Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Sleepy Hollow - First Season (2013-2014)

Sleepy Hollow is a brand-new television series on FOX with thirteen episodes. It is a retelling of the classic short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," by Washington Irving with a modern twist. Ichabod Crane has awoken over two centuries after being killed in the American Revolutionary War. Before his death, Ichabod beheads the Hessian horseman and their bloods mix, sealing their fates. He must adjust to the 21st century, battle the headless horseman, rescue his trapped wife from purgatory, and prevent a looming apocalypse.

Upon his awakening, he adjusts to modern life with the help of Sleepy Hollow police detective, Abigail "Abbie" Mills. She horrifyingly watches the reanimated headless horsemen behead her boss and mentor, Sargent August Corbin. She later learns that she is a Second Witness, destined to fight against evil. Their investigations lead to encounters with the occult and secret societies. Together, Abbie and Ichabod search for hidden clues from the Founding Fathers to the Freemasons on how to destroy a powerful ancient evil bent on destroying the world in Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow was the most successful freshman hit on network television for the 2013-2014 season. This show has exceeded expectations, drawing a large fan base that will surely become a pop culture sensation. Who would have thought that the creators could combine horror, history (especially the colonial era!), and fantasy would take the nation by surprise by its highly addictive blend of supernatural adventure and police procedural. Now, fans mourn the fact that this season has ended too soon and won't resume until Fall 2014.

I loved this show for several reasons. First, Ichabod (Tim Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie) had great chemistry working together as partners. Their mannerisms (including the British accent) were humorous yet determined. The producers didn't try to force a romantic relationship. Second, I loved the good use of comedy, fantasy, historical, and horror in the show. It was both breathtaking scary and intellectually stimulating. Third, the plot was totally unpredictable (the season finale was epic!). The ending blindsided me because I would have never expected the final outcome yet the clues were there throughout the first season. This was brilliant screenwriting on the producers. While the ending saddened me greatly, I look forward to the second season with much enthusiasm. Finally, I liked the racial diversity of the main cast. It is one of very few shows that has an African American lead and supporting cast whose genre isn't normally targeted for African American audiences. I praise the producers for taking this risk because it demonstrates that (a) blacks can act outside their typical genres and (b) blacks can act in fantasy/occult shows. This move would surely attract viewers of all races to watch this hit series.

Stay tuned for the second season premiere of Sleepy Hollow in Fall 2014. Hopefully, it will receive a standard 22-episode run. You can watch the trailer below:

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review: Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5 Novella)

Homecoming is a short story (novella) by Richelle Mead. It is based on the Vampire Academy series featuring dhampir guardians, Rosemarie "Rose" Hathaway and her lover, Dimitri. It takes place right after Last Sacrifice. The story can be found in the anthology, Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction (edited by Carrie Ryan).

Plot: Rose and Dmitri head back to Siberia, Russia to see Dmitri's family. He has been restored into a dhampir, after being forcibly changed into a Strigoi (a blood-thirty vampire that kills others--human, dhampir, and Moroi--uncontrollably). More importantly, this is a reunion (celebration) because his family thought that he was deceased. They need to see for themselves that Dimitri is alive and well. However, trouble lurks in the region. An Alchemist updates the community with information that a Strigoi ("The Blood King") is killing humans in the neighboring villages. It will take dhampirs with full guardian training--Dmitri, Rose, and Mark--to destroy this ancient evil.

It has been a while that I have read a Rose/Dmitri story. I finished the Vampire Academy series back in 2010. I can still remember the emotion and suspense in Rose's determination to save Dmitri from the darkness as a Strigoi. It was a beautiful series that made me glad that Rose found her happiness. Since then, VA has become an international success, spawning graphic novels, collector's editions, and book clubs. If you haven't read the Vampire Academy series, I highly recommend it since it's the successor to Twilight franchise! Especially when a film adaptation will appear in movie theaters in February 7, 2014 (Valentine's Day)! In fact, you should read this series before you start on the Bloodlines novels, a spin-off series that focuses on the relationship between Sydney the Alchemist and Adrian the royal Moroi (re-occurring characters in the VA books). You can also browse all my reviews of the bestselling Vampire Academy novel series below!

