Tuesday, September 30, 2014

21 Simple Things To Get You In The Mood For Halloween

by Megan S.

YOU GUYS! YOU GUYS!  IT'S FINALLY THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!!!  Tomorrow is the very first day of October and that means Halloween is only 31 days away!!!

But there's no reason we have to wait until the end of the month to enjoy the holiday. Try doing just one of the simple things on the list every day and it'll feel like Halloween all month long.
Pin It

Friday, September 26, 2014

Say Farewell (For Now) to Outlander With These Jamie Fraser GIFs

by Sara N.

I don't know whether this will delight or disappoint everyone, but my Outlander coverage is coming to an end for now. The final episode of the first half of the first season airs tomorrow, and we won't see the next episode until April 4.

Of 2015.

The week the show debuted, I posted about it. And then the next week, I had more to say. By week three, it had become a personal challenge to myself: Could I post nothing but Outlander for the duration of its initial run?

I could. I did. And, ladies and gentlemen, I'm spent. So for my (probably, but who are we kidding, I imagine I'll circle back at some point) final Outlander post for the time being, I'm going out with a bang.

Actually, I'm going out with a lazy post. I've already written about the female gaze and handknits and recipes and whatnot. So here, please enjoy this enormous collection of GIFs of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, handsome man and literary hero to end all heroes. May they get us all through the six-month drought to come.
Pin It

Thursday, September 25, 2014


This week I made a visit to Halloweentown, also known as the seasonal department at Target. It's basically a world of WANT. I'm working on my decor scheme for this year, so I did not go crazy buying everything. I am also unfortunately not made of the money.

However, I did get this, chalkboard bat wall clings:

It was only $5 and I thought the kiddos would have fun with it. I used the raven wall clings last year and they worked great, so this time we're trying the bats. I like that they have the chalkboard finish. The kids can write some messages, and I can erase them if needed, everybody wins.

Are you decorating this year? What is your theme?
Pin It

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall Into the 52 Book Challenge!

Guess what? IT'S FALL!

Yes, finally, the season we've all been waiting for is here! The leaves are changing, the air is growing crisper and every single beverage involves pumpkin spice whether we like it or not!

That also means it's the perfect time to snuggle up and read a book! Which leads me to wonder where everyone is with the 52 Book Challenge!

As you know, we here at Stellar Four do a challenge every year to see if we can read 52 books in a year. We usually beat it (Kathy leaves us ALL in the dust) and we like seeing everyone else's book totals. This week is the 39th week of the year so you have to have 39 books on your list to be on pace!

I've been ambitious and I'm up to 47 books! I've nearly done it and it's not even October yet! Five more books and I'm a winner! I can see the finish line up ahead. Let's see if I can beat last year's total of 58 and a half books! If I do, I get to buy myself something nice.

So tell us in the comments where you are in the challenge!

Pin It

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fictional Beverages: Pumpkin Spice Edition

by Megan S.

The nights are getting longer, the leaves are turning on the branch, and beverages across the land are being offered in limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavor.  Yes, it's that time of year, dear reader.  It's time to add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to absolutely everything.  Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice frappicinos, pumpkin spice smoothies. We love it ALL.

I've tried so hard to find the original source for this comic to no avail. Anybody know?
But are we alone in our love?  Would the Pumpkin Spice trend spread to our favorite universes?

Why, I'm so glad you asked because I've put some serious thought into the matter.
Pin It

Monday, September 22, 2014

They Do: Ranking Your Favorite Sci Fi/Fantasy Weddings

by Sara N.

All last week, a small but vocal segment of television viewers were aflame as they waited for Saturday to arrive, for lo, that was the air date of the Outlander episode "The Wedding." The slow burn of the crackling chemistry between Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser finally combusted on Saturday, and now that it finally aired, let's see where this happy occasion falls on a ranked list of other major sci fi/fantasy/genre weddings over the years.

Worst to best. Let's do this.

Pin It

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lemon Cakes, Butterbeer and Grootcakes: The Best Fiction-Inspired Recipe Blogs

by Sara N.

The lords and ladies of the castle sit down at a table groaning with pheasants in gravy and trenchers of bread.

The charming thievish rogues eat warm, flaky mushroom pastries.

The young princess dines on honey-spiced locusts.

If the books you read are anything like the ones I do, the frequent, lavish descriptions of the characters' meals leave you salivating and weak with hunger. Thankfully, the Internet is there for us. Fans of sci fi, fantasy, gaming and general fiction have created recipes inspired by scenes or characters from your favorite books, movies, shows, and games.

