Saturday, October 23, 2010

Beyond The Pale

When does a fictional character cross the line so far that he or she becomes irredeemable, assuming that said person has up to that point been a hero in the most traditional sense? It's one thing to be an anti-hero or even a dark hero, where by the very nature of the definition the character's actions and methods are already morally ambiguous. But what actions push a reader or viewer so far that they are no longer capable of forgiving that character? In fact, the reader/viewer's fundamental view of that character is forever altered, perhaps even retroactively.

The most excellent (and biggest time suck on the planet, so beware) website TV Tropes lists something called the Moral Event Horizon, a line which when crossed represents a character's descent into true evil or from hero to villain. After crossing the Moral Event Horizon, a character is marked as generally irredeemable. While a Moral Event Horizon is always a subjective thing - what behaviours one person views as reprehensible and unforgivable another person might accept given certain circumstances - it seems writers of fiction approach such an act with great intention that it be recognized as a significant point of change. You always know an MEH when you see one.

Last night on one of my favorit-est TV shows ever, Supernatural, Sam Winchester came within micrometers of the Moral Event Horizon if not actually crossed over it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No, Thank You

I consider myself a child of the new millennium (even though I was born waayyy before the year 2000). I've adopted pretty much all forms of modern technology. I firmly believe that the laptop computer, word processing software and e-mail are the best inventions since indoor plumbing and almost equally as vital. Heck, I'd much much rather type up something on the computer than hand-write it. I get a cramp when I have to write absent-from-school notes for my kids. And I'd a thousand times over rather send an e-mail then make a phone call. I'm all about convenience and using the tools at our disposal to make our lives easier.

But I draw the line at E-Thank You notes.

My son recently attended a birthday party - invite issued via E-Vite of course. I actually have no problems with E-Vite because it's a nice way to see who else was invited to the party, who's going and who's not, which comes in very handy when you are trying to arrange carpools or to instruct your kids on how it is not polite to discuss invitations in front of others who might not have received them. I embrace the E-Vite.

But just today I got a thank-you note for the gift we gave via an E-Thank You Card issued through American Greetings electronic cards website. WTF?

Sure, the thank you card had a cute little animated doggy who barked at me. And sure, it's greener to send e-things instead of flesh-and-blood paper products because no trees were sacrificed nor landfills filled in thanking me for my gift (don't talk about the gift-wrapping used to wrap said gift).

But how much more impersonal can you get? The same E-Thank You Card was sent en masse to all of the kids who went to this party. It is in no way customized. "You" were thanked for "your gift" and "your attendance" at the party. "You" could have been a hoard of soldier ants and "your gift" could have been a bag of fake doggie poo or a brand new car.

I get it that the art of letter writing has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo bird. I'm guilty of that myself. I'd rather e-mail when I need to actually communicate with other human beings, and if I can't get away with that - ex: Holiday Cards - I will type up a generic letter, mass produce it, and send it out with perhaps a single line of personalization.

But I draw the line at mass-produced thank you notes. What a smack in the face to someone who took the time to think up an appropriate gift, drive about locating said gift and then wrap it all in an effort to make some else's special event, well, special.

My kids are always required to hand-write thank you cards. I cheat and give them a template written out that they can copy over and over - Dear So-and-So, Thank you for the X. I'm so glad you came to my party/I plan to spend the money on/I can't wait to see you... Your Friend... But at least they are required to spend some of their time sitting at the table, carefully penning out the note, putting it in an envelope, addressing it, and mailing it. They are demonstrating that they appreciate the time and effort that whoever took to get them a gift by giving back some of their own time to offer thanks.

What's even more amazing is that E-Thank You Cards are actually a full step below what I had once thought of as the rock-bottom, can-you-give-any-less-effort method of offering a Thank You short of not sending a note at all (don't get me started on people who don't acknowledge a gift at all, especially one that has been shipped and thus could ostensibly never arrive without anyone ever being the wiser). At one point, I was scandalized by the photocopied, generic "Thank you for coming to my party and for my gift" cards that we would get in the mail. And these were a full step down from the preprinted thank you cards that had a blank line to be filled in after the "Dear" and the "Thank you for" so you could sort-of customize them without having to actually do any real work. The fill-in-the-blank cards I could even excuse because usually they came from very small children who could manage to maybe write their own names, so this was as much as they could do and I can't ask for more than that. And at least with those cards you had to stuff the envelopes, address them, hunt up stamps and find an ever-more-endangered mailbox.

With E-Thank You Cards you're talking the thirty seconds to type up one message to cover everyone and his/her gift and another thirty to specify e-mail addresses and poof! you're finished. I truly cannot think of less effort needed short of sending out a blanket e-mail without even the fancy card facade. I'm sure that's coming around the corner soon.


While I embrace an age that allows me to watch 999,999 different movies and TV shows without ever having to get off of my couch (love my new Apple TV!!), there are definite drawbacks. I can accept a fat butt, but loss of the niceties of society should be one of them.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Something Frivolous

I just wanted to have a post on the very special date of 10/10/10. It's kind of like wanting to see your odometer roll past the 99,999 miles mark.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Complete Stranger In the Drawing Room with the Candlestick

I just finished Cold Sight by Leslie Parrish. For the first time in memory, I actually enjoyed the mystery plot far more than the romantic plot - I actually skimmed much of the relationship stuff - up until the very end of the book. However, I'm very glad I read it because I learned something very important about the art of writing good, spine-tingling suspense.

The story is about reporter Lexie Nolan who is currently in the reporter dog house after an investigation she conducted of the disappearance of close to twenty teenage girls ended nowhere. Local law enforcement is not only unhelpful but downright hostile over Lexie's suggestions that their small town is anything but safe and that if the missing girls had been from the upper class side of town rather than from the Boro - on the wrong side of the tracks - perhaps they'd take her fears that a serial killer is at work seriously. Thankfully, Lexie has an extremely smart and understanding boss, and when he receives a tip about some human remains found just outside of town, he insists that Lexie get back on the case, especially since another girl, Vonnie, has just gone missing and there still might be time to help her.

