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Book Review: ‘The Twenty-Year Death’ By Ariel S. Winter

Book Review: ‘The Twenty-Year Death’ By Ariel S. Winter

The Twenty Year Death

Ariel S. Winter’s debut novel, “The Twenty Year Death,” features three separate crime novels that create a single saga of violence and tragedy intruding on the lives of a couple. Described as a 3-in-1 noir, each novel is set in a different decade, penned in a different style and told from a different perspective, starting out in 1931 with a body found in a gutter in France, leading to 1941 Hollywood with a callous slaying of a young starlet, and ending in 1951 Maryland with a desperate man’s last chance for personal and professional redemption.

“The Twenty Year Death” is a breath of fresh air in a literary world seemingly obsessed with zombies, vampires and everything supernatural. While reading, I traveled back in time to my youth when I’d sit with my father and listen to old broadcasts of CBS Radio’s drama “Suspense.” The Golden Age of radio was spread across 600+ pages for my delight as violence and tragedy hit again and again over a span of 20 years.

Each novel is told in the voice of a literary great — Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, big names in detective fiction and pulp novels — as Winter taps into their styles to pay homage to their legacies without parody. His book features a unique framework that is a celebration of the history of crime fiction presented as a thrilling story.

“The Twenty Year Death” is a chronological saga in terms of action but the nitty gritty behind the main characters is dished out sporadically, and masterfully, throughout the three novels, so the image of the main character’s is forever evolving.

Maybe you’re not versed in the literary greatness of Simenon, Chandler and Thompson. That’s fine because, on its own, this novel is an intricate web of suspense and drama. No spoilers here because the best part of reading “The Twenty Year Death” is seeing how it all unfolds.

Ariel S. Winter’s “The Twenty Year Death” will be released by Titan Books on Aug. 7, 2012 and is available on Amazon. In addition to years as a bookseller for The Corner Bookstore in New York City and Borders in Baltimore, Winter is also the author of the blog “We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie” and has a children’s picture book, “One of a Kind (Aladdin),” coming out this year. — Kate Vendetta

You can follow Kate Vendetta on Twitter at @katevendetta.

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Book Review: ‘Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion’ By Denis Meikle

Book Review: ‘Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion’ By Denis Meikle

In Denis Meikle’s fully revised and updated bestselling biography, “Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion,” the film historian charts the heartthrob’s life thus far. Every aspect of Depp’s past is discussed, from his modest beginnings growing up in Kentucky to his teen idol success on “21 Jump Street” to his decades-long movie career. Although he touches on Depp’s personal life outside the movies, including romances with former flames Winona Ryder and Kate Moss and current love Vanessa Paradis, the 483-page biography centers around the star’s movie and television roles.

In spite of the criticism of this biography in regards to inaccuracies — i.e. Meikle states Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” when those awards actually went to Tommy Lee Jones for his work in “The Fugitive” — the bestselling book is thorough and provides an interesting view of an actor known for being eccentric yet mysterious and fascinating. Not to mention a turbo hottie who has risen from the ranks of “Teen Beat” heartthrob to being “People” magazine’s 2009 Sexiest Man Alive.

I always enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at actors, human beings the public experiences through a veil with their roles in television or film, interviews on TV or from tabloid gossip in the likes of “Star” and “US Weekly.” I’m never going to meet Johnny Depp, let alone be friends with him, so my only way of coming close to knowing what he’s like is reading a biography.

With that in mind, “Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion” doesn’t know if it wants to be a Johnny Depp biography or a movie critics rantings. Meikle dabbles in Depp’s love life and personal struggles while centering around a history of cinema using a timeline of the star’s films. It is borderline wordy and off-topic but adds to Johnny Depp: The Man and Movie Star.

