Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Blogger Mike Arsuaga

Today I'm pleased to welcome award-winning author Mike Arsuaga, who's bravely answered the infamous Rick Reed questions, and is going to give us a glimpse into the world of Subspecies. So settle back and relax, while Mike and I do the same. While I pour the coffee, why don't you start with The Questions, Mike?

The Questions
1)     1) You’re marooned on a small island with one person and one item of your choice—who is that person and what item do you have?
For the person, there’s only one correct answer, my wife Cynthia, inspiration for the incomparable “Fashion Model Known as Cynthia” from the subspecies series. In the flesh, not only is she beautiful but smart. The item choice is easy too: matches, because as a boy scout I never got the hang of making fire by rubbing sticks.
2)      Which musical would you say best exemplifies your life – and which character in that musical are you?
“The Fantasticks”.  I’m El Gallo.
3)      Take these three words and give me a 100 word or less scenario using them:  freeway, shortened, click
The line on the freeway to Heaven was dramatically shortened after God ended the world with a click.
4)      You’ve just been let loose in the world of fiction, with permission to do anyone you want. Who do you fuck first and why?
Ohh “fuck” is such a strong word. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Weena from “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells. She got a raw deal in the book. As a young teen I wrote a fifty thousand word sequel where I led a troop of rock hard Marines to rescue Weena from that forest fire and give the Morlocks what for.
5)      What is your idea of how to spend romantic time with your significant other?
Well, besides the obvious (Yes old people do it too) we like to have dinners out or a day at the local spa.
6)      When you start a new story, do you begin with a character, or a plot?
I’ve done it both ways, but usually the plot comes first. An exception was the short story “The Girl in the Library” that grew into the Subspecies series. For the story, the character of lycan Samantha “Sam” Johnson demanded creation. The plot of TGITL was simple. A werewolf and vampire unknowingly stalk each other with the hook being the discovery of each other’s secret.  The plot of “Subspecies” the first in the series grew from that.
7)      If they were to make the story of your life into a movie, who should play you?
Steve McQueen but he’s dead. Among those still alive, Kevin Costner as he was in “The Bodyguard” would have to do.
8)      Who’s your favorite horror villain and why?
I don’t know if it qualifies but the cyborg from “Terminator” is it. Besides the absolute originality of the storyline Terminator was so deliciously, un-redeemably evil.
9)      Do you have an historical crush and if so, who is it?
I love many of the movie stars from the 1940’s. Don’t know why but faces like Jennifer Jones, Virginia Mayo, Donna Reed, and Teresa Wright move me more than today’s brats. An exception is Taylor Swift and Amy Adams who I have earmarked to play Cynthia and Sam when “Subspecies” becomes a movie.
10)   Is there a story that you’d like to tell but you think the world isn’t ready to receive it?
From what I’ve seen already out there, nothing I could conjure up exceeds the public’s tolerance.

Can you tell us a bit about your award-winning Subspecies series, Mike?

A Professor on Campus
Dr. Jim White, a 130-year-old Vampire, as a mathematics professor and man of science, rejects the ways and lore of old in favor of modern solutions. Lycans and Vampires, The Subspecies, live invisibly in society, because discovery is their worst fear. Resulting from a chance meeting, he has the best sex of his life and  regrets the intriguing girl had to be his next victim. But she has a secret. As a Lycan, she hunted him as he hunted her.

The Girl in the Library        
Samantha “Sam” Johnson, a Lycan, lived through world wars and The Great Depression, counting Al Capone and Babe Ruth as acquaintances, before settling into decades of anonymity, quietly preying on humans to live. On a chance meeting with an intriguing professor, her decision to devour him comes into question. Kill after a night of exquisite sex?
A Dynasty is Born
After discovering each others secret, neither can resist the physical attraction. Together they hunt and reach out to others of their kind using modern technology to form a support group which becomes more than either imagined.

Follow The Subspecies’ journey as they open a universe of possibilities with the promise of life being more than hunting, living in shadows, and fruitless mating.


