Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 10 Favorite YA Books of 2011

This is not - NOT - a list of the "best" YA books of 2011, because there are so many I did not read! There are a whole bunch I really wanted to get to and just didn't manage: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Anna Dressed in Blood, Shine, many more. I'm a book behind on both of Cassie Clare's series. Beautiful Chaos has been on my nightstand since the day it was released but I haven't managed to open it. I think I'm two or three books behind on Sarah Dessen. I have a whole list of books I didn't manage to read. Maybe I'll do a midyear update of my favorite 2011 books I read in the first half of 2012, or something. And I've compensated for this issue in past years below the main list, with lists of pre-2011 books I read and loved this year.

And a disclaimer - I know almost all these authors to some extent. I work for one. I've worked with others at conferences. I've chatted with some on Twitter. I think the only one on the main list with whom I've had no contact is Deb Caletti (probably because she isn't on Twitter). I won't pretend that I managed to keep my feelings about the books completely isolated from my impressions of the authors, but none of them asked for good reviews or anything, and I would NEVER tell you I liked a book I didn't like.

So! Here we go! Instead of trying to write whole reviews of each book, because then I'd never finish, I will instead just give you a short list of elements that made me particularly like it.

1. The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan - Amazing sibling relationships, a hot lying older brother, urban fantasy, humor, the Goblin Market, a bookish boy, girls who are strong in different ways and both awesome and don't hate each other, and one of my favorite fictional couples EVER.

2. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - A geeky love interest, GLBT characters whose sexuality isn't An Issue, boy next door love interest, basically PERFECT romance.

3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman - Classical music, a hot but angsty rock star, a perfect mix of heartbreak and tragedy and romance and hope.

4. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - London, boarding school, humor, a really hot ghost, lots of murder.

5. Red Glove by Holly Black - A hot lying older brother (yes it's a theme), fascinating magical politics, organized crime, family drama, and a wonderfully conflicted, complex hero.

6. Stay by Deb Caletti - The ocean, sailor boys, a well-drawn father/daughter relationship, family secrets, and the best portrayal I've read of loving someone with mental illness.

7. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - Mystery, a ridiculously hot love interest, and so much total insanity (in a good way) that I can't say more without ruining it.

8. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson - Traveling around Europe, a mysterious hot guy, a nicely drawn portrayal of grief, non-hokey personal growth.

9. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - Enchanting language, fairy tales, sibling love, a mysterious stranger, subtle social messages.

10. Past Perfect by Leila Sales - Historical reenactment villages, forbidden romance, imperfect but loving family relationships, lots of ice cream.

My Favorite 2010 YA Books I Read in 2011:
1. The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
2. Jane by April Lindner
3. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
4. White Cat by Holly Black
5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Earlier YA Books I Read for the First Time & Loved in 2011:
1. The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
4. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Today Is Not the Day for This Nonsense

I mean, seriously, (in my opinion) this is dumb regardless, but not postponing after what happened in Virginia yesterday? These people are the worst.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Good Wife, "Parenting Made Easy" - Recap at ThinkProgress

Here's my take on this week's episode.

Your weekly TV news!

Here's this week's update, with lots of midseason premiere dates.

Quote of the Day (from a Castle review, but no spoilers!)

"That said, they need to keep in mind that this isn't How I Met Your Mother or one of those other shows where the nominal lead could fall off the planet and it might take a couple of months before anyone noticed. There's a reason that the audience for this show isn't watching Hawaii Five-O instead, and if you're nice to that reason, he might let you call him 'Captain.'"
From The AV Club. They also make a nice point about Castle playing damsel in distress. Bonus points for a 39 Steps reference, too!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Breaking Dawn Thoughts & Links

I saw Breaking Dawn last night, and it was . . . better than I expected, actually! I mean, the subject matter is intrinsically ridiculous, but they did a reasonable job with it. It was awful in an entertaining way, rather than awful in a dull way. It was, to use one of my favorite new words, hilarrible - simultaneously horrible and hilarious.

