Tuesday, November 27, 2007

RAISING SAND by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Sometimes an album comes along that is so different, so unique and so darn special that it keeps you coming back for another listen, over and over. This is the one.

The first thing that sets it apart is the unexpected collaboration. He's a 59 year old heavy metal pioneer who was one of the first great archetypal rock stars. She's a 36 year old bluegrass artist who sings, writes, plays fiddle and produces.

Together, they've made a record that spans decades and moods and never turns out like you expect, and yet, it makes so much sense that I find myself wondering why this didn't happen sooner!

The most important thing for my recording engineer husband is that THIS RECORD SOUNDS SO GOOD. You can thank T Bone Burnett for that. The band is solid and everything sounds right. This record has passed the following tests:
-the Jethro test
-the Jetta test
-the dining room test
-the iPod test

I'm not worried about the Grandma test...when I told my mom about this record she brightened up and said, "Oh. I like Robert Plant." I tried not to show it but I was kinda floored. I had no idea! After twenty years of me going on and on about this guy, and now she fesses up!

As for the Papa test...My ol man LOVES harmonies. He loves to sing it and listen to it. We played a couple of songs for him, resulting in a smile and "Mm hmm!" which is the seal of approval from this guy.

Seriously, if you appreciate harmony, this is it. Plant has stated in interviews that Krauss taught him how to sing.


He hadn't ever sung harmony with another singer. He'd recorded a part above his own melody part but this was very different.

And does he ever sound good. He's dropped the rock god persona, and just sings beautifully. As for Alison Krauss, I have never heard her sound anything but gorgeous and she does not disappoint.

It's quite spine tingling how well their voices work together.

What I really love is that you are never really sure what time or era this all takes place in. There's something old sounding about it, evoking visions of sunlight streaming into a dusty room where two musicians pluck strings and sing...like you aren't even supposed to be there to hear it. But it's also modern- polished, perfected, professional.

It's not bluegrass...it's not rock...it's not country.


Unexpected? Awesome.

Bottom line, what counts more than anything else in music, the SONGS are excellent.

With this glowing review you'd think I knew somebody who worked on it. I don't. However, I do know somebody who wishes he'd had a chance to be a part of this record!

Monday, October 22, 2007

LOTTERY by Patricia Wood

I should have told you about this book two months ago when I read it! Why am I so behind????

I think you should read this. I don't care who you are- read this special gem of a book. It's a great concept, well written, will make you laugh out loud and weep like you don't care who's watching, and most of all, will make you really care about the characters in the story!

The official blurb: "Perry’s IQ is only 76, but he’s not stupid. His grandmother taught him everything he needs to know to survive: She taught him to write things down so he won’t forget them. She taught him to play the lottery every week. And, most important, she taught him whom to trust. When Gram dies, Perry is left orphaned and bereft at the age of thirty-one. Then his weekly Washington State Lottery ticket wins him 12 million dollars, and he finds he has more family than he knows what to do with..."

The triumphant accomplishment here is the VOICE. You are getting this story through the experience of Perry L Crandall, and you will never doubt him for a second. The author, Patricia Wood, is a 50 year old woman who lives on a boat in Hawaii, has been in the army, is a PhD student, professional horsewoman, and generally sharp perky person! Imagine how she got so perfectly into the skin of this character, who insists that he is not retarded. He's slow, but not retarded. There is a difference, and by the end of this book, you'll know it.

It ends up being a study in human behaviour- both the best and the worst. I gobbled it up and couldn't put it down. Highly recommended!

Here's the blog

And here's the website!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why a 36 year old woman is reading teen fiction...

I JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS. There. I said it. How could I walk past any of these in a library or a store and not want to read them?

There's more to it than that, though. Being the mother of a 13 year old girl, I want to know what my kid is reading. Even more than that, as a writer who hopes to publish a peer to these three books, I need to what's out there.

Above all, there is some excellent stuff out there. You should never let the "Young Adult" label scare you away. Many of these books are proving to be crossover successes, and some are shelved in two sections. Why wouldn't you read Young Adult fiction even if you're over 21? You were once a kid, were you not?

Earlier this summer I read THE POSSIBILITY OF FIREFLIES by Dominique Paul.

