75th Anniversary of Batman and Superman

 75th Anniversary


I stumbled upon this on Facebook today, a black and white official short created to honor Batman's 75th anniversary. It seems like a piece of something larger. The gloominess and tone are darker and perfect Batman. A short clip that's well done.

And of course, when I watched this, I discovered they had done one for Superman last year that I missed. I really, really love this one. It's not a short but a celebration of changes - almost perfection. Played to the Superman movie theme.

Psycho by Robert Bloch

(Psycho, #1)

It was a dark and stormy night when Mary Crane glimpsed the unlit neon sign announcing the vacancy at the Bates motel. Exhausted, lost, and at the end of her rope, she was eager for a hot shower and a bed for the night. Her room was musty but clean and the plumbing worked. Norman Bates, the manager, seemed nice, if a little odd.

“Mothers sometimes are overly possessive, but not all children allow themselves to be possessed.”

Psycho - a book it seems like I've wanted to read forever. I had an old paperback copy of Psycho House, the third book, growing up that I read but can't really remember, but I never was lucky enough to stumble upon this gem. Watching the movie, the story is impressive, especially the ending with Norman's inner monologue. I've always loved Robert Bloch as an author, his writing style does it for me, so this read being a love should have been a no-brainer.

Surprisingly the book wasn't perfect insta-love. I don't know if it was the publishing climate of the time or if Bloch meant for it to be a short dip in his career, but the story is restrictively small. The movie held more content and time for plot and character development, while the book was barely over a hundred pages. The pace was slow at times - such as the beginning with Norman's inner reflection - but sped up at other members when it could have slowed down and held more for a wow impact.

I suppose I keep picturing Norman Bates as Anthony Perkins, but the original character was much different, being a balding, aging, overweight man. It was intriguing to see inside his mind and how it shied away from sexual intimacy, but it still felt awkward. Mary matched the movie a lot and I loved being in her head, for her thought process made sense and I found her intriguing - I only wish her scenes were further drawn out and more indepth as it seems she died too quickly.

The sister and boyfriend helping to 'solve' the crimes was the slower parts of the story and they just weren't that interesting of characters. I loved the detective who, unfortunately, bleeds out of the pages as well.

The ending lacked some of the oomph it's cinematic birth had, but I dug how Bloch handled it in book form too. Hitchcock was a master at cinema so he took this and made it even better as a movie, not a usual feat. However, Bloch was also a master of the word and, even if this story is brilliant, he seemed to hold back a little too much with this one and its length.

   Book Quotes:

“Magic--that's just a label, you know. Completely meaningless. It wasn't so very long ago that people were saying that electricity was magic.” 

“I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.”

   Similar Reviews:

http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/berserk-by-tim-lebbon.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/desolation-by-tim-lebbon.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/11/dead-sea-by-brian-keene.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/guardian-by-john-saul.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/wild-whitley-strieber.html

Stray by Rachel Vincent

(Shifters, #1)

There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . .
And I'm one of them.

I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.
Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.
I'd been warned about Strays -- werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.
This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I'm no meek kitty. I'll take on whatever -- and whoever -- I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays -- 'cause I got claws, and I'm not afraid to use them . . .

When I dig into Urban Fantasy, I prefer shapeshifters to be part of the background, blending in, doing their thing to propel the plot while other supes shine as the star players. I rarely invest in series which focus on shapeshifters as the mains – just not my thing (although Kate Daniels has proven to be a nice exception). This book is pure shapeshifter material – instead of werewolves, you have werepanthers, and there’s no other supe in sight. Still, the back blurb promised an entertaining story that seemed right up my alley – a woman as the protagonist, prized because she’s rare, forced home to a pack she’s trying to escape because of danger tearing through her newly established safety net.

The shapeshifter world in the Rachel Vincent novels are woven creatively enough; society has no idea the creatures exist behind the human faces and swift justice is delivered to those who dare risk the species unmasking. There are divided territories led by one alpha male, who is part of a family unit. Werepanthers are usually born, almost always through the alpha pair since females are so rarely made.

At the timing of the story, there are six tabbies total in population of the civilized surrounding societies. A rogue is on the loose killing kidnapping and killing the valuable females. Faythe is forced home not to just to stop her from becoming another casualty, but to help the pack track down the culprit.

There’s a lot working in the favor for the first novel of the series. Rachel Vincent’s writing style is enjoyable to devour – her writing has humor when it’s needed but gives proper respect to serious moments and solemn tragedy. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s intriguing. The ending is an especially fierce one because the story doesn’t shy away from brutality.

I didn’t enjoy hunting scenes much – again, not a shapeshifter fan, but I do like how werepanthers are portrayed. The family bond is strong and I loved the parents and brothers. Having two strays in the house with their own backgrounds made interesting reading. Of course there is to be a love interest she left behind – could you expect different? – and Marc is worthy as a lead. He’s alpha, yummy, although a little too serious sometimes. I especially liked her mother and father and their different outlooks in shaping everything.

