredictable. There is never an easy or obvious solution to their problems. It's like watching a chess match between four different players (Alyss, Redd, Arch, and the Caterpillars). The tactics they choose are interesting, whether they opt to ally together even though they are enemies or battle alone. The alternating plot lines between important groups of characters are a very effective form for this story. This concept allows the story to follow each aspect of the plot, while creating suspense and interest in each thread of the story.

ArchEnemy was a perfect conclusion to one of my favorite series. If you enjoy fantasy novels or Alice in Wonderland, I highly recommend The Looking Glass Wars series.

What Are You Reading Mondays 2

It's Monday! This is what I read in the past week:

* Equus by Peter Shaffer
* Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
* The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier
Books I plan to read in the next week:
* Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
* Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
* Dark Visions 3: The Passion by L.J. Smith
and I have no idea what else. I have a to read list about a mile long and have recently bought a whole bunch of books I want to read right now. I guess we'll see!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In My Mailbox

This week was a nice week for me book-wise.

I got:

* Hatter M: Mad with Wonder directly from the author, Frank Beddor, as a thank you for my review for Archenemy (which I will be posting soon).
* Crashed at a Borders. I really loved the first one and I hope the second is as good or better.
* Alice I Have Been ARC from Vera at Luxury Reading.
* Dexter by Design at Barnes and Noble. I've been waiting for this one for a while!
* The Forest of Hands and Teeth from Velvet at vvb32 reads. Thank you!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Catching Fire

Catching Fire starts where The Hunger Games leaves off. Katniss and Peeta have to go on tour and act deliriously in love with each other. They have to convince the Capitol and President Snow that the outcome of the Hunger Games was an act of love, not a subversive act of rebellion. However it was meant, the effect reverberates throughout the districts, whether they view the couple as star-crossed lovers or rebel icons. Is Katniss’s façade convincing enough and how long will she have to keep it up? Also, what other horrors is the next Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, going to bring?

When I read The Hunger Games, I liked it, but considered it a watered down version of Battle Royale. Catching Fire, however, elevates the series for me and leaves Battle Royale in the dust. This novel shows what happens after the Hunger Games are over. If you think the victors are safe and the trouble is over, you are very, very wrong.

The tour that takes Peeta and Katniss to the other districts illuminates the drastic difference between the rich and poor districts. The setting for the novel is in the future, so these people have many more luxuries and technology than we have. The Capitol is the height of luxury. Its inhabitants have shallow, materialistic worries and have more food than they know what to do with. At parties, it’s typical to see people induce vomiting multiple times to stuff themselves with more of the extravagant food. They have no idea about the hardships the other districts deal with every day. These districts are the polar opposite of the Capitol. If I hadn’t known the setting for the novel, I would have thought that the poorer districts were stuck back in time, being deprived of the luxuries of our own time. It’s shocking to me that despite all their amenities and technological advances that people are still left to starve or die from very curable afflictions.

This book is much more brutal than the last. Because of Peeta and Katniss’s gesture, the police are overpowering the more rebellious districts with beatings, torture, and even killings. I was on the edge of tears for most of the novel, but I was pleased to see a young adult novel push the envelope far beyond what I thought possible. President Snow is one of the cruelest characters I have ever encountered in literature. I was so surprised by the twists and turns of the plot and eventually just gave up trying to predict what was going to happen. The shocks just keep coming, right up to the very last page. I highly recommend this novel and I can’t wait for the next one!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Zombie Wednesday!

It's now time for Zombie Wednesday! I am now refreshed and not all burned out on zombies like I was last week. (I think I broke something...) To ease back into it, I'm going to start out light, with an iPhone game.

When I first saw this article for Zombies vs. Sheep, I just laughed hysterically for about 5 minutes. No, the sheep don't fight against the zombies, but you have to protect the sheep against the zombies. (Unlike Plants vs. Zombies, where the plants protect you from the zombies.) I don't really know why they want to eat your sheep, but they really, really do. The game play is very simple: tap to shoot and shake to reload. The style is a Mexican-themed shooting gallery, which is kinda weird. The zombies get progessively harder as it becomes night and of course there are some zombie bosses. But you can also upgrade your sheep (which sounds really funny; I wonder how this happens?) and your ammo and so on. I haven't seen the game play for this in action, but it looks really cute and funny. perfect for filling time spent waiting around at school for your next class. You can buy it for you iPhone or iPod Touch for 99 cents in the iTunes Store.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mondays and RIP IV Challenge

I've decided to join in on this What Are You Reading on Monday thing. You can join in the fun here.