I was drawn to it because it's set in 1987, which was a very good year for me, and because the main character's love interest is a fledgling rock star. Well here's the catch- and you know there must always be a catch because otherwise there's no reason to read- Ellie is a 14 year old kid who keeps getting locked out of the house because Mom's out partying...and Leo is TWENTY.

Yep. Ick factor. I had to know how this was all going to play out.

This is a beautifully written story. The author got the details right and created a few characters that will feel instantly familiar. The hero of the story does prove to be a hero, but that's all I'll say.

What I loved about this book was the sense of hopefulness. Even though this kid is in a neglectful and mentally abusive situation, she never gives up.

What I didn't love about this book was the incredible sense of self awareness. Ellie is almost believable as an extremely sensitive and intelligent girl, but I couldn't help but feel, as a chick who was there, doing that, at that time, that the awareness was filtered through a mind that has had time to look back.

One other thing sort of bugged me. I couldn't figure out exactly why the story was set in 1987. The parties and rock stars? Because it was a good year for hair metal? Because it was exactly twenty years before the publication of the book? Because the author was a kid then? I suspected that this may have been a partially autobiographical story, especially after reading the acknowledgments. This worries me. I have a nice little raw novel waiting to be seen, and it is not an autobiography. I made it up. It's fiction. However, we, as readers, always want to associate the writer with the written. I was doing that as I read this book. I want to think that an author knows, from experience, exactly what she is talking about, because it makes the fictional story more believable. However, I don't want a thinly disguised version of what really happened. I suspected that Dominique Paul changed the names and called it a story...and I fear that it'll be suspected of me too.

This was a valuable lesson for me as a writer. I have to tell a new story, not my own. I can use my own story for a starting block but it can't be my life (and it isn't.) Most of all, because I set mine in a similar time period, I have to make sure it's for a reason. If there's no significance to that date, it might as well be set in the present. (There are reasons for setting it in the 80s, besides just liking the tunes of the time!)

I'm willing to forgive it, because it's a good solid little book. Despite the nasty life situation that our heroine is in, it's a sweet story. Ellie is likeable, and by the end, you'll be cheering for her to overcome her troubles. I even squeezed out a few sobs for her. You're gonna be okay, Ellie!!!

A little internet digging told me that Dominique Paul, who is a screenwriter, will be directing the feature film. How's that for a first time novelist? I think it'll make an excellent movie. The things that bugged me won't show up. Only the triumphant story will come through. Mothers who partied like rock stars twenty years ago can take their daughters to see it. Whether they sit together or not will be entirely up to them...

Soon after, I read EXIT HERE by Jason Myers.

Again, the author claims to have lived the life and knew guys like the main character. The author lived to tell about it, which is more than can be said for a few of the kids in the story.

This is an absolutely harrowing story. Every one of the college age characters is shallow, self centred, materialistic, and rude. They live by their cell phones. They lie to each other. Their friendships are based on who's got the best drugs and whose pants are most likely to come off. I couldn't help but wonder....is this really what it's like to be a young urban American today?

I have to say, this book never breaks character. The voice of Travis is believable because it is unwavering. He and all of his friends are consistently unlikeable. In fact, they are all so shallow, they all sound alike.

Many times I closed the book and considered not opening it again. But I did. I kept on reading. I had to know what drove Travis, and would he decide to leave the hollow life of partying and drugging and hooking up? I had to know what the deal was with his ex-girlfriend. I had to know what the hell happened in Hawaii.

Jason Myers wisely dropped little clues into the story. It seemed to be nothing more than a diary of endless clubs and bathrooms and living rooms and text messages, but the mystery catches up with the reader almost unaware. And then you're caught and you have to know.

My picky picky problem is that by halfway in, I got sick of the constant band references. It got to sounding like the author wanted to name drop every band he's heard of in the last five years. However, it made sense. It suited the vibe of the story and most of all, suited the personalities involved. It's all about who you know.

The ending is basically the only one it could be. It is not happy. But it's the only outcome it could have. If you're looking for a gritty story, and you've got a strong stomache, read this.

The best one of the bunch was not even shelved in the Young Adult section of the bookstore. ANTHEM OF A RELUCTANT PROPHET by Joanne Proulx is one of the best books I've read this year. And, the cover is just gorgeous. This little photo doesn't show the details so you'll have to trust me on it. I'm including it in the list of teen fiction because I do think there are teenagers that are ready for a book this heavy.

