Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn

***

Book Review:

The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn

11.29.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Paranormal Fiction, Erotic Fiction

Author: Lynda Hilburn

Format: Trade Paperback, 458 pages

Publisher: Silver Oak Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-85738-720-2

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

***

The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn is a story about a rational psychologist named Kismet Knight who, in her practice, meets and counsels a troubled teenager who renames herself, Midnight, in response to her fascination with vampires. While Kismet is a strong skeptic of the supernatural and quickly makes attempts at addressing Midnight’s potential diagnosis based on textbook symptoms, she becomes not only intrigued with the richness of Midnight’s vampire “fantasy,” but also becomes the center of its very real, warring feud.

Kismet’s assumptions are slowly dismantled in meeting the immensely powerful and passionate, 800-year-old vampire, Devereaux, who not only claims to be real, but also happens to be the leader of his vampire coven that covers its anonymity through a popular, goth nightclub called The Crypt in the town of Denver.

The plot intensifies as the book progresses and the vampire world is revealed. It’s a sharp page-turner that will compel its readers to sit for hours engrossed in its plot, romance, and dark magic.

The narrative is surprisingly mature for what I had expected to be a paranormal, YA novel, but appreciatively so. Aside from overtly clichéd, fantasy names like Kismet, Midnight, and Devereaux, the voice of the main character, Kismet,  is consistently mature for a shy, self-conscious introvert-turned-passionate and expressive, sexual prowess.

The book delves deep into dark magic, supernatural power, and demystifies the mythological stereotypes and folklore usually associated with vampires to reveal a dark, powerful, and sensuous breed—who, though may seem to have similarities with its human counterpart, is emphasized to be a very real, rare, and superior form of species.

And it’s as graphic as it is as sultry where love scenes are detailed, graphic forms of lust, passion, and erotica not intended for readers under the age of 18.

It’s a culmination of murder, evil, vampire fascination and sub-culture, romance and rivalry, dark magic and the inexplicable forces of the supernatural, and the culpable, emotional, and physical explosion that is inevitable when two opposing forces—human and vampire—are bound.

If you’re a vampire enthusiast, you’ll appreciate this sinister and sexy, fast-paced, but intense novel of the ever endearing and frightful nightwalker.

***

Zara’s Rating

  

***

The next book in this series is Blood Therapy and is expected to release February 5, 2013 by Silver Oak Publishing.

***

What do you find most fascinating about vampires and its sub-culture in fiction?

What do you think has been over-done?

What do you think Bram Stoker would say to the evolution of his original character, Dracula?

***

Summer Wrap-Up Paranormal Challenge! 08.12.2012

Summer Wrap-Up Read-a-Thon Paranormal Challenge!

08.12.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Thanks to Steph at A Dream within a Dream for hosting this Paranormal Challenge! She’s asked that participants choose a paranormal creature that they would like to be for one summer night and share what they would like to do! Sounds simple, huh? Except I’M FASCINATED with PARANORMAL CREATURES!

Mmm…let’s see…I’d have to narrow it down to a couple of things that I’m most interested in…

Perhaps I could be an….

ANGEL

***

or a…

WATER NYMPH

“Ophelia” by J.W. Waterhouse.

***

…or a…

MERMAID

***

…or a…

FAERIE

***

…or a…

SHAPE SHIFTER

 

***

I’d shape-shift into each creature and visit each world in which my form resides and learn the language of each species.

I would bow before the face of God as an angel, fly between heaven and earth, and perhaps act as a guardian angel to a loved one with the ability to read his or mind—in this case, my husband’s!

Then, on account that I have diverted all danger from my husband’s life for a day, I’d lounge the lakes as a water nymph, beautifying my body and my hair with earth’s nature, seducing men’s imagination with a glance.

After a little poetry and sunbathing, I’d return to the depths of the ocean and travel around the world once as a mermaid and take with me an ancient water song and silk pearls.

