Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Weird Sisters

I read about half of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.  I really love the concept - three literary sisters (named Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia) whose parents were Shakespearean scholars.  The three sisters return to the little college town where their parents (or maybe just their dad? I can't remember) live, slipping back into their roles.  What really drove me nuts about the book, and why I ultimately didn't finish it, was that it felt SO PREDICTABLE.  It was a great idea, and I think Brown's a good writer - I loved the historical and literate references, but the inevitable slog toward the sisters bonding together to help each other overcome some conflict, pairing off with the various handsome, rugged men and their pick up trucks in town was too boring.

The book has a lot to do with birth order, which I suspect my sister would like.  She told me this is one of her friends fave books of the year, so, you know.  One person's trash.
Rose is the only one who can get us out the door on time when we have theater tickets or are trying to get to church services.  When our mother left pans of carrots boiling away to charred messes on the stove, Rose made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cutting them neatly in sailboats for Cordy. When she got her driver's license, she drove Bean to the nearest mall (which isn't really near at all) almost every weekend night, and didn't even tell on her the time she met those boys with the Trans Am and came home with vodka on her breathe and vomit down the front of her blouse.... as much as she hates us for taking away her throne, she has never ever pushed us off of it.  And she would be none of those things if she weren't the firstborn.
If I'm wrong about the end, by all means, correct me!  For some reason, I find it quite difficult to "cheat" and skip to the end to see what actually happened.

Notice:  I have a new painting for my series!  I'll post soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2nd in a series

I continue my (extremely slow) series of drawings created from books I'm reading.  Here's the first one I did, from Super Sad True Love Story.   This one I started a long time ago - inspired by Crossed, by Ally Condie.  The first watercolor was so bad, I wanted to redo it.  Here's the first one:
Terrible, right?
and here's the second one.   It still didn't come out exactly like I wanted, but I kind of like it.  

 Since I have like, absolutely no idea what I'm doing, I consider this all "win."  I don't think it would ruin the book to view this image, but, if you've read it, maybe you'll remember this part?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What was that book?

Found a great website where people post about books whose titles they've forgotten and other people chime in with the answers: What was that book?  Of course, I immediately posted the description of a book of short stories I've been searching for for YEARS.  I hope someone knows what it is called!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On 50 Shades of Gray and Fan Fiction

I've been quite amused by the popularity of 50 Shades of Gray and the conversations around it recently.   Erotic fiction is certainly not new, but the level of discourse around it has changed recently, in that people are so willing to admit they're reading British author EL James Fifty Shades trilogy.  Not surprisingly, it's a top-selling ebook, for those who don't like to bare their book covers.

I haven't actually read the book, except for some excerpts I read online - but, I never let a little thing like actual experience get in the way of sharing my thoughts.  What's surprising is how few people seem to know that Fifty Shades is fanfiction of the Twilight series, and, not only that, but I've discovered quite a few friends don't know what fanfic is, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to explain.  Fanfic is a type of story written in the style or with a continuation of characters or stories from a piece of literature.  It varies wildly in quality - some is quite excellent, like Wide Sargasso Sea or March, and some is really awful, like 90% of the stuff you'll find on  Harry Potter and Twilight are the most popular kinds of fan fiction; it's not all erotic, there are many represented genres.  (BTW, if you're just reading about this for the first time, and you're anything like me, you'll spend the next straight 24 hours mindlessly reading one story after another until you never want to ready anything ever again.)

You can sort stories on by type of story, "rating", language, number of words, characters, complete or in-progress and inspiration via movie or book.  So, a short, finished, mature, sexy story about Bella and Esme would have a search the one below...
and three results would appear, one with this description: "Bella, still a virgin at 20 & perpetually horny and snarky, has a heart too big to worry about herself. Turns out being forced to work on Valentine's Day because she's single may not be such a bad thing. Especially when her client is Esme Platt."  

A few years ago, a similar search for Bella and Edward resulted in a series called "Master of the Universe" by SnowQueen IceDragon, which is now Fifty Shades of Grey.  They've since removed "Master" from, but I did find an excerpt.  EL James's publishers claim that "Master" and Fifty Shades are separate works of fiction, but some enterprising sleuths discovered the books are 89% identical.  So, apparently the guy character, based on Edward, is rich and possessive and secretive (although not a vampire), and the girl is a horny clumsy virgin (sound familiar?).  I hear there's also a Jacob character, and possibly an Alice?  Anywho, as far as I know, Stephanie Meyer hasn't made any accusations of infringement, and even if she did, who knows what would happen?    I'm no copyright expert, but I wonder what the legal implications are or will be, assuming more and more publishers go trolling the fanfic databases for the next best-seller.  By the way, it's not unusual to see authors write "I do not own these characters" at the beginning of their stories, as if absolving themselves of any dubious copyright infraction they may have committed.  

The copyright thing is strange ... what if I just wrote an erotic novel about a daring orphaned boy and his brave red-headed girlfriend, who happened to be the sister of his best friend?  (Wait, what IF I DID???)  I mean, can we just do that?  