I couldn't find a flaw in this novel. The voice is perfect, the hero is typical teenage sarcasm on the outside and accurate sensitivity on the inside. The cultural details are right. This book touches on death, love, fear, religion, sexuality, drugs, alienation, identity.

There is some imagery in this book that could break your heart. I wept several times. Not that weeping is the criteria for a good novel, or even that it's hard to squeeze tears out of me, but honestly, parts of this book are painfully beautiful. That's it's told from the point of view of a 17 year old boy makes it more touching.

But here's the thing- it's funny. Luke says one thing while thinking another and it's like comedic subtitles flashing in front of your eyes.

Joanne Proulx has taken a highly unlikely premise- a kid has death premonitions- and makes it totally believable. It's because of the perfect voice of Luke Hunter, the classic smart kid posing as a slacker in order to ease his overworking mind.

It's a painful subject. The death of a friend has a horrible impact on these kids, especially on the one who casually predicted it.

Again, here I am associating the writer and the written...but it must be said that this book, told in first person by a teenage boy, was written by an adult woman. And she got it. She totally nailed it. I've never been a teenage boy myself, but I believed every word.

I highly recommend this book. (and not just because I'm supporting my fellow Canadians!)

All three of these are debut novels. And each author thanked their agent...

Monday, August 13, 2007

STARDUST: The book. The movie.

This is great- I can tell you about both at the same time!

Of course, this brings up the old debate. The book's better than the movie. The movie's better than the book. I can tell you right now, they are just different.

The book is deeper, obviously, more detailed, and more magical. It has serious undertones of sinister bloodiness which really got sucked out for the movie. I'd even go so far as to say that the movie dumbed it down quite a bit, but it had to be done. Any book will have to streamlined to compact it into an hour+ of visual storytelling.

The book is fascinating and horrifying and gives a contented ending.

The movie is a sweet fairy tale with a bit of mild scariness, and gives us the perfect happy ending.

I recommend both. Book first, then movie.

My biggest complaint is that in typical Hollywood movie style (yeah, I know, the director is English) the movie had to climax with a) a chase scene and b) a girl strapped to a table helpless about to get her heart cut out waiting for her boy to rescue her scene.

Robert DeNiro's flouncy lightning pirate was obviously played for cheap laughs. Obviously. What other kind of lightning pirate could there be? This was barely a blip in the novel. I didn't really get why the screenwriters would cut out a lot of the book's nuances in favour of a cheap laugh...but...I guess we all love the cheap laugh, don't we? Don't we? He was kind of cute. Doncha think?

Other than that I really enjoyed it.

As far as casting goes, I believe Claire Danes was the right choice to play the star. She has harsh features, beautiful without being pretty, and very expressionate.

Young Charlie Cox played Tristan as innocent and dumb as a box of rocks, but finally smartens him up enough that we want to cheer for him. He manages to stop looking so stunned and get his mouth closed.

Peter O'Toole got his five minutes to play the magnificently crusty deathbed King.

Sienna Miller as the shallow, materialistic, pretty and totally unlikeable tease, Victoria, was genius, because...well, she was perfect.

Watch for Jason Flemyng as Primus. Very understated. I think he's a great actor that we don't see enough of over here. Although we did see quite a bit of Primus. Here's what really jolted me about him: all of these comparisons to The Princess Bride, and I really only saw it in Primus. He reminded me of the Six Fingered Man.

I loved Melanie Hill as Ditchwater Sal. So uncouth. So trashy. And I want a yellow caravan like that.

And as for the performance everybody's talking about...Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia the Witch. Brilliant. In real life, she is 49 years old. I'm so glad they didn't opt to have a chick in her 20s play the young beautiful witch. She is gorgeous, with depth.

Although she does't look like the print version of the witch, she got the perfect mix of pretty on the outside and evil on the inside. It was great fun watching her desperation increase as her looks withered.

Suddenly, I very much want two billy goats and a chariot. Maybe I always did want that.

If you want to move beyond a few chuckles and some knock-down, drag-out magic duels, I highly recommend the book.