It’s not that I wanted or even expected gossip column worthy trash but I did want to read about Johnny Depp and his roles while getting inside his mind. Instead Meikle focuses on Depp’s roles and critiques of his movies by magazine and newspaper film critics while giving his own criticism in the process, always providing the last word. While it’s interesting to see Depp as movie star, on set and morphing into such iconic characters as Gilbert Grape, Raoul Duke, Edward Scissorhands, Jack Sparrow and George Jung, the biography focused too much on the movies and how the basis for each film was devised and how it added to cinema while focusing too little on Depp.

It reminded me of the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel and her overly extensive research. While very well scrutinized and scholarly, which should be praised, it’s better to get to the point, the point being what the reader is truly interested in — i.e. the picture on front of the book. It’s of Johnny Depp, not a film projector. If you wanted to write a book on Depp’s films, which is obvious, you should have focused only on that and called it “Johnny Depp: How His Films Contributed to Cinema. At various points reading this biography, I became lost and forgot if I was in a history class for movie snobs or if I was reading a Johnny Depp biography.

With that said, I enjoyed the book simply because I enjoy Depp. He’s an unconventional yet extremely talented actor in a sea of stereotypical movie-stars known more for looks than God-given talent. There are two types of actors. Those you fall in love with over a role, like lusting over Jon Hamm as Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Three piece suit, tumbler glass in hand, cigar dangling from his lips. Then there are actors you fall in love not over a role but simply over them. Therein lies household heartthrob Johnny Depp.

Covering the life of an A-list movie star like Depp is difficult, so I praise Meikle for his efforts to cover all the bases. However, it loitered at some bases (Depp’s movies) and raced past others (Depp’s personal life). If you are looking for a focused look of Depp in and outside his movies, you should find another book. While the length of the book provides enough space for this, it is trivial in comparison to the real focus of the biography.

If you are interested in a focused illustration of his movies and their impact on the history of film, this is the book for you. — Kate Vendetta

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Give The Gift of Taste This Holiday Season With Glenfiddich Scotch!

Give The Gift of Taste This Holiday Season With Glenfiddich Scotch!

My knowledge of scotch whiskey – what I think of when I hear the words or notice it on a menu or on a shelf at the liquor store — comes from Ron Burgundy, the lovable and arrogant protagonist of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my
belly.”

So, I was unprepared for my first rendezvous with Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, simply following Burgundy’s love of the elusive nectar and his nightly plea for San Diego residents to “stay classy.”

I went with my classiest highball glass and watched as the golden, amber glow poured from the bottle and filled the 8-ounce tumbler halfway. After the first sip, I knew instantly that this potent liquor wasn’t for rowdy college kids and folks who will drink almost anything as long as it quickly and cheaply gets them good and drunk. It’s not a party-til-dawn drink but a relaxing, after-a-long-day-of-work drink, a sipping drink, a drink to enjoy.

It has a clean quality, with a hint of honey and oak, and a traditional quality, as if I could smell, taste and feel when it first ran from the stills in Scotland on Christmas Day 1887. As part Scottish, I felt a connection to my birthright as I sat back and let the liquid ease the tension from a long day and soothe my troubles away.

This drink is not for the weak. It is strong bodied, full of flavor, with a smooth and very clean finish – trademarks of good booze and a good man. There’s something classy and old school about drinking it – like you’re a character on “Mad Men.” It made me feel sophisticated and upscale while providing me time to relax and enjoy the evening. — Kate Vendetta

Be sure to become a fan of Glenfiddich on Facbook at this location >

About William Grant & Sons

William Grant & Sons, Ltd. is an independent family-owned distiller headquartered in the United Kingdom and founded by William Grant in 1887. Today, the luxury spirits company is run by the fifth generation of his family and distills some of the world’s leading brands of Scotch whisky, including the world’s most awarded single malt Glenfiddich®, The Balvenie® range of handcrafted single malts and the world’s fourth largest blended Scotch Grant’s® as well as other iconic spirits brands such as Hendrick’s® Gin, Sailor Jerry® Spiced Navy Rum, and the award-winning Milagro® Tequila.

Among the most recent accolades for the well-awarded company, William Grant & Sons was honored as the “Distiller of the Year” for the fourth time in five years by the prestigious International Spirits Challenge.

Founded in 1964, William Grant & Sons USA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of William Grant & Sons, Ltd. and features one of the fastest growing spirits portfolios in the USA with brands including Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Rum, Milagro Tequila, Stolichnaya Vodka, Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur, Grant’s, Clan MacGregor, Reyka Vodka, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Galliano, Lillet, Licor 43, The Knot and BOLS cordials. The company has offices inNew York City (sales and marketing) and Edison, NJ (bottling and warehouse facilities). For more information on the company and its brands, please visit www.grantusa.com

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Review: ‘Dead Rising 2’ Explodes Onto The PS3 and Xbox 360!

Review: ‘Dead Rising 2’ Explodes Onto The PS3 and Xbox 360!

I was a huge fan of Capcom’s 2006 sleeper hit “Dead Rising” (“DR”) The game was a tribute to all things zombie, from George A. Romero’s “Dead” films, particularly “Dawn of the Dead,” to Capcom’s “Resident Evil” series, with equal parts silliness and terror.

I was excited to hear in 2009 that Capcom was releasing a sequel. However, I tend to view sequels to great games with a bit of skepticism. For every “Resident Evil 2” or “Mass Effect 2” that build upon the successful formula, there’s a “Devil May Cry 2” or “Manhunt 2” that crap all over it. The best sequels maintain the elements that made their predecessors successful while correcting flaws and incorporating new elements to enhance the experience. “Dead Rising 2” (“DR 2”), fortunately, falls into the former category and, like DR, is an absolute blast.

In many ways, DR 2 follows the same basic storyline as DR. The protagonist, Chuck Greene, is trapped inside a mall in the midst of a zombie infestation and has 72 game-hours (each in-game minute is equivalent to a few seconds) to survive before help arrives. The mall in Dead Rising was big; the mall in Dead Rising 2 is massive and includes casinos, a hotel and an arena set in the Las Vegas-esque Fortune City. DR 2 adds a twist, however. Chuck’s daughter, Katey, is infected with the zombie virus and Chuck must find a drug called Zombrex and administer an injection to Katey every 24 hours to keep her from turning. Chuck must also battle a host of colorful Vegas-themed psychopaths, including a Siegfried and Roy knockoff and a washed-up lounge singer. As if this weren’t enough, Chuck also has to save survivors he finds along the way and bring them back to the safe room.

You will often have several tasks to complete, each with time limits. Thus, you are forced to plan the order in which you pursue your tasks in order to complete them all before before time expires. In my first playthrough, I was unable to finish every task, though I finished most of them. This really adds to the replay factor of DR 2, since you will want to play a second and third time to complete all of the tasks. It helps that your stats carry over through multiple playthroughs.

The environments are drastically improved over the original. Fortune City looks and feels like Las Vegas, whereas the mall in DR was somewhat nondescript. Capcom did a great job of incorporating Vegas-style elements into the game, from zombie showgirls to the aforementioned psychopaths and even Elvis-style costumes that Chuck can wear. The character models aren’t drastically improved from the original but it doesn’t take anything away from the game. The voice acting is very good. The music is pretty much the same music as the original — there’s generic mall music, cheesy casino rock music and heavy metal for the psychopath battles.

Where DR 2 really shines is zombie killing. Fortunately, there’s a lot of zombies to kill, much more than the original. The sheer number of zombies on screen at one time is mind boggling, no doubt contributing to the lengthy load times. It’s worth it, however, because it allows for plenty of zombie fodder for DR 2’s brilliant new feature – mixing weapons. Scattered throughout the map are workbenches where you can combine basic weapons together to make more powerful ones. For example, combining boxing gloves and motor oil will give you flaming gloves. Combining nails and a baseball bat gives you a spiked bat. There are dozens of combinations, all of which allow for brutal kills. As sadistic as it may sound, some can actually be quite amusing, such as the teddy bear with an assault rifle.