So, this last week I have finished:
* Jennifer's Body by Rick Spears
* The Sandman: World's End by Neil Gaiman
* The Zen of Zombie by Scott Kenemore

Currently Reading or About to Read:
* Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
* The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier (for my Music and Literature class)
* Equus by Peter Shaffer (for my Mythology and the Stages of Life class)
* Dark Visions #2: The Possession by L.J. Smith

What are all you guys reading right now?

I have also decided to join another challenge: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IV! I am taking on Peril the First: Read 4 books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose. I haven't chosen any specific books, but I will definately review them all and share them with you here. Have a great Labor Day!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Zen of Zombie

Are you unsatisfied with your life? Have you read ever self help book out there an still haven't achieved the success of their beautiful, smiling authors? Well, you're in luck. Achieve a state of zen and all the success you want by emulating zombies. Scott Kenemore, in his revolutionary self-help book The Zen of Zombie, lists all the attributes and characteristics of zombies that can help you with the reasoning behind it. Then, in the second half of the book, guides you through a 12 week process in which to take on these characteristics so that you can become the person you want to be.

Don’t listen to all the slander of the media, saying that zombies are mindless creatures who must be destroyed. Zombies are to be envied. Their extreme focus and drive is often mistaken for mindlessness. Don’t you wish you could go after something as intently as a zombie going after brains? Zombies have it worse than any other group. What other group gets attacked, verbally and physically, instantly without any repercussions? Zombies don’t let this get them down.

Scott Kenemore is hilarious. Every page is funny and stays to the point. I learned about how I can apply his theory to many situations in my life: in my job, my love life, and my life in general. I have never read a book where being a zombie or zombie-like was a positive. He covered all types of zombies: slow moving, higher functioning, fast moving, etc. My favorite part of the book is when he reasoned that Jesus is a zombie. I know many people might be offended by this, but it’s really funny. Have a sense of humor about your faith once in a while. Plus he has a point.

The Zen of Zombie is a great addition to anyone’s zombie library. I would recommend this to anyone with a sense of humor.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Diary of the Dead

Jason Creed is filming a horror movie when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. The crew returns to their college to find chaos and Jason's girlfriend, Debra. They don't really know what to do, so they head to Debra's home to find her family. On the way, they have to fight through the undead and figure out how to survive. All the way, Jason is obsessed with recording their story so that others might be helped.

I don't know why so many people didn't like this movie. It wasn't an A+ in my book, but I consider it a decent zombie film. The movie filmed in the Blair Witch shakey camera style. I normally don't like this style, but there are a few exceptions, like this and Quarantine. The quality of the camera makes sense since they were in the process of making a film, unlike Cloverfield that was supposed to be on some random camcorder. Sometimes dropping the damn camera and helping your friends is much more helpful than just standing and filming, but the characters don't seem to think so. Also, the wannabe Sarah Connor voice over gets a little old.

The characters encounter a variety of different conflicts, including zombies (obviously), backstabbing friends, crazy friends, dying batteries, and bullying military men. I like that the zombies are slow, not super fast with cheetah sounds like in the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Fast zombies just never made sense to me. The muscles and joints would atrophy so fast that they would run for a short time and then spend the rest of the time crawling on the floor. But that's just my theory.

This film is a lot better than most people make it seem. It's a great addition to zombie canon. I'm looking forward to George A. Romero's next film, Survival of the Dead.

Planet Terror

Planet Terror is half of the Grindhouse collaboration between Quentin Tarintino and Robert Rodriguez. These two films are an homage to the double features that played in grindhouses. This is the better movie of the two in my opinion. Here's the summary from After an experimental bio-nerve gas is accidentally released at a remote U.S. military base in Texas, those exposed to the gas turn into flesh-eating, mutating zombies out to kill. An assortment of various people who include stripper Cherry, her shady mechanic ex-boyfriend Wray, a strong-willed doctor, the local sheriff, and an assortment of various people must join forces to survive the night as the so-called "sickos" threaten to take over the whole town and the world.

This movie is completely over the top and dripping with cheese. There are horrible puns, bad acting, and over the top effects. The film is digitally aged to get the look of 70s films. This coupled with pop culture references and modern technology make this film utterly unique. All of these aspects mean that this movie is so bad, it's good.