Stuck at a dead end and with no help at all from the police chief, Lexie decides to seek out the help of disgraced psychic Aidan McConnell, a man who hates reporters on principle and based on his own bad experiences. After a search for a missing boy ended tragically, Aidan has determined never again to use his gifts as a means to find anyone since he doesn't want to be responsible for anyone else's fate or pain. At first he flat out refuses to even speak to Lexie, but slowly he finds himself compelled to help find the missing girl.

As Lexie and Aidan begin to dig into the town's dark history, they learn that the disappearance of teenage girls is only the tip of the iceberg. Prominent and supposedly upstanding citizens of the community have been engaging in acts of unspeakable evil for decades, and it appears that those missing girls are, indeed, the victims of a serial killer left to attack again and again. Lexie and Aidan race against the clock to solve the mystery while Vonnie's future becomes more and more uncertain.

Okay, going forward there are very mild SPOILERS, but if, given that this is a romantic suspense book and thus, by nature, builds on suspense and reader ignorance, those who don't want any ideas of what happens should stop reading now.

Okay, Thanks?

My blog has been included on this list of "50 Best Blogs for Creative Writers" at I don't know how I ranked inclusion, but given the company I keep is Paperback Writer and Pocket Full of Words, I certainly won't ask questions. I check both of those blogs on a daily basis and recommend them highly as places for great advice on the art of writing.

I'm more excited to check out the other links on list. I'm always happy to find resources for writing advice. Bits and pieces here and there really add up.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Freaks Come Out Again

First, read this.


One of my favorite movies is The American President, and one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when President Andrew Shepard (aka, Michael Douglas) gives a speech in front of the press in which he delivers a major smackdown to a Senator Bob Rumson (aka Richard Dreyfuss) who has been publicly maligning his character. In this speech is this bit that I love:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight. It's going to say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil. Who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
So, while I fully understand on an intellectual level that Mr. Scroggins has a right to believe whatever he wants and to express that opinion in whatever way he wants, it sure is hard to remember what it means to be an American especially when the street is only running in one direction. If I have to respect his right to not read something that he finds offensive (?!?), then why doesn't he have to respect my right - and the right of every other American - to read whatever we choose?

The nice thing about that above little snippet: As Americans, we have to respect our fellow countrymen's rights. However...

...we don't have to respect them as people. Which is a good thing because my respect for Mr. Scroggins is in the negative numbers. Clearly he has never read Speak, the book he is trying to have banned, because he would know that it is about as far from pornography as it is possible to get. How dare he judge something he himself has never read and then attempt to enforce that judgment on others?

...we don't have to like people like Mr. Scroggins. Which is a good thing because it is fundamentally impossible for me to like anyone who presumes to tell me what to do, what I can or can't read, that I'm a bad person because I don't share the same beliefs. Or a man who insists that he knows better than I do what is right for my children and would deny them anything that is their right to have, including the right to read whatever they want. People have gone to war to protect the rights of their children.

...we are allowed to form opinions about people such as Mr. Scroggins and his beliefs and express them on blogs such as this and in letters to the editor and in any way that makes our voices louder than his. Yay free speech!

...we are allowed to employ our own religious beliefs and tenants to come to the conclusion that Mr. Scroggins does not represent the true spirit of Christianity, that he clearly has no clue What Jesus Would Do, and that what goes around comes around, Karma is a bitch, and St. Peter has made note of this and will most definitely have words with Mr. Scroggins when he goes knocking on those pearly gates.

...we are allowed to speculate what kind of psychological issues Mr. Scroggins must suffer given that he equates the brutal horror that is rape with the titillating nature of pornography. I'm sorry, Mr. Scroggins, for the traumas you must have suffered in your past that have given you such a twisted and unhealthy view of human sexuality. I also ask you to stay very far away from my family and friends.

...we are allowed to ask what kind of person could call himself moral when he advocates the blame-the-victim mentality that causes rape victims to remain quiet about a violent, cruel crime committed against them. We are allowed to worry about the women in Mr. Scroggins life knowing that he would show them the same lack of compassion and human empathy should they ever - God forbid - suffer such a horror.

...we are allowed to call Mr. Scroggins un-American and question his patriotism. Banning books is about as un-American as you can get. It goes against everything we stand for - freedom of people to determine what is best for themselves and their families as long as they do not hurt or infringe upon the rights of others. With his crusade to ban Speak and other books, he's stomping all over my rights.

...we are allowed, in fact, to imply that Mr. Scroggins' thinking is far more in-line with those of members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda given that he proposes nothing less than a government and legal system based on a slate of fundamental religious "laws". Gah! What's next, Mr. Scroggins? You planning to make your fortune selling burkas?

 ...we are allowed to read Speak and to encourage our teens to read Speak. I own a copy and when my daughter is a bit older and more mature, I will encourage her to read it.

And in that way, we will be victorious over petty tyrants such as Mr. Scroggins and his posse of fellow book banners.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Write Like You're Dying

I sometimes wonder what my family would do with all of my writing things if I suddenly died.

My husband is generally not the nostalgic type, and despite my certainty that he would be sad about my passing, I can't imagine him holding on to my writing stuff as some sort of shrine or tribute to my memory. He hates clutter and I would suspect he'd sweep the contents of my shelves into the garbage without a thought, although I'd at least hope he'd go for recycling all of the paper and giving the empty binders to Goodwill or something.

I wonder if anyone - my kids or my mother - might take the time to read my notes or the pages of various manuscripts that I've printed out. I have everything very nicely organized, with each story idea in its own binder or folder. I wonder if they'd be able to understand my plans or make enough sense out of my notes and scribbles that they'd be able to see what story I'd wanted to tell. Maybe they'd shake their heads sadly and determine that I'd been completely delusional about ever thinking I could be published. I like to think they'd shake their heads sadly and think what a waste it was that I never finished what I'd started or that I didn't have the chance to get all of those stories out of my brain and onto paper.

As morbid as this line of thinking is, I've been doing it more recently because the uncertainty of life has been smacking me in the face. My father is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia, a battle he's been fighting for almost a year now. Cancer is one illness that had never struck my family until now, so I'm getting my first taste of how this disease completely and totally takes over your life. Plans implode and intentions for projects disappear in a poof. Between the constant exhaustion and the side effects from the drugs and the trips to the doctor and the time spent in the hospital, there simply isn't time or energy to do much other than survive the day.

