Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Personal Note for the New Year

Normally,I don't discuss my personal life on this blog but something has recently
happened that will have some impact on what is written here,not to mention that
it was necessary to alter my profile so this is situation I'm facing for the new
year:I left my job after 8 years. I gave notice on December 26 and turned in my
keys to the store on December 27.

I'm going to give you some background info-last year,I was hospitalized for a week
due to heart related probelms that went unchecked for too long(which had to do with
the fact that I couldn't afford health insurance but that's a whole other issue).
When I went back to work,one of the things I needed to do to help myself get better
was to cut back on my hours. I brought in a note from my doctor,explaining that I
had to work only four days a week and that I shouldn't do heavy lifting. My hours
were changed but over time, feelings of resentment were directed at me when certain
duties that involved lifting came up.


Also,the owner has grown more frustrated about the state of the store and has taken
these feelings out on me and the rest of the staff for the past few months. It's one
thing to have made a error and asked to correct it but it's quite another when you're
told that if you couldn't find something that was put away a year ago that you"need
new glasses" and that you were given a $1 raise to "make you feel better" that isn't
being earned.

I'm not going to get into any more specifics but I will also say that the working
environment of the store has sharply changed. Sure,there's always good times and
bad times but when I first started being a bookseller,there was more of a sense
of community spirit. We used to celebrate each other's birthday with a card and/or
cake & flowers. At holiday time,the whole staff would go out to dinner to celebrate
another year together and make plans for the next. We haven't done any of that for
awhile now. People are friendly to each other but there's a remoteness and an aura
of disconnection about the work we do.

All of this has been affecting my health-I was so agitated last Monday that when I
came home that night,it was necessary to take my blood pressure. I'm alright but
it has just gotten to the breaking point where I can't put up with this anymore.

This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done-I've never just up and quit
a job before and I've never left one job without having another one to go to. My family has been very supportive of me at this time for which I'm truly grateful.
I'm sorry to have left this way but it seemed like I had to sink or swim so I
dove into the unknown. I do intend to keep this blog going,it's one of the better
aspects of my life.

Don't worry,I have no intention of boring anyone with tales of my job hunting and
other personal woes. I still have plenty of books to read and review for '06 and
will keep working on getting more author interviews(thanks again to Suzanne for
being so generous with her time and recommending other writers to me.). Hopefully
things will get better in 2006. I wish everyone at the store the best of luck and
hope that the new year is good to them as well. I know there's more important probelms out there but this one is mine and I intend to try and see this as an
opportunity rather than an obstacle. Happy New Year to one and all.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Brokeback Mountain:hip or hype?

So,Little Sister and I went to see our last movie of the year,Brokeback Mountain. I feel slightly redundant in summerizing the plot,given that it's mostly known as the
"gay cowboy movie" but there is more to it than that so here goes:the story begins
in 1963 when two down on their luck western working stiffs,Jack Twist(Jake Gyllenhaal)
and Ennis Delmar(Heath Ledger)are teamed up to do some sheepheading on Brokeback Mountain in the wilds of Wyoming. Jack is loud and humorous while Ennis is your
typical closemouthed type of fella. The men eventually form a friendship which turns
into passionate lovemaking one cold night that leads to denial the next morning.

Nevertheless,Jack and Ennis keep in touch with each other over the years despite
their marriages and living conditions(Jack marries the boss' daughter and does
well for himself in Texas while Ennis barely scrapes by with ranch work). Their
love for each other is only safe to give into on their"fishing trips" and even
tho Jack wishes to make a more permanant arrangement,Ennis resists due to fears
of violent retaliation from the local community and his own struggle with his
nature.

This is a quiet film,one that slowly unwinds and grows with emotional strength. Ang
Lee excells at capturing hidden struggles with love and following your own desires
which made him the best director for this story. I haven't read the Anne Proulx short
story but I have no doubt that Larry McMurtry and Diane Ossana translated it well.

As to the performances,many will agree with Little Sister when she says that Jake
Gyllenhaal plays the same type of guy in every film(different degrees of Donnie
Darko,if you will)but I do think that he portrays emotional neediness rather well.
Heath Ledger gives one of the best performances of his career to date,showing the
stoic heartbreak of a man wanting to do right by everyone he loves and yet winds
up with the short end of the stick. Michelle Williams as Alma,Ennis' wife who
gets a whiff of his other life,is hauntingly real and deserves an Oscar nom right
along with Ledger(she's taking some very good indie film roles and I hope she keeps
it up).

So,will Brokeback Mountain win lots of awards and be forgotten,as many other films
have before it?Well,it should do well at awardtime but BBM should and will be remem-
bered as the film which gave Heath Ledger his first shot at showing us what he really
can do. No more Knight's Tale type of goofiness,serious actorville next stop! Don't
get too highfalutin' now-another Brothers Grimm movie would be pretty welcome at my
homestead.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Open Letter to Alyson Hannigan

Dear Alyson,

First off,congrats on your post Buffy career;your reoccuring role on Veronica Mars as
Trina Echolls rocks and altho I haven't watched The Night I Met Your Mother,it appears
to be doing well(plus,working with Doogie Hoosier is an extra geek bonus). While checking out movie news at Yahoo,I came across a trailer for your upcoming film,Date
Movie and was"Wow,Alyson's starring in a comedy film with no reference to band camp?! let me check this out!" Also,there's a picture of you doing some kind of Kill Bill
parody so my hopes were raised even higher.

After watching the trailer(which is linked in the title above), my mood changed into
a much different tune. This movie looks bad...White Chicks bad. When one of the main
advertising points is that it was written by two of the guys who wrote for Scary Movie
(which has a ton of hit or miss jokes,mostly missed by film number 3),that's not a
harbinger of film fun.

My big question is why,Alyson,why? Granted,you're great at the funny but you don't
need to do American Pie Redux anymore. The chick flick is ripe for the comedy pickings but having to watch you dance around in a fat suit in bad mock sexy mode
to the beat of "Milkshake" is beyond human endurance. Not to mention the Napoleon
Dynamite inpersonater and Eddie Griffin making lame drug jokes....all I can do is
sigh.

You're a talented actress and I have no doubt about seeing you onscreen in another
film-I just hope that Date Movie is merely a road bump and not a dead end like Mr.
Wrong. Better luck next time and best wishes for the New Year.

Sincerely,
Lady T and Willow fans everywhere

p.s Maybe you and hubby Alexis Denioff could team up to do a really cool indie flick-just a suggestion:)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Festivus!

With the holidays drawing near and my being able to avoid the current MTA strike due to being off for a few days,this seems like a good time to dive into what's left in the
bottom of the pop culture popcorn bowl and nibble on some choice bits:

TV:Now that we know who the Carver is(still wish it had been Sean but I guess he renewed his contract good and proper),the world will be at peace...or in pieces!
Lame jokes aside,the Matt/Cheri subplot with Crazy Nazi Dad really made the show
for me-it totally slipped under the wire with all the Carver hype and made me
eager for the show next year. John Hensley is real damn compelling as Matt and
hopefully,he'ld get some really good plotlines and more screentime. Julia's Rose
mary's Baby nightmare went on too long but am curious to find out if she'll have
the baby. Poor Kimber...that was quite harsh what was done(and undone)to her this
season.

Music:Glad to hear that Gwen Stefani is "alledgedly" pregnant(is that like being alittle bit pregnant?). I'm pretty sure she won't name her kid something like Peach
Cobbler or DSL like some people:)

Books:I'm reading Anya Seton's Green Darkness(and also have Catherine and Dragonwyck
on my reading pile)right now and oddly enough,I got my hands on an ARC for A Rose For
The Crown by Anne Easter Smith which has a cover letter from her editor,Trish Todd
that links Seton to this book. Let me qoute:

"I would compare Anne Easter Smith to another great historical fiction writer,Anya
Seton...Like Seton,Anne's writing is clear,accessible and commercial,and her plot
never falters in pacing and interest. In fact,much of A Rose for the Crown is set
at the lovely English house,Ightham Mote-the same setting used by Anya Seton for
her Richard III novel,Green Darkness."

Now,this is not surpising considering that Trish Todd is Philippa Gregory's editor
and Philippa wrote an afterword and intro for the new reprints of Seton's novels by
Chicago Review but I was still touched by the kismet of me getting ARFTC while just
discovering Anya Seton,particularly Green Darkness. My taste in historical novels is
more Philippa Gregory than Dorothy Dunnett-character driven narratives are my literary sweet tooth. I was looking forward to the Easter Smith book anyway when I
saw it in the Simon & Schuster catalog but now,I'm much more pumped for it.

Movies:Little Sister and I plan to check out Brokeback Mountain soon,just to see
what all the fuss is about. Hopefully,it'll be something truly worth the hype and
not just the Indie Flavor of the Month. Also,is it just me or does that South Park
joke about "gay cowboys eating pudding movie" seem like a prophecy come true?

DVD: Sin City:the Extended Cut really should've been released sooner or with the
bare bones edition at the same time but buyer's remorse doesn't help here. Besides,
the longer version also has a mini graphic Sin City novel(The Hard Goodbye) included
and you can watch the film with an audience reaction track(from the Austin film
festival),so it's worth the trouble.

Well,Happy Whatever Folks. Oh,and if you click the title link,you'll see a cute Christmas short made by a guy named Brendon Connelly. It's called John Vs. Laura
and has a nice Tim & Eric meets Spy vs. Spy vibe to it-enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Christmas Movies that are not so ho ho hum

What makes a Christmas movie? Sure,this may seem obvious but if you're sick of the same
old stuff to watch(I love A Christmas Story but does TBS really need to have it on for
an entire 24 hours?)or can't grab your favorite holiday flick at the video store,here's
a way to get your film jollies and be creative at the same time.

This is my basic criteria for a movie to be considered a Christmas Flick:

1)It has to take place during the Christmas season(you can use Thanksgiving as a
starting point just as Miracle on 34th Street did and have New Year's Eve as the
end piece but Christmas has to be in there somewhere)

2)Christmas props must be visible and in full view at least once onscreen.

3)Christmastime has to hold some plot point-it doesn't have to be the main focus but
it should provide a reason for character action.

