Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parasol Protectorate Part 2

Changeless: The weaving of fact with fiction is really fun.  This is such a genre-mash-up of a series.  Alternate history-spinster-steampunk-supernatural-Victorian-romance-fantasy-melodrama-comedy-of-errors and now a bit of highlander, soldier, and Egyptian adventure, too.  Because there wasn't enough going on.  Also, I hate her sister.  Lots.

Blameless: BEST THING IN THIS BOOK: How Lord Maccon manages to stay drunk for days (and what causes it) and why Lyall is called Professor.  Seriously. Hilarious.  Crunchy pickled snacks . . . Snort!  I cannot wait to see the manga version of this . . .

Heartless: What a movie this one would make.  Also, The Raging Octomatons would be an excellent name for a band.

Timeless: You know, one of my favorite things about this series are the names.  Where did she come up with these?  Did she go through a list and pick the most absurd and ridiculous, or did she make them up?  Either way, they're awesome and snort-worthy. 

Not that I'm complaining, really, because it was quite the fun ride, and I needed to get back to my life and not trying to finish more books to find out what happened next and what name would make me giggle for days, but it feels like the author just got tired of the series and wanted to end it, so she did.  Leaving all sorts of sad, lonely, excellent plot threads just hanging there, feeling embarrassed and abandoned.  Your mileage will vary; maybe by this point, you'll want to be done with it, but I prefer less of a whimper at the end of a series that was this much fun. 

I've decided I want someone to make it a musical.  I wonder if the audiobooks have British accented readers . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Parasol Protectorate Part 1

This series of 5 books eventually became The Parasol Protectorate.  It started as the potentially Taming-of-the-Shrew-esque story of a respected, landed, member of the peerage (who happens to be a Supernatural, in this case a werewolf) and his hilariously combustible relationship with someone who should be his natural enemy: an educated, witty, spinster who cancels out supernatural powers with a touch.  She is also visibly half-Italian and takes after her tall, robust, dead father and not her tiny, brainless, obnoxious mother.  The best part?  No taming.  Marriage doesn't really make either of them change, per se, except that, you know, sometimes loud people in love can be really stupid.  The secondary characters are enormous amounts of fun, and it didn't really surprise me when Yen Press decided to turn this into a manga series.  It practically screams for a visual medium with which to display all of its genre-mashup glory (and Ivy's hats).

Soulless: That last chapter/epilogue is pure porn.  Just saying.  There are some steamy scenes before that, some in equally inappropriate places, but they're pretty funny, too, and some character and/or plot advancement is occurring.  Not here in this last bit.  This book is the most traditional romance.  Usually, the inevitable marriage would be the end, so it was nice that the world got some more exploring afterwards in 4 other books.  I suppose that's part of what kept it out of the romance section when I worked at Borders.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What do you like to hear in the stories you listen to?

I have a reading coming up in celebration of World Storytelling Day, and I'm trying to get some ideas from people about what they like about stories, so I can be sure to pick/write some pieces that will entertain those who come to listen to us telling our stories.

What makes a storyteller entertaining?

What storyteller behaviors drive you nuts?

What makes a story you're listening to interesting?

What makes a story you're listening to drag?

What kinds of stories do you like to hear?

What kind of characters do you like in a story read out loud (and in under 10 minutes)?

Any other interesting things to say about what you like to hear in the stories you listen to?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bad endings

"Many of the world’s best novels have bad endings. I don’t mean that they end sadly, or on a back-to-work, all-is-forgiven note . . ., but that the ending is actually inartistic—a betrayal of what came before." - Joan Acocella
Any of these come to mind for you?  Stories that were great until the end, when they imploded.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gobbling up the Immortals

Went on another Tamora Pierce binge, there.  I sped through the Immortals quartet, which I last read too long ago.  I remembered there was this girl who could talk to animals and this tall mage guy, and I remembered their names, and there were obviously Immortals involved.  I had apparently forgotten absolutely everything else, which is fine because then it's like reading something for the first time.

Things I had forgotten:
  • How awful the 2005 covers were.
  • The badger.
  • Daine was every bit as involved in actual fighting as Alanna and Kel (two heroines from other series I had thought were more fighting-oriented). 
  • Daine was the heroine who hated all Immortals at first but was able to later see them as individuals and treat them as such.
  • The entire third book.  (It even took me a long while to pin down why that archeopteryx skeleton seemed familiar . . .)
  • That so many other random characters from the other series made appearances here, too.
  • That there had been a dead dinosaur rampage in another fantasy book, which may have primed me to like the more recent one I encountered . . .
This binge means I can now legitimately move on to the Protector of the Small Series, which I have loved dearly since it first came out and may have been the first Pierce series I read in order completely.