To punctuate this reality, the gals over at Smart Bitches posted a tear-jerking video made by an Australian man who has cancer as a birthday gift for his wife. I was so moved by the video that I found his website and am determined to follow him as he fights for his life. Hard to believe I could care so much about what happens to a complete stranger, but my heart goes out to him and his family, and I pray for his recovery.

Finally, Adele over at Persnickety Snark recently posted about her frustrations and despair over the status of her writing, and I find that her thoughts very closely echo my own. Between a lack of discipline and a crisis of confidence, I'm doubting my ability to ever become a successful writer. It's very embarrassing to have friends and family ask me about my writing and to have no good news or even a decent excuse as to why it's going so slowly other than that I'm a slacker.

So I think about all of those partials sitting in various stages on my shelves or residing in the folders on my laptop's hard drive and I think what a shame it would be if something happened that I couldn't finish all of the things I started. Or if all of those stories in my head never got told and died along with me. Surely I don't think that I would be changing the world by putting them on paper, but how sad if I didn't at least try to share them in some way, to leave behind that part of me as some sort of legacy for my kids.

Clearly the gods are conspiring to remind me that the time we have is limited, and waiting until tomorrow is a risky thing to do because you never know what's going to come at you. If for no other reason than to leave behind stuff that my husband might be reluctant to toss, I need to finish what I start.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Stand Alone

True confession time: I did not absolutely love The Hunger Games.

Not to say I didn't like it. But I didn't love it. I don't think it's the best Young Adult book ever written.

And...*taking a deep breath*...I might not read Mockingjay.

Perhaps the problem was that I read HG right after I read Graceling, which I absolutely adored. In comparison between the two, I prefer Graceling across the board. I like Katsa better than Katniss. I got tingles over the Katsa/Po romance whereas I honestly don't care who Katniss ends up with, Peeta or Gale (although I'm leaning towards Gale). I prefer the imaginary world of the Seven Kingdoms over the dystopia of Panem. The villain in Graceling was a thousand times scarier than the anonymous population of The Capitol.

And I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of Graceling whereas I had a hard time accepting the premise as a whole of HG. Somehow the idea of an oppressive, cruel government that actually gets away with making its citizens sacrifice their children to death doesn't inspire enough suspension of disbelief for me. The entire time I was reading HG, I kept thinking of the short story by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, which more effectively portrayed the concept of random selection of a human sacrifice, IMO.

Perhaps HG was doomed to fail for me because of all of the hype surrounding it. My daughter has read both HG and Catching Fire and loved both. Not to mention all of the internet chatter. My expectations were incredibly high and practically impossible to meet. Like I said, I did like HG. It's well written and compelling. It just didn't send me into a frenzy.

I'm about a third of the way through Catching Fire, and at this point, I just don't see myself finishing it. I'll pick up Mockingjay for my daughter, but I might not read it myself. I feel kind of guilty about this, as if by reading HG I committed to the series as a whole and if I don't see it all the way through, I'm some kind of quitter. Or perhaps I'm holding out hope that once I've finished the entire trilogy, the story as a whole will benefit from some amount of synergy.

On a different topic: I found something quite disturbing in my library the other day - this book: Twilight and History by Nancy Reagin.

Are you kidding me?

Okay, I get that the Twilight saga is a pop culture phenomenon. I get that many people love the books passionately, and I'll even admit to enjoying the first book. The movies are entertaining, and no one should feel guilt in admitting that she (or he) has gotten caught up in the Team Edward/Team Jacob debate. Whatever floats your boat.

But the idea that this series is being treated as some kind of literary classic worthy of serious research and discussion kind of turns my stomach.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Bad Thing I Think

My new obsession is the video for Eminem's song, "Love the Way You Lie." I'm not going to post it here directly for fear the video will be pulled, but you can find an article with the vid in it at

I first heard this song in the car, and I was captured by Rihanna's haunting chorus. I figured out pretty easily that it was Eminem doing the rap because he always sounds so angry. But as I listened to the actual lyrics, I was horrified. The song is about domestic violence and is very intense.

Then I came across the EW article and actually watched the video. Oh my god. I'm am utterly transfixed by it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it.

The question posed - does this video glorify domestic violence - is so very valid. Despite the horror of the situation being depicted in both the song itself and the video, the images of Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan are very compelling, very sexy and do in a way glorify DV by almost excusing it as a by-product of intense passion and all-consuming love. When I imagine the stereotype of a DV situation, it certainly doesn't feature a Hollywood-beautiful couple or the desperate love-making in between the bouts of beating the crap out of each other. Heck, my imaginings don't usually include any "each other" in it always seems to be the husband/boyfriend doing most of the beating. When I hear the words "domestic violence" in the news or other real-world situations, my first and only reactions are sadness, disgust and outrage. So why, then, doesn't this video evoke those same feelings?

Funny, though, how too often it's easy to excuse violence as a symptom of great passion. This video and song makes me think of another violence-turns-to-sex scene. In the sixth season episode "Smashed" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike and Buffy are battling it out with no holds barred when things take a sudden turn. The subsequent heat between them is absolutely electric. I know it's very wrong to find anything about that scenario acceptable - and I certainly do not excuse, condone or accept DV in any real-world situation - but I can't help myself for liking that scene so very much.

I honestly don't understand why.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Because I Couldn't Care More

This video warmed my heart immensely. The whole mis-saying of the phrase "she/he/you/I couldn't care less" drives me bonkers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Holy Cow

I just finished reading Kristin Cashore's Graceling. I'm kind of numb. This book was amazing. A can't-put-it-down, forget all things in real life so I can keep reading, want to pick it up and reread it immediately stunner. And the shame of it is, it's been sitting on my TBR shelves for over a year.

I won't even go into the details here since there are a gazillion reviews out there. Just to say, add me to the list of people who can't recommend this book highly enough. It's just hit my top 10 best books I've ever read list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Illusive Nature of Some Good UST

I've discovered a new show this summer. It's a new show to everyone and so I've jumped on board at the beginning, but I hope a lot of people like it enough that it goes on for many many season. The show is Covert Affairs and it airs on Tuesday nights on the USA network. It's a lot like my other favorite USA show, Burn Notice, with great characters, a premise I like, and is overall, I find, very enjoyable.

