Tag Archives: werewolves

Moonstruck, vol. 1: Magic to Brew (Graphic Novel)

Author: Grace Ellis

Illustrator: Shae Beagle

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Julie lives in a world where magic and mundane go together seamlessly–for instance, her best friend and fellow barista Chet just happens to also be a centaur. Or at least Chet was a centaur, until they tagged along on a date with Julie and her new girlfriend Selena to a back-alley magic show . . . where the magician stole their magic and left them a normal human. Horrors! Now the friends are on a mission to trap this magician and get Chet’s magic back before any more magical people are hurt.

Moonstruck was one of the sweetest, most charming graphic novels I’ve read in a long time. Right from the start, the cute art and pastel palette are just delightful. Add in the marvelous variety of character designs, not only in the main characters but also in the background, and you’ve got a story that’s visually engaging and charming. There’s a huge amount of diversity presented here, too, but (major kudos to the creators) in a way that feels natural and relatable, not forced or contrived. The characters are who they are, and I love them for it. As for the story, a great deal of it is character building and relationships, both romantic and friendships–lots of great friendships here, and the love story is sweet. Add in the coffee-shop dynamic and some light-hearted humor, and you’ve got a pretty cozy story. But then you’ve also got a certain amount of adventure, as these friends deal with Chet’s loss of magic and their subsequent tracking down and defeating of the magician. It’s a good balance. Probably more than anything, I love the characters and how they deal with real, complex emotions and situations. I love that Julie deals with worries and uncertainty, and I really want to see her backstory explored more in future volumes–like, we know she’s not all about being a werewolf, but why does she not like that about herself? In any case, I would definitely recommend this first volume of Moonstruck, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment

Mattel Games

You’ve stumbled upon a mad scientist’s lab and been exposed to his experiment–the one that caused him to turn into a werewolf. Lucky for you, he did create an antidote as well, but it’s not that simple. . . . The antidote is locked away, and you only have an hour to solve the clues around the room and unlock the box, or you’ll be stuck as a werewolf yourself!

The basic idea of this is the same as for an actual escape room . . . only you have everything you need in a single package that you can take home and play for the cost of about 1.5-2 tickets into your average escape room. I was actually quite impressed by this game. The scenario was interesting, and the puzzles were appropriately themed. Moreover, the puzzles managed to be challenging while still manageable. You have a lot of that back and forth of one answer tying into another puzzle, plus the whole going through everything you’ve got just trying things to see what works. There’s even a blacklight! We played with 6 players, which worked well, but you can have up to 8 at a time. And bonus: although it would be kind of pointless for the same people to play over again, since you’ll know the answers, you can save everything in the box, print out new papers, and re-set everything for a new set of players (find instructions and more information here). Highly recommended for those who love escape rooms or puzzle games, or for those who are looking for an inexpensive, easy way to give the whole escape-room thing a try.

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Supernatural (2005- TV Series)

The CW

Status: Ongoing (13 Seasons)

My rating: 5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/rated TV-14

Two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, travel the country in the 1967 Impala that is more home to them than any building has ever had the chance to be. They start out searching for their father who has disappeared while hunting the demon that killed their mother years ago. Along the way, Sam and Dean hunt as well–fighting monsters, ghosts, demons, the stuff of nightmares, and saving people from horrors they can’t even imagine. Sometimes their efforts go utterly unnoticed; other times, they meet incredible people who help them on their journey. Regardless, they always have each other, except for those rare, horrible times when they just don’t. And somewhere along the line, hunting simply becomes who they are–it’s no longer just a revenge mission or a search for their father. Sam and Dean are, quite simply, hunters; they save people, they save the world. A lot.

