Monthly Archives: June 2011

“Alice” (SciFi mini-series)

Alice (wiki) is a three-hour mini-series produced in 2009 by SciFi Channel (now stylized “SyFy“—because that makes it so much cooler looking; ugh). It follows a young woman in her twenties, Alice (Caterina Scorsone), who falls in love with a man named Jack and—when she sees him being kidnapped—follows him and his captors into Wonderland, intent on breaking him out. She’s introduced to Hatter and the White Knight, and, of course, hi-jinks ensue.

I really liked Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts)… as did many other people, it turns out. When I was looking for images for this review, I noticed that—in the first two lines (totaling 10 images) in my Google images search—4 of the images are of Hatter only, and all but one of the remaining ones included him. (The sole image without him in it is just a photo of Alice peeking over the edge of a hole, which never actually happens in the mini-series.) Still, as I am wont to be, I was suspicious of Hatter at first. Just helping Alice out of the goodness of his heart? That might fly with someone who has a history of helping people down on their luck, but Hatter himself admitted that he’d played both sides of the conflict all his life. Not exactly the most trustworthy person in the world. (To her credit, Alice herself is suspicious of him, too, and doesn’t trust him until almost the very end of the mini-series.) It’s clear his loyalties are torn, but he proves himself over and over and eventually she (and I) trusts him. I almost felt bad for Alice’s mother at the end—SPOILERS—but the look on her face when Alice saw him, called him “Hatter!”, and rushed into his arms was just too priceless. I really like Johnny Depp, but I would take this Hatter over his any day of the week.

The White Knight (Matt Frewer) is another really great character, and the actor seemed to have a lot of fun with it. He (the character) is kooky and everyone (most notably Hatter) except Alice writes him off the moment they see him, but by the end of the mini-series, it’s clear that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s a coward who loves his friends more than he fears his enemies—the best kind of friend to have.

Alice SciFi mini-series
The White Knight, Alice, and Hatter from Alice

The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates, bless her heart… er, no pun intended) is appropriately demanding, but she was much more level-headed and conniving than I would have made her. Said calm and calculating demeanor (though she does flippantly say, “Off with his head!” once or twice) suggests her character is a combination of the original stories’ Queen of Hearts and Red Queen, which is seriously frustrating. Just once, I would like to see a decent representation of the Red Queen without having her subsumed into the Queen of Hearts. I mean, really.

As for the rest of the cast: damn, was it star-studded (or maybe I’ve just been paying closer attention to actors generally speaking recently). Visser Three played “Dr. Dee”/”Dr. Dum” (guess who they are), Lieutenant Gaeta was the Nine of Clubs, Chief O’Brien played the King of Hearts, Roman Grant was the Caterpillar, Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself was Dodo, and there were a bunch of others I recognized (The White Knight, Jack of Hearts, and the Carpenter, for example) but couldn’t immediately place. I know none of these actors (possibly with the exception of Tim Curry) are seriously big-time actors, but… I’m now old enough to have seen (and remember!) things they’ve been in already. /cry

The story itself was an interesting re-imagining of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and it utilized many of the minor characters better than I’ve seen in any other version. (Even the Red King had a part, though he acted mostly as a prop for the White Knight’s back story.) The Queen of Hearts running a casino seems like it could be obvious, but it wasn’t overplayed and there was enough action elsewhere that it didn’t seem heavy-handed. It seemed like Jack of Hearts got the short end of the stick, but he didn’t seem too torn up about Alice turning down his proposal, so I don’t feel bad not feeling torn up, either. (And, after all, he did have the Duchess.) The romance between Alice and Hatter could’ve been really irritating, but by the end I was totally rooting for it—it didn’t feel forced or overplayed, either, thank heavens. Generally speaking, I think Alice is one of the better versions of Lewis Carroll’s classics that I’ve seen. I’d totally watch it again.

And also, happily, it passed the Bechdel Test since the Queen of Hearts and Alice (two female characters) have an entire conversation (talk to each other) about the Stone of Wonderland (something other than a man). And, I’m pleased to say, the conversation goes on for more than a couple of lines back and forth between characters, too (though Alice does irritatingly keep bringing up Jack, which may make the pass a little dubious).

