October 31, 2009

OcTuber Fest: Halloween Horror Nights 2009 Winner

A short film competition held by Universal Studios: Halloween Horror Nights has a winner for this year. It's called "Bedfellows" and was made by Drew Daywalt. Check it out.



Rabid Rewind: "Bubba Ho-Tep"

Title: Bubba Ho-Tep
Starring: Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis
Directed by: John Coscarelli
Originally Released: 2002
Genre: Horror/Comedy

I'm not sure how readily available this cult hit is in your neck of the woods, but I had a heck of a time tracking it down. Mind you, it wasn't on my radar again until very recently, but I was wondering if I'd ever get to watch it.

And that's the thing with Bruce Campbell's movies; if you don't have cable or satellite with a slew of specialty channels, chances are you're not gonna see it on TV. I don't subscribe to NetFlix or Blockbuster either, so that's out the window. But, I can thankfully count on my library to lend me a copy. Odd, that, considering horror movies are not exactly plentiful in my local libraries catalog of available movies.

So, back in September I borrowed Bubba Ho-Tep, ready to enjoy some good old-fashion Bruce Campbell goodness. After 90 minutes, I had to accept the fact that this was not the Bruce Campbell I had come to know and love through the Evil Dead series. Not to say I didn't enjoy this movie--I did--but there's this aura about the guy, this charisma that's unmistakable. Here, Bruce Campbell disappeared, and he actually gave a damned good version of Elvis Presley.

I may have lost those of you, just now, who have never heard of this movie. Long story, short: Elvis is alive, an old man now and laid up in a rundown nursing home in east Texas. Fed up with the drugs, fame, and all the b.s. of being the "King of Rock," he traded places with an Elvis impersonator--a "Prince and the Pauper" sort of thing. Only the impersonator died on the toilet and the King got stuck living the life of obscurity, though he made peace with that.

Okay, that's where the story starts. A bit weird right off the bat, but it doesn't take long for it to get a whole lot weirder. Elvis' best friend, Jack, played by the incomparable Ossie David, is President John F. Kennedy. Though, no one truly believes he's really Kennedy except him, since Kennedy was assassinated ... and
Kennedy wasn't black. Jack's explains it all to Elvis with a conspiracy theory that would make Glenn Beck shake his head in disbelief.

Weird enough for you yet? How about a resurrected mummy stranded in east Texas, dressed in cowboy garb, and sucking the souls of his elderly victims--he stalks the old age home for his easy prey--through whatever orifice proves most convenient at the time ... and he leaves hieroglyphic graffiti in the men's room.

Now things are getting weird.

The movie's based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, which was the driving reason for me to start looking for this movie again, since I've yet to read any of Lansdale's work. If this is what his imagination comes up with, then I definitely need to find one of his novels or short story collections.

The movie is low budget, but they make the most of what they have to work with. There seems to be an affection put into the production of this movie, something sorely lacking in the standard Hollywood fare. And to see the peculiar pairing of Campbell and Davis on screen is too good to pass up.

Apparently, Hollywood wasn't keen on the story because it dealt with two protagonists that weren't teenagers or twenty-somethings. Fearing no one would want to see the movie, unable to empathize with the characters because of some immeasurable generation gap. Go figure. I think my thirty-something age gives me away as the opposite, since I'll watch this movie over and over again--a smile upon my face the whole time--rather than sit through an insufferable performance from Shia Labeouf or Ashley Tisdale.

The story feels a bit slow at first, but it's kind of necessary in order to introduce the characters and make them believable and relatable. And the comedy elements really help to temper the scenes lacking suspense or action.

If you're in the mood for something outside the mainstream, defies genre, and earn some bragging points for watching a soon-to-be cult classic, I say you ought to give Bubba Ho-Tep a try. It may just surprise you.

October 30, 2009

Book Trailer: "The Gentling Box"

Very soon I will be receiving a review copy of Lisa Mannetti's The Gentling Box from the award-winning author, herself--Thanks, Lisa--so to get in the mood for this haunting tale even more I spied the book trailer on YouTube, hosted by the publishers Dark Hart Press.


Rabid Reads for Halloween: "Psycho" by Robert Bloch

Title: Psycho
Author: Robert Bloch
Publisher: First Tor edition (1989); originally published in 1959
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Pages: 223
ISBN 0-812-50031-8
Can. ISBN 0-812-50032-6

If you're like me, you're far more familiar with Alfred Hitchcock's iconic film than the novel upon which it was based. It's just one of those films that has transcended genre classification and has permeated through American pop culture. If you ever hear a violin hitting those piercing, slashing notes, your mind instantly envisions the shower scene and that shot of the butcher knife thrusting down repeatedly. There's good reason why people count this among their favorite horror/suspense movies, or favorite movies in general.

Well, this fall I wanted to concentrate my reading list on some of the classic pieces of horror literature that've been sitting on my bookshelf. Psycho was the oldest one of the eight books I highlighted on my fall reading list (you can see my fall reading list here). It's also one of those books that any fan of dark fiction should read at least once in their lives, whether you loved the movie or not.

The story should be familiar to all in this day and age. Mary Crane is in a job she doesn't like, working for a man she can't really stand, and on a Friday afternoon she's nearly at her wit's end. Then, she's tasked with taking forty thousand dollars in notes to be deposited in the bank before she heads home early for the weekend. Remember, this is the late '50s and forty grand is some serious coin. Well, the dollar signs go off in her eyes, and she sees a new life with the man she loves, Sam Loomis. But, before she gets to him, bad weather and a detour through a neglected patch of highway leads her instead to the Bates Motel.

Norman Bates, the proprietor of the motel, is the quintessential loner. Looking after both a forgotten motel and his domineering mother, Norman leads a quiet and secluded life. Hardly anyone comes to the motel now that the new stretch of highway bypasses them entirely, and he's both lonely in his position and resentful for being placed in such a position. So, when Mary Crane arrives on a rainy night looking for a room and a hot meal, he's all too eager to accommodate her, even though his interactions with women other than his mother are very rare. Things go along pleasantly enough between the two, but before long ...

Well, need I remind any of you of the iconic shower scene?

To read the book for the first time, it's easy to see how Alfred Hitchcock could be inspired to create such a chilling piece of film. There's a tone to the story that carries through almost from the very first page. The story plays out at first with a very contemporary feel, but as soon as Mary Crane is murdered, you start to see the inner turmoil in Norman Bates' life. There's also the matter of Mary's lover, Sam, and her sister, Lila, trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance and the missing forty thousand dollars. It came close to feeling like a hard-boiled detective novel, but there's such a demented slant provided by Norman Bates that the novel takes on a life all its own.

