Posted in Books, Movies

The High School Musical Book Tag

For several years, High School Musical formed a large part of my identity.

I LOVE these movies (even the third one.)

Where else does one find cheesy, earnest musicals about summer busboys and their romantic dramas?

WHERE, I ASK YOU?

Continue reading “The High School Musical Book Tag”

Posted in Books, Movies

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 15

FINAL ROUND!!

For round 15, I picked

Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars
and
Cress Darnell from The Lunar Chronicles

Background
Anakin Skywalker feels very attacked right now because EVERYONE KEEPS TREATING HIM LIKE A CHILD. Thought to be the Chosen One, Anakin excels in acting rashly and crying about it later. His flirting skills need WORK.

Sand

Forced out of Lunar society, Cress Darnell spent most of her youth on a satellite hacking Earth’s security feed. Easily impressed, Cress swoons over scoundrels and expresses delight in mundane things like sand. Her flirting skills, along with her life skills, do not exist. Girl is DUMB.

Trustworhty
“HE SEEMS TRUSTWORTHY.”

The Couple
Alas, Anakin’s hatred for sand might keep these two apart.

I find it hard to ship someone as unlikable as Anakin. Who wouldn’t be disillusioned by all that child murder? Or, you know…regular murder?

Sand people

But come on. These two have plenty in common, including childhood enslavement and a love of space travel.

Sure, there are things to dislike about this pairing. Rage. Jealousy. A disturbing height difference.

And, yes, the character Cress fears most is an angry giant with murderous instincts…which pretty much describes Anakin.

Know what? I don’t care.

At least this dynamic is interesting.

At least there’s contrast.

IT’S NOT TILNEY AND LUPIN. THAT’S ALL I CARE ABOUT.

This is the final round and I’m calling it.

Verdict: SHIP IT

Posted in Movies, Theater

R.I.P It or Ship It: Round 4

For round 4, I picked

Roger Davis from RENT
and
Queen Amidala from Star Wars

Background
If Roger Davis isn’t singing about his problems, he’s running away. Granted, he has depression, something I’ve only recently been able to appreciate. He sulks in his apartment. He worries about his lifespan. He picks out melodies on his untuned guitar. His most unforgivable sin results when he mocks his roommate Mark after the funeral of a mutual friend. Mark wishes all his friends would stop dying; Roger spits, “POOR BABY,” and moves to Santa Fe, leaving his best friend and his dying girlfriend behind.

tenor1
“It’s true.”

Naboo elected Queen Amidala when she was 14 years old for unknown reasons. While on the throne, Amidala navigated a siege, political intimidation, and a planet-wide war. She frequently switched places with one of her handmaidens, claiming safety concerns, though one suspects she just liked doing it.

Amidala
“Deal with it.”

The Couple
I’m not even going to fight for this one.

Roger’s depression has him resigned to death. He can’t confront intimacy – he can barely leave the house!

Roger Davis
Pictured: Roger’s contribution to the plot.

Queen Amidala would not have time for that. She is running a PLANET. Her people are under SIEGE. What would taking care of an emotionally volatile man do to her political career?

Anakin
…don’t answer that.

Verdict: R.I.P. IT

Posted in Books

TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Shilling

Because of life changes, my own lack of planning, and an unreliable webcam, I’m going to transition out of doing videos for Terrible Prose Tuesday. This will undoubtedly mean shorter passages, but to be honest, it will be a lot easier and possibly more entertaining. If a passage is particularly terrible, I might still do a dramatic reading, but only as a bonus.

Blugh.

Not a fan of characters with no self-esteem.

In this book, the protagonist’s issues with her family are only touched on, never explored. I don’t get a good sense of how their actions affect her self-esteem, so when other characters go out of their way to praise her talent, beauty, kindness, etc., it feels unnecessary and unwarranted.

Come on. She’s the most talented, most inspiring, most wonderful person the other characters know? Tack on “most godly,” “most beautiful,” and “most intelligent,” and you have Josh Harris’ dream girl.

The EXTREME modesty is annoying, too, i.e. “What? No, I’m awful.”

Not cute, honey. Just take the compliment.

I understand the purpose of this is to make her more sympathetic. It would be harder to like someone who was perfect and insufferable. That can get annoying really fast. But it doesn’t work to make her perfect and give the other characters nothing to do other than tell the protagonist how great she is. When so many characters feel the need to assure me of the protagonist’s greatness and I don’t buy it, that tells me the author hasn’t done enough to substantiate those claims.

Posted in Books

BOOK REVIEW: Defy by Sara B. Larson

The premise: Alexa Hollen has been disguising herself as Alex Hollen for years to escape the king’s ominous “breeding house.” She and her twin brother Marcel are part of the prince’s guard, sworn to protect Prince Damian above even the king. A series of events results in Alex being kidnapped, along with the prince and her fellow guard, Rylan. Alex must deal with a terrorist group, a royal conspiracy, and her feelings for both men, all while trying to keep them–and herself–alive.

My favorite book growing up was Alanna: The First Adventure. Alanna did all the things I was nowhere near ballsy enough to do: disguise herself as a boy, train to be a knight, protect her prince, collude with thieves, and fight mythical beasts. My favorite part was that she posed as a boy for years–I couldn’t believe she was able to pull that off to fulfill her dream. It struck me as impressive and brave. Prior to puberty, I was convinced, if given the chance, I could pull it off.

As an adult, I’m less positive I could do it. But that’s not the point.

Alexa, the protagonist of Defy, also chooses to pose as a boy and join the king’s army to avoid a life of constant rape and pregnancy. I applaud her decision, but would have found it more meaningful if I hadn’t hated her SO. MUCH.

It really irritates me when a convention I like is done poorly. The two conventions in Defy‘s case are the aforementioned girl-dressing-as-boy plot point and a reaaaallly half-hearted love triangle.

I wasn’t super girly as a kid and didn’t feel feminine, so I like books where the heroine relates to and feels comfortable around men. I didn’t like Alexa, though, at all–something about her really bugged me. Her issues seemed off. I can understand how confusing it would be to pretend to be a straight male in order to gain respect while hiding sexual feelings for your male companions. Alexa’s reaction, however, to this event was, “What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way?”

Not, “I can’t afford to feel this way,” though that was explored a bit. No, her main question was, “Why am I feeling this way?”

…because you’re straight. You like guys. You are actually a woman and you are attracted to men.

It just struck me as a strange reaction and/or focus for the author, and it made Alexa seem reaaaal stupid.

Alexa also repressed a lot of her emotions to keep up the man facade, even after multiple of her peers told her it was okay to grieve. I didn’t feel it was consistent with her character; I felt it was an assumption about how her type of character should act. I think my irritation is personal; I don’t like “non-girly female” interpreted as “unemotional female,” because those don’t always go together. Case in point: a short-haired, uber-casual female blogger who cries once a week about entertainment.

My face is turned to hide my tears.
My face is turned to hide my tears.

The love triangle was the other part that didn’t work for me, which is unfortunate. I understand why people have problems with love triangles, and I should be horrified by them on principle…but I secretly love them. And, sometimes, love triangles can wooooork.

This one did not.

Defy‘s love triangle can be summed up as, “Alexa found herself drawn to Prince Damian more and more…and also Rylan was there.” It’s hard for me when love triangles are uneven. If you can’t write one side of the triangle convincingly, why not cut it? Then you could have a convincing romance instead of wasting pages on a weaker one.

And UGH. I hated Rylan. So, so much.

He came across as very entitled. I get how frustrating it is to love someone who loves someone else, especially when that other person is unworthy. “Grand Theft Autumn” is one of my favorite songs, and I have earnestly sung, “You need him?/I should be him,” many a time. You are allowed to feel this way and even express these feelings if the person you like has been stringing you along. It’s best to get everything out in the open.

HOWEVER.

