Sunday Showdown: Fever v. Iced


In case I haven’t made it clear on this blog, I am a huge Karen Marie Moning fanatic, and over my break I finally read her newest novel set in the Fever world, Iced. For tonight’s showdown, I thought I would do something similar to what I did for P. C. Cast’s two very different series, House of Night and Elphame’s Choice: I will give a small summary of both and then give a little more detail about what I liked and didn’t like about Iced. However, the Iced review does contain some Fever spoilers, so it is more geared towards those who have read Fever but have yet to read Iced. The Fever series is going to be a tought act to follow, so I will reserve judgment about which series wins until she’s finished Dani O’Malley’s tale (but so far, so good!)

1. The Fever series follows MacKayla Lane and her transformation from a Southern, carefree blonde bombshell into an ass-kicking sidhe-seer/Fae hunter. In book one (Darkfever), MacKayla departs for Ireland to investigate the murder of her twin sister Alina, who was studying abroad in Dublin, and her journey there (sorry for the cliché) drastically changes her life forever. She gets drawn into a world parallel to our own where the Seelie (light) and Unseelie (dark) Fae courts clash, and becomes the puppet of Jericho Barrons, the enigmatic owner of Barrons Books and Baubles, on his hunt for an ancient tome. And that’s just a brief summary of Darkfever -so much happens in this series that it’s impossible to cram it into one measly paragraph of one blog post. I wouldn’t want to ruin the many twists and surprises Moning has in store for her readers, anyway. I will add though that it’s an expert merging of genres: Fever starts out as a murder mystery until it sweeps the reader up into a world where Irish folklore is real while also incorporating urban fantasy and even science fiction elements. If you haven’t, I highly recommend the Fever series -it rises above formulaic genre fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with formula fiction).

OK, I need to stop myself before I get even further invested in this tangent and move on to:

2. Iced is the first book in Moning’s series dedicated to Dani “Mega” O’Malley, Mac’s volatile fourteen-year-old ex-bff. (If you haven’t read the Fever series yet, I recommend to stop reading this review. Now. OK -I warned you…)

It picks up right where  Shadowfever leaves off: the sidhe-seers have just trapped Cruce, the Unseelie Prince who has absorbed the Sinsar Dubh, beneath their abbey. The charismatic Scottish Highlander Christian MacKelter is undergoing a painstaking transformation to replace the fourth Unseelie prince. And Dani and Mac are on the outs ever since Mac found out that Dani was involved in her twin sister’s death. When Dani isn’t slaying Unseelie with the Sword of Light, you may find her spying on the “sidhe-sheep” at the abbey, hanging out with teenage genius Dancer in one of their many well-stocked hideouts around Dublin, ad avoiding Mac. Dani has also been avoiding Ryodan, the morally ambiguous owner of Chester’s club, ever since he offered her a job -but as we know, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid Ryodan. So in much the same way as Mac started out as Barrons’ Sinsar Dubh tracker in Darkfever, Dani becomes Ryodan’s helper in solving their own mystery: Why are parts of Dublin being mysteriously “iced,” and who is responsible? Is the perpetrator human? Fae? What do these places, if anything, have in common? Again, the mystery, urban fantasy and sci-fi genres merge in Iced.

I would say the most obvious difference between the Fever series and Iced is that Fever was the story of the events that led to the creation of this new world where the walls are down and human and Fae coexist; now, Moning is delving into this world more deeply. Her characters face the problems of living in a post-apocalyptic world (someone is hoarding all of the food that was left in the grocery stores) and encounter new mysteries and enemies, while still trying to keep Cruce confined below the abbey. The book is primarily told from Dani’s perspective, but Christian and the new leader of the sidhe-seers lend their POVs as well. I was worried that Dani’s narration would be entirely written in her accent and slang, which worked in Fever but might get annoying in an entire book, but it’s toned down and very readable. Her grammar is still atrocious (I guess because she’s young and missed out on school?) and some of the slang carries through. In these aspects Moning maintains Dani’s unique voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Dani is a very believable character, especially as the protagonist of Iced. It worked when she was simply Mac’s rather reckless sidekick, but I didn’t buy into the whole arrogant, self-absorbed preteen act as much in this book. It’s almost like Moning takes it a bit too far for it to be believable, even though Dani isn’t your average fourteen-year-old. Now that I’m reflecting on it, Dani may be a bit of a sociopath in the beginning (perhaps this is too strong of a diagnosis) since she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or think about how her actions affect other people. However, you can tell she starts to grow out of this, especially where Mac and Alina are concerned.