My feelings on Twilight in general are moderate in a way that's pretty boring but that I don't really hear people mention much, so to put it out there: It's, you know, okay. I've read all the books and seen all the movies. They're not my favorites. I don't love them. But they're far from the worst books I've read or the worst movies I've seen. (Breaking Dawn isn't even the worst movie I've seen in the past month.) I think they're only such a Thing because of external factors, and the books themselves are just . . . enh. Not good. But not the worst thing in the world.

I've heard a lot of people say things like "I loved those books until I realized Bella's behavior was wrong," or "because she's a doormat" or "because she's not a good role model," and that totally rubs me the wrong way. It often sounds like it really means either "I loved those books until people told me I shouldn't" or "I secretly still love those books but think I shouldn't admit it." And . . . but why? Since when does liking something mean agreeing with decisions made by the characters? I rarely hear anyone saying "I used to like Rebecca but Mrs. de Winter is such a doormat that she literally lets her husband get away with murder." or "Those people in Wuthering Heights are all such bad role models!" or "I watch Dexter but don't worry! I know people shouldn't actually be serial killers!" So the fact that people - many people - say this sort of thing about Twilight smacks of what Sarah Rees Brennan talks about here about an assumption that young girls don't understand the concept of fiction and therefore YA books should always have good role models. And really, people like things for all kinds of reasons, and I would never assume that because someone liked a book or a character, they agreed with or wanted to emulate that character's actions.

Some more interesting Breaking Dawn-related links:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the RPatz

Robert Pattinson Says Stuff Sometimes

Twilight, Fetish, and Protecting Girls from Themselves

The Harsh Bigotry of Twilight-Haters

When Is It Okay for You to Hate Twilight? Here's a Guide.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

West Wing Reunion & Other Movie Links

Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford are going to be in a movie together.

Yes, There Are Black People in Your Hunger Games

A Where's Waldo movie? Huh. Okay.

The 10 Most God-Awful Movies About Greek Mythology

Another fascinating obituary of a famous person's daughter.

Jane Austen in space? Sure.

Alan Cumming's Macbeth & Other Culture Links

Alan Cumming doing Macbeth as a one-man show? Sign me up.

6 Thoughts About Misogyny & Popular Culture

How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things

The Shame of Joe Paterno, or Sports Are Just A Job

Sister Bloggers: Why So Many Lifestyle Bloggers Happen to Be Mormon

Perfect Welsh Rarebit & Other Links for Food Lovers

The Guardian is doing a fun series on the best way to make simple foods. Here's Welsh rarebit and porridge.

The UK's cheapest meal: a toast sandwich. Huh.

Muslim cab drivers rescue New York City's oldest Jewish bagel bakery from closing, plan to keep it kosher

Making the Grade: Why the Cheapest Maple Syrup Tastes Best

Gail Collins on Romney & Other Politics Links

Gail Collins is always awesome, but I particularly liked today's column: The Mitt Romney Pardon

Cracked Granite: Birthers Spark Chaos in New Hampshire

Obama's Flunking Economy: The Real Cause

The Nightmarish Horror of Being Jon Huntsman

A Weird Unforced Error by W. Mitt Romney

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

This is another book that's a little hard to describe - it's fantasy, I guess, but reads like a fairy tale, more specifically. It's about a girl named Lexi in a town where there aren't ever any strangers, and what happens when a stranger shows up around the same time children start going missing. The plot is intriguing, but what really stands out about this book is the beautiful writing and how atmospheric it is. I'm not one to always picture what I'm reading, but I did with this book, especially (for some reason) Lexi's bedroom with its candles and piles of blankets. I kept wanting to cuddle up under lots of blankets while reading. And the wind, oh, the wind - it's practically its own character here, and Schwab did a great job with that. There was also more romance than I expected, which was a delightful surprise! This is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, windy winter night.

Random Product Recommendation: Hannaford Eggnog

I know this is a kind of different post than usual for me, but apparently I feel strongly about it and WANT TO SHARE. I was visiting friends over the weekend and they had this Hannaford Old-Fashioned Eggnog, and it was delicious. I'm usually not a huge eggnog fan - I'll drink a glass or two per season, when it's served to me, because it seems seasonal - but this was so good that I went out and bought a whole carton. I haven't tried it warm or with liquor added yet, but just add a little nutmeg to the top and it's good to go.