I’ve put off reviewing Supernatural for, like, 2 years now because I love it so very much, and I know I can never do it justice in a review. So know that first, before I delve into details; this show has my heart in a crazy way that almost no other story ever has, and it has continued to consistently for years now. I couldn’t say exactly what makes this show so incredible, largely because it’s a lot of little, subtle things combined. I love the characters, first and foremost. Jensen and Jared do such an amazing job of getting in their characters’ heads and of portraying them deeply and transparently, as do the immense number of wonderful guest cast members. So much so that, although this is at times a monster-of-the-week kind of show (much less so as you get to later seasons), it manages to be highly character driven. The characters grow and experience a lot of internal conflict over the course of the series as well, which is another thing I love–the show evolves as it goes, so that just when you think they’ve done it all (I mean seriously, we hit the biblical apocalypse in season 5) you find yourself seeing things afresh, finding new frontiers. And the writers do such a great job keeping the balance between all the angst (and yes, here there be angst) with family support and outright humor (e.g., recently in the midst of this big series of episodes focusing on busting into an alternate dimension to save family members–lots of angst and tension–we get a random crossover with Scooby Do that, while darker than typical for the cartoon, is brimming with laughs and fun as well). I guess what I’m trying to say is that Supernatural somehow manages to be a lot more than hot guys fighting scary monsters and saving the world, although yes, it’s definitely that. It’s family and understanding and acceptance and so many things that I long to see more of, and I highly recommend this show.

Created by Eric Kripke/Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard, Mark Pellegrino, & Alexander Calvert/Music by Jay Gruska & Christopher Lennertz

 

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Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies

Author: J. K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5

While entering the world of wizarding and magic through the stories of young Mr. Potter, we are introduced to any number of individuals, some of whom have a profound impact on events even while remaining shrouded in mystery. Professor McGonagall, for instance, shows immense depth of character and insight, yet her students are never told much of anything regarding her personal history. And Remus Lupin, beloved teacher and dear friend of Harry’s parents, had his own share of secrets. Even some of your less well-known residents of Hogwarts may surprise you with their courage, their tragic histories, and the lengths to which they will go in pursuit of their passions.

As with Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, this collection is less a collection of short stories per se and more of a collection of short documentaries and short biographies that were originally released on the Pottermore website and are here collected in an organized volume. It’s quite an enjoyable collection, I must say. This particular volume focuses on the lives of Professor McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawney, and Silvanus Kettleburn, providing all sorts of details that never came up in the Harry Potter books. The bulk of the book is focused on McGonagall and Lupin (which is as it should be). The sections about Minerva made me love and admire her all the more, and Lupin’s story made me cry all over again (like I didn’t do that enough while reading those parts of the Harry Potter series to begin with!). Mixed in with the characters’ stories are short sections of a more documentary nature, providing additional details about werewolves, the naming of witches and wizards, and the like, which were quite interesting as well. I would definitely recommend Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies to any fan of the Harry Potter stories (even if the book doesn’t actually contain short stories).

 

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Werewolves

Edited by Jane Yolen & Martin H. GreenbergWerewolves

My rating: 3.5 of 5

They’re mysterious creatures of the night, weaving their way into legend. They’re magic, the freedom to run wild, unchecked by human bonds. Perhaps they’re also a picture of deep, intrinsic fears . . . of finding you suddenly don’t know someone who was once close to you, or of realizing you don’t know yourself anymore. Whatever the case, werewolves are certainly excellent story-telling material, and the authors in this short-story collection have made the most of the draw of this mysterious creature.

Jane Yolen and Martin Greenberg have always had my respect for being able to pull together excellent short-story collections, and  Werewolves is no exception. Although I wasn’t familiar with many of the authors in this collection, I found the writing to be consistently interesting and enjoyable–particularly notable since some of these stories are the first published works of the authors. (Bonus points to Yolen and Greenberg for including a Charles de Lint story in the collection; he’s one of my absolute favorite urban fantasy authors, and his treatment of the werewolf theme is excellent.) And while I would generally prefer to read a collection with a bit more variety (like Dragons & Dreams, for instance), over a collection entirely focused on one creature, I found there to be a pleasant mix of stories in this volume. There’s everything from dystopian science fiction to historical fiction with a fantasy twist (actually, there’s a wide variety just within this sort of story) to more contemporary slice-of-life stories. I think I particularly enjoyed the takes on historical events with a focus on werewolves–somehow, the authors threw human prejudices against each other into a clearer light in these stories. I do think that Werewolves is an interesting collection of short stories, most recommended for those who enjoy (surprise) short stories and stories about werewolves–it’s probably a bit too much of a good thing if you’re not already interested in the theme, I’d say.