For people who have seen the movie, I say there is more than enough material in this surprisingly short novel to give readers something to chew on. The foreboding atmosphere alone is reading just to admire it. And if you were unfortunate to see the wholly unnecessary remake starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche, then you absolutely must see the original film and read this novel too--you'll need something to get the bad taste out of your mouth.

Ultimately, Psycho is not one of my favorite films or novels, but I appreciate the story as one of the most skillfully crafted pieces of fiction to grace the silver screen and the printed page. If you've never experienced the twist ending, you've been living under a rock, but you're also in for a real treat. And if I had experienced this with absolutely no preconceptions, I may have been swayed to count it among my all-time favorites as well.

October 29, 2009

A Couple of Book Blog Contest Links

I'm still hunting down books when I get the chance. This week, there are a couple contests going on that have caught my eye.

The Story Siren is hosting one where there will be two winners: One receives Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and a double-sided Hush, Hush poster; another receives a double-side Hush, Hush poster. The contest is open to everyone and ends on December 8th.

And Bloggers Heart Books is hosting a contest where the winner will have a choice of any book listed. Lanna Lovely has included a fair variety of titles to choose from if you're lucky enough to win. The contest is open to US, Canada, UK, and Australia, and ends on November 6th.

Luxury Reading, a new discovery for me today, is hosting a contest in which two winners will each receive a copy of Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, coinciding with Pearl's blog tour. The contest is open to US and Canada, and ends on November 4th.

You can also find a bunch of links to various contests on my sidebar, on the right-hand side.

Rabid Reads for Halloween: "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman

Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman; with illustrations by Dave McKean
Publisher: Harper Collins (2002)
Genre: Children's
Pages: 162
ISBN 0-380-97778-8
ISBN 0-06-623744-0 (lib. bdg.)

Neil Gaiman, is there anything you can't do?

It only took one book, Anansi Boys, to turn me into a Gaiman fan. I've since had the pleasure of reading American Gods, Stardust, Marvel Comics;' 1602, and caught a few glimpses at Sandman comic books (haven't had a chance to read one in its entirety, though). The man knows how to spin a yard as well or better than just about anyone I can think of.

With Coraline, we're whisked into the world of a young girl who has just moved with her parents into an apartment, which is a section of a very large, and very old house. Her parents ignore her, her neighbors insist on calling her "Caroline" instead of "Coraline," and there is nothing to do. That is, until she discovers a door in the one room where she isn't supposed to go.

In the room that's a repository of sorts for her late grandmother's furniture and belongings, there's a door that opens to a brick wall. On the other side is an empty apartment, the one empty apartment in the whole house. That brick wall disappears, however, when Coraline is alone, opening instead to another apartment in another world. There, she meets her "other mother."

Everything she wants to do, she can do. Everything she wants to eat, she can eat. And her other parents are so much more fun to be around. There's just that peculiar thing nagging at Coraline--her other parents, and everyone in this strange world have buttons for eyes. And if Coraline wants to stay, she has to sew buttons into her eyes too.

It's at this point in the story where the facade peels away and Coraline starts to see her other mother for who she really is. And who she really is is a very cold, and very conniving monster that wants to trap Coraline in her world, and will do anything to make that happen.

Even though I am in my thirties, I still love reading a book that can make me feel like a kid again. Neil Gaiman accomplished that with this book. In a little more than 150 pages, he tells a story that plucks at the heartstrings of anyone who wished as a child for a more fantastical setting in which to live life and, above all else, explore. Coraline is an explorer at heart, and it is through this--not to mention the help of a talking cat and a few other allies--she is able to face her fears and "beat the dragon."

If you're concerned this may be too dark a tale to have your little ones read, relax. The subject matter may be dark, but it's nothing a kid can't handle. And if the reaction to the film based on this book is any indication, kids and kids at heart will love with story.

I sure did.

You can find a couple of other reviews for this book at: The Maiden's Court; Boys Blogging Books; A Maze of Books.

October 28, 2009

Rabid Reads for Halloween: "Dead Until Dark" by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Books (media tie-tin), a division of Penguin Books (2008); originally published by Penguin (2001)
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Pages: 292
ISBN 978-0-441-01699-0

I can't recall at the moment if I signed up for a book blog reading challenge in which participants had to read all currently published Sookie Stackhouse novels by the time the newest one hits store shelves sometime in 2010. I saw it posted in the summer, I know that much, and is part of the reason why I've been waiting all summer to sit down and read the first book in the series. That, and people said, "If you liked Twilight, you'll love Sookie." And, the response to the HBO series it inspired, True Blood, has been very positive.

I guess I wasn't the only one looking for this book because I had to wait months in a library queue before I could get my hands on it. And now that I've read it, if I did sign up for that reading challenge, I don't think I'm going to see it through.

Now don't get me wrong. I liked this book, though it took a few chapters to get into the swing of things.

The story's told through the eyes of Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town waitress in Louisiana with little by way of a social life thanks to her troublesome ability to read people's thoughts. Then she meets one guy who rolls into town whose mind she can't read. She falls for the guy even though he's a vampire named Bill.

While the quirky love story is carrying on--one I found so much more endurable than that of Twilight's lovebirds--there is also a rash of murders happening in the area. People are dropping like flies, and it looks more and more to the townsfolk that it could be Bill. The whole "we don't take kindly to your kind" vibe is prevalent throughout the story. And Vampire Bill's past is coming back to haunt both him and Sookie, as vampires become more and more visible.

Charlaine Harris did a darned good job in joining a mystery with a romance with a fantasy. I'd love to get a look at her pitch line, because the premise just sounds so far out of left field, agents and editors probably did a double-take. That being said, when I finished the story I didn't find myself itching to read the second novel, Living Dead in Dallas. Overall, the story is good with a strong start and a good finish, but I thought the middle kind of dragged a bit. It wasn't slow or lacking action--like I said, plenty of people get killed or at least bitten--but I felt the story lost a little focus on which genre it wanted to be. While she writes it all well enough, I felt the crossed genres conflicted some ... or that's just my personal prejudice rearing its head.