  1. Vampire Academy
  2. Frostbite
  3. Shadow Kiss
  4. Blood Promise
  5. Spirit Bound
  6. Last Sacrifice
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: Changes (The Dresden Files #12)

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world…

He’s fighting to save his child.

Changes , by Jim Butcher, is the twelfth novel in the Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, gets a call from his ex-girlfriend and half-vampire, Susan Rodriguez: "They've taken our little girl." Harry pauses for 5 seconds and then says, "Um, what?" In a single phone call, his life turns upside down. This shocking news hit him like a nuclear explosion. Harry is a father?!? In his childhood, he was an orphan who never knew his deceased mother (Margaret LaFey) and his father died when he was a toddler. Harry values family deeply, but he is both angry and disappointed that Susan never told him about his eight-year-old daughter, Maggie Angelica Dresden. More importantly, she has been taken by the Red Court vampires as a human sacrifice that would ultimately kill the child and everyone related to her, including Harry. Talk about a bad wake-up call.

Once he realizes the severity of the case, Harry is willing to compromise all of his values and even his own soul to save his daughter. His mentor, Ebenezer McCoy states, "I understand Harry, your little girl is in trouble and you want to be there for her." But Harry replies, "Not want to be", I said quietly, "going to be". After losing his office, home, and the support of the White Council in unexpected attacks, it's a wonder that Harry didn't lose his sanity. The Red Court vampires planned the ultimate plot against Harry. Thus, he must turn to the only person who can help save his daughter and himself: Mab, the Winter Queen of Air and Darkness. With his trusted companions and faith on his side, he embarks on a rescue mission where he will have to face an ancient and dark nemesis that is beyond his power. If he succeeds, Harry will be forever a changed man.

Oh wow! Jim Butcher did it again. He really knows how to tear a reader's heart out! Just as when I thought this would be another typical case for Harry, Butcher sets the stakes high and completely challenges Harry's values under dire circumstances. The title, Changes, is completely appropriate for this novel. Everything in Dresden's worldview changes: (1) He makes alliances he never thought he would choose, (2) he loses people that I didn't think he would see again, (3) he learns major secrets about his family heritage, and (4) somehow gains a new person I never saw coming: a daughter! Harry is a father, which puts him in a different category. He's no longer a lone ranger fighting against evil. He must protect his child against powerful enemies who will use that weakness against him. He knows this ugly truth, and thus trusts her to Father Forthill so that no one knows of her existence.

[Warning: This section contains major spoilers.] This is a new direction for the future of the Dresden Files series. When I thought Harry's adventures were getting stale, Butcher masterfully created a storyline that forced Dresden into a dangerous situation beyond his control that requires sacrifice. Harry doesn't like this reality but he had no choice when someone else's life is at stake. He also blames himself for Karrin Murphy losing her police career in the end. However, Murphy reminds him that she knew the consequences of her actions to help Harry and never regretted her decisions. Another shocker was mastermind half-vampire Martin's true motives. He revealed the truth to Harry through a soulgaze: Despite his wicked past, Martin set up the kidnapping as a ploy that would ultimately destroy the Red Court. Surprisingly, his calculated plan (which included him dying in the process) that had Dresden as the hero and Susan as the martyr succeeded. Finally, when readers thought Harry survived to live another day, a lone assassin finally shoots him when he's most vulnerable. Is Harry really dead or Butcher has some more magic up his sleeve?

Stay tuned for the first omnibus in the Dresden Files series, Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files

Stay tuned for the thirteenth novel in the Dresden Files series, Ghost Story.
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Friday, January 10, 2014

New Sailor Moon Anime Adaptation in Production

Wonderful news! The new anime adaptation (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon ~Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon~) will premiere in either 2014 or 2015 July 2014! It will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon (official website) and will be subtitled in ten languages.  The Japanese female idol group, Momoiro Clovers Z, will perform both the opening and ending theme songs of the anime television series.

During the second 20th Anniversary event on August 4, 2013, it was revealed that the new Sailor Moon anime will air in December 2013 (delayed until further notice), and that it would be streamed internationally online via NicoNico.

It will NOT be a remake of the original anime. As an avid Sailor Moon fan during my childhood, I am looking forward to this adaptation! If you have never heard of Sailor Moon, check out my review of the classic anime. It is considered one of the most popular and top-selling franchises in Japanese animation history.  Check back for more updates. 

