Friday, December 29, 2017

YA Pioneers: Richie Tankersley Cusick

YA Pioneers

Richie Tankersley Cusick was a staple of the YA boom of the late 80's/early 90's.  A new book was constantly coming out from the author with eye-catching slasher titles that propelled several of her books to the bestseller lists.  According to her author site, Cusick grew up in the South and was inspired by the Gothic environment to write horror.  She worked for Hallmark until her first book was published, Evil on the Bayou, which was published in 1984 by Laurel Leaf, as book 21 in the Twilight: Where Darkness Begins series.

Cusick really took off when she began publishing books for Scholastic's Point Horror line, a hugely popular YA line that is known for launching the career of R.L. Stine.  When Cusick published The Lifeguard as book #3 in the series in 1988, she unwittingly became one of the elite YA authors of the time.  She would go on to publish several more books under the Point Horror line over the next four years, including Trick or Treat, April Fools, Teacher's Pet, The Mall and Fatal Secrets.  The last book that Cusick published through Point Horror during that time was Help Wanted, which was also nominated for the 1994 Edgar Allen Poe Award in the Young Adult category.  Several of her books were included in various Point Horror omnibus collections over the years, including Decayed: Ten Years of Point Horror from 2001, which included both Trick or Treat and April Fools.

During this period, Cusick also dabbled in the adult horror market, publishing Scarecrow through Pocket Books in 1990.  Two years later, she would publish another adult horror novel, Blood Roots, before focusing her attention exclusively on young adult novels.

In 1992, Richie Tankersley Cusick wrote a young adult novel for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the first in a series of books which adapted episodes of the popular television series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and created by Joss Whedon.  She would write a second book in the series, Harvest Moon, before other authors took over, including fellow thriller author Nancy Holder.  Cusick would also pen the second book in the spin-off The Angel Chronicles, also adaptations from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Cusick published several books through Simon Pulse beginning in 1991 with Vampire, a publisher that Cusick would remain with even when the YA thriller bubble began to fizzle out.  Other books she released during this period include Silent Stalker, The Locker, Someone at the Door, The Drifter, Summer of SecretsOverdue and Starstruck.  With the publication of The Angel Chronicles (Volume 2) in December of 1998, Cusick wouldn't release another novel for four years.

In 2002, Richie Tankersley Cusick returned to the publishing scene with The House Next Door, again from Simon Pulse.  She followed that up the next year with It Begins, the first book in The Unseen series, published by Speak, which would go on for four volumes.  Cusick would also publish two book in the series Walk with the publisher, with her final book, Shadow Mirror (Walk #2), published in 2010.

Richie Tankersley Cusick titles

Evil on the Bayou (1984)
The Lifeguard (1989)
Trick or Treat (1989)
April Fools (1990)
Scarecrow (1990)
Teacher's Pet (1990)
Vampire (1991)
The Mall (1992)
Fatal Secrets (1992)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Blood Roots (1992)
Silent Stalker (1993)
Help Wanted (1993)
The Locker (1994)
The Drifter (1994)
Someone at the Door (1994)
Overdue (1995)
Summer of Secrets (1996)
Starstruck (1996)
The Harvest (1997)
The Angel Chronicles (Volume 2) (1998)
The House Next Door (2002)
It Begins (The Unseen #1) (2003)
Rest in Peace (The Unseen #2) (2004)
Blood Brothers (The Unseen #3) (2005)
Sin and Salvation (The Unseen #4) (2005)
Walk of the Spirits (Walk #1) (2008)
Shadow Mirror (Walk #2) (2010)

Book synopsis samples:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Best in Music 2017

2017 was another great year in music.  Here are my favorites...

10 Best Albums of 2017

1. Hopeless Romantic by Michelle Branch - There are so many amazing songs on this album that it's hard to pick a favorite.  After struggling to get new music out from her label (her last effort West Coast Time was never released), Branch get s real winner out there that's hard to ignore.  Fresh pop sounds, full of themes of love, loss and regret, this is an album for everyone, and proves how much Branch has matured as a songwriter.  Easily the best album of the year.