I'll give a example-Die Hard(the first movie-DH2 was crap and Die Hard with a Vengence kicks ass but it takes place in the fall,I believe)can be considered
a Christmas film. It takes place during the holiday,the main action occurs
during an office Christmas party with a Christmas tree,John McClaine uses a Santa
hat to mock the bad guys and it provides the main reason the hero,a NYC cop,is at
a California corporate function-to visit his wife and kids for the holidays.

Batman Returns is another fine example-it's Christmastime in Gotham City and the first attack by the Penguin is at the lighting of the Gotham Christmas Tree. Also,
the official tree lighter,the Ice Princess,is murdered and her death is used to make Batman look bad. Not to mention that Catwoman trashes a department store(nice way to
work out your holiday shopping angst)and the constant snow covering the city makes
it extra gothy.

I bet you can find many movies that aren't considered traditional holiday fare fit
this particular mold perfectly. I love the classics(the best version of A Christmas
Carol is the Alstair Sim one,IMO)but sometimes,you gotta spice up the usual mix with
something different. Happy viewing to all and to all,a good film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Golden Globe Goodie Bag

The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning(click blog title for link to
the list)and while I am glad to see certain folks get props,others were sadly overlooked. History of Violence,thankfully,is up for Best Picture and Maria Bello made the Best Actress line-up but why Viggo Mortenson and Ed Harris were denied,I can't figure out.

Also overlooked were Toni Collette for In Her Shoes,Paul Rudd for The 40 Year Old Virgin(he gave Steve Carrell a run for his money in several scenes),Dennis Leary
for Rescue Me,Everyone on this season's Nip/Tuck and of course,Arrested Development.


The GG noms are usually alot better than most award shows due to not only honoring
TV and Film but the division of catagories such as Drama and Comedy/Musical. This
year's list is pretty good but I,for one,would like to know why all the damn Desparate
Housewives had to hog the Best Actress Comedy catagory-plenty of other ladies deserve
a shot there,Tichina Arnold for Everybody Hates Chris or Portia De Rossi for AD spring to mind. And why do films that haven't even been released yet get noms? Sure,we know
Peter Jackson kicks ass filmwise but Sarah Jessica Parker has to prove herself onscreen to justify a nod for The Family Stone(which looks real obnoxious in the trailers).

Anyway,it should be a good show-another cool thing about the GGs is that they serve dinner and alcohol to the guests during the event so the odds on a really interesting
acceptance speech,slightly slurred,run high.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Happy New Year of Reading

As I sit here by the window watching my neighborhood turn into a winter wonderland of
Narnian proportions,I felt the urge to skip the usual year end round-up of books and
instead,look towards the upcoming literary season. Unlike Hollywood,which tends to dump
whatever they have moldering on the back shelves into unsuspecting theaters,the book
world slips out quite a few goodies before the big summer rush.

Most of these titles are going to be hardcovers but there is one paperback tossed in
the mix so let's start with that:

Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden(Random House):This is Boyden's first novel which
takes place in the 1980's and focues on a budding friendship between two girls,Lisa
Smith and Celeste Rose Diamond. Lisa's admiration for Celeste leads both girls down
a rather rough path of drugs,sex and parties. This is clearly not some Gossip Girl
type of novel but maybe some of those GG fans might grab this and get a taste of
grown-up fare. Due in March

Night Watch by Sarah Waters(Penguin):Waters usually writes about Victorian England so
this book is a slight departure for her,taking place in London of the 1940s and
centering around a group of four friends during the Blitz. I've only read Fingersmith
but just the memory of that compelling and artfully worded tale made me eager for her
newest book. Due in March

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse(Penguin):First off,this book was not written by the uberwaif
supermodel but by an English woman who has gathered a good following for this novel
in her home country. It's about two women from different times-Alice,in modern day exploring the Pyrenees mountains and Alais who ,800 years before, was given a stone
ring by her father that would lead to the secret of the Grail. Alice now has the ring
which bears a labyrinth seal and is still an object of mystery. Sounds alittle bit
Da Vinci Code? Maybe,but this seems to be much more interesting(actually,the first
thing that came to my mind was the Lana Lang/Isobel witch subplot from last season's
Smallville)and any author who aspires to have strong female leads(in her words)"Grail legends are usually about men with swords and women being rescued. I thought"I want the women to have the swords."-sounds like someone worth knowing. Due in March

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman(Random House):Emilia wishes to
indulge in her mourning for her newborn daughter but is pulled back into the world
thru her Wednesday visits with her stepson,William. I know,this sounds like depressing Oprah material but this is an author who was actually heckled by an Oprah
audience for writing in an essay how she would mourn the loss of her husband more than her kids,so give this book a chance. I've never read Waldman before but she seems to have a good sense of humor and compassion. Due in February

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar (Random House)Recent Russian emigrant Tanya's ambition is to be
a literary muse for the next Dostoevsky but the fella she hooks up with in New York,
Mark Schneider,fails to live up to her expecations. This is another first novel(Vapnyar had a collection of short stories published earlier)which not only
shows promise but has quite an interesting premise. Due in April

Brookland by Emily Barton(FSG):My dad was a born Brooklynite so I'm already partial to this story about Prudence Winship's plan to build the Brooklyn Bridge with the
inherited wealth of her father's gin distillery and the help of her sisters Tem and
Pearl,along with local surveyor,Benjamin Horsfield. The book takes place in 18th century "Brookland" and reminds me abit of Ahab's Wife(minus the illustrations)
with its period prose and down to earth flavor. Due in March

This is only a small sample of what's to come(and what's in my ARC pile for '06)but
do keep an eye for these budding new blossoms when they spring up on the shelves. Right now,I think it's time for some hot cocoa and the perfect book to snuggle up with in the snow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

F/X presents a Christmas Carver

So,I'm eagerly awaiting the big two-hour season finale of Nip/Tuck,where the true identity of The Carver(who has his/her own MySpace account-click title for link)
will be revealed and the fate of poor Kimber known. Granted,I only got into this
show late last year but I think my Carver theory is as credible as the next fanboy's.

To me,the Carver is Sean MacNamera-earlier this season when bad girl Brit detective
Kit accused Christian Troy(a very evilly gorgeous Julian McMahon and one of the reasons
I'm getting the Fanastic Four on DVD)of being the Carver due to his being a "sexual deviant",I kept saying to myself"For someone who's supposed to be a mindhunter,you are
as clueless as a vegan in a Outback Steakhouse." The attacks of the Carver are more the
work of a repressed person filled with major league self-loathing. Guys like Christian
who act out on their twisted needs(as we've seen recently with the S&M bond Christian
developed with one of his less than pretty patients to get over Kimber's disappearance
at their wedding)are the least likely to slip on masks and slice n' dice.

Sean,however,is your typical bottled up emotions person who, when he does unleash the fury,lets the hammer come down hard. Psychologically,it makes more sense to me. Probaly wrong but I bet that the Carver is someone's Norman Bates which will make the
reveal extra twisty. F/X shows are facinating due to the boundaries they fearlessly
vault over. When I first saw Rescue Me,the rapid fire cursing was startling-"They can say that?!" Have no probelm with cussin' but didn't know then that,due to being a cable channel,F/X has alot more freedom with content than the major networks. I got use to expecting less from channels that had commerical breaks(Bravo,for example,got
watered down when they started showing ads)but F/X has exceeded my WTF factor quite
a bit this year.

One of my friends is getting Season 1 of Nip/Tuck for me so I'll be able to get some
more background before Season 4 starts. I do hope that Kimber survives(if The Carver
has to take anybody out,let it be Quentin-I can't stand that smarmy SOB)and that we
get even more messed up mindfreaks from F/X in '06. Any network that lets me start my
day off with a Buffy repeat is perfectly alright in my book. As for the Carver;Tell
me what you don't like about yourself.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Aeon Flux:Liquid TV comes alive

So,I ventured forth alone to the multiplex(Little Sister teamed up with Mom to commense
the household holiday shopping)to check out Aeon Flux,starring Charlize Theron as the
rebel assassin in a futuristic facist society sent to wipe out Trevor Goodchild(Marton Csokas),the chairman in charge who may also be Aeon's true love. Frances McDormand also
appears as the rebel leader(seen mostly in telepathic communications) and Pete Postlewaite has a small role as a holographic guide.

Aeon Flux:The Movie is based on Aeon Flux:the Cartoon that was part of what MTV used to
call Liquid TV. Liquid Tv showcased several not-for-kids animation shows,such as The Maxx(now that would be one hell of a movie with the right director at the helm)and The
Head-sort of an early version of Adult Swim. Aeon Flux gained alot of it's cult status
from MTV(who have conviently packaged the Flux cartoons into a DVD set just in time for
the film's release)so it's no shocker that they produced the movie. As with many films
of this ilk(based on an earlier version that the fans adore),comparisons are flying fast and furious,reviewwise. It didn't help that the studio decided not to give the
critics a pre-screening-that always brings the vultures out.

My opinion:it was pretty well done. The main probelm in turning AF into a feature length film is setting up a structured plot. The majority of AF cartoons were very
nonlinear and most had little to no dialogue. That was some of the beauty of the Fluxverse:at the best of times,it was a ballet of sinewy bodies and sleek action.
However,the cartoons were not very long so that worked out fine- but for ninety minutes,
an audience needs to know what's up and to bond somewhat with the characters. Aeon
Flux;The Movie manages to do that but the tone is almost haiku like-you get what's
happening but there is a detached aura surrounding it.

Theron does a good job here with what she's given to work with and the rest of the actors follow suit.I wasn't disappointed in the movie(this certainly isn't a Catwoman
situation)but it's not a must buy for me when the DVD release hits the show. Worth a
rental but if you really love Aeon,your best bet will be the animated version that's
more lively than the live action one.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shop 'til you drop or How I stopped hating holiday shopping and learned to love the commericalism

Well,it's that time of year when folks decided to celebrate the season of winter's arrival by divebombing into the stores and fighting to the death over the latest hot
ticket item of the month. To make things easier and to help you avoid the embarrassment
of giving someone a rather odd present(do you think Tom Cruise put a big bow on the
sonogram machine before he gave it to Katie?),I've put together a list of recommended
goodies for gift giving this year:

BOOKS

Had to start with that-okay,paperbacks first,

Popco by Scarlett Thomas:I've mentioned this book before but I really think this
would be perfect for many people. You can give it to Sudoku fans(plenty of number
codes in this story),corporate slacker types,Brit Lit readers and just anyone who
wants to know a smart and quirky heroine with a mysterious locket that may lead to
a buried treasure.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs:I blurbed this one for Booksense(and nearly wrote to
the NYT after Joe Queenan's snarky review). It's a fun factoid read about Jacobs' reading the entire Encyclopdia Britannica for a year and his adventures with that-getting to meet Alex Treback,for one(which disqualified him to be a Jeopardy contestant-Jacobs had to settle for Who wants to be a Millionaire). A good gift
for any serious and not-so serious reader.

Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman: This is the little book that could. When it first came out in hardcover,everyone at my store had already read it and loved it. The plot
is basically about a small town that decides to recreate a historical presentation of
a mammoth cheese to Thomas Jefferson to the newly elected President as not only a way
of reminding him about his pledge to help small farms(the local chesse maker is a main force behind the cheese stunt)but to revive the community spirits after a local
family event goes askew. Mammoth Cheese is a strong and sympathic look at people and
politics without major stump thumping. Before you give it to someone,read it for your
self and savor the flavor.

Lily of the Valley by Suzanne Strempek Shea:This is my personal favorite of Suzanne's novels,mainly I think due to the fact that my father was an artist. It's the story of Lily Wilk,struggling painter whose fortunes may change when she gets a commission from local supermarket heiress,Mary Ziemba. A sweet novel that doesn't drip with sentiment,this book should satisfy anyone looking for a great book to recommend for
their next book club meeting.

Hardcover:

Adored by Tilly Bagshawe: I know this book didn't sell very well over the summer but
that doesn't mean it can't be the perfect holiday gift for that gal who's read every
other bigtime splashy-trashy book around! Some presents should just be fun and Adored
fits the bill.

Rereadings by Anne Fadiman:Fadiman put together this collection of essays from American Scholar magazine about going back to a book that influenced you in your
youth and how it plays to you now. The rereadings are a mixed bunch,from Pride &
Prejudice to the Sgt. Pepper Album. Will definately inspire you to check out some
of the books mentioned.

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carrolly Erickson: Erickson has written a
number of historical books but this one is a novel based on the famous queen that
gives her some heart and soul. Should please the historical fiction fan and those
who love a good soap opera with smarts.

DVDS:

King Kong-if you know someone who plans to check out the new Peter Jackson version,make sure they have this two-disc set that is a true classic. There is also
a three pack of King King,Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young for the converted(while
I enjoyed PJ's re-enactment of the lost Spider Pit scene,I'm not interested in seeing
his feature length Kong. Why fix what's not broken?).

Greatest American Hero,volume 3:This set not only has the episode where Ralph gets to
meet his alien benefactors(very hokey F/X),when you press the cover of the box the show's theme song plays! How cool is that?

Veronica Mars,season 1:Not alot of extras but a great way to catch up with one of the
best shows since Buffy on the air now. Plus,Weevil rules(sorry Logan fans but I think
he's a total jerk)!

Batman and Batman Returns special editions:Worth getting and giving due to the excellant bonues-the Batman disc alone not only has nice featurettes on the making
and marketing of the film but three Prince videos as well! Yep,Batdance is one of
them:)

Other Stuff:

Barbie may be overdone to death but I for one,am happy to know that both Harley Quinn Barbie and Poison Ivy Barbie will be under my tree this year. If you click the link in the post title,you'll see what I plan to send to one of my good friends this year.
There's alot of King Kong stuff out now but I predict that the Chronicles of Narnia
toys will find happy homes.

Also,Corpse Bride toys are finally available-I personally recommend getting one of
throws. The one I have is incredibly soft and goes well with my Sally from Nightmare before Christmas one. Don't be ashamed to let your geek flag fly,people. Now,as Wilma
and Betty used to say at the mall"DunaDumDum-Charge IT!"

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Harry Potter gulps down the Goblet of Goth

So,last week Little Sister and I ventured forth to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where we sat thru a good number of trailers(not the Superman Returns trailer but I saw that one during the last Smallville so I'm good to go)and listened to the annoying girls in the back of us complain about the movie starting late-"I've had a rough day,I'm at the end of my string!"(it was about twelve noon so you can see why I have
my doubts about her"hard day").

The main turns of the story involve not only Harry's interest in girls but the return
of Lord Voldemort(well played by a nearly unrecognizable Ralph Finnes)in a very dark
sequence that felt just right. The movie is well done with key plot points hitting
on cue and the F/X was great as always. I did feel a bit less entralled than I have
with the films but that maybe due to the choice of director this time out.


Mike Newell's a good director but his strengths are more character based than visual
which shows in many of the one on one dialogue scenes and in the humor. I loved the
study hall bit where Snape prefects his head slapping routine(plus,the Weaselly Twins
are incredibly hilarious-who ever cast those two was bloody brillant)and the Ron-Hermione fight during the Yule Ball had a nice ring of Degrassi to it. But,even
tho,the TriWizard tasks were great and the Voldemort scenes chilling,I felt the
visuals needed more oopmh.

I do recommend the movie but I should probaly watch it again-part of my reluctance is
most likely due to building it up in my own mind. Plus,maybe I'll get to see that Superman Returns trailer onscreen(not that I need an excuse...)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

On the Shelf with Suzanne Strempek Shea

Suzanne Strempek Shea is one of those authors you discover while browsing thru your local library or well stocked bookstore on a quiet day that add some much needed liveliness. Her books are heart-felt ,humorous and bursting with life. She is a novelist and fortunately,many of her titles are widely available such as Hoopi Shoopi Donna,Lily of the Valley(my personal favorite)and,most recently,Finding Finola.

She also has two nonfiction books-one,Songs From a Lead Lined Room,deals with her bout with cancer and the other,Shelf Life,chronicles her first year of working at her local independant bookstore,Edward's Books in Springfield,Mass. Suzanne is a truly sweet person and was kind enough to let me interview her.

I gave her seven questions(number not based on the seven deadly sins,more like the seven dwarves)and here are the results of my inquiry:

1)As a writer,how has working in a bookstore changed
and/or reinforced your opinions reading books and readers?

People read. Books are important to people. Good writing is prized
like diamonds. I see that reinforced daily now that I'm behind the
counter. I always read, books always mattered, I always appreciated fine
writing, but spending the day in a bookstore shows me I'm not in the minority we
might guess is the case in our time-crunched TV-centered culture.


2)Do you think any of your bookselling experiences will wind up in one of your novels?

Oh I'm sure some will at some point. Working with the public is an
endless source of material and as writing can be a very solitary act, it's
great to have that venue in which to poke my head into the world.


3)What's your take on independent vs. chain book stores?

Chains carry my books nationally and internationally and I will be
eternally grateful for that. But I find that most of the independents are
staffed with people who really know what they're selling, go out of their way to
find what you're seeking, handsell titles you might not otherwise come
across.

Yes, you can find very knowledgeable staffers at chain stores, but
certainly not as often as you will in an independent. Would it be too grand to
say that most of those who work in independents do so more as a calling
and that many of those who work at the chains are there to have a job?


4)As mentioned in Shelf Life,your mother drove the local bookmobile when you were a kid-given the chance now,would you like to do the same?

I'm not good with big pieces of machinery, but I'd love to drive some
sort of thing that brought books to readers. There were lines of kids and
adults waiting in those days. That image is in my mind, from both being
inside the bookmobile, and waiting in that line.


5)If you went into a bookstore and found your novels shelved in the Chick Lit section,would that bother you or not?

If I go into a bookstore and my books are anywhere, I'm delighted.
It's still such a thrill to have had my stories published that it never
gets old to find my books in a store or library. Chick Lit sells big. Good for
those authors! I don'tthink my books fall into that category, as they might not fit into mystery or historical fiction, but if somebody puts them there, maybe some of
the good fortune of the neighboring books will rub off on mine!


6)What do you like best about bookselling?

I'd probably say the excitement of the boxes that arrive each day -
what's new, what are people waiting for, what can we put out there that
they'll love. There are so many wonderful books out there, whatever we can do
to spread the word, it's just an honor. Another answer would be that Flo, the owner's mother, keeps a drawer full of chocolate, so that's cool, too.

7)Did you watch the Quills Awards and what is your opinion about book awards in general?

I didn't catch the Quills Awards, but I think it's fabulous that such
wide exposure has been given to the arts. We get more than enough about
film stars and sports stars, shining some light on literary accomplishments is an overdue trend.

Hopefully,Suzanne will be the first of many interviews presented here at Living Read Girl and I thank her most sweetly for her time. Her website is linked above
so if you want to know more her and Edward's Books,please check it out!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

And the Truly Bad Writing Award goes to.....

I must share the pain here,folks-someone not only let Nicole Richie write a book but decided to
publish it for all and sundry. More than one website has gleefully linked to the except available
at the Harpercollins website(and so have I,for your viewing displeasure). I did actually see The
Truth About Diamonds in a bookstore(not mine but some fan of the Simpleton Life will no doubt
ask about/order it)but since I stayed a good safe distance from it,I didn't realize it was alleged
to be a novel.

Like I've said before,reading for fun is a valid choice but in cases like this,the only fun you could have
from this stillborn story is the joy of recommending it to your best enemy-"Yeah,it's pretty good.
I think Oprah might have her on this week"*evil snicker* I had a cousin who worked in the PR
dept at HC but left due to disgust(he said)at the stuff the publisher was putting out. Harpercollins
isn't the only one out there filling the shelves with celebrity crap but this is NOT their Best Week Ever.


Not all celeb books are bad-Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow can write very well(too many
celeb authors steer towards children's picture books,especially comedians who recycle old
stand-up routines )and Bruce Campbell's novel"Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way" has gotten some good feedback. However,it's the Madonnas (what fool thought giving her a seven book deal was a great idea?)that get the big deals and the co-op do-re-mi that hog the ad space
and shelf life of books that deserve a better break. Next thing you know,Pamela Anderson will
be working in a bookstore on TV and ......oh,wait-as Emily Litella used to say"Nevermind"!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Giving Charlotte Simmons the old college try

I've been in a reading rut lately(starting and then stopping with some books,leaving off for abit
with others)so as a jumpstart,I decided to tackle My Name Is Charlotte Simmons,Tom Wolfe's
latest and much reviled novel. It's in paperback but I bought a hardcover copy at a local rummage
sale for $2(John Irving's new book,Until I Find You,was right next to it but I already had it-sweet
irony! I'm more of an Irving fan which is why I splurged on the HC). It's in good shape,too. Most
likely,someone bought it and never got around to reading the book-done that that myself. I buy
books the way other women buy shoes.

