Curse of the Chupacabra

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Star Wars News Update 7.3


(fan art)

Well, it's been two months since my last Star Wars update (and any post for that matter).  The holidays hit and they hit hard like a Northeastern.  But now that reminiscences have melted away, it looks like the Mouseketeers have a teeny-weeny update for us regarding new names of auditioners like Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (all from '12 Years A Slave').
Also, "Breaking Bad" and "Friday Night Lights" star Jesse Plemons is in talks for the new Star Wars film.  

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a large amount of actors have tried out for the film and have met with director J.J. Abrams.  But that's not much of a surprise.

Back in October, "Lovely Bones" actress Saorise Ronan admitted "everyone" has been auditioning for a part in the sequel while trying out for the film herself.  She wouldn't name names, but thanks to THR we now know some of the actors.

Here are some of the A-Listers who have been meeting up with J.J. Abrams.  It's a very wide range of talent:

Adam Driver
Hugo Weaving
Michael B. Jordan
Jack O'Connell
Alex Pettyfer
Sullivan Stapleton

The change in ages regarding the auditioners could be a reflection of the major change that took place behind the scenes.  In the fall, Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3," "Little Miss Sunshine") left as screenwriter on the project after a reported difference in opinion on where the story should go.  According to THR, Arndt wanted the story to follow Luke Skywalker, Leia and Han Solo's children while J.J. Abrams wants the focus to still be on the original trio before handing off future films to their kids.

Word is that Abrams is now looking for more older shoes to fill cast as opposed to a necessarily younger crop that was recorded earlier.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Star Wars News Update 7.2

Get ready for two brand new characters in that galaxy far, far away.

A Disney casting call has "Star Wars" watchers abuzz after all but revealing two lead characters in the upcoming, hugely anticipated follow-up to 1983's "Return of the Jedi."  So, who are these new "Star Wars" players, you ask? They're young, in their late teens, and they've both endured childhood parental absence.

While the Disney casting notice doesn't name the film's title outright, Yahoo Movies and other outlets have connected the dots, and they form a big arrow pointing to J.J. Abrams's "Star Wars: Episode VII," set to open in 2015. (You see, these castings are being conducted around England — where "Episode VII" is the only Disney film in pre-production.)

"Rachel," a probable pseudonym, is the young woman's role. Her requirements include beauty, intelligence, athleticism, and she must be over 16 years old. And if you think she could be the daughter of one of the "Return of the Jedi" leading characters — like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, or Princess Leia — think again. Disney is open to "all ethnicities (including bi- and multi-racial)," indicating this may not be the daughter of the aforementioned Caucasian characters.

But then again, you never know. Are we going to discover that one of the three aforementioned "Star Wars" characters has died?

"Rachel was quite young when she lost her parents," according to the casting sheet. "With no other family, she was forced to make her way in a tough, dangerous town. Now 17 she has become street smart and strong."

Well, this is getting interesting. Now we know we won't be watching a Leia-like damsel in distress. This girl can protect herself! (Sounds like a perfect fit for Saoirse Ronan, who has been rumored to be auditioning for "Star Wars" and who played a genius assassin in "Hanna.")

Actors vying for the male role of "Thomas" (also a likely pseudonym) must be over 18, handsome, smart, and athletic. Similar to Rachel, he grew up "without his father's influence." (Notice how the casting description doesn't say his father is dead. Hmm.) Unlike Rachel, Thomas's role isn't explicitly open to "all ethnicities." Could he be the son of Skywalker, Leia, and/or Solo?
See the casting sheet and speculate for yourself:


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Star Wars News Update 7.1

(fan art)

Episode VII Movie News Summary

Okay, apologies all around if anybody was expecting me to live up to my word about sharing Episode VII news.  Between writing, audiobooks, junkets, and weddings... I've been a tad busy.  I'm not going to promise anything, but I will try to keep an update once a week from here on out.

So, the big news of the week came yesterday (Thursday, October 24, 2013) when Lucasfilm announced that Michael Arndt was out as writer of "Episode VII" and J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan were in. Also buried in the press release was the fact that Ben Burtt is returning. Here's the press release:

As "Episode VII" continues pre-production, Lawrence Kasdan and director J.J. Abrams have assumed screenwriting duties for the film. Kasdan, who has been serving as a consultant on the film, is a veteran of several classic Lucasfilm productions, writing the screenplay for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and serving as co-screenwriter for "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." Acclaimed director and screenwriter Abrams' credits include "Super 8," "Mission: Impossible III," "Fringe," and "Lost."