I will say that folks who do love Twilight and haven't read this probably should, as it has a better pace (i.e., faster) and the characters feel more three-dimensional, as does the setting. Personally, I'm not swearing off the series, as I really did like the Sookie character, but it will probably be a while before I get around to it. The idea that there are six or seven more books out there in this series to be read, and likely more on the way, it almost seems daunting to a cat like me who isn't as emotionally invested as others.

Another place to read a review for this book, one I keep on my blogroll, can be found here: Melissa's Bookshelf. Plus there are reviews at Today's Adventure and Ink and Paper.

Wish List Wednesday #18: "Hellbound Hearts"

I haven't read enough of Clive Barker's work yet to call myself an aficionado, but I am a fan of his works that I have read. So, to hear there is an anthology of short stories out based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, and the Hellraiser films, I became interested. After seeing the list of contributing authors for this anthology, I was sold.

Edited by Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan, the book even includes a foreword from Clive Barker. Inside there are 21 stories written by such notable authors as Sarah Langan, Kelley Armstrong, Tim Lebbon, and a graphic piece by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (McKean also did artwork for Gaiman's Coraline).

I've really begun over the last couple of years to appreciate themed anthologies such as this, as I used to only read short story collections compiled of a single author's work. Even with the supposed restrictions of working in someone else's playground, especially one of Clive Barker's caliber, I suspect each and every auther has produced a story with remarkable depth and clarity. If Paul Kane and Maire O'Regan managed to get Barke's stamp of approval on this, all the better, and I look forward to reading it someday.

October 27, 2009

Wag the Blog #10: Worst. Bookstore. Ever.

It's been a while since I threw together one of these. Getting online long enough in one sitting to either read blogs, or download them to read later, has been a bit cumbersome lately. For a while now it's been about all I can do to update my own blog and handle research and correspondence with the couple of hours I have to get on the internet each week. I have managed to spot some particularly interesting posts and articles over the last few weeks, however, that I wouldn't mind sharing. Maybe you already follow some of these blogs yourself, but in case you don't, here's some more stuff to keep you occupied.

At The Cold Spot, Tom Piccirilli recounts a horror story of a different kind: trying to find and buy a copy of Punisher #75 in Colorado. I cherish the modest bookstores in my area after reading about his ordeal.

Ink and Paper interviewed fellow book blogger, Celia, of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia. As a guy muddling his way through blogging about reading and writing, I like reading these interviews because they give me a chance to see how others are approaching it. I like to think WtF has gained a little bit of structure and cosmetic improvement in the months since I started. But it still needs improvement, and it helps to read from others about how they go about it all.

Monster Rally is a recent addition to my blogroll, after discovering it through Countdown to Halloween. If you like link directories, you'll love this one. October is chock-full of Halloween goodness, with all kinds of themed links to news, lists, movies, photos, and more. "Wag the Blog" is measly and small compared to the onslaught of links provided here.

The Vault of Horror compiled a list of the thirty best works of horror literature. A great spur for debate, if you're interested to see where your favorite stacks up (or if it stacks up). I'm a little disappointed in myself after reading it though, as I've read less than half of the stories listed. For shame. Also, VoH has a great interview with photographer, Joshua Hoffine, which also displays some of his absolutely mesmerizing work. You can check that out here.

And Now the Screaming Starts brought to my attention a contemplation of a "post-horror world" by Guardian blogger, Damien Walter. Though it centers on sci-fi, fantasy and horror can be applied to the bleeding of genre into literary fiction. I consider myself an unapologetic fan of horror, yet recognize my definition of the genre may differ from many others. At the end of the day I like good stories, no matter the genre. And horror, whether written by those who avoid classifying their work as "horror" or intentionally are steeped in it, tends to entertain me most.

The Intellectual Devotional had a post regarding Stephen King's The Shining, and King's pseudo-feud with Stanley Kubrick over the film adaptation. I liked this post simply because it reiterated my own favoritism towards Kubrick's adaptation with Jack Nicholson over King's later adaptation with Steven Weber (the guy from "Wings"). I'm reading the book for the first time this week--a read-along with Bella and Stella, so I'm curious to see how that alters my perception of the story and the film.

I'm always on the hunt for other blogs dedicated to horror literature. There are a few on my blogroll that have pointed me towards some fantastic authors I might have otherwise not discovered through simple excursions to the bookshops or library. So an open "thank you" to The Doctor Is In for pointing me towards Grasping for the Wind, which has compiled a monstrous list of blogs dedicated to reviewing horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. I've been following a few of them for quite a while now, but there are countless others that I'm just now becoming acquainted with, including Doctor Horror's own.

Rabid Reads for Halloween: "Rosemary's Baby" by Ira Levin

Title: Roseymary's Baby
Author: Ira Levin
Publisher: Signet Books (1967)
Genre: Horror
Pages: 320
ISBN 0451194004
ISBN 13: 9780451194008

It has been over a decade since I first watched Rosemary's Baby. It was on some cable station late at night; it might have even been a double feature with The Omen or something like that. The movie freaked me out, I remember that much. Dated in appearance and manner, but I think that is what added to its charm. If someone made a modernized version of this story, I don't think I could watch it. They just can't capture the magic of those films from the sixties and seventies.

I read the novel last fall, but figured I'd go back and review it for the week leading up to Halloween. I'll likely see if I can borrow a copy of the movie from the library over Halloween weekend too, just to refresh my memory of Roman Palanski's work.

The story is told through the perspective of Rosemary Woodhouse, as she and her husband, Guy, move into a new apartment. It's idyllic, almost too good to be true. Their neighbors, the Castavets, seem pleasant enough, as does most everyone else in the building. But it doesn't take long for Rosemary to wonder if there may be some secrets held in the building, especially her apartment, considering the untimely death of the previous tenant. Hutch, a friend of Rosemary, aids her in trying to learn about the past of the Castavets and the apartment building.

In the meantime, she's pregnant for the first time. It was something she wondered might not be in her future, and given her waifish frame and fragile demeanor, she and Guy take every precaution to ensure it is a healthy pregnancy. And the Castavets take a keen interest in the child's well-being too.As the pregnancy progresses, Rosemary experiences strange occurrences and grows ever more suspicious of everyone around her, including Guy. And she has reason to be suspicious as far as she's concerned, given her memory of the baby's conception entails a hallucinatory dream in which she's raped by a demon. That would put anyone on edge.

Rosemary becomes more isolated and weak as the pregnancy progresses and she worries she might lose the baby. And as more deaths occur and her thoughts of conspiracies and demons intensify, she begins to doubt her own sanity.

