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The Boredom of an English Lit Nerd

So, I keep trying to remember just how many Shakespeare plays I’ve read and/or seen over the years. So, I broke down and made the darn list. The crossed out I’ve either read, seen the movie adaptations of or seen live. The ones I’ve seen live (or performed in as is the case with All’s Well) are in bold.

Total seen/read: 24 out of 38.

Total seen live: 13

1. The Tempest 
2. The Two Gentlemen of Verona
3. The Merry Wives of Windsor
4. Measure for Measure
5. The Comedy of Errors
6. Much Ado About Nothing
7. Love’s Labour’s Lost
8. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
9. The Merchant of Venice 
10. As You Like It
11. The Taming of the Shrew
12. All’s Well That Ends Well 
13. Twelfth Night
14. The Winter’s Tale
15. Pericles, Prince of Tyre
16. The Two Noble Kinsmen
17. King John
18. Richard II
19. Henry IV, Part 1
20. Henry IV, Part 2
21. Henry V
22. Henry VI, Part 1
23. Henry VI, Part 2
24. Henry VI, Part 3
25. Richard III
26. Henry VIII
27. Troilus and Cressida 
28. Coriolanus
29. Titus Andronicus
30. Romeo and Juliet  (for being my least favorite of his plays, I’ve also seen it live the most –going on 3 times now and seen every movie adaptation at least once)
31. Timon of Athens 
32. Julius Caesar
33. Macbeth
34. Hamlet
35. King Lear
36. Othello
37. Antony and Cleopatra
38. Cymbeline

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I’m feeling ranty today and this is the most innocuous of the sources of this feeling.


Dear Men of the world (book critics in particular),

Please stop mansplaining and hating on romance novels until you’ve taken the time to actually READ ONE. I’m not talking about the Harlequin serials from 1985. I’m talking a bestseller from intelligent, well-spoken, talented women like Nora Roberts, Tiffany Reisz, Kristan Higgins, Courtney Milan, Stephanie Laurens or any number of authors I could name. Do you hear us hating on male-centric genres like westerns or action/adventure? NO. I’ve even taken the time to read some of them and enjoy them. There’s dredge in those genres too, but do you hear us pontificating about how they’re ruining society or a reflection on maleness? NO. So back off.

Do I have my own opinions of Fifty Shades? Yes. Those of you who know me will know I’m thoroughly unimpressed with the quality of the book, but I understand and somewhat respect what its popularity has done for the genre I’ve adored since I was 14. But this hating on romance by men who want to feel superior is getting REALLY OLD.

The ever-wise Sarah Wendell can explain the source of this rant must better than I here.  The most important part of this blog entry is when she quotes a Washington Post response to the ridiculous article that sparked this issue.

Here is a proposal Giraldi does not seem to have considered: Romance novels are attractive not just because they are a gratifying escape but also because they sometimes feel like a respite from from the significant hostility that a lot of literature shows women.

Men who try to mansplain romance are the reason we need it to exist. Men who write about the acquisition of a publishing company as if it were a TMZ sex scandal are the reason we need it. If you want to see the good romance has done for women, read some of my past entries. I wrote an entire thesis paper on it.

Okay. I’m done. For now.


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TV Suggestions

So, as I take a slight brain break between phases of my work-in-progress, I’ve been watching brand new TV shows and asking myself why I’ve stuck with some slightly less new shows through their freshmen seasons. Okay, so not a brain break, really, but what can I say? I’m a writer. We never stop thinking about stories in some form or fashion.

First up, the brand new shows:

Almost Human – This is one of Fox’s new(er) dramas. It started back in November. I went into the show with a lot of mixed emotions, especially since it displaced Bones, a perennial favorite of mine. But given that Karl Urban was in it, my inner-romance writer couldn’t say no (What, he’s smokin’).

Maybe it was the timing with the show starting just as I started to read J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, but I’m really starting to dig this futuristic cop drama. The premise is a little overdone–scarred but heroic cop teams up with new partner that messes with his world order–, but the interesting take on cyborgs and the impact the evolution of technology will have on society as a whole make up for the dated set up. Minka Kelly is a little annoying as the love interest for the hero, but I’m hopeful that her character will have the chance to demonstrate some backbone.

Intelligence – CBS’s new drama that started just this week (so it’s not hard to catch up on) is surprisingly intriguing. Again, the set up is a little overdone– off-beat, but devastatingly handsome hero in the midst of a search for his missing wife is paired with attractive, hardcore, no-nonsense beauty. I know, I know, there are only 13 original storylines in the world or something like that, but a little variety would be nice.

