Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Awesome T-Shirt

Hey guys! Just in case you haven't heard of it yet, author Maureen Johnson is pimpin' a YA Saves t-shirt. There are numerous reasons you should buy this shirt:

1) It is, in fact, a very cute shirt. Dark blue, it will complement most skin tones. & with its' snappy font, you are sure to feel and look sophisticated and elegant as you stroll down the street.*

2) 100% of the proceeds from sale of this shirt are being donated to Reading Is Fundamental. Thus, you are doing your good deed for the day & supporting literacy. This particular charity also seems fitting this week, as it is Banned Books Week.

3) If you fail to purchase the aforementioned t-shirt, I make no promises that Ms. Johnson will not throw a rabid badger down your shirt front, thus ruining the shirt you are wearing now, and making a t-shirt purchase seem even more reasonable than it already does.

4) A t-shirt and jeans are good, all-American lazy fashion sense. Don't you love America?

5) This t-shirt is so cute, you should probably purchase TWO or THREE. One for yourself, one for back-up, and one for a gift. (*cough, cough* My birthday might be coming up in a few weeks *cough*)

Feel free to list EVEN MORE reasons why a purchase of the aforementioned shirt is necessary in the comments below...**

*Sometimes, I talk like a 60-year-old woman. Deal.

**Should you succeed in making me laugh, I will bake you virtual brownies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"'It's very important to take revenge. In the right way, of course. It doesn't mean you have to hurt anyone. But you act in a way that lets you keep your self-respect.'"

-Maxine Swann. The Foreigners.

As I mentioned previously, I recently finished reading Maxine Swann's The Foreigners. It's a beautiful book, and deals with different cultures and self-identity. This quote, in particular, jumped out at me as I was reading.

What I like about this quote is that it sums up why people like the idea of revenge. Revenge, often petty, is the subject of movies and TV shows, and we've all fantasized about it. There is a reason - it is about self-respect. It is about letting someone else know that they are not allowed to walk all over you. This is why scenes such as Veronica's smug look at the end of the pilot for Veronica Mars are so satisfying - they uphold the idea that revenge is possible, and that it feels great.

Not quite the smug look to which I was referring, but she definitely looks like she's enjoying her revenge.

Moreover, this quote brings up another aspect of "revenge" - that it must be done in "the right way." That it doesn't necessarily mean that you hurt anyone else, because revenge is more for yourself. I really liked this qualification. It's true - revenge is for you, which is why it can result in pettiness and get out of control. So it is important to limit yourself - to allow yourself to keep your self-respect, and feel better, but not to lose control of the situation or yourself in the process. This is why it is okay to verbally cut someone off who is being a complete asshole, but it is not okay to, say, shoot someone in the head for failing to say "Bless you." (I might have watched "Dogma" last night.)

I don't know that I'm advocating vengeance - I just like the manner in which this quote succinctly sums up what revenge should be, and why it is so appealing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let Us Talk of Things Foreign & Strange

I was lucky enough to receive an uncorrected proof of Maxine Swann's The Foreigners.

The cover is pretty awesome, and people will think you're FAKING reading it b/c the chick is upside down.

Essentially, this novel is narrated by an American woman, recently divorced, named Daisy. Her name isn't really that important, however, and is really only rarely mentioned, in passing - she is a nameless American, going through a hard time, who has escaped to Buenos Aires to hopefully regain a sense of self. She meets some interesting people, such as Gabriel, the gay prostitute who has dropped out of med school and tells her she should "try everything."

Two people, in particular, are focused on, however - the Argentine native Leonarda, and the Austrian immigrant Isolde.

Isolde is awesome and elegant and lonely and figuring shit out, too. She likes to go to fancy cocktail parties with the elite circle of the rich and elegant, yet her sense of loneliness prevents her from being as successful in this circle as her ambition would like. She also suffers from monetary difficulties - for some reason, pretending to be rich when you're not can get costly and bankrupt you.

As opposed to being a mermaid and pretending to be human, which costs you physically and causes every step you take to feel as though knives are running through your body.

Leonarda, on the other hand, is NOT a foreigner, but wishes to be. She is smart, seductive, and unpredictable. She is wild, she wants to be revolutionary, and is always in the mood for change. Her temperament and appearance are extremely malleable, as well as her social circle. She hangs out with people in a dingy lab doing complicated things on her computer, and she dresses in luscious cocktail dresses and hobnobs with the sophisticated, rich, and famous.

