Infographic: When Did Famous Authors Publish Their Breakthrough Novels?

These are some super cool facts that link to a chart that is pretty inspiring for aspiring authors!

101 Books

This is a fascinating infographic that was sent my way.

The graphic shows the age at which dozens of famous authors wrote their first book, their first breakthrough book, in which years of life they published other books, and when they died.

It gives you a good idea of how prolific some writers are—to a fault, in some cases, I would say.

You can view the full infographic at BlinkBox Books by clicking on the image below.


Explore the careers of some of the world’s most successful authors. Click image to open interactive version (via Blinkbox Books).

Some thoughts:

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Triumphant Return!

Wow, lots of traffic on my blog lately! It’s that post about Fifty Shades of Grey, but I’m totally cool with that. Some of you may have noticed that around May of each year I suddenly put a few posts up and then disappear for six months or more. Yeah.

That’s because every summer I think “oh I’ll have so much more time to devote to my blog!” Then I start work at my summer job and I lose all motivation. Such is the circle of life.

However, I have a bunch of good news!

I’m in graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing! I’m living in Minnesota and it’s a surprisingly mild winter so far, no worse than Michigan at least. I have a lot of time this semester, so hopefully, if I can stay motivated I’ll be able to blog more. Not that many people care, but I’m going to keep posting about books on my original list, but I might talk about my writing a little because writing is hard, maybe some support would keep me going!

In keeping with the good news, I’ve been published! I had a novella published and was included in a superhero romance anthology.

Powerless Against You

Strangers in a Movie Theater at Barnes&Noble or AllRomance

Just putting those links out there, I’ll probably post something more in depth later.

So, again, I will set a goal for myself, but it won’t be as ridiculous as two posts a week. I’ll try to do one post a week.

Hope you’re all having a great week!

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The Yellow Birds – A Modern Classic?

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Just a quick post today with no spoilers.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is a slim novel about the war in Iraq. Two young men meet during basic training and become quick friends. They watch each others backs and the main character Private Bartle makes a promise to the mother of his friend Private Murphy to bring him home safely.

Personally, I found this book slow and heavy. It’s certainly a close look at the effect of war on today’s soldiers and their families, however, I found there was a certain amount of disconnect. I felt sorry for the characters and the heaviness of the topic stayed with me for a few days after I finished, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to anyone in the story. I felt there was very little emotion in the book.

This could be one of two things. There’s always the chance the author Kevin Powers, meant for there to be a disconnect, especially in the parts where Bartle is back home and trying to reconcile the things he’s seen with his old life. I believe that disconnect really fit in with the obvious PTSD and problems Bartle was having. However, I felt that same disconnect in the parts where he was in basic training and didn’t know what was coming.

I would have liked more insight into Murphy’s breakdown, but the narrative was about Bartle and from his point of view.

In summation, I think The Yellow Birds will be an important book, but I didn’t care for it. I don’t think it fully explored the characters or the situation. Will this be something we study to learn about the Iraqi war from an artist’s perspective? I think only time will tell. It has already won several awards throughout 2012 and 2013. It’s one of the first fiction narratives to come out of the Iraqi war to gain such critical accolades, so I feel like we’ll see more narratives detailing this war in the near future.

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God’s Not Dead is the Worst Kind of Propaganda

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Major Spoilers

I want to preface this post by saying that I don’t believe Christians are evil. You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want. I’m agnostic, which means that I’m on the fence. There might be a God, there might not, I don’t really know and I don’t claim to know. My point is that I don’t want to hate on people’s beliefs. What I’m hating on is this movie. It was propaganda, pure and simple.

This film, God’s Not Dead propagates ignorance and misinformation. It makes out Atheists as evil and bitter. Technically, the professor Mr. Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo, TV’s Hercules) wasn’t even an Atheist. He was a bitter, disappointed Christian. His mother died when he was twelve and so he decided that God was dead. But someone can’t be dead if you don’t believe they exist in the first place. This is what I like to call extremist logic.