I really liked this novel when I read it last year and the story still sticks with me to this day. It's just one of those classic pieces of horror and suspense. Ira Levin provides a great blend of chills, scares, and a dash of satire through this story. There's even a certain campiness to the film by some measure, and even with the novel, given the time frame it takes place in. It's a major reason why I don't think it would translate well with a 21st century coat of paint. I could very well be wrong on that, as it all depends on who the visionary is writing and/or directing it.

I'd say fans of suspense and horror have read this already, but in case they haven't they should. I have a copy of Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives sitting on my bookshelf that I should read for the first time--probably early next year. Now there's a movie that didn't translate well when it was remade. Am I wrong? Personally, I did not care for the story, which may have been due to a less dark tone and less than impressive casting choices. The first film based on the novel was better, at least in my estimation. But in any case, no matter how poor a film adaptation might be, it can't diminish Levin's novels.

October 26, 2009

Rabid Reads for Halloween: "October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween"

Title: October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween
Editors: Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish
Publisher: New American Library (trade paperback), a division of Penguin Group (2002); first published by Cemetery Dance (hardcover)
Genre: Horror/Short Story Anthology
Pages: 648
ISBN 0-451-45895-8

I read this last year between Halloween and Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover. I spied that haunting cover on the top shelf of a used-book shop last fall and had to have it.

If the theme of Halloween wasn't enough, including authors' essays of "My Favorite Halloween Memory," the list of contributing authors is stellar. Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Ed Gorman, Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z. Brite, and the king of October, Ray Bradbury are but a few names to be found inside this anthology's pages.

I am unsure how well received other seasonal anthologies are, but there's no denying the appeal of one set during the spookiest holiday of them all. Horror is a genre to be enjoyed every day of the year, yet Halloween seems to be that time when all bets are off and the whole world lets down their guard to relish the scarier side of things.

The quality of each story ranges from good to great. Chizmar and Morrish did a fantastic job in choosing and organizing a varied and high-quality assortment of tales that should delight any reader, whether they're a fan of Allhallows Eve or not.

A few of my personal favorites from this batch include Poppy Z. Brite's "Lantern Marsh," Richard Laymon's "Boo," John Shirley's "Mask Game," F. Paul Wilson's "Buckets," and of course Ray Bradbury's "Heavyset." The stories hit every note on the scale, from whimsical to macabre to downright chilling. And it's topped off towards the end with a novella length work by Peter Straub called "Pork Pie Hat."

I couldn't help revisiting a few of these stories as we get closer and closer to the big day. It's stories like these that really help to put a person in the mood for masks and candy and hijinx. And if the short stories aren't enough, the essays on Halloween memories only sweeten the deal, reminding me of how much I relished that one night of the year as a child.

I think anyone with a love and appreciation for ghosts and goblins, and trick-or-treat, and carved pumpkins will get a kick out of his anthology. Whether young or old, whether on Allhallows Eve or Easter Sunday, October Dreams is a treasure for anyone any day.

The Mondays: There Goes My "Heroes"

Is the ability to jump sharks a super power? If so, NBC's "Heroes" may be able to chalk up a new one.

When the show premiered, I was enthralled. I half-expected to see a gussied up version of "Mutant X" after hearing about plans to produce a show about regular people with extraordinary abilities. My cynicism spoke up first to decry it as a ploy to capitalize on Marvel Comics' rise to cinematic fame. But after watching the first couple of episodes, I was hooked along with a lot of other people. The approach felt like a breath of fresh air compared to so much of what network TV offers.

In 2009, however, the show is beginning to feel like something that's been hijacked from it's original destination. Perhaps it's simply how television shows work with their ceaseless storylines, going from season to season in an attempt to ring as much viewership from the show before casting it aside for a cheap reality show. "Heroes" doesn't feel like the same kind of show I enjoyed so much during that first season. Heck, the show seemed to take a notable decline in direction and quality as early as the middle of the second season.

I suppose things could be worse. While I may gripe about the show's current bout of mediocrity, I still have managed to see every episode this season. It's one of a select few shows that I watch with regularity, and I'd still try and make time to see it over the vast majority of shows presented by the major networks--you'd have to pay me handsomely to waste my time with the likes of "Grey's Anatomy" or "Prison Break" (do they even air that anymore) or any show that has a title such as, "Law Enforcement Drama: Insert Random City Name Here."

After a half dozen or so episodes, "Heroes" looks like it may finally be picking up steam this season. But I only say that because last week's episode was the first one I found genuinely interesting. The Carnival has started to show it's true colors, though we're still in the dark (I am at least) as to what their motives are for seeking out Sylar and the others. And the writers wisely focused on the two most interesting and relevant storylines of all the characters: Sylar's resurgence; Hiro's mission of atonement.

Everything else on the show feels like fluff, and up until right now the multiple story arcs have felt muddled and incoherent. Surprisingly, I could get by never seeing Ali Larter's or Hayden Pennetierre's characters again this season. As a matter of fact, does the Claire character have anything to do with this season's major storyline at all? Or is she there simply to appeal to younger viewers? Her hijinx on campus feels like a tacked-on excuse to keep a young, pretty blond girl on the show. If the character has something to do this season, I sincerely hope the "Hell Week" episode gets to the geezly point, finally.

"Heroes" has lost it's ability to hold my attention unwaveringly, though. I'm ready to abandon it altogether and afford myself an extra hour in life to read and write. Frankly, I should probably do that anyway. But, I'm going to give the show one more week. If I'm not wowed by the show, if I'm just as confused and disinterested in the supporting characters, if the show doesn't find a way to recapture the magic of the first season, then mark me down as one more lost viewer in the show's declining ratings.

October 24, 2009

Rabid Reads "A Spectacle of Corruption" by David Liss

Title: A Spectacle of Corruption
Author: David Liss
Publisher: Random House (2004)
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: 381
ISBN 0-375-50855-4

When I won David Liss' The Devil's Company, I was ignorant of the fact that it was a sequel to a previous novel, A Spectacle of Corruption. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a copy of this novel at my local library. Unfortunately, I was ignorant once again to the fact that there is yet another preceding novel called A Conspiracy of Paper. Well, to heck with tracing this series of books back to the very beginning. I decided to read A Spectacle of Corruption while I had it in my hands. I just wish I could say it helped me maintain my enthusiasm for reading Devil's Company.