EDIT 29 June 2011 @ 00:44 PDT—It occurred to me after I’d turned off my computer after posting this review when I was heading for bed that I may also like the Alice/Hatter relationship better than the Alice/Jack relationship because, in the latter, Jack asked Alice to stay in Wonderland with him (forcing her, hypothetically, to give up her life in her world) while, in the former, Hatter gave up everything he knew to follow Alice into her world to be with her. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

The Past Week via Twitter: 2011-06-26

  • omg, real life: sit down and stfu for like two minutes so I can take a breather already. sheesh. #
  • @TheYaoiReview so excited for Yaoi-Con. so. excited. #
  • @postsecret no, they're just SUMMER cupcakes. #
  • @LaurenGCarey congratulations! go #Wilkes and creative writing ^_^ #
  • @justicewrites what a great idea! guys, check out http://t.co/DXS79bz, a creative writing challenge. #
  • totally wiped. I think I'm just going to crash and start again tomorrow. #

“Spring for Susannah” review

Spring for Susannah coverSpring for Susannah
By Catherine Richmond
Thomas Nelson Publishers
14 June 2011

I have to be honest, here: I was really frustrated with Spring for Susannah, Catherine Richmond’s debut novel, by its end. The title character’s parents die (it’s never really explained how) and no men come calling (because, you know, that’s all women are good for—to be married to men), she’s forced to become a mail-order bride for her pastor’s brother, who lives in the Dakota Territory. It took me three chapters to really place the time period (sometime shortly after the American Civil War, I think), which is never explicitly stated.

Susannah’s new husband, Jesse, is more patient than I would’ve been in his situation, but she does eventually warm up to him and even manages to fall in love with him by about the middle of the novel. There are thirty-four numbered chapters, each one beginning with a sentence or two from Jesse’s perspective in italics. (The story itself is told in third person from Susannah’s perspective.) In the second half of the book, the two main characters are separated (Jesse is thrown from a flimsy barge while it’s fording a river and is saved from drowning, freezing, and starvation—in that order—by Native Americans; and Susannah is virtually holding down the homestead, which is nothing more than a dugout with a bed, a stove, and some crates and chests for chairs) and they remain separated until—SPOILER WARNING—the last five pages of the novel.

I cringe at the idea that all a woman is good for is warming a man’s bed and “being seen and not heard”—as Susannah assumed (as she’d been raised) at the novel’s beginning—but I realize that history hasn’t been kind to women and to Susannah’s credit, she comes out of her shell in the untamed Dakota Territory (and realizes that it doesn’t need to be tamed in the first place) and the author does a pretty good job of putting the historical place of women in context of Susannah’s marriage to Jesse, a man who wanted her to come out her shell as much as I did.

I was frustrated by the end of the novel because it seemed like one problem piled on top of another—Susannah and Jesse didn’t need to be separated to have something to write about. There was plenty of conflict before their separation (under duress, at least) occurred. I realize that sometimes real life just doesn’t stop throwing punches until you just can’t take it anymore, but I didn’t pick up this book just to read more about real life, for Christ’s sake. It’s supposed to be a historical romance!

In the author bio at the back of the book, it’s noted that Richmond worked in another occupation before “a special song planted a story idea in her mind. That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel.” Many other reviewers (see the blog tour page) mention that the book was inspired by a song and/or wanted to know what the song was, but none of the other reviews I read went any further than that. I decided to email the author directly to ask, and she graciously responded in time for me to include it in this review. The song that inspired her is “Mail Order Annie” by Harry Chapin.

For all those interested in reading Spring for Susannah with a book club, it also includes a two-page reading guide for groups.

DISCLAIMER: I received Spring for Susannah free from LitFuse Publicity in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Read other reviews and learn more about the book on the blog tour’s main page.

“Children’s Lit” class reading

This semester, I took “Children’s Literature” (English 127) at a local community college—I had my final on the sixth of this month—wherein we had a textbook (and a half) and multiple books that were required reading. Here, I’m going to name each book (beginning with the text) and give some brief thoughts, if I have any. I won’t be summarizing any of the books’ plots or we’d be here all day.

The Textbook (and a half)
I say “textbook and a half” because we actually only had one textbook, but the professor made pages and pages of photocopies from another text (probably more than was legally allowed, even considering educational and fair use).

Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, by Maria Tatar
Of the two, this was the book we read all the way through, and it was clear that the teacher’s preference (and mine) was for this book over the other, of which we only read excerpts.

Children’s Literature: A Developmental Perspective, by Barbara E. Travers and John F. Travers

The Required Reading
The BFG, by Roald Dahl

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
Many people apparently like this book, or did in high school when they first read it. But, I didn’t read it in high school (and I don’t think it was required reading at my high school in any class, because I don’t know any high school friend who read it, either), and I didn’t really like reading it for this class. Meh. To each their own.

The Opportunity
In May, we were given the opportunity to meet with one of the producers of the upcoming movie based on Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games on the condition that we read the book so we’d be prepared to actually have a decent conversation with the producer, Allison Thomas. We also read excerpts of The Tale of Despereaux and watched excerpts of the (very different) movie of the same name. (I also watched it in its entirety before the meeting with the producer to get a better feel for the movie as compared to the book excerpts we read.)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
It was okay. I’ll probably see the movie when it comes out. I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, though I bought all three as a box set in anticipation of reading all of them. We’ll see if I get around to reading the other two. (My sister read them all and liked them. She also went with me for the discussion with the producer.)

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Let me just say this: the book and the movie are completely different.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

Other Reading
Inevitably, I had to give presentations and write papers in this class. Would it really be a class without such things? Anyway, these are the books I chose to present to the professor in one form or another.

Meet Molly: An American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
I gave a presentation on this and the first thing the teacher told me about the images I had presented to the class was, “It seems… very white”… which is true, but… come on. Sigh. I guess I can be irritated by that because I’m represented in the images I showed (that is: I’m Caucasian), and it would probably be very different if I didn’t have all the privileges my skin color affords me.

Animorphs #6: The Capture, by K.A. Applegate
My favorite of the Animorphs series. I used to own the entire series up through #37 or #40 or something, but I sold a bunch of them on eBay a few years back in an effort to free up some shelf space. I kept #1-6 and a few random ones, like #23.

Beauty & the Beast, a fairytale
Haha, my thoughts on this could get their own post. Maybe someday.

“The Seraph Seal” review

The Seraph Seal coverThe Seraph Seal
By Leonard Sweet & Lori Wagner
Thomas Nelson Publishers
07 June 2011

This is a thick book; make no mistake about that—it’s more than 500 pages. It’s an apocalyptic fiction novel set primarily in 2048 (is that far enough in the future for this to be plausible?) but with a prologue set in 2012 and an epilogue in 2011. Each of the four main parts has twelve chapters and is the bulk of the novel, and the fifth part (out of a total of five parts) consists of facts and nonfiction items in “The Journals and Notes of Paul Binder”—a humble history professor who turns out to be the protagonist—and “The Alphabet of the Apocalypse”.

There were a lot of interesting things about this novel, but I kept thinking that I would really like to read something similar that was/is nonfiction so that I could truly determine for myself my understanding of “the future of the earth as we know it” (back cover). The story started slow and skipped around a lot geographically and between characters, and some character’s parts are basically two- or three-page snap shots of their lives that we never revisit. If “fast-paced” means that it skips around and is hard to follow and keep the characters straight, I agree. Otherwise, no. The Seraph Seal reminded me of a cross between The Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind series (full disclosure: the former I’ve only seen the movie adaptation and the latter I only know about second-hand because my little brother has read some of the books and has enjoyed them) since it deals with the (possible/probable) end of the world and is based on the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

While I was reading the novel, I asked myself, “How many people reading this book have actually read Revelation itself?” I mean, seriously: I don’t know many Christians now-a-days who actually do serious Bible study, in a group or otherwise. It’s like reading fanfiction without having read the original series. (Which, I’m admitting right now, I’ve done. However, it’s gotten to the point in every instance that I couldn’t just use my second-hand, cultural knowledge, and I had to read the primary material, as well. I’m just sayin’.) The Seraph Seal is presented as a book that has its own appendix and dictionary built right in—why would anyone need to read anything else? I know it’s fiction, but I have a hunch that many people just know the stories they’ve been told and/or that are in the general cultural consciousness about the Book of Revelation (the four horsemen of the apocalypse, etc.) and they haven’t actually read Revelation for themselves.

I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I did, however, find the nonfiction parts (there’s also an essay at the beginning called “Engaging the Apocalypse”) quite interesting. Also, the dedication was very intriguing:

To Louis XVI… and his hoards of descendents.
Please wake up.

DISCLAIMER: I received The Seraph Seal free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

“Shadow Bound”

I’m pleased to announce that my first review for Eternal Haunted Summer is up today! You can also read the entire Summer Solstice 2011 issue!

Eternal Haunted Summer is, and I quote, “an ezine dedicated to 1) original poetry[,] 2) short fiction about the Gods and Goddesses and heroes of the world’s many Pagan traditions… 4) interviews with established and new Pagan authors, or authors of texts that interest a Pagan audience[, a]nd finally, 5) essays concerning the Gods, Goddesses, heroes, myths and folklore of the world”. EHS also features reviews of books, movies, and products which have a Pagan focus.

A matter of legacies

EDIT 17:03 PDT: Yes, I did actually (for reals!) send this letter to KD National and to the editor of The Angelos.

a matter of legacies
article referenced in my letter. click for larger.

Dear Kappa Delta,

I read your note about legacies (see above) in the most recent issue of The Angelos (vol. 89 no.3, Spring 2011, pg. 49, “a matter of legacies”) and am disturbed by its implications and assumptions. You mention—correctly—that it’s impossible to accept every legacy into KD. (I’m sure it’s a relief in the most impacted chapters not to be under pressure to accept them, if, indeed, they remain not pressured.) What troubles me isn’t that KD selects “the best and most harmonious women” or that some legacies choose a different sorority (or—gasp! shock and awe—choose to remain GDI). That’s to be expected.

What bothers me, instead, is this. First, you write that some legacies may “feel more at home with another National Panhellenic Conference sorority”—the implication being that there are only NPC sororities in existence at all. As I’m sure you’re aware, NPC sororities actually make up only a part of the sororities and women’s fraternities available to potential new member candidates. Other councils and associations include the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, the National APIA Panhellenic Association, and the National Multicultural Greek Council, not to mention all the unaffiliated national sororities and local sororities that exist in the United States.

Second, you write that “[t]he important thing for KDs to remember is that NPC sororities are more alike than different.” That’s sadly true and, combined with my first complaint, makes it seem like every young woman who wants to go Greek is going to end up coming out of a cookie cutter mold by the end of college. The reason most KDs want their legacies to join Kappa Delta is for the reasons it’s different from all those other sororities and because they want to share the KD bond with their loved ones, not because the sororities are all so similar that they’re basically interchangeable.

Third, you make a point of saying that Kappa Delta can honestly hardly accept all legacies on one page (pg. 49) and then ask us to register legacies on the next (pg. 50, “Register Your College-Bound Legacy with KD“)! That’s very frustrating and seems futile after having just read your note about legacies in general. (Also, would it kill you guys to show pictures more inclusive of this country’s diversity? Seriously, I counted just one KD of color in the entire magazine [at the top of page 9], and page 50 is representative of that. Or are these pictures representative of a sorority that has done little—if anything—to curb the racism by omission that’s present in these photos?)

Kappa Delta does many good things, but I was sorely disappointed in your comment about legacies. I hope the sorority’s official stance will continue to evolve into something even greater, as I know it can.

Sincerely,
V.E.
Eta Lambda, 2008 alumnae class