Key Tracks: Hopeless Romantic, Best You Ever, Fault Line, Heartbreak Now, Temporary Feeling, Carry Me Home

2. reputation by Taylor Swift - People may love dragging her name through the mud and debating her personal life, but Swift is one of those artists who knows how to adapt to survive, much like Madonna did throughout her career.  Shedding any trace of the pure country artist, Taylor embraces the sketchy reputation she's been given, with an album full of in-your-face pop music.  It's edgy, even harsh at times, and experimental.  The lyrics are clever and thoughtful, and anyone who says otherwise can go listen to another Katy Perry album that sounds just like her last one.

Key Tracks: ...Ready For It?, Look What You Made Me Do, Gorgeous, Don't Blame Me, Delicate

3. From the Outside by Hey Violet - Tapping into the frustrations of youth and channeling it into snarky commentary, sassy lyrics and anthems for millennials, Hey Violet is the punkish-pop band that we didn't know we needed.  Edgy and relevant.

Key Tracks: My Consequence, All We Ever Wanted, Where Have You Been (All My Night), Brand New Moves, Guys My Age

4. Can't Curse the Free by Jetty Rae - Singer-songwriter Jetty Rae has created an album full of beautiful, gentle songs with strong imagery.  The songs have an ease to them that's undeniably catchy and lovely.  This album just feels effortless.

Key Tracks: Another Town, In the Garden, Still Gotta Fight It

5. Starflower by Jennifer Paige - Like Michelle Branch, Jennifer Paige was a pop singer from the 90's (you might remember her huge hit Crush).  Her comeback has been a long time coming, and Paige has done it as if she never left, returning with a mature sound, that nevertheless is catchy as ever.

Key Tracks: Forget Me Not, Devil's in the Details, Like a Bomb

6. BLUE LIPS (Lady Wood Phase II) by Tove Lo - These pulse-pounding frenetic songs from Tove Lo are hard to ignore, even when they're a little chill compared to what she usually puts out there.  Lo isn't afraid to play with sound, and is always entertaining.  A song like Disco Tits might have you scratching your head, but you can't deny that it has your attention.

Key Tracks: cycles, stranger, don't ask don't tell

7. Bruises by Dia Frampton - This subdued album has a dreamlike quality to it that's beautiful and unearthly.  The songs here may not be in-your-face pop anthems, but they are powerful in their own right, with lovely strings accompanying Frampton's unique voice for spellbinding sounds.

Key Tracks: Golden Years, White Dress, Gold and Silver

8. Bishop Briggs EP by Bishop Briggs - Briggs has an amazing, strong voice, which is showcased perfectly on this album.  Lots of clapping to the beat and soaring vocals give this album a gospel feel that stands out from anything else out there.

Key Tracks: The Way I Do, Wild Horses, Dead Man's Arms

9. Skin&Earth by Lights - Lights seemed to perfect her sound with Midnight Machines, an acoustic, stripped-back version of album Little Machines, but she seems to have found the best of both worlds on Skin&Earth.  Slow songs showcase the strength of her songwriting and voice, while others pack a punch with fast-paced pop sounds.  The result is a more balanced album that has something for everyone.

Key Tracks: Savage, Magnetic Field, Almost Had Me

10. Somewhere in Between by VERITE - VERITE has a mature pop sound that will satisfy those looking for unique music, as well as those looking something fun to dance to.  This album has a fresh, fun feel to it that stands out.

Key Tracks: Phase Me Out, Floor, Nothing

Honorable Mentions
Avalon EP by Gabrielle Aplin
For You EP by LEON
Inside a Dream EP by Echosmith

30 Best Songs of 2017

1. You Should Talk by FLETCHER - A great beat, fantastic refrain, and I love the kind of casual accusation.  Best song of the year.

2. Prom Queen by Molly Kate Kestner - This song sounds like an instant classic.  Familiar, yet fresh and impactful.  And damn, this girl has a strong voice.

3. I Cannot Sleep at Night by K.I.D. -  This song is funky and tongue-in-cheek funny.  I mean, talk about unique, this is purely awesome.  It's experimental and fresh, and clearly, the artist is having a lot of fun with this song.

4. NOW by Grace Mitchell - Fast-paced, with a cool retro vibe, and different aspects to the song, NOW kind of has it all.

5. Game Changer by Erica Cooper - This song is just a lot of fun.  The chorus is pure joy.

6. Partyin' Is Such Sweet Sorrow by Tristen - With a strong retro vibe, this is a catchy-ass pop song.

7. I'm Alright by Shania Twain - Talk about raw.  Shania bares all in this emotional song shedding some light on how she felt amid the affair we all read about.  Best country song of the year by a long shot.

8. Best Friend by Sofi Tukker (featuring NERVO and The Knocks & Alisa Ueno) - This is a unique song, with a lot going on, and it all works.  Great sounds and a lot of fun.

9. Let Go by Alex Maxwell - I love Alex's voice.  This song is pretty subtle, but it gets better the more you listen to it.  A real triumph.

10. I Can't Fall in Love Without You by Zara Larsson - A ballad with a real punch to it.  Accusatory, tragic, and moving.

11. I Got You by Bebe Rexha - A confident, infectious song.  Bebe Rexha is going to be big.

12. Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift - An experimental pop song that's fun, bold and still catchy as hell.

13. It's You by Molly Kate Kestner - Usually I limit songs on this list to one per artist, but damn, this girl needs an album.  Too many great singles out there.

14. All We Ever Wanted by Hey Violet - Now this is an anthem.

15. Heartbreak Now by Michelle Branch - Branch knows how to craft a damn good love song.

16. And I'm Leaving by Leslie Clio - This had to be one of the catchiest refrains of the year.  Empowering and bold.

17. Green Light by Lorde - A really well-crafted pop song by Lorde, which is what we've come to expect from her.

18. The Devil's in the Details by Jennifer Paige - Jennifer Paige's comeback has been interesting, but she proved with this song that she's still talented at creating pop songs, like this gem.

19. Ocean by Goldfrapp - The tension in this song as it builds is insane.

20. If I Was Dead by Brooke Bentham - That guitar chord makes this song.  Beautiful and haunting.

21. Buttons by Sara Hartman - This song has great momentum, and is just a sunny, great song.

22. The Way I Are (Dance with Somebody) by Bebe Rexha (featuring Lil' Wayne) - One of the better dance songs of the year, despite me cringing by the incorrect grammar usage.

23. Where It Stays by Charlotte OC - A haunting and powerful performance.

24. Don't Let Me Down by Joy Williams - A convincing, emotional ballad.

25. Be the One by Dua Lipa - This song single-handedly created a gay icon.  And you can see why.

26. Drive You Mad by Amy Shark - A lot of raw emotion in the performance of this catchy song.

27. We Could Run by Beth Ditto - Most of this song is just Beth Ditto singing "we could run," but she does it so damn good.  The girl has some lungs.

28. Kicks by Au/Ra - Great refrain, and great lead into it.  Fun song.

29. Control by Shadowlark - Subtle and catchy at the same time.  Demonstrates perfect...control?  Sorry.

30. If My Name Was Whiskey by Carly Pearce - I went through a country phase when I was younger, and the good songs are harder and harder to find.  The lyrics are both good and bad, clever and cheesy, but the overall package is one of the best country had to offer this year.

Honorable Mentions
Be Real by Phoebe Ryan
Crying in the Club by Camila Cabello
Fetish by Selena Gomez (Featuring Gucci Mane)
Man Didn't Walk On the Moon by Nerina Pallot
Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby by Cara Salimando

Monday, December 04, 2017

Friday, December 01, 2017

13 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

Here are some new concepts I would like to see for Marvel's next MCU Movies, after Avengers 4:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was already announced, the film will wrap up Gunn's trilogy of "this iteration" of the Guardians, as well as sequel for Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Other sequels to established characters like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Ant-Man are inevitable.  But let's get some new franchise blood in there, right?

1) Nova - With the Avengers' foray into space and expanding the universe, and with the nova corps seen prominently in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, this is only a matter of time.

2) Black Widow - Marvel is sorely lacking female-led superhero movies, and this fan-favorite character is in desperate need of a solo spy adventure.  I would expect this to come out very shortly after Avengers 4.

