Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Wrap-Up

Sorry everyone, April was definitely a sloooow reading month for me, so almost nothing to report here.

1. Top Book of the Month: He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
I know it's not a romance novel (and therefore not the sort of thing I'd normally review) but I loved it! Review here.

2. The Royal Wedding!
I didn't watch the whole thing, but I did watch snippits of it over breakfast. There's been so much speculation over Kate's dress (I guess now we have to call her Catherine). I liked it.
The shorter train (heck, it's still long!) and modern touches fit her signature style much more than say Princess Diana's fairy tale wedding dress would have.
I didn't like her dress for the reception as much. What's with the fuzzy sweater? Please don't say those are making a comeback...

3. Glee!
Back for the second half of the season and making me happy again :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top 10: Royal Wedding Mania!

Ever since the Royal Engagement was announced, memorabilia has been popping up left and right.  For the most part it's the smiling couple's faces on pieces of china, coins, and stamps.  But of course, there are those few pieces that are a bit more... out there.  Add in the internet, where we can now make videos either honoring or spoofing the royal couple and you're bound to get some interesting odds and ends.  In honor of Prince William and Kate Middleton's nupitals tomorrow, here's a list of my Top 10 favorite crazy knick-knacks and videos that have been spawned from the Royal Wedding Mania!

1. The T-Mobile Royal Wedding.  Remember that fun dancing down the aisle video that went viral?  T-Mobile did a spoof using Will and Kate as models.

2. Royal Romance- TheTheOtherGuys.  This is by far my favorite video made for the royal couple.  It's a parody of Bad Romance made by some of the guys who went to St. Andrew's with Will and Kate.  If you haven't seen it yet, take a minute to watch it.

3. PEZ Dispensers
4. Beer.  While not exactly high brow, I love the name.
5. Royal Couple Nails
6. Ash Trays
7. Toilet Seat Cover.  Is this supposed to be one of those sitting-on-a-throne references?
8. The Royal Refridgerator.  Is this just in case you ever forgot who your future monarchs are?
9. Heritage Condoms.  I thought royals wanted heirs?
10. Sick Bags.  After everything I've just showed you, do I really need to explain?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marines Making My Day

How is it that men in uniform can make any day better?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Top 10: Favorite Heroes

Last week I did my Top 10 Favorite Romance Novels, so this week I thought I'd add my Top 10 Favorite Heroes.  It's also based off my list at DIK- I had eight heroes listed there, so I only had to pick two more, though I changed one on the list so I guess that makes three additions total.  Once again these are in no particular order.

Favorite Heroes:
1. Marc “Hunt” Hunter from Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare
2. Hardy Cates from Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas
3. Matthew Swift from Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas.  Originally I had Kev Merripen on my list (omg Barbara, look, another LK I'll-love-you-from-afar-but-do-nothing-about-it hero!), but that was mostly because I wanted some diversity between my "Favorite Books" list and "Favorite Heroes" list.  Matthew Swift holds a special place in my heart and just might be my all time favorite hero.  If I met him on the street today I would be his Daisy in a heartbeat.
4. David Masters from Wed Him Before You Bed Him by Sabrina Jeffries.  I think this book made a great finale to the Heiress series.
5. Spike from A Man in a Million by Jessica Bird.  He's a BDB Brother in disguise.  I swear his real name is Spihke.
6. Nick Romeo from Romeo Romeo by Robin Kaye.
7. Julian Sinclair from The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
8. Devin Freedman from What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss.
9. John Matthew from Lover Mine by JR Ward.  I wanted him with me on the Island, but it wasn't too bad since I did get Lover Mine on my list of books.
10. Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything.  If you have not seen this movie, go watch it- now!  Seriously, I'll wait.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Milking The Cash Cow

I don't have anything against Taylor Lautner.  Anyone who can go from this...
to that...
seriously gets some credit.  (Give me a call, kid, when you hit twenty-five.)  But, despite his ability to harness puberty better than 99.9% of the population, he's not the best actor out there.  I mean there's a reason we've got meme's like this one popping up:
So I wasn't quite sure whether to laugh or cry when I saw this trailer:

Milking the cash cow are we?  No, Taylor Lautner isn't the best actor, but casting him in action/thriller films that blatantly bank on the Twilight crowd wanting to see them isn't going to help his career.  There's a reason actors like Jason Statham and Bruce Willis usually take those roles- because when a nineteen year old does it, it looks kind of dumb.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: He's Just Not That Into You

Title:  He's Just Not That Into You
Author: Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
Genre: Self Help
Series: none
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For ages women have come together over coffee, cocktails, or late-night phone chats to analyze the puzzling behavior of men. Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo are here to say that —despite good intentions— you're wasting your time. Men are not complicated, although they'd like you to think they are. And there are no mixed messages.

