Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yes, I Read Another Jane Austen Supernatural Book

Now, before you groan and begin asking mean-spirited questions, let me ask them for you. Trust me, I've groaned and asked myself the same things. What is with all the Austen and paranormal stuff? Why do so many authors aspire to write about Austen and fail? Why do I keep giving these authors the opportunity to dash my hopes over and over and over again?

This is why:
Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Bites Back is about Jane Austen, beloved author and vampire, currently living in Brakeston, NY, owning a bookstore selling many items relating to herself, while her own manuscript (not Sanditon) has been rejected by publishers for 2 centuries. There are also a few men in her life, which, of course, results in romantic confusion. It's an interesting idea, a great title, and obviously the concept would be so easy to do poorly.

Except Ford did an excellent job executing his idea effectively. This book is exactly what I look for: funny, clever, relatable. It's a quick read that isn't pretentious, is written well, and that kept me guessing. Also, there are numerous literary and pop culture references. You can feel, reading this book, that Ford had fun writing it, and in turn, it is fun to read.

Dealing with a woman who wrote some of the most popular romances of all time, Jane Bites Back explores the concept of romance, and points out that Austen's books were so much more than romance (which might be part of the reason that they still have readers). I love so much about this book, but don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, I think you should read it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Near-Brush with Celebrity (Photo)

I was working at the video store last night, and had an interesting interaction with a couple of customers.

They were sisters - they both had the same shade of dark blonde hair and similar facial features, but one of them looked a little bit older. They were renting a copy of "Seventeen Again," and the younger one said: "We saw him today!"

I wasn't planning to respond, but the older sister glared and said: "You weren't supposed to say anything! He's trying to stay on the down low."

They proceeded to relate a story about seeing a limousine that they hadn't seen before in West Lafayette, walking up, and coming upon Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens, as well as some Purdue students. I was shown a picture, obviously taken in a car, of a guy slightly obscured by shadow. It could have been Zac Efron - I didn't really look that closely, to be honest.

I thought it was great that these two girls were so excited by the prospect of having met the actor and his girlfriend, but I just...don't really care if the two rich young people were in the Lafayette, Indiana area.

Part of this might be due to the fact that I'm not personally very attracted to Mr. Efron. Yes, he has nice abs in "Seventeen Again." I guess he's actually about my age, but he tends to play younger guys in his roles, so I think of him as younger than he is. And teenage boys aren't really my type of guy, as I'm not a teenager myself.

Part of this might be because I have this feeling that meeting someone whose artistry you admire seems like it could far too easily result in disillusionment. Examples in media have been made that portray the importance of idealism (Rob, of, did a particularly good job talking about this in his review of "Julie & Julia"). For me, however, idealism can very quickly turn sour. I didn't really have an opinion of Megan Fox, other than that she's pretty - then she began making stupid comments, and now, I don't particularly care for her.

So, what do YOU think? Does the prospect of meeting famous people excite you or would you rather appreciate the art without meeting the artist?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reposting: Because I'm Lazy. Also, Related to Twilight

In honor of all of this buzz about a Twilight graphic novel (because why READ Bella moping around when you can SEE it in non-animated form?), I thought I would repost a blog I originally wrote on Maureen Johnson's ning.

Today's rant is about Twilight. I'm not bashing the book. I know a lot of people like it, and that's fine. I'm not a huge fan, myself, but we all have different tastes.

No, my current problem with
Twilight are the excuses people make for me about why I don't like the book. Even people who know me! (Well, kind of know me.)

Basically, people assume 1) I don't like romance, 2) I'm not into vampires, & 3) I'm closed-minded.

Now, the first two points just show that these people don't know me.

1) I AM a cynic. You know what? I'm smart enough to know that a lot of guys my age LIE to girls all the time. They lie to get a girl in bed, they lie because of societal pressure, they lie for fun. A lot of guys are really cool. A lot of guys are jerks. That's the way it is; that's the way it's always been. That doesn't mean I don't believe in romance.

Really, I believe in romance for other people. I'm not going to get super deep with this, but I will conclude this point with the fact that believing in romance for other people means that I like reading about romance - when it's well done.

2) Most romance is NOT well done.

It's just not. Go to any bookstore, walk to the section titled "romance." It's not that there aren't any good books in there, it's just that they're hidden by SMUT. Listen, I've read enough "romance" novels to consider the self-titled genre to generally be predictable, and to think that the only reason most people read them is for the sex scenes. To which I say - suck it up, and buy porn.*

The best romance novels, the ones with REAL romance in them? They're
literature, prose that uses metaphor and symbolism, because romance is poetry, and can't be communicated correctly if the writing is too literal.