The show follows new CIA operative Annie Walker. Played by the very pretty Piper Perabo, Annie has just graduated from CIA training on The Farm and is now working in the Domestic Protection Department, which I have to assume is a completely fictional division of the CIA. Ostensibly, the DPD handles cases in which people of CIA interest (read: bad guys, terrorists, arms dealers, spies from enemy countries, etc.) threaten the US directly. Whatever. I'm good with just keeping it at Annie is a new spy.

What keeps CA from being Alias 2.0 is Annie's rookie status. She's learning on the job, and it's fun to watch her fumble around a bit. Piper wears an almost perpetual look of amazement and questioning which gives Annie an additional air of confusion and niavete. But she's smart and quick and manages to get out of most jams by using her brains and her training.

Honestly, though, what keeps me waiting anxiously for Tuesday nights in Christopher Gorham's exquisite character, Auggie Anderson. I was not an Ugly Betty fan, nor did I watch Kyle 2.0, so Chris Gorham is a new find for me. He's beyond adorable, and he's my new TV crush.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

No Sequel Necessary

Today on the trip to take my son to camp, we listened to the audio book, Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I very much enjoyed the story, so much so in fact that even after dropping my son off, I found I couldn't wait an entire week when I picked him up again to listen to the rest of the tale. I'd checked the audio book out of the library thinking he might like it (I'm forever trying to find books he will like) and that I would probably have to suffer through it, but it turns out this is a great read for all ages.

The story revolves around a 13 year old boy named Brian who finds himself stranded in the Canadian wilderness after the pilot who is flying Brian to visit his newly divorced father suffers a heart attack and dies. All alone, lost, badly battered from the plane crash and with nothing more than a small hatchet his mother had given him, Brian has to figure out how to survive. Somehow he has to manage to find water and food, build a shelter, and protect himself from wild animals ranging from what at first seems like a harmless skunk all the way up to a black bear and even a mean moose. Through the experience, Brian comes to learn that the only one he has to rely on is himself but perhaps that's enough.

The story is fabulously told, although Paulson tends to repeat words and phrases for effect which I think would be fine when reading (your eyes would just skip over those repetitions, I imagine) but that tend to become tiresome when read out loud. Too, a sort of mini sub-plot involving Brian's parents' recent divorce and the fact that Brian had witnessed his mother kissing another man and was keeping this horrible secret kind of led nowhere and felt wholly intrusive to the main story. Still, the fabulous actor Peter Coyote narrated, and his gravely voice really fit the rough story, and by the time it was over I found a running parallel between Brian's journey and the journey all mankind seems to have taken from the discovery of fire all the way through modern times.

The rest of this entry after the break contains discussion that would SPOIL the ending of Hatchet, so if you don't want to be SPOILED (and I recommend not being spoiled), then stop reading now. Stand warned - SPOILERS AHEAD!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A New American Hero

I've been reading many news articles about California's U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's recent overturning of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriages. I'll state right now, up front, that I find Walker to be a true hero. His arguments are well thought out and articulated and nail the situation on the head. Good on him. Proposition 8 is not only mean-spirited and an unapologetic expression of homophobia which should cause all of those who voted in favor of it to hang their heads in shame for such malice toward their fellow human beings, it was truly pointless. As Judge Walker stated, this Proposition benefits no one in any proven way and serves only to validate the delusional superiority its proponents obviously feel.

Seriously, I would love to know exactly what Prop 8 folks think to gain by this law. Are they worried that if gay people can marry, somehow they will get less of the pie? Will their homes be taken from them? Will their children starve? Will they lose their jobs, will they begin to bald, will their pets run away and never come home? Will the love that they feel for their own spouse and vice versa disappear in a puff of smoke or become meaningless? Do they think that love and marriage are a limited commodity and if gay people are allowed to take their fair share, there will be less to go around for the rest of us? Like, if ten same-sex couples get married, that means that ten hetero couples can't? How very self-interested and egomaniacal of them.

I have yet to read a single pro-Prop 8 viewpoint that in any way explains why or how approval of same-sex marriage affects traditionally married people. Or why it's any of their business in the first place. Rather than putting so much money, energy, ire and hair-rending over whether two guys or two girls get married, an event that can surely have no direct affect on their lives in any way, why don't all of those Prop 8 cheerleaders shake their pom poms over the disgraceful state of America's educational system or solving the growing energy crisis. Why not do something that will actually result in positive change for everyone involved?

Too, I would say to those hetero-married couples who spew their propaganda about Prop 8 being the way to maintain the sacredness of marriage, once you all get it 100% perfect, then I'll listen to what you have to say. When all hetero marriages never end in divorce, when there is never any spousal or child abuse or neglect, when hetero-couple children all get perfect grades, never get into trouble, and go off to college to become perfect citizens of the world, when there is no alcohol or drug abuse, no cheating, no murder/suicides found within any hetero marriage, then I think it's fair that we let them determine what is necessary to make a perfect, socially desirable union between two consenting people. Until that time, stop throwing rocks around your glass houses.

What really strikes me in everything I read is pro-Prop 8 people who make the argument that this ban was "desired" by the majority as proven by its passing after a democratic vote, therefore no judge should have the power to overturn what the majority so obviously wanted. To which I say, wha - TF? I'm sorry, what country is this that we live in? United States of the Taliban where the morals of some can be inflicted on the whole by virtue of enough bullying?

First of all, people seem to be forgetting that America is not a true Democracy but rather a Republic (and thank god for that). In order to protect individuals and minority groups from the Tyranny of the Majority, the Founding Fathers put a lot of thought and planning into how to structure our government so that a large group of people could not inflict whatever they wanted on everybody else. You can find a very good (and highly detailed) description of the differences between Democracy and a Republic here, but I for one send up an endless litany of thank yous to those old fogeys of The First Big Thirteen for getting it right.