Setting the stage: Vampire Jim returned home after rescuing lycan Sam (Samantha) from police custody. With them is human attorney Oscar Young. Waiting at the apartment are young lycan Cynthia and elder vampire Ed, the rest of the support group. Oscar had just answered Jim's question regarding the rules of attorney client privilege. 

  The scene unfolds:  

 Encouraged by his answer I morphed, with fangs, pallor and red eyes.

 Oscar instinctively jumped back but recovered and said with another chuckle. “What an excellent effect. How did you do it?” 

By then I returned to human form. “You don’t understand. I really am a vampire,” I said. 

Oscar stood and sternly replied, “Doctor White, if you think this is all a joke perhaps you should seek other representation.” He retrieved his briefcase preparing to leave. 

A vampire morph is not dramatic. Most of it happens internally, expanding joints and modest bone growth. Except for the fangs I could pass for large pale man with a bad hangover. We needed a more dramatic demonstration. I turned to Cynthia. “Show him what you can do,” I said to her. 

“Do I have to?” she complained. “This is a brand new outfit.”

 “Please, it’s important, dear.” Sam added. Besides, I sewed in Velcro morph seams.” 

Cynthia stood and stepped to the middle of the room. She faced Oscar who paused at the door. Shimmying out of her panties, she kicked them to the side with a last flick of a bare foot. Stretchy lingerie fabrics didn’t tear. Because a lycan grew when morphing, most underwear bound them painfully. Ed’s eyes locked onto the sexually aromatic wrinkle of white material shimmering at her feet. She stood erect with legs apart and hands on hips. As it molded to her butt, the black miniskirt sparkled with sequins, round like half of a disco ball. I surveyed the pleasingly dramatic arching cleft of her spine under the white blouse.

 “Okay,” she said. “You asked for it.” With a ripping of Velcro, the garments separated and fell away. She expanded in all directions nearly touching the ceiling, seeming to fill the room. Arms and legs elongated as if made of modeling clay. A curved fanged snout grew out of the face some said could launch a thousand ships. Upon completing the morph she peered down on Oscar. Casual predation emanated from the height of coal black eyes.

 “Convinced now?” I asked above the sound of Cynthia’s low growl.

 Bug eyed, Oscar slowly retook his seat.   


Mike, can you share some of your favorite scenes from Subspecies, Inc.?


Samantha ‘Sam’ Johnson, a Lycan, and Jim White, a Vampire, are members of a Fortune 500 company named Subspecies, Inc., formed to promote the interests of Lycans and Vampires and integrate them into humanity. Life seems blissful, a wedding, and three children. After events force The Subspecies to reveal themselves to the world, the love of Sam and Jim is tested. While on a rescue mission in the Spanish Pyrenees to save a family friend, Jim is lost for 15 months with amnesia. As memory returns he uncovers a rogue operation working to create an army of super soldiers, and putting Subspecies, Inc. at risk.

Now reunited, can Sam and Jim continue meeting the challenges of persecution and resume the effort to deepen and perfect their love? Themes of salvation and redemption blend to evolve The Subspecies, once the most reviled and feared, toward becoming the finest expression of Creation.

Jim travels to Spain to be with a dying Contessa Malvina Arriago, the oldest living subspecies. He arrives amid excitement over a flurry of vampire and lycan sightings.

The Scene Unfolds:
The Guardia shot two men trying to abduct a mother and child. Reports of one changing shape in his death throes circulated on the web. According to Angelica, the media had a videotape of the incident.
“Every television station in Spain is carrying the account,” she said. “You cannot see much. The quality is poor and the authenticity is questionable.”
“So tell me Angelica,” Oscar asked, seeing an opportunity to gauge the opinion of the human community about our existence, “do you believe in such things?”
“When I was a child, the family shared dark stories of terrible creatures that turned into wolves and bats. They kidnapped and ate unwary travelers and vagrants. If I misbehaved, my parents threatened to give me over to them. The unexplained remains always with us, but no, I do not believe in them. They would be extremely skillful to never have been discovered, or else rarer than we imagine.” She stopped. Her deep brown eyes met mine in the rearview mirror and she added, “But Abuela swore to her grave, as a child, such a creature rescued her from a well into which she had fallen. Perhaps all of them are not evil, eh?”
Carole’s Death
Vampire Carole Henson was Jim White’s nanny and lover after his emergence. She knew him by the name of Tom Watkins. Jim has brought her to his home to spend her last days.