I warned my mom against seeing this movie. I knew we weren’t going to like it. She insisted that it looked like it could be good. At the very least we could root for the Atheist. My mom believed the movie was going to be like a docu-drama, merely presenting ideas and letting the audience decide. It was practically the opposite, forcing viewers to look at characters as worse or better depending on what they believed.

Basically, on the first day of his philosophy class, Professor Radisson wants his students to write God is dead on a piece of paper, sign it, and turn it in. One boy, Josh Wheaten, stands up for the Lord and refuses to sign the paper. This means he’ll have to take on a project where he proves/makes an argument that God is NOT Dead. Or he’ll have to drop the class.

Let me start with the college class. What kind of asshole professor forces his own beliefs on students? It would be one thing to push aside the topic of God, because it is a philosophy class, not religion, and everyone could agree to just work around the topic instead of arguing over whether God is real, because that’s not what philosophy is about. But it’s an entirely different story to make your students sign a paper that might be against their beliefs. Secondly, the narrative wants us to believe that in a class of 50 students there is only ONE Christian. Really? Where in America do they live, that there is only one Christian in a freshman general education class?

The major problem with this movie is that the plot hinges on Christians being the minority. Not only are Christians the minority, but they are the persecuted minority, which is completely the opposite of real life. Everyone is mocking Christians or telling them to give up their beliefs. The professor’s girlfriend is a Christian and when she says so at a dinner party with his colleagues they all look at her like she said something weird or disgusting.

In America, I’ve read that at least 70% of the country identifies as Christian. Which we can believe with the outpouring of religious films lately, such as Heaven is for Real and Son of God. The film God’s Not Dead itself is a showcase of how powerful Christianity is in America simply because this film was made. Yet the movie world wants us to believe that Christians are a minority? The Christian rock concert at the end is packed full, but in Josh Wheaton’s freshman philosophy class he is the only Christian? I call bullshit.

Not only does the plot hinge on this alternate universe belief that Christians are the minority, but the subplots are there only to demonize other beliefs. There is a subplot with a Muslim father who makes his daughter wear a hijab. A symbol of oppression to the “enlightened” western world. Obviously. The young girl though, is listening to *gasp* THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE on her iPod. When her father finds out he smacks her around, drags her outside and chokes her. I thought they were going to have him kill her, but obviously, since she’s turning to Christianity she’s not gonna die.

At this point in the movie, my mom booed, out loud. I was proud. There weren’t more than 10 other people in the theater, but she said she just couldn’t sit there and watch this demonization of Muslims. So yeah, the father kicks his daughter out for believing in Christ.

What I want to know, is how many Christian families have kicked their children out for being gay, or transgender, or hell, getting pregnant outside wedlock? How many Christians throw their children out for simply being who they are, not because of their beliefs, which are far more changeable than DNA? And yet this movie is going to demonize Muslims? Can’t they catch a break? This plot had no point in the movie other than to promote the idea that Christianity is the only correct faith.

The female characters in the movie were all demonized as well. Josh’s perfectly blonde fiancé doesn’t understand why he won’t just drop this philosophy class. She throws a fit about how this doesn’t fit into their plan, and if he gets a bad grade then there’s no way he can get into law school. Then she dumps him. Yeah, I don’t think their relationship was all that strong, or either of them were much in love if she’s gonna get pissy because he’s standing up for his beliefs.

The other woman in the movie is Amy Ryan. She’s an ambitious blogger who stands for animal rights. Some guy from Duck Dynasty makes a cameo when she ambush interviews him outside of a Church. Her interview is a little hostile, but not outright rude or anything. The guy starts talking about Jesus and love and Amy Ryan kinda scoffs and says “that’s it?” So we know she’s not really a believer. Guess what happens to her? This ambitious girl is diagnosed with a late stage terminal cancer. This obviously, leads her to the Christian rock concert where she slips backstage for an interview and the band prays for her.

Back to the terrible plot.

After Josh has made his argument and proven Professor Radisson wrong and all the kids in class have stood up and said God’s Not Dead, this professor is looking at his life choices. His Christian girlfriend left him; he was disgraced in front of his class, so he rereads a letter from his mother begging him not to lose faith and has this epiphany. He decides he has to go find his ex-girlfriend, and he knows she’ll be at this huge Christian rock concert. So he starts running there and guess what?