(I was not compensated in any way for this post, but I would not turn down free eggnog. Hey, Hannaford, call me!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Good Wife, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" - Recap at ThinkProgress

It's a little late - sorry! I was sick and then Alyssa was traveling! - but here's my recap of last week's Good Wife.

Book Recommendation: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This book was way different from practically anything I've ever read, and I don't say that lightly. And while there are probably books I love better, I can't recall being so gosh darn fascinated by one in recent memory. A friend of mine is very picky about books, but after many years of friendship I know her tastes, so she relies on me to tell her if she'll like things.* As I read this one, she kept asking if she should read it, and I kept saying "I don't know! I can't figure out if you'd like it! I can't even figure out what it IS!" I knew I liked it from the start, though, partially because I had no idea what was going on - but in a very controlled way. I wasn't confused because it was badly written, but rather the opposite: I was confused because Hodkin did such a masterful job of deliberately confusing me.

And I've just realized I haven't told you anything about the plot, so: Mara (not her real name) survives an accident in which her friends die, but she can't remember what happened. And she suspects there's more going on than everyone thinks, so (with the help of a really hot guy) she sets out to recover her memories and figure out what's going on. And that made it sound a million times more boring and normal than it is. I just can't find the words to describe how awesome and insane this book actually is, clearly. (An aside about the romance: I have seen reviewers complain that there was too much time devoted to the love story, and that some things about the relationship Set A Bad Example For The Dumb Impressionable Girls or whatever, and I just want to say that I disagree wholeheartedly with both of those objections, but alas, I can't say why without ruining a big part of the plot.) Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, I wound up telling my friend she should give this one a try. So should you. Really.

* No offense intended to any authors or books here: this has nothing to do with the quality of the books. It's kind of . . . idiosyncratic. For example, she has Demon Issues. And issues with anyone who reminds her of Fanny Price. ANYWAY.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Castle, "Demons:" Recap at TheTelevixen

I'm a bit behind on my Castle recaps - sorry! - but you can now read my recap of the episode called "Demons" over at TheTelevixen.

Book Recommendation: Lola & the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I liked Anna and the French Kiss a lot, but I love love LOVED Lola. It's quite possibly the best YA romance I've read . . . ever? I can't think of a better one offhand, anyway. I loved that Lola had her own interests and strong personality completely apart from any relationship. I loved that her family situation was complicated but the fact that she had two dads was the simplest, most normal thing about it. I loved that it wasn't about falling for her first boyfriend, that she spent a good chunk of the novel with the wrong guy. I loved that the fact that she was with the wrong guy made perfect sense and was completely in character, but it made even more sense for her to be with the right guy. I loved that Cricket was a geek and a little awkward. I loved that he was so obviously a good guy, in the moral sense of the word. I loved that he had his own family and personal problems, aside from the romance. I loved that the girl was more sexually experienced than the boy and it wasn't A Big Deal at all. I loved that Cricket and Lola had history but that it also made sense that they liked each other in the present. I loved that Anna and Etienne were around so much. I loved it ALL.

This week's TV news!

Hope everyone had a great holiday! There wasn't much news this week, but you can read what there is at my column at TheTelevixen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gifts for History Nerds!

My friend Beck is publishing gift recommendations from a variety of her blogger friends, and I've chimed in today with Gifts for People Who Love History. Enjoy!

This week's TV news!

There was actually a LOT of it this week, including a bunch of updates about the networks' midseason schedules, so head on over to TheTelevixen and check it out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Music Break: "Silver Bells" by She & Him

Pilot Thoughts: Grimm

I finally watched the Grimm pilot last night, and I was pleasantly surprised! I had heard very mixed things, but I really liked it a lot. I liked the traditional procedural structure with the added bonus supernatural elements, and the way it seems they're trying to balance a full case of the week with Nick's ongoing attempt to figure out his heritage and what's going on. Since I'm a procedural fan, I think that aspect - and the way it grounds the show - is what makes me more likely to tune in every week to this rather than something like Once Upon a Time. And, of course, that format automatically gives the show a way to continue for future seasons, which can be a hard thing for high-concept shows to figure out.