3) The relationship between Edward and Bella is not a healthy one.

First of all, it's "love at first sight." Give. Me. A. Break. I'm one of those people who doesn't believe you can call it love until you get to know the other person. And Bella was considering herself "in love" before she'd really spoken to Edward. That's not love guys, that's obsession.

Secondly, Bella is AFRAID of Edward. While this makes sense, with the whole "he's a vampire, dude," thing going on, it's not cool to date someone you're afraid of. And Bella is afraid, repeatedly, in

Thirdly, Edward is a stalker. He watches her sleep, and her response is, "Oh, that's cute. I hope I didn't drool." I guess you could say that since they're both obsessed, it's all cool. The fact is, if I had been talking this way when I was sixteen, my parents would have sent me to a therapist.

4) I
adore vampire stories.

From the time I've been about ten until the time I was eighteen, almost everything I read was supernatural romance. Christopher Pike & L.J. Smith wrote vampire stories, and I really enjoyed those.

My mother was kind of exasperated, and thought something was wrong with me, because I liked vampires so much.

Short of going to the dentist to get fangs and drinking blood, I couldn't be MORE of a vampire fan.

5) I try really hard to be an open-minded person.

I went into my initial reading of
Twilight expecting too much, perhaps. I forced myself to read it again this year, to see if I really didn't like it, or if I had been being too harsh.

It's an okay book, but I think it's too long, and I don't think it's very well written.

It might be better than anything I ever write, but I don't purport to be a great writer. And neither, from Stephenie Meyer's interviews, it seems, does she. She wrote a book for fun. She liked it, her sister liked it, I think her editor should have forced her to pare it down a lot more.

I didn't get "sucked in" like a lot of people. It's not to my tastes.

I kind of like that Meyer inverted a lot of vampire stereotypes - she made the vampires in her stories her own. I can appreciate ingenuity. Saying, "Oh, well, maybe you don't like it because Edward's SPARKLY" really makes me angry. I thought it was kind of cool, though I thought it was an incredibly cheesy effect in the movie.

I don't wish any harm on the author, herself, I don't think her books should be burnt (I don't think ANY books should be burnt), I just didn't like the book.

I'm a literate person. I'm not stupid. I'm not against romance. I like vampires. I JUST DIDN'T LIKE THE BOOK!

I don't think that makes me a horrible person. I don't have a problem with people who like
Twilight, so why do my "friends" who like Twilight have such a problem with me not liking it?

*Frankly, this has been my opinion since I was in middle school. If you like romance, that's cool, so long as you admit that often, these books tend to be predictable and have many gratuitous sex scenes.

**A lot of people, when I mention this concept of Bella being afraid, say, "What are you talking about? I didn't get that impression." Well, not everyone reading Twilight took notes, either, and I'm not sure what that says about me, as a person, but it DOES mean that I can cite moments of fright. Bella explicitly mentions being scared on the following pages: 54, 89, 107, 251, 264. I stopped taking as many notes about halfway through the book, so there may be more references, but there are at least that many.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Why I Avoid Watching "Family Guy"

I hate Lois Griffin.

While I realize hatred of a fictional character is pretty stupid and pointless, I can't help it. Feelings of ill will fester inside of me when I hear her loud voice being passive or ineffective.

One of the great things about Family Guy is that everyone on the show is an asshole sometimes - like in real life. Let's face it: absolute sweethearts who always do the right thing and are always nice only exist in the form of the Disney princess. In real life, people often suffer from jackass syndrome, so the characters in the show Family Guy are realistic.

Lois Griffin, however, while being a MILF, is just a horrible, horrible fictional woman. She has no excuses for being horrible, and her only redeeming quality is her looks. Frankly, that's not enough.

In case you missed WHY exactly Lois is horrible, let me list the reasons:

*She allows her husband to hurt other people. She simply ignores him when he's doing many inappropriate things. She encourages him to continue thinking of women as property, good for sex and cleaning the house.

*She continually insults her daughter Meg, and laughs when others insult her daughter. When she's not insulting Meg, she's generally ignoring her. She is an emotionally abusive bitch who deserves the death wish that Stewie harbors.

*She continually ignores her baby boy Stewie. There are numerous times when she outright ignores the baby, says something that makes it clear she understands him and just doesn't care, and somehow misses the fact that he's often trying to kill her. He's not exactly subtle in his maneuverings. She just doesn't pay enough attention to her baby to notice.

*She doesn't help her children. Her son Chris doesn't do well in school - why the hell doesn't she suggest a tutor? Her daughter has a lot of problems (which Lois has probably helped cause) - why doesn't she suggest a therapist?

*She generally lets her husband get drunk on a regular basis without comment.

*In numerous episodes, she makes it clear that she values sex with her husband more than the needs of her children. Yes, sex is an important part of any relationship, but the frequency with which references are made to the Griffins' sexual intimacy indicates that, in general, Lois Griffin is just a selfish bitch who values sex more than her children.

Are we supposed to feel bad for her because she came from a family with a lot of money, and has deteriorated to living in a poor household with a technically retarded husband with a drinking problem and three whiny kids? No. It has been made clear in many episodes that Lois Griffin CHOSE her current life situation, that she values it more than the lifestyle in which she grew up. It has been made clear that Lois considers the lifestyle in which she was raised to be superficial, and that she thinks money complicates things. Moreover, it is clear that she had her pick of men. She picked Peter, a guy she loves so long as he is in the vicinity (i.e., she has re-married and talked about his being physically incapacitated being unacceptable in episodes).

She has also mentioned having tried to drink & smoke her baby to death, only to "chicken out," which resulted in Chris. She has mentioned not knowing her birth control was invalidated by other medication to her teenage daughter, basically letting her kids know, in general, that they were accidents.

She is a horrible fictional woman, and I hate her. She has no redeeming qualities to make up for all of her horrible, horrible character traits. It revolts me to hear that nasally voice, particularly as the words coming out of her mouth are generally comedic remarks made at the expense of her children.

Knowing that she is from a wealthy family, and from her mannerisms and remarks, knowing that she was well-educated makes her behavior all the more appalling.

I HATE Lois Griffin.

And that is why I don't watch Family Guy anymore.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It Sucks When People Don't Update Regularly, Doesn't It?

As my blogging is hardly of the caliber of Maureen Johnson or Barbara Poelle, I should probably stop being lazy and do a real blog, instead of this apology one. (Isn't that the beauty of "probably," though?)

So...yes. I didn't mean to blog for three days in a row (right at the beginning of the year, too!), and then drop off of the face of the Earth. Those three blogs were extremely misleading. I don't tend to blog very often. I like to blog at least twice a month. Often, with my work schedule, I'm a bit tired. The blog sprint previously mentioned happened, I believe, because I had caught up on my sleep. Suddenly, my brain was capable of thought again!

Now, however, it is tired once more. I will probably blog again soon. I have a couple of ideas as to what I would like to blog about. Getting the words out coherently, however, is another matter.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Quitting & Historical Fantasy

I tried. I mean, I have really been trying to force myself to finish Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. And if I was really dead set on finishing the novel, of course, I could.

But it's really just not interesting me, anymore.

This brings me to a topic that might be difficult to understand: I don't really like fantasy.

I mean, good writing is good writing. I like fantasy novels that are well done.

It seems to me, however, from what I have gleaned from reading fantasy writers' blogs and talking to people who like to write, that the fun of fantasy is the world-building. And unless that is really well done, without going into so much detail that I feel like someone is physically trying to jam a map into my head, I don't tend to like reading it.

I'm not against fantastical things, such as people being worshipped becoming gods in Christopher Moore's Island of the Sequined Love Nun or Chris Elliott inserting himself into Victorian London in The Shroud of the Thwacker.

I guess my reading and writing preferences tend to deal with people. I want to care about the characters, whether I love them or hate them. I want to feel suspense and anticipation.

And a lot of times, when I'm reading fantasy novels, the effort has been put into the world-building, and I don't care about the characters.

This is how I felt, reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. It started out interesting and mildly funny. Once the time travel happened, however, (oh, yeah - spoiler, for those who haven't read Outlander - there's time travel) the plot felt so predictable. I knew - many more spoilers about to come; you have been warned - whom the main character was going to fall in love with, I was perplexed that she didn't put up more of a fight when she was told she had to marry him (I know there were extenuating circumstances; I don't care...she's already married; it's weird that she so readily acquiesced), and then she and her guy are just rutting like pigs for far too long... I got bored. Once the story started up again, and it wasn't "shy sex talk" and frantic mating anymore, but actual plot once more, I realized I just don't care about these characters.

Worse, when I DO care about the characters, it's usually me being annoyed with one of them.