The Scene Unfolds:
The third morning I entered to find Claire keeping Carole company. She had dragged a chair next to the bed and wedged it between the vital signs monitors. Carole’s limp hand lay in her lap, enveloped by tiny, brown fingers.
“She was lonely Daddy,” Claire explained. “I wanted her to feel better.”
“As a child you were caring like this one,” Carole’s hoarse and labored voice overpowered the quiet of morning and the small noises coming from the life support machines and monitors.
“You sound better,” Sam said from behind me.
“Mommy,” Cassie asked, bursting into the room and scattering the tranquility of a moment earlier. “Bertie said we can go to the zoo? Can we?”
Sam smiled and patted her head. “We’ll see. We need to have breakfast first.” Cassie began to coax her sister and mother from the area. Claire hesitated, but the simple gratifications of an outing outweighed the subtler ones associated with keeping company with the dying, and she promptly joined her sibling.
Claire took a couple of steps down the hall then turned. “Daddy, are you coming to eat?” she asked.
“No dear,” Sam answered for me. “Daddy needs to talk to Aunt Carole. He’ll be along later.”
When we were alone, Carole spoke. “Claire is the image of your father. Humans do not appreciate the wonder of seeing the faces and personalities of parents and ancestors reappear in the young ones.”
“The experience is new for us. When the uniqueness wears off we will take it for granted, too.”
“I don’t believe that. All my life I wondered what it was like to see myself in another. After discovering so much of you in Eddie and your father in little Claire, I know I was right to hold the desire in the highest esteem. My regret is I won’t live to see me reflected in children of my own. I must take comfort from knowing someday they will be born and they may occasionally remember me.”
 “You’ll always be remembered,” I said.
“Lying here with the end coming upon me I’ve had time to reflect on my life. I did often terrible things. Some were necessary, others were not. The faces of those I killed gratuitously pass in memory, and I feel guilty for ending their lives. Am I insane Tommy?”
“No. The wisdom that created the universe made a future which always provides the opportunity to regret misdeeds and to make amends.”
Carole chuckled weakly. “You sound like the Christian God,” she said.
“Sam is the family expert in that department. Since our wedding, she’s practiced the Catholic faith. I know this much. All they ask is to believe, forgive others and yourself, and you will be forgiven.”
“Do you believe?”
“I’m not sure. Their gospels, written by some of the early leaders, make a lot of sense. It’s all the rules popping up in subsequent centuries that are the problem. They can be archaic, unnatural, and confusing, something like how the American government has muddied up The Constitution with tons of complicated and often needless regulations. But whether this god or another is the true one, I do believe we can be forgiven. All we need do is to ask.”
“Will you forgive me Tommy?”
I smiled down on her. “Always.”
She confessed to me, as Sam and I had done to Father Rafe. I absolved her using the words as I remembered and dripped water on her forehead. I wasn’t sure whether what I did was appropriate or even allowed, but I couldn’t believe a loving God could find fault, and if no God existed the act lacked meaning as well as harm to anyone.
Later the same morning with Bertie and the kids on their way to the zoo, Carole uttered a deep groan.
Sam who had been sitting with her called out.
As I raced to the room, the mindless, unvarying tone of the monitors announced Carole’s passing. She lay in the bed, eyes closed with a wry smile on her face, like someone who knows something you don’t.
For the first time in our lives, we looked with knowledge upon a subspecies that had died of natural causes.