If the whine argument of "that's what the majority wanted" held any validity, then by extension the Southern Baptist Convention could demand that the entire state of Mississippi - where it is the majority religion - convert to their belief system and, if they rallied every one of their eligible voting members, could win a "popular" vote in order to get its way. Except, dang, there's that whole pesky right guaranteed in the Constitution for religious freedom. Heck, maybe all of the hardcore fundamentalist might actually be a majority in the entire country and could put to a vote the overturning of that whole Freedom of Religion thing and, by winning that majority vote, make sure that we all become god fearing Christians.

My point is that you cannot vote on fundamental rights. That's why America is such a great place to live, a model to many countries and a place where we all brag about our liberties and freedoms. Just because a whole bunch of people want to inflict their morals and beliefs on everyone doesn't mean it will be so.

Even if none of the above were true, that "majority" is not, in truth, really a majority with any true accuracy. According to this snapshot from the US Census Bureau, the number of over-18 Californians (in other words, potential voters) is over 27 million. Only a tiny bit over half (13,743,177) of those people even voted on this issue, with the "winning majority" being a grand total of 7,001,084 people who wanted Prop 8 to pass. As far as my math skills tell me, 7 million people is not even close to half +1 of the voting population of California which would be the true majority. In truth, we all have absolutely no idea of what the "majority" wants or not since half of the people didn't bother to vote at all. All we can say with true certainty is that about 25% of Californians over the age of 18 supported Prop 8 enough to vote in favor of it. And since close to 24% of the people felt exactly the opposite, I think it's fair to to question the majority's real wishes.

Sidebar to say: Scary idea that 7 million people get to decide what rules all 27 million people must live by. A fabulous example of why it is critical to vote. Those who show up make the laws.

It will be interesting to watch this drama unfold. I'm hoping that by the time my kids have kids, homosexual people and couples will be regarded just as people. Because that's all they are. No more. Certainly no less.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Seriously? No, really, Seriously?

From ParentDish talking about baby naming trends of 2010:
The #1 fastest rising girl's name is Tenley, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Kinley, Tinsley and Kinsley also made the top 20. Together, they point to a signature sound for the year's baby girls. Also keep an eye out for Everly, which placed two different spellings in the top 20.

For boys, the country's love affair with "-n" names is set to continue. More than half of the hottest rising boy's names end in that super-popular letter. Look for a fresh crop of surname names, too, especially luxurious ones like Sterling, St. John and Bentley.
People are really and truly giving their babies names like St. John and Tinsley?

Honestly, though, those are actually not bad when you consider the entire boys and girls lists which read like a Best Of Romance Novel Hits from the Late Great Bodice Ripping Era:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Swapping

About six months ago, I joined Paperback Swap. For those who've never heard about this program, it's a website devoted to helping people swap books - not only paperbacks - with other like-minded people. It's a great solution for what to do when you have a pile of books you know you will never read again yet cannot fathom throwing away.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Skip the Books, See the Movies

Okay, I owed myself a follow-up post. I saw "Eclipse - the Movie" yesterday and at the risk of coming over all self-congratulatory, I have to say that I was 100% right. The movie version was a lot more palatable than the book. In fact, to anyone who has never read any of the books but wishes to know the story, I recommend you skip the reading and just go to the movies.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dear John Indeed

Last night I watched the movie Dear John. I refused to see it in theatres on principle - I find Nicholas Sparks to be a douchebag based on interviews I've read, and since every single one of his books/movies ends in some tragic form or another, I already knew what would happen at the end of Dear John. I just wasn't up for that kind of downer.

But I do have enough of a thing for Channing Tatum to fork over $5 for a DVD rental. I did get my moneys worth out of torso shots and general Channing face time, so at least my time wasn't entirely wasted.

As for story, I wish I could say I was so blown away and moved that I've changed my mind about Sparks. Alas, this is not the case.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Better On Celluloid Than On Paper

I haven't seen "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" movie yet - I'm holding out hope that I can figure out which of this weekend's showing times will contain the least number of chatty girls - so I'll have to come back and follow up to this post with an answer to what I'm about to propose.

But I'm proposing right now that, in the end, the Twilight series makes for better movies than books.

Now, hear me out. The first Twilight book is, IMO of course, a wonderful book. I enjoyed it thoroughly, unashamedly, and have no problems admitting I couldn't wait to read the next installment, New Moon. I think the book trumps the first Twilight movie although I also think the movie treated the book fairly as far as interpretations go (if you care, you can see what I thought here).

However, after New Moon the Book, I feel that the third and fourth books took serious nose dives in terms of, well, pretty much every aspect. The plots were forced, the characters unrecognizable, and, at least in Breaking Dawn, the whole premise gone to crap. Within the pages of Eclipse, Bella turned into a whiny, self-centered brat, Edward became not much more than a doormat and Jacob an outright bully, and the whole WTF? love triangle between the three main characters completely diluted the supposedly soul-mate pureness of the Edward/Bella pairing and almost nearly destroyed any ability for me to reread Twilight ever again. I won't even speak of my loathing for the whole Renesmee/imprinting garbage - I couldn't even finish Breaking Dawn.

However, I think that New Moon the Movie did a lot to make the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle believable. Maybe that's because we weren't subjected to all of the endless goings-on in Bella's mind that we got in Twilight/New Moon the Books about how Edward is/was/ever will be for all eternity the one and only true love of Bella's life. The movie did a better job defining the friendship between Bella and Jacob and creating a foundation on which we might believe that their feelings for each other go deeper. I can believe that Movie Bella is actually conflicted in her choice between Edward and Jacob. Book Bella just came off as looking ungrateful, disloyal, and a first class tease. (FYI, My review of New Moon the Movie is here.)

I'm going out on a limb to say that Eclipse the Movie will only strengthen this viewpoint. Unlike we did in the book, the movie won't require us to slog through page after page of Bella's thoughts about how much she loves Edward-and-only-Edward only to then completely negate all of that when, oops, all of the sudden she thinks maybe she could be in love with Jacob after all. Instead we'll see her interacting with Edward and interacting with Jacob and, wow, two hunky guys, what girl wouldn't be a bit confused?

Like I said, I owe myself a follow-up to this post. But I propose that when it's all said and done, the four Twilight films will at least present characters who remain consistent and a plot that flows somewhat believably. As it is now, I've decided to pretend that Eclipse and Breaking Dawn the books were never written. The fact that I couldn't even finish Breaking Dawn the Book yet I do look forward to the Breaking Dawn the Movies speaks volumes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What, No Red-Blonde Actresses In All the Land?