"I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script," states Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. "There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a "Star Wars" story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production."

Location scouting, production design, casting, and costume design are already underway on "Episode VII." A team of gifted artists are working to bring the latest installment of the "Star Wars" saga, including director of photography Dan Mindel ("Mission: Impossible III," "Star Trek"), production designers Rick Carter ("Lincoln," "Avatar") and Darren Gilford ("Oblivion," "TRON: Legacy"), costume designer Michael Kaplan ("Star Trek Into Darkness," "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"), special effects supervisor Chris Corbould ("Skyfall," "The Dark Knight Rises"), sound designer Ben Burtt ("Lincoln," "Star Wars: Episodes I-VI"), re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom ("Jurassic Park," "Saving Private Ryan"), supervising sound editor Matthew Wood ("Star Trek Into Darkness," "The Master") of Skywalker Sound, and visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett ("Star Trek Into Darkness," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End") of Industrial Light & Magic. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, with Tommy Harper ("Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," "Star Trek Into Darkness") and Jason McGatlin ("Tintin," "War of the Worlds") serving as executive producers.

John Williams is returning to score Star Wars: Episode VII.

Shooting is scheduled to begin Spring 2014 at Pinewood Studios for an expected 2015 release.


Special thanks to comingsoon.net for compiled information.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pie Is More Than A Good Dessert, It's A Good Book






(5 STARS)  Pie, a ranch horse, suffers from an external mid-life crisis where he is injured after a brief encounter with a rowdy bull. Too damaged to continue his work, he is “put out to pasture” where the second phase of his life begins, which is surprisingly better than his first.

Pie is a multi-layered memoir about second changes, perseverance, and the power of bonding. Author Scaramuzzo has craftily managed to write an effective, feel-good book despite highlighted tragedy throughout. Told entirely through the point of view of Pie, this ordinary old brown horse shares his optimistic outlooks, fears, and subtle humor, as though the reader had stumbled upon his personal diary that he kept hidden at the back of his stable. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters, both human and animal, where they inspire and enlighten each other’s worlds.

This is not only a remarkable story on its own, but any lover of animals who understands the personal connection that is shared between pet and owner will have a heightened appreciation as Scaramuzzo expertly focuses on the importance of connections and interactions that both animal and human inherently give to one another. Pie is a regenerative tale for all ages.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Red Lobster's Cheese Biscuits

I don't like about 99% of seafood.  I just don't like it... BLAH!  However, if I'm ever in company with a group of people who suggest to go to Red Lobster, I don't protest, and here's why...


I love Red Lobster's Cheesy Biscuits.  Do you hear me?  I L-O-V-E them!!!  The hint of garlic, the cheese, and biscuits--which are just about the best damn food ever created anyway.  Well, today I found this post on how to make your own cheesy biscuit loaf.  Now, I haven't tried it yet because (as per my previous post HERE about desserts) I'm on a diet.  But if there is anyone who is as obsessed over these little fluffs of miracle as I am, I share with you...


3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons of butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with oil. In a bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. Carefully stir in cheese cubes until covered in flour mixture, this will help prevent your cheese sinking to the bottom of your loaf of bread.

In a different bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Fold the wet mixture into the flour and cheese mixture, stir until just combined, do not over stir. Spread the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Allow to cool for one hour before slicing and serving.



If you try this recipe, please post below how it turned out.  I'm dying to know!

Bon appetite!

Monday, August 19, 2013

One-Minute Desserts (for Dieters too!)

It is no secret that I have struggled with weight fluctuation for most of my life, and I will probably continue until I breathe my last breath.  In the adult ages of my life, my weight has flexed from 170 lbs. to 275 lbs., during which I found moderate amounts of success in fad diets and exercising.  There were even a few months in 2011 when I was running 4-miles every other day, an achievement that my high school self would have never believed if my future self went back in time to try to foretell.  Unfortunately, the damage to my knees had already been done and I had to give up running.

Now, just one of the reasons why my weight has flip and flopped like a short stack (yummm.... pancakes) is because I have a relentless sweet tooth (of the few food posts I've posted, over half are sweets).  I am always looking for the perfect cakes, pastries, cookies, candy, etc. that I can get away with eating with minimal guilt, and recently, I have come across these two little gems that I wanted to share:

The 3-2-1 CAKE




What you'll need:

1 box Angel Food cake mix
1 box any flavor cake mix
2 Tbl. water

Directions:

Using a large bowl with a tightly fitting lid or a large zip lock bag, combine the two boxes of cake mix stirring or shaking well.

