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Archive for Monday, September 7, 2009

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The Edge

September 7, 2009

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‘Blood Promise’ (Books)

“Blood Promise,” the highly anticipated fourth book in Richelle Mead’s popular “Vampire Academy” series, is the most exciting yet.

In Mead’s supernatural world, there are two kinds of vampires: the Moroi, who are born with magical talents, and the undead Strigoi. Strigoi have no magical abilities; their sole purpose is to kill.

Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, part-human and part-Moroi. Dhampirs are trained as guardians to protect the Moroi from attacks by the Strigoi. Rose has been training to become a guardian for her best friend, Lissa, the last member of a royal Moroi bloodline.

In “Shadow Kiss,” the third book in the series, Rose was devastated when her boyfriend, Dimitri, was turned into an evil Strigoi vampire during an attack on St. Vladimir’s Academy. In “Blood Promise,” Rose drops out of school and travels to Siberia to fulfill a promise to her lover. Both had agreed they would die rather than walk the Earth as Strigoi. So Rose sets off to find Dimitri — and kill him.

Queen Latifah (Music)

There’s nobody quite like Queen Latifah, the rough-edged rapper turned jazz singer and Oscar-nominated actress. On her new CD, “Persona,” Latifah goes back to the roots that made her so unique in the first place.

The album is an enjoyable mix of singing and rapping, produced by hip-hop hitmakers Cool & Dre and featuring cameos from the likes of Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Busta Rhymes and Marsha Ambrosius. The style ranges from straight-up hip-hop to mid-tempo R&B to breathless techno, with a mercifully light sprinkle of the obligatory Autotune effects.

Latifah has sung on two previous albums, and her voice is capable, comparable to most of the women populating today’s charts. (She’s no Jennifer Hudson, but who is?) Singles like “Cue the Rain,” “My Couch” and “With You” are body-moving tales of the type of hothouse love that blooms on the dance floor, while “People” with Mary J. Blige and “The World” tackle more weighty topics.

Latifah still has the punch and wordplay of the woman who broke into entertainment more than 20 years ago as the rare female rapper who captured attention with skills instead of sex.

‘Arkham Asylum’ (Games)

The video-game industry has defeated more superheroes than Lex Luthor could ever dream of. Superman, Aquaman, Iron Man, X-Men: All were rendered lifeless by forces more focused on making a buck than on delivering thrills.

So calling “Batman: Arkham Asylum” (Eidos, $59.99, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) one of the best superhero games ever is kind of a backhanded compliment. Let’s just call it a great game, period. For DC Comics fans, it’s a must-buy, but it’s hugely entertaining even if you aren’t versed in the whole Batman mythology.

It begins with the Caped Crusader ushering the Joker back to Arkham Asylum, Gotham City’s home for the criminally insane. This time, however, the supervillain has set up a clever trap and quickly takes over the entire facility. Besides setting free hordes of violent lunatics, the Joker has an even deadlier endgame in mind — and only Batman can stop it.

Fans will relish the chance to take on familiar foes like Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and Scarecrow. Combat is easy to handle, and Batman can usually handle a dozen or so henchmen without breaking a sweat. But it’s more rewarding to take them out one by one, using Batman’s stealth skills to sneak up on them or swoop down from the rafters.

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