I also didn’t care for the fact that Ryodan and especially Christian, both adult men, seem to be infatuated with Dani. It’s a little something I like to call creepy. Saying that (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me, so this is not a direct quote) they can see the incredible woman Dani will be one day does not make it okay. And anyway, it’s pretty clear that their fascination with her doesn’t stop there; there’s a scene when she’s in her underwear and both of them are, uh, clearly aroused. At one point Christian even says to Dani that he isn’t a pedophile, and she isn’t a child -except that she is. (Although Christian is turning into a lecherous Unseelie prince, so perhaps this is all part of his spiral into evil.) I am certainly not saying that I think the author condones pedophilia, just that it was a very controversial and, to repeat, creepy element in the book. (To add to the creepy, I’ve decided that Into the Night is Christian and Dani’s theme song, because everything should have an 80s theme song.) It also becomes clear (if not to Dani, at least to the reader) that Dancer has a thing for her as well, which is decidedly less creepy since he is seventeen.

Now, on Dancer (on Prancer, on Vixen…no, wait…): Dancer is becoming one of my favorite characters in this world. I love that Dani looks up to Dancer, who reminds me of a younger version of Big Bang’s Leonard if he were thrust into Dublin after the walls fell. As Dani narrates, Dancer doesn’t have any “superpowers” like her and Ryodan, but he’s survived the wall crash through his resourcefulness and “super brain.” Moning hints that Dancer has some secrets of his own, which I hope we will unravel as the series continues. As a scientist, it also makes me happy that Moning’s explanations of some of the science-y elements of the book are not totally off the mark. (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve become one of those people who ruins movies for other people when they are scientifically inaccurate. Which is like all the time.)

I also really enjoyed how Moning played with Jo’s character. In the Fever books Jo was supposed to be plain, maybe even borderline dowdy, but in Iced she starts working at Chester’s -Ryodan’s tactic for keeping Dani in line. If Dani screws up, she has to worry about Ryodan taking it out on Jo. Thus, Jo transforms from a plain Jane into a sexy waitress with “glitter between her boobs,” and it all seems kind of glamorous until you remember that she’s dressed up in what sounds like a Catholic school girl uniform catering to Chester’s seedy Unseelie patrons. One image I loved is when Jo watches Ryodan on the staircase nodding to whichever lucky gal he chooses to, um, make love to that night. (I know that Ryodan doesn’t “make love,” but I don’t really feel like using a certain verb today.) I kind of want Ryodan to nod at me, even though he’s not quite Jericho Barrons. In fact, I had a much more vivid image of Barrons in my mind than I have of Ryodan. He has some big shoes to fill.

And throughout the search for whatever is “icing” Dublin, Christian’s obsessing over Dani, Dani’s slaughtering of Unseelie and Ryodan’s nodding at attractive waitresses, Moning still interperses some very humorous moments. One part that had me laughing at loud was when Dani, Jo, Ryodan, Lor, etc. are arguing over Dani’s Ipod playlist. What a great moment Moning dreamed up: Humans and supernatural beings fighting over whether to listen to Linkin Park, Adele or Jimmy Hendrix (and at a point in which they have much bigger things to worry about.)

Finally, unlike some other reviews I’ve read, I didn’t really mind Dani being fourteen for this book, although I hope she grows up in the rest. Then Moning can pursue her relationship with Ryodan without it being so, again for lack of a better word, creepy. I’m sure Ryodan is going to turn out to be the Barrons to her Mac, so to speak. All in all, and despite parts of my above critique, I really enjoyed Iced. Dani’s storyline and the various subplots (I haven’t touched on all of them here) really drew me in; it was fast-paced and had a very creative premise.

P. C. Cast Series Showdown


I finally, finally finished reading one of P. C. Cast’s books set in Partholon, Elphame’s Choice. So tonight’s Sunday Showdown is more of a book review and comparison/contrast of her Partholon books and vampyre saga The House of Night. I’m not really picking a winner since they are two very different series, but feel free to share your favorite in the comments. But if you haven’t gotten around to exploring either world, read on to find out a little more about these books.

(Also, on an unrelated note: I’m still working on my next Once Upon A Time fanfiction adventure, so please click here to take my poll of your favorite potential couples!)