Both Leonarda and Isolde help our heroine/protagonist/American character through providing glimpses into different lives, providing friendship, and expanding Daisy's horizons.

I really enjoyed this novel, despite its' rather aimless feel, and the fact that it doesn't really go anywhere. At the end of the novel, there is no grand epiphany, but the journey of the novel is an interesting, intelligent one.

One of the odd things about this novel is that the author Maxine Swann is from America, herself, yet the novel has the feeling of a novel that has been translated. There is a murkiness to the story. The words are all discernible, but the manner in which they are put together, while coherent, brings forth a slightly fuzzy picture in the readers' mind. I liked this quality, personally, but can see it proving irritating to some readers.

Another quality which did not particularly bother me, but that might bother the reader, is that, overall, I'm not entirely sure the characters are likeable. They're not necessarily unlikeable, but they're also not necessarily people you read about and think to yourself: "This person sounds awesome. I want them to spring forth from these pages because I feel certain we would be great things were this odd, magical happenstance to occur."

Still, as was previously mentioned, the cover, righted, looks like it's upside down. If nothing else, this book will confuse and befuddle fellow bus/train/subway passengers. And really, guys, isn't that what reading is all about?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Secret Circle Pilot Recap

I have a confession to make - as a teenager, there was little I loved more than reading a book by L.J. Smith. I am one of those die-hard fans who has been waiting over ten years for the Night World series to be brought to conclusion by Strange Fate (and since the release date keeps being pushed back, very well could be waiting ten more; admittedly, it is nice to see I am not alone in my frustration). I bought a set of pastels after reading the Dark Visions trilogy, and definitively discovered that my artistic talent is non-existent. I was kind of pissed that Jenny picked Tom over Julian. Repeatedly. (In the Forbidden Games trilogy.) Yet one of my favorite stories was that of shy Cassie Blake, who meets her soulmate, discovers her own inner power, and becomes strong and less shy in the course of The Secret Circle trilogy.

I was a little nervous when I learnt they had decided to make a Secret Circle television show. I mean, look at what they did with The Vampire Diaries. Don't get me wrong - the TV show is addicting -- but it doesn't follow the books.

The Secret Circle, on the other hand, isn't even a good TV show. The only thing they got right is the cliffhanger at the end. Anyway (note the lack of an "s," b/c I try to use proper grammar), I decided to try my hand at this whole recap thing. Here are my impressions of The Secret Circle pilot:

First of all, the beginning pissed me off. I guess it was supposed to be suspenseful and start the show off with a bang of something. I really felt, however, that in trying to make Cassie appear strong and resourceful (rather than the shy, awkward character she is IN THE BOOK), they really more managed to make her mother appear unintelligent and cliched. Her mother is at home, cooking dinner. Cassie called her, and kind of sounded, initially, like she wanted help. But obviously that's wrong. Because CASSIE knows how to change a tire, guys. She didn't get this from her mom, who can only sit on the side of the road, watching her daughter perform miraculous feats on her automobile. Except Cassie doesn't even want her mom to do that. Can't the woman just stay at home & have dinner ready when she's done with this manual labor?

Except Cassie's mother can't even do THAT right, because she gets killed by this guy who uses magic to conjure a fire. I mean, her mom doesn't really seem to try that hard to get out of the kitchen. But whatevs. It's "suspenseful," and she dies like she lived - in the kitchen. (Seriously, that "in the kitchen" shit REALLY bothered me.)

Then, the credits roll. & there's some really bad little girl singing a nonsensical song. I think it's supposed to sound magical and mystical or something, but it actually just seems clunky and overreaching.

OMG - Natasha Henstridge, from "She Spies!" I hope her character on this show is as awesome as Cassie ("She Spies" Cassie, not "Secret Circle" Cassie).

There's something a little disconcerting about all of these teen hangouts on television - like no small town just has a Taco Bell that all of the teens go to, like here in the real world. Taco Bell is awesome, cheap, and has food that is incredibly bad for you, guys. Its' greasy food helps exacerbate your acne, so that your teenage years are miserable and you are a target for ProActive infomercials. THIS IS THE WAY HIGH SCHOOL WORKS.

Where is the soulmate interaction between Adam & Cassie? That's what MAKES an L.J. Smith book. It's an important part of this series, and I wasn't even impressed by the "initial attraction" reaction between Adam & Cassie in this pilot. I mean, seriously, I'll take the ridiculous mooning looks that pass between Bill & Sookie in the "True Blood" pilot over the lackadaisical "I'm semi-attracted to you" bullshit I'm seeing on this show.

