Sunday, November 25, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #30 - The Books that Started Your Book Addiction!

This week's Top 5 list are those books that started my book addiction and, oh, did they ever! I was always an avid reader - I think by the time I hit grade five I had read every book in our school library and the good ones at least twice - but it was a select few that really let got me into the reading craze, allowed me to figure out what it was I was looking for in a good book, and taught me about my own tastes in reading material.

So, without further ado, my list!

#5 - Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

When the movie Queen of the Damned was released, I fell in love with Stuart Townsend's portrayal of the vampire Lestat. Naturally, like any good book nerd, I wanted to read the book the movie was based on for comparison purposes - and then meant starting at the beginning. Interview is not my favourite book is the series - Lestat is right when he says that Louis whines a lot - my favourite book is actually a tie between The Vampire Lestat and The Tale of the Body Thief. But Interview was my first step into the world of vampires; it gave me my first taste of them as something other than dracula and Buffy bad guys and really gave perspective on a species that really can live forever.

#4 - Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth
For my thirteenth birthday, one of my friends gave me a $10 gift card for Chapters and, one day after a sleepover on the way to drop me off at my dad's work, my grandfather took me to the bookstore and stood patiently near by as I picked out my book. It was my very first time buying a book for myself in the adult section; all past books having come from the Teen and Children sections. Luckily for me, it turned out to be a great book that left me wanting more! Incidentally, the next four books in this series was given to me as a Christmas gift later that year by the very same grandfather who stood by and watched me pick this out. For the memories attached to these books alone...they are priceless.

#3 - Never Ending Story by Michael Ende
I found this in my school library in grade four and read it because it looked like a challenge - I'd never read a book that long before! Its length aside, however, between its pages I found a world full of magic and adventure that gripped my imagination tight and took me on one heck of a ride. I loved how this book turned out to be a story-within-a-story - sort of the literary equivalent of Jumanji. These sorts of stories always have such a great symbolism going on - after all, what else is a book but a portal to other worlds, an escape from our reality? I especially loved how the never-ending aspect of the story played out.

#2 - The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
After reading The Never Ending Story, my grandmother suggested seeing if The Hobbit was at the library. It was, but when I went to check it out the librarian said she thought it might be a bit too hard for my reading level. I admit, after that it was a matter of pride that I not only read it, but understood it too, thank you very much. (Ha, take that, Mrs. McDonald!) I loved that the idea of someone unassuming and apparently unheroic leaving the security of the life and home he knew to go out on a quest with virtual strangers to reclaim a lost treasure, a lost heritage without any real concept of the dangers and hardships that might lie ahead. Like Bilbo would one day go on to tell his young nephew, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

#1 - The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin
Like pretty much every girl, I went from Dr. Seuss and Disney Classics to The Babysitters Club. I knew all their names (Kristy, Maryann, Stacy, Claudia, Dawn, Jessie and Mallory) and what their jobs were in the club. I even knew the order the rotation of narrators went in. I had my favourites (Maryann, with Dawn a close second) and my less-than-favourites (not a fan of Mallory and Jessie - just could not get into their perspectives). I loved that the story lines all dealt with real life issues any kid could face - Maryann having a boyfriend, Stacy coping with her diabetes, Claudia dealing with the death of her grandmother, Maryann and Dawn having their families merge, Kristy's mom remarrying and on it went. It was a great window into lives that might have been, all tied up in the bonds of friendship and teen years. It was awesome, pure and simple.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #29 - Book Series With The Best Covers Overall

When it comes to book covers, the true challenge is for its artist is to combine eye-catching beauty with subtle hints about the book's story. And then repeat the process over and over again as the series goes on. I'm a strong believer that a series should have some visual element that ties all the books together, some common theme to their cover designs that says these books are linked, they belong together - sort of like how siblings share common features, so too should books.

So, without further ado, I give you this week's (alright, so technically last week's - I was sick and I'm sorry!) Top 5 Book Series With The Best Covers Overall.