Luckily, the meat around the frame is different enough to stick. Josh Holloway’s character has had a computer chip implanted his head that lets him access any sort of electronic data. Meghan Ory is a Secret Service Agent who kicks some serious ass and has some shadows about her that I think will give things a little variety. I’m looking to see if she can carry a show as the lead. I loved her as Ruby in Once Upon A Time (and part of me wants to see her back on that show), but I think with an episode or two she can develop into a leading lady with potential.

Killer Women – As a writer, it makes me really happy to see ABC looking towards scripted mini-series a la the Brits rather than bringing in silly reality shows to fill time when their full length tv series are on hiatus. This show about one of the only female Texas Rangers looks like it will be fun if you like crime dramas led by strong, sassy females. The unique settings are a nice change of pace.

My hope for this is that they take the time to grow the main character, Molly Parker, to have some dimensions. Right now, she fits into the mold forged by Kiera Sedgewick and Glenn Close in their crime dramas. They showed glimmers of making her a little different at the end of the episode (who would have thought to have her play a trumpet?), but I’m waiting to see what they can do in the remaining seven episodes.

Now for the less new-new shows (no, it’s not like New New York):

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – I’ve gotten a lot of flack for sticking with this show, but my love of comic book worlds and anything created by Joss Whedon and his cohorts. It is getting a slow start, but unlike other comic book shows like Arrow and Smallville, SHIELD hasn’t had the same canonical source material to help drive the plot and pull fans in. Now that the second half of the season has started, I see them starting to take steps towards the potential that started to pick through in earlier episodes. The character stereotypes are beginning to be tested in true Whendon-esque fashion. While they’re not Buffy, Xander, and Willow, the main team has a dynamic that keeps me coming back and Clark Gregg’s quiet charm as Phil Coulson thoroughly justifies the hype that led up to the show.

Once Upon A Time in Wonderland  – In all honesty, I don’t know why I’ve stuck with this show. I think the writer in me is intrigued by the twisting of well-known stories and characters into a cohesive storyline that continues to surprise me. The same goes for its parent show. Alice being a badass is kind of awesome, and I really like the Knave of Hearts. None of the characters are one dimensional (except maybe Cyrus, but I think he’ll grow now that he’s not in a cage). Everyone, even the characters you think of as “all bad” like Jafar have different sides of shadow and light that make the story compelling. It’s a testament to character and innovation trumping the formulaic every time.

Downton Abbey – Wait, you say, Downton Abbey isn’t a new show. Well, no, not in the sense of seasons aired. BUT, as devastating as last season was, it essentially gave Julian Fellowes a chance to reboot the show. We’re comfortable with the characters, but it’s like starting a new book in a familiar saga. The balance has changed.

Branson is now the young male lead and having to take on a lot of the roles that come with being the son of the house, while still being in the limbo-land of him being the former chauffeur. Mary is starting over with the knowledge that the role she prepared herself for all her life is hers and yet not. Both are dealing with being single parents. Robert, Cora, Violet, and Isobel are all searching to fill the voids left by lost loved ones, while also being thrust forward into the Roaring Twenties by newcomer Rose. Even Edith is somewhat likable this year. The only part of the season premiere I didn’t like was the new ladies’ maid. My response: really, Julian Fellowes? Really?

What about you? What shows are you loving this year? I’m sure I’ve missed some that I’m keeping up with but there are far too many.

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Looks like I’m “It”

The diabolical Tiffany Reisz ( tagged me in a game of LUCKY SEVEN. A writer tagged in this game goes to page 77 of their WIP (work-in-progress), finds line number seven, and copies the next seven lines.  My current WIP was just started yesterday, so (since I’m not superwoman) I’m posting an excerpt from the as-yet-to-be-named sequel to the book I’m working on.

Cady accepted the thanks of the women, directing a few of them to books that their kids might like to read at home. When she finally extracted herself from the story time crowd, Micah sat in the armchair closest to the front counter, the box casually resting on one leg.  “You certainly look better than the last time I saw you.”

 “I hope so. I certainly feel better.” Micah stood, a sheepish grin lighting his face. He held the box out to her. “These are for you. A thank you present for staying up with me all night.”

 I’m retagging the brilliant Allie Sanders because she’s the only person I can think of who’s working on something right now 😛
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Future Husband of the Week: Special Agent Seeley Booth

A lot of the romance authors I know who blog have a “boyfriend of the week” feature. They post many drool-worthy pictures of gorgeous men and I love it. But I want to put a little twist on it. Most of these authors are happily married. Since I am not, I’m going to post a “future husband of the week.” The requirements for a future husband are different than those for a boyfriend. As all romance readers know, the hero can’t just be attractive. He has to have other qualities, such as charm, intelligence, a good sense of humor, compassion. The list goes on and on. So each week I will post a guy (real or fictional) who qualifies as a “future husband” aka a romance novel hero.

For my second Future Husband, I’m going to the realm of fiction. One of my favorite TV shows is BONES. Special Agent Seeley Booth is everything that a romance hero should be. Handsome, strong, brave and loyal. But there are also a lot of fun, quirky elements that make Booth (never Seeley) stand out from the crowd. 

Over the years, Hart Hanson and his wonderful team of writers have added some great layers to Booth. He served as an Army Ranger and he is very true to his conviction in the good in the American government. He’s a devout Catholic, even in the face of everything he sees in his rather gruesome job. Booth has helped Brennan become more connected with the realities of life rather than the facts. I love his patience and understanding.

Booth also has a fun, childish side to him that keeps things interesting and forces Bones to lighten up a bit. A sense of humor is a must for a Future Husband.

My favorite aspect of Booth’s character is his deep love for his son, Parker. I’m a sucker for a guy who is good with kids and genuinely likes them.

Parker (and Brennan) bring out the “Alpha male” protective side of Booth which is also pretty darn sexy. He’ll do anything to keep those he loves safe. I can’t wait for the new season to start so we can see more of Booth’s protective side with the new baby 😉

What do you think? Would Booth make your list?

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Doing Justice – to Books and Movies.

With so many book-to-movie adaptations these days, we always hear the question: was the movie as good as the book? With very few exceptions, the answer is usually “no.” To my way of thinking, the job of a movie based on a book is to make viewers want to read the book. It’s to draw non-readers over to the side of being readers. I think we (readers) need to adjust our way of thinking. The real question should be: does the movie do the book justice?

In order for a book to be made into a movie, it generally has to have a built in audience. This audience knows the story, they love the characters, but they want to see the familiar elements come to life. The burden of the filmmakers is to do justice to the story elements while still making a coherent movie. Unfortunately, many interpretations fall short of meeting this burden. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of the Narnia books. I’ve read all of them at least twice and many of them more than that. The first of the most recent adaptations, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe met its burden. It remained loyal to the story and the spirit of the book. A few changes were made for the sake of cinematic value, but for the most part it satisfied the most ardent fans.

Prince Caspian, the next film in the series, strayed further from the story. I thought it did justice to the book, for the most part, although some of my hardcore friends at NarniaWeb might disagree with me. Much of this disagreement hinges on one or two additions, such as a certain kiss, that many deem unnecessary.

Then came Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Oh, VDT, we had such hope for you. Sadly, in the hands of a different distribution company with different expectations, the filmmakers decided to worry more about cinematic appeal than doing justice to the book. The result? Even if you forget the fact that it is based on a book, it is still a mediocre movie. If filmmakers are going to take such a route, they need to make sure the movie is at least enjoyable. The movie version of Ella Enchanted bore very little similarity to the book, but most people were ok with that because it was still a fun movie.

There are very few adaptation movies that I go into with high hopes these days. The Help was one. And it didn’t disappoint. Did it follow the book scene for scene? Of course not. The audiobook was 18 hours. They managed to condense the story down to 2.5 hours. But it did the book justice. The casting was perfect. You believed Emma Stone was Skeeter Phelan. Octavia Spencer embodied Minnie. Bryce Dallas Howard seemed born to play Hilly Holbrook. While there were parts I wished could have been included, no extravagant changes were made to the story. Every character did what they were supposed to and reacted in the same way they did in the book.

More filmmakers need to take note of how the adaptation of The Help was done. Tate Taylor recognized what needed to be in the film to do justice to the book and what had to be left out to do justice to the movie. It’s a balancing act. They managed it (for the most part) with the Harry Potter films. And totally failed with the Twilight movies (Kristen Stewart *shudder*). I’m in the middle of reading the Hunger Games trilogy, praying that they realize this formula as they make the films. Like the Twilight books, they have cinematic books to work with. It’s simply a question of remembering the balance of justice.

What books do you think the movies have done justice to? Which ones have been criminally unjust?