3) All-New Guardians of the Galaxy - A new team of outer space misfits for a new generation.  Adam Warlock, Moondragon, perhaps Captain Marvel.  Phy-la Vell.  Perhaps Quasar and Bug.  Vance Astro.  Or perhaps, a younger version of the Guardians seen in Vol. 2, displaced in time, featuring Starhawk, Aleta, Charlie-27, Nikki and Martinex.  And you never know, surviving characters like Groot or Mantis might tag along with some new friends.

4) Eternals - Gods aren't going to go away just because Thor isn't very active.  This powerful race would be fun to introduce to the movies since the Inhumans clearly aren't going to make the leap.  Sersi would tie her people to any Avengers crossover handily enough.

5) Tomb of Dracula - Marvel needs to move into more supernatural waters, which they've started to do a little by introducing magic with Doctor Strange.  Tomb of Dracula would open the way for Werewolf by Night, Legion of Monsters, and fan-favorite monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone to maker her debut.

6) Hercules - The other Asgardian.  With his people grounded on Earth, Herc could handily be around to save the day and be naughty, keeping Asgard a part of the universe.

7) She-Hulk - A character that is known for breaking the fourth wall like Deadpool, She-Hulk would be a great candidate to have her own movie.

8) Captain Britain - The Avengers going more global, with a flawed Brian Braddock leading the way.

9) Spider-Woman - Like I said before, we need more female representation, and Jessica Drew is a no-brainer, especially with her strong ties to the Avengers.

10) New Avengers - We would clearly see Spider-Woman, Captain Britain, Sersi, Hercules, Nova and perhaps She-Hulk join established characters like Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Spidey.  Perhaps fighting against Scarlet Witch. 

11) Champions - Welllll, I would actually like a generic team like this advertised, but let's actually make the team consist of villains playing hero.  A woman with psychic abilities could claim to be Moondragon, but in fact be Moonstone, etc.  Making way for Thunderbolts, the sequel where they go all-out bad, of course.

12) Daredevil - Let's be honest: The Netflix series are amazing, and Marvel knows that the shows will run their course eventually.  And by then, they will be household names and prime for a full-blown MCU movie.  Daredevil, Heroes for Hire, Punisher, Elektra - these are some big characters.

13) New characters taking the reigns - New characters replacing characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are inevitable.  Some sort of reality-warp via Scarlet Witch would make this easy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Best 100 Horror Movies (Updated)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Descent (2006)
The Ring (2002)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Shining (1980)
Black Sunday (La Maschera del demonio) (1960)
Halloween (1978)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
The Haunting (1963)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Jaws (1975)
Scream (1996)
Alien (1979)
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

It Follows (2015)
The Evil Dead (1979)

Night of the Demons (1989)
Hellraiser (1987)
Aliens (1986)
Psycho (1960)
Funny Games (1998)
Friday the 13th (2009)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Inferno (1978)
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
Scream 2 (1997)
Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Dracula (1931)

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Nosferatu (eine Symphonie des Grauens) (1922)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Godzilla (Gojira) (1954)
Cabin In the Woods (1998)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Hostel (2006)
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Onibaba (1964)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Diabolique (1955)
Frankenstein (1931)
Gremlins (1984)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Poltergeist (1982)

Under the Skin (2013)
Pet Sematary (1989)
High Tension (Switchblade Romance) (2005)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The Unnameable (1988)
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Audition (2001)
Broken (2009)
Let the Right One In (2008)
The Mummy (1932)
The Awakening (2011)
Pumpkinhead (1988)
The Orphanage (2007)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Wolf Creek (2005)
Inside (2007)
Martyrs (2008)
30 Days of Night (2007)
The Fly (1958)
Creepshow (1982)
Misery (1990)
Paranormal Activity (2007)

Crimson Peak (2015)
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Subspecies (1991)
Baron Blood (1972)
Scream 4 (2011)
Daughters of Darkness (1971)
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Neon Demon (2016)

Don't Breathe (2016)
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)
Gerald's Game (2017)
The Strangers (2008)

The Conjuring (2013)

Suspiria (1977)
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The Babadook (2014)
Black Sabbath (1963)
The Birds (1963)
The Innocents (1961)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Slither (2006)
Get Out (2017)
Insidious (2010)