The story is not lost on me even though it is a sequel, as it stands alone on its own merits. Benjamin Weaver, a thief and brawler of Jewish descent, writes his memoirs after being convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Sure, he's committed plenty of crimes in the past, maybe even killed a bloke or two, but for this particular crime he is innocent. He's sentenced to death by a corrupt and biased judge--can't expect the purity of law when it's the 18th century and your race is considered a blight on the kindly Christian bigots--and expects to hang. But, others conspire to free him in order to use his diverse skills of investigation and persuasion, and Weaver finds himself wrapped up in a conspiracy of sorts at the height of election time.

Full disclosure, I breezed through a lot of this book. I am not what you would classify as a speedy reader, as I pour over each sentence to help immerse myself in the story as much as possible. With Spectacle, I wasn't hooked. I wasn't drawn in. It may be my own aversion to mystery novels, or my less than enthusiastic reaction to 18th century history, but I found little to keep me engaged beyond the voice and actions of Benjamin Weaver.

I read somewhere that Weaver was a combination of Oscar Wilde and Jack Bauer--I am not sure Wilde's "extracurricular activities" would be valid here. That's not bad, as he poses a striking image whether matching wits with the aristocracy or trading blows with roughnecks. Still, the character was not enough to make me want to read through a story I didn't find very exciting.

As with many mysteries, there's a few red herrings to contend with, but maybe you come to expect that sort of thing from such novels. Personally, I prefer them in small doses.

The best feature of the book may be the verisimilitude achieved through what must have been exhaustive research. David Liss knows how to bring the 1700's to life, there's no denying that. I just wish I shared the appreciation for that time period. The nineteenth century is about as far back as my narrow mind will let go in storytelling.

Personally, I'm tepid on this novel, but I liked the Benjamin Weaver character enough to say I'm still looking forward to reading Devil's Company. Who knows? Maybe a second dose of that time period will adjust my attitude. For you, if you like historical mysteries or anything set in a historical English setting, you may want to give this series of books a go. If you tend to steer clear of anything less than contemporary storytelling, you probably won't like this very much.

Enter the time machine at your own risk.

October 23, 2009

OcTuber Fest: "The Unwanted"

Here's another horror short film I found on YouTube to help get in the Halloween spirit. Here's the blurb by MEOSHABEAN1:

"Two Roommates are home alone on a rainy day when all of a sudden a unwanted guest comes to the house and take them, by surprise.
From the Directors of Delusions and A Boy with a Dream brings you a thriller like never before.

Directed by Meosha Bean"

The Unwanted:

October 22, 2009

Embracing the Halloween Spirit

Ah, Photoshop, you do come in handy now and again.

I thought I'd try to whip up a quick Halloween-themed banner for this week, since it's almost time to trick and/or treat. I'm no graphic designed, but it'll do in a pinch.

Also, in continuing with the Halloween-a-go-go that will be overrunning the blogosphere next week, I'm adding my bit by scheduling a scary book review from Monday through to Allhallows Eve.

Monday - October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween (anthology)
Tuesday - Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Wednesday - Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Thursday - Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Friday - Psycho by Robert Bloch
Saturday - a DVD review of Bubba Ho-Tep, starring Bruce Campbell

And provided I can finish a couple more novels before the big day, I may be posting Halloween reviews for Stephen King's The Shining--as part of the read-along with Bella and Stella--and Ouroboros, a collaborative work by Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes that's being released by Arcane Wisdom (an imprint of Bloodletting Books) ... and my first e-book read.

October 21, 2009

Wish List Wednesday #17: "The Gentling Box"

Lisa Mannetti's debut novel won the coveted Bram Stoker Award for best first novel this year. That alone grabbed my attention while reading the results of this year's awards ceremony. But after reading a couple of reviews for the book and getting a grasp on what the story is about, I had to put it on my wish list.

It takes place during the late 19th century and takes place around Hungary and Romania, revolving around the ordeals of a half-Gypsie horse trader, Imre, and his family as they contend with Imre's mother-in-law's witchcraft. Sounds like good reading and a premise I haven't had the opportunity to read yet. Throw in some curses, ghosts, possessions, and a talisman and there's no telling how much this family will have to go through to survive.

There was an article on one of the major media sites a while back--Guardian or maybe Daily Beast--that talked about the perceived sexism in horror-themed literature and film, dismissing female horror writers as belonging to the romance section. Well, I have a feeling those who feel horror has no female representation, or feel it shouldn't have female representation, have not come across the likes of Lisa Mannetti, Alexandra Sokoloff, Sara Langan, and others currently writing some very good stuff that can be measured against anything a guy can write.

I've yet to read Mannetti's work, but it's received enough praise to warrant a look-see. And The Gentling Box sounds like it would be a great place to start.

Anyone heard tell of this novel? Care to give your thoughts?

October 20, 2009

A Halloween Read-Along

Halloween is so close you can almost taste it. Mmmm. Chocolate.

As one of the things to mark the occasion, through the week leading up to Halloween weekend, I'll be taking part in a read-along with two other bloggers, Bella and Stella.

What book are we reading and reviewing for the spookiest time of the year? Only a preeminent horror classic by Stephen King called The Shining.

Bella came up with the idea of reading the book at the same time to mark the occasion. She hasn't read it yet either--I assume the same of Stella--so we're all seeing it with fresh eyes. If you'd like to take part and read this book next week too, just let us know. There's always room for more. It could be like a one-shot book club.

October 19, 2009

The Mondays: "I Liked The Original Better"

You've probably said it yourself a time or two, usually after sitting through two hours of rehashed refuse. You liked the first one, heard some good things--or maybe just some good hype--about the remake, and decided to give it a go. But it turns out it was all a ruse by Hollywood, just to get your hard-earned cash in return for suffering at the hands of a dullard director and his derivative drivel. You were duped. We all were.

It's a tricky thing, recycling movies. So tricky, in fact, that it's rarely successful, and causes me to wonder why directors and screenwriters even try. Oh yeah ... the money. Could there be any other reason for the remarkable Steve Martin to wallow in sub-par cinema like The Pink Panther? Or for a charismatic Kurt Russell to render a ramshackle version of Poseidon?

I've always been of the mind that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's an adage lost on Hollywood. It's kind of deplorable that Slumdog Millionaire couldn't get a distributor in North America for the longest time, yet producers were practically selling their mothers down the river to get a piece of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But, Revenge of the Fallen was a sequel, not a remake. The remakes might be even worse.