Featured Authors: Debra Doyle, J. D. Macdonald, Ru Emerson, Leigh Ann Hussey, Harry Turtledove, Mary K. Whittington, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Elizabeth Scarborough, Sherwood Smith, Bruce Coville, Marguerite W. Davol, Jane Yolen, Susan Shwartz, Anne E. Crompton, Esther M. Friesner, & Charles de Lint

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Return to Augie Hobble

Author/Illustrator: Lane SmithReturn to Augie Hobble

My rating: 4 of 5

To Augie Hobble, Fairy Tale Place off Route 66 is home. His parents have run the bedraggled attraction for most of his life–he even helps out around the place after school and on weekends and breaks! This summer, his life is more than a bit chaotic, though, as he deals with the joys of summer school. And for a failed Creative Arts project, no less! Augie’s just got to decide on something to do as a replacement, but he can’t pick. Not to mention, he is still on the bad side of the school bullies, AND there’s what appears to be a werewolf on the loose. Impossible, right? But Augie’s convinced otherwise, and his obsession with wolves is making it even harder to finish his school project. If only his best friend Britt were there to share all the craziness.

I’ve read any number of books illustrated by Lane Smith–all excellent–but I think Return to Augie Hobble is the first I’ve read that he’s written. It was quite interesting–quirky, funny, dark at times, and always unexpected. The characters were unique and interesting, although not stellar; certainly appropriate for a middle-grade adventure/slice-of-life, which this is. It was strange reading this in that it’s hard to tell exactly what it is. I mean, it starts out as a slice-of-life story about school, family, bullies, and the diminished-yet-remembered glamour of Route 66. But then more elements of adventure and fantasy get unexpectedly thrown in, until by the end it’s outright paranormal. Yet even at the end, it retains the binding elements that were introduced at the beginning also. I guess what I’m really saying is that the fantasy part threw me because I wasn’t expecting it–so if you do read this, be prepared. One of the more interesting factors of this book was the art–of course. Smith does a great job incorporating “photographs” and “journal pages” as a part of the story, weaving them in rather than just keeping them as supplemental illustrations. All in all, Return to Augie Hobble is a solid, interesting story, particularly for middle-grade readers.

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Necromancing the Stone

necromancing the stoneAuthor: Lish McBride

Necromancer, vol. 2

My rating: 5 of 5

Considering he’s gone from burger flipper to necromancer in one fell swoop, Sam LaCroix is doing a pretty good job with all the Council duties, lawn-gnome rebellions, were-bear best friend, fey hound/werewolf girlfriend, newly-inherited from his worst enemy house and money, etc. It’s kind of a lot to handle, but he’s dealing–with the support of his friends and the somewhat grudging aid of his house pukis, James. Who used to work for his worst enemy, Douglas Montgomery, until Sam killed Douglas–quite justifiably. All seems challenging but pretty much manageable until the Blackthorn pack’s leader turns up dead . . . and there’s this niggling feeling that maybe Douglas isn’t as dead as everyone thinks.

Necromancing the Stone is a great follow up to McBride’s first book, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. It picks up the story pretty much where the first volume left off, and carries through solidly with a delightful blend of dramatic tension and sardonic humor. Sam and the people close to him have some pretty incredible personalities, and the writing brings them out wonderfully without being overdone. The balance of action, mystery, romance, friendship, and hilarity is nicely done, although some might find it tending a bit too much toward the weirdly silly. But you’re dealing with some pretty intense and deep stuff here, so the tension has to go somewhere–or at least that’s what Sam would say. It kind of makes me frustrated that McBride makes Douglas someone I can’t entirely hate; but she does it so skillfully, making him a complex human being in spite of his general evilness, that I still enjoyed the story. I think my favorite part is her treatment of James: he is an extremely intelligent, sophisticated, and talented individual, but he’s going through all the emotional uproar of the teenage years while at the same time dealing with complicated divided loyalties. He’s kind of incomprehensible sometimes, but I like him all the more for that. Necromancing the Stone comes with high recommendations for anyone upper teens and above who enjoys meaningful but slightly absurd urban fantasy.

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