The only other Wolfe book I've read was Bonfire of the Vanities(that movie was a totally watered
down mess of cinematic crap). Bonfire was good but otherwise I'm not really into his work. Wolfe
can tell a story and carry many plot threads along with ease but there is a aloofness that creeps
into his writing(also,his insistence on wearing white suits doesn't lighten him up at all-Little Sister
took one look at the back cover photo of him and said he looked like a "Southern Fried pimp").

The reviews of MNICS were pretty harsh,making it the Gigli of literary novels for awhile. Even
Stephen King wasn't crazy about it(he wrote about it in his EW column and was more fairminded than some of the critics,in my opinion)and alot of times,King's turned me on to some
really good books like A Simple Plan. Anyway,I figured "This can't be any worse than Anne Rice
writing about how Jesus likes Joseph to tell Moses stories to all the kids"so I started with page
one.

So far,the book is OK-Charlotte does seem quite the ubernaive gal but there are remote areas of this country where Sex In The City is not available and folks can't always afford to own the newest electronic gadgets so I'm willing to suspend some disbelief here,for now. I did read the
section where Charlotte is shocked at the price of Cosmopolitan(and more freaked out by the
articles-hell,even I find those "How to Please Your Man" things putrid) and while it is silly for
a young woman to think a magazine subscription would be only four bucks,I do believe that
magazines like Cosmo would be hard to find in many small towns. I give Charlotte an even
break but I'm only about a hundred and fifty pages in at the moment. Malarkey may yet
still loom ahead.

Wolfe isn't really saying anything new here but maybe that's not his intention. I know he's had
a feud with John Irving and a couple of other writers about how the novel isn't challenging any
more(this argument pops up as frequently as the "Rock is dead" debate,which ends as soon as
the latest sensation hits the scene)but like I said about the gals with the "chick lit" quarrel,stop
the infighting,people. Don't playerhate,playerparticipate! As for Charlotte Simmons,I'll keep
up with her wacky college adventures for now and then dive into Until I Find You. Stay tuned
for the final word on Charlotte-there will be a test.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jarhead :Frustration 101

Jarhead hit the big screen yesterday and my usual partner in crime,Little Sister,joined me at a rather well attended early showing(the trailers were so dull I actually couldn't remember them
afterwards,except for King King which had the guy behind us saying"You believe they're remaking
this shit?"). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Anthony Swofford(on whose memoir the film is based),a
newly inducted Marine who starts out well by telling his first drill sarge that he "got lost on the
way to college" as his reason for joining up(he gets his head smashed into a blackboard for that answer).

The Gulf War is brewing as Swofford is training to be a sniper in the company of Staff Sarge Sykes
(played right on key by Jamie Foxx) and he is as eager to get some action as the rest of his fellow
soldiers who get a buzz from watching the infamous helicopter bombings in Apocalypse Now and
exchange sexual boasts and warnings about unfaithful women. Once they get to the desert,the
soldiers(first in Operation Desert Shield)are told to play the waiting game as the politicians are
still setting things up but are encouraged to be in a state of "suspious alert". The boredom sets
in and the men find little ways to blow off steam that occasionally lead to nasty consequences
such as a Christmas party in which a a fellow soldier covering Swofford's watch causes several
arms to blow up that Swofford winds up paying the price for.

Sam Mendes uses very little of his dream sequence techique here(there is one memorable
dream where Swofford pukes up sand in a bathroom sink)and saves the best visuals for many
of the desert scenes when Operation Desert Storm commences-the oil well fires,the finding of
charred cars and bomb victims,the oil spill rain that coats the men as they march across the
terrain hold a beautiful surrealistic quality that doesn't overshadow the actors-rather, it adds
to their performances.

Gyllenhaal gives a great performance(his best scene is when Swofford openly threatens to pull
a friendly fire on the guy who caused him to be demoted-totally chilling)but this is truly a good
ensemble cast,particularly Peter Sarsgaard as Swofford's buddy Troy who sums up one of the
main themes of the film,frustration in a tense scene near the end. Frustration is key to this movie-even when the action starts,the ground troops are rendered inefficent by the airstrikes
which many of us remember most about the Gulf War. It's like they're caught in Carly Simon's
"Anticipation" chorus-"they keep making me wa-ii-ttt!".

Judging by the audience I was with,Jarhead should do well,boxoffice wise. However,if you're
looking for a shoot'em,this is not the movie for you. Jarhead is an excellant mediatation on
the anticlimax and gives a regular guy's view on what it was like over there in that moment.
I see many of the reviews of this movie preferring Three Kings,which I suspect is due to
Three Kings' being more criticial of the government than Jarhead is. While I enjoyed Three
Kings,the main difference between that movie and this one is that Jarhead is based from the
point of view from someone who was actually on the ground in Iraqi at that time,dodging
bombs to get a dead replacement battery for a radio that went dead. At one point,a fellow
Marine brings up the reasons why the US is getting involved with Iraq and Troy replies
"Fuck politics-we're here now." That is reality,folks-reality trumps politics every time.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Anne Rice-a-roni

Well,the new Anne Rice book,Christ the Lord,is out and about-will it give Anne the literary respect she craves or be the book equalivent of Passion of the Christ(Anne was written up in EW and calls Mel Gibson "a genius but he's not a biblical scholar"....ok,a genius at making a snuff film a boxoffice bonanza,that I'll buy). I have read parts of this book with Little Sister-we read aloud to each other at
certain points-and I have to tell you,I'm not impressed.


Ok,some background-I was a fan of Anne's Tales of the Vampires series(up to a point) and the last good book I read by her was The Witching Hour,sort of a Gothic Gone With The Wind. When I first started working at the bookstore,one of the staff members was into Anne Rice and we shared a ARC of Violin(which was rare to have-Advance Copies of her work were as scare as hen's teeth for a time)and we both agreed it was horrible. Convoluted plot twists with heavy doses of her autobiographical angst glopped in.

Anne's been getting a rep for the wacky for some time now,her last big whoop was her war with Amazon reader reviews(which I didn't read but her response was quite over the top and then some.). The thing that bothers me about her the most is how she seems to use her personal woes as grist for the publicity mill. I do feel bad for her past and present troubles but she has constantly recycled her own emo themes and truly believes her own hype-she has Oprah Syndrome,in other words.

Anyway,my impression of the book is similar to the one I hold of Spielberg's Schindler's List: the "Please Take Me Seriously" project. Both,in technical terms,are done very well and were well researched(owning 200 bibles helps,I guess,for Anne)but to me,I can hear a voice saying"I'm not just an entertainer-I'm An Artist! Look at how Artistic I am!" Don't get me wrong,I'm all for folks trying new things but sincerity is hard to fake.

Christ the Lord:Out of Egypt is about a year in the life of Jesus,when he was seven years old and his family decided it was safe to move back home,now that Herod had other things to do besides hunt the Messiah down. Yes,chapter one does have Jesus accidentally knock off a bully and then bring him back to life.

The bully then starts beating up on him again while shouting"Son of David!" over and over again-that part,I don't buy. I can see some one getting killed and being pissed off when the guy responsible resurrects him but calling him"Son of David"? Granted,these are biblical times but surely there are better insults than that-"Son of a Jackal" for one.

The whole book seems to be about the journey home-Anne really did her homework and keeps finding not-so-subtle ways to show it off-"here is where the women make the cloth" kind of stuff. Also,there's a section where Young Jesus is lying in the grass and getting very connected by watching the ants and I'm going"What is this,Thoreau 101?" Heck,I've read Thoreau and he struck me as pretty off the beam,too.

Like I said,I've only read some,not the whole book. So,while I'm not ready to rejoin the AR bandwagon,the best I can say is if you're curious about the book but not sure about spending $25.95,check it out of the library or borrow it from a friend. That way,when Anne comes out with the next book in the series(yep,it's gonna be another series),you'll know then whether you want to give the lady your do-re-mi.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Saw II:A Cut Above The Rest

I went to the first showing of Saw II with Little Sister and it was quite a wild ride. S2 opens up
subtly with another death mask trap that does not end well for the poor joker but sets the gross
out factor for the story nicely.

The basic plot here is that Detective Matthews(Donnie"Sixth Sense"Wahlberg) becomes the focus
of serial killer Jigsaw as his candidate for Juvenile Hall son is selected for the latest House of Horrors along with previous survivor Amanda(a kickass Shawnee Smith)and several other folks
who are more closely connected than they know or care once it's revealed that if they don't work
together,the nerve gas pumped into the building will soon kill them.

We do get some backstory on Jigsaw and fortunately,it doesn't hog screentime and actually plays
a part in the finale. Little Sister compared Jigsaw to a Batman villian and she's right,in the psycho
-logical sense. JS is not hidden in the shadows here,he's a wheelchair bound cancer patient who
nonetheless menaces you,despite his weakened state. He insists on holding an audience with Matthews and just the asking for a drink of water makes you root abit more for the bad guy.

You don't have to had seen the earlier Saw(which is a great twisted film)to enjoy this film but
be warned-totally not for the faint of heart at all. If this becomes a franchise,hopefully the next
film will have the same level of clever plotting and gruesome tableaux. If not,perhaps it may
usher in a new batch of old school horror films that will do more than visually gross out and
send up more murderous mind games..a sinister Sudoku,if you will.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Horrorween!

Ok,one of the best holidays of the year is fast upon us and I felt it was a good excuse to write about
some of my favorite scare flicks to recommend for your viewing pleasure. The only film out in theaters that looks any good is Saw II(A History of Violence is chilling as well but not really in the
horror genre)which I'll be reviewing here but meanwhile,here are some treats for your goodie
basket:

Old School:

You can never go wrong with The Bride Of Frankenstein-Boris Karloff,the all-time king of horror in my book,has some of his best screen moments here. My favorite is his meeting with Dr. Pretorious in the crypt,casually making a deal to get Frankie a date. Ernest Thesiger is one
of those great weird actors who folks like James Whale always managed to grab hold off for
the right roles at the right time,along with Una O'Connor,a perfect sidekicking dame.