A prime example, in my opinion, is Psycho. The original iteration by Alfred Hitchcock is a stroke of genius. Even in the 21st century, the story and the movie hold up. Yet, someone took it upon themselves to produce a new version at the start of this century. I can only guess, for no other reason than the fact that Hitchcock's indelible film was in black and white, a director whose name escapes me saw fit to give us a colorized version. Hell, Ted Turner and his Technicolor dreamcoat could have done that over a long weekend with the stock footage of the first film.

And if daring to tread on a such an iconic piece of cinematic history wasn't enough, the director actually filmed the new movie shot for shot, frame for frame, to the original up until the infamous shower scene. Why? That's like the directorial equivalent to lip syncing. If you're not going to at least give a new twist or take on the subject matter, and you're simply going to copycat the cinematography, aren't you wasting everyone's time? I sure thought so when I watched the movie.

Casting is another big hiccup when it comes to redoing an established movie. I adore Steve Martin's comedic talents, but he is no Peter Sellers. They're styles are so dissimilar. Just as Vince Vaughn is no Rock Hudson--I'm still trying to figure out the rationale for that casting choice. Definitive and proven films are like the proverbial lightening in a bottle. Can you imagine the audacity it would take for someone to attempt a remake of Citizen Kane or Dr. Strangelove? It's unthinkable, yet there is at least one unimaginative filmmaker out there who wants to give it a go. And God only knows who he would cast in those roles immortalized by Orson Wells and Peter Sellers ... perhaps John Goodman and Will Ferrell?

The reason I felt compelled to rant about this was because I recently read online--I know, I know, a grain of salt--that there were plans to remake one of my favorite horror films of all-time, The Thing. No, I say. Don't touch it. Kurt Russell is king, so it doesn't matter who is cast as the bad-ass chopper pilot in the remake because it won't be Kurt Russell. I can already see someone giving it to Vin Diesel.

And you know somethin'? I can't help but accept the irony of consternation about a Thing remake, since it was itself a remake of sorts of a 1960s sci-fi B&W flick. Go figure. Maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead.

October 18, 2009

OcTuber Fest: "Elevated"

I caught a horror short film this past week on Canada's Movieola station, called "Elevated." I rather liked it. And sure enough, I saw it on YouTube when I searched for it.

The premise: It's the end of the workday in an office building. As a couple of employees are filing into one of the elevators, another man rushes in frantic and scared out of his mind. He says there's something chasing him and has already killed several people in the building. The others think he's crazy, but things start happening to make them wonder.


Part 1:

Part 2:

October 17, 2009

Rabid Reads "The Night Class" by Tom Piccirilli

Title: The Night Class
Author: Tom Piccirilli
Publisher: Leisure Books (2002)
Genre: Horror
Pages: 278
ISBN 0-8439-5125-7

Caleb Prentiss--Cal for short, and never call him Calvin--is a senior at university, back from Christmas vaction, and disturbed to a whole new level at the news a fellow student, Sylvia Campbell, was murdered in gruesome fashion in his very dorm room. No worries, though. The news of it has barely registered beyond a whisper on campus, as if it never even happened.

The bloodstains have been hidden under a coat of peach-colored paint, but it's still noticable to him, and the stench impales his sense of smell. The whole thing eats away at him, especially how no one else on campus seems to give a damn. As Cal's mind wasn't taxed enough with a diminishing acedemic regimen this year, a girlfriend (Jodi) with more emotional baggage than your favorite angst-ridden perfectionist, buddies with greater aspirations towards sleep, drink, and getting laid than anything else, and growing hostilities with his professors. Yup, all that and a wicked case of stigmata, where his palms bleed--just the palms, though--through spontaneously conjured impalements every time someone close to him dies. And people are dying.

The story starts off with a somewhat disjointed narrative, as Cal's point of view jumps from one moment in time to another for a couple of chapters. It kept me off balance for a while until I caught the pulse of the story. This wasn't a run of the mill "horny kids get killed on campus" horror novel. And I'm thankful for that because I can only stomach so many of those in a decade. One part eery, another part surreal, and a few other parts I'm not quite sophisticated enough to identify, the story takes on a tone that's anything but bourgeois.

The supporting characters, at times, come off as lampoons of the archetype characters you meet in universities. I didn't really mind, since there was such a stark and razor-sharp quality to the situations they found themselves in, and Cal's macabre and piercing observation only added to the scenes. I had moments where I didn't know if I was coming or going with this story. Usually that irritates the piss out of me, but it worked this time around.

The ending, which I don't want to spoil in any sense, was a bit of a ... I don't want to say letdown ... a bit of an anticlimactic end of an otherwise absorbing story. I suppose, given the subject matter and overall pace and feel of the story, a certain amount of ambiguity was called for. I just would have liked something more ceremonious to bow out on, but that's just me.

Given Tom Piccirilli is credited with writing crime novels and westerns, and God knows what else, I'm going to have to find something else of his to sample. Because if this is how he approaches horror, I look forward to seeing how he tackles the other genres.

October 15, 2009

A Book Contest Link or Two

Over at Bloody Bookaholic, there's a cool contest going on for two books, each simply titled "Vampires" and "Werewolves." I'm on board for this one. There's going to be two winners, and the contest is open to U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. The contest ends October 21st.

You can also throw your name in the hat for a chance at Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush over at The Book Butterfly. That contest ends on November 16th.

Coming Soon: Stephen Zimmer's "Crown of Vengeance"

A while back, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Stephen Zimmer's debut novel, The Exodus Gate--the first book in his Rising Dawn saga. I snagged it in a contest hosted by Amberkatze's Book Blog. A pretty good book by my reckoning, as it was a blend of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror.

Stephen has a new series, however, that's about to hit store shelves through Seventh Star Press. The first book of his
Fires in Eden series, which is an medieval fantasy epic, is titled Crown of Vengeance.

To help get the word out on this upcoming release, Stephen was kind enough to forward me some key information for all prospective readers.

Synopsis of Crown of Vengeance, Book One of the Fires In Eden series:

Begin an Epic Journey...

On a night that begins no different from any other, strange mists engulf Janus Roland, Erika Laesig, Mershad Shahab, and several others going about their lives in a quiet midwestern town. When the mist dissipates, they all find themselves looking up into the bright skies of a new, incredible world.