He gets hit by a car.

That’s right. The atheist of the film, gets hit by a car, gets his final rites given to him by a priest who’s part of a subplot so stupid I’m not even going to talk about it, and then dies. They kill the atheist and give cancer to the other non-believer. Because if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re gonna die.

Or at least that’s what I got out of this movie.

Do you see what I mean? At Merriam-Webster’s website, the definition of propaganda is “ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.” It becomes exceedingly obvious when at the end of the film, at this Christian Rock concert; they want the concert-goers to text God’s Not Dead to everyone in their phone. And at the end of the film, they want movie-goers to do the same. If I received a text that said “God’s Not Dead” I would not be friends with that person anymore. I don’t want to be friends with someone gullible enough to swallow this movie and its harmful messages.

Sidebar: one of the arguments that I found most offensive, when Josh Wheaten was trying to prove that God’s not dead, was when he spoke about moral compasses. He uses the Dostoyevsky quote “If god does not exist, everything is permitted.” Whether or not this was Dostoyevsky’s belief is a whole other debate, but the mistaken belief that people can’t be moral without God just enrages me. What kind of person are you that you need some sort of “Santa God” watching over you to make sure you do the right thing? If you do the right thing only because you’re afraid of going to hell and not because it’s the right thing to do? Then you’re probably not a very good person.

Oh! And one last point that my mom noticed. While there was a Chinese exchange student who discovered Christianity, and a Muslim girl who went to Jesus, there was no Jewish character. My mom was laughing as she pointed it out, because in a world where Jewish people have been chased out of country after country, the idea the Christians are the persecuted minority wouldn’t hold water.

In conclusion, God’s Not Dead is a horrible movie that teaches people if you don’t believe in the Christian God, you’re wrong. Atheists are just bitter Christians, Muslims are evil and so are Atheists. If you’re an atheist, you’re going to die a horrible death while all the Christians go to a rock concert. This movie only affirms extremist sects and uses fear tactics to turn other people towards Christianity.

This is the kind of film that gives Christianity a bad name and reputation.

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Archangel Academy Series – Unnatural, Unwelcome, and Unafraid

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This review will cover all three books in the ‘Archangel Academy Series’ which are, in order; Unnatural, Unwelcome, and Unafraid. There won’t be any spoilers.

The main character, Michael Howard, is a boy from Nebraska. After his mother’s apparent suicide he goes with his father to England where he is put in an all boys boarding school called, you guessed it; The Archangel Academy. With a title like that, you might believe this story involves angels, or fallen angels and it kinda does, but mostly it’s about vampires.

However, there’s a twist. Michael’s love interest, Ronan, is a special kind of vampire. He’s a “water vamp,” that is, a water vampire. He is part of a breed of vampires who get their strength from a magical well in a cave on the Irish coast somewhere. This means they can walk in sunlight and don’t actually drink blood. Meanwhile, normal vampires are a thing, but they can also walk in sunlight on the Academy grounds.

The plot is basically that there is a war between normal vampires and the water hybrid vampires. Normal vampires are jealous of the water vamps and want to take their power.

There’s a lot of teen angst and misunderstandings in these books. Overdramatic inner monologues and such. The plot moves a little slowly in the first book, but picks up in the second and third. Reviews at Barnes&Noble.com as well as GoodReads call it a gay version of Twilight, but I think that’s doing a disservice to Griffo’s series.

One of the things that sets this apart from other YA vampire romances is that Michael and Ronan’s relationship is never called into question. What I mean is that, unlike the entirety of Meyer’s New Moon, Ronan never tries to leave Michael. Even after the disastrous way Ronan turns Michael into a water vampire, Michael doesn’t leave Ronan. Their relationship is a focal point of the novel, but in such a way as to show its strength and how people who love each other communicate and reassure one another of their affections. The plot is formed outside of their relationship rather than around it, and that’s refreshing in a genre where the main conflict is the vampirism of one love interest.