For each individual serving,  take out 3 Tbl. of the cake mixture and mix it with 2 Tbl. of water in a  small coffee mug.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  You now have your own instant individual cake and it is warm and inviting.  You can top with a dollop of fruit or whipped topping if you like. (even frosting)

Try various flavors of cake mix but it must always be combined with an Angel Food mix.

Keep the mix tightly sealed in an airtight container or Ziplock bag until used.

In addition to being fast, cheap, and easy, this is also perfect for dieters because it creates the perfect portion size (as long as you don't make another, or a double-layer cake... or triple)


THE ONE-MINUTE COOKIE



What you'll need:


Butter- 1 Tbl.
Granulated white sugar- 1 Tbl.
Dark brown sugar- 1 Tbl., firmly packed
Vanilla extract- 3 drops
Salt- a pinch
Egg yolk- 1
Plain flour- 3 Tbl.
Chocolate chips- 2 Tbl. (dieters should use dark choc. chips)
Directions:

Melt butter in the microwave, preferably in the same cup you are planning to make the cookie in (to make it mess free and simpler). The butter should not boil, it should be just melted.
Add the white and brown sugars, vanilla and salt and mix well to combine, using a spoon.
In goes the egg yolk. Mix it in properly till no traces of the yolk is seen.
Mix in the flour properly and then fold the chocolate chips.
Cook on high in the microwave for 40 seconds, or a maximum of 50 seconds.
Serve warm (maybe even with a dollop of ice cream, low-fat, of course).
Now, I know what you're saying: "Butter? Sugar? Chocolate Chips?" - I know! I know! But again, it's all about controlling your portions and satisfying your cravings so you don't overindulge.  And is probably the best diet advice you'll ever receive.
Now go and enjoy!  I do.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: My Grandfather's War


(5 STARS) Before I begin singing praises for My Grandfather's War, I must come clean on two facts: a) being an author as well, it had been my intention to write a very, very similar book years ago about my grandfather's time in World War II as the bottom turret operator of a B-17 Fortress during the Pacific side of the war; and b) (and this is probably something more people can relate to) what it's like to be a caregiver for an ailing family member - the responsibility, the pressure, the fatigue, the time away from work, friends, and the simple pleasures in life we tend to take for granted (something vaguely comparable to being a prisoner of war).

Author Cozean hits the nail on the head with every word, right down to the brief moments of honest, yet silent, thoughts he allows himself to have before trudging on as a caregiver, heroically. I believe My Grandfather's War is a better book than anything I planned on writing if given the chance before my grandfather unexpectedly passed, because where I already had a solid and open relationship with my grandpa, Cozean not only takes a self-discovering journey in this memoir of the immense responsibility bestowed onto him during his "Papa's" recovery but builds a deeper and loving relationship with him that is just as intriguing as the stories of his grandfather's time being the Nazi's POW.

Filled with moments of grief, empathy, and humor, there is a little bit of everything in My Grandfather's War. Each transition moved seamlessly from one moment to the next, but what I especially liked most was the interludes into our nation's history and the retelling of America's involvement in World War II - brief, yet very important information in understanding the background and reasoning behind the motivation, influence, and abuse by all sides. In all honesty, I think I may have learned more about this devastating war in these 200 pages than I had during my 11th grade World History class - and then some - which was more enjoyable this time around because Cozean made sure the information was an exciting and intriguing read.

Finally, I could not agree more with the subtitle, which reads: "A Young Man's Lessons from the Greatest Generation". Even before reading My Grandfather's War, it had amazed me what my grandparent's generation accomplished and endured at their young age, and I wonder if our current generation would be capable of the same if put in the same war… a question similarly posed to Jesse by his Papa, and I believe answered honestly.

I look forward to more by this author in the future.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The D23 Live Action Report




Today was a cluster of many obsessions combined into one day: my love of Disney (having never lived more than 20 miles away from the great and powerful Mouse House), my love of movies, and more specifically, my love of Star Wars.  Unfortunately, while my attendance of the “Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios” at D23 seriously lacked the excitement of receiving news-worthy Star Wars tidbits, it truly was an adventure that begs to be shared with those who were not present.  But before I begin, let me just add that Disney does know how to put on a show.  I’ve been to many panels at Comic-Con, Wonder-Con, E3, etc., but none have compared to the showmanship, density of entertainment, and mounting surprises to appease even the most demanding fan (again, excluding Star Wars).