Without explanation of why it has happened, or any notion of where they are, they embark upon a grand adventure within the fantastical world of Ave. Some find themselves in the lands of the Saxan Kingdom, while others have emerged within the lands of the Onan, one of the tribes in the Five Realms confederation.

Storms of war loom over both Saxany and the Five Realms, as invasion forces mass under the inspiration of The Unifier, a mysterious, captivating figure whose influence has swept across the surface of Ave ever since His rise to power in the Gallean duchy of Avanor. It is a war that will be fought in the skies, upon the seas, on land, and even in
places non-physical in nature.

A majestic, epic fantasy that begins many adventures and journeys across a diverse and enthralling world, filled with races and creatures both familiar and new, Crown of Vengeance lights the flame of the Fires in Eden series, bringing to life a bold, far-ranging, and grand new venture within the realms of fantasy literature.

Pre-Order Announcement for Crown of Vengeance:

Seventh Star Press proudly announces the release of Crown of Vengeance,
the first book in the new epic fantasy series Fires in Eden, by author
Stephen Zimmer (The Exodus Gate).

To commemorate the forthcoming release, publisher Seventh Star Press is
offering pre-order packages for Crown of Vengeance, including a very
special, limited edition hardcover version that is strictly limited to 100

To ensure full authenticity, the limited edition hardcover will be
hand-numbered and signed by Stephen Zimmer, and also signed by editor
Amanda DeBord and illustrator/cover artist Matt Perry. It will include an
extra illustration, and designation plate as a limited edition within the

Both the limited edition hardcover and first edition trade paperback
pre-orders come with a special package of collectibles, including a
numbered set of art cards, a collectible set of 12 bookmarks, and a full
color poster of the cover art.

Information on the pre-ordering options can be found at the new site for
the Fires In Eden series, located at www.firesineden.com

For information on the publisher visit www.seventhstarpress.com, and for
the author visit www.stephenzimmer.com

As an added treat, Stephen was kind enough to include a graphic of one of the creatures depicted in the story's pages.

Say hello to the Jaghun, a "very powerful (think Pit-Bull power in Great Dane size), fast pack hunters, several of which have been raised and trained by a reclusive woodsman named Gunther."


OcTuber Fest: "Antichrist" Trailer

It's this time of year when I really look forward to the scary movies in theaters. And this year, as a whole, looks to be in supply of some very scary movies ... plus a few lame ducks--Final Destination 3D, I'm looking in your direction.

I'm not sure how well this movie is going to turn out, but it has Willem Defoe, so that's a check in the "+" column right there. What do you guys think?

October 14, 2009

Wish List Wednesday #16: "Whitechapel Gods"

Unless Starfinder or The Golden Compass count, I can't say I've read a single steampunk novel yet. It's something that I plan to remedy before year's end. And while I've been told S.M. Peters' Whitechapel Gods isn't a great place to get your feet wet for the first time in the sub-genre, the premise and the cover are too enticing.

Set in an alternate London, a disease called "The Clacks" is spreading. The twist here is that it turns its victims into machines. Alrighty then, that's got my attention. I imagine the whole thing of late 19th century/early 20th century settings, the machines are more coal and steam powered, which will add a very dark and sinister element to the story.

Whether this novel ends up being my foray into reading steampunk or not, I'm not overly concerned. I'll be reading this one at some point I'm sure, and if I come across stuff by China Mieville's Perdido Street Station or maybe Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so be it.

Are you a fan of steampunk? Any suggestions on which novel I should start out with?

October 12, 2009

The Mondays: Sometimes the Muse Is In the Bushes

Wednesday night I was typing up a storm, trying to retrace my steps through a short story. The most recent draft got overwritten, which is a blunder I haven't committed in ages, so I had to go back and try to make lightening strike the same place twice using the first draft. Grrr.

Anyway, I had the window open to let some of the cool autumn air in since it had stopped raining. It was around nine o'clock and the streets were quiet--the streets in this neck of the woods pretty much roll up after supper--until a frenzy of mewling and snarling and yipping started up across the street in amongst the long grass and apple trees. It snapped me to attention, I can tell you that.

Through the warmer months you can hear the likes of every kind of caterwauling at ungodly times in the night. A fellow gets used to it, tunes it out in no time at all in a town or city setting. Annoying as hell when you're trying to watch TV or read a book. Or in my case, write one. Those occasions are provided by the town cats usually, as I can only guess people can't be bothered to let the things inside their homes after sunset. Sure, a tomcat has to prowl, but I swear there's more out than in around these parts.

But, Wednesday night gave me a polecat philharmonic. I'd smelled that malodor of skunk in the air, just a hint of it, around suppertime. So I have to assume at least one of the combatants reenacting an episode of Wild Kingdom across the street was a skunk. I couldn't tell from my vantage point and I damned sure wasn't going to venture out in the dark to see if my suspicions were right. I haven't been sprayed by a skunk yet in my life, though there were a couple of close calls, and I'm in no hurry to press my luck in the matter.

Whatever was out there was raising such a ruckus, the likes of which I can't recall ever hearing before. And I grew up in the woods, and have seen and heard some strange things out in the wilderness. Maybe it was the town setting that amplified the creep-factor for me. A couple of alley cats clawing at each other on a side street is one thing. We've all heard that stuff, but the hell-for-leather turf war going on under those apple trees was something else. I don't know what kind of junk the neighbors have piled back there, but those critters were knocking things over and tearing the place apart. You'd think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had permeated into the wildlife.

After ten minutes of riotous racket, things went back to normal. I have no idea who won and what species left to lick its wounds, but I got knocked right out of my stream of consciousness for writing that short story for the night.

The silver lining, however, was I got myself an idea for another short story. Thanks, nature.

October 11, 2009

Octuber Fest:: The 1978 "Halloween" Trailer

Ah, the classics. The movie is considered tame by movie-goers these days--they like their horror with tons of blood and gore, apparently. Well, this movie dealt more with the sheer terror of a knife wielding maniac in a small town, rather than the body count.

I found the trailer on YouTube, so I thought I'd post it for all to enjoy.