The writing itself is nothing special. The books are written in third person and switch to different points of view throughout. That was my main gripe with the series. The style is choppy and the POV switches are sudden and at times hard to follow. I read all three books in quick succession, so by the third book I had kind of acclimated to the style, but it was frustrating.

Overall, it was nice to have a gay protagonist, but the series could have been better. It could have been written better, there could have been more world building around the magical well and how these water vampires came to be. It was original and enjoyable, but a little predictable when it came to the direction the plot took with the war between vampires.

I would recommend this series if you like twists on vampire lore or gay romances. But I would suggest getting it from a library, not buying it.

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What does Tess of the D’Urbervilles Have in Common with Fifty Shades? Abuse.

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This post isn’t like my previous reviews. I wrote this essay for my application to graduate school. The topic is something I’ve wanted to explore for a while, which is the romanticizing of abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey. The phenomenal response to Fifty Shades is highly troubling to me because this is the type of relationship people believe they want. My essay doesn’t even touch on the poor writing and infantilization of a grown woman.

This essay compares Fifty Shades with the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I chose Tess because within Fifty Shades, Anastasia compares herself to Tess and Christian to Alec as if Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a romantic story like Pride and Prejudice. It is not. Warning, there are spoilers for both Tess and Fifty Shades.

I have a lot of problems with Fifty Shades of Grey. If women want to read porn and erotica, I could not care less, but Fifty Shades is the worst thing you could choose, in my opinion.

 

Fifty Shades of the D’Urbervilles: Romanticizing Abuse

Popular culture has shot the novel Fifty Shades of Grey into the stratosphere. It is not a noteworthy or particularly well written book, but it bears inspection for its cultural connotations. Throughout the novel, the protagonist Anastasia Steele compares herself to Tess Durbeyfield of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. These two heroines are nothing alike, except in Anastasia’s mind. Her comparison to Tess may be appropriate by way of her relationship with Christian; in that Anastasia’s ‘love interest’ exhibits many of the same abusive and manipulative behaviors as Alec d’Urberville. What follows is a close reading of Fifty Shades of Grey and Tess of the D’Urbervilles to compare and contrast the interactions between Alec and Tess versus Christian and Anastasia, as well as the cultural connotations of these two novels.

Christian’s pursuit of Anastasia is reminiscent of Alec’s pursuance of Tess in its methods and obsessive vehemence. Both men stalk their ‘prey’ and emotionally manipulate them. Christian uses modern technology to find Anastasia by tracing her cell phone to a nightclub and later knows her flight plans when she hasn’t told him. She even comments “of course he knows where I live. What able, cell phone-tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t?” (James 82) and “Your stalking knows no bounds” (389). Christian gives her gifts that allow him to stay in contact with her at all times. He gives her a car, a blackberry, and a MacBook. In a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, the authors proclaim

“While providing gifts may not be the first thing that comes to mind in defining ‘‘stalking,’’ it is an important component used in an overarching dynamic to control victims—hence its inclusion in the CDC’s [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] definition; in our own analysis of real-world violent couples, one abuser delivered a hundred dollar bill to the victim’s apartment, to remind the victim of his control over her.” (Bonomi)

Meanwhile, Alec d’Urberville does the exact same thing. He finds Tess whether she is in Marlott, Flintcomb-Ash, or Kingsbere, without the help of technology. Alec also gives Tess gifts and provides gifts for her family. When Alec tells her that he has provided her father with a new horse and the children with toys, Tess is aware that she owes him for his kindness. “I almost wish you had not,” she says and then “the sudden vision of his passion for herself as a factor in this result [the gifts] so distressed her that, beginning with one slow tear, and then another, she wept outright” (Hardy 85). Neither Tess nor Anastasia truly want the gifts they are being given. Anastasia’s reasoning is not clear, but Tess at least recognizes the control it gives her oppressor over her.

