Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work

Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work
Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved it! Tim Gunn's unique voice really comes through in this advice/tell-all book. He expounds on his philosophies of good behavior, ambition, teaching, and even parenting. The book is deeply personal as Gunn's family dynamics (including his father's relationship with J. Edgar Hoover) and professional life play a major role throughout.

A must read for any Tim Gunn fan going through withdrawal when Project Runway is not airing.

Favorite quotes from the book:

"But let us not be swept up in this tide of rudeness. This book (in addition to being a fun excuse to tell some of my fashion-world stories) is a call to arms, a manifesto for kindness, generosity, and integrity. I hope will join me in trying to make society a friendlier, more polite, and less aggressive place."

"Also: If you're going to yell demands for food into a room full of strangers, you'd better be as fabulous as Diane von Furstenburg if you expect to get away with it."

"There are times for protest, for civil disobedience, but on a day-to-day basis, it's best to avoid bringing out the big guns."

"Never try to resolve an emotional conflict over food. I recommend ordering drinks instead - with neither ice nor olives."

"Why bitch-slap someone unless you're leaving the planet for good? Don't burn bridges; you might need them later."

"If I were a waiter and someone talked rudely to me, I know I would be seriously tempted." I would never intentionally put someone's life at risk, bu half-a-dozen laxative tablets disolved in a cup of coffee would be sweet payback, indeed."

"I can't imagine a more aesthetically offensive item of footwear than Crocs. That little strap! I shudder."

"I also have no problem if you want to find a cave and have someone roll a boulder in front of it. To each his own."

"Call me a schoolmarm, but few things make me angrier than people not taking care of library materials." ~A man after my own heart!

"But let's talk some more about the bad ones, because they're the most fun to gossip about, and they deserve a little public shaming."

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 24, 2011

DoJ: The Darcy Obsession

So I have definitely been out of the blogosphere for awhile, but it is not entirely my fault (AT&T screwed me out of a month's worth of Internet; it's a long story). Anyway, I'm back and hopefully will be more involved with my poor, neglected blog.

So a few weeks ago, I was browsing the new book shelves at the Champaign Public Library and I stumbled across Pemberly Ranch by Jack Caldwell. Think Pride and Prejudice meets Gone With the Wind (the tag line on the back cover is "Frankly Mr. Darcy, I  don't give a damn..."). It's set in post-Civil War Texas with the Bennets as transplanted Yankees and Darcy as a rich rancher (Darcy in a cowboy hat ... yum).  I really enjoyed this retelling because though it kept the same spirit of the story it transformed the Georgian comedy of manners into a Western romp complete with a cattle drives, barbecue, a whorehouse, and a railroad scheme. It was an entertaining read and I highly recommend it to Austen lovers, who are tired of the sequels and variations that try and fail to imitate Austen's style or are just a little to trite.

While I was perusing the shelves, I found another five P & P variations or continuations and all their titles have something to do with Darcy: What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, Mr. Darcy's Obsession, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, Mr. Darcy's Little Sister, and The Darcys & the Bigley's.

I was intrigued. How many times could P&P be retold? I checked them all out and found out.

The last three in the photo are all variations by Abigail Reynolds. Each of them diverge from the original story by changing one single event. Basically her premise is what if this happened, instead of this.

  • What Would Mr. Darcy Do? is based on the premise that Mr. Darcy sticks around for a little bit at Lambton's inn where he and Elizabeth are almost caught in a compromising position.
  • Mr. Darcy's Obsession takes the track of Mr. Bennet dying and Elizabeth having to leave Hunsford before Darcy can propose. The Bennet sisters must find their way with reduced circumstances, Jane married to a shop keeper, Elizabeth living with the Gardiners in London, and the others living with their mother and Mrs. Philips in Meryton.
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World answers the question what if Mr. Darcy had compromised Elizabeth's reputation during his proposal and before she refused him. This one is the raciest of the three.

I read all of them, and they weren't bad. They have nothing on the original, but each explores a different facet of  Darcy's character. What Would focuses on his generosity. Obsession focuses on his loyalty and overcoming his prejudice. Last Man focuses on his pride. The one thing they all have in common: Elizabeth and Darcy end up happily-ever-after. Which begs the question, who will destroy the fantasy and write a story where E and D don't end up together?

The other two books are continuations, picking up where P&P leaves up.

I read Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson, which of course features Georgiana, but there was a whole lot of E and D as well. This book was a little hard to get through, just because the style felt a little forced, but the look into the Ton lifestyle was interesting, as Austen never touched on it though Darcy is related to the nobility.