The 10:30am presentation began with a “sizzle reel” of film clips that were on the slate for the next 2-hours, including some quick clips of what would not be included (ie. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Frozen).  Animation projects assigned, if one were paying close attention, one would begin to become extremely excited, as did I.  Then Walt Disney Studios Chairman, Alan Horn, came on stage and moderated the rest of the event—who was surprisingly very funny.  He spoke a little about the influence “Bambi” had when he proposed to his wife, and then about Disney acquiring the company’s Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, and Lucasfilm in 2012 (now owning half the world).  Then, Alan dropped the one and only bombshell of the panel by teasing about Star Wars then stating that there would be no information about the upcoming “Star Wars” films and subsequent “Star Wars” projects, further stating “dark forces are watching”.  This was, of course, met with boo’s and jeers, but the audience soon forgot about their discontent once he introduced Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios President and Producer, who introduced “phase 2” of Marvel’s slate:

 Thor: The Dark World (November 8, 2013)

-          - Extended look which began with a battle sequence in the forest when a beam of light suddenly strikes the ground followed by Thor’s hammer flying out and doing damage.  The hammer flies back into the light and is captured by Thor.
-          - Then they show a different cut of the theatrical trailer which shows Loki getting the better of Thor at the end (I won’t reveal what he does because it’s a spoiler)
-          - Then a second extended look at Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) first day in Asgard (Thor’s world) as she’s being medically examined.
-          - Kevin introduced Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins to the stage for a quick interview.

Personally, I was not a fan of the first Thor movie, and while I believe people who did like the first will love what’s in store, I remain skeptical.

Then came:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014)

-          - Extended first look with Captain America fighting about 15 military men in an enclosed elevator.
-          - Followed by what will most likely be the official trailer once released
-          - Then Kevin introduced Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), and Chris Evans (Captain America)
-          - Then a second (very rough) extended clip where Captain America skulks around a cargo ship.

Now, the first Captain America movie I did really like (see my post here) and I am extremely excited for the next installment, which by the way, has a completely different feel than the first since they have moved out of the 1940’s and to modern day.

Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014)

-          - First look 2 minute trailer

Being that they are only 4-weeks into principal photography, there was not much to show, but for what they did present to the audience, you could tell the special effects department worked HARD to impress, and their hard work paid off.  We are introduced to all five Guardians - a pathetic bunch

The Avengers:  Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015)

-          - Teaser trailer

And it teased perfectly; showing nothing from the film (I don’t think they’ve started filming yet), just an extremely close-up of Iron Man’s helmet while you hear each of the Avengers speak a line.
Then, Alan Horn came back to the stage to introduce:

Disneynature’s Bears (Earth Day 2014)

          - First look trailer

Being a huge lover of animal’s, I thought the trailer looked incredible.  Alan also announced that Disney has partnered with the National Park Foundation to give a percentage of proceeds from the first week of ticket sales to the NPF.

Alan then introduced Sean Bailey, Disney Live Action Production President who, in turn, introduced one of the biggest shocks of the event from:

Muppets Most Wanted (March 21, 2014)

The reason I say “biggest shocks” is because they showed an entire musical number, and then also:
-           
       - Full trailer
-          - Ty Burrell driving out in his Interpol car for a quick interview then driving off stage in the pea-sized electric auto (hysterical!)
-          - Miss Piggy video promoting “P23” with Kermit and Tina Fey
-          - The aforementioned musical number sung by evil Kermit look-alike and Ricky Gervais (yes, he can sing!) that would probably be called either “Number 1, Number 2” or “Dance, Monkey, Dance”) – this was even more hysterical!

This was truly a highlight for me and reminded of “The Great Muppet Caper” which, at least for now, is my all-time favorite Muppet movie.  And I love the Muppets as you can be reminded here.

Into the Woods (Christmas Day 2014)

They only presented the logo which, as you can tell, looks fairly similar to the design used for Broadway.  The only other thing they did was name the cast who were already previously announced (ie Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, etc.)  I was kind of disappointed they didn’t show more as “Into the Woods” is in my top 3 favorite musicals of all-time.  C’est la vie!