#5 - Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Each cover features Mercy, hints either at her being a mechanic or at the story, and showcases her tattoos, each time having them show something different that directly links to the story.

#4 - Jane True series by Nicole Peeler
I love the cartoon quality of these covers - each one showing Jane in a scene from the book. I know animated covers tend to get a lot of criticism - most of it because young readers get the wrong impression - but these covers are nonetheless fantastic in their own right.

#3 - Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
The general consensus for urban fantasy covers is that you can display the heroine or the hero but you can't display both - that is for romance novels. The Kate Daniels covers, however, found a nice loophole to this - no, you can't display a man and a woman on an urban fantasy cover, but you can display the heroine and her love interest provided one of them wasn't them isn't in his human form. Thus you get Kate, a glimpse of a story-relevant place in the back ground, and Curran in his lion form.

#2 - Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk

Every cover shows Allie, sometimes with her tattoos shown, sometimes with her tattoos concealed, sometimes with magic a nimbus around her, sometimes without magic, but always with a weapon in hand and a setting from the story displayed behind her.

#1 - House of Comarré series by Kristen Painter
I love that this series not only went for image, but colour scheme as well. All the books are elaborately framed in black and feature Chyrsabelle in shades of white and silver in various poses, with only one or two elements coloured bright red. Not only do these covers highlight the books' theme of light and dark, they convey the Gothic tone of the story and the historical connotations of its settings. A remarkably well done feat.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

REVIEW: Kristen Painter's Out For Blood

Book: Out for Blood

Author: Kristen Painter

Series: House of Comarré

Publishing stats: October 30th 2012 by Orbit

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb:  After nearly dying at the hands of the Aurelian, Chrysabelle finds new determination to move beyond life as a comarré. That is until the Kubai Mata bring a new task to her doorstep: rescue the child Tatiana has kidnapped, or Mal becomes enemy number one.

First line: Deep in sleep, Chrysabelle curled against a cold, steely form that paralleled her own.

What I liked: Since about five minutes into meeting each other, Chrysabelle and Mal have been dancing around loving each other. Unfortunately, they've also had more obstacles standing in their way than Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Iseult combined. Chrysabelle is newly arrived in the modern world, innocent in many respect but possessing more bravery, stubbornness and conviction than you'd expect. Mal is a twice-cursed, mad as a hatter vampire who sees himself as a monster undeserving of friendship, let alone love. It was an uphill battle to say the least, but this book finally - FINALLY - brought all that tension and dancing to fruition. He said I love you. She said I love you. Smiles, kisses, and marriage proposals followed swiftly thereafter. I love these moments, these happy little pauses, these streaks of normalcy in a story where everything else is going to hell and resolving into chaos. Yes, she's a genetically engineered geisha-et-warrior. Yes, he's an insane monster with ghost issues. Yes, the world is on the brink of war in more than one sense. But as far as Chrysabelle and Mal together are concerned, she's a girl, he's a boy, and they're in love. What can be more simple than that? 

What I didn’t like: It is my deeply held belief that cliffhangers are the single most frustrating, most diabolical, most straight out cruel literary device to ever hit a page. You spends hours immersed in a story, invested in what's happening to the characters, in what's going on in their world, and then, suddenly, all you're abruptly cut off from what happens next at what must be the most inopportune time imaginable and then expected to wait months - MONTHS - for the story's continuation to release. Drives me bonkers. I mean, okay, it's one thing when you just have to wait a handful of weeks - the first three books of this series, for instance, released at monthly intervals one after the other. It's another thing entirely when the cliffhanger is followed by a, meep, nine month wait until its resolution. So, I think it goes without saying here that Out for Blood has a cliffhanger ending.