The initial gift that Christian gives to Anastasia is a first edition copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Christian sends a card with the quote “Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks,” (James 54). In the context of Tess the titular character is upbraiding her mother for not warning her of the dangers that men posed to her virtue. This is after Tess has been raped by Alec d’Urberville in the woods. Anastasia knows the context of this quote, stating “This quote – Tess says it to her mother after Alec d’Urberville has had his wicked way with her,” (55). She then claims ignorance as to the implications behind the quote. We can, however, assume that Christian was aware of the meaning behind the quote, since he was the person who chose it. The meaning being that he (Christian) not only desires Anastasia physically, but that he desires her at the exclusion of her will. The second layer of meaning being that, as an English major, Anastasia should know how to fend against him, because she “reads novels that tell [her] of these tricks.” The use of this particular quote by Christian implies that he is aware of the wrongness of his desire, but he plans to pursue it anyway. Alec does much the same when he says to Tess “I suppose I am a bad fellow – a damn bad fellow. I was born bad, and I have lived bad, and I shall die bad in all probability,” (Hardy 92).

If we can compare Christian’s behavior to Alec, we can apply the same logic to Anastasia and Tess. During a dinner date where Christian and Anastasia are discussing the BDSM contract he wants her to sign, Anastasia compares herself to Tess by saying “and Tess would succumb, just as I have.” (James 225). This quote is problematic in two ways. The first being Anastasia’s use of the word “succumb” in a romantic context. The Merriam-Webster’s definition of succumb is “to stop trying to resist something,” or “to die.” It would be one thing if she was succumbing to her own desire, but within the context she is actually succumbing to Christian’s advances. The implication being that she is hesitant and/or reluctant to agree. The second definition “to die” can be interpreted in that Anastasia’s sense of self ‘dies’ when she “succumbed” to Christian. Certainly both definitions of succumb can be applied to Tess Durbeyfield. Hardy’s description of her after having been Alec’s mistress for an undisclosed period of time is “his [Angel’s] original Tess had spiritually ceased to recognize the body before him as hers – allowing it to drift, like a corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated from its living will,” (Hardy 441). Tess is in effect ‘dead,’ she has ‘succumbed’ to Alec in both senses of the word. For Anastasia to echo this sentiment in relation to becoming Christian Grey’s ‘submissive’ shows that their relationship is unbalanced and harmful.

The most crucial similarity, and the most troubling, is that both Anastasia and Tess are taken advantage of in a moment of vulnerability. Both women had a compromised mindset when their pursuers elicited “consent.” One of the literary mysteries of the twentieth century seemed to be whether or not Tess was raped or seduced, though the two are not mutually exclusive. In saying that she was asleep prior to the incident, the text Tess seems to give conclusive evidence that Tess was raped by Alec. An analysis of the scenes description yields that it “involves[s] active verbs associated with the will being overborne rather than consensual intercourse.” (Williams). Anastasia may not have been raped in the visceral sense that Tess was, but her consent was impaired and she was as ignorant as Tess in regards to sexuality. Christian plies Anastasia with wine and then has her sign a nondisclosure agreement. He shows her into his “Red Room of Pain,” which is his BDSM playroom. When Anastasia tells Christian she is a virgin he responds with anger. The compounding of these experiences amounts to intimidation, indeed Anastasia is “feeling guilty” (109) and Christian refers to her virginity as a “situation” that he needs to “rectify” (110). None of which is conducive to an enthusiastically consensual encounter.

Fans of the book may defend Anastasia’s decision as fully consensual by citing the following exchange between Christian and Anastasia. Anastasia asked Christian why he sent her a first edition copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Christian’s response is “It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec d’Urberville” (95). To which Anastasia replies “If there are only two choices, I’ll take the debasement” (95). However, this bit of dialogue is before Anastasia has signed the nondisclosure agreement and before she finds out that Christian wants to dominate her in the BDSM sense of the word. Thus, her use of the word debasement, in view of her virginity, is not that she wants to be sexually dominated, but that she simply wants to engage in sexual acts. She is merely flirting in a very problematic manner.