After reading all the above P&P inspired novels in succession, I just couldn't bring myself to read another, even though the basis of The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman is that Darcy gives Bingley the Kama Sutra as sex advice. But from the skimming I did, there weren't many steamy scenes and Jane and Elizabeth spend a great deal of time pregnant.

There obviously so many ways to riff on Austen's works, but the allure of P&P and Darcy is overwhelming. The fact that all six of the books I found in CPL's new fiction section somehow mention Darcy in the title suggests that the Darcy complex is still a strong force, even if he is an intolerable a**hole in the original. But what is even more astounding is that all six books were published by Sourcebooks Landmark, a publisher who seems to make all its money on P&P inspired books with 64 books published with "Darcy" in the title, plus an entire section of Austen sequels. Sourcebooks is not the only publisher cashing in on the Austen craze; just check out these Listopia lists from GoodReads:

How long will the Austen craze last? Will the Darcy Obsession continue? I don't know, but for right now they are going strong if these articles provide any evidence:
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Friday, June 17, 2011

"Hit List" Misses the Mark

When I first was introduced to the Anita Blake series, I loved it. Anita was a kick butt heroine with some hefty emotional issues, trying to cope with the horrors of her job as an animator. But slowly and surely Hamilton bumped up the kink with the multiple men and the ardeur plot line which meant that in the second half of the series is practically page after page of sex. Now I like a little bit of raunch just as much as the next girl, but enough is enough.

That was why I was glad that Hit List, the most recent edition to the series only had one very short scene. At the same time, Anita has added another man to her already full dance card and spent most of the rest of the book putting up a feminist defense to the overbearing bully of a U.S. Marshal. It's old. And it leaves me wondering whether or not Hamilton can keep the series going. The logistics of Anita's life are mind boggling and if another guy or two gets added each book ... I can't even keep them straight now.  Plus, I keep forgetting who she's done and who she hasn't; I need to make a score card like I did for the Merry Gentry series.

Plus, Hamilton has killed off the Marmee Noir plot line, a little to easily for my taste. But what now? I mean the Olaf plot is heating up, but how far can that go?  Does Hamilton have some bigger, badder monster than the Mother of All Darkness? On the other hand, how is this series going to end? The only way I can see is that Anita has to die, but that isn't exactly the happy ending I want.  This series is too much like an amusement park ride. It's great and exciting while your on it, but at some point you have to get off. But when do we get off?

**I just found this awesome drinking game via GoodReads and Reading Amidst the Chaos. I may try this on my next day off. (Though some of the other books will get soused faster.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Branching Out

I began this summer with no specific reading goals in mind except to explore some of the social networking sites for readers. However, I am amending that previous decision. Because of my joining both LibraryThing and GoodReads, plus the book blogs I follow: Reading Amidst the Chaos and  Blogging for a Good Book, I am realizing just how many books out there I want to read. So instead of re-reading some of my favorite comfort food reads, I am branching out and not going to re-read anything else this summer. (Two exceptions: Name of the Wind, so I can remind myself of the story before I move onto The Wise Man's Fear, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because the final movie is coming out this summer!).

Here are just some of the books I want to read this summer:

The Hunger GamesImage via Wikipedia

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins -  It's a very "in" book right now and I do love me some, post-apocalyptic teen fiction. I've heard some rave reviews about it and my colleague let me borrow her copy, so I should be getting started fairly soon.

Fifth Avenue., 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson - I usually stay away from exposes, but I love Breakfast at Tiffany's the movie, though Capote's story was not my favorite.

The Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip - My supervisor recommended the series to me and the cover blurb was intriguing. However, the GoodReads reviews are mixed, so I will proceed with caution.

Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and Flop of the Season, 1959 -2009 by Peter Filichia - It seems like such an interesting book and will get me one step closer to the bright lights I have never seen but long to.

Check out my GoodReads for future updates! (I hit the 200 book limit for LibraryThing so I have to decide how much to pay for a membership). And look for a post towards the end of the summer where I will discuss the various reading social networking sites.
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Summer Project: Books Online

Last summer, I had a specific set of reading goals that I attempted to accomplish (attempted being the operative word).  This summer - not so much. Instead, I am going to focus on exploring some of the different book sharing websites, mainly LibraryThing and GoodReads though I am intrigued by BookGlutton and Shelfari.

I already have an account with LibraryThing and am in the process of putting my collection onto the site. I'm only doing reviews of what I have recently read, but I plan to add as I read/re-read.  Hopefully, once I get everything on LibraryThing, I can just copy it all over to GoodReads and the other sites.

