Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Modern Musical Movies: Quirky and Whimsical

Let's talk about my love of musicals. I don't love all musicals. Some have me running the opposite direction, screaming in agony. Growing up these were my favorites: 

Mary Poppins 
The Sound of Music 
Doctor Dootle 
My Fair Lady 
West Side Story 
Wizard of Oz 

Julie Andrews is hands down my favorite actress, singer and person in the entire world. Seriously, who doesn't love Julie Andrews? 


 Now, move forward in time to 2013 when I now have a 13 year old daughter who puts up with my obsession with the above musicals, but since she's watched them endlessly since birth, she's looking for her own musicals. This has led to watching a lot of bad musicals over the years including: All of the High School musical movies, Camp Rock and a little ditty called Lemonade Mouth on the Disney Channel. Shudder. 

However, over the last few years we've found a few gems. 

BANDSLAM 



This movie was marketed so wrong it was unbelievable. The trailers made it seem like a fluffy Disney movie with angst and immature humor. It was instead more like an Indy film with many levels including themes of grief, judging others, being true to yourself and friendship. The music was amazing with it's light Ska influence, including a cool version of an old Bread song from the 70's. 

SCHOOL OF ROCK 

Yes, this is a Jack Black movie. Yes, he's a dumb ass, but the kids are very cool. Many of them were musicians and new to acting. The end of the movie with it's concert scene is amazing, and I couldn't help but giggle at Jack Black as he learns what teamwork is all about. 

PITCH PERFECT 

It took me awhile to sit down and watch this for some reason, even though my daughter saw it twice with friends. Once I did, I loved it. Well, everything but the two vomit scenes. Really folks, can we skip the puking? No one really likes to see it. The music is great, and I loved the themes used in the plot. Who knew a cappella group could be so entertaining? 

ELLA ENCHANTED 

The only word for this movie is adorable. Freaking. Adorable. I know it was hated by many, and loved by few but it makes me laugh and smile. Who can hate her singing Somebody to Love by Queen? The ending after the ending has the entire cast singing and dancing to the Elton John song Don't Go Breaking My Heart is just plain fun. Throw in giants, ogres, elves, dumb step sisters and an evil king. I've never read the book, and knowing Hollywood it probably doesn't follow the story, but it's a cute, adorable movie. Sometimes we just need a bit of cute in our lives.

We have a few other favorites that include Enchanted, Tangled, Mulan, The Cinderella Story (Selena Gomez). My daughter has some die hard oldies that she's loved since she was little:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web and The Wizard of Oz are movies I know she'll be sharing with her own kids one day.

Do you have favorite musicals?

~Brenda
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Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Adult, New Authors, 100 Books Later and It's 2014

2013 flew by with the birth of our first grandchild.  It felt like I plodded along on the writing front, though I wrote five to eight articles every month, and managed to keep up with my Goodreads account.  I also edited and partially wrote three gardening ebooks for one of the websites I've been working with, which was a new challenge, but one I really enjoyed.  My grandson continues to be fascinated with books, which tickles me to no end.


I read over 100 books in 2013 and discovered some new authors, which is always exciting.  I never tire of discovering new writers because each one has their own unique style.  Some of the new writers I discovered last year include:

Kristen Ashley
Kit Rocha
Skye Jordan
Codi Gary
Hailey Edwards
Sarah Castille
Jasinda Wilder
Suzanne Wright
M.L. Buchman

2013 also brought us the category of New Adult, which I have concerns about as a mom. I appreciate that most authors have warnings on the blurbs when the story contains adult themes. My daughter is 13 and has told me several times that when she searches for Young Adult the New Adult books are included. Fortunately, we talk about what she reads and she has no interest in reading something inappropriate. However, this is not always the case, and it concerns me that the filter isn't better when it comes to the categories, at least on Amazon. Those of you who've read many of the New Adult stories like I have, know that they can be gritty, gut wrenching and the sex is not for those under 17 or 18.  Hey, I'm 53 and enjoy the new stories, but I'd prefer my 13 year old wait to be exposed the gritty world of New Adult.