It is not okay to shame the person you like for not liking you and/or liking someone else. You do not deserve their love because you’ve loved them for a long time. If someone is not interested in you, despite your good qualities, that sucks…but you HAVE TO GET OVER IT. PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.

Rylan throws tantrums and guilts Alexa the entire book. Even though he was intended to be a sympathetic character, I did not find him sympathetic in the least, and was even less invested in the love triangle because of his childishness. He hurt the story rather than helping it; if he had been written differently, he might have been sympathetic. As it was, he was awful and useless and I wish his actions had been framed as selfish.

Characters aside, the situations they found themselves seemed laughable and sort of fanfic-y. “Oh no, here I am as a prisoner in the jungle, and I have to share a tent with both the guys I like! What a dilemma!” At least the shojo animes I watch have the sense to play this event for comedy!

Also, for all his good qualities, Damian kept trying to get in “quality time” with Alexa while Rylan was sleeping. That’s gross and also SUPER RUDE, and would be even if the guy in question wasn’t in love with your girl! Alexa would tell him to stop, because she didn’t want to hurt Rylan’s feelings. Um, how about IT’S COMMON COURTESY NOT TO BANG IN FRONT OF SOMEONE YOU SHARE A TENT WITH?

The book wasn’t all bad. I finished the whole thing. Larson kept me guessing with the plot, constantly bringing up twists that I in no way anticipated. She didn’t flinch away from harsher material; while dark and hard to read at times, I appreciated that she didn’t sugarcoat what reality was like for women in the kingdom. She also dealt well with grief and sacrifice and the loneliness of keeping up a pretense. Unlike Tamora Pierce, she didn’t shy away from killing off important characters (note: I say that with regard to Lady Knight specifically.) And, perhaps most admirably, she didn’t offer romantic resolution. I don’t love the way she went about it, but I felt that choice was purposeful and improved Alexa’s character. The ending was sort of a sequel hook and while I have no intention of reading the next book, I felt the hope of the characters as they looked forward to a new start.

To sum up, while parts of this book were good, the elements that failed brought the whole book down. It’s one I’m glad I got from the library instead of buying. Give it a read if you want interesting ethical dilemmas and some good fantasy action; also check it out to see how NOT to write a love triangle.

Posted in Books

TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Stakes

I love adaptations, especially of Austen’s books. I think they can work, if done well.

This book…not so much.

Even though the main characters are teenagers, I can’t stomach the unnecessary drama. Jenni James acts like everything that happens between the two leads is the most traumatizing thing ever. Every conversation they have spirals out of control.

I sort of remember this from high school. I remember snapping at people and things getting out of hand. I still maintained the ability to have normal–not even civil, just normal–conversations with people I didn’t like. Not so with Jenni James’ characters. The act of sharpening a pencil quickly becomes, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU, TAYLOR ANDERSON!” “YOU NEVER UNDERSTAND ANYTHING, CHLOE HART!”

The amount of drama and bile these characters have doesn’t work because the stakes are so low. In the original Pride and Prejudice, the Bennett sisters are poor and are considered lucky to attract any man at all. When Lizzie rejects the wealthy Darcy, while undoubtedly the right decision, it’s a big deal because she has no guarantee of ever attracting another suitor.

In Pride and Popularity, Chloe refuses to date Taylor…because he’s popular. The biggest thing to come out of this is she doesn’t have a Valentine…or a date to prom. Quite the hardship.

The amount of angst they wring from this event makes me laugh. When your big emotional climax is funny instead of heartbreaking, you know your writing needs work.

There was an excellent episode of “Beauty and the Geek” where the Beauties and the Geeks acted in a soap opera. The scenarios they came up with were amazing because they were so outrageous, e.g., “I can’t believe you went back to Chris! Don’t you remember when he faked his own fiery death? What about when he was kidnapped by pirates?”

That’s what this reminds me of. I want to like and connect to these characters, but I’m put off by the melodrama of these mundane events. Either make the stakes bigger or make the characters’ reactions more believable. This is not a soap opera.