After finding an old-school cover edition of The Thorn Birds at Costco, I've been rereading this epic novel over the past few days. I absolutely love Colleen McCullough's voice and writing style: the story goes down like a smooth, creamy milkshake.

I remember watching the mini-series starring Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain. I don't recall if I first read the book, then watched the mini-series or vice versa back in the day. I do know that having watched the mini-series is seriously affecting my current re-reading of the book because I cannot get out of my head the images of the two actors playing Meggie and Fthr. Ralph. As pretty as Rachel is and as handsome as Richard was in his younger days, neither actor fits the description from the book, and it's very distracting for me.

Father Ralph de Bricassart is described as an incredibly beautiful man. This handsomeness is a great source of most of his misery since it incites in Mary Carson a lust so overwhelming that she becomes the world's most evil spurned-woman when he turns down her advances. No matter to her that he's a priest or that he's forty some odd years younger than she is. She wants the dude and his refusal to accept her invitation into her bed results in some major life-long suffering on his part.

[Sidebar to say that Mary Carson's lust for the much younger Fthr. Ralph is a serious Eeew! moment in the book, only slightly more creepy than the fact that Fthr. Ralph ultimately ends up falling in love with the girl he meets when she's only nine and he's in his late twenties. For crying out loud, the man explains menstruation to the girl and then ends up sleeping with her. Still, it's a great story!]

Now, Richard Chamberlain was definitely no slag in his youth. His head is a bit over-large, and his eyes are so widely spread I find it distracting, but he's a nice-enough looking guy. Even so, I simply can't make the connect between the actor playing Ralph and his description from the actual book:
In all her life [Mary Carson] could not remember seeing a better-looking man, nor one who used his beauty in quite the same way. He had to be aware of how he looked: the height and the perfect proportions of his body, the fine aristocratic features, the way every physical element had been put together with a degree of care about the appearance of the finished product God lavished on few of His creations. From the loose black curls of his head and the startling blue of his eyes to the small, slender hands and feet, he was perfect.
Where are the loose black curls? Rich's hair is most definitely brown with not so much as a wave much less a curl. Sure, the eyes are blue. But I don't see in this face the pure beauty that Fthr. Ralph is supposed to possess. Rich's handsomeness is more of the rugged, manly type rather than a slender, aristocratic beauty.

As for Meggie, Rachel Ward and Sydney Penny (who plays Meggie as a child) are certainly attractive in their own right. But they don't even come close to matching the description we get of Meggie from Fthr. Raph's POV:

The sweetest, the most-adorable little girl he had ever seen; hair of a color which defies description, not red and not gold, a perfect fusion of both. And looking up at him with silver-grey eyes of such a lambent purity, like melted jewels.

Rachel Ward's hair is at best auburn. Sydney's isn't even on the same planet as "red-gold". Both actresses have chocolate-brown eyes. I do give the casting directors credit for finding a child-actress that looks as if she might one day look like the grown-up actress, but that's all the points they get. I just find it hard to believe they couldn't find a single pair of strawberry-blonde, grey-eyed actresses in all of the land to play the child and adult Meggie, or at the very least, ones who had light eyes rather than dark brown.

Now, I'm not stupid. I know that ever since the first brilliant flash of inspiration that led whomever to realize books could be made into movies (or mini-series) that there have been actors and actresses who've deviated completely from their literary counterparts as far as appearances go. Heck, even romance novel book covers get it wrong a lot of the time when it comes to hair and/or eye color. But it's rare that something like this affects me when I read the story. Usually I tune out any external influences and let my imagination fill in the blanks using the written descriptions as a starting point.

For some reason, I simply cannot stop picturing Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward as I'm reading this book. This time, I guess the mini-series trumps the original.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Austin Heroine Are You?

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Yay!! I like this quiz. Don't know how accurate it is, but for today, I'm very well pleased.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beyond Riveting

Due to a recommendation made by Janet Reid on her blog, I picked up Dave Cullen's newly-released-in-paperback Columbine. I have to say that I cannot remember the last time I was so affected by a book. Or a movie. Or anything really.

I remember the Columbine tragedy, of course. I remember the news coverage and the horrible realization that two teen boys could perpetrate such an unspeakable act. I vaguely remember the reports of a girl who was killed because, when asked by one of the killers if she believed in God, she said yes. I remember the theories that these two boys were victims of extreme bullying, that they'd been pushed around so much that they'd finally snapped. I can remember wondering at the time what kind of parents could raise such monsters.

Come to find out, many initially believed "facts" about Columbine were in actuality falsehoods that were picked up by the media during those first few chaotic days and then cemented in the public consciousness for a variety of reasons.

For me personally, I was physically far enough away from Columbine that after those first few days of 24/7 media saturation, the event slipped into a dark corner of my mind where I file those sorts of atrocities. I never thought to ask any questions about what I'd been told. And truthfully, finding out that the facts were different than what was initially reported wouldn't have made much of a difference to me. Beyond my compassion for the victims and their families, my interest in Columbine at the time was something between rubber-necking and sadness at yet another bit of proof that mankind can sink to some pretty horrible depths.

But stumbling upon this book recommendation, my curiosity was piqued. I toddled on over to Borders and picked up a copy. And then I didn't put it down for two straight days. It was that riveting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nickelback Is Eeevil

I don't get it. Why does everyone in the entire web-verse hate Nickelback and, by extension, any group that sounds similar to Nickelback? You simply cannot escape the vitriol that is aimed at this band, sometimes with such heated disdain that you feel the need to move a few feet back from your monitor.

And this sentiment isn't limited to individuals who are simply expressing their taste in music. I read it all the time on professional entertainment sites. The supposed-professionals of musical taste make no secret how they feel about Nickelback and its contemporaries.

It seems that the worst possible thing you can ever say about a group and/or singer is that they sound like Nickelback.

People who listen to Nickelback are unrefined, backwood rubes who wouldn't know good music if it magically grew beneath their noses like a handlebar mustache. Clearly these people are not only deaf and illiterate but stupid and ugly and prone to wear white after Labor Day.