After I tire from that, I’d transform into fae, enjoying the lush and magic of the forest, practicing my flight on lit wings, using my power to speak with animals.

As soon as dawn breaks, I’d transform into light…and then wake up again into my original form.

How’s that for some summer fun, paranormal style?

***

For more posts on the Summer Wrap-Up Read-a-Thon, you can visit here.

***

What paranormal creature would you choose to be for a day?

***

Zara Alexis

Film Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Film Review:

Snow White and the Huntsman

07.12.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Category: Fantasy/Fairytale

Director: Rupert Sanders

Writers (Screenplay): Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini

Format: Film, 127 minutes

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Production Company: Roth Films, Universal Pictures

Release Date: June 1, 2012 in Canada

***

Snow White and the Huntsman is a film adaptation of the original fairytale, “Snow White,” which takes to the screen a dark, edgy re-telling of the tale.

***

The screenplay itself is filled with some over-reaching, clichéd dialogue and some dry gaps of narrative that feels as heavy-laden on the tongue of its speaker as it is slow-moving in its pace of the film. But, while this is true, it happens only a few times to be easily forgiven with the understanding that its root cause may not necessarily be solely the verse of the screenplay, but the delivery of its inexperienced and/or less talented actors.

While Chris Hemsworth delivers a believable Huntsman, both in strength, courage, and even hesitant chivalry, the dialogue in the latter part of the film, particularly his soliloquy, is far too dramatic without the appropriate build-up to ground its significance that it not only seems far-fetched, but highly unlikely. Nevertheless, Chris Hemsworth is an enjoyable enough actor to play within the dialogue of his role, however convoluted it seems to be. For him, there doesn’t seem to be much choice. He didn’t write the lines, but must be left to enact them.

***

Aside from his obvious appeal to women in the audience because of his classic handsomeness, the bulk of his frame, the rough resonance of his voice, his physical maturity for an actor only 29-years-old, and his valour in role-play, I could not help but be constantly reminded of his role as Thor as I watched him on-screen. The only prop missing aside from potential chemistry between his role and that of Kristen Stewart as Snow White was Mjollnir, Thor’s powerful and godly hammer. I kept thinking to myself, “Save Snow White for Odin! For Asgard!,” which is both a terrible injustice as well as an act of confusion in the wrongful melding of two different stories altogether. I partly blame my bias having seen the movie Thor recently on DVD and also the casting director and costume designer of the film, for the character of the Huntsman in Chris Hemsworth is terribly similar to that of Thor in the movie of the same name.

***

His counterpart found in Kristen Stewart as Snow White is both the attraction to the film for those of her worshipful fans who follow her based on her popularity as Bella in Twilight—as well as the ruin of it—in her poor depiction of such a classic, almost iconic heroine of the original tale.

While the story originally attests Snow White’s beauty as one which reveals dark, ebony hair and skin “as white as snow,” with potential power to defeat the evil queen with innocence, purity, and unequivocal beauty belonging to someone who is deemed the “fairest of them all,”—I found this incredibly difficult to reconcile in the actress, Kristen Stewart.

***

A soft, snide remark may come to mind, “Oh, you’re just jealous, Zara,” but I can assure you that I’m a fair judgement of beauty in my belief to be able to look at myself soberly and others well enough in taking consideration of what is deemed attractive within the understanding and acceptance of diversity in tastes.

In fairness to Kristen Stewart, she is both an attractive and young American woman, but hardly one I would consider astoundingly beautiful to carry the weight of such an attribute and title as “fairest of them all” in a classic and archetypal fairytale.

Her skin, somewhat ruddy in complexion, her obvious brown hair, her eyes devoid of passion or even variances of emotion, coupled with thin lips that have a tendency to only open partially in order to mumble or to remain sullen, altogether remind me neither of purity, innocence, extreme beauty, or grace in a fantastical tale, but the exhaustion and cool indifference of an edgy, over-tired, if not plain teenager filled with the self-absorption and angst of the modern world.