Another good Karloff movie is The Mummy,in which Boris does more than shamble about in
make-up. He truly emotes as Im Ho Tep,who seeks to reunite with the reincarnation of his
lost love. A major influence on the Brendan Frasiser versions(particularly The Mummy Returns-check out the timewarp pool of water scenes) which the director freely acknowledges
in the DVD extras.

Vampires A Go Go:

Yep,gotta mention some bloodsucking box office babes(which I will get plenty of in tonight's Smallville,with Kryptonite sorority vampire girls lead by a gal named Buffy Sanders-no joke).
Instead of picking a classic,I'll go with a teen vamp double feature-Fright Night and Lost Boys.

Fright Night has Chris Sarandon as the Vamp Next Door who has to deal with Noisy Neighbor
Charlie(William Ragsdale) when Charlie is more interested in his nocturnal habits than sexing up his girlfriend Amy(a pre-Married With Children Amanda Bearse). One of the highlights of
the film is Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent,a faded Hammer movie style actor reduced to
hosting the local late night creature feature on TV. Peter Vincent is recruited by Charlie to
aid him in his vampire hunt,along with Charlie's goofy buddy Evil Ed(Stephen Geoffreys).

The humor mixed into the horror really works well here,without diluting the effects of either.
Sarandon's vampire(named Jerry Dandridge,of all things)is very charming and menancing and
one of his coolest scenes involves seducing Amy on the dance floor of a club with a great mirror
wall take. I enjoy Evil Ed quite abit-Geoffreys gleefully chews the scenery,particularly in his
bits with McDowall ,and it's a shame that for the sequel(which is not worth spit),they didn't
revive his character as it was hinted at the end of the film.

Lost Boys-just look at the cover,folks. If you don't see the prototypes for Angel,Spike & Drusilla,what can I tell you? Also,any horror flick that gets referenced in a Tarantino film
is worth watching(bonus points if you know what movie and who says it).

Modern Day Menaces:

Underworld is one movie you should definately see before the follow-up,Underworld Evolution
comes out. There are a couple of edtions available on DVD but even if you just get the theaticial
cut,this film will draw you in to it's familar -yet-original take on both the vampire and werewolf
legends with the haunting prescene of Kate Beckinsale as the vampire warrior Selene.

High Tension throws back to the 70's gritty gore stylings with it's strong heroine and brutal
suspense scenes. The DVD offers both the Amercian dubbed version and the French subtitled
uncut one, with an interview with the director who has quite an interesting take on the story.

Also,you can just click on AMC's Monsterfest and enjoy the show. AMC has more modern flicks
than old b&ws(which is a shame)but the selection can be pretty sweet. Whatever you watch,
may your movies be scary and all your Halloweens be a fright:)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Quill Awards cause quivers in the book world

Well,Matea Gold's write-up on the Quills is now online(conviently linked for your perusal)and it's
a pretty good article on the whole shebang. The ceremony will be on tonight at 7:oo,in the NY area
and should be on elsewhere-check your local listings,folks!

I got one qoute in and yes,the blog is mentioned(Thank You,Ms. Gold)by name. Hopefully,I get
some more readers and the Quills will garner enough interest to continue. The key to that(for
The Quills)is marketing. Publishers Weekly had alot of ads and articles about it but in someways,
that's preaching to the converted. In my opinion,a good write-up in Entertainment Weekly would
have increased the number of people voting after the nominees were announced. I set up a Quills
display in my store(as did many chain and indies)with promotional flyers but more of a push will
be necessary to keep the momentum up.

Since many genres are highlighted,advertising should also be placed in the speciality magazines and websites. The Quills are off to a good start but it's never too early to plan for next year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Paranormal Romance:Trick or Treat?

Little Sister has a new way of mocking me(the province of younger siblings)by reading aloud
passages from my paperback copy of Incubus Dreams by Laurell K Hamilton. Granted,certain
lines sound goofy when spoken such as "His sorrow spilled into us like evil chocolate over my
ice cream"(not exactly word for word but I'm afraid "evil chocolate" is straight from the page)
but there's a reason some pleasures are guilty,people!

I will confess my devotion to the Anita Blake series(and the Merry Gentry books,which are
LKH's version of Angel to her Buffy)-many fans are now turned off from the increasing sexual
content of the Blake books and frankly,the cover art doesn't help much to lessen the red hot
doings of the characters. LKH has had more than one publisher so her earlier titles didn't have
the Showtime AfterHours look they do nowadays. Alot of them looked downright cartoony so
the sexed up covers are actually an improvement.

At this point,some of you are going"What the hell is paranormal romance and how kinky is it?"
It's simple,really-Girl meets Boy Vampire/Werewolf/Demon and relationship probelms bloom
with the added bonus of fighting a mutual enemy and sometimes saving the world. Also, you
can have Girl Vampire/Psychic/Witch meet Boy or a combo of both. It's become a new niche
in the Chick Lit market.

PR focues alot on vampires(for which you can blame Anne Rice)but you can also have fairies,
elves,mulitple varieties of werepeople(but no were-giraffes,despite Little Sister's insistence
and cartoon drawings),demons,time travelers and leprechauns. Ok,kidding about leprechauns
but you never know who's trying to publish whatever mythological love triangle story that's
not been done yet.

PR can get very creative with the subjects: some stand outs include Carpe Demon by Julie
Kenner(Soccer Mom comes out of Demon Slayer retirement to save suburbania) andGoddess for Hire by Sonia Singh(Young Indian gal in L.A. becomes the latest incarnation of the Hindi
goddess,Kali). Other writers worth checking are:

MaryJanice Davidson:I've only read her Undead series,which features Elizabeth"Betsy" Taylor
as a reluctant Queen of the Vampires who copes with her newly given status by indulging her
passion for shoe shopping. Think Clueless meets UnderWorld and you get the idea. Very fast
and funny reads.

Charlaine Harris: Best known for the Southern Vampire series or,as I refer to them,the Sookie
Stackhouse books. Sookie is a telepath who is socially isolated by her powers but finds true love
with local vampire Bill(even she finds that name damn funny for a vamp)and gets entangled
with vampire politics and other supernatural doings. Nice lite reading with a good sense of
humor.

Kim Harrison:Kim's very new to the game(her website is linked above)-she has only three books in her Rachel Morgan series. Rachel's a newly freelance bounty hunter witch working
with a vampire partner and a fairy consultant. She's also been tricked into alliances with a
demon and meet her current boyfriend when they were both turned into animals that were
thrown into a fighting ring. Not as sexed up as the Anita books but just as compelling.

One of the selling points of these books are the strong female leads-some of these ladies may
be a little airheaded at times but all of them are fighters when push comes to shove. The mytho-
loigies are fairly loose at times but the good books keep grounded with whatever set of rules
are laid down early on. Most of the settings are in the real world with the premise that other worldly beings are among us and have legal rights/status.

So, for a more grown-up Halloween treat,pick up one of these books for a great night on the
town. Much cheaper than dinner and a movie and you won't have to worry about calling the
next day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hot off the presses!

This just in-I was interviewed today by L.A. Times reporter Maeta Gold in regards to the Quills Awards(guess I was Googled!)and I should be qouted in an article due this weekend. We spoke via cellphone and hopefully,I said something real qoute worthy. I plan to link the article as soon as it becomes available online.

For anyone who cares,my real life name is going to be used but not the name of my store(gotta
hold off the papparazzi somehow)and fingers crossed,my humble blog may be mentioned. Most
of what I said to her is in my book awards post but I did drop a Desparate Housewives reference
off the top of my head so we'll see what will survive the editing process.

Back to your regularly schelduled blog,already in progress.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Worth a walk In Her Shoes

So,I finally got to see In Her Shoes yesterday(went alone because Little Sister would rather skip thru a bed of red hot coals in a pair of jellies than sit thru a "chick flick",besides we both saw Serenity last week so our movie qouta is filled for a bit),braving the rain and picking up the Veronica Mars season 1 DVD set(no surprise there).



The plot is not much changed from the book:older ,responsible sister Rose(beautifully played by Toni Collette) clashes with younger, sexy but insecure sis Maggie(Cameron Diaz,displaying more than one talent) which leads to reuniting with long banished grandmother Ella(Shirley Maclaine,who can do these kinds of roles in her sleep at this point). In the book,Maggie had a brief interlude at Princeton but in the interest of limited movie time,that was ditched but her educational reawakening was well woven into the film.

Fans of the book will be happyto see that the two poems important to the story are kept in("One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop and e.e.cummings' "i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)")and provide some of the most emotionally impacting scenes in the film.


Thank the gods that Curtis Hansen and Susannah Grant were the director and writer for IHS.In other hands,all the tired female friendly film cliches would've been overflowing:the fake get happy spontaneous moment(usually involving bad lip synching..paging Ashlee Simpson!),the overdone flashbacks with diabetes inducing soundtrack,the makeover montage complete with girl power approved background music...none of that here,folks.

The flashbacks are restricted along with On screen Narration. The actors are allowed to tell the story in a more natural way without being given a cinematic safety net. One sequence in particular springs to mind,when Rose is determined to click the light off before getting intimate with her current love interest and he is as determined to keep it on. No goofy lines and/or comic music cues,the actors say everything they need to with their faces. Very grown-up here.

So many of these "chick lit" tales are bashed for feeding women unfeminista fantasies but if you look past the pink covers or the Hollywood casting(*cough*get over yourself,Lisa Schwarzbaum*cough*),you'll find some really good stories about things that do matter,like making peace with your past,finding the right person to love you for the right reasons and how to get along with your sister even if she keeps borrowing your stuff and wrecking it. In Her Shoes is not just a great chick flick,it's a wonderful family film to share with your nearest anddearest. I wouldn't force Little Sister to see it but there's always DVD for a second chance:)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

And the winner is....

Autumn is not only a great time to admire the changing leaves,it's also book award season. The Man Booker Prize(personally,I prefer the old name of just Booker but,hey,gotta please those
sponsors!)was given to The Sea by John Banville,the National Book Award nominees were
announced yesterday(with E.L. Doctorow and Joan Didion taking the lead in the Fiction/Nonfiction
catagories)and this morning,the Nobel lit prize went to playwright Harold Pinter. Whew,Jane
stop this crazy thing!

Also,the winners of the Quills were announced at a ceremony that will be broadcast on NBC(Sat,
Oct 22). What are the Quills? It's a new book award that will hopefully become the Golden Globes
of the book world. Basically,there are many more catagories than your average book award group
gives,such as Romance,Sports,History,etc. The children's lit is divided by age range(toddler to
teen) and certain genres that most literacy groups overlook get attention(graphic novels,humor,
audio books)and some respect.