October 10, 2009

Rabid Reads "Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs" by Chris Eboch

Title: Haunted (Book One) - The Ghost on the Stairs
Author: Chris Eboch
Publisher: Aladdin; an imprint of Simon & Schuster (2009)
Genre: Children's Fantasy/Mystery
Pages: 169
ISBN 978-1-4169-7548-9

Described as middle-grade fiction, I was almost embarrassed to read a new children's book. A foolish attitude, and I'm glad to say it only lasted a moment. I'm a kid at heart, and still like to read stories aimed at the young and young at heart. I first caught sight of this book when The Spectacle held a contest with the winner getting a copy of the book. I won. The story struck me as being up my alley, so I threw my name in the hat. And when I finally opened its pages to get started, I felt myself becoming a kid again.

It's a short read, as most books aimed at ten year olds, but it manages to pack quite a few punches. Apparently, earlier drafts had this story at half the length until an editor encourages Chris Eboch to lengthen it out in order to publish it as a full-on release. And since it's the first of a series of books, there is likely going to be a rhythm to how many of these Haunted books we see over the next couple of years and beyond.

The story is told through the eyes of Jon, a thirteen year old boy, as he joins his sister, Tania (eleven), and their mother and stepfather, Bruce, on a trip to a long reported haunting at a hotel in Colorado. Bruce hosts a ghost hunting show, aptly titled "Haunted," and has the kids' mother working as a production assistant. The kids don't believe in ghosts--their father is a skeptic and has passed the trait to them--but their mother has become evermore fascinated to the point of obsession with the paranormal ever since her youngest daughter, Angela, died. The untimely death tore the parents apart, but the kids seem to adapt easily enough to the traumatic events.

The real story starts up when Tania sees the ghostly figure of a young woman on the stairway of the hotel--the very spirit Bruce's show has come to document. She's the only one who sees it, however, and Jon is left to wonder if she's making it up, imagining it, or has truly seen a haunting. The mystery quickly comes to bear as the kids try to figure out the mystery of the unnamed "Ghost Bride," while Tania tries to avoid suffering the ill effects of close contact with the apparition, and Jon struggles between his loyalty to his sister and his own skepticism.

The kids' characters are fleshed out really well, and the relationship between the two comes off as very genuine, as do their connections with their parents and other guardians. There's a couple of cardboard characters that appear, but it's all forgivable given the page count and their supporting roles. And it's a kids book.

The mystery of who the Ghost Bride really is and why she haunts the hotel comes off as believable and easy to picture, which may be due to Eboch's experience with historical fiction and a sincere appreciation for the characters she creates. The solving of the mystery does seem a bit cut and dry once the kids get rolling, with the majority of the tension coming from trying to find time to sneak away from the grown-ups, or manipulate them to go where they want. It made me wonder how such a mystery could go unsolved for over a hundred years, but ghost stories are like that, and Eboch's eventual explanations quiet my incredulity.

I was never a fan of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or the Bobsy Twins. But if Jon and Tania had been around in my youth, I would have hopped on board that bandwagon in an instance. This thirty-something isn't going to be a dedicated follower of the Haunted book series, but I'll be passing word of it along to my little cousins when they're looking for something to read. And, who knows, I'll probably pick up another one in time if I see it on a shelf somewhere ... or as part of another book contest.

October 8, 2009

Alice in Wonderland

This week, since The Neverending Shelf is hosting an Alice In Wonderland Week, I thought I'd take the time over the weekend to read Carroll's classic, and also read for the first time Through the Looking Glass. It turned out to be a bit of a chore for me, much to me chagrin.

Like many others of the past few generations, my introduction to the works of Lewis Carroll came to me in childhood from the hegemony of Walt Disney. To me, Alice in Wonderland was the psychedelic odyssey that stood out as one of Disney's most colorful and psychotropic films, second only to perhaps Fantasia.

More than a decade removed from my last viewing of the movie, scenes are still seared into my memory. The Cheshire cat's wide, puckish smile descending from the heavens as a crescent moon; the caterpillar puffing opiate smoke into the face of Alice and snobbishly asking, "Who ... Are ... You?"; or the entire scene of the Mad Tea-Party, including the March Hare's immortal line--at least to me--of, "I have an idea. Let's change the subject."

It remains one of my favorite Disney films to this day. There's the nostalgia factor, I admit, as very few of Disney's modern films have gripped my imagination and enduring reverence like those classics from the early to mid-twentieth century. And even the classics have been tainted and bastardized by ceaseless cash-grab sequels and spin-offs--I thought Aladdin was an amazing film until Aladdin 2 reared its unnecessary head. I think Disney may have even egested another after that to make it an unholy trilogy. And I once heard blasphemous rumors there existed a sequel to another favorite of mine, The Fox and the Hound. I hope that's patently false.

I think the Wonderland movie may have even played a role in getting me to read at an early age. Reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in elementary school after having watched the movie, I felt the scenes leaping off the page with all the vivid color that the film had provided. The language was a different and a bit rough for a kid like me to read through, written in the nineteenth century and all, but I kept up with it in spite of my then vocabulary's plainer pallet and loved the story all the same.

I'm one of those dullards who is less enthralled by the language of the times than the story being told. I love Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein even more, but the language and style are not what kept me reading. Even Charles Dickens, God love him, has a writing style that seems dated and can inspire more arduousness than avidness. It's much the same case with Lewis Carroll's works. That nineteenth century charm is lost on me. I try ... Lord knows I try. But the antique flourish of how many writers craft their stories feels dusty and outmoded. I can sometimes smell the must of the words on the page.

Like any great author's works though, the story is as solid as ever. And each scene still pops off the page. I just wish I could take a holiday from my own prejudices to fully enjoy the stories, as if a child of the times. I can be a stubborn old goat at times.

The re-imaginings and adaptations of the work help keep that kid in me alive, as I'm sure that's the case with many. I know I'm not the only one curious and with bated breath to see Tim Burton's version of Wonderland hit the silver screen. There's a very twisted trademark to Burton. And with the Alice character, the morbid side of her and the story reminds me of an old computer game that had Alice as a knife-wielding goth chick, taking out an army of playing cards. Macabre stuff, yes, but Lewis Carroll's work whether intentional or not lends itself well to that kind of mindset.

Like The Wizard of Oz, I think it is the twisted takes on the subject matter that keep me coming back to Wonderland. There's apparently a series of books called The Looking Glass Wars. I was unaware of this until only a couple of months ago, but now that I am I think I'm going to need to sample the work. While I appreciate what Carroll's original work means to everyone, including me, it's the interpretations and reiterations that are what will more likely rejuvenate my love of Wonderland, more so than reading the original children's stories.

And let's be honest. Alice could get a little insufferable at times in those old stories. I like the idea of others giving her a more personable nature.