 X Rated Love Scene: 
I surveyed the small and impeccably crafted body as if seeing it for the first time, and maybe in some subtle way I was. The ageless tautness of defined musculature and polished creaminess never changed, but each encounter with the image opened my mind to new possibilities and dreams about us and our love.
In front of me was five feet two inches of perfection with arms folded over small breasts while a trim foot in a shower sandal tapped impatiently on the wood floor. A rush of heat slipped through me in the presence of the firmness of her muscle.
“I’m freezing, Jim,” Perfection said in a thick and pouty voice. “Warm me up.”
That broke the trance. I swept the curvy little parcel in my arms and carried it to the bed. The sheets smelled fresh. The room had been recently and thoroughly cleaned. Presented with an aromatically clean slate, our scents quickly took over.
She laughed and burrowed into the covers with me hot after her like a fox chasing a hare.
I came to rest beside a thrashing bundle of elbows and knees. Pulling the covers over us, she slipped from an attempt to pin her underneath and mounted me, wrapped in covers and rising like a red-topped gray teepee. Her body felt wonderful and responsive, as if every nerve ending networked with all parts. Each movement stretched me taut as she brushed peaking nipples and hair, both appearing auburn in the room’s light, across my heaving and titillated chest. The strokes pleasured without satisfying. When she moved, with a wonderfully sensuous flow of muscle, she seemed more aware of the capabilities of her wiles than I had ever seen before.
“Close enough?” she purred, lowering a warm cleft just above a tortured, swollen manhood.
I lay below in a hot sweat, speechless. In complete arousal, my skin seemed stretched to the point of ripping, so taut over my body there wasn’t sufficient slack for even a blink. The eyes of the fine boned face hovering above gleamed with a wonderful dreamy light. She twitched her pelvis and eliminated the last millimeters separating us.
As I probed deep inside, she slid soft fleshed breasts against me, enjoying the sizzling fires she started with every touch as her sensitive nipples erected even more. I moved a finger toward the point of contact between our fevered cores, around the part of my thick and bulging member outside of her, massaging the wet apex of her womanhood. Even if I knew nothing about her, the gasp and expression of open-mouthed rapture told me I had it right. Her eyes glazed over and we gave ourselves to the mutual orgasm that rolled through like a succession of hot effervescent waves.
“We’re not done yet, buster,” she said, retaining possession of my flaccid member inside as long as possible. After releasing it, she dropped heavily beside me.
Lying side by side, so close as if we could melt into each other, we listened to the harmony of our heartbeats in silence. This was becoming the favorite part of our lovemaking. We would wait until heat rose again like spring sap, the signal to embark on another act of amorous predation.
Second X-rated Scene.

Maria, who had waited for us to finish the conversation with Oscar, recognized her cue and led the way up one of the staircases to our room. She paused in front of the third in a line of massive wooden doors. After checking the assignment clipboard a last time she inserted the key in the lock. Sam and I both opened our mouths to tell her to stop. Our hearing allowed us to detect the sound of human activity behind the door despite its thickness, but we were too late. The hapless girl threw open the entryway, presented the well-appointed space with a graceful sweep of her arm, and then turned to the shocking exhibition of Cynthia and Juan standing naked on the floor in front of the bed intimately joined.
For about five seconds the housekeeper, Sam, and I gawked in stunned silence.
Juan stood behind Cynthia. His swarthy coloring contrasted sharply with her almost albino skin. A couple of inches shorter than Cynthia, he had a typical powerful Basque build with wide, square shoulders and vividly articulated muscles. He had lifted one of her legs and supported it in the crook of a rock-hard arm, fully opening Cynthia’s white and nearly hairless pelvis. The thigh of the uplifted leg angled up from her waist. From the knee down, the calf hung plum to the floor, ending in a red-nailed extended foot. The lifting arched her torso like a bow, stretching the abdominal muscles to their limit. He nuzzled and kissed her shoulder as it pressed against his chin. The arm nearer to me gracefully curled to somewhere on his lower back. He addressed her femaleness with a stout tool which, I noticed, Sam couldn’t help but admire. When he withdrew, the pale wetness of her femininity clung to him, filling the room with vaporous artifacts of their passion.
Despite the frenetic movement of his hips, I clearly observed four parallel scars on the nearer butt cheek, put there by Cynthia’s fingernails the first time they were together. “I always mark the guys I do,” she told me once.
Juan’s eyes were closed when we entered. I surmised he hadn’t noticed the intrusion because the pace of plunge and withdrawal continued unabated. That soon changed. Cynthia turned her head toward us. With her torso partly twisted around, the pale deltoid shape of one breast was in profile with its erect black nipple. Sable eyes fumed at us. “A little privacy would be nice.”
That snapped Sam and I out of our shock. We averted our stares and started to back out, pulling the stunned and paralyzed Maria with us. Juan now struggled with the ecstatic agony of losing concentration when on the verge of orgasm. He still pumped hard but the focus was off.
Cynthia must have realized the same thing. Muttering a curse, she reached further behind the vampire. Finding the end of the string of gold beads she had previously inserted, she began pulling them out one at a time. As each passed into the light, it resisted the contracting sphincter. The focus promptly returned. As I closed the door behind us, he convulsed in orgasm.
“Well, that was special,” Sam commented, relieved to have three inches of hard oak separating us from what transpired on the other side.