The nominees were chosen by librarians and booksellers across the country(yours truly being one of them)and people were given the chance to vote online for the winners. It's very People's
Choice Awards in that respect but frankly,I was pleased as punch to be a small part of this. For
too long,most major book awards have been very inhouse and non connecting to the average
reader. Particularly,the National Book awards which usually have novels nominated that most
avid readers have never heard of and alot of times,the commitee that nominates pick their friends or like minded authors so you can look at the list and go"Who the hell is that? I never
heard of that book."

Just look at the novel list this year-Doctorow is the only one on the list anyone on the street might know and he's pretty much a shoo-in. I have heard of Trance by Christopher Sorrentino
(Publishers Weekly did an article on his book tour-didn't see any reviews)and Veronica by
Mary Gaitskill but otherwise,I'm not impressed. Don't get me wrong-not saying that only
bestsellers should be honored but I feel that there needs to be a healthy mix of popular and
arthouse titles to be recognised for their achievements.

The Quills are just beginning and I'm sure many will be quick to jump on the negativity bandwagon with comments like"They only pick bestsellers and celebs like Jon Stewart and
J.K. Rowling." "What kind of a name is Quills?" "What junky catagories-Romance? Cooking?"
My comeback is simple-"You can stay in the ivory tower all you want but some of us would
like to do what E.M. Forster strove for-only connect." I look forward to the day where the
Quills will be as highly anticpated as the Oscars are. For now,I'll just settle for being there
at the beginning. If you want to check out the Quills winners,just click the title link.

Meanwhile,I will enjoy this very rainy day with some good books(just started The Great Stink by Clare Clark and boy,is it twisted!) and some just for fun(rereading Incubus Dreams by
Laurell K. Hamilton,for the Halloween spirit). Now,where's my bookmark?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Give me liberty or give me a library!

I've been checking out Miss Snark's blog from time to time(pretty damn funny at times,plus I sympathize with her George Clooney love-with me,just exchange Matt Damon or James Marsters for GC but I digress)and one of the posts fired up my pistons. One of Miss Snark's regular readers(she has dubbed them Snarklings) actually got on her case for recommending that people
go to the library to check out books she likes!

Miss Snark handily took this genius down a few pegs(check title link to read the post)but I was amazed at what a snob this person was for proclaiming that to truly support an "artist",you need to shell out the bucks. Does this person think libraries get their books for free? Also,many people
can't afford to buy the latest hardcover releases(not even humble bookstore workers like myself who have plenty of ARCs in their own personal library)or no access to a bookstore at all in their area.

When I was a kid,my father would take my brother and me to the library every Saturday. IT was a beautiful building with long winding stairs,wooden banisters and a separate floor just for the children's books. The Young Adult section was a small room downstairs,where music albums were available as well. Unfortunately,the city tore it down several years ago,due to opening up a more modern branch and the budget crunch did my former library in. I still miss it-it was a castle of dreams that held not just mine but other's fond memories as well.

We moved(did abit of that)to another section of town and there was a library next door to the local planeterium. There was also a historical house within the same area that you could take a tour in for free(weird to see roped-off rooms that you could gawk at but not take a seat). I pratically lived there-nearly got locked in one afternoon. I didn't realize it was late until they started turning the lights off!

Sad to say,I've not been in a library for years but I still wholeheartedly support them. Many are underfunded and not as well stocked as they should be but that's no excuse for not using them,
mainly for educational services. I see so many parents and kids looking for school report materials that we simply don't have being a small store and we always tell them"You should
go to the library". I blame the parents because alot of them have most of the excuses"I don't want to have to return the stuff...My kid has only this much amount of time to get this done...the library doesn't have good enough books" etc. Children learn by example and one
of the best things my dad taught me was how to use a library. It's an important skill-don't
neglect your child in knowing how to track down the books they would like to read or locate
the information necessary to complete their assignments. That's more enpowering than any
playdate can provide.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Outsiders Complete Novel DVD:Nostaglia 101

It's been awhile since I saw The Outsiders but found it hard to resist the Special Edition,due to
fond memories of reading S.E.Hinton back in the day. Is it a must-buy? That's debatable but it
certainly is worth a look.

The movie itself is on Disc 1(you can get the original release version on a no-frills single DVD,almost got one by mistake)and most of the changes are early on in the film,with a scene
between brothers Ponyboy and Sodapop that took place in the bed they share. It's a good bit
of dialogue that was cut due to people snickering at two boys sharing a bed(not understanding
that the family is so poor that siblings had to share furniture). Also,more Elvis songs are added
to the soundtrack,replacing some of the Carmine Coppola soundtrack(Francis Ford felt that
music of the time period would suit the story action more and it does give some foundation for
the characters).

Disc 1 also offers a choice of commentaries:one by FFC or one by several cast members,including Diane Lane and Matt Dillon. I'm not into commentaries(find them to be too distracting)so I didn't listen. I did check out most of the special features on Disc 2,which has deleted scenes(my favorite),the original theaterical trailer and an old NBC News report on the high school class who sent FFC a letter with a petition to make the Outsiders into a movie. The
teacher thought it would be an interesting class project and didn't expect the results that came about-nice to watch that.

S.E. Hinton herself has a featurette,showcasing the Tulsa locations used for the movie. She was a hands-on advisor to the movie and even has a small part in the film. Hinton tells a great story about how Coppola offered to show her one of the locations he picked by taking her on his bike-turns out he meant a two wheeler,not a motor bike! The casting featurette is amusing,showing the likes of Kate Capshaw(who looked too old,IMO),Adam Baldwin and Catherine Mary Stuart auditioning for roles in the film.

There are also readings of the novel by your choice of cast members:Diane Lane does a good job,Patrick Swayze seems to be abit too serious,Matt Dillon is the most humble,noting that he looks nothing like the description of his character Dallas Winston. I didn't listen to them all but Leif Garrett is among the readers(and if you don't know who the hell he is,go to IMDB and do some homework).

The best featurette is "Staying Gold"which is a look at the making of The Outsiders and the cast reunion twenty years later held by FFC for them to view the new version. FFC is a really great host and everyone present was happy,with plenty of good memories about making the movie. The viewing room they used looked like a real comfy den and you don't feel like you're gawking
at celebrities,rather peeking in on a reunion of old friends sharing a golden moment.

So,I would recommend getting this set-it's a nice piece of filmmaking with a solid set of extras. If you wind up showing the movie to someone too young to remember Matt Dillon from any other movie than that stupid Herbie remake,if they goof on it-remind them that this is based on a really cool book. Also,names like Ponyboy and Cherry are not as bad as being named Kal-El Coppola Cage(Some people should not be allowed to name others without committee approval).

Friday, September 30, 2005

I'll take Pop Culture Potluck for 100,Alex!

I'ld thought that I would finish off the week with some random tidbits from the pop culture scene-
mainly to clear my head for the weekend. Ok,let's go:

Tv:Loved the season premiere of Smallville last night-everything about it was great. Many of the
fans flipped out,I'm sure,with the Superman II style for the Fortress of Solitude and Buffy fans
hopefully noticed Season 4's Leonard Roberts(Riley's buddy,Forrest)as one of Kyptonian Krusaders as well as a very brief glimspe of James Marsters at the end. Alot of questions were
set up(wonder how Chloe's going to explain to Lex about winding up in Antartica?)and I'm eager
to see the answers.

Also enjoyed the season premiere of Veronica Mars(will more than likely get the Season 1 set to catch up)-really good cast there. Favorite line:"Get it yourself,kid-do I look like I can cook?" Yep,
Charisma Carpenter in an older High School Cordy mode. Kevin Smith's making a cameo next episode(he really has a jones for high school shows-he was on several Degrassi:the Next Generation episodes with Jason Mewes and how they kept Mewes from saying something too
outrageous is a miracle of editing) . First time I ever saw a literal cliffhanger on a show-pretty sweet.

Movies:

Little Sister and I checked out A History of Violence(we were torn between that and Serenity-for once,two great movies were actually playing at a theater near us) and
we both found it to be amazing. Cronenberg manages to shock with low key tones .
There is no flinching from the gore that results from the character's actions but some
of the real tension moments come out during the more emotional scenes. The last scene of the film alone(no spoilers,don't worry)has no dialogue but the actor's expressions speak volumes.

Viggo Mortenson should get an Oscar nomination for AHOV but chances are,he won't. It's the
kind of film Hollywood ignores at award time. The Road to Perdition(which Tom Hanks did better work in than the other Oscar winning roles he had)makes a great bookend to this movie.
A History of Violence is definately worth your hard(or hardly)earned money.

DVD:

I picked up the Outsiders:The Complete Novel on two disc DVD. It's Coppola's cut with different music(he used his dad's instrumental out of courtesy) with 22 minutes restored,plus featurettes on the cast and readings of the novel by cast members. I always thought the movie was OK and S.E Hinton one of the coolest writers for teens. My favorite Hinton novel was Tex(liked the movie,too) and now she's writing books for an adult audience. I plan to see this over the weekend and review it,so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Starring Tab Hunter Confidential

"I HATE LABELS."

That's the first sentence you will read in Tab Hunter's autobiography(co-written with Eddie
Muller) and it's basically the theme of the book. Don't get me wrong,Tab is not Mr. Negativity.
Rather,he's a person who has been judged on outer appearances so much in his life that he
refuses to be labeled or to pigeonhole others. His story is not just another rehash of former
fame with kiss & tell tidbits thrown in for flavor-this is something else altogether.

Tab Hunter started off in life as Art Gelien,a fatherless boy who loved movies and horses.His
mother,Gertrude,struggled to make a better life for Art and her older son Walt,which lead them
to California where after Art left the Coast Guard(he lied about his age and enlisted at 15)and
held quite a few different jobs,wound up becoming Tab Hunter,the Next Big Thing.

Even before he became an actor,Tab was constantly admired for his looks-one teacher even accused him in front of Gertrude of perming his hair to which she replied"My son does not,but
you should do something about those dark roots of yours"(now,that's a mom!). Tab also had
constant struggles with his sexuality for which he had no one to confide in at that time(he
went to a priest for guidance to only have hellfire and damnation screamed at him) and altho
Hollywood in the fifties had a "don't ask,don't tell" policy,rumors would leak out about Tab's
real preferences.

He also had to deal with his mother's mental breakdowns and a so-called "friend" who manipulated her and him because of them and not being taken seriously as an actor. Tab
also made a hit album that Warner Bros blocked from major release(they didn't have a music
department back then and didn't know how to get ahold of the profits from that any other way).
Tab's career came to a head and he worked as a producer until John Waters teamed him up
with Divine in Polyester. I've never seen it but did watch Lust in the Dust(a non JW but with
Divine film) years ago on late night HBO and that was how I was introduced to Tab Hunter.

Many folks nowadays only know him from movies like that and people from an earlier generation know him from"Battle Cry" and "The Burning Hills"(a movie he made with Natalie
Wood,who was a good friend and studio sent "beard") but Tab Hunter was like the male version
of Marilyn Monroe-considered to be only a pretty boy with delusions of real talent. Sad to say
but Hollywood is still the same in many ways today and Tab was fortunate enough not to
become just another celebrity casuality. The other strong theme you get from this book is
sincerity;Tab is upfront about his mistakes,never glosses over the bad times in his life and
doesn't waste energy ripping others apart. He has no delusions about who and what he is and
refuses to be made into someone else's ideal at this point in his life.

Tab Hunter Confidential is a good,intelligent memoir about a Hollywood star who was much
more than that and it's forthrightness is one of the book's charms. The subtitle of it is "The Making of a Movie Star" but it should be "The Making of a Real Man".

Monday, September 26, 2005

Toni Collette Fans rejoice!

Finally,there is another In Her Shoes poster that actually has Toni Collette front and center(check out the title link)-I spotted it at the Yahoo Movies listing and went to get a nice big version for your viewing pleasure! Guess Toni's agent decided to throw some weight around and get her some
proper promotional pics. Also,some of the IHS commericals are focusing on Shirley MacLaine's
character(don't want to leave the Golden Girls out)so everyone's getting a slice of the publicity pie.

This is nice to see. In other news,I'm getting very interested in Veronica Mars(and not just because Whedonverse folks are popping up on the show)-Little Sister has a friend who sent her
the first season of VM on a computer-viewable-only disc and I've watched a few episodes with
her. Kristen Bell apparently auditoned for the part of Chloe Sullivan on Smallville,which explains
the eerie Chloe-ness of her character. She's like a doppleganger for Alison Mack,scary.

I like what I've seen so far-good,character driven show with smart and funny dialogue,plus
interesting cast choices such as Kyle Secor("Homicide:Life on the Street") and Harry Hamlin.
Charisma Carpenter will be appearing this season and she'll share an episode with Alyson
Hannigan(reprising an earlier appearance)-Willow & Cordelia reunion! Ok,I like that Buffy
peeps are appearing on the show(even Joss Whedon's making a cameo)but I can see why-
not that many strong female leads treated with intelligence and wit around on Tv land these days. Little Sister has dropped hints about getting the official DVD set and I may wind up
doing that next month.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Corpse Bride Cometh

Just got back from seeing Corpse Bride(Little Sister was not interested so I went solo)and if you were wondering if it lives up to all the great reviews,I can assure you that it does indeed. The story
of Victor Van Dort,his intended bride Victoria and his unexpected soul mate Emily,the Corpse Bride, is lovingly told in what looks like an Edward Gorey illustration come to life with it's pencil
thin or stout bell shaped figures,gothic scrawling ironwork and darkly lit settings.

Ths musical numbers are not as elaborate as the ones in Nightmare Before Christmas but neatly
done and quite lively,particularly in the Land of the Dead. The voice cast is mostly English(thought
I recognized Richard E. Grant in the trailer and I was right!)with the exception of Johnny Depp of
course. It's really hard to imagine anyone else doing justice to the character. Bonham-Carter is stunning as the title bride(can you believe Tim Burton made her audition for the part?) and Emily
Watson's Victoria was smashing and had alot more to do than I had heard from the reviews ,plus
one of my co-workers who went to a sneak preview of CB(he loved it-said he would pay money
to see it again).

So,that's one fall movie checked off-plenty more to go! Also saw the new Harry Potter/Goblet of Fire trailer and I'm sooo looking forward to that-things are going to change,that's for damn sure.

Oprah's Book Club hopping

I watched the tail end of the Oprah show to find out what her new Book Club pick was(I've been off from work the past two days and wanted to be in the know before I went back) and was not very
impressed by her "boldness" as she kept loudly proclaiming across the land. The new book is not
a classic but a recent paperback title by a live author. It's Million Little Pieces by James Frey,whose mom was planted in the audience to "surpise" her with the announcement. Lucky
for them,she's a screamer.

I remember when this book came out and actually tried to read it but it has that"Look at me,I'm experimenting with form!"style to it which repulses me on contact. Nothing against trying something new but not everyone is good at it-some people just fall back on that to excuse their
lack of skill(my dad was always peeved at so-called "abstract" artists who thought arranging
broken pieces of dinnerware on a canvas with paint slapped on was talent). From a link at
Jennifer Weiner's blog(you can find it at www.jenniferweiner.com),I read part of a Salon article
in which Frey says things like"Fuck Dave Eggers-I'm writing the book of my generation!" What
a modest fellow indeed.

Also,if you clink the title link above,you can read Miss Snark's(a literary agent who blogs and no,I don't know her-if I had a agent,I'ld be trying to get published,belive you me)entry on
nonfiction writing that may be more fiction than non(Frey is mentioned). I suppose we should
be glad that Oprah's back into the land of the living author but I hope she takes a chance on a
good book and not just promote those who feed into her "bad family" jones and kiss up to her
as the Great and Powerful Oprah.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Julie & Julia:blogger's delight

Arriving this week in bookstores is an interesting memoir:Julie & Julia,365 Days,524 Recipes,1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Government temp Julie Powell,frustrated by her job and attempts at having a child,takes on a project to
give her focus:she will cook every single recipe in Julia Child's classic Master The Art Of French Cooking(hence
the 524)for a year. Her husband Eric convinced her to step up a blog to chart her progress(it's still around,even
tho the project has officially ended)and Julie gained a group of faithful "bleaders"(her term for blog readers) and
some media attention.

Now,I'm not a foodie person(and no fan of French cusine)but the down to earth tone of this book drew me in.
Appropiately,this was one of my Lunchtime Reading titles-I'll explain. At my store,there's a large round table
used for business purposes(bookbuying meetings,mostly)downstairs in our sprawling office/recieving section.
Many of us eat our lunches there and against the facing wall is a large breakfront section where all of our
reader's copies wind up(usually in a higgly-piggly set of stacked piles). I keep a select stack of books to look
over during lunch(when I'm not grabbing with one of my co-workers). Some of the LR books find their way
back to my house,some don't.

Also,when reading a book with food as the theme,it's best to have a tuna sandwich at the ready. When I was
reading Toast by Nigel Slater(guy tells his lifestory thru food-damn good book),even the descriptions of his
least favorite dishes had me licking my chops. Julie not only made French food sound good(and was honest
about when it was not,particularly with the section on gelee)but she touches on much more than that:her
family,friends,Samuel Pepys,politics(not too much,just enough to know who she'll vote for),and ,of course
Julia Child. Julie never got to meet her(Child did know about the project but she may or may not have liked
the idea)but she did pay respect for the her memory in an unusual way(not telling-read the book!!!!).

Julie was one of my inspirations in starting this book-I don't foolishly belive that instant fame and fortune can be
gained thru this forum(and from what I've heard,alot of those interviews are a pain in the ass)but who knows?
It gives me the chance to express myself in a non Madonna video way and that's good. Julie's quest may seem
trival to some but the mere fact that she decided to do something instead of brooding about her probelms is
damn admirable and she takes us on a journey of delicious highs with very few layers of lows. Also,I really
liked her when she revealed her fandom for Buffy the Vampire Slayer-she was even cooking on the night of
the series finale with a TV camera crew updating her on the show. A Buffy fan who cooks with butter,definately
someone I'ld love to have dinner with.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Top Five Improvements needed for Entertainment Weekly

I tend to sing the praises of Entertainment Weekly magazine quite a bit but like any long term
relationship,there are little things that bug you about the one you're with but are tolerable. If
you had the chance,however,you would tell 'em"She snores/He wheezes/Say housework and
he freezes/she eats these skeevy cheeses that I can't describe!"

Ok,before I start singing the entire book of the Buffy musical,let's get to it-my top five peeves
about EW:

1)I HATE LISA SCHWARTZBAUM!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry for the shouting but the only way I can truly express my annoyance with her style of
writing and stance on certain subjects is to scream. She is such a condescending bitch when
she reviews comic book films,sneering at "fan-boys" and how she's not one of those people.
If she doesn't like that genre,why review "Sin City",for example? She can't switch with somebody? Also,Lisa is prone to the diatribe-her review for The Machinist is all about how
Christian Bale got extra thin for the part and how Hollywood is depraved for forcing actors
to do this,body weight issues,etc. That's nice ,dear,but what's the movie about? Who else is
in it? Is it worth seeing for the story?

Actually,I've not liked her ever since she reviewed Muriel's Wedding(one of my favorite films with Toni Collette)-instead of getting the point of the movie (which was that Muriel didn't need
a ritual to find self validation),she saw it as glamorization of weddings,like a fetish film. Yeah,real
insightful,there hon. Then again,what do you expect from a gal who calls Marky Mark Wahlberg a"wily chameleon"?

2)More End Page Columns needed.

I know Stephen King can't knock out a column every week(I don't buy his retirement from
writing,myself-he's as retired as the Rolling Stones)due to other commitments but Stupid
Questions and those Pop Culture Quizs are getting staler than Trump's hairpiece. Maybe
have alternating writers do an end page-Chuck Klosterman one week,Kevin Smith the next.

3)More Comic Book/Graphic Novels section

Comic books are covered in their own niche every once in awhile(so is Stage). In my opinion,
Comic books are more main stream and accessible to the average EW reader than Stage so it should be a regular feature.

4)The In/Out list is so five minutes ago.

5)The Fashion pages bore me.

And one positive trend I'm seeing and liking...

Wacky Pop Culture coverage

Having features on the cult flick Manos :The Hands of Fate and where are they now for the Police Academy films rock. It's cool and interesting stuff like that which sets EW apart from
the media saturated magazine crowd. Keep up the good work,gang.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hunger's Brides:Baroque Banquet for the soul

This debut novel is truly one of those labours of love you hear about so much. It took 12 years
for author Paul Anderson to recreate the world of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz,a Mexican legend
who was clearly trapped in the wrong century. Born in 1648.she taught herself to read by age
three and before Juana hit her teens,she had read nearly every book in her grandfather's vast
library,which included Greek philosophers and Eygptian histories.

At age 16,Juana's extraordinary intelligence and natural gift for poetry lead her to become a
handmaiden at the court of the Vice Queen,in which she realized that she was still considered
an oddity. Juana became a nun and wrote many poems(such as "The Divine Narcissus" which
interwove the temptation of Christ with the greek myth)that had her crossing swords with
church authorites. She took a vow of silence(signing the decree in her own blood)at age 40
and died from the plague five years later. Sor Juana is one of those mysterious genuises that
pop into being and leave behind a body of work that inspires many scholars.

Sor Juana's history inspires Beulah Limosneros,a modern day college student,to research all
she can about her while engaging the more than scholarly notice of Don Gregory, a notorious
womanizer and her American Lit advisor. The framework of the book is that these are the
research papers that Beulah left behind after a bloody encounter with Don Gregory that gets
him into trouble with the law and his "editing" of Beulah's writings on Sor Juana should help
to clear him. Beulah's own personal diaries and letters are included,which paint a picture of
a very troubled young woman,haunted by past sexual abuse,mental breakdowns and eating
disorders.

Don tries to cast doubts on Beulah's truthfulness(an Unreliable Narrator trying to create one
himself;pretty slick)but the one voice you totally trust in is Juana's. Her rich and haunting
tones as she decribes the glories and frustrations of being able to live the life of the mind
with those who can't or won't understand her are achingly gorgeous and give the reader a
heightened sensation of entering another world which is both alluring and off putting at
once.

Hunger's Brides has already gained a reputation for its length(1,358 pages)in the US and I hope
that,as in Canada where it was first published,HB will gather quite a few praises for the content
of it's covers. It definately will inspire more interest into the life and work of Sor Juana. If you
use the link provided in the title,you can go to the official Hunger's Brides website to find out
more about her and the brilliant author who has written one of the best books of the decade.

Friday, September 09, 2005

This Fall Preview is brought to you by the letter "T"

I know it's September already but since summer has not "officially" ended(who decides these things,anyway?),I feel I'm right on time with my look at the upcoming autumn goodies. The focus
will be on books,movie and tv(music I only know so much about). Let's start with my Top Ten list of Must See Movies:

10)Aeon Flux:Always enjoyed the MTV cartoon series(that and The Maxx)and so far,the trailer
holds some promise. One of my co-workers has doubts about Charlize Theoron but anyone who
has seen her in Monster knows not to underestimate this Charlie girl.

9)Saw 2:The first Saw flick was much better than I thought it would be and Little Sister was thrilled to see that a sequel was heading our way. Most theaters won't put up the poster for it-
the number 2 is represented by severed fingers-but plenty of folks will be eager to hand over
their do-re-mi for this sucker.

8)Bee Season:it's based on Myla Goldberg's debut novel about a girl's profiency in spelling
bees helping to upend the tilting dynamics of her dysfunctional family and I only hope
that the film version does it justice.

7)Corpse Bride:Tim Burton back in Nightmare Before Christmas mode. I'm definately getting
a cool doll version at my local Suncoast.

6)Memoirs of a Geisha:Another literary adaptation and it looks beautiful. With Rob Marshall
at the helm and starring Zhang Ziyi,this should be the crown jewel of the film year.

5)In Her Shoes:despite the overmarketing of Cameron Diaz's ass,I still have hopes for this
sisterhood flick,particularly due to director Curtis Hanson who will not drown the plot in
soap opera pathos.

4)Serenity:I only saw the pilot episode on tv so even a Buffy fan like me can find plenty of
new thrills and laughs in the film length version. Plus,Nathan Fillion is not hard on the eyes:)

3)Chronicles of Narnia/Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe:This is the book most people,including
myself,are familar with and if it does well,we may have to catch up on the other six.

2)Pride and Prejudice:Keira Knightley takes on one of the most challenging roles in English Lit
and faces the wrath of certain Jane Austen fans. My money's on Keira to show them how it's
done.

1)Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:As those of us who have read the books and seen the films know,this is where the big boys play. Blood is truly spilt and this adaptation will set an
even newer and darker tone than Prisoner did.

Dark Horse candidates:History of Violence,V is for Vendetta,Just Like Heaven,King Kong,The Fog,Walk The Line

Books:I plan to review two amazing titles in this blog-Hunger's Brides(which will appear next week)and Tab Hunter Confidential(written by the man himself with a little assist there). Other
noteworthy titles are:

Mark Twain:A Life by Ron Powers-There have been plenty of books about Twain but this one
is very readable,smart and engaging. You feel as if the author is a great storyteller,passing on
the legend of MT without sugarcoating his flaws.

Goodnight,Nobody by Jennifer Weiner-Forget those Desparate Housewives(one of the most overrated shows ever,IMO),meet a real suburban mom who winds reviving her reporting skills after having the murder of her oh-so-perfect neighbor dropped into her lap.This may seem
similar to Susan Isaacs' Compromising Positions but trust me,Weiner puts her own unique
emotional spin on this story.

Popco by Scarlett Thomas-A brainy Brit Lit about a toy company designer, who's hobby is
decypting codes,being put on a comittee to create the ultimate teen girl product which,oddly
enough ties into a treasure map that her grandfather held the code key to. Little Sister said
it sounded very Nancy Drew to her when I explained the plot but it's much cleverer than
my descripton makes it out to be and very adult in content.

TV:I don't watch alot of it but there are two good shows I may not get to see because of their time slots-Everybody Hates Chris and My Name Is Earl. EHC is on opposite Smallville and this year,James Marsters plays Braniac so there's no way I'm missing that.

Got to see the pilot of MNIE on a CD-Rom(thanks,EW)-it looked really good,very Raising Arizona in style(one of my favorite movies)but it's on at the same time as The Amazing Race.
This time,it's the "family" edition and you know families have the best fights so I gotta see that.

Network programmers are total idiots-why put new comedies up against dramas/reality shows
with a large fanbase? Counter programming,sure but not every one has Tivo,people! Atleast F/X repeats their shows later in the week(which is good since I missed the next to last episode of Rescue Me)so that you get another shot at it.

Afraid I have to start the fall movie season by seeing"The Man" today(Little Sister wants to go)
which should be tolerable given that it has Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. The only other
option is the Exorcism of Emily Rose,which given that it's PG-13,will be as scary as watching
Criss Angel,Mindfreak.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Indie Bookseller inspiration

I just finished a great book over the weekend,The King's English-adventures of an independant
bookseller by Betsy Burton. Betsy founded The King's English in Salt Lake City,Utah(best known
for Mormons and South Park punch lines)with then partner Ann Berman in 1977. She changed
partners in '81(Ann had to retire for personal reasons)and has held the store together despite
hard financial times,increasing competition from chain stores and online shopping and various
controveries,such as having Jon Krakauer give a reading for Under The Banner of Heaven.

She's very honest about the ups and downs of the business and can laugh at herself(one of the best
stories in the book is about her struggles to open the trunk of her mom's car which held the luggage of visiting author John Mortimer,who fortunately had a good sense of humor and plenty
of champagne at the helm). Betsy's love of books and reading is also shown thru the recommended reading lists placed after each chapter.

Whenever I get down about the state of books today,I like to think of those who came before and paved the way for others,such as Sylvia Beach,founder of Shakespeare and Co in Paris,who
sponsored such writers as James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway(Beach actually put up the front
money for Ulysses to be published),Leona Rostenberg and Madeline Stern,lifelong friends who
were excellant rare book dealers and scholars who helped find the early works of Lousia May
Alcott to bring to light and my all time favorite,Helene Hanff(best known for her collection of
correspondance that begat a book,play and movie,84 Charing Cross Road). Folks like that are
admirable and give one hope for the future of book lovers everywhere.

So,is Betsy on my list? I do belive that she would not be out of place amongst the ladies mentioned-heck,I wouldn't mind working for her! If you want to know what kind of people
are out there on the front lines of literacy today,please read this book. You can click on the title
link and buy it right from TKE. Celebrate Labor Day by supporting those who labor for literature:)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Times may be Grimm but this movie is not

Like everyone near a TV this past week,the plight of the victims of Hurricane Katrina has brought on heartbreak,frustration and a need to help(you know where to give support to, http://www.redcross.org). Despite all the blame game BS that's been going on(Kayne West is about as much of an expert on the situation as Martha Stewart is on guerilla warfare),people are still out there,doing good to their neighbors and they are the real heroes.

For the rest of us,a mental health break is needed and I recommend The Brothers Grimm as a great diversation this holiday weekend. I know the reviews have been harsh but then again,if
ever there was an artist misunderstood in his own time,it's Terry Gilliam. TBG is not his all
time best(that would be 12 Monkeys,IMO)but this flick is a good way to introduce someone to
Gilliam's style of offbeat elaborate storytelling. He cast Damon and Ledger against type,which
works out very well-Ledger is perfect as the dreamy-eyed bumbling half of this erzatz con team
while Damon's charm suits the Scully side.

The settings are belivably Old World and Peter Stomare's performance is one of the fun parts(Little Sister didn't even recognize him from Constantine and I agree with her about his chameleon like abilities)of the show. Since one of my favorite fairy tales is Snow White(love the Disney version of the Wicked Queen),I particularly enjoyed Monica Bellucci as the Mirror Queen. Her costumes,the top tower room drowning in cobwebs as she lies in withered crone mode while her beautiful reflection seduces men(watching Heath Ledger getting sexed up by a mirror is quite surreal)and her final destruction are hauntingly memorable images but not the
only ones worth recalling.

The capture of the girls,the torture chambers of the occupying French(complete with musical quartet),a forest on fire being put out by magical breath and Matt Damon licking a toad are only
some of the highlights of this film. Damon and Ledger have good chemistry as brothers and Lena Hedley as Angelica,the forest guide who attracts the both of them,gives a good performance as well. So mellow out with some fairy tale antics and remember:trust the toad!