And now, on to the showdown:

1. House of Night

The House of Night world is much like our own, except vampyres exist alongside humans, and everybody knows it. Those human adolescents that already have vampyre DNA are marked by Trackers, which begins their transition into adult vampyrehood. This is what happens to Zoey Redbird, who transfers to a high school for vampryes, the highly esteemed House of Night. But Zoey isn’t just a normal fledgling; she has been chosen by her goddess to be a leader among her kind. The first two books (which unfortunately is all I’ve read so far) follow Zoey’s adventures with her new group of friends, unresolved issues with her old life, and battles with new, supernatural enemies. These books are cowritten by P. C. and her daughter Kristin. If you enjoy young adult vampyre books, you’ll enjoy the House of Night books. They’re a satisfactory mix of  Egyptian-based mythology, dark vampyre lore and quirky humor.

2. Elphame’s Choice

When I picked up this book, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had  never read one of P. C.’s Partholon books, and the cover and tagline were vague. (And misleading. The tagline makes it sound like there are vampyres in the book. It’s a similar idea, but they are blood-sucking, winged demons. And the girl on the cover doesn’t look like what Elphame is supposed to look like.)

One similarity between this book and the House of Night series is that Elphame is another young adult that has been especially favored by her goddess, in this case Epona. It’s refreshing that P. C.’s societies are matriarchal. As a fawn and Epona’s Chosen, Elphame has always felt like an outsider, until she travels to MacCallan Castle and works to restore it to its former glory. At her new home, she befriends Brenna, a Healer disfigured from a tragic accident, and the centaur Huntress Brighid, and she finally starts to feel like she’s a part of something rather than just a distant symbol to be worshipped. In the forests surrounding MacCallan Castle, she also meets her soulmate, Lochlan, a human-Fomorian demon hybrid. She struggles with how to present her forbidden lover to her kingdom, which drove the Fomorian species from Partholon hundreds of years prior.

Overall, I enjoyed Elphame’s Choice, although if you’re familiar with the House of Night series you must prepare yourself for a completely different P. C. Cast. This book has an omniscient narrator, which I sometimes found annoying since it jumps between perspectives rather abruptly, and the prose is very formal and long-winded. But P. C. creates very complex and sympathetic characters. My favorite was Brenna, the tiny Healer who captures the heart and soul of Elphame’s dashing brother. (Although, as P. C. constantly describes the meek Brenna as letting her hair fall over the disfigured part of her face, she sometimes started to sound like Emo Brenna, but that is neither here nor there.) I also really liked the human-Fomorian hybrids and would have liked to have seen a lot more of them. Also, as Elphame’s Choice was published by Harlequin Teen (which I didn’t even know existed until now), things do heat up in several parts of the book…which I’m totally ok with, but I know that some people don’t like.

Really, the biggest criticism I have of any of P. C.’s books is that they never completely draw me in. I never feel like the worlds she creates completely engulf me so that I cannot put the book down. But as I said, it was pretty enjoyable, and I would recommend it to fans of fantasy and paranormal romance.

Halloween Special: Mad Scientist Showdown


This showdown has exploded, expanding from two to a handful of mad, neurotic fictional scientists. They’re all tied in my book – special in their own way, as the cliché goes. Who’s your favorite?

1. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the original mad scientist. In Shelley’s gothic magnum opus, Dr. Victor Frankenstein must traverse the world in pursuit of his runaway creation. This is one of my favorite pieces of classic literature. Besides its obvious impact on the horror genre, it has also influenced science fiction, prompting us to ponder the question of what really makes us human. Nowadays, the monster is often mistakenly referred to as Frankenstein in pop culture, to the horror of literary nerds everywhere.

2. Dr. Whale (***SPOILER ALERT***), as we now know, is Once Upon A Time’s version of Frankenstein. In Season 1, we got to know him as the (hot) asshole that didn’t call Mary Margaret back after a one night stand. In tonight’s episode, Dr. Whale tries to bring back Regina’s love, Daniel, back to life in hopes that she will repay this favor by sending him back to his own world. But the resurrected Daniel is not the stable boy Regina once fell in the love, although he makes one sexy monster. The episode also takes us back to Queen Regina’s first encounter with Dr. Whale/Victor, in which he deceives her into thinking he is trying to bring Daniel back to life, when all he really wants is an enchanted heart from her world. (I may have to go off on a tangent about this episode in another post, it gave me so many fan-gasms.) Quote of the Night: When Victor says, “It’s not magic…it’s science.” Science, ftw.

3. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania and the mad, alien scientist of The Rocky Horror Show. Brad and Janet are just looking for a phone, but their strait-laced world is turned upside down (inside out?) by Frank. And in just seven days, he’ll make a man out of his own creation, sexy blond boy toy Rocky Horror. It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right…let’s do the time warp again!