Of course, I'm a fresh new recent convert to Neil Gaiman's work. He's got a seamless blend of horror and fantasy. Do check it out.

Every time I see a movie based on a novel, I feel anxious that the whole thing will be ruined for me. Once you've seen the movie, your brain sees the actors when you read the book. Your imagination has been hijacked. At least this movie didn't totally stink up the story for me. It could have gone terribly wrong...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

THE TIN BOX and THE PENNY TREE by Holly Kennedy

If you're looking for something good to read this summer, let me point you to Holly Kennedy. I'm a little biased because I read Holly's blog regularly, and I like her. But that's beside the point: these are two good solid novels with stories that will pull you in and keep your lamp on after it gets dark outside!

The Tin Box is especially memorable for a very unlikely hero. Like the heroine, Kenly, you will find yourself falling for the physically flawed but funny and sensitive Tommy. It's a story about friendship, loyalty, secrets, and love that lasts. I won't tell you any more because I want you to just go read it. Support the author and buy the book so she can afford to keep writing more! (Besides, if you've ever wanted to build a treehouse, you should read this book!) Warning: you will cry when you read this book. It's okay. It's a good cry.

The Penny Tree is a quicker paced story with humour and a surprising twist! The heroine in this story has a pile of overwhelming problems, which would be difficult enough, until a mysterious admirer starts placing ads in the paper with the intent of finding her. Now on top of a divorce, two sons, a crappy job and a worrisome mother, she's got national media attention to deal with.

I've been reading with an eye for learning how a book works, as well as just for the pure love of reading. I learned a few things about how to pace a story, how much detail to give out at a time, and how to write a happy ending without beating the reader over the head with happiness.

Pop one of these into your bag for your vacation reading. You can thank me later.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

This is riDICulous, because you know I’m gonna tell you how much I like this movie. And you know that I will like it despite it being long, bloated, convoluted, silly, bloodlessly violent, historically inaccurate, improbable, and frustrating to follow.

It’s also funny, trippy, scary, unexpected and entertaining.

There. I’ve used up all my words.

It’s a two hours and forty five minute hallucination. The visuals are gorgeous, even the slimy scenes. I can’t comprehend how they did some of these scenes. If you’re a movie fan, I’d recommend this one just for the wow factor.

Also, um, I love Johnny.

I of course loved the whole section in which ol Captain Jack is working out his bad karma in an ocean of sand. It didn’t have much to do with the plot but it was fascinating. Is Jack in hell? Or is this kind of just a typical moment inside the brain of Jack Sparrow? Is there any difference? This may have been my favourite part. I felt pretty good about the whole thing. My brain works much that way.

I can’t tell you what actually happens in this movie. Not because I refuse to give spoilers: I truly can’t tell you. I am not really sure what the heck happened and basically I’m telling you about the movie simply as an excuse to post some cool photos.

Nothing went the way I expected which I really appreciated. I hoped that it wouldn’t be repetitive and boring and I wasn’t disappointed. However I got very worn out from all the nearly unwatchable fight scenes. Clang clang yell. Whatevs.

In this movie, for every question answered, there will be a new question.

And yes, keep your eyes open for the little strut from Keef Richards. It really had nothing to do with anything other than just proving how heavy Richards is and how much of a pirate he is. I don’t think they had to put much make up on him. He looks incredible. I think his seven minutes on screen were put there just to remind us what a legendary rebel looks like.

I was a little irritated with a few things. Like, why put Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy up against Johnny Depp in the same movie and then not use them to their full effect? What was the mark Sparrow left on Beckett? Why did I find all these shots on the internet that have nothing to do with the movie?

I thought what happens to Norrington was a copout. And although I could handle the ending, (edit: although the more I think about it the less satisfied I am with it,) the stupid little coda after the credits was useless. (edit: and kind of negates everything...again, had some time to think about it...)

Especially since, let’s face it, this really is a story about Elizabeth. She started it when she spotted a young pirate ship survivor floating in the fog. She caused all the friction between romantic rivals. She’s the one with the most costume changes, for crying out loud! She, out of all of them, is the biggest pirate of all.

One more note- this sucker’s pretty scary in some places. If you’re taking children to see it, be aware of their scariness toleration level. (Sorry I don’t have a chart available for reference.) It starts off with a mass hanging and just gets worse from there.