The major issues that come from the characters of Fifty Shades of Grey appropriating the story of Tess of the D’Urbervilles is that in the context of Fifty Shades the relationship between Tess and Alec is highly romanticized. Anastasia compares Christian to Alec when she thinks “as I sit, I’m struck by the fact that I feel like Tess Durbeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec d’Urberville. The thought makes me smile.” (95) It makes her smile. She is at the mercy of a man she is attracted to and instead of comparing Christian to Angel Clare, the love of Tess’s life and a man whose downfall was that he was too moral, she compares him to Alec d’Urberville, the villain of Tess’s story. Tess murders Alec at the end of the novel because she despises him and his control over her. Anastasia, unfortunately, does not murder Christian. The crucial different between the two texts is in the female’s response to intimidating behavior. Tess rebuffs Alec and only succumbs when the livelihood of her family is at stake. Anastasia succumbs because she falls for Christian’s intimidation tactics.

It is important to analyze these two texts and the role Tess of the D’Urbervilles plays within the story of Fifty Shades of Grey because it gives context to the argument that the relationship depicted is actually harmful and not romantic. Fifty Shades of Grey, whether we like it or not, through its phenomenal sales, shows us how intimidation and stalking have been normalized to such an extent that the extremes are now considered a sexual fantasy. We have come to the point where the same actions Alec D’Urberville perpetrated on Tess – stalking, intimidation, and coercion – are seen as romantic overtures. Oh how are the mighty fallen.

 

Bibliography/Further Reading

Bonomi, Amy E. “”Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey.” Journal of Women’s Health 22.9 (2013): n. pag. gloria.tv. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. 1891. Reprint. London: Vintage, 2008. Print.

James, E.L. Fifty Shades of Grey. London: Arrow Books, 2012. Print.

Neill, Edward. “‘Violety-bluey-blackish’: thinking about Tess and ‘identity’ politics.” Thomas Hardy Journal 25.Autumn (2009): 87-105,162-163. Literature Online. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

Nikandam, Roya. “Women’s Death as the Triumph in the Patriarchal World of Victorian Imagination.” Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 3.1 (2012): 351-360. ProQuest.    Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

Williams, Melanie. “”Is Alec a Rapist?” – Cultural Connotations of `Rape’ and `Seduction’ – A Reply to Professor John Sutherland.” Feminist Legal Studies 7.3 (1999): 299-316. ProQuest. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

 

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One Year!

One year ago today, I began this blog. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with my posting ambitions. My apologies to anyone who cared.

Happily though, I would like to start posting again. Lots of things have been happening! I lived in England for six months, but that was not as exciting as I had hoped. There’s a funny thing that happens when you legally cannot hold a job. You run out of money to do fun things. Yeah.

It was an adventure though and I’m very glad I took that leap. It also gave me plenty of time and panic to really get writing. Nothing motivates like fear, amirite? So I am getting a short story published and a novella e-published! Yay! I’ll give more info on those things as they happen, including links and pretty covers.

Another thing that I will keep you all updated on, is my MFA program. I was accepted into Minnesota State University, Mankato. I’ll be teaching 101 composition courses and earning a Master’s in Creative Writing. I’m sure those experiences will give me plenty of blog fodder.

So, a year ago today I published a list of books I wanted to read. I did keep up with that list until near the end and I plan to write reviews of all those books still. Today is earth day and spring is about rebirth, right? So this is to the rebirth of my blog. I’ll give a few ideas of the posts coming up, which I plan to post every Tuesday and Friday.

This Friday, I’ll post the essay that got me into Graduate School. It’s a comparison of Fifty Shades of Grey and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. If you’re rolling your eyes, you might want to take a peek at it anyway. The thesis is basically that Christian is actually the villain of the story because Ana romanticizes the abusive relationship between Alec and Tess. I’d love to start a conversation about it.

Then I’ll get back to my old list of books, starting with the Unnatural series and then The Yellow Birds. I visited the Bronte Parsonage Museum while in England, so I might do a post about that. There might be updates on my current writing projects. I’m taking a short break from writing fiction to read and recuperate, but plan to start again May 1st. I never really plan to do movie reviews, they just happen, so we’ll see what I find interesting. There will probably be a review on God’s Not Dead because it made me really angry, and probably not for the reasons you think.

Thanks for sticking around. Here’s a list of the books that I already read, that aren’t on my list.