 Children of Subspecies Blurb  
With the corporation rapidly ascending to world prominence under Samantha’s leadership, life looks good for her and the family. The majority of the Subspecies live in peace with humans, helping to rehabilitate the few remaining Ferals. The family boasts five healthy intelligent children, but from under the surface of this bright picture emerges the chilling reality they are developing like humans and will not emerge to be lycans or vampires. Most chilling of all they’ll have normal human life spans, a third of their parents’. Growing to adulthood, each child faces the issue in his or her own way. Sam’s protégé Cynthia, world famous as a fashion model actress and philanthropist, appears on any list of the most beautiful women who ever lived. She would trade it all to have children. Her wish is granted in a sadly left handed way while humanity experiences the greatest crisis in its history. Will the Whites, the corporation, and the Subspecies prevail over economic collapse and worldwide plague? Will the Subspecies die out as their hybrid children show none of their parents’ traits? Sam’s previously unshakable faith in the destiny of subspecies meets its greatest test.

Mike, you wrote a book about a rather unusual shifter, can you tell us something about that?


Drake Martin is a unique shape shifter. Instead of transforming into a ferocious animal, he morphs into an eight pound Yorkshire terrier. Six year old Kady Hartley rescued him from an animal shelter. As "Precious" he was her "bestest friend" for twelve years, leaving when she started college. Ten years later they cross paths. He’s a PI; she’s FBI. Continuing to keep his abilities secret from her, he follows Kady as she pursues a case. Accompany them on an odyssey to New Orleans investigating human traffickers and watch the fur fly. To protect Kady, Drake remains in the shadows. For her sake he puts aside his loner life and accepts protection and assistance of the local shifter pack under its leader, the Sufi. The pack and Drake soon discover they have a common cause, leading to a bloody confrontation with the Russian human traffickers.

During the adventure, will Drake and Kady rekindle their loving friendship or will it become much more?

Yorkie Shifter's Fateful Meeting
“Mommy, Daddy, can we get him,” the six-year-old girl exclaimed, pointing at me, the caged mess of matted tan and silver fur with beady black eyes. I returned her gaze with my best guileless, head cocked to one side expression, as if asking a question. The mother moved a plump cheeky face toward me for a closer look. “Oh, he’s so scruffy,” she said. “I thought you wanted a big dog, one you could play with.” The father’s arm remained around the girl’s narrow shoulders. “Honey, Mom’s right. You said you wanted a Lab like your friend Tommy has. This little guy won’t run around in the yard with you.” Then, turning to the shelter volunteer he asked, “What kind of dog is it, anyway?” “He’s a Yorkie, a Yorkshire terrier, purebred too. Clean him up and he will be beautiful.” Unhitching a leash from the wall, she lifted me from the cage to the floor. “Yorkies are a popular breed and live a long time. Your daughter will be able to grow up with him.” Winking at me, because I had her eating out of my paw since Monday, she added, “See how he prances around. Yorkies are so full of spirit. I just love him to pieces. I’d take him home myself but we already have two cats and two dogs. My husband would leave me if I brought home another pet.” Four feet tall, sandy hair, blue eyes, and a breath smelling of lemon drops nodded, making up her mind. “He’s the one I want.” That’s how my life changed in a split second. I’m Drake Martin, part-time hit man, most of the time private eye, lover, and shape shifter. This is the story of my life as a dog and the little girl named Kady Hartley who changed it forever.    