Like the scene where Claire's nearly raped and kills her attacker. Good for her, girl power and all that - and then, she and lover-boy are in shock, so they have to have seconds of crazy wild sex... Okay, what? You've got to have blood all over you, and you almost had some guy forcing himself onto you, and your first response once the danger is over... is to have sex.

Basically, I feel that Outlander is a cheesy romance novel, and with all of the well-written material out there, don't feel like I want to waste my time with this poor excuse for literature. Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe somewhere in the rest of this novel lies an amazing story. But I doubt it.


Saturday, January 2, 2010


Tina peered through the microscope, her brow furrowing at the sight before her. After several seconds of thinking and pursing her lips, she flipped open her cell phone, and dialed Gregory's number.

He answered on the fourth ring, his voice groggy with sleep. "Hello?"

"Greg, I know that we just broke up a few nights ago, but you're still my lab partner, and you're the only person I can trust with this discovery I just made. I need you to come to the lab right now."

"Right now?" After a brief pause, Greg protested: "Shit, Tina, it's only two o'clock in the morning! I just went to bed half an hour ago, and it's freezing outside..."

"Greg. Please. I wouldn't have called you if it wasn't important."

"This better be fucking important," Greg said, his voice becoming slightly muffled and labored, so that Tina knew he was pulling on a pair of blue jeans.

"It is," she responded. "Thank you, Greg. I know - well, just - thank you."

***Twenty Minutes Later***

"So what is this oh-so-significant discovery you've made?" Greg asked, a gust of cold wind following him into the laboratory and ruffling his hair, the way Tina used to ruffle it as they lay in bed together. "Hello? Earth to Tina..." Greg snapped his fingers, impatient, bringing Tina back to the cold reality in which she now existed, a single girl in her twenties, no longer loved.

"Right. Um..." Tina fumbled for words, retreating towards their lab station.

"Have you been getting any sleep recently?" Greg asked, his brow furrowing. "Tina, you know how you get when you don't get enough sleep."

"I may take longer to put my sentences together, but at least they're not vague and almost incoherent like yours," Tina snapped.

"Listen, I've kind of got to get back to my apartment a.s.a.p., so just tell me what's going on."

"What's the matter? Already have a new girl in your bed?"

"Tina - "

"Yeah, yeah, I know. It's none of my business." Tina waved towards the lab station behind her. "Look through the microscope."

Greg complied, resurfacing a minute later and giving her a questioning look.

"I know," Tina said. "I've never seen the molecular structure before. It's literally a new leaf. That color, and - "

"Tina," Greg said, his eyebrows coming together and making him a Cyclops.

"I mean, A NEW LEAF! I think we both know what that means, Greg..."

"Yeah, I think we both know what this means," Greg agreed.

"It's a sign. The apocalypse is impending. The years match up with Nostradamus predictions, and... That's so disturbing." Tina put her hands to her head, retreating until she bumped into the coat hooks behind her. Her purse fell to the floor, the glint of metal catching her eye.

"Tina, I'm so sorry..." Greg said, walking after her, holding out his arms to embrace her.

Tina didn't want to be embraced. She didn't want to have to worry about the end of the world as they knew it. "I feel fine," she said, quickly retrieving the handgun from her purse, putting it in her mouth, and pulling the trigger.

Greg stood in place, shocked. Brains and blood spattered the wall before which, until a few seconds ago, Tina had stood, alive. Looking back at the microscope, Greg whispered, "It's fall, Tina. It's just an orange-red leaf." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, dialed the campus police, and hoped that Amy would still be in his bed when he got home.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Post of 2010!

Rather than reminisce and make myself feel old (I was in HIGH SCHOOL at the beginning of the decade) or talk about "resolutions" (I'll leave that to Karen Denise, who is hosting a contest about them) that are cliche and bore my one or two readers to death, I thought I would talk about something controversial.Movies that I like better than the books.

I got the idea from reading this blog post, in which ten movies that the blog writer considered better than their written counterparts are listed. I am only going to discuss five movies today, and I am also going to explain WHY I think the movies are better in a little bit of detail.

I will give the disclaimer that, in general, I like the written work better. One in awhile, however, I feel that the movie surpasses the book, and here are five such instances, for me:

1. Bram Stoker's Dracula

I'm not going to lie - I never quite finished Bram Stoker's actual novel. Were I to re-read Stoker's work in its' entirety, my opinion might differ. I had trouble finishing the novel, however, because I didn't particularly like Stoker's writing style, and I definitely did not care for the epistolary style he adopted with the diary and letter excerpts. Epistolary works are not my favorite - they have to be very carefully done for me to like them.