Nickelback is single-handedly responsible for the sucky state of the economy, the Cubs having not won a World Series in over a hundred years, earthquakes in Haiti, and America's inexplicable continued fascination with John and Kate Gossling.

I simply don't get it.

I mean, I get not liking a particular group/singer because the sound they produce is nails-on-a-chalkboard in your opinion and you personally can't understand why they became such a big thing in the first place (Gnarls Barkley, Jason Mraz, Neil Young).

Or you find the lyrics of their songs to be only slightly less coy and ridiculous than those you might find in a 1st grade class's Book of Our Poems (Closing Time by Semisonic, anyone?)

Or they are so overplayed you'd rather listen to religious radio than turn on the local Top 40 station (Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift).

Or they annoy you by trying too hard to be A Unique Artist (Lady Gaga, Ke$ha).

Or that they actually scare you and cause nightmares (Marilyn Manson).

Or maybe it's just a style of music that you don't like (rap/hiphop, country, insert obscure musical genre here).

Or maybe you refuse to buy anything produced by a Disney animatron or YouTube superstar (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, any cast member from High School Musical).

Or the artist has proven him/herself to be an incredible douche and you refuse to support him/her financially regardless if their music is otherwise decent (Kanye, John Mayer).

But in this case, it seems like the reason so many hate Nickelback is simply because, according to the web and Very Smart Industry Insiders, it's very uncool to like Nickelback.

Or Lifehouse. Or Hinder. Or Creed. Or Live.

Seems a lot more uncool to tell people what they should or shouldn't like. 

Of course, I'm not a professional arbiter of what is musically good or bad, so what do I know?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Clash of the Motivations

Since I was so stoked that they'd decided to remake the 1981 B-movie classic, Clash of the Titans, of course I had to go see the final result on opening weekend. I'd really expected to like the new version better. Heck, the improvement in special effects alone should have been enough to send Titans '10 up the movie quality ladder by magnitudes over Titans '81. Not to mention better acting, better sets and costumes, a higher budget overall. The upgrade had tools at its disposal the makers of the original probably couldn't have dreamed of, and for that I'd figured Titans '10 would smear Titans '81 to dust.

Weirdly, turns out Titans '81 is actually the better movie. And it's all because of motivation. Who would have thunk that story could end up being way more important than flashy CGI, better acting, cooler sets and costumes and a much higher budget?

Below are major SPOILERS, so stand warned if you haven't seen either version and wish to do so spoiler-free.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres

Dear Ellen,

First of all, I want to say that I just adore you! I think you are maybe one of the top five funniest people on this planet. Whenever I catch your talk show, I grin through the entire program. You have such a quirky sense of humor but you never make fun of people - you are always laughing right along with them as well as at yourself. Plus, you have quite possibly the prettiest blue eyes I have ever seen, and I love your haircut. I wouldn't call my feelings for you a girl-crush, but you are tops in my book.

To that end, I was so glad when you replaced Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol. Sure, there is the fact that you don't have a music background. Know what? Neither do I. But that doesn't preclude me from knowing what I think sounds good and what sounds bad, and who comes across as likable versus a complete ego maniacal diva. Besides, Paula never offered any feedback that lead me to believe that her musical background gave her an edge up in any way. Heck, she was having a good day if she could keep all of the contestants straight and know who had sung how many songs already. I had no fears that you would make a great judge.

During Hollywood week, it was clear that you were taking this gig very seriously. You paid attention, you took notes, you offered honest opinions even if they were negative. And you kept the funny to a minimum. Granted, I'm sure the editing staff had something to do with your original impression on Idol, but they could only show us footage of the reality, so I'm sure you were portrayed accurately.

Now that we've moved into the live portion of the American Idol Season 9 journey, I'm becoming a bit worried about you. Because I can tell that you are nervous. I can tell that you are worried about not being taken seriously as a judge. I can tell that you do harbor some (possibly deeply buried) insecurities about not having a musical background and thus not being qualified for this job.

So I'd like to offer you the following friendly advice. As you and the other judges always tell the contestants, BE YOURSELF!!

Don't try to be somebody you aren't. Relax. You deserve to be in that seat just as much as any other celebrity worth spending upwards of 5 hours a week with via TV. Heck, if there's any truth to the Howard Stern/Perez Hilton rumors, you are actually overqualified if that's the type of person they are seriously considering to fill Simon's vacant seat next season.

You bring something really special and unique to the table, but in the course of trying to prove your worthiness and that you take this whole endeavor as Very Serious Business Indeed, you've lost the very essence of Ellen-ness that I love so much. I'm sad because I was really looking forward to it as part of the circus that is American Idol. That show sure as heck could use a little bit of lightening up.

I know you have it in you. On last night's episode (Top 24 Crapfest Part II: The Guys), I saw a tiny spark of the real Ellen shine through. When you went into your banana analogy while critiquing the performance of Alex Lambert (basically, he's a green banana who'll be really yummy after he's had some time to ripen, but he's just not ready to eat quite yet), the relaxed, goofy Ellen that I love came bursting through. For the first time, you seemed genuinely relaxed and confident in what you were saying. And I want to reassure you that it wasn't too funny - you didn't come off as if you were trying to steal the spotlight or make it all about you at the expense of a good critique. It was relevant to the situation, it wasn't mean, and it was comedic without being over the top. Perfect!

That's the stuff I've been waiting for!!

My second piece of advice is to maybe not worry so much about not hurting the contestants' feelings. I do appreciate your determination to be honest without being cruel, a lá Simon Cowell. It's downright Christian of you to offer at least one positive aspect of each performance to soften the reality of real suckage. Nobody deserves to be humiliated publicly, no matter that they actually signed up for this shit and shouldn't be surprised by it nor that they'd better learn to have a thick skin if they want a career in the entertainment industry.