Book Trailer:


Check out the latest reviews at the following links:

You Gotta Read

Books That Leave You Breathless




Barnes and Noble

Mike, it's been a real pleasure to have you here today. I look forward to seeing you again next month, when you'll tell us about your newest release, The Tenth Legion, fourth in the Subspecies series.

Do you have any questions for Mike? Any comments? He'd love to hear them!

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Serial Killer Sunday - Red Dragon Review

My favorite fictional serial killer is Hannibal Lecter. This was  his debut, Thomas Harris' Red Dragon.

Red Dragon  
Author: Thomas Harris
Publisher: Berkley (reprint, originally Dell)
American release date: January 6, 2009
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Thriller/464 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: NR
Overall Personal Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Similar series or titles to check out: Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what FBI agent Jack Crawford wants of Will Graham—especially with the headlines blaring about the two murders; one in Atlanta, the other in Birmingham. More than enough reason for Crawford to come down to Florida, to get the consultant’s take on the killer. The choice of locale is deliberate—when he shows Will the photos of the deceased families, children included, he can’t help but contrast that with his own wife and stepson. How can he refuse to help catch someone who hurts children?


Will hasn’t been with the FBI since before he met Molly, leaving the Bureau after his unfortunate encounter with a particular serial killer by the name of Hannibal Lecter—an encounter he almost didn’t survive. Nonetheless, and against Molly’s wishes, he agrees to help the FBI find the killer the media has dubbed the Tooth Fairy. First he travels to Atlanta, to the house the Leeds family had lived in. Everything is still in place, waiting for them, as if expecting them home at any moment. Will looks at their life, in situ, trying to piece together what happened to them so he can determine what sort of person did this and create a profile for the FBI to use in order to look for him.

It’s the little things that speak to him, cause him to ask questions. He tries to make sense of the bloodstains, figure out what happened when. Why did the killer move the family around? Was there a purpose to his madness? And by any chance when he did, did he leave a fingerprint behind?

The murders each took place during the full moon, which surely isn’t coincidence, and which means they only have less than a month til the next one. Before the next full moon, they not only have to figure out who this guy is but who his next victims will be, before it’s too late. Will gets more and more engrossed in the chase, while somewhere in the Midwest a man is planning his next move—and his Becoming. Will decides he needs to consult with someone, the only person he knows that can shed some light on this killer—Dr. Hannibal Lecter himself. Will this encounter end better than the last one? And will the good doctor deign to cooperate?

Add to the mix a sleazy tabloid reporter with a penchant for stirring the shit so it hits the fan, and a killer with a deep seated admiration for Dr. Lecter—you’ve got a sure fire recipe for death and mayhem!


In this first volume of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal series, we get a glimpse of his extraordinary character, Dr. Lecter. I think he is undoubtedly one of the greatest characters ever created, with a great deal of depth and far more to him than meets the eye. There are things we won’t even learn about him in this volume; it’s just a teaser for what comes later. This book is Will Graham’s story and how he deals with having met Hannibal in the past and his need to consult him in the present. It’s about his desire to preserve his way of life balanced against the desire to save innocent lives from a deranged madman. Which side will win?

It’s brilliantly written, fast paced and well executed. The character of Francis Dolarhyde is well drawn, and not above eliciting sympathy for what he cannot help. His unraveling is fascinating to behold—and he does not go down alone.

This is a must read introduction to the world of Hannibal Lecter—it sets the stage and sets it well for what comes after. Not to be missed at any price.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Submission Review

The Submission  
Author: Amy Waldman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
American release date: August 16, 2011
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Political/Current Events/320 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Two years after the devastating events of September 11th, a nation still grieves. In an attempt to offer some surcease of sorrow to the country, and to those who lost loved ones on that terrible day, a memorial has been proposed, and a blind competition held to pick the best design for the memorial. Now the jury who will make the final recommendation is down to two names, but when they choose, and realize that the winning architect is a Muslim, can they uphold this choice, or will it destroy not only them, but the memorial, and divide a grieving nation?