This year I'll be writing gardening ebooks for the same company I edited for last year, which is a huge challenge for me.  I'm telling myself it's simply a grouping of articles on one topic, which is no different than what I've been doing.  I'll still be writing home and garden articles each month, and of course reviewing books on Goodreads.  I'm going to try and blog more, but it will have to come after the paid gigs are caught up each week or month. 

Thanks to those who've hung in here with me:)

~Happy New Year!  Brenda

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time Management as a Grandmother....

I have none-time management, that is.  None at all.  I am learning, but it's hard.  My son and his girlfriend went through nine months of emotional turmoil, angst and the fear of the unknown after finding out she was pregnant.  When the day finally came, they rallied together and supported each other like I knew they could and Jace was born.  It was love at first sight for everyone in his life, and believe me, the waiting room was filled with his fans and his support system.  




My journey as a grandmother has been completely different than the one I had as a mother. I was over 30 when I had my first baby, and 39 when I had my youngest.  Jace's parents are 20 years old, and still figuring out life.  Since last summer when we found out we were going to be grandparents, my husband and I have been constantly reminding ourselves what we felt like at 20-- before we knew each other, when we were struggling with figuring out who we were and what we wanted out of life. 

I'm 53 now, and I've had three pregnancies and two miscarriages, so I've been there and done that, as the saying goes.  I loved being pregnant and remember going through that period of sadness when I realized that time in my life was past. Becoming a grandmother is an experience so different from becoming a mother.  It's my baby, having a baby.  It's my chance to help him, and Jace's mom, to learn how to be good parents.  Notice the word "help".  It doesn't mean I do it for them, or make decisions they should be making.  Help means encouraging them to learn and to "do" on their own. This isn't always easy, but we've been doing well.  

This is Jace today at 7 months old:




I watch Jace while his parents are at work and I'm having a hard time resisting him when I should be writing. He holds up a book, and off I go.... and yes, he loves books.  Our favorite right now is MOO, BAA, LA LA LA!  It's a Sandra Boynton story.  I have one more of hers, and I'm collecting the rest of her picture books as well.  My daughter is 13 now, and we both love her books.  It's so cool sharing books with Jace that his dad, my other son and my daughter, loved when they were small.

Besides cuddling with Jace, I've been writing freelance home and garden articles plus editing a group of gardening ebooks, which has taken much of my computer time. I try to keep up on Goodreads with reviews, but I do have a bit of catching up from last month.  I've been on a Kristen Ashley marathon lately since her books are reading crack. 

~Brenda


Friday, January 25, 2013

2012 Series Review: The Belador Series

In order to catch up with my reviews and blog posts, I'm going to review series that I either began to read in 2012, or caught up on by reading the latest book to be published after having followed it since the beginning.  I'll note all of those posts as "2012 Series Review"  with the title of the series.

The Curse 
 Belador Series #3 
Sherrilyn Kenyon 
Dianna Love 
Print Length: 417 pages 
Publisher: Pocket Books 
Released: September 18, 2012 
Available in Print and Digital 

SERIES SUMMARY: A league of international warriors with extraordinary abilities rise up to save mankind from supernatural terrorists. Three warriors bound by a Code of Honor face a world of trouble… Evalle Kincaid – An Alterant (part Belador and part unknown species) – A half breed, she works twice as hard as the pure blood Beladors. The Beladors are studying her as her powers progress and develop, because those powers can turn against her and humanity. 

I started reading this series in 2010 when I was sent a copy of Blood Trinity by the publisher . I've read each one, the latest being The Curse, which was released in September of 2012.  This series is paranormal romance mixed with urban fantasy, but I also feel it has a bit of epic fantasy to it as well.  Evalle Kincaid, the heroine, is the focus of the series.  There are two romantic interests, one human and one supernatural. After reading the second book these were my feelings about Evalle and Storm:

 The relationship between Evalle and Storm, a supernatural tracker with a secret Evalle keeps even from her friends, figures in the story prominently. He's a sexy alpha male with feelings that cause him to be uber protective of Evalle. The sexual tension is off the charts between the two of them but sex is not going to happen any time soon, which might put off some readers but I appreciated it. Evalle suffered sexual abuse in the past and it would have been insensitive and unrealistic to have her jump in the sack immediately with Storm, especially since he can tell she's been abused. 