4. Dr. Horrible is played by the versatile Neil Patrick Harris in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. He has a PhD in Horribleness and is vying for a spot in the Evil League of Evil. He runs a pretty tight schedule, what with hatching his evil plans and clashing with his nemesis Captain Hammer, all the while admiring his crush Penny from afar. Sadly, but perhaps not too surprisingly given it’s a Joss Whedon creation, we see Dr. Horrible live up to his title by the end of this web series.

5. Fringe’s Dr. Walter Bishop has gone from bad scientist (during his days when he and business partner William Bell tested psychic children in his laboratory) to quirky mad scientist. He’s riddled with idiosyncracies and seems to have experimented with drugs in the 70s, but he is driven and obsessive when it comes to his work. The brilliant John Noble portrays this neurotic scientist with grace and great comedic timing as well as playing his counterpart in the parallel universe, “Walternate.”

 

Can you think of any others? And Happy Halloween (Eve Eve Eve)!

Sunday Showdown: Meg Ryan v. the 22-Year-Old Cocktail Waitress


After a busy week, yesterday I retreated to the warm and fuzzy black hole that is my couch with a serious case of the sniffles and popped in a few of my favorite movies – among them, my ultimate favorite romantic comedy, “You’ve Got Mail.” And now to go along with my cold, I have a serious case of the 90s.

With this post, I know I risk echoing Mindy Kaling’s rom com-obsessed character on her new show, “The Mindy Project” (which is awesome, by the way.) And I realize that nostalgia fills us with a deceptive longing for times gone by: Although we’d like to think so, music, movies, TV shows, etc. probably weren’t really any better back in the day, as much as we like to think so. Ascertaining that the pop culture of the past is better than today’s gives us a sense of superiority over more fledgling generations.

Despite this, I would like to argue that rom coms were, in fact, better in the 90s (at the risk of sounding like an old fart).

1. Meg Ryan

First off, I love Meg Ryan’s rom coms. I know that type-casting her in these roles probably cost her other, more challenging roles, but she is the quintessential 90s rom com heroine. Although “You’ve Got Mail” is my favorite, other adorable movies with her are “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Kate and Leopold,” and probably also “When Harry Met Sally,” which I admittedly have never watched (although I want to, just haven’t gotten around to it). Kathleen Kelly is beautiful, a bookworm and a career woman. She owns her family’s book store, Shop Around the Corner, and has aspirations to write children’s books. When her privately owned bookstore is threatened by the big, bad chain store Fox Books (ironic from today’s perspective since even those have been trumped by Amazon), she “goes to the mattresses” to try to save her business. Ultimately, she must gracefully close the Shop Around the Corner, but she emerges from this journey as an even more ambitious, self-motivated woman. Kathleen Kelly is a smart and strong leading lady, and “You’ve Got Mail” itself is as witty and intelligent as rom coms come. And of course, the dynamic between Ryan’s character and Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox is utterly adorable. Other pluses: Dave Chappelle plays Hanks’ bff, and Greg Kinnear’s technophobic Frank Navasky owns about a zillion typewriters.

2. The 22-Year-Old Cocktail Waitress

In case you were born circa 1995 or so and aren’t familiar with the sheer awesomeness that is “You’ve Got Mail,” the title of my post derives from one of Kathleen Kelly’s quips in response to finding out Joe Fox’s true identity: “‘Joe’? ‘Just call me Joe’? As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? ‘Hi, I’m Kimberly!’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice!’ Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.”

Although I have nothing against the rom com actresses of, ahem, my generation (I am in twenties), there is something lacking in more recent rom coms. Sure, they’re cute…I would watch “How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days” and “Letters to Juliet” more than once. But others, like the disappointing movie version of Sophie Kinsella’s witty book “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” depicts the main female character as the vapid, materialistic cocktail waitress suggested by the quote above. And, as much of a fan I am of the rest of the franchise, the second “Sex and the City” movie catered to a very similar idea. Gone are the ambitious career women who are able to balance work, life and love; in their place are ladies whose penchant for buying shoes they can’t afford isn’t really that funny anymore. And no, it’s not really Isla Fisher’s fault, but a combination of crappy writing and gearing of script towards an audience they believe exists due to the shenanigans of those around my age who are in the public eye (I’m looking at you, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian).

 

Or maybe it’s Sunday night, I’m still sick and hopped up on cold medicine and thinking way too deeply about this.

So, what do you think of 90s (or even 80s) rom coms versus those of today? Which are your favorites, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!