Cinderella (March 13, 2015)

-          - Introduction by director Kenneth Branaugh who narrated concept art and cast members.  Clips also included a portion of Lily James’ screen test and the announcement of Cate Blanchett portraying the Stepmother and Helena Bohnam Carter playing The Fairy Godmother

This was very smart, and though I would have seen the more regardless, now I am exceptionally excited to see this film.  The concept art was amazing, and well, I’m a sucker for Cate Blanchett.
Next was what I had hoped for most (well, except for Star Wars – Yes! I’m still beating that dead horse)

Maleficent (July 2, 2014)

-          - Sean introduced Angelina Jolie to the stage who spoke about Maleficent being one of her favorite characters since childhood, how her brother heard about the project and urged her to put her name in for it, then how Disney contacted her before she could contact them.
 -         - A full clip from the film – Maleficent casting the spell on infant Aurora
-          - Then what looked to be the official first trailer once released

All I can say is… I have a new obsession.  Angelina Jolie was flawless—beyond exceptional in the clip they showed.  She was uncanny in both mannerisms and voice.  I cannot boast enough about this film. WOW!!!  Sean did describe that this film will be about how Maleficent came to be and how she had been deceived.

Tomorrowland (December 12, 2014)

-          - Director Brad Bird and Producer Damon Lindleoff were introduced by Sean
-          - They showed a brief documentary about the archives at Walt Disney Studios (nicknamed the “morgue”) where they discovered a box labeled “1952”.  Brad and Damon brought the box with them on stage and explained what they found

The main item they presented was a large disc (like a vinyl record or laserdisc) that was wildly scratched.  Brad and Damon stated that they were able to recover some of what was on the disc, which was a short animated film approved by Walt Disney.  They showed the film.  It was especially grim for Disney, showing progression which led to the atomic bomb dropping and a mushroom cloud.  It also didn’t help that the narrator sounded like Vincent Price.  However, what the film was leading to was world after the dropping of the bomb… and the “tomorrowland” that would come after.  This was the inspiration behind the creation of the film that will be released next December.  Both men further explained that the film would be a mystery/adventure.

And lastly:

Saving Mr. Banks (December 20, 2013)

-          - First Extended clip of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), writer of Mary Poppins, first meeting with Walt Disney
-          - Second Extended clip of P.L. Travers being escorted by Disney (Tom Hanks) through Disneyland
-          - Then Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak were introduced to the stage (portraying the Sherman brothers)
-          - Third Extended clip of P.L. Travers at the writing table with the rest of the creative staff as they conduct a reading of the script and hear a song

Then, in true Disney fashion, Jason and BJ leave then roll out with a piano and begin singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” WITH RICHARD SHERMAN!  (Unfortunately, the only living Sherman brother).  They were accompanied by Disney dancers with prop kites, as well as kites flying high in the arena.  And once the song ended, confetti cannons blasted their shreds of paper into the air.

The whole of my day at D23 was magical, but the highlight was definitely the first event of the day for me.  Sure, I’m bitterly disappointed about not receiving new news about “Star Wars Episode VII”, but how can one stay disappointed after the Muppet clip, Maleficent overload, and live musical number from one of the legends of music that is a part of one’s childhood?  D23 did have its problems, but ultimately, I have never walked out of a convention panel feeling so fulfilled.

I can’t wait until the next D23 in 2015!

8/13/13 UPDATE!!! - You can follow this link to additional details about the event, as well as pictures - http://thedisneyblog.com/2013/08/11/d23-expo-live-action-movies-from-marvel-and-disney/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheDisneyBlog+%28The+Disney+Blog%29&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Odd Thomas


(3 of 5 Stars) As suggested in the title to meet "Odd Thomas", the primary focus of this book is on the lead character, Odd, and everything he has in his life: his friends, his family, Pico Mundo, and an unique gift, which happens to reveal the looming horror of an upcoming event of tragic proportions. 

Focusing so intently on the day in the life of Odd and journeying with him as he visits friend then family then friend while slowly attempting to solve a potentially apocalyptic mystery (at least for the town of Pico Mundo) made it difficult for me to get involved with this story. Although the ending was satisfactory, this book moved too slow paced for my liking, and unfortunately, did not quite pique my interest to move on with this series, which I was really looking forward to spending a lot of my time on.

Having said that, I am a fan of Dean Koontz and of the handful of books of his I have read, I would highly suggest, Lightning.  I was obsessed with this book back in the late 1980's--the first and last time I read the novel.  I do not remember enough about the book to write a review, but I do remember my overall feeling of never being able to put the book down and wishing it had been as lengthy as War and Peace.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Catching Fire & Mockingjay



I’ve always felt that I have been a better writer than reader.  I will proudly admit that I read at a snail’s pace.  I am not exactly sure why that is, but whether I’m fully into a story or struggling just to get through it, my speed does not fluctuate by much.