It’s more intense than the first two. It’s got more action, more craziness, more characters, more twisted plots, more double-triple-and-quadruple crosses, more Barbossa, more Sparrow, more swashing, more buckling, more wriggling tentacles, more Bruckheimer! I think Jerry Bruckheimer looked it all over and leaned over to Gore Verbinski and said, “Blow more stuff up. Blow up stuff that’s already blowing up. And then blow up that too.”

It was worth the ticket and the numb bum, but it’s going to get expensive because I’ll have to see it three more times until I figure out....what...the hell....happened...in this movie!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hello Groin by Beth Goobie

An author with the name of Beth Goobie has written a book called Hello Groin and it’s about a 16 year old girl struggling with her carefully hidden suspected homosexuality. This has got to take guts. Oh, and also, it’s set in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Yeah. Gutsy.

GUTS kept coming up in my mind as I read it. It’s such a visceral, gut wrenching, blushing, chest thumping, crotch tingling, heart breaking book.

Some of the images are very vivid. However, some of the words in between the vivid imagery are slightly awkward, as some images are repeated too much. I’d have to say that’s my only complaint about this book.

Dylan is a popular athletic and good looking 16 year old girl with a best friend whom she treasures and a boyfriend whom she adores. Problem is, she’s not turned on by Cam. She’s getting lustful feelings for Jocelyn, and she can’t figure out if those feelings are mutual. She’s very confused.

At first, as Dylan is trying to figure out if she’s gay or not, and realizing that she can’t pretend that she’s not anymore, I couldn’t quite figure out why it was a big deal. I hoped that a kid can come out these days without being beaten up or horribly ostracized.

Maybe we’ll never get to that point in our society. These 21st century kids still have a problem with it...and all for their own quiet reasons.

Dylan simply doesn’t want to be gay. She wants to feel lust for the boy she loves. She wants to find herself ten years later married to him and maybe with a child. She wants to be in love with a husband like the relationship her parents have. For her, it doesn’t matter what society accepts, or what it scorns. It’s a limitation she’s put on herself.

This is the tension in the novel. She doesn’t want to hurt her boyfriend...but she is in love with best friend Jocelyn. As events unfold, she fears she could lose them both.

The author got the teenaged mindset right. These kids are ruled by their peers, by sex, or the lack of, by the struggle between authority and rebellion, but unruly hormones, and by their brains, rapidly expanding with knowledge. They tell each other what books are changing their lives and what music defines them.

The character of Dylan would be pleased that this book is not just about sexuality; it’s about justice and honour and censorship. It’s about free speech and respect.

I particularly appreciated the way all the characters have changed and developed by the end of the book. Nobody is the same by the end.

I decided to read this book for several reasons:
-I’m writing a book about teenagers.
-I’m considering this publisher for a query when I’m done.
-I have such mixed feelings about that title that I just had to read the whole book.

Overall the tricky subject matter is handled sensitively, there isn’t too much offensive cussing, and despite the constant mental ruminations, the turmoil in Dylan’s head, the story clips along at a good pace, making us feel like the book was a good way to spend a few hours.

It isn’t the absolute best book I’ve ever read, but it’s pretty darn good. I recommend it to any young people, not just those facing a similar struggle. With it being so teen centred, I don’t know if many adults would be interested in it, although I found it to be a good read.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

I am embarrassed that it took me four years to get my eyes on this book. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that yes, it was worthy of all the hype. It actually crossed over from the Young Adult category and repackages as commercial fiction. It may be about a teenage boy but it’s so interesting that a wide audience can appreciate it. It’s no wonder it’s become a huge crossover success since it’s publication in 2003.

Our odd hero, Christopher, is autistic, although now that I’ve read it I can’t remember if it’s ever stated so plainly. He’s brilliant with numbers and science, but can’t understand facial expressions. Facts give him comfort, jokes confuse him. He does not want surprises but instead takes comfort in schedules.

He sees absolutely everything in every detail and that’s why sometimes when he’s overwhelmed, which is often, he has to shut his eyes and groan to block everything out. The colours yellow and brown almost make him physically ill, and he’ll scream if he’s touched. He doesn’t cry when other people do. But he does like dogs.

Now imagine how things go when he discovers the body of his neighbour’s dog when he’s out on a night walk, and decides to solve the mystery of Who Killed Wellington.

He’s going to write a book, and not one of those novels with things called metaphors which make no sense. He’s going to write a book about the facts of his detecting.

His detective work uncovers some very unexpected facts and ends up taking him on a journey that he never would have taken before the Incident.

The amazing thing about this book is that Christopher’s voice is captured so perfectly. This book never breaks character! We really are inside his head.

It’s so realistically written that even while one part of you is thinking how irritating it must be to have to deal with a kid like him, you’re feeling an affection for his total honesty, and you’re really cheering for him.

Suddenly it’s perfectly understandable that you’d have times when you must tune a radio between stations and hold it up to your ear to drown out all the stimulation in the world. And of course you would scream if another human touched you. Clearly it would be better to live in a world where nobody said silly things that required no answer, and nobody ever looked at each other’s faces.

In fact, being someone who struggles with anxiety disorder, I had a very hard time reading about Christopher’s lone trip on the Brit rail. I really felt his pain. It made we wish that I was good at complex mathematical equations as a way of calming myself...

It may have been written for a teen audience, but anybody can read it, appreciate it, and maybe even get a better understanding of how a difficult young man’s mind works. Mark Haddon completely deserves the praise he got for this book.

I highly recommend a read of it and I give it FIVE OUT OF FIVE JOHN DEERE TRACTORS.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Reading: It's not just for fun anymore!

This is an interesting couple of weeks for me in the world of books. I finished writing and editing one, and have literally put it on the shelf for a few weeks. I need a short break from it before I rewrite it, oh I dunno, about three more times. Plus I'm querying the one-before-this-book, and of course, always finding things to fix every time I print it up. I'm taking a bit of a break to soak up some reading.

Just for the sake of my sanity (Ha ha. Wha?) I need to step away from writing. I need to read some other people's words.

I usually have a book and two magazines going at once, and my reading is always a combination of pure joy and reseach. So in the name of research I decided to read some books that have fallen into my hands recently that I wouldn't have normally picked up.

It didn't work out so well.

I rarely leave a book half read. Until this last couple of weeks...

First try: Runaway Jury by John Grisham.

I got four chapters in before I decided to cut my losses and walk away from this one. Four chapters of jury selection. There was nothing really wrong with it, technically speaking. I don't remember seeing any terrible grammar mistakes, at least not with my loose grip on grammar. It just didn't get my attention.

Although I was slightly curious about Juror #58, aka Juror #2, a young man with a very bland past who apparently wants to be on the jury --wtf?-- it wasn't enough to keep me turning pages. I had a very hard time getting interested in a bunch of lawyers and corporate suits and all of their little games for picking a jury who will....

Geez I can't even finish the paragraph, I'm so bored.


Second try: Second Chance by Danielle Steel.

I'm trying to remember now if I've ever been able to finish reading one of her books.

I always chalked it up to not being able to relate to her. I mean, look at her.
She's fabulous. She even has her own perfume. I'm guessing it smells like money. And silk. And roses.

And look at me. I'm hickulous and ridiculous. If I had my own perfume it would be a heady comination of pine shavings, horse manure, and hay, with subtle undertones of laundry soap and a top note of Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Hand and Body lotion.

Seriously, I just didn't get it. It's written in a very even tone, with a lot of commas, a lot of lists of attributes, clothing styles, even when the subject changes, commas, as opposed to a semi-colon, but always there are more descriptions of how fabulous everybody is.

They are all fabulous, they are fashionable and wealthy. She is fabulous, the nice man she has a nagging attraction to is fabulous, as is her house man who borrows her Manolo Blahnik sandals, he is fabulous. Her house is fabulous, full of expensive treasures, always hosting the best parties that often last all night. Fabulous. Run on fabulous.

After five chapters I was choking on fabulosity and nothing had really happened, other than a photo shoot which was, of course, both disastrous and fabulous.


Black Creek Crossing by John Saul.

I actually managed to finish this one but I will admit that I sort of skimmed some of it. I never do that. I feel kind of ashamed of myself. But hey, I read it to the end.

I forced myself to stay with it for one main reason: It centres around a couple of teenagers. Because my most recent piece of work is about teenagers, I want to read more books like it. I'm not sure, now that mine is finished, if it's really for the age group that it's about.

This book is not aimed at the teenage reader.

The kids don't converse like real teens. They don't much act like real teens either.

There is way too much going on with the adults in the story. Young readers don't give a crap about grownups. If they want to read about grownups, they'll read something off the Bestseller rack instead of the Young Adult rack.

Also there's no sex. Other than a suggestion of it in early in the story but it has nothing to do with the plot and is (urgh, yuck, retch, omigawd gross) between two parents.

This book isn't aimed at a teenage audience, despite having teens as main characters. It was a good exercise for me to make this definition.

I found a few problems with this book. I thought the characters were very one-dimensional.
- alcoholic father who is always in a rotten mood, hates everybody, and cusses all the time.
- long suffering mother who believes that her drunken good for nuthin husband is her cross to bear, and is such a good catholic that she crosses herself every few minutes while praying to the saints.
- shy girl who never looks anybody in the eye. Ever.

It's hard to care about these exaggerated stereotypes.

It took ages and pages to get the whole story rolling. I wanted to quit reading many times. What hooked my interest was the ancient haunted house itself. Is it good if the house is the most interesting character?

I was also confused by the supernatural elements in the story. I've read enough fantasy to know that the magic has to have a structure of rules to be believable. I'm really not sure how the supernatural/ witchcraft/ haunted system all worked in this story.


Having cracked these comments about these three books...

They must be doing something right.

John Grisham doesn't have to make his living at lawyering anymore because he's sold a couple of books, which got made into a couple of movies.

Danielle Steel, other than being fabulous and having, like, seven or eight or nine children, has found the time to write-- are you ready for this--SIXTY TWO novels!!! Although by this year that number's likely gone up. I mean, with having raised all those people and still getting all those words out there...I must admire this woman for her work ethic alone.

And John Saul has written over thirty novels.

This tells me that whether I appreciate their work or not, they are writing books that sell. And this really just confuses me more than ever.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hick Chic 2007 Oscar Report!

Before we get any further, let's just get this straight right now- The Academy Awards are boring. It's really boring. And that's okay. Because really, when it comes right down to it, it's all about the clothes. Well, that and the possibility of something really wacky happening.

SO- the clothes. I was really looking forward to seeing what Jennifer Hudson would be wearing because I think she's looked great all the way along. But she's got her thumbs hooked in her pockets!!

This could have worked. I liked her hair and I thought the colour of the dress was perfect on her, but what is that silver jacket all about? Did that Andre Leon Talley guy with the red-lined cape have something to do with this? I gotta say, the cape is a scream. It's so crazy. But not everybody should wear a cape and not everybody should wear this little useless jacket thing. And the pockets! NOOOO! I'm all for pockets, really, and make good use of them. At any time I've got kleenex, elastics, keys, my driver's license, unmentionable necessities, and dog bones in my pockets. I've been known to have a spare hoof pick in my pocket.
I'm sure pockets are a great place to stash an acceptance speech- not that I'd know personally.

I've never done a red carpet walk. BUT WHEN I DO you can bet I will not have my hands in my pockets like I'm not sure what to do with my hands, or rootin around for a snot rag.

But I still think she's lovely.

Moving on.

Helen Mirren is gorgeous. This dress looked right with her skin and hair. By the end of the evening I was really sick of pale dresses but she looked great.

This is Patricia Field. I'm not really sure who she is, other than having something to do with being in the costume end of the movie business...but I'm putting her picture up here because I really like her hair colour.
I think pink hair goes well with a red carpet. Eh?

Penelope Cruz. First thought- niiice. Second thought- yeesh, what's going on with that skirt? Not crazy about it. But I still think she's unfairly pretty.
I would just like you all to know that her bum was padded for her role in Volver. When I do MY Red Carpet Thing Some Day, I will not need bum padding.

Will Smith and family- awwww. So cute.
Jada looks gorgeous and Will is letting his hair go silvery, lord help me, he is a good fine lookin fella!!!

Nicole Kidman is very tall and thin. She wore a tall, thin red dress.
It had a thing on the shoulder. I don't get it. Plus I'm kind of burned that we only got one glimpse of Greasy Keith sitting beside her during the show. I like Greasy Keith. He's so...in need of a good scrubbin.