This is not your normal zombie film where people hole up in a house or a mall and barricade it against zombies. They actively fight against the zombies. Much of the film takes place on a military base and a hospital. Plus what other movie has a character with a machine gun for a leg? Watch this movie if you're in the mood for a funny cheesey gorefest and want to watch something entertaining. You won't be disappointed.

Zombie Songs Part 4

Did you think there were no more zombie songs? Well, surprise!

#1. Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie is a great zombie song. I love how his videos take inspiration from old horror movies. This one brings to mind the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the famous German silent horror film. The living dead girl is of course Sheri Moon Zombie, his wife and an actress in his films.

#2. Regga Mortis by Voltaire is a funny, cute reggae song. Voltaire has a great sense of humor and plays songs in a variety of different styles. I have never, ever hear a reggae zombie song, but there's a first time for everything. Voltaire is a great addition to any playlist because he spans genres and has so many different types of songs. Please, check him out:

An honorable mention goes to another Voltaire song: Dead Girls. I know you're probably wondering why I don't pick someone else, but I am a huge fan of his and can't get enough of his music. This song is about a guy who loves dead girls...a lot. I argue that if there were zombies, he would be happy about animated dead girls. Take a listen!

Michael Myers: Then and Now

I just went to see Halloween II with my sister and I was thinking of the new Michael vs. the old Michael. (It has to do with zombies. I promise.)

In the old Halloween movies, Michael is practically a machine. He moves with a single mindedness that is insane. He moves slowly, yet steadily towards his victims. He makes absolutely no vocal noise and exhibits no humanity at all. What does this sound like? I think he is a very large zombie. Not a zombie that eats brains, but just a walking dead person. How else could he survive being shot multiple times in the chest and falling off of a balcony? He is either a zombie or he has read The Zen of Zombie by Scott Kenemore and decided
he wanted to be as like a reanimated corpse as possible. (I'm reading the book currently and it's awesome so far. It talks about attaining zen and achieving life goals through emulating zombies.)

In the new Halloween movie, Michael is much different than I have ever seen him. I think Rob Zombie wanted to emphasize that although he commits unhuman acts, he is i
ndeed human. Michael actually made noise in this film. He didn't speak, but he would grunt with effort or pain. He has never done this before, so it was really weird for me. It was also inconsistent with the previous film. They also showed him eating which I thought was pretty unnecessary (and gross since the meal was a dead dog), but it accomplished Zombie's objective.

I find that I much prefer John Carpenter's original vision of Michael Myers. I don't think of him as human at all. Rob Zombie's film is an interesting and valid re-imagining, but it doesn't measure up to the original in my heart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Never Slow Dance with a Zombie

Margot Jean Johnson and her best friend Sybil Mulcahy are nobodies. Amanda Culpepper and the Twigettes (her mindless followers) are the bane of their existence. All Margot wants is everything on her high school manifesto to come true: be more popular than Amanda Culpepper, have a boyfriend, be invited to parties, and just eight more things she hasn't attained yet. This all changes after the school carnival when all of her classmates have turned into zombies, except Sybil. Principial Taft convinces them to pretend that eveything is ok and coexist peacefully with the zombies. Who is behind the outbreak? Should Margot try to figure out what's going on or bask in her newfound popularity?

This book is a fun, light read. It's like a mixture of Mean Girls and Night of the Living Dead. E. Van Lowe captures the voice of a teenage girl very well. Not many males really know how girls interact with each other, so this is an impressive feat. Like in Mean Girls, girls are really not nice to each other. He shows how girls can tear each other down with just words. He also shows the weird dynamic between friends, both when they get along and when they don't. The popular crowd is full of false relationships and Margot, because she idolizes those "in" people, used this model in her relationship with Sybil. At first, she is kind of petty and jealous towards Sybil (who is nice to a fault). I think it takes talent to create a likeable character who does unlikeable things. The zombie situation makes her grow as a person.

The book was filled with funny moments. I laughed out loud when one of the defenses against the undead was to rap them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. Also, the fact that they could get used to going to a school filled with zombies is just hilarious to me. The dynamic between Margot and her zombie boyfriend Dirk is creepy and funny. Even the fact that the principal practically begs Margot and Sybil to go along with his plan and they go along with it is pretty amusing.

Although on the surface, the story is funny and light, but there is a serious and important undertone. The girls are forced to blend in and not call attention to themselves to survive in the midst of zombies. To save the day, they have to break out of the cliques and do what's right. The message of the book is to do what's right for you and ignore what's cool or in. I think we need more teen books like this.