Overall: These books tend to be rather heavy on story, alternating between multiple perspectives and storylines. The upside to this approach is that it serves to give readers a fuller and more varied view not only on the characters, but on the various circumstances and philosophies running through the plot. On the downside, readers can get impatient waiting for the narrative to rotate back to a particular storyline. Personally, when I read these books I go skip back and forth through the book to read one particular storyline at a time: first Chrysabelle and Mal, then Tatiana, then Doc and Fiona, then Creek (who I am so not happy with right now), then Lola and so on. It works for me since I'm never really one for the linear path - I almost always read the ending of a book first, for instance - but others will just have to be patient. Its narrative style aside, one of the best features of this book is the constant references it makes to the duality of light and dark. Every character, every couple, every conflict in some way represents this dichotomy. Heck, case and point: Mal, who has dark hair and is an insane, murderous vampire covered in black tattoos, loves and is loved by Chrysabelle, a blond, innocent geisha-like blood donor who bears golden signum on her skin.  Add in all of the romance, intrigue, subterfuge, tragedy and risk and you're left with one heck of an epic ride.

Would I read this author again: Yes - I want the resolution to the cliffhanger, dang it!

My rating: ☺☺☺/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at,,, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Top 5 Sundays #28 - Book Series You Wish Would Get a Spin-Off

There is nothing more bittersweet that the ending of a series. Whether the series comprises three books, five books, six, seven or nine books, it doesn't matter, more often than not the ending comes too soon. I mean, sure, the loose ends are tied up, happily ever after is achieved, and hints for the future are sprinkled about but you've also to remember that you've spent month - if not years - following this series, getting to know these characters, being invested in their adventures and then, for good or bad, all of the sudden it's over. The love triangle's resolved, the Big Bad is defeated, the lost artefact is found, the misplaced monarch ascended and yet the first thought that crosses your mind as you read that last sentence on that last page, nine times out of ten, follows along the lines of, "That's it?! That's how this ends?! NO!"

You want to know the great thing about spin-offs? They let you revisit the world and characters you love but with a fresh perspective that brings its own unique opinions and insights to all the things you thought you knew. Like with Karen Marie Moning's Dani O'Malley series or Keri Arthur's Dark Angels series, you get a wonderful combination of fresh and new  with the familiar, with enough glimpses of the former primary characters to make you nostalgic for the original series.

So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Book Series I Wish Would Get a Spin-Off.

#5 - Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow
I loved this series - Japh and Dante had a unique dynamic and even more unique relationship, not to mention that the whole take on demons and Hell was original and captivating. A while after the last book was published, Ms. Saintcrow released a short story in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance featuring Dante's ward, Liana, as the main character. A whole series elaborating on Liana's story would just be beyond awesome.

#4 - Succubus Diaries series by Jill Myles
At the end of this series, Jackie finds herself in a whole new position with a whole heap of responsibility tossed onto her shoulders. It would be great to have a spin-off for Noah, one that would give us some perspective on the new and improved Jackie while simultaneously gifting our favourite neighbourhood nephilim with his happily ever after.

#3 - Living in Eden series by Michelle Rowen
Let's be honest here, people, did anyone actually read this series and NOT wish for a Lucas spin-off? Sure, he was the Devil and all but the man was such was a sweetie! He basically had a huge neon sign above his head that all but screamed REDEEMABLE. Fingers crossed that some day, somehow, this will come to be!

#2 - The House of Comarré series by Kristen Painter

There's one more book left in this series, due to be published July 30, 2013, and already I have my fingers crossed for a spin-off. I love this world - I love the creatures and the social constructs, love the tone of the writing and the elements of good and evil, dark and light. Most especially of all, I love the characters. Mal and Chrysabelle have been through a lot and they've lost so much - it would be awesome to be able to drop in on them years down the road to see the form of their happily ever after.

#1 - The Shifters series by Rachel Vincent

The thing about this series is that it end literally minutes after the final battle. Sure, we were left with firm ideas of where the characters were heading but it would still be nice to look back in on them five years down the road to see if the destination lived up to the road signs. Given what I've seen on the forums and chats, there's seems to be particular interest in a Kaci spin-off, and who could argue with that? Would be great getting the different point of view, influenced as it would be by a different background and different world view, and seeing how the world and characters have changed given time.

Fingers crossed, people!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #27 - Favourite Halloween Themed Movies

According to Larissa's own post, this week's theme was once again a tie and, honestly, I was rather looking forward to determining my Top 5 Favorite Halloween Costumes on TV or Movies. Unfortunately, that list got as far as the season two episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer featuring Buffy as an eighteenth century noblewoman and...yeah, I drew a blank. A complete, total and absolute blank. The only other costumes that came to mind were a half-dozen different renditions of witches. It was not a pleasant brain-wracking, not at all. Let me just add that it's really for the best there was a Plan B here or it would have been either a very lonely or a very repetitive Top 5 list.  On the brighter side of things, there are a lot of Halloween movies floating around out there and every year sees them come out in full swing to fill up network television airtime for the last two weeks of October. So, needless to say, they were all fresh in my head and rearing to go. Unlike a certain other list we will hereafter never refer to again.

So, without further ado, I give you Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Favourite Halloween Themed Movies.

#5 - Halloween (1978)
Now, just to be perfectly clear here, I'm talking the original thriller starring Jamie Lee Curtis. This was one of those movies that wasn't blessed with a huge budget - it was shot in twenty-one days with a budget of only $320, 000, half of which went to pay for the cameras. The actors all had to wear their own clothes because there was no money for costume department and Michael Meyer's mask? The prop department picked up the cheapest mask they could find - which happened to be a Captain Kirk mask - painted it white, reshaped the eye holes and teased out the hair. It's not only a fantastically spooky and creepy serial killer thriller - which, incidentally, went on to spawn several sequels and was two recent remakes - it shows you exactly what a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work can accomplish. What's not to love about that? Oh, and Halloween? It grossed $47 million at US box offices alone.

#4 -  The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Say what you will about Tim Burton, but there's no question that his unique brand of film making lends itself very, very well to Halloween. I mean, heck, have you seen Beetlejuice? Corpse Bride? Alice in Wonderland? Frankenweenie? And way back in the beginning - or at least close enough to count - there was The Nightmare Before Christmas, which, okay, I admit may also qualify as a Christmas movie but seeing as how Jack hails from Halloween Town, I'm running with it. One of the best things about this movie is the stop animation, a film type that's always fascinated me. Basically, think of it like making one very long, very complicated flip book where, instead of using sketches, you're using photographs of puppets. Lots of photographs. Just imagining how long a single scene must take to film boggles the mind. And the results are amazing.

#3 - Hocus Pocus (1993)
So three witches start off the movie by successfully killing a young girl and turning her brother into a cat only to be burned at the stakes days later. Fast forward a century or two and said witches pull a come back tour only this time around they're going for all the children in the town that once made with the pitchforks. The witches are hilarious, you really get a feel for the kids' terror, the plot's it wrong that I watch this movie for the cat? He talks, his human form was Sean Murray, he does sarcasm really well and, oh yeah, he's got that whole noble/protective instinct thing going for him in spades. I love that damn cat.

#2 - The Crow (1994)
Once again, I might be sort of, kind of, technically toying with the concept of a "Halloween-theme" movie. I mean, okay, if you want to be all stone-cold on the fact front, this movie takes place on October 30. But that's almost Halloween - and it features a man resurrected by a crow to seek vengeance for his and his girlfriend's murders a year prior. If that's not Halloween-themed, I don't know what is. Plus, in a creepy case of life imitating art, Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee and star of this little cult gem, actually died in the making of this movie when a prop gun's shot wasn't as harmless as everyone thought it would be. Freaky much?

#1 - Casper (1995)
A house is haunted by three wild, bad mannered ghosts and the ghost of a young boy whose father discovered how to restore ghosts to life. There's a Ghostbusters cameo, a villainess, an impossible romance, and a happy ending - more or less. Sure, there's a deep sadness permeating the whole movie, but there's also a lesson to it, several in fact, and when it comes right down to it, what more could a girl for? I love Casper in all of his incarnations - the tragedy of his life gets me every time, but the happiness and love that eventually fills his just makes me wish his dad could've haunted along with him.

And there you have it, this week's Top 5 and, hey, take note - it's actually Sunday this time!