Look! It's special edition Beyonce Barbie! Darn she's pretty.

Look at little Abigail Breslin. She's 10 and she has been allowed to dress like a 10 year old. Next year she'll likely hate this dress, so it's nice that she got to wear it now!

Robert Downey Jr. I just like him. Look at the silver in his hair and beard! Hot stuff. This is for my friend Zedlie who came down the street to watch the Oscars with me.

Faye Dunaway! What the heck are you doing? Don't you know who you are?

I mean, high marks for crazy, yes...but why not go all the way crazy and make that dress bright pink or neon green? All or nothing baby. You're Faye Dunaway!!!

Eddie Murphy. You slick, slick man.

Clive Owen. He's English.

Sacha Baron Cohen is actually somewhat good looking when he's not Borat.
And his girlfriend is adorable but I'm afraid her boobs don't have enough breathing room. Or maybe too much room. They look rather precarious. But she is lovely.

The show opened with a montage of nominees in their normal-people costumes talking about getting the nomination. I liked that. For all of its Star Power, the Oscars do a good job of honouring the behind the scenes people who make it all happen. I actually am a big fan of all the Behind The Scenes People Who Make Showbiz Happen!

Ellen DeGeneres is so cute and funny, and non-offensive.
She had a nice collection of tuxedos for the evening and always looked nice. It was all very nice and went well with the boring. Isn't she cute though???

Hey, look at these guys! They brought the funny back! Now don't you think Jack Black would be a lot of fun to work with?

It was montage fever last night. I liked the writer's montage, of course, but it got a little silly. Apparently it's true: Everybody needs a montage. Things get better in a montage. Next!

Other highlights of the show included a sound effects choir-- I almost clamped my hand over Jethro's mouth when he got into the improbability of the performance being live-- and a troup of freaky silhouette dancers.

Did you catch the Beyonce/ Jennifer Hudson Diva Showdown? Wow. My ears are roasted.
That was heavy. Seriously. Neither one of them would be upstaged.

Celine Dion did a little thing. Jethro said there were maybe three notes in the whole song that weren't absolutely perfect. I couldn't stop thinking about Celine's eyebrows.
Remember when she had eyebrows? Maybe you have to be Canadian to remember them days. Right now I'm taking up the cause for giant overgrown Canadian eyebrows.

Melissa Etheridge looked healthy and won an Oscar for her song from An Inconvenient Truth.
I think she looked great. I'm not crazy about Tammy's dress though. It makes her look kind of old and she's not.

I'm going to predict that Leonardo DiCaprio is the next Jack Nicholson.

Seriously, I can't get over it- he's got the widow's peak, the steely eyes, the coolness.

But speaking of Jaaaack.... I'm rather concerned about him. He was there, of course, because it wouldn't be the same without him. There he was, up at the front, laughing his big mouthed laugh, dark shades in place, sharp toothed grin at the ready. But he's bald. Okay. Maybe it's for a role. Maybe he got sick of slickin it back for the last thirty years. But no; he's puffy. Not overweight, no, he's puffy. And he's pale. He doesn't look well. As the night wore on he still held court and did the grin every time the camera pointed his way, but then he presented an award with Diane Keaton- who I must add, did not have her top buttoned up to her chin. Whoo hoo!

Jack's raspy drawl was intact, but barely. He sounded like there wasn't enough wind behind his voice. His pal Diane was way too giggly and breezy and la dee dah about it.

I was rootin for Peter O'Toole to win. I don't know why, other than eight nominations must mean he's pretty good.
However, Forest Whitaker's acceptance speech was well done.
He remembered watching movies at the drive in, he thanked his ancestors and the people of Uganda.

Then Martin Scorsese won Best Director. Whew.
Imagine how silly Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg would have felt standing up there giving the Oscar to somebody who wasn't Marty.

So, it was boring, it was too long, and I can't even remember anymore who got Best Picture. It was way past my bedtime by then. But I have a list of movies I want to catch up on, which is the intended result of this exercise: creating interest and ultimately revenue! Most of all I have ideas for My Turn On The Red Carpet Some Day. I'm still thinking a nice plaid flannel evening gown would do it. And boots. And an article of clothing with Johnny Depp all over it. I'll let you know how it all works out...