I'm trying to move through the various interrelated series in the order they were written except where that conflicts with the inner story continuity too much.  This is partly to travel the path of increasing length and complexity of books as Pierce grew as an author and storyteller and partly to help myself not completely forget everyone since they keep guesting all over.

FYI: These are really excellent books to only read while exercising because they make you have a sudden passion for exercising that may not be too smart when you are trying to rehab a hip with a tear in it.  You have been warned. : )

Monday, February 11, 2013

Catching Up on "Old" Movies: Juno

Juno was a cute movie.  It was funny, awkward, and sometimes touching.  With all the touching/crying bits at the end, I was kind of surprised they still considered it a comedy, but I couldn't think of any other single category that could encompass the whole thing.  The commentary and deleted scenes (with commentary) were pretty great.  Maybe they were basic film school stuff from the director and snark from the writer, but I find that fascinating.  It seems like maybe it's rare for a director to have so many favorite deleted scenes and such clear explanations of why they were removed.  And learning that some things were done on purpose while others were accidental (unconscious genius, if you wish) was amusing.

The acting was uniformly awesome, especially the bit parts, which is really outstanding.  Everyone shined, even if s/he only showed up for one scene.  The dad was just great, and the stepmother was beautifully done, too.  I was pleased to see the role her best friend was able to play throughout, as well.  Lots of the performances were understated and thus far more believable than what you usually get in a comedy.  (There were some exceptions, like the store clerk in the beginning and Jennifer Garner's character with her not-so-quiet desperation.  They still sort of FIT, though, so it all worked.)

Quirky and amusing movies should be enjoyed, and I watched this one on a long, relaxed holiday weekend.  I am pleased with it overall.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Catching up on "old" movies: Slumdog Millionaire

I recently saw most of Slumdog Millionaire (except for the R-rated parts, thanks to my pal, and, while I had some issues with cinematography, script, and coherence, I thought it was a pretty good movie.  Some of the acting (especially the kids') was a little hammy for American movies but practically reserved compared to the Indian movies.

I found myself wondering what folks from India thought about the movie.  Did it seem very "westernized" to them, or did it have a ring of authenticity?  It doesn't really seem to at all closely follow the novel it's very loosely based on, so I have no idea.  Several people seemed to think it was a cleaner, more Dickens-influenced plot in its movie incarnation.  It was pretty powerful, either way.

And of course there was a big dance scene during the credits.  That made me kind of happy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Skyfall was a good Bond film

If I hadn't known it wasn't based on a book, I might have thought it was.  (This is a high compliment because I like the books.)  It was definitely a Bond film, but it wasn't stupid and brainless, and it didn't ignore the world it was setting itself in.
  • The villain was believably crazy (not your generic, run-of-the-mill, mustache-twirling psycho).  He acted just that little bit off-kilter, and it was spine-chilling sometimes.  You understood what made him go insane, you saw the effects that this kind of lifestyle of service and self-sacrifice could lead to.  You also saw how he might go too far but still hold that against his superiors later.  He was scary, but he mostly made sense.
  • The hero was properly dimensioned.  Suave when necessary but grumpy and surly as the situation called for as well.  There's a lot of ambiguity that I liked.  That scene with Moneypenny and the razor?  Bond exerting his charm? Yes.  Bond not sure he could shave without cutting himself?  Maybe.  Two birds, one stone.  The film was pretty psychological, too, asking the questions but not feeling a need to answer them neatly.  Why do you keep doing this?  What drives you?  Why should you be allowed to continue?  And this Bond is good at making you convincingly feel that he is in real danger, not just playing around being more awesome than the other guys.
  • M really worked.  You could sense her old-school dedication to the job, and you could see where it resonated with Bond.  "I'll stop when the job's done," she said.  Damn straight.  Their relationship was complicated and simple, based on what was said and explained and what was not justified, what was simply understood.  They may have played a bit too hard on the orphans/mother thing, but that theme was consistent, so I don't hold it against them too much.
  • The secondary characters were solid.  That secretary guy talking Bond to death while he's taking the tests, Moneypenny, the unfortunate girl Bond tried (and failed, yet again) to save, the guy investigating MI6, Q, and others.
  • The modern stuff was integral to the film.  How do you make these movies believable in the modern world?  Some past Bond films just sort of ignored it as they reveled in gadgets and cool stunts and explosions.  This movie made the new technology integral to the plot (Q was kind of a hoot) and openly confronted how the world works now in relation to governments, spying, accountability, and international/world politics.  It didn't try to wrap everything up neatly, but it did give a chance for different views to be presented and a compelling case made for why/how Ian Fleming's characters could still really work in this setting.
I really liked it, even though it was pretty long and tense and sad.  I don't think I saw the last one with this actor, but I liked his first one, which actually stuck really close to the book it was based on (like startlingly close) until the end.  I like what they're doing with these characters