However, I don't think you have to lie and say that you're "a fan" to every single person whose performance was sub-par. This isn't the Miss/Mr. America Pageant - we aren't judging personality. For the sake of expediency, we'll assume that everyone chosen to go on the show has a wonderful personality, is likable and sweet, and that he or she is kind to dogs, rescues kittens from trees and helps little old ladies cross the street. Good for them. When they come on the show, none of that matters because either they sound good or they don't. And to be honest, if they act like a douche on the show, your saying that you're a fan doesn't do much to change our opinions of the guy/girl. We either liked their performance or not, we either like them as a possible celebrity or not. What we want to hear from you was if you liked their performance or not, and why or why not. We'll just assume that you still like them as a person. Of course you do.

I do think there are ways to be honest about an epic fail without being mean. Something along the lines of "I didn't like that very much. I thought the song wasn't the right choice for you because your falsetto isn't strong enough for all of those falsetto parts/It sounded to me as if you went out of tune because I stopped recognizing the melody/You need to work on your stage presence because you seem uncomfortable on stage...I hope you do better next week." etc. If you are just honest without being snarky (again, see: Cowell, Simon), you will show the contestants plenty of respect while maintaining your credibility. There's nice and then there's patronizing.

Besides, Paula took the role of "the nice one" and look where that got her? Her opinions were never respected, and to be honest, they sounded insincere. I don't want you to start sounding insincere, and I'm afraid you're headed down that road.

I'm chalking up these little road bumps to nerves and the need for time to find your groove. I have no doubt that by the time we finish up these semi-final rounds and dive into the Top 12, you'll be relaxed and comfortable, funny when appropriate, respectful without pandering, a real asset to the judging panel.

Meanwhile, I'm still tuning in. To be honest, with the poor level of talent we've seen so far, I'm starting to think maybe five minutes of pre-show standup from you might be needed to keep me watching!

A Big Fan

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Read List

So, thanks to all of the links over at Kelly's master list on YAnnabe, I've compiled a huge list of YA books I plan to read. Specifically, I'm looking forward to:

I Want to Go Home! By Gordon Korman - gave it the 50 page test. Cute but not for me.
I Am the Wallpaper by Mark Peter Hughes
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine
The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser
Thaw by Monica Roe
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Ash by Malinda Lo
I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin
Take Me There by Susane Colasanti
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles - READ IT (4 stars out of 5)
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn
The Lit Report by Sarah N. Harvey
My Heartbreak by Garrett Freymann-Weyr
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Best part about this list is that all but five titles are available at my library. I've already made one visit!

Great idea. Thanks, Kelly!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best YA Books You Haven't Read

As a person who stopped being a young adult nearly 25 years ago but who never outgrew a love for YA stories, I was thrilled to be asked to participate in YAnnabe’sThe Best YA Books You Haven’t Read” Day. I’m always game for a chance to talk about my favorite YA titles.

But Kelly over at YAnnabe made things a little more challenging. Rather than have us wax rhapsodic about the books everyone already knows are fantastic reads, she asked those of us willing to scan our YA libraries for titles that we loved that maybe have continued to fly under the radar when it comes to mainstream love.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Tale of Two Kitties

Instead of using this blog as a progress tracker, I've created a special place where I'll confess my failure update my efforts to whittle down my TBR pile. I invite anyone who might want to tackle the same job - to plow through an embarrassingly high number of books to be read - to post their progress in the comments section over yonder.

So, for Christmas we got our kids two kittens. And what a story...

For those who hate cats or who couldn't care in the least, I'll just break here so you can leave quietly to go pet the dog.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Report Card 1

Book: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Date Finished: Jan. 3, 2010
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5) - Great read but requires dedication to get through the confusing first third of the book.
Updated Number of Books TBR: 294

Next Book: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Summary: Helen died 130 years ago as a young woman. Unable to enter heaven because of a sense of guilt she carried at death, she has been silent and invisible but conscious and sociable across the generations. Her spirit has been sustained by its attachment to one living human host after another, including a poet and, most recently, a high-school English teacher. While she sits through his class one day, she becomes aware of James and he–unlike the mortals all around them–is aware of her as well. James, who also died years earlier, inhabits the body of a contemporary teen, Billy. James and Helen fall in love, he shows her how to inhabit the body of a person whose spirit has died but who still lives and breathes, and the two begin to unfold the mysteries of their own pasts and those of their adolescent hosts. Jenny, whose body Helen now uses, is the only child of strict religious parents who controlled her beyond what her spirit could endure. Billy's spirit left his body after a string of tragedies resulting from drug abuse and domestic violence. James and Helen court in both modern and old-fashioned ways; here is a novel in which explicit sex is far from gratuitous or formulaic. Whitcomb writes with a grace that befits Helen's more modulated world while depicting contemporary society with sharp insight.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Decade

I think I'm just under the wire for posting on the first day of the new year. I'm not sure if I'm correct in saying we're in a new decade given all the confusion on whether or not 2000 was the last year of the 1990s decade or the first year of the 2000s decade. I'm going with 2000 as Year 1 and 2009 as year 10, thus making 2010 part of a new decade.

Regardless, as part of my plan to read through as much of my TBR pile as possible in 2010, I'm going to try posting my progress here. If I have a sense of accountability, even if it is only virtual and basically only to myself, maybe I'll stick with the plan. Kind of like weighing in at Weight Watchers every week.

Number of books on TBR pile: 295 (this number may change once I go through the list and whittle it down to a true reflection of what I actually will read vs. what I will never read)

Book chosen: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Summary: For years, three factions—Townies, Cadets (city kids doing a six-week outdoor education program), and Jellicoe School students—have engaged in teen war games in the Australian countryside, defending territorial borders, negotiating for assets, and even taking hostages. Taylor Markham, a 17-year-old who was abandoned years ago by her mother, takes on leadership of the boarding school's six Houses. Plagued with doubts about being boss, she's not sure she can handle her Cadet counterpart, Jonah Griggs, whom she met several years before while running away to find her mother. When Hannah, a sort of house mother who has taken Taylor under her wing, disappears, Taylor puzzles over the book manuscript the woman left behind. Hannah's tale involves a tragic car accident on the Jellicoe Road more than 20 years earlier. Only three children survived, and Taylor discovers that this trio, plus a Cadet and a Townie, developed an epic friendship that was the foundation of the many mysteries in her life and identity, as well as of the war games.

Status: Page 45 (out of 419)

Now this is the kind of New Year's resolution I can live with.