The spells on this show - or rather commands spoken in a deadpan manner to nature - seem really lame. There must be a way to make the magic on this show more interesting.

Overall, my impression is that the CW needs to fire the casting director for this show. I mean - ugh. Faye Chamberlain is played by a very pretty girl. But she doesn't seem like a bad girl. She talks way too much like a sweetheart to pull off the "bad girl" persona. Cassie is not shy enough, not sweet enough to be Smith's character. Maybe they gave her edge to make her more likeable, like they did with Fannie Price in "Mansfield Park." If that's the case, it didn't work. At times, Cassie is hard when it makes no sense for her to be. Yet, overall, I am exasperated at the fact that SHE IS NOT SHY. This characteristic is one of the initial definitive ones regarding Cassie Blake. Britt Robertson plays tough and cute very well - but she's not playing Cassie Blake. She's playing the same character I've seen her play before, except that it doesn't work as well with the dialogue for this show.

I DO plan to watch the next few episodes, to see if the show gets better. After all, the pilot is generally the most clunky episode of a television show. At the moment, however, I hold out little hope, and recommend that you read the book instead.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So, I Was Planning on Blogging More Frequently

Seriously. I made a LIST of blog ideas and everything. I began to get ORGANIZED.

And then... um... yeah.

So, anyway, I'm finally blogging again. And this time, it's about NaNo. For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, let me briefly describe it:

A magical time that lasts for the duration of November, in which numerous writers voluntarily sign up to torture themselves and spur on the self-inflicted torture of others by agreeing to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Now, 50,000 words makes for an awfully short novel. It's really more of a novella when you're finished. It is also, however, a short draft which you can revise and make into something more novel-ly and wonderful. Some great novels that began as NaNo experiments are: Water for Elephants and The Night Circus.

I'm pretty sure you can't sign up for this month of awesome-sauce and sleep deprivation until October, but I recently sat down and did some brainstorming the other day.

You see, I have THREE ideas for NaNo projects this year. I thought brainstorming might help me come to a decision, but I was MISTAKEN. And so, gentle readers, I turn to you. Please, help me decide what to write about by casting a vote. Which of the following ideas sounds more like something you would want to chain yourself to for 30 days?

Option #1: ROAD RAGE
Tokyo Heiress, spoiled rich girl, has a pet peeve regarding proper driving. And when someone doesn't follow the rules of the road, she rams into their car, totaling both vehicles, because her parents can totally afford to buy her a new one, so why not?
Unfortunately, her parents decide to be totally not cool, and after a recent incident, have taken away her driving privileges and hired her a driver.
Unbeknownst to her parents, her driver has worse road rage than SHE does. And he doesn't necessarily follow driving laws himself, nor expect others to - he just wants everyone to recognize that the road is his.
Shenanigans ensue.

Female protag. lives on Ideal Street, but ironically deals with the desperate and despondent working as the front desk receptionist of a temporary agency. She herself is seeking different work because, frankly, working at a temp agency sucks and she doesn't make enough money to deal with this shit on a daily basis.
One day, whilst perusing Craigslist and making phone calls to fill a job order, she overhears a murder.
Except that no one believes her, the police having gone to the residence and ruled it as a suicide.
So female protag. will have to investigate this circumstance, herself.
The recently deceased was one of the few workers she actually enjoyed talking to on the phone and in the office. Plus, no one calls HER a liar...

Option #3: The Jane Austen Spin-off
This one will involve research. In case you haven't heard of it, Jane Austen was a few chapters into a new novel when she passed away. Most people call it Sanditon, because that was the residence at which the majority of the novel was to take place. Austen herself, however, was going to call it The Brothers. Basically, my idea is that a young woman finds herself living a life that draws many parallels to Sanditon/The Brothers - kind of a way to resolve/finish/sequel Austen's unfinished novel without actually poorly pretending to be her.
This one could be fun, and it would give me an excuse to re-read Austen, particularly that last work, as it's been awhile since I read it, and I would want to become familiar with it once more. I know that it had to do with hypochondriacs (of which I am one) and would probably place the new novel at a health resort or spa. Obviously, this one is the least fleshed out so far. Although I DO love Austen.

So - which idea do YOU like best? Please let me know in the comments below!