February 27, 2009

Book #18: Forgiving

LaVyrle's Spencer's Forgiving is a re-read. Some books I've read at least a dozen times. I think I've only read Forgiving once before, and it was a long time ago, before the HBO show "Deadwood". Forgiving is set in 1876 Deadwood, when it was still a rough Western territory, not a U.S. state. And I was curious to see how the Deadwood of the book compared to my beloved cancelled show.

Sarah Merritt is a newspaper publisher, like her father. She's come to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, to start a newspaper and to find her sister, who ran away from home five years before. She's plain, brave, and extremely bookish. Being one of very few single women (not counting prostitutes) in town, she's unexpectedly popular with the men. She immediately butts heads with town marshal Noah Campbell. And she finds her sister (one of the aforementioned prostitutes) not the least bit glad to see her.

Noah Campbell came west with his family, but chose to live in town while they carve out a living farming in the Spearfish region. He keeps the drunks in line and is an occasional patron of the badlands (you could call it a red light district), but doesn't see anything wrong with that. He has a pretty strong moral compass, and after initially throwing Sarah in jail, and being the subject of one of her scathing editorials, he eventually comes to appreciate her bravery and willingness to help organize the community.

I liked the slow pace of this novel. It felt more realistic than the instant sizzling attraction of so many others romances. Sarah and Noah's relationship develops slowly but solidly. The subplot with Sarah's sister Addie is also a rewarding piece of the story.

February 25, 2009

In Praise of Nike (from a New Balance girl)

In the early '90's, back when I used to hang poems and pictures and magazine clippings on my bedroom door, two of my very favorite items were Nike ads. I know what you're thinking. And even back then, I remember being disappointed that two of the quotes that I looked at every day and memorized over time because they spoke to me so strongly, came from something as lame as a Nike ad.

A women is often measured by the things she cannot control. She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn't curve, by where she is flat or straight or round. She is measured by 36-24-36 and inches and ages and numbers, by all the outside things that don't ever add up to who she is on the inside. And so if a women is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control; by who she is and who she is trying to become. Because as every women knows, measurements are only statistics & statistics lie.

I've always wondered who wrote these ads. Did they really believe the things that they said? And did they ever go on to do something more important than shilling for Nike? But if not, for their sake, I hope they sold a ton of shoes.

All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you're not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you're the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, a thousand times no, until all the no's become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly. AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES.

February 22, 2009

Book #17: All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire is the fifth book in the Love at Stake series. And as much as I enjoy this frothy escapist series, they're killing me with those titles. Seriously, even posting about them is a little mortifying. Oh, and the cover art? Could someone who's at least read the books choose the covers? (Hint: the heroine is actually a blonde.)

Toni Davis takes a job as daytime security for a coven of New York vampires in hopes of finding proof of their existence in order to spring her best friend from the loony bin. Yeah, it's not a very well thought out plan. And despite barely surviving a vicious vampire attack, Toni finds herself becoming attached to the vampires she guards.

Ian MacPhie is yet another 500 year-old vampire (there seems to be an endless supply for this series). Ian was turned into a vampire when he was 15, and in the previous novel, he took an experimental drug in order to age him (don't ask) so that he'd be old enough to find his true love. Despite having an amazingly popular online dating profile (oh yes), Ian finds himself only interested in his forbidden security guard.

Though I'm still enjoying this series for the most part, it would be nice to see a little variation in the next installment, due out at the end of March.

2009 Oscar Picks (at 12:12pm)

It's impossible to not second-guess your Oscar picks. While I feel pretty confident with the idea that the Academy will go with Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, in part because of the cinematic-like ressurection of Mickey Rourke's career, we can't discount the universal belief that dour and humorless Sean Penn is a great actor. Conventional wisdom says Danny Boyle will win Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire. This year is all about Slumdog Millionaire. However, sometimes the Academy knows a film is going to be honored already (Slumdog will be winning Best Picture) so they use the Best Director category to honor another good film, which is why I think Frost/Nixon and the universally beloved Ron Howard, might have a shot (as well as Benjamin Button in the cinematography category). Viola Davis (for Best Supporting Actress) is my dark horse , and I totally called it before I saw Ebert had too.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, Doubt

Best animated feature film of the year

Achievement in cinematography
Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in costume design
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Achievement in directing

Best documentary feature
Trouble the Water

Adapted screenplay

Original screenplay

Best motion picture of the year
Slumdog Millionaire

February 15, 2009

Book #16: A Lady at Last

The seventh book in Brenda Joyce's de Warenne Dynasty, A Lady at Last takes place in the West Indies and England in the early part of the 19th century.

Amanda Carre is a pirate's daughter who's spent her life running around her island home like a savage, dressed in boy's breeches. She can't read or write and has no wish to be a lady. But when her father is hanged and the richest man on the island agrees to take her to London to meet her long lost mother, she has to learn to live among the privileged if she wants a future.

Cliff de Warenne is the youngest son of the Earl of Adare and has made his own fortune as a merchant and privateer. He feels a connection to Amanda due to their mutual love of the sea and freedom, and he vows to secure a future for her in England. He passes her off as his ward, but of course he spends the entire novel lusting after her.

The one thing I did appreciate about this story was how the two main characters became fond of eachother right away and had no problem admitting it. I get tired of the books where the couple pretends to hate eachother half the time. However, Amanda realizes she's in love with Cliff long before he realizes he loves her. Men in romance novels tend to be slow.

February 12, 2009

Happy Valentine's!

It's not here yet. But when it does come, there should be chocolates.

February 09, 2009

Book #15: The Undead Next Door

The fourth book in the Love at Stake series, Kerrelyn Sparks' The Undead Next Door doesn't stray far from the established format. Human and vampire meet and fall in love. Danger, suspense, humor and explicit you-know-what usually complete the package. Hello, it's a romance novel.

Heather is a single mother with an adorable four year-old daughter, and a redneck jackass ex-husband. She also has a live-in nanny (who we're supposed to think is charmingly amusing and eccentric). Although throughout the course of the story, Heather, who is a teacher, is conveniently on summer break and therefore doesn't have to worry about working. Heather is also a size 12 and is repeatedly and maddeningly referred to as fat. No, she doesn't fit into couture. But who does?

Jean-Luc is a 500 year-old vampire and world famous fashion designer. We're supposed to believe that Jean-Luc decides to open a high fashion boutique in a tiny little Texas town in order to go into seclusion, because he's become too famous and the press have started to wonder why he never ages. I had a very hard time suspending my disbelief that Parisian high fashion would land in small town hill country for any reason.

For once in this series, the heroine catches on fast. Heather realizes almost right away that there's something off about Jean-Luc and actually comes to the conclusion that he is immortal. Although, even though she was able to make that mental leap, she actually had a hard time also realizing that he was a vampire. Because there are so many non-vampire immortals running around somewhere?

I've mostly enjoyed this mind candy series, however the next time one of the female characters calls someone a "rascal", I'm going to fling myself off of a building. I don't even think grandmothers say "rascal" anymore.