The truth may be, He's just not that into you.

He's Just Not That Into You —based on a popular episode of Sex and the City— educates otherwise smart women on how to tell when a guy just doesn't like them enough, so they can stop wasting time making excuses for a dead-end relationship. This book knows you're a beautiful, smart, funny woman who deserves better.

I loved He's Just Not That Into You (the movie).  I thought it was funny and smart and had a great ensemble cast.  However, I had never thought to pick up He's Just Not That Into You (the book).  I'm not a fan of self-help books.  Normally I'll start reading them and diligently nod my head at what I assume must be such sage and wise advice (after all it did manage to get published).  But somewhere around a fourth of the way through I always end up setting the book down because, as awesome as the advice sounds on paper, it doesn't seem feasible in my life.  Sort of like a crash diet- maybe I could keep it up for a week or two, but down the line I'd be right back to all my old habits.

I started He's Just Not That Into You with even lower expectations than that.  To be honest, I started it with a bad attitude, fully planning on hating it and making fun of it.  A few weeks ago while surfing the interwebs I came across an excerpt of this book that had me up in arms.  The very first chapter (and the excerpt I read) says that if a guy is into you, he'll ask you out, no ifs, ands, or buts.  In otherwords, stop asking men out and wait for them to ask you.  The whole idea sounded so infuriating and anti-feminist to me!  What could this book possibly say that's worthwhile?  Let me get this confession out of the way early: I was wrong.

The whole point of the book is summed up in a phrase use right in the intro: don't waste the pretty.  You're pretty, you're smart, you're interesting.  So don't waste the pretty on men who don't reciprocate, or who make excuses, or who don't make you happy. Don't waste the pretty on men who waste your time.

He's Just Not That Into You is divided into a series of chapters all starting with "He's Just Not That Into You If..." and then tackling a specific issue such as asking you out, calling, and seeing other people.  Within each chapter Greg responds to letters that have different dating and relationship dilemmas where, you guessed it, he's just not that into you.  Each chapter ends with further remarks from Greg and how Liz (the single girl like the reader) is handling the subject, and then a silly "exercise" to drive home the point.

The book really had a way of punching me in the gut then making me stand up straighter.  I'll start with the feminist who-aks-out-who debate.  Greg points out that men have been given all these advantages in our society, so despite what many would have you believe, they are fully capable of asking someone out, especially if it's someone they're into.  It's painfully logical.  He doesn't say everytime a gal asks a guy out is bad- the point of the chapter is more to push the point that there is no reason to ask out (and continue to call) a guy who has not proven that he is into and therefore worthy of your time and prettiness.  We have a right to expect better for ourselves.  Way to go Greg for reminding us.

Greg deals out a lot of tough love in the book. Most of it is harsh and hard to swallow. If it had only been his opinion, I still would have thought it was a good book. Liz's sections added the gal's perspective, voicing all of our worries and doubts and acknowleding the complexities of the situations, ultimately concluding (using Greg's advice) all we can do is make the best choices based on what we know. This dual perspective made the book not just good but great.

That sounds really sad and depressing, but it's not, it's empowering.  What I realized is if I hadn't been wasting all my time with all those guys who weren't that into me (and who often I wasn't that into either) I probably would have found or noticed a guy who was into me!  Clearly I'm not the only woman who felt this way.  The library copy I got was thoroughly dog-eared, even before I checked it out.

The final chapter is the only place with a serious exercise.  It's where you have to create standards for yourself- actually write down concrete behaviors you will not tolerate.  I thought hard over this one, so here's what I came up with:
1. I will not go out with a guy I have to ask out beyond the first date.
2. I will not go out with a guy who doesn't make clear he's dating me.
3. I will not go out with a guy who doesn't regularly communicate with me.
4. I will not go out with a guy who already has a girlfriend.
5. I will not go out with a guy who cannot speak openly about sex or deal with with sex-related issues.
6. I will not go out with a guy who uses drugs or drinks excessively.
7. I will not go out with a guy who whose political or religious views make me uncomfortable, or who makes racist or homophobic remarks.
8. I will not go out with a guy if making me happy isn't one of his priorities.
9. I will not go out with a guy if he won't show me off to his friends or won't stick up for me in front of his frineds.
10. I will not go out with a guy if I cannot see myself having some sort of future with him.