[UPDATE #1]: New Sailor Moon Anime by Toei to Premiere in July (January 9, 2014, ANN)

[UPDATE #2]: New Sailor Moon Anime's Producer: Not Remaking 1st Anime (January 9, 2014, ANN)

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: After Dead - What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse (2013)

This review is about the coda, After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse, by Charlaine Harris. It marks the end of the bestselling Southern Vampire series.

Dead Ever After marked the end of the Sookie Stackhouse novels—a series that garnered millions of fans and spawned the hit HBO television show True Blood. It also stoked a hunger that will never die…a hunger to know what happened next.

With characters arranged alphabetically—from the Ancient Pythoness to Bethany Zanelli—bestselling author Charlaine Harris takes fans into the future of their favorite residents of Bon Temps and environs. You’ll learn how Michele and Jason’s marriage fared, what happened to Sookie’s cousin Hunter, and whether Tara and JB’s twins grew up to be solid citizens.

This coda provides the answers to your lingering questions—including details of Sookie’s own happily-ever-after…

The book will feature extensive interior art by acclaimed Sookie artist Lisa Desimini, including a Sookieverse Alphabet, color endpapers, and several full-page black and white interior illustrations.

While I appreciate that Harris provided closure in this book for avid fans, it still disappointed me that the series had to end in this matter. I have read this series since my senior year of high school (I am currently a graduate student in a doctoral program!) I have enjoyed the adventures of Sookie with the supernatural in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Since 2001, the Southern Vampire series started with such fanfare and potential, but unfortunately it should have ended around Dead and Gone. Due to extreme popularity and unwise decision, Harris dragged the storyline where Sookie's life became dull and bizarre. When Sookie ended her relationship with vampire master Eric, that's when the series lost its luster and purpose. The faerie saga in the last four novels did not help Harris because it lacked the suspense and action that were prominent in the beginning of the series.

At some point, I wanted Sookie to be simply happy and satisfied with her life. So what happened to Sookie after Dead Ever After? [Major spoilers alert] Sookie and Sam get married. Sookie gives birth to four children: Neal, Jennings, Adele and Jillian Tara being the "bonus baby." Sookie was also visited by Desmond Cataliades each time she gave birth so he could inspect the children to see if any one of them had the "spark." Only Sookie's son Jennings is given the gift of telepathy. All four children grow up with great tolerance towards supernatural creatures. Desmond Cataliades assured Sookie that after the current generation of Stackhouse children, there would be no telepathy anymore in their family. Sookie and Sam continued to tend Merlotte's until they retired.

Despite her supernatural adventures with vampires, wreewolves, faerie, witches, and demons (oh my!), Sookie ends up with a normal life (one she wholeheartedly deserved). You can say that she learned her lesson -- although she isn't a normal human, supernatural politics can cause too much drama and grief! Despite this series' downfall, After Dead provided the needed closure for fans who stayed loyal to this series.
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Monday, January 6, 2014

Blog Still Going Strong: 108,000+ Hits!

Happy New Year! Despite a ridiculously busy year, this website received over 14,000 hits in 2013!

If you thought 2013 was filled with mystery and exciting events, I have more to share with you! Here is a snapshot of 2014 below:

  • A new film, Vampire Academy, based on the bestselling novel series by Richelle Mead, will hit theatres on February 7, 2014!
  • The final book, The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness, will be released in summer 2014.
  • I will review and post the entire Morganville Vampires teen novel series by the end of this year.
  • I will try to catch up on anime reviews since my work schedule will be lighter this year.
  • I will review classic novels such as Remember Me and Chain Letter by legendary teen horror writer, Christopher Pike.
Stay tuned for further updates, and enjoy my blog!
- Wicked Melody
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: Blood Lad (2013)

Blood Lad is a Japanese supernatural anime. It contains ten episodes + one special episode.

Staz is a vampire who suffers from an affliction common to those with wealth and power: apathy and boredom. While he controls his own territory in the demon world, he longs for something he can't easily obtain—-Japanese anime (especially Otaku culture) and the human world. And when average human teenage girl Fuyumi stumbles into the demon world and is killed by a monster and turned into a ghost, he decides to resurrect her and add her to his collection. The disappointed Staz promises to help Fuyumi regain her humanity by bringing her back to life, as it means that he would be able to visit the human world. Over the course of their adventure, they encounter tons of colorful characters-—vampires, werewolves, teleporters, demons, and other shapeshifters. Along his journey, he also learns a dark family secret--one that could forever change his relationship with his estranged family members.