The Mouse Battery Mystery

I go through a fair number of batteries for my wireless mouse. That's to be expected. What I don't understand is the way I can never, ever find any spares and have to buy a new pack every time. Where do they go? It's not like I'm possibly buying AAA batteries two at a time. They must be somewhere. There must be several partial packs of AAA batteries in this apartment, but they're not on my desk, or with the other spare batteries, or anywhere else I can think of. It's baffling.

I will buy more batteries on the way home today. I will put them in the linen closet with the flashlights and other spare batteries. I am putting this out there so that next time I have this issue, one of you can perhaps remind me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tessa Dare Holiday Novella & Other Links for Book Lovers

Tessa Dare's Once Upon a Winter's Eve is now out! You can download the novella for Kindle (or Kindle app) for less than a dollar!

While you're at it, pick up this new YA anthology for $2.99 too.

This YA Paranormal Drinking Game is basically the best thing the Internet has ever produced.

The Cordial Enmity of Joan Didion and Pauline Kael

Awesome story: These moms wanted "boy books" as good as the American Girl books, so they went and found Valerie Tripp. As you do.

The YA ALA Readers' Choice Nominations

Hunger Games nail polish! I actually really like some of these.

A Rebecca Broadway show? Yes please!

Music Break: "Better Days" by The Goo Goo Dolls

Trailer: The Hunger Games

I will say up front that I was more positive than most fans about this from the start - partially because I love Jennifer Lawrence - but wow, this looks GOOD.

Movie Review: Immortals

Oh man, was this movie a mess. And my expectations were reasonably low (I thought) to start with. I wasn't expecting it to be faithful to the mythology, but I was hoping the plot would at least be internally consistent, but it wasn't. And while it was visually interesting in some places, all too often, it just looked SILLY. Even aside from the ridiculous headgear. And it just . . . it made no sense. When it ended, my friend and I agreed: We had expected it to be bad, but it was just BAFFLING.

It's barely even worth calling out specific issues, but I will mention the two that are bugging me the most:
1. Zeus - ZEUS! - has a whole speech about how the gods created humans with free will and have to respect that. Zeus! Of all people!
2. The accents were completely inconsistent, in confusing ways. If they had had everyone use one type of accent, fine. If they had let each actor use his native accent, fine. But Henry Cavill's and Joseph Morgan's characters were supposed to be from the same village, and they let Cavill use his British accent but made Morgan adopt an American one. Why? WHY?
So . . . yeah. I had sort of expected to be able to say "Don't watch this if you care about the mythology, but if you just want fun action, go ahead," but I'm not even sure of that, because so many of the action sequences looked so silly they just made us laugh. I don't regret seeing it, because any $7.50 spent in support of Joseph Morgan's career is $7.50 well spent, but I certainly can't say I recommend it.

The Good Wife: "Death Row Tip" - Recap at ThinkProgress!

Head over to Alyssa's blog for my recap of this week's episode, "Death Row Tip:"
In Alicia’s absence, Will’s main ally is Kalinda, which in turn calls into question Kalinda’s actual motivations in her escalating love triangle with Cary and Dana. Kalinda spends much of the episode flirting with Dana, and Cary is blatantly jealous, possibly of both of them. But after they have a close call when a suspect starts shooting, Cary and Kalinda finally kiss – and then he gives her a weird look and walks away. I suspect that Kalinda is actually letting herself feel things for once, but Cary has no reason to think she’s not playing him, so this turn of events should play interestingly into the investigation into Will.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This week's TV news!

Head on over for my weekly column at TheTelevixen. I especially enjoy the image I used this week.

Music Break: "I Saw Her Standing There" by The Beatles

SiriusXM Holiday Stations!

Whee! The first two SiriusXM holiday stations are live! Holiday Traditions is on 147 - that's full of Bing, Frank, Tony, and pals. And 17 is now Holly: a mix of contemporary and traditional, or what seems like that Mariah Carey song and "Christmas Wrapping" on a loop. (I tease because I love.) My favorite, Holiday Pops, doesn't start until December 2. You can see the whole holiday lineup here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Link Potpourri

Presidential Candidates Explained Through Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets

I'm not necessarily convinced by this new approach to bullying, but it's an interesting read.

Remember that kitten an MP's wife stole from his mistress? It's okay!

Given the state of Italy at the moment, I guess it's not all that surprising that people are into Mussolini.

This profile of a woman who's been a principal in Brooklyn for 48 years is amazing.

Music Break: "Keep the Home-Fires Burning" by John McCormack

In honor of Veterans Day...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Music Break: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Movement 1

Trailer: Immortals

I'm not actually convinced that this looks good, but I'm also not sure I care. I some ways I like bad mythology movies better than good ones, and when a movie casts Henry Cavill AND Joseph Morgan, well, I'll forgive a lot. Immortals opens tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Punk Rock Criticism & Other TV Links

Ryan McGee calls for a punk rock movement in TV criticism.

Bones Finds a Brave Approach to Romantic Comedy and Motherhood

I love USA Network, but this parody article is pretty good.

Alyssa says everything necessary about Charlie Sheen so I feel comfortable continuing to ignore him. Thanks!

Music Break: "Bumble Boogie" by B. Bumble & the Stingers

Book Recommendation: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

I'd meant to try Kelley Armstrong for years, so I finally got the first of her young adult series, The Summoning, from the library. And I liked it quite a lot! It's about teenagers in a group home who are supposedly mentally ill but actually have supernatural abilities. The heroine, Chloe, is neither overly perfect nor overly self-deprecating, and I love that her well-meaning but distant father's reaction to her suddenly seeing ghosts is to assume that she needs treatment for some sort of mental illness. That seems extremely realistic, and it makes me happy when characters take a while to accept that there are supernatural things going on around them. The Summoning also features a pair of brothers who love each other more than anything, which is another of my favorite things. The ending is nicely twisty, and there's a cliffhanger but it's not a maddening one. (Though it definitely made me get the next book from the library ASAP!) It's a quick read, and the characters feel much more like real teenagers than supernatural teen characters often do. Give it a try!

The Good Wife, "Executive Order 13224" - Recap at ThinkProgress

Head over to Alyssa's blog for my recap of this week's Good Wife, in which everyone's poking bears.
Will is confronted by a reluctant Cary and an enthusiastic Dana, and though he more of less laughs at them for trying to intimidate him, he’s shaken enough to go confront Peter on the courthouse steps. I can’t quite decide how our metaphor of the week shakes out here: Peter is poking a bear by going after Will in the first place, but both men are very powerful, and Will is instigating in turn by taking things to a more personal level. Will tells Peter that he’s not buying new clean image, and insists that Peter’s still down in the mud with the rest of them. They then play an incredibly tense game of chicken as Will more or less dares Peter to accuse him of sleeping with Alicia, and I started hoping that they’d actually get into a fistfight, because wouldn’t it be great to watch Eli try to spin that? Alas, there are no fisticuffs or actual accusations regarding Alicia. They have to leave something for the midseason finale, I suppose.

Happy Election Day!

Whee! Don't forget to vote! I point this out only because I had practically forgotten about these elections until yesterday, when I hurried to ask a better-informed friend for information about the candidates. And apparently the mayor of my city is running for reelection unopposed. Huh.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Break: "Walk Don't Run" by The Ventures

This week's TV news!

Here's the November 6th edition of my Caffeine TV news column at TheTelevixen.

Book Trailer: Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken

I'll admit that I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of book trailers, usually - books have lovely words! Why are you getting pictures all in them? - but oh my goodness, I am SO excited about this book, and this is a very nice trailer!

PSA for Jamie Bamber Fans!

Jamie Bamber of Battlestar Galactica and Law & Order: UK will be guest-starring on tonight's episode of House. It will air on FOX at 9/8c. He's going to be on ABC's Body of Proof starting sometime later this month, as well.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 11/6/11

Whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

10 p.m.:
Hell on Wheels series premiere, AMC
An historical drama about the Trans-Continental Railroad sounds like exactly my sort of thing, but advance reviews are . . . not good. So. We'll see.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Link Potpourri

14 Punctuation Marks That You Never Knew Existed

Black-Market Babies: Broken Families in China, Confused Children in the U.S.

A vampiric Sleeping Beauty? Interesting.

Someone did a quadruple lutz!

Things that will kill you: insomnia and stress. So good luck sleeping while you're worrying about that tonight!

6 Things Twentysomethings Are Afraid Of

How to survive power outages

Music Break: "River" by Joni Mitchell

Burn Notice: "It's unsettling when you're that sincere!"

(Mild spoilers ahead! But mostly just character analysis.)

Burn Notice had a solid midseason premiere last night with "Damned If You Do," and it seems we now know what obsession will replace Michael's quest to find out who burned him: protecting Fiona. For this episode, at least, this also became his priority over saving the world or helping random people, and . . . I think I'm okay with that. It makes the calculus of Michael's decision-making more complex, and therefore makes the character more interesting.

In this show's moral universe, the ends usually justify the means. Michael may hurt people, but he generally thinks he's serving the greater good, even if he's not entirely convinced he himself is good. His constant need to save the world is all the more powerful given that, at least some of the time, he thinks he's a bad person, or at least brings bad things down upon anyone he cares about. Michael has a touch of Josh Lyman syndrome ("He goes through every day worried that somebody he likes is going to die and its going to be his fault. What do you think makes him walk so fast?") but with him, this tends to play out on a larger but more impersonal scale. Sure, saving random strangers (or countries) is great, but it's also a symptom of what Michael says about not letting himself care about individual people.

Now, though, he cares, and everyone knows it. When you move your ex-girlfriend into your apartment, you lose all plausible deniability, both to your mother and to the bad guys out to get either or both of you. He's doing bad things, things that will hurt people, because that's what's necessary to protect Fiona. (And Fiona, as she herself points out, is no damsel in distress, which makes this all the more compelling.) If he were on Vampire Diaries, this is when someone would tell him to be careful - his humanity is showing. And it makes him a much more interesting character. Michael saving the world? Done that. Michael damning the world to save the girl? That's something different.

The Vampire Diaries: Don't Hurt My Brother! + Why I Hate Shipper Wars

(Very mild spoilers through last night's episode...)

Last night's Vampire Diaries episode made the essential truth of the show all the more clear: It's all about family, and especially love between siblings. Some people seem surprised by the idea that Stefan's love for Damon might be stronger than his love for Elena, and to these people I can only say, "What the heck show have you been watching for two and a half years?" Last night brought us some great sibling moments between the Salvatores and between the Originals, and geez, Elena, go hug your brother! Um, anyway.

After that episode all about sibling love, I woke up to this post from YA author Cassie Clare about love triangles and women in fiction, and though her examples all reference her characters, a lot of what she says is applicable to fiction in general and TVD in particular. Here, she gets at my main issue with 'shipper wars:
I think character love is a wonderful thing — where would we all be without the fictional characters we adore? — but it needn’t require that the character you love be flawless and/or blameless. I actually think trying to lay blame in this situation is a mistake. When you have three people all of whom would die for each other, they wouldn’t thank you for taking their part if it meant cutting the other ones down to do it.
YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES. This is what gets me about Stefan or Damon fans hating the other one, or anyone hating Elena for her interactions with one or both of the boys. They all love each other. They trip over themselves to try to die for each other, on a regular basis. And yet fans feel so . . . what, defensive? insecure? . . . that they have to tear one or two members of the triangle down instead of recognizing that they are all complex characters who need and love each other.

And I wish the Elena haters would think about this too:
Why is Tessa seen as responsible for the boys’ feelings, and indeed, their actions? She can’t help what either boy feels for her, and isn’t responsible for their emotions. If she acts in a way intended to protect herself from harm, acts as if she deserves and wants love, acts as her heart tells her — acts in any way at all as long as she doesn’t maliciously intend either boy harm — and it hurts either of the boys, that isn’t Tessa’s fault.
And this is something I just think everyone who complains about female characters needs to ask themselves:
But next time you find yourself deciding that such and such female character is a bitch because her actions, even when reasonable or inadvertent, have caused a boy character pain, pause to consider if you’d feel the same way if she were the boy.
But whatever you do, don't mess with my brother.

Bones: "The Memories in the Shallow Grave"

At long last, Bones is back, with the much-anticipated new normal: Booth and Brennan are having a baby.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

World's Oldest Christmas Pudding & Other Holiday Links

This Christmas pudding went to the Boer War.

Amazon has over 100 holiday albums for $5 each.

Traveling by plane for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Read this.

More holiday advice: Surviving Family Interrogations About Your Love Life

Christmas Music Break: "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Beach Boys Version

I was trying to hold off for a while before switching to Christmas songs, but I can't help it. I think this is actually my favorite version of this song; their pure harmonies are just perfect for it.

Recipe: Rotel Tofu Scramble

I haven't been posting many recipes recently, so let's fix that! Now, a few notes on this one. First of all, please meet Rotel, or RO*TEL, to be precise. It's canned diced tomatoes with peppers and spices, and it's delicious. And a nice shortcut when you want to cook but it's 8 p.m. and you can't deal with chopping a lot of vegetables. Not that that ever happens to me. Ahem. Anyway, I had never heard of this until it started showing up in recipes from some Texan friends, but once I looked, I discovered that there are usually a few cans of it in the stores here. Sometimes it's with the other canned tomatoes and sometimes it's with the taco shells and stuff. Costco occasionally has it. Give it a try!

The second note is that the picture I'm giving you here is really bad. I forgot to take one last night, so this is a cell phone picture of the cold leftovers, in bad lighting. And this dish is nothing to look at in the first place. It's healthy and quick and easy and tastes really good, but it's not pretty. (Insert rant about food blogs making us think pretty food is best.) But I'm showing you anyway because people are wary of trying recipes without seeing a picture and because it shows you what the crumbled up tofu should look like. Okay. Onward!

Rotel Tofu Scramble

Rotel Tofu Scramble

about a tablespoon of cooking oil, maybe a little more (I used vegetable. Olive, peanut, whatever would work.)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 can Rotel (I used the original flavor.)
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and pressed*

1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet.
2. Add the onions and cook until they're translucent and cooked through but not quite caramelized.
3. Stir in the Rotel.
4. Crumble in the tofu - if you have any big chunks, it's easy enough to cut them up with your wooden spoon as you go.
5. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until everything's hot and just starting to brown a little bit. Ten minutes? Maybe? I forgot to time. I know that's unhelpful. But it's not like anything here will hurt you if it's undercooked. The extra water from the tomatoes should cook off and the tomatoes should taste "done," basically.
6. Serve with some sort of rice. I made rice pilaf last night, and that was a good combination, but brown rice or whatever you happen to have around would work just fine! Enjoy!

* In case you haven't made tofu before, here's a quick way to get it pressed well enough: before you start cooking the onions, slit the tofu package and drain out the excess water. Then open it up and plop the block of tofu on a plate between several layers of paper towels. Press down on it - don't worry about the tofu breaking up a little, because you're going to be doing that anyway. Let it sit and drain into the paper towels until it's time to add it.

Why I Watch Procedurals

Over at Slate, June Thomas recently wrote about the way that a lot of the newer procedurals use gimmicks that mean the audience can't really play along with the mystery. (Alyssa Rosenberg responded here.) I corresponded with June about this a bit as she was working on the piece, and then figured I might as well share my view on things. An edited version of my emails to her is below.

I don't think any of the American procedurals I watch are up to the traditional fair play standards of mysteries, so these new examples seem like a greater degree of an existing issue rather than a new thing. The Mentalist and Psych both have the super-observant fake psychics pulling things out of thin air, Bones has surprise scientific breakthroughs that the viewer couldn't possibly predict, etc. I'm not sure it's possible to give a sufficient number of clues in the one-hour television format. I do prefer when they try, of course. (For background, I've been a big fan of mystery novels since way before I started watching TV, and it DOES drive me crazy when they don't give the reader enough clues.)