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

Boys on the Rock – John Fox

Sparkling Cyanide – Agatha Christie

Kissing Sherlock Holmes – T.D. McKinney and Terry Wylis

Bluebeard – Angela Carter

Beauty – Robin McKinley

Deviations: Submission – Chris Owen and Jodi Payne

The Peach Keeper – Sarah Addison Allen

One Night Stand – Ben Tyler

Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith

I will be reviewing these after I get through my previous list. If you haven’t realized yet, I love making lists. If I have readers, and if you readers have any suggestions, please go for it in the comments.

Anywho, Happy Earth Day everyone!

I’ll see you Friday.

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Man of Steel – On Action Scenes and Tension

MAJOR SPOILERS

Let me start by saying that I really liked Man of Steel. I think they did a great job giving Clark depth of character, the plot was fairly tight. I did like it. It was entertaining, it was a good story. I’ll probably watch it again at some point. I’ll probably buy it.

That being said, I still had a few issues with this movie.

First of all, I got bored in the middle. This movie felt really long. It was long, but a good movie shouldn’t feel like it goes on forever. You should be involved in the story and not want it to end. I wanted Man of Steel to end about 20 minutes before it actually ended.

I’ve discussed this phenomenon with someone else and he said he got bored in the middle too. The difference was he enjoyed all the fight scenes. Personally, I think that’s why I got bored. There was so much fighting that just felt all the same. Explosions, Clark gets thrown down, he gets up again, they’re never gonna keep him down.

Yeah, that just happened.

At the end, after the alien ship had been blown up and we all thought the movie would be over. That one guy, General Zod wouldn’t DIE! In the theater, I literally rolled my eyes and muttered to myself ‘come on! Another fight scene?!’

I think one of the reasons the fight scenes wore on me so much, was because nothing was at stake. We know that Superman won’t die. He wasn’t even seriously injured by any of the battles. There was no tension; it was just people punching each other. Even the scene where Superman was weakened and they took blood wasn’t really long enough to create worry. They took some blood and then Lois fixed things and he was strong again. They didn’t even get to torture him it was over so fast.

I loved Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Loved her. Her characterization was perfect. She took charge, she wasn’t afraid to get dirty or follow the fighting. She was relentless, but did the right thing when she found the truth. There aren’t words for how relieved I am that they did Lois Lane justice. She’s a badass all on her own.

There was one scene, before Superman gets on the ship with General Zod where Clark Kent and Lois Lane are holding hands and seem very intimate. I’m not sure what was going on, but I felt like I was missing something. How did they become so close so fast? Lois has seemed professional if not intrigued up until this point. Was there a scene cut from the movie between the point where she was ‘interrogating’ him and when they were standing in the desert? If so, I’d like to see it, because their ‘romance’ felt forced at that point. Though the kiss at the end was like FINALLY! And I’ve heard some complaints that the two had no chemistry, but I don’t think that’s true. I think the writing of their romance was a little stilted and uneven at times.

The flashbacks into Clark’s past were wonderful. Those were my favorite parts of the movie. The actors who played young Clark Kent were perfectly cast. I understand that as a superhero movie there needs to be action and fighting, but there can be development and fighting at the same time. In fact, at the very beginning of the movie at Krypton the writers managed to impart important plot information while fighting was happening.

That’s probably my biggest issue with Man of Steel. There was so much fighting and fight scenes that all felt the same. And maybe, if I took a timer, the fight scenes actually didn’t take up that much of the movie, but it felt like they did.

The problem is that we all know how powerful Superman is. When he is fighting with someone, there’s nothing at stake, he can’t get hurt, and so you’re not really that worried. There’s no nail biting going on. It’s just ho-hum Superman’s beating another baddie. If I could make a comparison to Iron Man 3 (I’ll give one for Batman in a moment because they’re both DC), when Tony is out of his suit, we know he’s vulnerable. He says it himself; he’s just a man in a can. He can get hurt, he can die. When he’s fighting people who shoot fire, or stuck in a house that is crumbling around him, there’s a certain amount of tension and worry going on in the audience.  Superman doesn’t have that. What the next Superman movie needs is something or someone that can be hurt. The tensest parts of Superman are when Lois is in danger or when Clark’s mother is in danger. Because they can be hurt.