Naturally, this post came about because of the variety of dining scenes in Outlander, both books and show, but the fiction-inspired recipe blogs encompass so much more than that. Here are some of the best.
Pin It

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kickstarter: Countdown Until Now

"After attending the convention of a lifetime, a group of artists and writers came together to produce an anthology to celebrate it all."

Today we're spotlighting a project by our friend and former S4 regular, Asher Powell. Ash and Henry Barajas are co-directing a kickstarter campaign for COUNTDOWN UNTIL NOW, a comic anthology that looks freaking fantastic.

From the project page:

"The past, the present, the future bleed into one singular moment. Genres of every stripe, art styles of every mark. Dimension jumpers, convention attendees, crime fighting crusaders, little Vikings, and, even little old ladies converge into one comic anthology.

In 2012 a group of comic writers, artists, and fans went to an intimate convention in Las Vegas called Morrison Con. Inspired by three days of art, story, and talk of achieving other planes of existence, a small group decided to come together to produce an anthology like no other.

Countdown Until Now is a thrilling, eclectic mix of talent, genres and stories. Our team of nearly twenty creators from all walks of life have a tale to tell. Some of us wrote about our time together, others had their own worlds that needed exploring. We're bound by the madness we experienced together, and let us share it with you with our collection of 11 stories."

Not only does the artwork look fantastic, but the rewards are pretty good too.

For just $5 you get a PDF of the anthology and some personal thank you's. $5 FOR 11 STORIES! Yes, I know I'm yelling! For just $20 you get the PDF plus a signed print copy of the book plus other goodies. For $25 you get all of the previous goodies plus a sketch from one of the artists. There's more too, at higher price points there are posters as well as personal rewards from some of the artists. Those are limited in number and some are already gone, so act fast on the remaining rewards.

I'm very excited about this anthology, and I am totally in. The kickstarter had an impressive opening. As of this writing, there are 26 days to go and the project is 78% funded. Here's hoping they meet their initial goal so we can get into some stretch goals. For more info, head over to the kickstarter page.

Pin It

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sherlock Who: A Review of Jackaby

I hadn't heard anything about Jackaby, written by William Ritter, until my fellow book obsessed friend Jessie H metaphorically grabbed me by the collar and shook me until I read it. I am so glad she did. Jackaby was an adorable, fun romp that is overflowing with potential.

Jackaby is the story of Abigail Rook, a British girl recently arrived in America looking for adventure. She finds adventure in spades when she meets R.F. Jackaby, a detective with preternatural deductive skills and an abrasive attitude. Thus begins a story of murder, deceit, and intrigue.

I was suspicious of the novel at first. It was enthusiastically described as "Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes" and that's a very hard thing to live up to. I'm pleased to report that the book delivers. Jackaby is a very Sherlock-esque character with a heaping dash of the 11th Doctor thrown in for good measure without seeming like a bad fanfiction Gary Stu. He's smart but messy and forgetful, utterly ill-mannered and willing to run headlong into danger without a second thought. He has no idea how ridiculous he can be sometimes. He was, ultimately, rather charming and very funny. Abigail, on the other hand, is very much a companion-type character. She never reaches the necessity of Watson (apart from being the one who tells the story) but she has the best chunks of Donna Noble and Amy Pond in her DNA. She's logical, intelligent and wry in the face of Jackaby's antics. Together they make a perfect team.

The story itself is a rather simple one, which is really my only complaint. The story is so straightforward that the world suffers a bit from it. There was so much that could have been fleshed out but the actual bones of the story are sturdy and very good. There's room to grow and I expect future volumes to be expanded.

The book begins with Abigail arriving in New Fiddleham, New England. She needs a source of income and, after exhausting all her options, she finds a want ad about a Mr. R.F. Jackaby looking for an assistant. She arrives at his home and follows him directly to the scene of a gruesome, supernatural murder. There she meets the bashful and handsome police officer, Charlie Cane. Jackaby does what he does best, sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, and canvases the building for more information about the murder. They meet a banshee and a man who is agonized by her song. The next night, that man is also dead. Soon it's a race against time for Jackaby, Abigail and Charlie to find out who is murdering these people and why. Add in a wonderful ghost who lives in Jackaby's house and his previous assistant who is now a duck and you get a novel brimming with wonderful characters you simply can't help but adore.