Among the members of the jury is Claire Burwell, the sole representative of the families. She lost her husband, her two children their father. It is she who fought for the Garden design, unknowing of its origins, as being most soothing and healing to the families, as well as to the nation. Opposing her is Ariana Montagu, leaving the head of the jury, Paul Rubin, to play peacemaker and voice of reason. The design that Ariana promotes is far more bleaker than the simple, lovely garden. When Claire’s eloquence prevails, the discovery is made that the designer, Mohammad Khan, is a Muslim. Now what are they to do?


The Submission deals with some very important issues, questions that dig deep into the psyche of a nation. Mohammad, or Mo, as he prefers to be known, is an American, with little interest in or ties to his religion. But he resents that he is being pegged because of the fact that he was born a Muslim. When Claire presses him for answers, he refuses to give them on the grounds that the questions should not have been asked, nor would they be asked of anyone else. In that respect, The Submission reminds me of The Contender, in which a woman senator is being investigated because she has been proposed as the next Vice President of the United States. Some very race photos alleging to be of this woman, taken during her college years, have surfaced, causing quite the scandal. But when asked to confirm or deny that these photos are of her, she says she will not answer, on the grounds that were she a man, no one would have even asked the question.

Is the design suspect because proposed by a Muslim? Does that change what the design is, what it says? This was the purpose of the blind competition, was it not? To prevent the personality of the entrant to interfere with the choice of the design, as being two separate entities, and not relevant one to the other. Where does art begin and politics end? Is this a beautiful American garden? Or was it designed with Islam in mind?

The Submission is filled with memorable characters on both sides, not the least of which is Asma, whose husband died also on that terrible day. The difference in her situation and Claire’s is that Asma and her husband are from Bangladesh, and he was an illegal immigrant.

Many profound questions are explored in this tale. It is Amy Waldman’s first novel, and quite the debut. The only criticism I can make, and this is just my own opinion, is that I get no real feeling for the story, by which I mean it’s told in an almost cold, distant manner. Maybe that’s what she intended. Maybe that’s a means of keeping an objective perspective.  I’m not saying she needed to take sides, or anything of that nature. But I would have liked to have seen more warmth in the people as people.

Regardless, it’s well done, and a provocative look at the nature of America and Americans. A real eye-opener. I’d like to see what else Ms. Waldman can do.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Profit is the Name of the Game - Jim Profit, that is, and a lot more

So I admit to being behind on watching some series. For example, I'm almost at the end of the first season of Xena. I know - way behind. But I'm enjoying it, seriously. It's a lot of fun.  I can see why Lucy Lawless has admirers of both genders, although to be honest, my taste runs more to Ares, aka the late Kevin Smith. But I just started watching a series which I'd never heard of 'til I googled the actor that plays the main character, and wow, was I blown away. Its name is Profit.

Jim Profit, played by the very handsome and talented Adrian Pasdar (also of Heroes and Mysterious Ways) is ambitious, much as MacBeth was ambitious. An employee of the mega-corporation G&G (Gracen & Gracen), he has his smoldering eyes on the corporate prize. But unlike MacBeth, there is no woman pushing him up the corporate ladder. It's all him. He has enough ambition for ten men. As well as determination. And skill. And a background to rival the most dysfunctional family's.  

***Spoilers ahead****
We meet him at the funeral for the VP of Acquisitions at G&G, a man he's never met, but whose job he is taking. G&G is a family-owned  and family-run business, whether by blood or through marriage.  Jim Profit hits the ground running, beginning with blackmailing Gail,  the assistant of one the bosses, Jack Walters (Scott Paulin, who once played Steven Craig on St. Elsewhere, but that's a story for another time). Petty embezzling, just something to help care for her mother. But in Profit's capable hands, it becomes so much more.

With Gail's help, he gains computer access to the most private files of everyone in the office through a virtual
program, which he runs at home. All during the pilot, we watch him at his computer, sitting before it in the buff (no, we don't get to see any naughty bits, damn the luck, but keep in mind this originally aired on Fox, so you'll understand). As we watch Jim knock down the players at G&G one by one, manipulating his way through every situation, we also learn about him. How his mother died when he was a baby, and his father, with consummate parenting skills, threw the one year old Jim into a large computer box with a hole cut out so that he could watch TV, and once a week, he'd dump in food for him - as he would any other animal. Is it any wonder that Jim turned out the way he did? The last scene in the two hour pilot - well, I won't give it away, but let's just say my jaw hit the floor, and I can't forget it.

