This may not be the fairy tale road in Germany, but it’s great to see Oklahoma City doing something like this. I definitely want to see this soon and take my own pictures. I can’t believe we haven’t been back to the Myriad Botanical Gardens since Ricky proposed to me there almost two years ago on my birthday. All the more reason to go now!

Here is the article from newsok.com:

Book your plans now for story-themed garden at the Myriad Botanical Gardens conservatory by Brian Kimball

Every twist of the yellow brick road and each turn of the jungle pathway will feature a different fairy-tale element during the next few months at the Myriad Botanical Gardens conservatory.

Peter PanThe grand opening of the ConservaStory exhibit is today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside and outside the Crystal Bridge. It will be on display until Thanksgiving, garden manager Allan Storjohann said.

“A lot of what we’ve done is just make the Crystal Bridge experience interactive and fun,” he said, “and help get kids to come and enjoy the fairy tales that we have inside.”

Familiar faces that will grace the garden include Mother Goose, Humpty Dumpty, Huck Finn, Peter Pan and his pirate ship, the Three Little Pigs and the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Other additions to the garden include a whimsical dragon that will overlook the waterfall and a whale, complete with a fountain, that will occupy the nearby lake. Dragon

Aside from the exhibit’s permanent features, the ConservaStory grand opening will feature roaming musicians, and the Lyric Theatre’s “High School Musical 2” cast will perform. There will be a fun bounce and face painting. Staff members from the Metropolitan Library System — accompanied by their dog Spoticus — will conduct storytelling. Also, the Rolling Thunder Book Bus will make an appearance, doling out books.

One area will feature fairies that will appear on the command of a clap, and there will be other interactive aspects. Nine garden gnomes will be hiding throughout the conservatory jungle, but a clue sheet will guide visitors in their quest to find the gnomes and see all the exhibit has to offer while reconnecting the classic literature the ConservaStory represents.

“It’s not that (the fairy tales have) ever been really lost,” said Julie Pyle, retail operations manager for the Myriad Botanical Gardens. “It’s just sometimes it feels like it’s not stressed or prevalent as it was in our youth.”

I am a little bit sad that we missed the grand opening. It sounds like it would have been fun. The mention of “roaming musicians” made me think of the town troubadour(s) of Gilmore Girls.

I will be posting my own pictures as soon as we go!


Story Sisters?

Story SistersSo I was all set to give Alice Hoffman’s new novel, The Story Sisters, a try after reading the synopsis again on Amazon… up until this sentence: “The always dazzling Hoffman has outdone herself in this bewitching weave of psychologically astute fantasy and shattering realism, encompassing rape, drug addiction, disease, and fatal accidents.”  Um…encompassing rape, drug addiction, etc?  I think I’ll pass on this one.

Is it just me or have Hoffman’s last few novels progressively gotten darker and more depressing with each novel? I really disliked The Third Angel and never connected with any of the characters.

Although Alice Hoffman remains one of my favorite authors, I will hold off on reading this new one unless convinced otherwise by many shining reviews and recommendations…

“Verily, there is nothing so hideous as the monsters, so contrary to nature, known as witchers for they are the offspring of foul sorcery and devilry. They are rouges without virtue, conscience or scruple, true diabolic creations, fit only for killing. There is no place amidst honest men for such as they.”
Andrzej Sapkowski – Blood of Elves

blood-of-elves Blood of Elves is the first book in a series of books that take place in the Witcher world; unlike The Last Wish which was a collection of short stories. Although Geralt plays an important role in this story, he does not feature in it. He is seen far too little in my opinion. Instead, the story focuses on a young girl named Ciri and it is quickly apparent that she is destined for great things. I love her character. She is quick-witted, precocious and headstrong without being irritating. She reminded me of Arya in George R.R. Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire series.

The narrative did feel a bit disjointed at times but as the story progressed it all began to come together. This book was very dedicated to world building (a map depicating the Witcher’s universe would be great). Light on action and heavy on dialogue. Many new characters are introduced. I love Sapkowski’s characterizations and dialogue. The sharp, witty dialogue is evocative, at times, of Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora.

This book won’t be for everyone who loved The Last Wish though. It never reaches a climax and leaves more questions unanswered than answered. I, however, will eagerly await the next book.

As much as I want to know what happens next, I’m really hoping that they will publish the second book of short stories first. It felt as if there was story missing from Blood of Elves, and I would love to read about the beginning of the war with Nilfgaard and the fall of Cintra.

Review – The Strain

“They have always been here. Nesting, feeding. In secret and in darkness, because that is their nature. There are seven originals, known as the Ancients. The Masters.”
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan – The Strain

strain1The Strain is the first in a planned trilogy written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  This was an incredible, spellbinding tale, and I expected no less from the brilliant imagination of Guillermo Del Toro.  It gripped me from the opening pages and never let go.

“In a corner of the barracks, the darkness moved.  A Thing, a towering gaunt figure peeled off from the inky depths and glided over his sleeping comrades.  Its skin was shriveled and dark, blending with the fold of its dark, loose robes.  The thing moved effortlessly, a weightless phantom gliding across the floor.  Its talon like toenails scraped the wood ever so softly.  Its dry lips drew back to reveal mottled gums and two rows of small, yellowed teeth, impossibly sharp.”

The first half of the book slowly builds with a palpable sense of dread and horror, hinting at what is to come.  It’s this slow build-up of the unknown and incomprehensible that draws readers in and makes the events that follow truly creepy and terrifying.  While the details are very gruesome, they only serve to further the very real horrors of the vampire epidemic threatening the extinction of the human race.   Once the tension of the first half is finally released, the everyday world is thrown into chaos with no end or hope in sight.  Reading the last few pages left me breathless and wanting to turn back to the first pages again.   Throughout, the narrative sent chills up my spine.  I cannot wait to see where this will go next!

For me the best parts of the book were the memories and flashbacks of Abraham Setrakian, whose lineage dates back to the Holocaust.   I loved the old world feel that his stories conjured – evoking images from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  In a few brief sentences, he captures the eeriness of the Romanian forests and the ancient superstitions of vampire lore.  I truly hope that the second book will go into further detail regarding Setrakian’s history and past adventures following the trail of the Master (think Nosferatu rather than Dracula), as well as the origins of the other Ancients.

Del Toro and Hogan could easily write books beyond the planned trilogy.

Scary Stories

“…they told of dripping stone walls in uninhabited castles and of ivy-clad monastery ruins by moonlight, dank charnel houses and overgrown graveyards, of howlings and shriekings, groanings and scuttlings and the clanking of chains, of hooded monks and headless horseman, vampires and bloodhounds, bats and rats and spiders, of men found at dawn and women turned white-haired and raving lunatic, and of vanished corpses and curses upon heirs.”
Susan Hill – The Woman in Black

Last night I started reading The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I’ve been incredibly excited about reading this ARC even though Angel worries that it will be too much for me. I don’t usually read horror novels or watch horror movies (for good reason). I have a very vivid imagination and even watching Supernatural (which Angel finally talked us into) is too much for me at times.  ;o)

Maybe this comes from devouring nothing but scary stories when I was a kid. I couldn’t tell you how many times I read the Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark books (with their gruesome illustrations) and the Tales from the Crypt comics. And, regardless of nightmares, I could never get enough. I vividly recall a family vacation where I was sitting in the back seat with my nose pressed in a book – as usual – reading about the Hookman, the Wendigo and Spring Heeled Jack as we drove through the swamps of Louisiana. What a great setting for reading scary stories!

Despite my aversion to horror stories and movies, my favorite holiday remains Halloween and my favorite season Fall. I just love the legend and lore of the season – the pumpkins, witches hats, black cats, etc. I can’t get enough of it and for the past few years have planned my reading for the months of September and October around Halloween. I look forward to my Halloween reading fest all year long. I love the gothic classics like Northanger Abbey, Dracula, Carmilla, Sleepy Hollow, Rebecca. I loved I Am Legend but have yet to read more Richard Matheson after reading his chillingly creepy short story Prey. I suppose it’s mainly the Stephen King(s) and Dean Koontz(s) that I stay away from. The straight out horror. The ones that are just too disturbing and gruesome.


I digress. The Strain. I’m so excited about reading this book, I wanted to mention it here.

“Once upon a time,” said Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother, “there was a giant.”
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan – The Strain

From the opening pages I’m immediately drawn into this story! I love the writing and have already read the opening chapter, “The Legend of Jusaf Sardu”, more than once. As short as the opening chapter was, it evoked images from Stoker’s Dracula. In a few brief sentences it captured the eeriness of the Romanian forests and vampire lore. It’s true that I don’t usually read many horror stories (for good reason) but the last horror story to give me chills like this was Vivian Schilling’s Quietus. And the last vampire novel I was this excited about reading was when we got our hands on an ARC of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

“…much of the village was eventually abandoned and became an accursed place. The Gypsies, when their carriage train passed through the town, selling their exotic wares, told of strange happenings, of hauntings and apparitions near the castle. Of a giant who prowled the moonlit land like a god of the night.”
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan – The Strain

The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires.

In secret and in darkness. Waiting.

Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months-the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing…

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city-a city that includes his wife and son-before it is too late.

And here is a bit of additional information regarding The Strain from interviews with Del Toro posted earlier this year and last year.

“The trilogy advances in unexpected ways,” says Del Toro, “And each book contains unique and surprising revelations about the history, physiology and lore of the vampiric race, tracing its roots all the way back to its Old Testament origins.”

The idea for this story arc was originally pitched to FOX television as a one-hour series, with the idea that the series would be a fantasy/horror spin on the police drama genre.

“The first novel is sort of a procedural horror novel, which starts at an investigation of a plane that is essentially like the ship in [Stoker’s] ‘Dracula’ – it just stopped and everybody on board was dead,” del Toro teased, referencing “The Dementer,” a ship Dracula boards to London which arrives with just the Captain alive – the rest of the crew victim to the winged one’s thirst for blood. “And an investigation ensues.

“And what happens is an epidemic,” he continued, connecting disease to the first novel’s title, The Strain. “But it’s an epidemic unlike I believe the stuff that is [big] in vampiric fiction.”

shelter-meShelter Me was a very creepy little book and a good read, but it wasn’t at all what I expected after reading reviews on Amazon. I was expecting a story more Gothic with at least hints of the supernatural. The reality was a terrifying portrayal of Great Britain during World War II.

Once Maggie reached the coast of Wales and was delivered into the hands of the sadistic nuns I found myself holding my breath and quickly turning the pages to discover what would happen next. With all of the twists and turns throughout the plot, the ending itself was a great disappointment. I love a “happy” ending as much as anybody else but in this case it was unrealistic and highly improbable. I just kept hoping for more – some great twist to end it all that I wouldn’t see coming.

I never really liked Maggie Leigh. I wanted to but she never felt as fully developed as the other characters, and she certainly didn’t have as much personality. I loved the eccentricity of the brash Kate and the “speechless trauma victim”, Eileen.

So would I recommend this book? It’s hard to say really. Once I got past what I was expecting from the book, I was actually enjoying it. Up until the ending. It was a well written book that really drew me in and had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Up until the ending. It reminded me of Alex Garland’s The Coma in that respect. The Coma was another great book that quickly drew me in but fell apart at the end. It left me sitting there, furrowing my brow and scratching my head, going “huh?”. Jenn devoured Shelter Me in one sitting earlier this week and agreed about the ending.  ;o)

Maggie Leigh just wants to be a normal teenager, but when German bombs tear apart London during World War II, her ultra-religious mother sees the destruction as divine punishment. She sends Maggie to a remote boarding school in coastal Wales, supposedly to keep her safe, but also to keep her in line. The school is creepy, the headmistress is a lunatic, and the students range from spoiled rich girls to speechless trauma victims. But when a tragic accident happens on the beach, Maggie and three friends are forced to flee the school, plunging into the nightmarish world of Europe during wartime. Now every decision Maggie makes is fraught with danger, and living to see another day depends on how quickly she can think and act…and how far she’s willing to go.

The Mystery Knight


Although we are still anxiously awaiting the release of (or at least an officially announced release date) A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, I was very happy to read on his blog today that he has completed work on an anthology called Warriors. While the author lineup itself looks great, I am most excited that it will contain “a major new Dunk and Egg novella” called The Mystery Knight. I loved The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword (especially Marvel’s beautifully illustrated adaptations) and have been waiting for more adventures with Dunk.

I have not found a synopsis posted yet for The Mystery Knight but Martin states that the hardcover will be published by Tor March 2010.