Liz (sans Greg) wrote a section at the end of the book about life and dating after writing He's Just Not That Into You.  It's about the process that went with putting these ideas into place.  Obviously some of it can be intimidating.  Why be alone when you can be with someone who's good enough for now?  She suggests waiting a year or two before reading the section.  Normally I'd disregard that statement and read it anyway, but for once I did what I was told.  Yes, I thought the book was that worth listening to.

I know a lot of people who read this blog are happily married, but I'd still recommend this book because we all have at least one friend who needs to read it.  5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top 10: Favorite Romance Novels

I really like Top 10 lists.  They're fun, quick, and easy.  I think I might decide to do more of them in the future.  I'm pretty busy today so I thought I'd throw together a fast list of my Top 10 favorite romance novels.  I already have seven listed over at DIK, so this list includes those.  It was tough to pick the other three, but here's what I came up with (in no specific order):

1. Lover Mine by JR Ward
2. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
3. Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie
4. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
5. Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
6. Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
7. Between Mist and Midnight by Kathleen O'Brien
8. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
9. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
10. Bait by Karen Robards

In conclusion, I seem to like books whose author's first names are Jennifer, or at least begin with a J.  Interesting!  I had no idea.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Movies: The Lady Eve

Movie: The Lady Eve (1941)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Grade: B

Returning from a year up the Amazon studying snakes, the rich but unsophisticated Charles Pike meets con-artist Jean Harrington on a ship. They fall in love, but a misunderstanding causes them to split on bad terms. To get back at him, Jean disguises herself as an English lady, and comes back to tease and torment him.

A few days ago when hopping around the blogosphere I came across Dear Author's review of The Lady Eve and was intrigued.  I'm a big fan of 1940's romances and screwball comedies, and also a lover of Barbara Stanwyck.  Reading the review I realized, "hey I've seen this before!" but for some reason only the second half, so I jumped on Netflix Instant and watched the whole thing to judge it for myself.  Interestingly enough, I came up with the same grade as Dear Author reviewer Jayne, but I completely disagree with her review.  Janye, you've got it all backwards!  Let me set the record straight...

I think I should start off my review by stating that I don't like Henry Fonda.  Not one darn bit.  I think he pulled his weight a bit in 12 Angry Men, but that had more to do with excellent direction by Sidney Lummet and strong actors like Lee J. Cobb to play off of.  In The Lady Eve it's not his character Hopsy that's wooden, it's him!  I also had some qualms with William Demarest's portrayal of Mugsy (to say the least it was one dimensional and over the top) but it was more a reflection of 1930's comedic acting styles than actual bad acting (i.e. Henry Fonda!).

Janye and my biggest disagreement is over the first half of the movie.  The first half of the movie takes place on a steamboat headed back to New York from South America, where happy-go-lucky Jean begins a flirtation with Charles "Hopsy" Pike, millionaire and heir to an ale brewing company. Jean is the daughter of a card shark, and the flirtation was meant to help distract Hopsy, but soon she's falling for him too and calling off the whole scam.  Janye thought this half was fantastic and laugh out loud hilarious.  I thought it was mediocre and generic.  I agree with her that the first half of the movie is a lot more light hearted, but that's what makes it so bland.  There's no real tension that's developed yet.  

That being said, the tone changes and becomes darker in the second half, once the tension has developed.  At the end of the ship ride, Hopsy discovers what he believes to be Jean's deception and callously rejects her.  She vows revenge and later stays with a family friend who lives by the Pikes, introducing herself as the Lady Eve only to capture Hopsy's heart once again, this time to break it.  I felt Stanwyck really got a chance to shine in this half of the movie.  She slide between the smiling society girl and the hurt and angry lover with ease (I couldn't help but think of her future character in Double Indemnity!).  Ultimately she sides with good though and because of her love for Hopsy sees the error of what she's done.

The Lady Eve is a classic 1940's slapstick romantic comedy, and it's in the second half that it really acts like one.  For most the movie the comedic burden has been on Stanwyck (and somewhat Demarest) but here Fonda finally helps out with some physical gags.  I think to modern viewers these might seem silly and over the top, but I find them funny, especially when I look at them in comparison of other movies of the time when that's what comedy was.