Jackaby was an utterly charming novel. It's very well written and the dialog is pitch perfect. The characters are a true delight to read. I wish they had been given a bigger world to live in, but I have faith the world will expand as the series goes on. The murderer was sadly easy to figure out, as was Charlie's big secret, but this is a YA novel so it's not going to be burdened with being super subtle. Despite figuring out the murderer ahead of time, the reveal was still deeply satisfying and the danger to Abigail and Jackaby felt real and thrilling. The book is also incredibly funny. Jackaby is a scatterbrained genius who, for example, often mixes up black powder and pepper while making omelets. You'll catch yourself giggling out loud as you read it.

It's a short novel, coming in at just 299 pages, so it's a quick read and a very fulfilling one at that. You won't regret any time you spend on it. The characters are worth the price of admission alone. I ended up loving the book despite myself. I couldn't put it down. I am officially demanding a sequel!
Pin It

Monday, September 15, 2014

Confess Your Novel Sins

by Megan S.

We say we love books.  And we do, but we rarely ever treat them right.  We crack their spines, we drop them in the tub, we use them in art projects, we cover their margins in hastily scribbled down notes that have nothing to do with the story, we spill food on their pages. 

Why, it's downright sinful the way we mistreat our books.
Pin It

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Outlander, It's the Man's Bodice That Gets Ripped

by Sara N.

I've written before about the predominantly female gaze that the showrunners are employing on Starz's Outlander. In short, it's Jamie's beautifully illuminated chest on display for the audience's viewing pleasure, rather than the salacious parts of the female body, as is most common with the prevailing male gaze in television and film.

Anyway, the most recent episode, "The Rent," doubled down on this perspective by turning the most hoary of romance novel cliches upside down. While our band of heroes/possible villains/definite annoyances are traveling the gorgeous Scottish countryside collecting rent, they stay in different villages every night, where they hold meetings with the locals. At these meetings, the laird's brother, Dougal McKenzie, speaks in passionate Gaelic to the crowds, and his speech culminates with him ripping open Jamie Fraser's shirt to display the whip scars left on his back by British redcoats.

When I saw this scene last Saturday, I almost gasped and clapped my hands in glee. Dougal literally ripped Jamie's bodice! There's nothing sexual about the act — it's intended to motivate the villagers to donate to the Jacobite rebellion — but nevertheless, Jamie is the object, the one being acted upon, the one with the ripped shirt.

Most modern romance novel readers — whose sisterhood counts me as a member — cringe at that sneery phrase: bodice-ripper. It's an old-fashioned term from an early era of romance novels, when it was more common to read scenes of rape and "keep going until she says yes" scenarios. But feminism has advanced, culturally acceptable female sexuality has evolved, and the heroines in our romance novels are allowed to express desire and actually enjoy sex without any stigma or forceful coercion, and thank goodness for that. With today's heroines, in the hands of today's authors, if any bodices are getting ripped, the heroine's ripping them herself — maybe her own, maybe the hero's, who knows?

Again, this isn't a perfect parallel as there's nothing overtly sexy about this scene (except, of course, for Sam Heughan's fire-kissed chest). But I'm still immensely tickled that Outlander hasn't strayed from the early indications that it was placing Claire squarely as the main actor, with her gaze as the defining view that takes in the world. (In other words, Jamie knees get more love than any of Claire's assets.)


Those who've read the books know that there are some scenes coming up, either this season or the next, that were hard for today's modern female readers to digest in the novel. I cannot wait to see how the show deals with them in a format that makes explicit the gaze, the actor, and the acted upon.
Pin It

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Distract Me, Please

Do you need a distraction today? I do for many reasons. Google to the rescue, right? The following are the first images or links that popped up for each search string.

First I typed in "make me laugh" resulting in:

Which gave me a chuckle, but not as funny as I hoped. "Make me guffaw," "laugh out loud funny" and "make me ROTFLMAO" all lead off with Pinterest boards that were OK, but not the funniest I've seen either. Also, people make Pinterest boards for everything.

"Funny stuff" gave me:

I am not up on my K-pop, unfortunately, so the funniness of this escapes me.

There is a "funny shit" tumblr (of course there is).

"Cute" sent me to Cute Overload (yes, there's kittens).

I suppose I should be grateful that while not the funniest or cutest things I've ever seen, I didn't hit on anything that required brain bleach.

For the final search, I had to go with a ringer, "give me something to sing about":

Do you have any good distractions to share?

Pin It

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Save the Internet!

You see that charming purple spinning wheel of death right there? That's what the internet could look like if Net Neutrality is crushed.

It's crunch time, guys. You need to step up and make your voice heard. Go to Battle For The Net and let your voice be hard. Call your congressperson. Sign the petition. Don't let the internet die!

Not sure what Net Neutrality is? It's the belief that all internet content is created equal and companies shouldn't be allowed to pay for special access or faster loading speeds. If this is defeated you're looking at a future where Barnes & Noble could pay your ISP to load faster than Amazon, or cable companies could decide to load YouTube more slowly in the hopes it would make you watch their TV offerings more. It's insidious and can't be allowed to happen.

Keep the internet free. Sign the petition and tell the FCC to make Net Neutrality the law of the land.
Pin It

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"The 10 Books That Stayed With You" Meme

I am one of the last few humans on Earth that doesn't have a Facebook account (marvel at me! I should be in a 21st Century sideshow! "Attention, step right up, see the Girl Who Has No Facebook Account!"). Because of this, I miss a lot of the Facebook memes that go around every so often. Sometimes I hear about them on Twitter or read an article decrying whatever the Facebook feed de rigueur is this week. I usually never give them a second thought and I certainly never want to participate in them... until I heard about "The 10 Books That Stayed With You" meme and, well, I love books. One thing lead to another and I had a mental list of books that made a mark on me and I couldn't help but join in. I still don't have a Facebook but, man, do I have a lot of thoughts about books.

It's a good meme. It doesn't ask you for your favorite books or your top five desert island picks, it asks for books that stayed with you, that you've carried around in your head and in your heart for untold years. These books made some kind of indelible mark on your soul. When I finally put my list to paper I was surprised by how... non-literary it was. I've read a ton of classic literature and yet I found myself placing other books ahead of Dracula or Jane Eyre. Science fiction and fantasy are, of course, hugely influential and it was funny to realize what an impression a trashy splatterpunk vampire novel made on me. Who knew?

So here is my list of the 10 books that stayed with me. Check out the list after the jump and add your own in the comments!
Pin It

Monday, September 8, 2014

Halloween Cometh (Part Two...eth)

by Megan S.

Skull Apothecary Treat Jar
I swear. Half the fun of the Halloween season is watching all of the special spooky episodes of my favorite shows and hunting for the latest decor.  Now,  I've already shared the best of the new goodies from Pottery Barn, but those tend to be pricey.  Thankfully, Target and Cost Plus World Market offer much more wallet friendly options.  And while Target's goods aren't out yet, my local World Market was stocking their shelves just yesterday with these spooky specials and non are more than $30!  The apothecary jar above is only $12.99! Here are more of my favorites...
Pin It

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Best Sci Fi/Fantasy Author Cameos in Movies and TV

by Sara N.

OK, at this point I'm challenging myself to see how many consecutive Outlander posts I can write. And in that spirit, I have to applaud author Diana Gabaldon's enjoyable cameo in last Saturday's episode, "The Gathering."

Her appearance was relatively large for the stunt casting of a non-actor. But more importantly, it was delightful. She gets thrown some excellent shade by Mrs. Fitz for her previously worn gown, and then she loudly shushes Claire for rudely speaking during the proceedings. In short, it's everything an author could ever dream of when she's banging out her story on her laptop (or typewriter, depending on the timeframe) and wondering if anyone else's eyes will ever gaze upon it.

And Gabaldon isn't the only author to pop up in movies and TV shows based on her work. Here's a list of the most memorable SF/F genre (and genre-adjacent) author cameos.

Pin It

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More Fall Books

Meghan already posted a list of books that she has on her fall to read list. While I went through that list with lots of "Yep, yep, check, ooh I need that," of course, there are even more books that I'm looking forward to.

Note: Due to the continuing Hachette-Amazon negotiations, pre-order links are not available on Amazon for all of the books. Once those books are released, you should be able to get them on amazon. However, I listed lots of other booksellers who would be oh so happy to reserve a copy for you.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Out September 9. B&N | Kobo | BAM | Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Blurb: "Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters-dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem-and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well."

Gods, magic, spies, I so want to read this.

Red Blooded (Jessica McClain #4) by Amanda Carlson

Out September 9. B&N | Kobo | BAM | Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Blurb: "Jessica is going to Hell.

After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn't have the power to stop.

Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But Hell is a whole new beast — new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be... or she will never make it out alive."

Expecting loads of action and further complications with supernatural politics. Also, hell. Always a draw for me.

Jackaby by William Ritter

Out September 16.  B&N | Kobo | BAM | Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Blurb: "'Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.'

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny."

A supernatural Sherlock? I was already in, then Jessie gave it a rave review and I'm looking forward to it even more.

Find more books after the break.

Pin It

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finally! Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive was one of those films that sounded too good to be true. News of it slowly made it's way out into the world and was met with instant fascination. Casting such otherworldly beauties like Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as sharp-faced vampire lovers in a moody art film was an inspired choice. The dream cast was headed by a dream director, Jim Jarmusch, whose prior films are a collection of acclaimed indie movies like Stranger Than Paradise, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and Coffee and Cigarettes. The internet waited with bated breath for this opus to be released. I was fully prepared to fling untold sums of money at it. Hilddles! Swinton! VAMPIRES!

Sadly, Only Lovers Left Alive received a very small American release and was in and out of theaters in a flash. It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in April 2013 to great acclaim and went on to tour the usual film festivals afterwards. It would be a full year until it saw release in America. The waiting grew painful. The film had been in production for nearly seven years by the time it made it to our shores, surely I could wait a little bit longer. A DVD release was my only hope.

Finally, this weekend, I got to see Only Lovers Left Alive and I am glad to tell you it was COMPLETELY worth the wait. Only Lovers Left Alive is an atmospheric delight of a film, with long thoughtful pauses and actors who know how to manipulate silence just as well as their lines. The casting was truly inspired. Hiddleston is Adam, a depressed musician in Detroit who is growing increasingly sick of the world. His lover Eve, played by Swinton, is a book lover in Morocco who finally goes to see him to help him out of his funk.

Is it cliche to have a vampire suffer from ennui? Incredibly. Jarmusch completely turns the old sad vampire trope on it's head to create a beautiful film about the permeance of love, the frailty of fame and the weariness of existence.

The chemistry between Adam and Eve is incredible. They compliment each other fully and each gesture and look is pure love between them. You could kill a bull elephant with the level of chemistry they have. Swinton is amazing as smart, logical, playful Eve. Hiddleston's Adam is moody and brooding with an air of despair about him. He lives in an abandoned part of a Detroit and enjoys being a hermit. Eve gets him out, tries to get him living again.

Their sweet reconnection is shattered when Eve's sister Ava shows up, played by Mia Wasikowska. She's headstrong, annoying, part Eurotrash and part Bling Ring. Adam loathes her. Eve acts as a mother to her. She disrupts the fragile peace and quiet that Adam and Eve share. She's even so rude that she kills Adam's only friend, a human named Ian, played by the lovely Anton Yelchin. It's the last straw and it compromises Adam's home, so they escape back to Morocco where they must face the fact that their supply of pure blood is gone and they're possibly going to starve to death.

The vampire angle is so small in comparison to the rest of the film. They drink blood but it isn't the lurid Anne Rice type of blood drinking. Most humans at this point have blood that has been tainted, either with drugs or chemicals, and they find it hard to get a good source. Drinking blood is a dainty activity, done in small sherry glasses. A few sips brings each vamp to a state of euphoria that seems reminiscent of heroin usage. This is just one of the many examples of addiction the film explores. I wish I was back in college, I could write a fifty page dissertation on all the layers this film has.   

There have been some comparisons to The Hunger, which I feel is rather false. Apart from David Bowie and Tilda Swinton being from the same alien race, the films are very different in tone and substance. Only Lovers Left Alive unfurls slowly and has none of the slapdash energy of the 80's vampire flick. It's more languid, quiet and thoughtful. There's no growling Bauhaus soundtrack, only the mournful drone of Adam's own experimental rock funeral music.

Only Lovers Left Alive is astoundingly romantic, exceptionally witty and has an effortless cool about it that is enviable. It's filmed entirely at night so the shadows become characters unto themselves, making the vampire pair seem stark and foreign under the direct lighting of an airport. Adam and Eve trade stories about old friends (Byron, apparently, was an asshole) while playing chess and eating frozen bloodpops and it feels more normal and romantic than any romantic scene I've seen on film in years.

I can't say enough how much I loved this moody little film. It was just amazing. Amazing characters and lush cinematography turn it into an instant classic not only of the vampire genre but of all movies. I can not recommend it enough. Go and see it this instant.
Pin It

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to School? There's a Shirt for That

Sometimes, I find out about a TeeFury t-shirt that looks awesome, but unfortunately, I was a few hours (or days) too late to grab it. I've found a few of them in the Gallery and sometimes they bring some back in a special collection, like the Back at Campus release. All 10 shirts in this back to school special are $18 each. Oh, there's more than a few designs that I want for my collection. Like:

 Brick in the Wall tee
I can get my classic rock and childhood toy loves in one shirt. Better than a Dark Side of the Moon velvet poster, am I right?

Mount Awesome tee
How is this much awesome contained in one shirt? It's a question for the ages.

Kitty tee
This last one was just adorable. So much WANT!

Any t-shirts you need to have in your closet?

Pin It