***

It doesn’t help that Stewart’s acting ability is less than desirable in its overall stiffness and deadpan tone that the audience is unable to escape into the fantasy that the character Snow White is supposed to induce and emanate, but rather gets pinned down by the weight of Stewart’s contrived attempt at acting easily and naturally—which unfortunately, she fails at.

I would have preferred to see such casting for the character of Snow White in natural beauties who resonate the dark hair and fair skin as prescribed for the role and an ethereal grace, freshness, and innocence that resounds a kindness and compassion that evokes an almost supple sensuality. I would have preferred to see such casting for the character of Snow White in such actresses as: Natalie Portman, Wynona Ryder, or Liv Tyler.

Natalie Portman

***

Wynona Ryder

***

Liv Tyler

***

But, the saving grace of the film is not only in its creative and imaginative effects and its costume design, it’s in the performance of Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen. Her beauty and depiction of pain and lust for dark power is both convincing and eerily seductive. If it were not for her role in the film, Snow White and the Huntsman would falter to a dark, pitiful play simply staged with people in costume.

***

***

***

The cinematography of the Evil Queen’s transition from injured bird back to human as she crawls from the tar pit of her dead wings and injured flock is both exquisitely transitory and dark and one of my favourite scenes in the entirety of the movie.

Overall, if you’re able to lower your expectations in Kristen Stewart’s acting ability and resign to the fact that she was indeed wrongly casted and ill-suited for the role, as well as overcome your annoyance at her attempt in playing Snow White, with the hope of feasting your eyes on the decadence of some creative costume design and interesting special effects, as well as accept your typical dose of adventurous action sequences at the sight of Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and sit back to drink the performance of Charlize Theron in as the Evil Queen, then you might walk away somewhat satisfied.

Otherwise, it’s best to opt to see another film. One in which you can trust the ability of the actors to bring life to their roles in such a natural way that you see beyond the actors themselves and become intoxicated instead with the realism of the characters they play. Perhaps then you can relish in the delight of visual and sound effects that make your ticket price and two-and-a-half hour sitting time wholly worthwhile.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

If you could choose which role to play, who would you choose to be in the movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman?”

***

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

02.05.2012

By Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Author: Erin Morgenstern
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: September 13, 2011

***

The Night Circus is an intricate tale of creativity with a rich cast of characters who, with their specific gifts and talents help showcase the magical realism that moves throughout the book.

It is about Le Cirque des Rêves aptly translated as The Circus of Dreams not only because of its hours of operation that only takes place nocturnally in the evening until dawn, but also because of its dreamlike and fantastical effect on its patrons.

A circus is usually attributed to magic and feats of wonder as a form of entertainment. This circus, rather than only a collection of good showmanship skills of deception and tricks that audiences can enjoy simply as voyeurs, instead becomes an organic house of multiple tents, pathways, and magic that invites and seduces its patrons to not only visit, but also participate in and experience.

Image from:     http://matchbookclub.blogspot.com/2011/10/enchanted.html

So much so, there are those avid followers of the circus in the book who themselves become a cultist group of lifetime worshippers, a secret society that dubbed its name from the whisperings of rumour later known as the réveurs. The réveurs, a fanatical, creative group reveal themselves to each other by a colour coded uniform: black, white, grey, and a “splash of red” in honour of Le Cirque des Rêves’ own colour theme throughout its grounds: black, white, and black and white stripes.

Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/b-randy/6327494925/

But the story goes further than providing simple entertainment to its patrons or to its readers. The true premise of the night circus as a venue is its stage for a duel competition between two gifted adversaries, Celia Bowen, daughter of famous and renowned illusionist, Prospero the Enchanter, and Marco, orphan-turned-student to The Man in the Grey Suit, Alexander H.