What Superman needs is a scene like the one in The Dark Knight when the Joker rigged those two boats to explode if people pressed a button, one with convicts the other with regular people. That was intense because lives were at stake, and it wasn’t even Batman. The writers were on the right track when General Zod threatened to destroy Earth if Superman wasn’t surrendered, but the tension didn’t hold for very long.

In conclusion, Superman was good, it had its strengths, but there were some pretty weak parts. The acting was solid and enjoyable from all parties, the effects were good, the soundtrack moving (because Hans Zimmer is the best ever) and it’s an enjoyable movie overall, if not a bit long.

Any thoughts?

Next Post: Unnatural by Michael Griffo

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Beautiful Chaos – Series Wrap-up

Warning! Spoilers for the Beautiful Creatures series books 1, 2, and 3!

Alright peeps, this is where it gets real! I lent my copies to a friend, so if I misquote or get something wrong please let me know with some comments.

Show of hands, please, who know that the “one who is two” was Ethan? I think that Beautiful Chaos went on a smidge too long? But at the same time I didn’t want it to end. Does that make sense? A little bit? I will admit I teared up at the end. How could I not? We’ve been following this boy for two other books, we want him to succeed and now his train is cut short!

Then again, there is another whole book. (Which I will not be reading until it comes out in paperback.)

I love the changes going on with Macon, he’s probably my favorite character and I nearly cheered when he came back in the second book.  I’m glad he got to be a light caster and I’m glad Lena didn’t have to choose what to be and kill half her family. Then again, part of me just wanted her to choose the light already, especially once Ridley was human, because if she had just chosen light, Sarafine would have died and half of their problems would have ended. So every now and then I’d get annoyed with Lena because all her justifications for not choosing the light had suddenly disappeared.

Can we talk about Linkubus? He’s consistently been a sweetie and I adore him. I’m conflicted on his change into an Incubus, because on one hand it brings him closer to Ridley and Lena’s world, on the other it kinda takes him away from Ethan and the human world and that’s sad. In fact, I’m disappointed that this can’t be made into a movie because the producers and writers shot themselves in the foot with the changes made in the movie. Even if they wanted to make a sequel it would be hard to fix what they’ve changed and the movies would just get further and further away from their source material.

One of the things I didn’t like about this entire series was the way the adults in the novel were constantly keeping secrets and sabotaging Ethan and Lena. It does create the atmosphere of suspense a little, but after some time, the fact that every adult in Ethan’s life is keeping something important from him, gets annoying and suspicious. There should be at least one adult on his side who will let him know what’s going on. He’s a seventeen year old in the apocalypse, baby’s gotta grow up.

Overall I liked the series, it got better as it went and there was always a surprise around the corner. It becomes less about their romance and more about Ethan as you get further into it. I’m glad there’s a fourth book.

If you have some thoughts you want to share on this series, go for it, I’ll be excited to discuss it!

Next Post: Man of Steel movie review

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Beautiful Darkness – A Sequel that Doesn’t Suck

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No spoilers

Beautiful Darkness is the second book in the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. And when they call it darkness they’re not kidding. That book gets dark real quick. Nothing is quite right after the events of the first book and Lena starts pulling away from Ethan.

After being a little bored with the first book, the second was a welcome change. There are a lot of secrets and a lot of adventures in this one. A new character gets introduced; she’s from England and seems to be a foil for Lena. She’s there to tempt Ethan and to add a little bit of a complication to the story.

The one thing I did not like in this book was the way Lena acted. Throughout my entire reading I was just angry. Her reasons for acting out were justifiable, and yet I couldn’t help but be angry with her. It might have been because the novel is narrated by Ethan and he was angry and sad, so I was angry and sad? I’m not quite sure.

Overall it was a pretty good read, an exciting second novel, unlike a lot of second novels which just seem to be fillers between the first and third. But Beautiful Darkness sets in motion the events that culminate in the third book without being boring.

Not much to say about this book. Next review will have spoilers for the whole series.

Next Post: Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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