Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Afterlight

Title: Afterlight
Author: Elle Jasper
ISBN: 0451231678
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Urban Romance/Paranormal
Theme: Vampire
Binding: paperback
Length: 316 pgs
Published: 2 November 2010
My Rating:

As Savannah's most unconventional tattoo artist, Riley Poe is quite familiar with the local underground scene. She lives and works on the edge of it every day.

Now, she's about to step over the edge.

When her younger brother is taken by a sinister cult led by centuries-old vampires, Riley discovers a world of shadows and blood--and those who exist there.

Her ally is the hot-tempered vampire Eli Dupre, who is attracted both to Riley's beauty as well as her one-of-a-kind blood type. A blood type he is not alone in craving.

To save her brother from certain un-death, Riley will face dangers she's never dreamed of, ruthless bloodthirsty enemies, and an evil of endless hunger that wants to devour all in its vile grasp.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Afterlight
was one of those books that caught me off guard in a completely good way. I had bought the book awhile back because I loved the cover and the synopsis sounded interesting. To be quite honest, I am sort of new in the urban fantasy world and I've avoided "girls that kick ass" type series that are crawling all over the place lately. While I love strong female characters, I also enjoy my alpha males. Okay, hold that thought because I'm going to come back to it.

Once I bought Afterlight, it sat on my shelf for months. I would pick it up from time to time, read the first couple of pages, and for some reason lose interest and move on to another book. I finally got around to checking out some reviews on and became even more reluctant to read it since there were quite a few scathing remarks. (Not that bad reviews ever stopped me from checking out a book.)

I'm glad I picked it up again and gave it my full attention. Afterlight was wickedly good for so many reasons:

1) I love the whole setting in New Orleans and the care with which author, Elle Jasper, describes the old cemeteries, architecture, etc.

2) You can tell the author did her research-- everything from gothic lifestyle & clothing, to running a tattoo parlor, to the musical selections she chose to give us readers a real connection with the main character Riley and the overall mood/tone of the novel.

3) I think what fascinated me the most about Afterlight is how Elle Jasper introduces us to the "Gullah" culture. I will be the first to admit that I never heard of the "Gullah" and I am half African American myself. At first I thought Jasper made up the term "Gullah" and that Riley's adopted family was just the author finding a unique way of putting a fresh spin on witch mythology. But as I continued to read and became swept away with the language of Riley's beloved Preacher man and his wife Estelle, it dawned on me that "Gullah" culture is real. Once I figured that out, I was pretty much hooked. I know this shouldn't be about race or skin color, but there is something fascinating about a gothic white girl who is basically adopted by the ebony skinned "Gullah" witch doctor Preacher man, and falls in love with a 19th century vampire named Eli. Anthropology has always been a love of mine, so the fusion of these different subcultures and culture were intriguing.

4) Now for the "strong female vs. the alpha male" situation I mentioned earlier. Many times you have either a submissive female with a completely dominate alpha male hero that takes control. Other times you have books that say the female heroine is strong and can completely take care of herself but once you start reading, you realize she is just as submissive as the others. I guess what I am trying to say is, it's hard to find an author that truly commits to making their female lead character strong and independent. Or maybe I should say they have a hard time finding the perfect balance. In my opinion, Jasper hit the nail on the head with Riley and Eli. It was easy to convince me that Riley was a strong willed, sassy, modern woman before Eli came into the picture. After all, this girl somehow found the strength to beat addiction, find her self-worth and confidence after being in abusive relationships, put herself through college, opened up her own business which became quite successful, and most importantly, is in the process of raising and providing for her younger brother. What completely sold me was Riley and Eli's interactions with each other. Instead of Riley folding under Eli's dominate personality, she continued to prove that she was smart, capable, and can really kick some ass. I understand Eli's issues and why he is such an alpha--he is a 19th century vampire after all. But more then that, while he respects and admires her fighting abilities when battling her own species, he has his doubts about her being able to defend herself against vampires. He knows that deep down she is just a fragile human that does not have the strength or speed to go up against such a threat. Completely understandable in my book. Overall, I think Jasper does a great job proving that Riley is a tough chick. While she has feelings for Eli, she doesn't just turn into a submissive partner. She constantly keeps Eli on his toes.

I wanted to quickly comment on 3 remarks that I found in negative reviews that I completely disagree with. One, a reviewer said that Afterlight was too Twilightish. Umm, did they read the same book I did??? Do I see a few similarities between Afterlight and Twilight? Yes. But not in a negative way. That particular reviewer acted like this book should have been for Young Adult readers, and trust me, this is not a book for kids.

Another critic complained that the love scenes were not fully developed (meaning they weren't explicit enough). I found this interesting because I normally like things ruanchy. However, that also depends on the story and how it is written. The scenes were very hot and Jasper didn't really leave anything to the imagination. I don't feel that she left us hanging and while they could have been more explicit such as in the way the author describes certain body parts (use your imagination), I don't think it was neccessary.

Lastly, the harshest remark was from a reviewer that said Eli is a "forgettable" vampire. I couldn't disagree more. Eli is a perfect blend of old world 19th century vampire and modern day, brooding, sexy maleness with fangs. He's got the accent, the sex appeal, the alpha male tendencies without being a complete prick, and most of all, the ability to control the urge to take Riley's highly addictive blood more than any other vampire, including his own family. While we learn all these things about Eli, he also remains somewhat of a mystery which is sexy as hell. I want to know why he was in seclusion and away from his family for so many years. It didn't get explained in Afterlight, so I can only guess that it will be revealed in the 2nd or 3rd book in the series.

My only criticism is that some parts do get very repetitive. Riley constantly tells us that she is a badass. Honey, we already know that! You've proven it many times over, so you don't have to keep telling us. I also thought the ending of the book was a little weak (the battle scene was a bit anti-climatic). But that tends to happen when stories are written in 1st person. If you read the book, you'll know what I mean.

Other then those minor things, Afterlight is a solid series starter for the Dark Ink Chronicles. I look forward to checking out book 2 called Everdark.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Andy Whitfield: R.I.P.

I just found out the most devastatingly sad news. Andy Whitfield, at only 39 years old, has passed away from cancer. For those who have never heard of him, Andy was a virtually unknown actor with a small cult following (including myself) after playing the lead role in the indie flick Gabriel. It wasn't until the STARZ original series Spartacus that people started to take notice. Andy had the full package-- not only did he have the physical attributes to play such a vigorous character, but the man could truly ACT.

With the success of season 1 under wraps and fans around the world rooting for the underdog (in the show and in real life), Andy and the other actors of Spartacus began to prepare for season 2. During a routine checkup, Andy was diagnosed with non-hodgkin lymphoma. Production of show was put on hold while the actor focused on getting better. The chances looked good since they caught it in time. While Andy began treatment, the creators of Spartacus decided to move forward with a prequel.

After a few months of treatment, Andy was given a clean bill of health and began training to get back in shape for the grueling shooting schedule. No one expected the cancer to come back and this time with a vengeance. Knowing there was only one thing to do, Andy decided to pull out of Spartacus altogether, to focus his full attention on his family and his health. Holding no bitterness, he gave the show creators his blessing to recast for the lead role rather than canceling it altogether.

And that is the last bit of information we heard about Andy Whitfield until today. Other then 1 photo supposedly snapped of the actor with his family looking pale and gaunt a few months back, everyone in the Hollywood world seemed to respect his privacy as he battled for his life. In the meantime, after months of trying to find a replacement, the title role of Spartacus was finally given to Liam McIntyre which I wrote about several posts back.

I thought my next post about Spartacus would be my opinion on whether I felt Liam McIntyre's performance lived up to Andy Whitfield's brilliant portrayal. Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting here, fighting back tears of shock with the news of Andy's lost battle with cancer. I am saddened that his life was cut so short, that he leaves behind a beloved wife and two little children. I mourn his loss because we only got to see a small fraction of his acting abilities, talent that I knew was just under the surface, ready to be unleashed with his rapidly growing fame.

In his memory, I will put aside my reservations about the newly revamped season 2 of Spartacus and try to watch it with an open heart. Afterall, he gave his blessing for the production to move on. My heart goes out to his family and friends. And like those before him such as Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee, Hollwood has missed out on a truly talented actor.

Rest In Peace, Andy.

<3 Mia

Friday, September 2, 2011

Movie Recommendation: Warrior

WARRIOR is actually not due in theaters until September 9th, but I was one of the lucky few that snagged a pair of advance screening tickets. I figured it was only fair that I write a little something to promote the film, especially since it was-- in my opinion-- the best movie of the summer (or the first great flick of the fall depending on how you look at it).

WARRIOR is about Tommy Riordan (Hardy), an ex-marine, and his estranged brother, Brendan (Egerton), who is a physics high school teacher. Both were amazing fighters in their earlier lives, and have chosen very different paths due to their dysfunctional childhood. Their father (Nolte), once an abusive alcoholic-- caused his wife (Tommy and Brendan's mother) to leave. The split was devastating as it forced the brothers to each make a choice-- Tommy leaving with his mother and Brendan staying behind. Years later and still bitter, Tommy decides to pay a visit to his father, who is a recovering alcoholic. He relcutantly asks his father to be his trainer for an upcoming MMA Fighting Championship competition, and makes it abundantly clear that this is NOT a chance for his father to try to redeem himself. Meanwhile, Brendan, married with 2 little girls, is having financial problems and only has 90 days to come up with a solution or else he and his family will lose their home. He begins to train with a former friend/trainer of his and when the opportunity arises to enter into the same competition that his brother is preparing for, he takes it...

Initially I wanted to see WARRIOR because of the interesting choice of actors. I became an instant fan of Tom Hardy after seeing the mind blowing Inception last year and Joel Edgerton caught my interest awhile back as Gawain in King Arthur. And lets not forget acting legend Nick Nolte. I figured it had to be somewhat decent with that kind of cast lineup. What surprised me more than the cast was the story. I guess I wasn't prepared to walk into a movie about MMA fighting and walk out with a few tears in my eyes. Hell, I am not ashamed to admit that I did cry at more than 1 part. No, let me say it like this. I started watching WARRIOR thinking it was a movie about fighting but coming out knowing its message was about family.

WARRIOR is a lethal weapon. It has all the components of a great movie-- solid storyline, heart-felt acting, top notch directing. Oh and for those whom are worried that there isn't enough fighting? You won't be disappointed. The movie somehow balances out the drama with brutal action sequences and the better half of the film is focused on how each brother trains (very differently I might add) and of course the big MMA tournament.

If this movie doesn't get an Oscar nod I'll be very disappointed. I may get crucified for this comment but in my personal opinion this movie was BETTER than The Fighter of last years fame. I know there are differences between the films; Christian Bale was absolutely amazing and deserved his Oscar. But there is something about WARRIOR that tugged on the heartstrings a little more. I know I'm probably asking for too much to see both the movie and actors recognized for their phenomenal work, but I hope to see Hardy, Egerton, and/or Nolte nominated for something.

UPDATE 2.26.12: I just wanted to leave this little update. While the movie Warrior did not get nominated for an Academy Award, Nick Nolte did snatch a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He of course didn't win, but at least the movie was recognized in this small way. I still can't believe this is all Warrior walked away with. :-/