The main reason I am undertaking this project is so that I am more aware of what I am reading and to help with my future as a librarian, though I am still not sure I want to go into public librarianship. Also I will miss my adult pop lit class and joining these book communities may help to make up for it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

DoJ: Pride/Prejudice

From Herendeen's website
I recently picked up Ann Herendeen's Pride/Prejudice. It is a slash fiction re-telling of P & P.  Herendeen's definition of slash fiction is when "existing stories are re-told with same-sex relationships between some or all of the main characters" (410). Basically, Darcy and Bingley have a relationship inspired by ancient Greek and Roman culture, when men had relationship with younger men in an "ideal love." Plus, Lizzy and Charlotte also have a relationship, though Charlotte is really a lesbian.

The premise isn't that strained, as Darcy obviously has a whole lot of authority over Bingley, but the fact that Darcy is part of the Brotherhood of Philander (the gentlemen's club whose members are all gay/sodomites). The Brotherhood is a major part in her first book, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander.  It's a little to much product placement for me; plus she adds so many characters, the actual story of P&P is lost.  The flip side of not dwelling too much on the original is that Herendeen actually creates rather than retells:

"all authors who write versions of Austen novels are faced with the hellish problem that the Divine Miss A. produced some of the most elegant prose ever to appear in English literature... we have two unpalatable options: to paraphrase, or to dump vast chunks of her text into our narrative. Neither alternative is attractive to a writer. Copying is, well, copying - not creative at all" (412).

On the whole, it was okay; pretty smutty, but being able to see more of Darcy (even a bi Darcy) was refreshing. Grade B. Rating R.

Other Reviews:

B&N Bookclubs     Good Reads     Library Thing
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Chick Lit, Chick Flick

I recently saw the trailer to the newest rom-com that will be hitting theaters this May. It's Something Borrowed starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Colin Egglesfield, and John Krasinski (aka Jim from The Office) and directed by Luke Greenfield.  I am a fan of Ginnifer Goodwin having seen her in He's Just Not That into You, Mona Lisa Smile, and a the few episodes of Big Love I watched.  She usually plays a sweet, somewhat naive best friend (seems to be the standard for brunette actresses), so I am excited to see her with a leading role, though I will admit the role is still in her 'type.'

The film is based on Emily Giffin's novel by the same title, and because the trailer was so intriguing I checked it out from the local library.  It was a quick read, as is most chick lit, but I'm kind of ambivalent about the premise. Basically, on her thirtieth birthday, Rachel has semi-drunken sex with her best friend's fiancé, Dex, and then proceeds to have a summer affair with him before his September wedding date.  As much as I was rooting for Rachel and Dex, I was almost hoping that Dex's continuous avoidance of calling off the wedding would spur Rachel into dumping his a** and finding someone who deserves her. Also, ruining your best friend's wedding is a huge no-no in my book, though Darcy, Rachel's bff, is not a prime candidate for bff of the year.  Really, I just wanted Rachel to grow a spine and dump both Darcy and Dex and find some other way to fulfill her life. So I give the book a B, and I plan to see the film, probably as a matinée.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet

First of all, I am declaring this blog a no-shame zone. Having said that, I am not gay, regardless of what the title of this post may lead you to believe. To explain the title, you will notice in my profile that I describe my self as "a closet romantic." Well, I'm owning up to romantic, slightly gooey side, inspired by my Adult Popular Literature (APL) in structor who proudly owns up to reading romance and even erotica. I've made baby steps in the past with my "Vamping the Bookshelf" and my "Daughters of Jane" series, but this post is a no holds-bar exposé. Here goes nothing ... I read romance novels.

Granted I am not usually drawn to the contemporary or historical love stories. I like a back story, usually with a robust mythology, harkening back to my exclusively fantasy period. Most of the time, the straight love story is not enough to hold my attention. I want some action, usually of the political conspiracy/large objects blowing up/sword fighting and if at all possible, a kick-butt heroine. However, in an effort to broaden my reading horizons for my APL class, I decided to read outside of my box and got the first two books of Nora Roberts' The Bride Quartet as well as a true bodice-ripper.

I just finished A Vision in White, the first book in the quartet. The plot focuses on Mackensie "Mac" Ellot, a wedding photographer, and Carter Maguire, a PhD high school English teacher (one of those prestigious academies in Connecticut). Mac is an owning partner in Vows, an almost all-inclusive wedding planning company, with her three best friends: Parker, the brains of the operation, Emma, the florist, and Laurel, the baker/pastry chef. Carter has had a crush on Mac since high school and the romantic journey ensues after a chance meeting when Carter's sister comes to Vows to plan her wedding.