The movie, on the other hand, was beautiful and grotesque. Seeing the lush landscapes and beautiful costumes was a treat for my eyes. And the changes that the script made to Stoker's written work were favorable to me. I liked the backstory that they gave to Count Dracula. I liked the romance, and the fact that the movie gave the monster something of a heart, and even a choice as to whether or not to be horrible. He chose horrible, which is so much of what made the movie a horror movie.

In essence, the movie spoke to me in a way that the book did not.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany's

Don't get me wrong - I like Truman Capote's short story. He created a fantastic character with Holly Golightly, and I can understand why he was upset that his character wasn't portrayed by someone like Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn WAS too classy to be Capote's Holly. Yet no one who has seen the movie can deny that Audrey's Holly was entrancing and beautiful and delicate and wonderful.

I suppose I should admit that I am biased with respect to this movie/book combination, as well, for I adore Audrey Hepburn. Thus far, I have always enjoyed seeing her in a movie (admittedly, I have not seen all of them). She was a terrific actress, and turned "Breakfast at Tiffany's" into a different creation, but one that is beautiful all the same.

I simply adore Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly too much to wish that the movie production had been made without her, and therefore, been a more faithful adaptation of Capote's work.

3. The Secret of Nimh

I read this book and saw this movie when I was a child, but even then, I was struck by the fact that I enjoyed the movie more. I honestly cannot remember why. I know that I liked both the book AND the movie, but I liked the movie more. I read profusely as a child (much more than I do now), so I still trust the judgment.

4. Troy

This movie is one that I am somewhat ambivalent about. As a former Classical scholar, of course, I am in love with the "Iliad." There is no question about that - were the "Iliad" a person rather than a work of literature, I would make love to it. The story, the characters, the history, the mythology, in this work are so interesting, and so well put together, that anyone who has no appreciation for it whatsoever and was aware of its' existence is a moron.

I do like the movie in and of its' own right, and consider it better as an adaptation that people today will: 1. want to watch, and 2. be able to relate to.

See, one of the problems with the "Iliad," which I can admit, despite my fervor for the work, is that it's old. The people who go: "Um...duh I haven't seen that. It's not even in color" when referring to movies are, of course, going to have problems when trying to read the "Iliad." I think "Troy" does a good job of taking a monstrous work, and paring it down, while also making it more relatable to a modern audience.

The fact is, guys, Achilles didn't love Briseis. He was just pissed Agammemnon took her away because she was his war prize. Women were property to these dudes, especially the women from a different city.

Achilles was, on the other hand, a major asshole. The movie tried to make him a bit more likeable, but he was. Most guys were. Even Odysseus (I'm sorry, but going around philandering with goddesses and other women while your wife desperately staves off suitors and would-be rapists is fucked up. He may be smart, but by my standards, Odysseus is far, far, far from the ideal husband).

Considering the grand scope of the "Iliad," and all of the accompanying myths that are necessary to understand the "Iliad," I thought this movie was well done. With respect to modern audiences, filled with people who cannot comprehend why every human being can't just speak English to make things easier on them, I think that the movie is better than the epic poem.

More educated people, who have read the "Iliad," are going to comment on the fact that the timespan was miraculously short for a war, particularly the TEN YEARS the Trojan war is supposed to have been waged.

I'm ambivalent, but I enjoyed this movie.

5. Peter Pan

This entry isn't just with respect to the Disney movie, but to the idea of Peter Pan that I grew up with, and which I realized recently is mistook.

I thought Peter Pan was about a boy who doesn't want to grow up, and doesn't have to, because of the magical place that he lives in. I thought he was some statement about how being an adult is tough, and you shouldn't let the kid in you die, because then you won't have any fun in life.

Instead, when I actually read J.M. Barrie's play, I was overwhelmed with this feeling that Peter was not a good, Victorian boy. That he was cheating himself out of a lot, by not growing up, and would, in fact, if he chose never to leave Never Never Land, become a filthy, perverted pirate, intent on killing little boys for some reason, though he used to be one.

Reading the play was a disappointment because of the connotations Peter Pan has come to have in our society today.

I like J.M. Barrie's work, in general, I guess I just like the Peter Pan myth I grew up with more.

Those are my picks. Like I said earlier, you're welcome to disagree with them. Leave a comment, tell me why I'm wrong. Or tell me a movie that YOU think is better than the book.