The relationships in the series and the progress of the plot remind me of the Kate Daniel's series by Ilona Andrews in that more is revealed about Evalle, her past and her powers in each book. The romance is not the focus of the series, but it's an important element.  The books are a perfect mix of urban fantasy and paranormal romance with fast paced action and great characters in a gritty, complex world of magic.

The Belador Series 
1. Blood Trinity (2010)
2. Alterant (2011)
3. The Curse (2012)

Firebound is a free Belador short story that can be downloaded from Ms. Love's website.

The series officially began with the story Midnight Kiss Goodbye, which is part of Dead After Dark anthology, which features Trey and Sasha, but not Evalle. The couple does appear in the series, however.


I'm really looking forward to the next story in the series, coming out this summer:

4. RISE OF THE GRYPHON (July 2013)
Evalle’s best friends Tzader and Quinn face unthinkable choices, as relationships with the women they love grow twisted. Evalle’s relationship with the Skinwalker Storm takes a major step and becomes complicated when the witchdoctor he’s been hunting begins to stalk her. With death breathing down her neck, Evalle is forced to embrace her destiny . . . but at what price?

 Find out more at Dianna Love's website: http://www.authordiannalove.com

~Brenda

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fathom: A Captivating YA Tale

Fathom
Author: Merrie Destefano
Print Length: 310 pages
Publisher: Merrie Destefano
Released: September 24, 2012
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

SUMMARY: Turning sixteen can be hell, especially if everyone in town thinks your mother killed herself and your sister. All Kira Callahan wants to do is swim, hang out with her best friend, Sean, and ignore the kids who torment her at school. That is, until one day when she gets invited to a party. For three minutes her life is wonderful—she even kisses Sean in the driveway. Then somebody spikes her drink at the party and some girls from out of town lure her into the ocean and hold her underwater. Kira soon discovers that the group of wild teenagers who have come to visit Crescent Moon Bay are not as innocent as they seem. In fact, nothing is as it seems—not the mysterious deaths of her sister and mother, not her heritage, not even her best friend. And everything seems to hinge on the ancient Celtic legends that her mother used to tell her as a child.

It's no secret that I love Merrie Destefano's books and stories.  Her writing has a beautiful flow to it, bringing the reader inside the story to experience it with the characters.  Fathom is the first Young Adult story I've read by Merrie, and my summer was so chaotic I had fell behind in book news, and didn't know much at all about her new novel.  I dived into the unknown and was captivated by the end of the first chapter, wanting to know what was going to happen to Kira.  Was her family evil?  Hmmm...maybe her best friend wasn't what he seemed? Why did her mother kill herself and her sister, but spare Kira?  I needed to know! 

Ms. Destefano captured the voice of a teenage girl so well, it made me feel 16 again.  I identified with Kira and her hormonal confusion battling with the need to do what is right.  The words flowed from page to page, keeping me captivated from start to finish.  I loved the characters, and truly appreciated that the adults were as interesting, flaws and all, as the teens.   They were part of the story, not relegated to the background, as some YA stories tend to do.  

Lastly,  I must mention the twists, the turns and the surprises along the way.  This is not a predictable story. It's fresh, passionate and compelling and will surprise the reader.  Fans of Melissa Marr, Karen Mahoney, and Colleen Houck will love Fathom.

To read the first chapter and find out more about Fathom visit Merrie's website at:
http://www.merriedestefano.com/fathom.html

~Brenda

Thursday, September 6, 2012

An ARC Review: A Trace of Moonlight

A Trace of Moonlight
Abby Sinclair #3
Author: Allison Pang
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: 10/30/2012
Preorder for Kindle

SUMMARY: Abby’s pact with a demon—whether or not she remembers making it—is binding, so she’d better count herself lucky that (in the words of a daemon who knows better) there’s nearly always a loophole. But her friends’ reckless attempts to free her, well intentioned though they may be, set off a disastrous chain of events. In no time at all, Abby turns her incubus lover mortal and gets herself killed, cursed, and married to an elven prince whose mother wants her dead. She might have even been able to recover from all that had she not lost the Key to the CrossRoads to her mortal enemy, who promptly uses his restored power to wreak havoc on the OtherWorld and put its very existence in jeopardy. Only one person can make things right again, but to find her, Abby must place her trust in allies of mixed loyalties, and conquer her nightmares once and for all.