Together, they simultaneously study under the tutelage of their magician masters, honing in on strengthening their natural gifts—Celia, who is able to move, dismantle, and return objects to their natural form, and Marco, who is able to create illusions within the minds of his chosen audience—until each in turn must learn to outdo the other in the competition of their lives.

Though I found the romantic dialogue and narrative to be somewhat exaggerated, I believe the author was attempting to showcase the lovers’ passion and strong connection to one another through their magic. It is highly unrealistic, but then what story of deep, passionate love ever is? The two lovers are intrinsically a different type of breed altogether.

Image from: http://manbehindthecurtain.ie/2012/01/22/carnival-of-fear/

As the gifts of the competitors strengthen and expand, so does the complication of the circus. The characters that belong to or are involved with the circus are:

  •  Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre, a wealthy eccentric gifted in hosting elaborate parties called Midnight Dinners, who also has an inherent talent with knife-throwing.
  • Mme. Ana Padva, a retired Romanian prima ballerina with an impeccable sense of style who is revered for her fashion design and seamstress skills.
  • Mr. Ethan W. Barris, a gifted engineer and architect.
  • The Burgess twins, Tara and Lainie, dancers, actresses, who provide consultation on various subjects due to their keen sense of observation.
  • Alexander H., the man in the grey suit who is best known to wear a top hat and carry a cane.
  • Tsukiko, the tattooed contortionist.
  • Herr Friedrick Thiessen, a gifted artisan and clockmaker commissioned to create a showcase piece for the circus.
  • Isobel Martin, tarot reader and fortuneteller.
  • Bailey Alden Clarke, a young circus enthusiast.
  • Winston Aiden Murray nicknamed Widget, a twin born on the opening night of Le Cirque des Rêves.
  • Penelope Aislin Murray called Poppet, the second of the twins to be born on opening night.

As these characters become more deeply embedded in the circus’ magic and its danger, the effects on its members and its patrons, as well as its own magic, slowly becomes darker.

As fantastical and wondrous as magic can be, there is always an undercurrent of dark that runs within it because its mysteries are not readily understood, accepted, revealed, nor practiced. An array of magical practice is showcased in the book as homage to the art of the occult.

Image from: http://pinterest.com/wovendumpster/the-night-circus/

Yet, they far stretch the limits of what we normally understand as magic. Erin Morgenstern has moved beyond the boundaries of what we are familiar with and has created a new world of richly, imaginative ideas.

The beauty of this book is in the literal magic that takes place within its pages. Where our imagination has failed to carry us further than what we yearn to experience and understand, Morgenstern has supplied a richly imaginative story, plot, and magical realism that inspires us to believe not only in her authoritative writing powers, but also her fantastic and creative imagination.

Image from: http://pinterest.com/pin/18577417182599118/

Reprinned by Morgan Koch

If Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is deemed a rich classic, Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus is its modern and magical counterpart.

Image from: http://geoffarcher.wordpress.com/

The cover design is intelligently made to match the colour themes found in the book from its starlit front cover, to its black and white striped first pages, right down to its red stitched hardcover binding.

It’s a wondrous, intoxicating book that needs to be thoroughly read more than once, over and over. A naturally born skeptic myself, Erin Morgenstern has been able to magically convert me to becoming one of her night circus’ devoted rèveurs. The mysterious pages of the book continue to be turned in Friedrick Thiessen’s clock: tick, tock, tick, tock…and poof!

Image from: http://homeiswheretheboatis.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/the-night-circus/

For the addicted réveur, it will always become dawn too soon.

Where will you be when Le Cirque des Rêves comes to the outskirts of your town?

As for me, I’ll be in the black and white striped tent wearing my blood-red scarf, looking out for The Man in the Grey Suit in the shadows, Prospero the Enchanter amongst the stain-glass windows, and Celia and Marco in the Ice Garden, bound by magic and love. 

Image from: http://pinterest.com/pin/18577417182602219/

Pinned by Linda D.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

A special thank you to Random House Canada for providing me with a signed copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for review.

***