Check these out:
3 Grannies critique
Gilbert Gorrfreid reads
50 Shades of Grey Pinterest board
Increase in rope sales?
Ellen reads

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great House

I finally finished Great House by Nicole Krauss - I had started it some time ago and then got distracted by other things on my nightstand.  It's a lovely book, and Krauss writes beautifully - her History of Love is so poetic and beautiful... but... I have to say I found some parts of Great House really boring, and, I must admit I flipped past a few pages.  She'll go on for whole paragraphs about someone raising a glass of tea to their lips, not drinking, and putting the cup down again.

The book tracks, non-linearly, a desk and it's various owners.  The first character is a writer who talks about how she came to own the desk.  I like the way she tells this story because, as a reader, you kind of get ost int he story but every once in a while she slips in that "Your Honor" and reminds you that there's a bit of a mystery about to whom and why she might be talking.  Another story is told from the perspective of a hate-fueled old man whose wife has died and he has a really rotten relationship with one of his sons.  My favorite story is told by a young woman who is dating a guy - she loves him and his sister, but they have this weird, mysterious relationship with their father, who searches out furniture for Jewish families.  He searches for these tangible articles that were stolen by the Nazis.  "Unlike people, he used to say, the inanimate doesn't simply disappear."
The Gestapo confiscated the most valuable items in the apartment, which were many, since Weisz's family on this mother's side had been wealthy. These were loaded - along with mountains of jewelry, diamonds, money, watches, paintings, rugs, silverware, china, furniture, linens, porcelains, and even cameras and stamp collections - onto the forty-two car "Gold Train" the SS used to evacuate Jewish possessions as the Soviet troops  advanced toward Hungary.  In the years after the War, when Weisz returned to Budapest, the first thing he did was knock on these neighbors' doors and, as the color washed out of the faces, entered their apartments with a small gang of hired thugs who seized the stolen furniture, carrying it out on their backs.
So, ultimately, while I don't think it was nearly as captivating as History of Love, it was certainly well-written, and I curiously await Krauss's next work.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Darling, My Hamburger

I can't remember where I read about My Darling, My Hamburger, but it was inspiring enough to add it to my Amazon Wishlist.  Apparently a lot of people my age read it when they were kids and it made quite an impression on them. It was originally published in 1969 by Paul Zindel.   Eventually got around to reading it myself, but, I have to say, I wasn't that impressed.

It's a pretty dated attempt at describing teenage relationships - it carries a kind of after-school-special morality tale about the dangers of sex.  It's about these two couples, one is dorky and awkward and the other is cool and popular.  The popular guy is pressuring the popular girl to have sex and she doesn't want to.  "Is it that you think I won't respect you?" Sean asked quietly. "I'll still respect you. We love each other. I need you, Liz."  Poor Liz gets preggo and ends up having a back-alley abortion (remember this is three years before Roe v Wade). The dorky friends goes for help when she starts bleeding profusely afterward and they aren't friends anymore.  Liz is bitter and angry and the dorky girl goes on with her life.

The title comes from the beginning when a student asks a teacher what to do if a boy wants to "go all the way" - the teacher says the girl should suggest going out for a hamburger.  Whaa whaaaaa! Get it?!? Teenagers don't have the resources to handle the complexities of sexual relationships.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone besides, like, historians or YA Historians.  It's too outdated.  It's hard to imagine why so many people found this book so influential (just check out the reviews on Amazon), I guess back in the 70s it might have felt "real" and "gritty", but now it reads as a mostly sad reflection on the lack of resources available to women.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Insurgent, the follow-up to Divergent, is finally (ok, it's been less than a year) out, and I picked up a copy at the airport to read on my long-weekend trip to LA.  The cashier says to me, "Sooooooo gooooood." and I'm like, "Did you know the author lives in Chicago?" She goes, "Yeah, she wrote the first book when she was in college.  I was just writing papers when I was in college."  And I say, "Yeah." and then we make faces at each other and laugh.  YA love in the airport! Squee!

The downside to this whole thing is while I remembered the broad strokes of Divergent (this girl, Tris, is in a faction in futuristic Chicago called Dauntless, which is characterized by bravery and strength, and she's "divergent" and there's some inequality in the factions...) I didn't remember the details very well.  I suppose I should have re-read it before I started this one. If you're like me, you may want to read these reminder/spoilers about Divergent, written by Veronica Roth herself.  BTW, her blog is pretty cool, I especially liked this post about sexual assault and how she wishes she had written a scene differently.

Anyway, at the end of Divergent, this crazy thing has happened, which you may or may not remember very well, and Tris and her bf, Tobias/Four, are trying to regroup.  Imma try not to be too spoiler-y for anyone who intends to read the book.  What's nifty is she ends up living for a while in each faction's building/living space and sort of experiencing what it's like in each place.  She and Tobias have a lot of secrets they're keeping from each other for various reasons and they go through a few spats, with Tobias being largely wise and sensitive and Tris being mostly impulsive and insecure.  Whatevs, she's 16.

I really enjoyed reading more about what it's like to live in each faction and how the groups communicate and function.  A couple of mysteries emerge and Tris tries to solve them.  For various reasons that were not entirely clear to me, Tris finds it necessary to hide things from Tobias.  One thing that I admire about Roth's books is that they're very grown-up YA, like Rowling and Suzanne Collins, she isn't afraid to include some big themes, violence, and death of beloved characters.  I also really like the main character.  She's flawed, she's smart, she's really brave, and she's a kick-ass inspiring girl.