Faythe…well, not as likeable. She’s courageous, sarcastic, and comfortable in her own skin, but she’s also overly abrasive, bitchy, and smug. I really, really hate smug. That is one of the biggest pet peeves I have for real life folks, and this pet peeve bleeds into books to include paper people. That smugness is a turn-off, and I still think she went too far with the foot bite. I mean, ouch? Sure, get irritated, but being smug about it later and still not remorseful? Dialogue is well written in general, but I don’t like her outlook not her lines. Nope, not liking her.

Even if her personality didn’t fit what I like reading, the story was intriguing, with side characters fun enough to make the story work. A large plot obstacle that opens the first book is already resolved at the end of it, which surprises me as I thought it would continue to be an issue longer. For a first novel to open the series, it’s relatively large in length, but action keeps up enough to make it readable. There IS of course emotional downtime and mental exploration, but the author thankfully avoids making it angst-filled.

Oh, and the covers for all books in the series are spiffy. They have an urban, grunge appeal.

   Book Quotes:

“Kicking ass is surprisingly therapeutic” 

 “Anyway, I was the one in real danger. I got cornered by a pack of wild sorority girls in the food court. Apparently it's mating season.”

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

(Seasons of Horror, #1)

It's the summer of 1960. The sixth-grade boys of Elm Haven, Illinois, are forging the powerful, magical bonds that a lifetime of growth and loss will never erase. Amid the sun-drenched cornfields and the sly flirtations of the town's young girls, that loyalty will be pitilessly tested. From the silent depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil drifts outward--plunging Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin into a war without boundary or mercy, where an eternal enemy owns the night.

Summer of Night is one of those books where the story is a delight to read but the review is kind of hard to do. It's also my first novel from Dan Simmons. After finishing this book, I definitely want to read more of his work soon.

The story is a sort of coming-of-age tale centered around a group of children growing up together in a small town in the 60's. School is out, summer is here, how exciting. The author brings alive the excitement of that first summer day when school is out and only months ahead await children who are eager to explore, to live, to have fun without responsibility. Idyllic summer days and nights. It opens in an old school that has seen it's last class for it's about to be closed down, and the children all coming together on different days to try and solve the mysteries of the town, the horrors which await them. Each child comes from a different household holding its own basket of dysfunction. The households become as interesting as the main tale.

Although the story is deep and steeped richly in imagination, it's a fully characterized book, focusing on the internal thoughts and relationships for each of the children. I was dismayed at the death of a favorite, which I never saw coming. Simmons doesn't hold back the horrors of the death punch when delivering shocks for the book.

Nothing is predictable with how it will turn out and what will happen next. The ending with the villain and the wrap-up is in-depth, intelligent, and heavy with created history. There's no convenient or suddenly established plot points, but instead it was well constructed before the book was born to be slowly unraveled as small pieces are slowly handed out the book's characters. 

It's a slow ride that didn't invest its hooks into me right away, so patience IS needed to trust this one to take off successfully. Still, despite the slower start, the internal character shifts are handled effectively and work well to not try the reader's patience. Huge emotional stakes in the characters lives helped me keep reading.

Simmons was also talented with writing some truly creepy scenes, especially when deaths were involved, very awful and haunting stuff. Violence and blood isn't backed away from when it's needed, but it's not splashed on the page for shock effect alone.

I did knock off half a star for some sluggishness and the death of a character who brought much to the story so that when they were gone, some of the magic left with them. Overall, though, this was an incredibly ambitious book that worked on all levels.

If you're a horror fan who enjoyed the childhood trials in Stephen King's IT, or the bonding and tragedy in Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, you'll almost certainly love Summer of Night. There's something especially effective about drama-horror focusing on adolescence and coming of age in the midst of trials and struggles, calling upon the power of friendship to draw strength to defeat foes so much larger than individual self.

Convincing in drama, rich in mystery, with hefty doses of genuine horror - all make this book an experience not to be passed up.

   Book Quotes:

“He suspected that Duane lived in those lofty realms of thought, listening to the voices of men long dead rising from books the way he'd once said he listened to late-night radio shows in his basement.” 

“The sunset was that long, achingly beautiful balance of stillness in which the sun seemed to hover like a red balloon above the western horizon, the entire sky catching fire from the death of day; a sunset unique to the American Midwest and ignored by most of its inhabitants. The twilight brought the promise of coolness and the certain threat of night.” 

   Reviews for other horror novels:

http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/strangers-simon-clark.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/endless-night-by-richard-laymon.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/lost-and-found-ruby-jean-jensen.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/phantoms-dean-koontz.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/university-bentley-little.html