There is one scene which really gets under my nerves though- the way in which Eve breaks Hopsy's heart is by confessing to a series of past flings and a previous marriage, which apparently is horrible enough to make him jump out of a train and refuse to ever speak to her again.  Really?!  Oh 1941... so appallingly anti-feminist.  However, if you can block what they're actually saying out and just watch Stanwyck's delivery it's still funny.

Overall, I don't think The Lady Eve is the best romantic comedy, ever or of the 1940's.  I don't think it holds up to the rapier wit of some of Cary Grant's early films (such as The Phildelphia Story) or The Thin Man series.  It was, however, a wonderful performance by Barbara Stanwyck and a great way to spend an hour and a half. B

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Being an English Major Rocks

Here's the part where I once again rub in your face that I am a college student and probably significantly younger than you.

Ever heard of a book called A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis?  Well, if you haven't here's a brief summary of it taken from RomanceWiki (cuz anything ending in Wiki is so scholarly ;p):

Taking the stance that the popular romance novel is a work of literature with a brilliant pedigree, Regis asserts that it is also a very old, stable form, properly defined as a work of prose fiction that tells the story of the courtship and betrothal of one or more heroines. Arguing that the ending in marriage found so objectionable by critics is hardly the sole governing element, Regis brings to the forefront other, more significant narrative components, such as the reform of a corrupt society and the breakdown of the barrier between hero and heroine. She traces the literary history of the romance novel from canonical works such as Richardson's Pamela through Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Brontë's Jane Eyre, Trollope's Framley Parsonage, and Forster's Room with a View, then turns to the twentieth century to examine works such as E. M. Hull's The Sheik and the novels of Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Janet Dailey, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts. Situating each novel in its own time while interpreting it through the critical vocabulary she proposes, Regis specifies how romance conventions change yet retain the essential formal requirements of the genre.

In other words, this book and this lady are awesome, because she uses academic arguements to shut down all those jerks who say romance novels are nothing but trashy bodice rippers for bored lonely housewifes who sit around eating bon bons.

So why am I so psyched about this book right now?  Because Pamela Regis is a professor at my college, and as an English major next semester I am taking her Popular Romance course!  How freaking awesome is that?!  I was so excited about it I was even willing to take it despite it being an 8am course.

At first a part of me wondered if having to analyze and do as work what I normally do for fun would be a turn off, but then I was like, "Romance novels for homework? Having to write papers about them instead of about boring dead white guys?  Lolz I am sooo there!"  I think I see a senior thesis in my future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Prom and Prejudice

Title: Prom and Prejudice
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Genre: YA Romance
Series: None
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?

I have a soft spot for YA retellings of classic fiction, and I definitely have a soft spot for retellings of Pride and Prejudice.  So when I spotted Prom and Prejudice I sent in a request to my local library and had them purchase a copy for me. 

In my opinion YA fiction can either be very complex and thought provoking, or complete and utter fluff.  In this case it, Prom and Prejudice fell in the latter category.  Pride and Prejudice itself isn't a particularly morally complex book, but I felt Prom and Prejudice started off with the concept of tackling class differences at a private elitist boarding school but then fell flat.  I think the problem for me was that, with the exception of Jane and Darcy, all the other students were stereotypes of "rich kids".  In fact, all the characters, including Lizzie, Darcy, Jane lacked any real depth giving them a cardboard effect.  Because of this I would say Eulberg didn't bring anything new or insightful to her retelling.

Despite the flatness of the characterization, it was a fun and easy read which I flew through and was still entertained by.  The places which Eulberg chose to deviate from the original storyline made it much more appropriate for modern times, but it still strongly resembled the good old text.  I'd really only recommend this to all the mega fans of P&P- for me it was a 3 star read.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady

Title: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall (#3)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva's would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva's imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents' deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles's secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.
I would say that, so far, How to Woo a Reluctant Lady has been my favorite of the Hellions of Halstead Hall series.  For some reason I find that Sabrina Jeffries books pack more of a punch when the primary character is female (like with her Heiress series) than when the primary character is male (i.e. Oliver or Jarret).  I don't really know why since every book has a hero and heroine, but this is what I've noticed.  Also, I was excited that Giles got his own book!  David Masters is one of my all time favorite heroes, so getting to read about his little brother (even though his little bro seriously messed up in Wed Him Before You Bed Him) was real fun.
Minerva and Giles have great chemistry together and are strong independent characters as well.  Minerva's career as a gothic novelist is fun to read about, especially since we've heard so much about her character Rockton in The Truth About Lord Stoneville and now we're getting a whole new take on him.  Normally I get bored with the "rake who isn't actually a rake" plot, but it worked fabulously for Giles because it was layered with his job, his values, and the pressures it put on him.  He was a fleshed out character.  A main point of the series is the Sharpe's family scandal, and Jeffries does a great job of carrying through the series story arc and keeping it interesting.  The tragedy of the Sharpe's parent's death applies to all the siblings, but here it was woven right into Minevra and Gile's romance so it didn't weigh the plot down.

However, there were things that irked me throughout the novel- in particular Minerva and Gile's trust issues.  Come on, work through them already!

For the first half of the novel Minerva obsessess that marrying ANY man will mean the loss of her freedom.  She is determined to live alone in some cottage and write her books, even though she has some obvious envy of her brother's and their marriages.  This is all understandable after her witnessing her parents marriage, but it was rubbing me the wrong way how she was treating Giles.  We know he's had to play the dissulote rake for years, but she doesn't let him get two words in edgewise for a good quarter of the book.  Instead she just disses him, his career, and his ability to take responsibility.  If she had let him get in two words she might have seen just how much he really had accomplished.  And he was trying really really hard to show her!  I just wanted to shake her!

On the other hand, for the second half of the book Giles wasn't any better!  He's so determined to believe that Minerva can't keep a secret (becuase she is a writer and will accidently write it into a book) that he doesn't tell her anything.  His secretiveness almost destroyes her and their marriage.  Ok, I get it, he's been a spy all these years and now can't trust anyone.  I half like that part because it adds depth to his character.  But at the same time, Ravenswood, his superior, has already given him permission to tell Minerva!  Could he be anymore of an idiot? I wanted to slap him!

Of course, it all works out wonderfully in the end, and I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it.  Niether Minerva's nor Giles's flaws were enough to turn me off to the book, or even significantly pull me away from the plot.  All in all 4 stars.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BDB News

Ok, I'm a little late on posting this, so a lot of you have probably already heard this news but I wanted to comment on it anyway.  JR Ward has announced that the next BDB book will be Tohr's!

(Sorry for the off sound and odd subtitles!)

First off, I haven't read Lover Unleashed yet so I can't remark on anything that might have developed there, but I think I read somewhere that he's going to be mating with No'One.  I don't know if this was officially announced, so if anyone knows for sure please comment!  Either way, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this.  It's not that I don't want to see him happy again, but I'm not sure how JR Ward is going to pull this off.  I still really love him and Wellsie and I don't particularly want to see him with someone else (well... maybe Lassiter lol).  I just want him to be less depressed!  The book doesn't come out until 2012 so I have some time to get used to the idea.

And I don't think I'm alone in saying I wish she would just write a book for Qhuinn and Blay instead!

Friday, April 1, 2011

You Could Have Fooled Me

Happy April Fool's Day!  I hope everyone is staying out of too much trouble?  Here are a few of my favorite pranks that I've stumbled across:

1. The Left-Handed Whopper

In 1998 BK "unvieled" the left-handed Whopper, where all the ingredients were rotated 180 degrees to satisfy their lefty customers.  Apparently it was quite frequently requested the following day, though several right-handed folks made sure to request the original, right-handed version.

2. Dihydrogen Monoxide
Sounds dangerous doesn't it?  While not specifically an April Fool's Day prank, I had to include this one.

Dihydrogen monoxide is a fancy name for... water.  This hoax can be traced back to the Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide, a hoax organization started by Craig Jackson.  Among the many things it warned against were dihydrogen monoxide being a major component of acid rain, that it contributes to the greenhouse effect, that it can cause severe burns, and that it is fatal if inhaled.  This prank has been replicated several times since- and can always be reproduced with some of your less chemistry inclined friends!

3. LA Highways Down for Repair

In 1987 a LA DJ announced that all LA highways would be shut down for an entire month for repairs starting April 8th.  Since LA is absolutely dependent on these highways, most residents who heard (and believed) the DJ were in a state of panic.  The station and the California Highway Patrol were flooded with calls for the rest of the day.  Understandibly, the Highway Patrol did not think the prank was that funny.

4.  Walled In
A video prank- and my favorite office prank of all time!

The moral of all this?  Remember what day it is and take everything with a grain of salt and some good humor!