Having never read Nora Roberts before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. It follows the basic romantic tale plot: boy meets girl, boy loses girl (this time because of the girl's deep-rooted trust issues), boy gets girl back. The dialog is witty, the characters seem real, and the situation is not that implausibly fairy tale/chick flick romantic. Also, the love scenes are tasteful and there aren't too many of them. I also appreciate she had me going to the dictionary to look up some words, like "stevedore" which is a person who loads and unloads cargo from ships. The issue I had with the book is some overly sentimental metaphors and dialog, but the comes with the territory.

Having said all that, it was predictable to the point that I feel comfortable forecasting the direction of the rest of the series. There were only three single, eligible men introduced in A Vision in White: Carter, Jack Cooke, and Delaney "Del" Brown. Carter has been spoken for, but there were hints as to who the other men would fall for in the end.

There was an interesting scene with Emma and Jack which ended with her yelling at him and storming out, so I will predict that the second book in the quartet, Bed of Roses (remember Emma is the florist), will feature them.

Cover of "Savor the Moment (The Bride Qua...                  Cover via Amazon

The third book in the series, Savor the Moment, will feature Laurel, the baker (clever title Ms. Roberts), and Del based on one interaction between Mac and Laurel. Mac has just apologized for being bitchy and explains that Del helped her in a situation with her mother, Laurel's response: "In the act of getting down a glass, Laurel glanced back. 'Del was there?'" (p. 141). I will admit it isn't much to go on, but just the fact that she mentioned him is significant and besides that he's Parker's brother.

The final book in the quartet, Happy Ever After, will feature Parker with a yet-to-be-named suitor. Parker's book has to come last because she seems to be the strongest, motherly personality and she has to see her friends settled before she can find her ... wait for it ... happily ever after.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Daughter's of Jane: P&P in Black and White

Since my spate as an undergraduate student has come to a close, I can no longer hold an undergrad position at the UGL. Besides significantly trimming down my income, not being an SA has also curtailed my browsing of the UGL's media collection, which is very impressive. You never know what goodies you'll find whilst shelving.

Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)Image via Wikipedia
A case in point is the main subject of this post: the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, as well as one of my favorite character actors: Melville Cooper (best known as the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood).  Also, Aldous Huxley wrote the screenplay. Yes, the man who wrote Brave New World was also a prolific screen writer for TV and Hollywood.  It was a decent adaptation of the film, even for Hollywood.  As usual Austen's dialog was preserved with lines like Mr. Bennet's:
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you don not Marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do."
and Mr. Darcy's:
"You must allow me to tell you how much I admire and love you."
The characterization was also done very well.  Mrs. Bennet, played by Mary Boland, is exquisite in her overly conniving and blatant attempts to marry off her daughters and Edna May Oliver, as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderful, though I still prefer Barbara Leigh-Hunt.  The one horrible job was Olivier as Darcy.  He was just too wishy-washy and definitely not nearly as socially awkward as he should be.

From there, the adaptation starts to deteriorate. Though the plot deviates from the original in some small ways toward the beginning of the film, the major divergences happen after Elizabeth's rejection of Mr. Collins.  Let's hit the highlights and, by the way, SPOILER ALERT!
  • Mr. Collins is Lady Catherine's librarian, not a clergy man.
  • The Bingley's throw a garden party instead of a ball.
  • The Gardners, the visit to Pemberly, and actually seeing Georgiana were completely cut.
  • Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth about Wickham in person, not by letter.
  • Lydia and Wickham elope from Meryton, not Brighton.
  • Darcy doesn't just find the love birds and get Wickham a commission; instead, he finds them and gives them a fortune. (How unjust is that! I prefer the ending in which they are miserable and poor for the rest of their lives.)
  • Mary and Kitty find men during the very last scene.
  • And perhaps the biggest twist: Lady Catherine visits Elizabeth as Darcy's "ambassador" aka MATCHMAKER! (It was a shock to me too.)
Also, the film just comes off as very abrupt and lacks the subtlety of the Regency customs and manners.  Everything, like how ruinous Lydia's actions and how "inferior" the Bennets are to Darcy, is either explained outright or so completely over-acted that it is impossible not to see how horrible the situation actually is.

Bennet girls in hoop skirts and puffed sleevesImage via Wikipedia
Besides these errors (and some would same calamitous transgressions by Mr. Huxley), I found the most distracting part was the costuming.  Even though Mrs. Bennet mentions the Battle of Waterloo at one point, the dresses seem more mid-century (see photo to the right), as in Gone With the Wind.  It's just not right.

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