Blood Lad was a fun, yet too short, anime on the adventures of Staz and Fuyumi. Although there is a bit of fan service, the pacing and action are very well-done. Before I could really get into the story, the TV show abrutly ended in ten episodes. This is a major disappointment when it ended on a huge cliffhanger about Staz' family secret. I don't know if there will be a sequel (I would definitely look forward to it). Another criticism about the show is the lack of chemistry between Staz and Fuyumi. In the first episode, he felt attracted by Fuyumi's humanity. Once she became a ghost, Staz lost interest in her and the relationship became forced. He only sticks around her because his promise to restore her humanity. Only in the special episode (OAV) did it seem that he really cared for Fuyumi, going to such lengths to disable his enemies so that he could hold her in his arms again. Again, it is hard to tell what is Staz' motives with Fuyumi since their relationship doesn't seem romantic or natural. I will update this post when the DVD becomes available.

Opening Theme: "ViViD" by May'n

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: Fade Out, Kiss of Death and Ghost Town (Morganville Vampires #7-9)

In Morganville, Texas, someone is always watching.

Fade Out is the seventh novel in the Morganville Vampire series. From the back cover:

Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, the resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedoms, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again…Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theatre company. But when one of Eve’s castmates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. Claire and Eve soon realize that this film project, whose subject is the vampires themselves, is a whole lot bigger—and way more dangerous—than anyone suspected.

Leaving Morganville, Texas, has never been easy. Living outside of it may be impossible.

Kiss of Death is the eighth novel in the Morganville Vampire series. From the back cover:
Vampire musician Michael Glass just received the call he's been waiting for all his life. His music has attracted the attention of a heavily connected music producer who wants him to cut a demo and play some dates -- which means Michael will have to enter the human world.

But he won't be alone. He's been assigned an undead escort, which includes immortal enforcer Oliver, as well as Michael's human friends: rebellious Eve, oft-misunderstood Claire, and courageous Shane. And with that mix of personalities, this is going to be a road trip from hell. But what waits for them proves more perilous than they thought. Caught between humans who hate them and a savage party of traveling vampires out to create a blood-soaked feast for themselves, MIchael and his friends may not make it to the show on time...or ever.
Deep in the heart of Texas, Morganville is a small college town full of laid-back students and eccentric townies, not to mention the sort of creatures you wouldn't want to run into after dark. Despite their obvious differences, the human and vampire residents of Morganville have learned to coexist, but that doesn't stop genius student Claire Danvers from keeping up her guard. Because in Morganville, nothing is as it seems...

Ghost Town is the ninth novel in the Morganville Vampires series. From the back cover:

While developing a new system to maintain the town’s defenses, genius student Claire Danvers discovers a way to use the vampires’ powers to keep outsiders from spreading news of Morganville’s “unique” situation once they've crossed the city limits.

But the new system has an unexpected and possibly deadly consequence: People inside the town start forgetting who they are -- even the vampires. And when Claire's boyfriend, Shane, and her best friend, Eve, start treating her like a perfect stranger, Claire realizes that she has to pull the plug on her experiment -- before she forgets how to save herself…and Morganville.
The Morganville Vampires series continue to impresses me. Although I graduated from high school a decade ago, I enjoy reading about the bravery and tenacity of the main cast. Even vampires can have a sense of humor. As the cases become more complex and life-threatening, Claire manages to save the town of Morganville from internal and external foes. My favorite novel was Kiss of Death because it took place outside of Morganville where the plot and action reminded me of the film, From Dusk to Dawn. It's nice that the author deviated from Morganville to see how these teens react in the real world. While there are bound to be sad endings (particularly in Ghost Town, Caine knows how to set up a climactic ending that keeps you wanting to read more about what happens next for these courageous teens. Living in Morganville, as Clare found, does force you to grow up fast when danger lurks in the night.

Stay tuned for the tenth novel in the Morganville Vampires series, Bite Club: The Morganville Vampires .
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