Fido is a unique zombie film. It takes place in the 50s after a cloud of radiation appeared around Earth and causes the reanimation of corpses. Zomcon and its founder invented a collar has been invented to make zombies docile for enslavement. Timmy is a little boy who is bullied and ridiculed at school. His mother is obsessed with being the perfect family (while ignoring the family's problems), and his father is obsessed with staying dead and is content to ignore his son. They decide to get a zombie (as a servant). Timmy bonds with Fido, the zombie, and finds the friend and father figure he never had. When Fido's collar malfunctions and he starts eating people, Zomcon will destroy Fido if it's found out. Can Timmy hide Fido's mistakes and keep him?

I love this movie. First of all, I love the fashion and music of the 50's. The sets and constumes are vibrant andI'm so sad that there is no soundtrack for sale. I would snatch it up in an instant. Using this era as a background really makes this movie different from others in the genre. Zombie violence provides a stark contrast to the perfect suburban neighborhoods. Second, the acting is great. Bill Connelly, although he has no lines, is the prefect Fido. He's loveable, protective, yet still creepy. Carrie Anne Moss plays Timmy's mother wonderfully. I like the layers she gave the character. Underneath her perfect exterior, she just wants to be wanted and noticed by her husband. It is a bit creepy when she find this in Fido instead. The fact that he is seen as an object makes him see the humanity in Timmy's mother, who in turn is only seen as her husband's property.

There are so many laugh out loud moments in this film: from the little song the school children are taught ("In the brain, not the chest. Head shots are the very best.") to the fact that old people are not to be trusted to Mr. Theophilus's unorthodox relationship with his zombie Tammy. There are countless great moments. It really is a feel good movie, which is weird for a zombie movie. Don't miss out on this one!


I went to see Grace with my best friend Brett at USC. Then, the movie wasn't going to have a theatrical release, so the only way I could see it before the DVD release was this free screening. It was amazing. Jordan Ladd plays Madeline, a woman who desperately wants to have a child. After she loses her husband and her child in a horrific car accident, she insists on carrying the dead child to term. She eventually gives birth to the child and it turns out to be alive! Madeline takes her home, but Grace (the baby) gets sick and won't eat. She discovers that Grace really thirsts for human blood. What's a mother to do?

This film was excellent. It's very low budget and is an independant film, but it rivals many of the studio produced movies that have come out recently. The acting is superb. Jordan Ladd captures the conflicts that this mother feels: she needs to feed her child, but at what expense? The deterioration of her character is very interesting. She starts as a confident, strong woman and breaks down because of stress and her zombie baby. It's very apparent that Madeline loves her child and would do anything for her.

One thing that is very unique to this genre is that the baby is not portrayed as a monster. It looks like a normal child, but is unresponsive to regular baby food. Most movies with a similar story line would show that the child is warped, evil, or demonized. Grace is a pretty normal child except for her diet. I still argue that she is a zombie, but a very different one than is usual.

This movie made me cringe, scream, and laugh. There were some extremely funny parts, particularly having to do with Madeline's mother in law. The car accident was very scary and sudden. It seems that airbags are evil in horror movies (as apparent in this movie and Final Destination 2).

At the screening I went to, the director, lead actress, and composer were in attendence. I found out that they had very few takes for each scene, so this made me admire the actors even more. The composer also used very modern means to come up with the music: using the unsettling buzzing of flies, the screams of children, and the creak of floorboards. The lullaby that was composed for the film was beautiful, yet unsettling.

If you get the opportunity to see this film, please see it. It's completely worth it. Support the little guy!

Deadgirl and Zombie Feminism

I'm really looking forward to the film Deadgirl. The premise sounds a bit weird and really isn't for everybody. Basically, two high school guys find a naked zombie girl tied down in the basement of an abandoned mental institution. I can see this plot going so many different ways. I wanted to see it in the theater, but I wasn't able to make it in the short time it was in the Laemmle Sunset 5 theater in Hollywood.

The one thing that really excites me about this movie is the concept of zombie feminism. The first zombie feminist was the Bride of Frankenstein when she said no to her creator and the monster she was created to be with. I know that horror movies in general aren't really known for feminism, but there are films like this out there. I love how boils down the message behind Deadgirl: " shouldn't rape women because those women might turn out to be superpowered zombies who want to eat your you-know-what." (You can read the rest of the article here: This concept really holds my interest and I hope more films follow in this trend.

Here's the IMDB page if you want to find out more about it: