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Pseudonym

I had a good chuckle today. I got an e-mail from someone asking me if I was using my real name or if I was blogging and publishing under a pseudonym. Believe me, if I was choosing to write under a pen name, I would have chosen a much easier name to pronounce and spell than “Hyttinen”

So yup. Roger Hyttinen is my real name. At one time I considered writing under a pen name but changed my mind — nothing beats the feeling of seeing your own name on your books.

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Quote: And I flew

I came across a quote attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire that really resonated with me today:

He said, “Come to the edge.”
I said, “I can’t; I’m afraid.”
He said, “Come to the edge.”
I said, “I can’t; I’ll fall off.”
He said, finally, “Come to the edge.”
And I came to the edge.
And he pushed me.
And I flew.

-Guillaume Apollinaire

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Review of Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter ascending poster

The other night I went to see Jupiter Ascending, a movie that I hadn’t heard all that much about. Truth be told, I didn’t have high expectations for the film given most blockbusters don’t typically open in February. I was pleasantly surprised however and found the film to a fun and satisfying sci-fi adventure.

The Story

Jupiter Ascending tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young unassuming Chicago maid who becomes the target of the Abraxis family, a powerful and ruthless monarchy from a distant galaxy. On the verge of being killed by one of their hitmen, she is rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum), a dangerous genetically engineered lycantant wearing flying boots, who swoops in just in the nick of time and whisks her off to safety. Thus begins her adventure. She is subsequently kidnapped and taken to another planet where she eventually, she learns the royal family’s horrible secret – a secret that threatens not only her life but the entire human race. She also discovers that she is not the simple woman she originally thought but is much, much more.

In this action-filled space opera, we learn of an entirely different reality – an alternative universe with technology advanced enough to create human-like lifeforms from animal DNA such as Caine (wolf) and Stinger (bee) as well as the ability to live milleniums without aging. But as we learn in the film, such technology comes at a steep price.

The plot is akin to a classic sci-fi fairytale – it’s the good guys against the bad guy and for the most part and it worked – although I felt that the story did get a bit bogged down at times by especially lenthy fight scenes.

The Performances

Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum gave, in my humble opinion, excellent performances and the chemistry between them worked well on the screen. Given that the two main characters are easy on the eyes, it’s not surprising that we saw several scenes featuring a shirtless Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in skimpy, revealing outfits.

As the central character, Mila Kunis did an excellent job of portraying Jupiter Jones – a normal everyday girl who is forced by elements out of her control into a situation for which she was completely unprepared. Her character was likeable, sometimes sassy but always engaging. Likewise, I felt that Channing Tatum was quite convincing in the role of the heroic and athletic Caine, as was Sean Bean who played the role of Stinger, Caine’s rugged and reliable former comrade-in-arms.

The antagonists in the movie stood out due to their stellar performances – the enigmatic Abraxis family. Handsome and talented Douglas Booth played the hedonistic and shrewd Titus with expertise. Tuppence Middleton (seen recently in “The Imitation Game”) was quite evoquative in her portrayal of the extremely vain and eternally-youthful Kalique and Eddie Redmayne (who recently protrayed Steven Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”) gave an over-the-top performance in his portrayal of Balem, the power-hungry main antagonist. While his larger-than-life chilling performance as a vilian was effective, I found the back and forth between him whispering..and then shouting…and then whispering again a bit strange and off-kilter.

Breathtaking Visuals

Spaceship fights, explosions, flying boots, hoverboards, buildings blowing up, impressive new worlds, breathtaking cities, edge-of-your-seat chase scenes – there was no lack of eye candy in this fast-paced film. The visual effects as well as the CGI in the movie were top notch and eye-catching. Visually, this film was beautiful. While watching it, I regretted not being able to see it on our local theater’s super-large Ultra Screen because the effects were simply amazing.

Verdict

Jupiter Ascending was simply a fun movie! Though a tad over the top at times, the premise of film was believable and well-developed. The setting was breathtaking, the acting excellent and the exciting actions scenes got my blood racing and I found myself literally sitting on the edge of my seat. There were funny moments, riveting moments as well as moving, heartfelt scenes (the scenes with Jupiter and her family as well as several tender scenes between Jupiter and Caine come to mind).

If you enjoy fun sci-fi adventures or action films with a touch of humor – and perhaps a bit of tongue-in-cheek as well, then Jupiter Ascending is definitely worth a view. Recommended!

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Ghost Oracle Series Book 2 is now available!

Nick facing rightThe latest book in my Ghost Oracle series -Anaconda!” is now available on Amazon, iTunes, Nook and Kobo. The series follows the adventures of sixteen year old reluctant psychic Nick Michelson, who tries to assist the various ghosts who come to him for help.  Things don’t always go smoothly for our young psychic however, and he oftentimes finds himself in hot water.

In Anaconda!, Nick encounters the frightening ghost of a dead Marine while at the same time trying to figure out if a serial killer is about to go on a rampage at his school.

Here is the blurb:

Just a few short weeks ago, sixteen-year old Nick Michelson discovered that he was a psychic medium destined to help restless spirits cross over to where they belong.  One evening while working after-hours at his high school, an especially frightening ghost of a bloody soldier appears to Nick and attacks him. Nick sets out on a quest to learn who the ghost is and why he is haunting Nick’s high school.  Using his deck of tarot cards as a tool, he gradually begins to unravels the mystery surrounding the ghost’s death.

Meanwhile, Nick is experiencing disturbing dreams and visions during which he witnesses, through the eyes of a killer, the brutal mass murder of several of his classmates at his high school. As Nick gets drawn deeper and deeper into a web of mysteries surrounding his nightmares and the ghost of the soldier, he begins to suspect that the two are related — and that the horrific scene from his nightmares is actually a premonition of events that may — or will — come to pass.  

Nick must solve the riddle of his enigmatic premonitions and race against time to somehow prevent an unknown killer from shooting up his school — and not become the shooter’s first victim in the process.

My Anaconda! page is HERE

 

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Book 2 in the Ghost Oracle Series Launching This Week

My latest book “Anaconda!” will be released later this week. This is the second book in the Ghost Oracle series which features a reluctant 16-year old psychic medium named Nick Michelson who gets involved in one ghostly situation after another.

Here is the cover for the new book:

Anaconda! Ghost Oracle series cover

And the blurb:

Just a few short weeks ago, sixteen-year old Nick Michelson discovered that he was a psychic medium destined to help restless spirits cross over to where they belong. One evening while working after-hours at his high school, an especially frightening ghost of a bloody soldier appears to Nick and attacks him. Nick sets out on a quest to learn who the ghost is and why he is haunting Nick’s high school. Using his deck of tarot cards as a tool, he gradually begins to unravels the mystery surrounding the ghost’s death.

Meanwhile, Nick is experiencing disturbing dreams and visions during which he witnesses, through the eyes of a killer, the brutal mass murder of several of his classmates at his high school. As Nick gets drawn deeper and deeper into a web of mysteries surrounding his nightmares and the ghost of the soldier, he begins to suspect that the two are related — and that the horrific scene from his nightmares is actually a premonition of events that may — or will — come to pass.

Nick must solve the riddle of his enigmatic premonitions and race against time to somehow prevent an unknown killer from shooting up his school — and not become the shooter’s first victim in the process.

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Image of a dock in the summertime

Summer at the Lake

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Review of The Bees by Laline Paull

Our Mother who are in labor
Hallowed by they womb
Thy Marriage Done
Thy Queendom come
And then the life everafter
~ Prayer to The Queen Bee

The bees cover

Last month, my book club read a book entitled The Bees by Laline Paul. I’ve heard of The Bees given that there’s been plenty of of buzz about this book as of late (Get it? Buzz! Buzz!) but it wasn’t on my TBR list. Now one of the reasons I belong to my book club (other than getting out of the house) is that so I read books that I normally wouldn’t pick up – to make me step outside of my comfort zone. The Bees definitely did that.

What I Didn’t Expect

First off, The Bees is a fiction book – it is not a study about the life of bees, though the reader does learn plenty about the life of bees and the hive hierarchy.

The book opens with people talking about a beehive in the back yard. Then, the book completely switches gears. The rest of the story is told from the point of view of an overly large – and exceptionally talented – sanitation worker bee named Flora 717. I waited, expecting that the point of view would switch back to the humans. It did not until the final closing scene of the book. As I began reading, a realization struck me: This book is not going to be about humans. There aren’t going to be any humans in this storyline at all. It’s going to be about bees, told from the point of view of a bee.

How Interesting Is The Life of a Bee?

I will say that initially, I was skeptical. I mean, how interesting could the life a worker bee be? Buzz Buzz. You’d be surprised! And I was – surprised and pleased that instead of a boring read about bee, I found an original, rich, engrossing book – and even an enjoyable book – in The Bees.

So What’s It Really About?

The novel investigates the life of a beehive and in so doing, unravels the following themes: politics, religion, freedom, independence, fanaticism, conformity, power, environmental influences, big government, defying authority, police brutality and more. There’s even an attempted coup at the end. Sounds riveting, no? It was!

Accept, Obey, Serve

Above all else, there were three rules to live by in the hive mind: Accept, Obey, Serve and we hear this mantra repeated over and over until it becomes deeply ingrained in each bee’s psyche. This kind of made me think of a dystopian society ruled by one ruler for they often use such matras to control their followers (subjects). The Capital in the Hunger Games comes to mind.

There was also another rule, one that must never be broken under the penalty of immediate death: Only the Queen may lay. Guess which rule gets broken?

Verdict

If you don’t particularly care for books that anthropomorphize critters, then this book may not be for you. However, if you enjoy dystopian books or think you might enjoy a read about the inner workings and drama of a beehive told from the point of view of a special, headstrong, independent bee, then it’s definitely worth a read. From what I know about bees, it’s obvious that the author definitely did her homework in portraying the intricacies of hive life.

I enjoyed this fascinating, well-written characterization of honey bees and am glad I read it. I found it innovative, intriguing, suspenseful, original and at times, humorous and page-turning. Who knew that a novel about the life cycle of bees could be so interesting? And who knew that I would enjoy reading such a book? I know that I’ll never look at a bee in quite the same way. I would have loved to have seen a map of the hive as an attachment to the book. I must say that now, I’m a bit intrigued.

I give it five buzzing stars out of five!

Want to find out what all the buzz is about? Check it out

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Wordless Wednesday – Footprint in the snow

Footprint in the snow

Footprint in the snow

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Book Review: One Man Guy

One man guy book cover

This month, my Goodread’s book club featured book of the month was a delightful story entitled One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva and I found it to be not only a refreshing tale of young romance, but so much more.

The blurb is as follows:

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything “these Americans” could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself–like you never have before.

Thinking on how I would classify this beautiful story, I’d probably say it was along the lines of a young adult gay romanic comedy, for there are more than one scenes that made me laugh out loud. Each page of this novel made me want more and beckoned me to keep reading. I was in fact surprised at how quickly I tore through this book, anxiously awaiting to see how the tender new relationship between Alec and Ethan would develop.

Speaking of develop, the author gives us extremely well-developed main characters and by the end of the novel, I felt as though I were saying goodbye to old friends. These vivid, well-drawn characters come to life on the pages of this book and stay with you well after the book is finished. The supporting cast of colorful characters are also memorable and entertaining: Becky – Alek’s rollerblading, old-movie obsessed, say-it-the-way-it-is BFF is a welcome addition to the story, as was Alek’s fussy, nitpicking mother and his older brother Nik, the “dutiful son” who embarks on voyage of self-discovery himself.

I love a slow romance (rather than a “love and first sight, marry me now kind of romance) and One Man Guy didn’t disappoint. It was a delight to watch Alec’s journey of self-discovery, especially the witty manner in which he managed to overcome the roadblocks to his and Ethan’s relationship and I was relieved to see that the author kept the heavy angst to a bare minimum. I tend not to be a fan of angsty novels. It was also fun to see the orderly, by-the-book world of Alec turned upside down by this enigmatic new boy who came into his life.

Now that is not to say that this novel is simply a sweet little romance. While it is that, it is also more. It’s a study of two cultures coming together and the clashes that can sometimes result of that coming together. It’s about the hurdles of family drama, of embracing your heritage and accepting who you are while maintaining your connection to your roots. Moreover, it’s about the need to understand that sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules – just as long as you know when it’s NOT okay to break them.

While the book is geared toward young adults (high school age) I feel it’s a book that all ages can enjoy and I find this romantic and humorous coming of age tale to be a remarkable addition to the YA/LGBT genre. It’s a charming, captivating and entertaining tale with likable and memorable characters, with just the right amount of romance peppered throughout. What more could you ask of book?

Recommended!!

You can check out One Man Guy HERE

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Ghost Oracle Series Update

image of man at typewrite smoking a pipe

 

Just a quick post to let you all know what’s going on with the Ghost Oracle series (you can read the first book in the series HERE). The next novel in the series, “Anaconda” is now with my beta readers for a final run-through. I hope to have it available by the end of this month. The book cover should be finished fairly soon so I’ll post it when it’s ready.

In Anaconda, our friendly ghost-seeing, tarot card reading high school student Nick Michelson encounters the ghost of a long-dead soldier, who comes to Nick for help. Meanwhile, Nick is having premonitions of someone shooting up his high school. Does this ghost have anything to do with Nick’s premonitions? In a race against time, Nick attempts to stop an unknown serial killer from carrying out his deadly plan.

I’m currently revising the third novel in the series which features magicians, an extremely angry ghost and real-life villains. Nick runs into some major trouble in this story. Not sure if I’ll have it by the end of the year but that’s my goal at the moment.

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Review of Timebound by Rysa Walker

Timebound cover

I’m a sucker for time-travel novels (I even wrote one) so my interest was peaked when I stumbled across an interview with author Rysa Walker during which she discussed her book Timebound, the first book in the Chronos Files series. I was so intrigued that I bought it….and after having finished it, I think I have found myself a new favorite series.

The story begins when 16 year old Kate Keller’s sickly grandmother (also named Kate) tells her granddaughter that she has genetically inherited a supernatural ability to travel through time. She gives Kate a blue glowing medallion and explains that it is the medallion that enables those of their bloodline to time travel; however only those with the right gene can use the device. Her grandmother promises to begin training Kate on how to use the device.

But shortly thereafter, everything instantly changes in Kate’s world. A murder in the past combined with a sinister plot has changed Kate’s timeline and her reality. The present and past that she knew now never took place. With a blink of an eye, Kate suddenly finds her herself in a classroom with a strange teacher and fellow students she doesn’t recognize. People she loved are gone and friends no longer know her – and she learns that if she so much as removes the medallion from her neck even for a moment, she will instantly blink out of existence.

To fix the timeline and restore things back to the way they were, Kate must tear herself away from those she loves and travel back in time to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where she is to face more than one known murderer. Once Kate returns to the past, she engages in a struggle for survival in a race against time as she tries to prevent a terrible chain of events from taking place and altering the past – or should I say, one of the “pasts”. While in 1893 she uncovers a sinister plot which will devestate the entire world, which makes her success even more crucial.

It’s difficult to talk about this book without giving out spoilers. Suffice it to say that this is an exquisite addition to the YA genre and this exciting novel left me satisfied yet wanting more. The fast-paced story combines mystery, young romance, multiple timelines, power, murder, action, politics, real-life villains and religious zealots – all with an intriguing plot line that kept me turning the page.

I’ve read my share of time travel books whose timelines were so confusing and convoluted that it was difficult to keep track of what was going on and why. This was not the case with Timebound. I felt that the timelines and the intricate web that the author weaved were clearly presented – although it does require the reader to pay attention while reading. There are times when even the main characters are momentarily confused by the various timelines.

The characterizations are excellent. The author brings Kate, her grandmother and all the other supporting characters (including her two love interests from two different timelines) vividly to life in this mind-boggling, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants romp. Think Doctor Who meets Marty McFly but with a tinge of sweet romance thrown in. The author expertly handled the different settings which at times were so vibrant and vivid that they played out like a movie. While Timebound is technically classified as a Young Adult novel, I feel that the intricate and well-crafted plot as well as the riveting storyline will appeal to a much wider audience regardless of age.

From what I could gather, this is the Walker’s first full-length novel and I felt that she shows notable talent in her believable plot development, careful attention to detail and well thought-out characters. Walker intelligently gives us an exciting YA adventure with twists and turns, where answers are elusive and love is mind-bogglingly complicated and impossible – but no matter how complicated, Kate finds that the only impossible thing is to walk away.

This is the beginning of an new exciting series and I can’t wait to read the recently released second book, Time’s Edge. Recommended!!

You can check out Timebound HERE.

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Turning Pro – an answer to a long-burning question

Turing pro

I was reading the book Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield (who also wrote The War of Art) the other day when I came across a passage that resonated with me so strongly that I had to share it.

Those of us who have chosen to live unpredictable the life of the solo entrepreneur – authors, musicians, artists, podcasters and other creatives – can’t help but wonder why in the hell we chose such a life where the future is so uncertain. In the chapter entitled “My Years in the Wilderness,” Pressfield put it thusly:

“Because there are no conventional rewards, I was forced to ask myself, Why am I doing this? Am I crazy? All my friends are making money and settling down and living normal lives. What the hell am I doing? Am I nuts? What’s wrong with me?”

“In the end I answered the question by realizing that I had no choice. I couldn’t do anything else. When I tried, I got so depressed I couldn’t stand it. So when I wrote yet another novel or screenplay that I couldn’t sell, I had no choice but to write another one after that….the work became, in its own demented way a practice. It sustained me, and it sustains me still.”

This passage certainly answered that long-burning question for me — perhaps for you as well?

By the way, Turning Pro is an excellent little book aimed at creatives about moving from amateur to professional. Lots of excellent tidbits and advice.

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Wordless Wednesday – Hey Hoss!

Hey Hoss!

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Dracula Untold – The Origins of Count Dracula

Dracula untold posterI’m a sucker for a vampire movie, especially one having to do with our not-so-friendly Count Dracula. When I was a kid, I saw all of the Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi, Jack Palance, Christopher Lee and others. I subscribed to the monthly comic book “The Tomb of Dracula” and later on, the short-lived Dracula Magazine entitled “Dracula Lives”.

But there was always something missing – and that was the origin story of our Count. Nobody ever delved into his past, what he was like before he became a vampire. Not until now, that is. Needless to say, I was excited when I heard that the new film directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold was just that – the story of how and why Vlad Tepes became a vampire.

Truth be told, I was a tad hesitant because some of the reviews I’d read were on the lukewarm side. I personally loved the film and felt that the writers came up with a very good Dracula origin story.

The Story

In the 15th century, Vlad Tepes, played by Luke Evans, and Vlad’s young family live in Transylvania, where he rules as a Prince. We learn that as a child, he was given to the Turkish Sultan and was tortured, trained and then forced to kill in the sultan’s army, during which he became known as Vlad the Impaler. Given his freedom, he has been allowed many years of peace between the two kingdoms.

Then one day, things turn to hell. Messengers from the new Sultan, played by Dominic Cooper, turn up and demand a thousand boys – including Vlad’s own son – for the Turkish army. Vlad refuses, knowing that this decision will ultimately lead to war between the two kingdoms – with the enormous Turkish army and Vlad’s non-existent army.

Out of desperation, the kind-hearted prince Vlad makes a decision with a dark and ancient supernatural force in order to protect his kingdom…and we all know how that turns out.

The Acting

I couldn’t think anyone more suited for this role than Luke Evans. Dracula Untold is not a happy film and Evans’s dark and brooding yet sophisticated portrayal of Dracula was more than impressive. The prince’s struggle to protect his kingdom and his family – and his willingness to tamper with a terrible, dark power in order to do so was brilliantly portrayed, as was his transformation from hero to anti-hero.

During the movie I sympathized with the prince’s plight – and cringed as the situation worsened for him. Evans’s performance was not only believable, it was smooth and brilliant, and I felt that he was the perfect embodiment of the character of Vlad Tepes. He also did an excellent job at balancing his human and monster characteristics.

The chemistry between Vlad and his wife, played by Sarah Gadon, was outstanding as well and added a touch of sweet romance to this otherwise dark, angsty tale.

What We Didn’t Get

Many people who were disappointed in this film expected a classic vampire story, complete with the maniacal count drinking blood and attacking young maidens.

This was not the purpose of the film. This is not a vampire film. This is not even a horror film. Rather, it portrays the agonizing decision that Vlad had to make in order to protect his kingdom – and the price he had to pay for such a decision. It was about one man’s transformation from being good…. to being…not quite so good.

While the battle scenes were brutal, they were not gory. There was very little bloodletting and needless gruesome violence. That’s not what this film was about. Rather, it’s an origin story of the infamous Count Dracula, how he lost everything to save his kingdom and the ultimate sacrifice he had to make to save his family.

The Visuals

The story was dark as were the visuals (alas, no sparkly vampires here!). The effects were quite good however (loved the bats!), with the battle scenes appearing realistic without unnecessary gore. Rather, the director took an artistic approach to this film leading to some quite stunning visuals.

I felt this reboot of the Dracula story was beautifully executed with the visuals successfully drawing in the audience into the story. The film’s pace was perfect, with a nice mix of action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes.

The Verdict

Loved it! This stylish, well-plotted, innovative film was a delight to watch and provided a fresh perspective on Vlad the Impaler aka Count Dracula. This original story reinvents the evil Count Dracula as a tragic hero who loved and lost, a tale of hope versus despair. All in all, I felt it was an excellent story and left me wanting more.

The ending of the movie left an opening for a sequel so perhaps we will get more. If so, I’ll be first in line.

Recommended!

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Wordless Wednesday – Bird on Guard

Bird on guard

Image of large bird in tree