Overall, DR 2 is a great game and a must-have for fans of the original. Even PS3 owners, who didn’t have a chance to play the original, should check it out. I also recommend downloading Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, which serves as a prequel to DR 2’s main story. Case Zero does a great job of introducing the clock system, combining weapons and rescuing survivors, all of which are essential components of the game. Also, be on the lookout for Dead Rising 2: Case West, arriving this holiday season, which serves as an epilogue to DR2’s story and features Chuck teaming up with Frank West, the protagonist from the original. Though you could wait until spring to pick up a used copy, we all know that fall is zombie season, so head out and pick up DR 2 today. — Pedro Moreno

Rating: 4.5 Little Goombas out of 5

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The Best Live Performances of 2008: Revealed!

The Best Live Performances of 2008: Revealed!

The Staff of?Icon Versus Icon?took in many shows this years working alongside their counterparts at Live-Metal.Net. The staff?put their heads together to bring you their takes on the Best Live Performances of 2008. Read on to find out who they think made the grade in 2008.

The Best Live Performances of 2008


la-guns-3854Steve Johnson’s Pick: This pick for best live show of the year may seem odd to some of you readers out there, but I can say without a doubt, the best time I had at a show this year was on July 19th at the Bang Tango/L.A. Guns/Faster Pussycat show at Jaxx in Springfield, VA. Every band on the bill rocked and we interviewed Faster Pussycat lead singer Taime Downe. Bang Tango took the stage first and played a great set, which included their hit ?Love Injection.? L.A. Guns followed with new lead singer Marty Casey and did not disappoint. As usual, Tracii Guns supplied blistering guitar and the band delivered all of their hits, including: ?Over the Edge,? ?Sex Action,? ?Rip and Tear,? and ?The Ballad of Jayne.? Faster Pussycat rounded out the night and delivered a sleaze filled set that included the hits ?Cathouse,? ?Slip of the Tongue,? ?House of Pain,? and ?Bathroom Wall.? While the old songs that I grew up on were great to hear live, it was the new material that left me impressed. Faster Pussycat’s new material is far and beyond sleazier than anything they have done in the past and easily allows the band to carry on with the crown of World’s Greatest Sleaze Band. I mean come on, how can you resist songs with titles such as, ?The Power & the Glory Hole? and ?Shut Up & Fuck.?

Jason Price’s Pick: Without question, the best live performance that I saw in 2008 was L.A. Guns. The band had recently brought on new frontman Marty Casey and embarked on “The Summer Blackout Tour.” Casey, alongside veteran axeman Tracii Guns absolutely blew me away with unmatched energy and an ultra-tight performance. Marty Casey’s intense vocals and showmanship won over fans old and new alike as they played L.A. Guns staples, Casey’s solo work and several covers that they practically made their own. This version of L.A. Guns will surely be back on the road in 2009 in support of a new studio album and there are not to be missed when they head to a venue in your neck of the woods.

For some great photos of L.A. Guns in concert, check out this site:
www.cherylspelts.com

Jen X’s Pick: Without a doubt, even though it’s not metal and it’s not indie, the best live performance this year in my book was Journey. Filipino singer Arnel Pineda is the luckiest sob of the decade, as he “won” is spot as frontman of Journey via Neal Schon seeing him on YouTube singing Journey songs with his band at the time, The Zoo. Pineda should be hailed as the second-coming of Steve Perry, shoes that I never thought would or could be filled. His vocal talent is extraordinary and his energy during shows is incredible, if you find yourself sitting at any point during the set then there must be something wrong with you. Not only did this tour bring back “Lights” and “Open Arms”, but new mixes such as “After All These Years.” Journey toured with opening acts Cheap Trick and Heart, two groups of talented rockers that do not disappoint in the line up. I look forward in hearing more from this “new” Journey and for their tour to make it my area once again as I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the evening listening to the hits that I grew up with and the new hits to come.

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