Reading also tends to put me to sleep if I’m not completely enthralled, which is why I’m extremely fussy about the books I read, which is also why my bookshelf is pathetically scarce of titles when compared to other authors.  However, I’ll read anything as long as I am extremely interested, no matter the genre.  That being said… I do still read whenever I can.  It has more to do than just loving a good book; it’s loving a good story with dynamic characters, engaging plots, and thrilling conflict, be it in the form of the written word, film, theatre, or video games (don’t laugh, some of the best stories have come from gaming.)

So, getting to the point of this—because I do have one—I’ve decided to put my two obsessions for reading and writing to proper use and publish the occasional review on books I’ve read.  Realistically, I’ve already started, having been registered with Goodreads for a while now.  For the first few reviews, I’ll post my more recent comments.  Unfortunately, I will not be going back to review books read more than a year ago, which I never wrote a review for.  I do not believe that would be acceptable since the details would not be fresh, no matter how much I loved or hated the book (unless I reread it, of course).  And, by the way, FYI, I am a hard-ass… I just can’t help it.

To start, I’d actually like to begin with a double review since the freshest review was on “Mockingjay” – the third book in “The Hunger Games” trilogy.  It only makes sense to post my review of “Catching Fire” – the second book – along with it.



(4 of 5 Stars) After toying with the idea of reading this book for nearly a year, I finally decided to crack the spine once I discovered that the story dealt more with the restricting utopia of Panem and their reaction to being outsmarted by a teenage girl, and having a little less to do with the actual Hunger Games. I'm not saying that I think Book One (The Hunger Games) is a bad story (Note: as of this review, I have only watched the movie and not read the book), but I personally have trouble swallowing the concept of children killing children.

Catching Fire spreads its wings beyond the annual Hunger Games and encompasses the suppressive world and their districts lead by a Nazi-like ruler, President Snow. I found this to be a more appealing story. The Hunger Games are still prominent, but this time, they are told in a way that doesn't have me question my own morals about being entertained by youth violence. But that is not to say the Games are without another - different - moral compass that brought its own special brand of tension. The somber romance of the original story returns on a slightly grander scale, as well as a cast of interesting new characters. Some of my favorites: Johanna, Finnick, and Wiress.

Overall, a very good story that gives a clearer understanding of the world they have to survive in whether it is inside or outside of the arena. I did come across a few minor plot holes or "far reaches" that momentarily knocked me out of the story, but none were major and I found it easy to get back into Collins' dystopia. I am looking forward to reading Mockingjay (Book 3) and will not be waiting a year to do so.



(3 of 5 Stars) So, coming off reading The Hunger Games #2 (Catching Fire), I decided to jump into #3 after not being able to get past the first 40 pages of another book (which shall remain nameless). I was very excited to begin "Mockingjay," and although The Hunger Games series did not end as I had hoped, I was not thoroughly disappointed.

To begin with the negatives, the story did not evolve with the same excitement that only this dystopia could create. This may be partly because the writing was not as precise as its predecessor, but that point is completely subjective to the reader. Normally, the third act of a trilogy that is centered on violence and oppression is filled with more tension, better excitement, and parallels of the inciting moment of the first book. Though there were reminiscences of Suzanne Collins attempting to achieve those occasions, they were not present. There were moments when I struggled to keep my eyes open while reading.

But as for "Mockingjay"s positive points, the relationships between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale were worthy of a final installment, and the torment of what Peeta goes through after the end of Book #2 was imaginative and unpredictable; a story highlight. Additionally, there did not appear to be any unanswered questions or gaping holes in the plot once the last page was turned. The series ended wrapped up in a tight package, I just thought it could have used different wrapping paper.

Overall, there was much more to be expected from a series that has been so widely received. Although I would recommend this read, I would do so with a cautionary suggestion for the reader to ignore all the hype and add some leniency to their expectations. Perhaps the movie will be more entertaining.

BORN IN BLOOD

Born in Blood by Kate Paulk. $1.99 from Smashwords.com
Vlad Dracul, known later in life as Vlad the Impaler, suffered more than any should at the hands of Mehmed, son of Sultan Murad. Of all the pain and indignities brought upon him at the behest of the future ruler of the Ottoman Empire, the curse was the worst. All the young Vlad can do is try to survive and plot his vengeance.