Jim isn't entirely unopposed, of course. Jack Walker is determined to show him up for what he is, with the aid of his ex-girlfriend  Joanne (Lisa Zane, formerly of LA Law and ER), who is head of security. I've only watched the pilot and one episode, but I have to say I'm already hooked and can't wait to see what happens.

Speaking of Fox, I just started to watch a brand new series there which recently made its debut - Alcatraz. I'd seen the trailers and not been sure if I was interested, but I gave it a shot, and I'm really glad I did. On March 21, 1963, the prison of Alcatraz was closed, its inmates dispersed to other facilities. Except that isn't what really happened. On March 20, 1963, 302 inmates disappeared without a trace. Now, almost fifty years later, they're coming back, some of the worst criminals ever assembled in one place. The question remains - what happened to them, why, and who's behind it?

Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) watched her partner die right before her eyes. In the course of her work, she comes across evidence that a criminal she is tracking was once an inmate of Alcatraz. Her investigation leads her to Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia of Lost), a comic book writer, who owns his own comic book store, and also happens to be an expert on Alcatraz. Utilizing his help, they search the baffling mystery of the criminal, Jack Sylvane, crossing paths with federal investigator Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who isn't what he appears to be.  **spoiler alert**  They end up joining his task force, investigating the 302 missing Alcatraz prisoners. Each week features a different criminal. So far there have been three, Sylvane, Cobb and Kitt Nelson.

I already like the series. The writing is good, the story is very interesting, and the acting is good too. Sam Neill is looking as hot as ever. In fact, even better. I think he's lost weight since he played Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors. He's looking mighty fine. Hauser's assistant, Lucy (Parminder Negra, ER) is in a coma, thanks to Kit Nelson. We don't really know the nature of their relationship yet, but Hauser is obviously affected by her condition, whether he lets on or not. I like the character of Rebecca - she's strong and independent and loyal. She stuck up for Diego when Hauser was too hard on him. After all, he's not even a professional or a law enforcement officer, so dead bodies are a little out of his purview. This series is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing more.

On Iron Chef America, we saw Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian in  his second battle in Kitchen Stadium since being crowned the newest Iron Chef. His challenger was Chef Jonathan Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern, formerly a sous chef of Michael Symon's on Iron Chef America. The secret ingredient was mint, definitely not a favorite of mine. I wasn't even aware that there were that many kinds of mint, outside of spearmint and peppermint. Although he failed to achieve the perfect score that he received on his first outing, Chef Zakarian handily beat Chef Sawyer, with the aid of his faithful sous chef, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. I just love their relationship, the banter and the obvious affection between them. I watch Iron Chef America every week now, in the hopes of seeing more of that.  I am beyond excited that Chef Zakarian has taken his place in the ranks of the Iron Chefs. He is without a doubt, my favorite, followed by Iron Chef Morimoto, whom I've liked since the original series.

Top Chef Texas is coming down to the wire, six chefs remaining. For the Quick Fire Challenge, they were paired up and set to work to come up with something quick. Chris Jones and Grayson were the winning pair, splitting $10k. The bad news was that for the Elimination Challenge the partners became adversaries, each making the same dish. Grayson chose chicken salad sandwich, which Chris went along with. Probably his undoing. Paul and Edward chose Asian food, and Lindsay picked meatballs. Then Padma revealed the catch - they had to make healthy versions of these dishes. Poor Chris was eliminated. He pre-made his sandwiches, not taking into consideration the 110 degree heat. Plus he had a bee issue which caused him to rush his blending of his smoothies, leaving unsightly chunks of ice in them, and for the dryness of the sandwiches and the ice thing, he was told to pack his knives and go home. He was my second favorite, but my favorite contestant is still there, luckily, as he was in the bottom three - namely, Edward. Now there's five left, and we're getting close to the end.

Next time, I'll talk about Californication, back for its fifth season, and Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Heat Seekers is back too.

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie