St Valentine’s Day has just past, and what could prolong that warm romantic glow better than reading about the magical discovery one couple made on their honeymoon? What could make a honeymoon more romantic than discovering that mermaids are real? As it turns out, pretty much anything. Enter Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet.

Deb and Chip are modern, tech savvy, and about to be married. We spend fifty pages getting to know Deb, Chip, Chip’s mother Tanya, and Deb’s best friend Gina. We get to know Tanya’s expectations for the wedding, and Gina’s ideas, and suddenly I’m having flashbacks to the planning of my own wedding. For those of you who aren’t married, yes, yes it is exactly like that. We join Deb and Chip in the final stages of planning the wedding, the planning of the bachelor party, the bachelorette party, and finally the honeymoon.

By the time we actually see the mermaids we are almost one hundred pages into the story. The mermaids are apparently very shy creatures, so their appearances are fleeting and far between. Just in case we don’t know what they look like, there is a picture. In fact, there are many pictures. Can’t imagine what a “…steam punk zeppelin pulled by a team of elegant purple dragons” would look like? No problem! There’s a picture of that. Never seen those cutesy figurines with the over sized heads? There’s a picture of those. Can’t imagine an ichthyologist running down a beach like a robot? No need! There’s a picture of that, too! There are pictures of everything Deb and Chip encounter. From Chip’s video game, to the ichthyologist running on the beach, to news crews, crowed peers, and a military presence on the beach, Deb captures it all with her phone.

At first I thought the pictures were a measure of how intelligent the publisher thought we the readers aren’t. Then I thought maybe this is some kind of gimmick to show that the author or the publisher know how into technology, we the readers are.  Or possibly it’s an illustration of how shallow Deb is. She cannot experience life herself, she must filter it through her phone, and share it using social media. I feel like it’s a combination of the publisher not being very intelligent, and some kind of story telling gimmick. It falls short. It makes the novel seem even more shallow that it already is.

In the end, we see very little of the mermaids, and very little of how people might react to the discovery of mermaids. Most of the story is taken up with Deb and Chip’s new friends plotting what to do about protecting the mermaids, and very little actually protecting. They make Youtube videos, and a facebook page, and they post on twitter. Which is great. That is how revolutions begin, in the 20th Century. Also guns, and demonstrations. You can have a revolution without guns, but you do need people to put down their smart phones, get up from the computer, and demonstrate.

I guess it’s a good thing Deb and Chip weren’t planning a revolution then.

Following Around a Selfcentered Entitled White Woman

It’s a satirical social commentary.

I’m going out to build a snowman or something. Without my phone.

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What litterature has come to...

Psychological thriller, or twist heavy fanfic?

The problem with debut novels is that they can go either way. Some are just awful, and one prays that the author never puts pen to paper ever again, only to be surprised when the next book is pleasantly readable. Others authors receive so much help that the first book is exquisite, leading the author to believe in his or her own brilliance. Subsequent works are so poorly cobbled together, one is tempted to put the publisher in the stocks.

Jennifer Hillier‘s the Butcher is remarkable in its unique ability to trailblazer the middle ground. It’s pleasantly readable, heavy on plot twists, and tropes, but light on the type of content that makes for truly timeless literature. The characters are shallow, and underdeveloped, relying on tropes and stereotypes to carry them through. The premise is strong. The premise is really strong. The premise deserves further exploration. I would love to see what Gillian Flynn could do with the same premise. That would be earth shattering.

Neil Gaiman defines an author as someone who asks questions, and then answers the question. Jennifer Hillier asks: What do you do when you find a serial killer’s cache buried in your back yard? Great premise.

Matt is not an asshole. Sure, he had anger issues, but he took a class for that and he’s now in complete control. Really. He’s a driven, successful thirty-something. He owns his own restaurant, has two food trucks, and an offer from a cable network for a reality television show. He also has a crate full of thirty-year old trophies from the local serial killer buried in his back yard. The trophies, and their location let him know the true identity of the serial killer. Thirty years ago, his grandfather, then a police lieutenant, shot to death the wrong man. What to do? What to do? Matt is in a bit of a conundrum.  If he gives the crate to the police, there will be a media frenzy surrounding him and his grandfather, could ruin the success he’s worked so hard to achieve.

Samantha is a full time author. She writes true crime books, and spends her free time on TheSerialKillerFiles.com, which just happens to be the name of Jennifer Hillier’s blog. She wrote her blog into her book. Jennifer Hillier wrote her blog into her book. Which just begs the question did Jennifer write herself into the Butcher, as Samantha? She is what Gillian Flynn’s Amy refers to as “the cool girl”. Just as Amy didn’t mind when her partner didn’t show up for drinks with her friends, Samantha doesn’t mind that Matt works all the time. Samantha completely understands that even after three years of dating, Matt doesn’t want her to move into his new house with four bedrooms. Samantha is not at all waiting for Matt to change. She really isn’t waiting for him to suddenly realize, that like her, he wants to be married, have children, and live in a house with a big back yard. Really, she doesn’t expect that at all. Nope.Trope-ity-trope trope trope.

Jason is Samantha’s best friend. Unlike Samantha and Matt, Jason’s mother did not die before he was out of diapers. Seeing Samantha and Matt have that in common must be the reason that Jason fixed them up in the first place! Jason is an extremely wealthy former football player who played for… Jennifer’s favorite team the Seahawks. Not to worry! This isn’t going to turn into some kind of fantasy where Samantha/Jennifer becomes romantically involved with a sexy football player from her favorite team, who by the way is fabulously rich. Jason has a girlfriend: Lilac.

Lilac is the owner of the most popular yoga chain in town. Built like a male fantasy, she is actually very smart. Really. And not at all jealous of Jason’s friendship with Samantha. Really. Lilac is a vegan, who picks the meat off pizza, but not the cheese? Lilac is the most underdeveloped character in the book. Her only purpose is to make Samantha jealous, and support Jason’s claims that he has no romantic interest in Samantha.

The most important character of the book is Edward. He’s a womanizer, a racist, a wife-beater,a homophobe, and a liar. Edward is Matt’s eighty-year old grandfather, the former chief of police. He probably believes in implied consent. Matt does. Edward is intolerant of the quirks of others, despite his own obnoxious habits. We’re only nine pages into the story when Edward reveals what kind of man he really is, and it isn’t pretty.

The relationship between Matt, and Edward, and the crate, would on its own be enough for a gripping psychological thriller. Why is there also the hint of maybe a possible sort of love triangle between Samantha, Matt and Jason? It’s an unnecessary, and underdeveloped complication. Between Samantha’s hunt for proof that the serial killer also killed her mother, Matt’s crate, and Edward, the romantic subplot got partially lost. It should have gotten completely lost. That type of subplot belongs in a completely different genre of literature.

Maybe Jennifer would like to take up writing trite romance novels?

Everything you didn't wantto know about your friends and family could solve a murder

Disturbingly good book

A few weeks ago, this movie starring Daniel Radcliffe showed up in my Netflix queue, under things Netflix thinks I might like. There are times when it’s better to read the book first, so as not to be prejudiced, and there are times when really it doesn’t matter. With Horns, by Joe Hill, I would say, it really doesn’t matter. The only downside to watching the movie first is that I kept imagining Ignacius Parrish as Daniel Radcliffe. Ig Parrish is described as being tall and skinny, with a receding hair line. Daniel Radcliffe does not have a receding hairline, is not skinny, and like many child stars,is a bit on the short side. Ig also doesn’t wear a hoodie anywhere in the book. It wouldn’t go with his tie. That said, the movie is fabulous. Absolutely go watch Horns (2013), unless spoilers bother you, in which case read the book.

The book, and the movie, tell the story of how Ig Parrish is dealing with the death of his girlfriend. Merrin Williams, played by Juno Temple, was raped an murdered, and Ig has been the only suspect for a year now. Ig is the second son of a famous horn player, and a Las Vegas show girl. His older brother is also pretty famous. Ig loves music, but can’t play an instrument. He’s been in love with Merrin Williams since he was sixteen years old, and now that she’s gone, he’s lost.

Merrin’s parents moved to Ig’s town after her older sister died from a particularly viscous strain of cancer. Watching Regan die slowly was hard on the family. So hard that they rarely speak of her. The result being that Ig knows nothing about Regan, except that her death inspired Merrin to become an oncologist.

Ig’s best friend is Lee Tourneau. They met Merrin around the same time, in their church. I have to say that I wish young men would wear “Team Ig” and “Team Tourneau” t-shirts, so we would know who is safe to talk to, and who is safe to avoid. From the time they meet Merrin, both Lee and Ig are guilty of treating her like an object to be traded like a necklace or a fire cracker. Merrin even says it outright “You think you trade him for me, Ig? Is that how you think all this worked? And do you think if he had returned the cross to me instead of you, then Lee and I would be-” she demands of Ig, understandably irate. Merrin has a point. Joe Hill, in Merrin’s voice has a point.

For the most part, Ig is very respectful of Merrin. He listens to her tirade, and he takes it to heart. He doesn’t worry about Merrin spending time with Lee, because Merrin is Ig’s girlfriend, and he knows she loves him. Maybe he should have worried, because from the moment we meet Lee, he has nothing respectful to say about women. During Lee’s first encounter with Merrin he tries to put a necklace on her, without out asking her first. His first conversation with Ig includes the gem “… I think it’s fair to say most pretty girls are snotty until they get their cherry popped. Because, you know, it’s the most valuable thing they’re ever going to have. …”

Wow. I really don’t know what to say to that.

We’ll later switch to Lee’s perspective, and see that he believes that everything Merrin says has a secret message just for him. She says one thing, that sounds innocent, and Ig takes it that way, but it really means something naughty about Lee. Sadly, there are plenty of men out there who believe what Lee believes. They think that way because society conditioned them too, because their parents didn’t teach them any better. I wish I could say that this kind of wrongheadedness is caused by a brain injury, but it isn’t. It’s learned, or perhaps, it is never unlearned. This is the kind of thinking that leads young men to insist that “Yes” means “I’m a slut”, and “No”, means “Yes, but I don’t want you to think I’m a slut, but I am.” The kind of thinking that leads young men to think that when a woman smiles or says “thank you”, she’s flirting, when really she just thought it was nice that he didn’t let the door swing shut on her face. It’s the kind of thinking that lead a man to demand that I tell him where I’m really from, because I was wearing a summer dress, and on a bus with no where to get away. It’s the kind of thinking that lead a classmate to spank me in the hall, in college, as a form of greeting. Or maybe he just liked my new jeans? Sadly, if you’re biologically female, you’ve probably thought of at least one instance when someone, probably biologically male, disrespected your boundaries, and it took less time than it did to read this overly long sentence.

Yes, boys and men like Lee Tourneau should come with a warning label, so that women and girls can avoid even looking at them.

My feelings about Black History Month aside, I’m going to take an opportunity to tell you about a remarkable woman. A wonderful role model. Someone who helped change the world. Her name was Grace Nichols, but you probably know her as Nichelle, or Uhura.

More "Other" than "Star Trek". This is a very accomplished woman

More “Other” than “Star Trek”. This is a very accomplished woman

Ms Nichols begins the story of her own life, with the story of her parents. Her father, being possessed of light eyes, pale skin and flaming red hair, could easily pass for white. He was eligible for membership in the “blue-vein clubs“. His marriage to her mother, a brilliant woman, of stunning beauty, great strength of character, and dark chocolatey skin, was thus frowned upon.

Ms Nichols’ love of the performing arts began when she was very young. She describes her mother telling her that little Nichelle, then called “Grace”, only need a few readings to memorize a poem. Not only could little Grace recite the poem from memory, she dramatized it, enthralling her audience. Preferring to sing, dance, and play, rather than eat, little Grace was hospitalized for malnutrition. It was after she suffered anemia, that her parents signed her up for ballet lessons, on the doctor’s advice. Ms Nichols recalls there not having been any non-white professional ballerinas. “…to encourage a Black child toward a career in ballet was considered a foolhardy endeavor”. This is despite the fact that the teacher was an African-American, and all the students were Black. More than half a century later, I started my own obsession with ballet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Black ballerina perform. It makes me wonder how far we’ve come.

The ballet lessons sealed Ms Nichols fate. She became a dancer and a singer. Before Star Trek broadcast its first episode in 1966, Ms Nichols had already changed her name twice, been married, had a child, been divorced, and built her reputation as a theatrical, and night club performer. Of course, the night clubs have their own hazards.

Ms Nichols describes how she got her first big break as a headliner at a new club in Milwaukee, she introduces to “B-drinking“, and “B-girls”. Ms Nichols was then, and continues to be a woman of principles, whist the owners of clubs where b-drinking is encouraged are not.

Ms Nichols describes “smokers”, clubs, or private events attended exclusivity by men. No women were permitted, with the possible exception of the performer. Despite her best efforts to avoid their dangers, it was here in Canada, that she ran afoul of one. It is with the characteristic strength, that gets her through her years as Lt Uhura, that Ms Nichols deals with her ordeal. Ms Nichols is a beautiful example of how to be a survivor, rather than a victim.

Star Trek was a big deal for a lot of people, including Ms Nichols, but it was never easy for her. Gene Roddenberry had a vision. If you’ve seen both pilots for Star Trek, you have an idea of what that looked like. Network television wasn’t ready for a woman as second in command, and they certainly weren’t ready for a Black woman as third in command. Yes, Lt Uhura should have had command of the Enterprise while Spock and the captain were playing at cowboys on all those away missions. If you haven’t heard this story, take a moment to hear it in Ms Nichols’ own words.  While other women on television were trying to trap a man into marriage, or playing the happy, and forgiving housewife, Nichelle Nichols was playing a qualified linguist and computer specialist.

Ms Nichols, how does it feel to change the world?

 

When Nature's Not Enough: Personal Journey's Through In Vitro Fertilization

 

Diana Olick, like many modern women, delayed starting a family for the sake of her career. Like many women, Ms Olick thought it was a simple matter of tossing out her preferred method of birth control, and letting nature run it’s course. Those of us who had sex ed in high school were led to believe that it’s really that simple. “Use a condom or you’ll get pregnant!” we were told. We all know someone who had an unplanned pregnancy, and that only reinforced the belief that it’s a simple as not using a condom. Diana Olick, and her husband Scott, tried, and tried, and tried. Then they tried some more. After a few years, they went to the doctor, and found out the bad news. The bad news was, trying wasn’t going to be enough.They needed help. When Nature’s Not Enough is the story of their journey to parenthood, and the journey of other couples who chose in vitro fertilization, or I.V.F., when lots of unprotected sex just wasn’t enough.

I admit, Ms Olick lost some credibility with me, when she explained in the introduction that ” ‘In vitro’ is Italian for ‘in glass’.” It may very well be true that in Italian, “in glass” is “in vitro”, and that would not surprise me in the least. Like most medical and scientific terms, “in vitro” is Latin. Shame on Ms Olick for doing all that research and not knowing that. She gets some of her credibility back when she concludes the introduction with the caveat that she is not a doctor, and she was not writing a medical resource. When Nature is Not Enough is about people and their stories. It’s about not being alone. It’s about the stigma, and the stresses of infertility.

Ms Olick’s husband, Scott, didn’t want to tell anyone that his  few swimmers couldn’t swim. Alexandra and Peter, both journalists, couldn’t conceive because Alexandra had an ovulatory disorder. Anne and Michael are both in politics in Washington D.C. and to this day, they aren’t certain why they couldn’t conceive naturally. Tim and Kathy both work in television, and they both come from large, Catholic families. They tried for four years before getting tests done, and they still don’t know why they couldn’t conceive naturally. Carol is a musician, she plays the organ at their church, her husband Mike is a tax accountant. A severe beating while he served in Vietnam caused their infertility. His epididymus was completely blocked by scar tissue. Chris, a firefighter, met Kate, a teacher, at a bar where she was celebrating a friend’s bachelorette party. Kate knew there was something wrong with her, and it took a year to convince her doctor to run tests. One of her fallopian tubes was so badly infected that it had to be removed surgically. Then she had an ectopic pregnancy.

All of these couples elected to try IVF, but not all of them succeeded. When Nature is Not Enough is the story of what these couples went through, when they found out they needed modern science to have a family. Each couple decided differently how many cycles to try, how many embryos to implant, what to do with the remaining embryos, whether to try donor sperm, and whether or not to adopt. They are all very personal choices.

What each of these couples had to say about their journey to parenthood, is heart wrenching. The realization that they may be able to have children, the realization that they cannot afford to continue fertility treatments, the realization that continuing fertility treatments would mean they won’t be able to afford adopting. That’s not a choice I would wish on anyone.

 

 

 

It’s Halloween! I’m so excited I gave myself a repetitive motion injury making  my costume! While I’m resting my wrist,  Kitty is back for book four.Kitty and the Silver BulletI love werewolves. I really do. I love Bitten, Stolen, Broken, and Frostbitten by Kelly Armstrong. I loved Alice Borchart’s the Sliver Wolf, Night of the Wolf, and the Wolf King. I think I’ve read them all six times each, at least. There are other werewolf books, that aren’t as good, to be sure, and there are plenty of terrible werewolf movies. Some have a cult following.

What I love about Kitty Norville, is that she comes across as a real person. She’s insecure, and she’s willing to admit to us, the reader, that she’s not sure what she’s doing. Kitty didn’t want the responsibilities that were thrust upon her in the last book. As much as she wants to help others, she really doesn’t know what she’s doing. That’s comforting. How often does it seem like everyone else got the handbook “How to be a Grown Up”?

Just like a real person, Kitty continues to grow. In the fourth installment, Kitty faces her past and reaches out to someone who reminds her of herself. Not everyone has that moment. For some of us, it takes the form of a friend facing a problem so far out of our experience it never seemed real before. It could be a stalker, an abusive partner, an infidelity, a miscarriage, a surprise out of wedlock pregnancy, a loved one’s suicide, a random act of violence, or mental illness. For Kitty, it takes the form of a newly turned werewolf. With everything she has on her plate, can Kitty take on a cub? Can she step into T.J.’s shoes, and help this cub, like T.J. helped her?  For others that moment comes when there is an opportunity to help someone facing a problem we once faced. Can we be the help that we once needed, and didn’t get? Can we live with ourselves if we don’t help? Can Kitty?

What’s interesting to me about Kitty Norville, is that Kelly Armstrong’s Elena Michaels is such a strong woman. Horrible things happened to Elena, and yet she’s so confident.  No matter what the problem is, no matter how many times Elena screws things up, she always comes up with a plan. She always manages to think, or fight her way out. Kitty, not so much. Kitty spends a lot of time, panicked, and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s because Elena has her Pack to rely on, and often Kitty only has herself. As much as I admire Elena, I relate more to Kitty.

What’s interesting to me about Carrie Vaughn is how she deals with babies. Kitty is in her late twenties early thirties. That time when many, if not most women are thinking about if and when they will start a family. Is her partner ready for that kind of commitment? What kind of parents will they be? Is that something she really wants to do to her body? Kelly Armstrong’s Elena is a bit older, but physically, she’s in the same stage as Kitty. The question they both address is this: Can werewolves have babies? Ms Armstrong’s werewolves are different from Ms Vaughn’s. We already know that male werewolves can sire offspring, but since Elena is the only female werewolf known to have ever existed, no-one is sure she can have children. Ms Vaughn’s werewolves are made, not born, so she deals with the question differently.

No spoilers, but I will say this; if you are dealing with infertility, you might want to skip Kitty and the Silver Bullet, as well as Broken.

Did I forget about the play list? Thank the Internet for Spotify!

Did Nicole Kidman's ego really need this boost?

No not this travesty.

In 2004 the Stepford Wives remake was released starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, and Christopher Walken, and directed by Frank Oz.

The one that gives me the creeping willies.

This one.

That movie was a remake of a 1975 movie, starring people like Katherine Ross, Paula Prentis, and Peter Masterson. The difference is not that the original 1975 movie is based on a book from 1972, the difference is that the movie made in 1975 is a horror film. The 2004 remake is decidedly not.

In the 1970’s there was a demographic and ideological shift that we are still feeling the affects of today. It didn’t start then, it started much much earlier. Those of us who came after, who are still fighting for things like women’s rights, and minority rights, we don’t really get it. We don’t understand why to some people this isn’t funny

Sadly, still too relevent for my taste.

Sadly, still too relevent for my taste.

because we saw Ashton Kutcher doing this:

Sadly, too tasteless to be relevent

Sadly, too tasteless to be relevent

It isn’t funny. Some people are still trapped in Sidney Poitier’s shoes. As hard as that might be to imagine for those of us who see person with different skin colour and just see the person ahead of us in the grocery store, albeit buying less sun block there are still people out there who just see the colour of that person’s skin and not the person.

These days, it’s common for an educated woman to find ways to continue her career, put her children in day care, and feed them dinner from a box that just has to be heated up. A woman with a master’s degree is expected to delay starting a family, be a career woman, to share the house work with a partner. There was a time when college was enough, when women who insisted on going to university were thought to be” after their Mrs”.

I’ve said before that Ira Levin knows what we fear most. In Rosemary’s Baby, Levine addressed the fear of birth defects, and the fear of never succeeding. With the Stepford Wives, Levin revisited similar themes. Selfishness, wish fulfillment, betrayal. The irony is that when Ira Levin wrote the Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby, did he know that his words then, would be so much more relevant now? Did he ever think we would fail this utterly to understand what he was saying?

We all have choices to make, we all give something up in order to have something we want. University costs thousands of dollars, delays entry into the work force, and limits free time. Having children limits funds that could be used for designer clothes, exotic vacations, and impressive cars, and further education. Buying a house means staying in one place, and maintaining the property. Getting married means making the commitment to think about someone else for the rest of your life. It means sometimes taking out the garbage, doing the dishes and cleaning the toilet, and in return, always having someone to make you soup when you have flu.

Marriage also means having to put up with another person’s flatulence, belching, other bodily functions, and all that person’s bad habits. In the Stepford Wives, Ira Levin asks, “What if you didn’t?”. What if you could stop your spouse from doing all those things that make your crazy? What if you could convince your spouse to loose five pounds, comb his hair, shave, tweeze her eyebrows, and put on a little lipstick? What if you could change your spouse so that you never had to take out the garbage, do the laundry, clean the toilet, or do the dishes? What if you could come home ever night to a spotless house and home cooked meal, and not be expected to tidy up after? What if you could end every night with the most spectacular sex you’ve ever had, however you like it?

How much would you pay?

Would it be worth it?

Even if that wasn’t your spouse anymore?

One of my favourite supernatural novels, is now a T.V. series, and it’s on Netflix. Naturally, since it’s on Netflix I watched all 13 episodes, back to back, in two days.  Because it’s a T.V. series, there have been a few changes: Jeremy Danvers is now white, Logan is Black, Clayton has lost his accent, and Elena is now a photographer, not a reporter. She also wears high healed shoes, and mascara, without being forced. She is also able to do her own hair. Styles so complicated that I don’t think I could do that without help, even when I had long hair.

This isn’t the Elena we have known and loved for thirteen novels. She’s more stylish, she’s more emotional, more conflicted, and more central to the conflict. The Elena we know, had to be dragged away from her life in Toronto to deal with the pack’s problems in New York. She was the narrator in the novel, so we knew she was important. At the same time, she was no more, and no less important to the story than the other wolves of the pack. Now she’s Special.

Laura Vandervoort is a beautiful woman, and clearly a talented actress. She wears the clothes beautifully. She looks stunning in the dresses, and platform stilettos she wears for the show.  She captures the intensity of the emotions, the loss, the guilt, the fear, the strain, perfectly. She really did a wonderful job. If you’re reading this, Ms Vandervoot, you did a wonderful job, really you did, but did you read the book? The Elena Michaels Ms Vandervoort plays is more glamorous than the Elena of the books. She doesn’t wear her boyfriend’s shirts, or well worn jeans.  Several times, characters make references to Elena’s hatred for shopping, and inability to dress herself. Those lines wouldn’t need to be there if she had sneakers, and jeans. Those lines are not really believable. Not when this Elena has a manicure. After spending an entire page in the book describing the difficulties inherent in being a werewolf on the Toronto subway, and buying sent-free shampoo, I can’t imagine Elena going to a salon for a manicure, or doing her nails herself. Nail polish reeks.

Somethings about Elena remained the same. She’s still an orphan. She still grew up in foster homes. She was still the victim of sexual abuse in some of the foster homes. Her perfectly normal, human boyfriend in Toronto still knows very little about any of it.

Which leads to some interesting differences, and inconsistencies.

Elena’s boyfriend thinks Logan is Elena’s therapist. This is in part because Logan is now a psychologist, and he now lives in Toronto. Later, Elena claims that Logan is her cousin. Which makes sense, when he’s later described as her running buddy a few episodes later. Continuity anyone? Elena’s boyfriend is so patient and understanding that he goes from being lied to that Logan is her therapist, to knowing how much she likes to go running with her cousin. He literally says “I know how much you like to go running with your cousin, Logan.”

Logan is now a Black, clean shaven, psychologist. Ok, maybe I missed something in the book, since werewolves see all humans as being the same race. Jeremy is clearly described as Asian, there is no reason why Logan can’t be Black.  Michael Xavier makes a wonderful werewolf, and a great therapist. I really thought that Logan had a beard, but when you get right down to it, these changes to the character are either cosmetic or perfectly logical. Logan was always a very empathetic character. It makes sense for him to be in an empathetic profession.

More changes! While Elena of the book does talk about her foster parents, and about sexual abuse at the hands of her foster fathers, Elena of the show was abused by a neighbour. Elena of the show was abused by Victor Olson, and she testified against him. If you’ve read the book, you should know the name. No, they didn’t know each other. They first met as adults. Once again, the writers have taken an element of the book, and made it about Elena.

The conflict central to the book is about power. Who has it, who wants it, and how they are going to go about getting it or keeping it. The conflict central to the show, is all Elena. She’s so pretty, she’s so special. Everybody loves Elena. All the boys want Elena.

Pardon me while I gag.

While it is true that Elena of the book has a certain appeal to the other werewolves, not all the werewolves are interested in her. Karl, is completely indifferent to her, and her Pack brothers think of her as their kid sister. Elena of the book, is no-one’s favorite. She has no special status that she has not earned. There are no exceptions made for her. Elena has a life, and a home outside the pack, but so do Logan and Peter.

All in all, I really enjoyed season one. It wasn’t quite the way I had envisioned the characters. There was far too much staring dreamily into each others’ eyes, and not nearly enough roughhousing. This is not Bitten, the way we knew it in 2001. This is Bitten made for television.

Which just leaves us with the question, now that they have resolved the major conflicts of the novel, what are they going to do for season two? Are we going to meet the Winterbourns?

There is this wonderful feeling that is so rare. It is the feeling of reading something that is perfect. Something written by someone who reads the same books, watches the same movies, skims the same magazines, and watches the same television shows. It is the feeling of reading ” (She is) watching her husband and me…” and not “She is watching her husband and I…” It is the supreme pleasure of reading the correct usage of the word “plastic”, and not the accepted usage. Something mailable, that can be molded rather than that stuff cheap water bottles, and take out containers are made of that may or may not be recyclable. That stuff that now has “BPA FREE” stickers pasted on it, in bright neon colours. That sublime feeling of reading a novel has references that are not contrived. We may not all have heard of Tess of the d’Ubervilles before 50 Shades of Abuse came out, but  we have all heard of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl is one such a perfect book.  It’s not just the way that Gillian Flynn uses words. It’s not just that her characters are carefully crafted, well rounded people. We can see the archetypes in Nick and Margo Dunne, in Amy Elliot, in Hiliary Handy, Tommy O’Hara, and in Desi Collings. We can also see them as real, and believable people. They do real, believable people things.

Lance Nicholas Dunne is a writer from Missouri who lived in New York where he met Amy Elliot. In the movie, he is played by Ben Affleck. The book is told, partially from Nick’s perspective. We get to see why he fell in love with Amy. We get to see when he fell out of love with Amy. We get to see why Nick  has so much trouble relating to Amy. Why is it that the only woman Nick can relate to on a human level is his sister, Margo. Sometimes it happens that way: survivors of abuse cling to each other and have trouble relating to people who haven’t been through it. Sometimes the children of divorced parents have trouble maintaining healthy romantic relationships. They have no example to follow, no reference point. Sometimes, growing up with an abusive father, one who is violent, and misogynistic, is enough to explain why a man might react to the news of his wife’s disappearance in ways we don’t expect. Nick is the kind of guy, that everyone describes as a good guy, until Amy may have been abducted. Or possibly murdered. Possibly by Nick himself. He seemed like such a nice guy…

  Amy Elliot is the only child of two psychologists. Her parents became ridiculously wealthy writing a series of children’s books called “Amazing Amy”. Amy is also a writer. She wrote magazine quizzes. The cute personality quizzes with titles like “What kind of tree are you?” We get to know Amy through her journal.  Her journals entries are very poignant, littered with quizzes like “At a party you find yourself surrounded by genuinely talented writers, employed at high-profile, respected magazines and news papers. You merely write quizzes for women’s rags. When someone asks you what you do for a living you: …” and then Amy always gives us the correct answer, telling us what she did in that situation, revealing deep seated insecurities.  Amy’s journal paints a picture of Nick becoming more distant, more resentful as their relationship declines, just as he describes her as becoming more shrewish. She describes herself as increasingly martyred. First, when he fails to show up for drinks with her friends, then when he misses their wedding anniversary, then the move away from New York City. Nick knows she is out of place in Missouri. He knows that she doesn’t want to be there. This is her journal, and she makes him look like an ogre. To be fair, he makes her out to be a rabid tiger.

The switch in perspectives is very well done. It sets the pace for the action, it builds the suspense. It makes Nick and Amy seem more human. Of course she seems like  a shrew after the move. Of course he seems like an ogre. The perspectives balance out, to a point. Nick doesn’t exactly gloss over his character flaws. He paints himself, less like a long suffering victim, and more like a coward. While Amy pats herself on the back for not forcing him to do things for her, the aforementioned dinner with friends, the cancelled anniversary plans, it comes off as more passive aggressive than lovingly indulgent. Amy’s journal lacks a ring of truth.  Rather than brag about how understanding his wife is, rather than make her out to be unreasonable and demanding, Nick admits that he is hiding from his wife. He knows things are bad. He just doesn’t know how to fix it. Nick’s acceptance of his own flaws makes him more human, than Amy’s flawless journal.

We have all heard stories about women who live in fear of  their partners. The women who are afraid to leave. Everyone knows someone, who knew someone who lived in fear, and then didn’t.  We’ve heard stories of women who’ve had stalkers. In the digital age, Internet stalking is increasingly common. Sometimes it’s harmless, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes girls will refer to an ex-boyfriend as “stalker-ish (giggle)”, because he was naive enough to think “let’s just be friends” meant he could call once in a while, just to stay in touch. We have all heard stories of women who cry rape to punish someone. Those women are real, too.

  Anyone who watches Bones, Criminal Minds, CSI, every crime show ever, knows that sociopaths escalate. There are signs in adolescence that something is off. In introductory abnormal psychology classes, we learn that a typical behaviour pattern of patients with narcissistic personality disorder, is to disproportionately punish imagined or minor slights. Things like getting  a classmate in high school expelled for forgetting a food allergy, or being asked on a date. We have all heard stories about women who claim to have been assaulted so they won’t be fired for being late for work. You may even know a woman who claims she was date raped, rather than admit to having had a one nightstand. Those women are unfortunately very real.

 In the digital age, an increasing number of us will experience stalking through social media, and the Internet. We all know someone who has been stalked online, many of us have had that experience ourselves. It’s a frightening world out there, and Gillian Flynn has made that fear into something we can relate to, and understand. Gone Girl has brought all the issues, and fears of our day to day lives to one brilliant novel, and then taken it to the next level.

I dare you to just try and put it down.

The Bibliotheque et Archives National only had the first three in the series, which is a shame. Fortunately, they had all of them together on the shelf, so I was able to start at the beginning. It’s always nice to start at the beginning.

Kitty and the Midnight HourThe series starts with Kitty in Denver. She works nights as a DJ at a local radio station, sleeps during the day, and hangs out with the Denver pack. Kitty is a werewolf. Perhaps if her parents had known this would happen to her, they would have called her “Kate”, or “Katie”, but it wasn’t really in the plan. Bored one night, Kitty opens up the phone lines, and discovers her niche. At the same time, Kitty upsets the status quote in the super natural community. The local vampire master, and Kitty’s alpha, don’t want any attention. Hence our conflict. Like any good novel, Carrie Vaughn created rules for her version of our reality. Kitty belongs to a pack, vampires belong to Families. Masters, Mistresses, and Alphas enforce order in their territories. What I didn’t like was that while Ms Vaughn didn’t buy into the sexy seductive vampire trope, she did buy into the idea that lycanthropy increases the libido. Kitty’s Alpha is entitled to have sex with any member of the pack. I’m pretty sure that’s not wolves. I’m pretty sure that’s chimps, or maybe gorillas, that mate like that. Only the alpha female of a pack takes a mate. Just to be sure though, ask a wildlife biologist, not a psych major. Aside from the indiscriminate sex, I thought Ms Vaughn’s portrayal of pack dynamics, and wolf behaviour was pretty good. Wolves are pretty shy, and they do prefer to have a clear dominance hierarchy. As the Dog Whisperer will tell you, your dog is happier if someone else is clearly in charge. If a well written, character driven novel with a strong female protagonist isn’t enough for you, there is also the play list. Kitty is a radio DJ. She plays music, late at night. All the music mentioned in the book is music I would go out and buy. At the beginning of each volume is a play list, or in my case, a shopping list.

Kitty Goes to WashingtonWhen next we meet Kitty, she is living out of her car, as she travels cross country. Each week, she does her show from another city. Then she gets called to Washington. In Washington, she meets new friends, old friends, and new enemies. I read Kitty and The Midnight Hour first. It probably could stand on it’s own, but I think it would help to read these books in order. Characters that were introduced before, will be reintroduced, but sometimes it helps to know their histories.

Speaking of histories, we’ll get to know a little bit more about Kitty’s. What really happened the night she became a werewolf? Once again, there will be two plots. When the first conflict is resolved, Kitty will be left with another problem. Ms Vaughn doesn’t do it as well as Michael Crichton did, but then he wrote action/thrillers. Kitty isn’t in an action/thriller. Once again, there is a playlist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find all the songs on Youtube.com . I’ll just have to look for them on iTunes.

Kitty Takes a HolidayKitty was an English major in college. I would have pegged her for a journalism major, because she’s in radio. She complained all through the last two novels that nobody reads anymore. Taking a cue from the literary world, when it all became too much for her, Kitty retreated to a cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, Kitty is not Thoreau, and trouble comes looking for her. Kitty is visited by old friends, makes new enemies, and discovers what else goes bump in the night. Clicking here may be considered a spoiler.

The two plot, double conflict, device doesn’t work as well this time around. In Kitty Goes to Washington, Conflict 2 is a natural extension of Conflict 1. In Kitty and The Midnight Hour, Conflict 2 works beautifully as a subplot, and ties together some of Kitty’s inner conflicts, questions the listeners ask her about destiny, free will, good and evil, that she avoids answering for herself.

We’re back to pack dynamics. Who defines who is part of a pack and who isn’t? Questions about family, and family loyalty, are explored all around. Personal histories are delved into, and we understand some old friends, and their choices, a little better now. Kitty once again, tells us a little bit about the night she became a werewolf, but not a lot. It’s in her past, and her past is behind her. Of course, don’t forget the playlist!

I really enjoyed the first three books. They were a wonderful distraction, a vacation in my pocket, taken half an hour at a time. Which is, to be truthful, why I started reading in the first place. While it is tempting to call Kitty Takes a Vacation, the weakest of the three, I’m not sure that’s accurate. It’s more subtle in its themes, and Kitty still had a few things to learn. It doesn’t stop here, though. There’s more. I will read them. I will read them if I have to walk to the store, and buy them myself.