I've reviewed the other two books in this amazing series, and each one sucked me in more than the last. I have to say that Allison Pang is one of the first authors I've read that really had me torn between two heroes. Talivar is a loyal, sexy, underdog with a quiet strength. Brystion is sexy, and he knows it. He's striking, aggressive, passionate and often selfish...it's his nature. A Trace of Moonlight takes my impressions of these two men and twists them up like a Cat's Cradle gone wrong. The story itself is full of twists and turns, life changing battles, sacrifices and epic events.

Abby is an amazing heroine. She's not a physical fighter, but she is smart, compassionate and doesn't sit on the sidelines waiting to be rescued. She uses what she has available to her in every situation. A Trace of Moonlight is fast paced, emotionally packed and amazing. Fans won't be disappointed. 

The series should be read in order.  Fans of Melissa Marr, Patricia Briggs or Jenn Bennett will love the Abby Sinclair series. The books include:

1. A Brush of Darkness
2. A Sliver of Shadow
3. A Trace of Moonlight

For more information on Allison Pang and the Abby Sinclair series visit here:
http://www.heartofthedreaming.com/

(Be sure to click on "Extras" and look at the trading cards. They are beautiful!)
~Brenda

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Taken: Supernatural Noir Mystery



The Taken
Celestial Blues, Book One
Author: Vicki Pettersson
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: June 12, 2012
Available in Paperback and Kindle

Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he's an angel, but that doesn't make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he's been dumped back onto the mortal mudflat to collect another soul—Katherine "Kit" Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder—and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.
Joining forces, Kit and Grif's search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy. But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn't Grif's biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife . . .

I've been a fan of Vicki Pettersson for years now because of her epic series, The Signs of the Zodiac. When the series ended I was completely satisfied with how she wrapped it all up, but I was sad because I didn't know when we would see something new from her. She gave hints as early as she could, and slowly revealed the deets on her next series. I was very interested, but after the cover was released I was giddy with anticipation. Rockabilly? Noir? Hard-boiled P.I.? Angels? 
 
A summer of teen drama and freelance writing kept me from reading The Taken until this week. I found myself nervous as I started it. What if I didn't like it? Perish the thought. I plowed in with abandon and as soon as I saw dialog like this I knew I would love it:

"Look, I'm sorry to the one to tell you, kid. But you've been rooked."

Griffin Shaw, one of the main characters, is straight out of 1950's Las Vegas. He doesn't have to shop at vintage clothing stores because he IS vintage. He still wears the Fedora he had on when he died. He's a Mickey Spillane character come to life, thrown into modern Las Vegas where nothing is at it was, which makes him a tad cranky.  He's an angel brought back to the "mudflat" to correct a mistake.

Kit Craig is a female reporter with style, finesse, and intelligence who sees the best in everyone, and refuses to let life get her down. She's the polar opposite of Griffin Shaw, and she's determined to help him while helping herself, even if he is cranky and crazy. It doesn't hurt that he looks like he stepped out the 1950's with a presence and style that takes her breath away. The Taken is truly a breath of fresh air for me, because of the writing, which blew me away, and the unique world the author has created with it's quirky characters. I can't recall ever reading this amazing mix of mystery, romance, and urban fantasy with a noir twist. It's fast paced with action in all the right places, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

Vicki Pettersson has the ability to bring the people and streets of Las Vegas alive, mixing the past and present together with the unseen paranormal aspects of the fictional world she has created. The Taken is dark and gritty, yet hope shines through Kit and her relationship with Griffin, taking the reader's breath away over and over.

Ms. Pettersson just released the cover for the second book in the series, The Lost, which will be released in March 2013.


To find out more about The Celestial Blues series visit here:
http://www.vickipettersson.com/

~Brenda