Unforgettable IS particularly egregious about this, as you say, but I think the mysteries don't have a lot to do with why I like it. It hits a few emotional notes for me, including the memory thing - my memory is nothing like hers, but is abnormally good enough that I've run into similar interpersonal issues because of it. More generally, though, I think I like these shows because I like watching smart people work together to make the world a little bit of a better place. I care more about solid character development than about the particulars of the mysteries themselves.

There are some shows - The Good Wife, The Vampire Diaries - that I watch very closely and spend a lot of time thinking and writing and talking about, but I like having a few procedurals as brain candy for when I'm multitasking or just tired. I use The Mentalist and Body of Proof and now Unforgettable for this purpose - characters I like but am not overly invested in doing vaguely interesting things and being clever for an hour. So it's more about which characters I want to spend time with than the actual mysteries. (My impression is that I use procedurals the way a lot of people use sitcoms - I've just always been less of a comedy fan.)

So, to sum up: I agree that Unforgettable is cheating, and would rather it didn't, but so far I like the show in spite of that because trying to solve the mystery isn't the main thing I get out of watching it.

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 11/3/11

Whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

9 p.m.:
Bones season 7 premiere, FOX
Wheee! Booth and Bones are finally together! They're going to have a baby! This could either be really fun or completely horrid! But I'm hoping for really fun! We'll see!

10 p.m.:
Burn Notice season 5 midseason premiere, USA
Another favorite! Back on the same night! Can you tell I'm pretty excited about tonight?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Names for Unwanted Girls & Other Gender Issues Links

Can you imagine being named "Unwanted"? These girls got to rename themselves, thank goodness.

Gender Equality in Quidditch (No, really.)

Good news: Judge says North Carolina can't force women to view ultrasound before abortion.

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are taking a slight step forward - through literary clubs.

The Atlantic has a slideshow of Pakistani women living in a shelter to escape the risk of "honor killings."

What would Mary Sue do?

Music Break: "Ariel" by October Project

This Bones music video is just adorable.

Bones comes back tomorrow, and their promotional department has been going all out. It seems like the people who make these videos are really having fun embracing their inner 'shippers, now that they finally can. It's all pretty cute.

Are you looking forward to this season, or are you afraid of how the drastic changes will affect the show you've watched for years?

Why I Didn't Like Google Reader's Sharing Functions

Google Reader unveiled a redesign this week, and a lot of people are up in arms about the fact that they got rid of Reader's sharing features. I'm sorry that people have lost a tool they liked, of course, but I'm mostly shocked to discover that people liked it so much. When Google Reader first introduced the features, I tried them for a while, but quickly stopped using them regularly because I didn't like how narrow and randomly exclusive they were. I don't mean that they were designed to be exclusive, necessarily, but more that they wound up that way because so few people used them. There is virtually never a link that I want to share specifically with the tiny subset of my friends and contacts who use Google Reader. If I want to share a link in general, I'll tweet and/or blog it; if I want someone specific to see it, I'll email or IM. If I care enough about a link to share it publicly, I don't want it restricted to people who happen to use one specific site or tool. (This is the same reason why I find the Blogger "follow" button ridiculous.) I know not everyone will look at my blog or Twitter feed, but at least they're completely open to anyone who goes to a certain URL, with no login or friending required.

(As I was writing that, I remembered that I did, for a while, use the Reader Share widget to have links in the sidebar on my old blog, but I stopped that too, for a different issue of narrow exclusivity - I got annoyed that it was hard to put in links I found from other sources. My link posts are usually a mix of links I've come across on Reader, on Twitter, and in random other places, and I like being able to integrate them without having to think about the source.)

Starbucks Red Cups & Holiday Drinks Are Back!

Their site hasn't been updated yet, but yesterday Starbucks sent out an email confirming that it is in fact the most wonderful time of the year - red cups and holiday drinks have returned! Wheee! Once again, they have Peppermint Mochas, Gingerbread Lattes, and Eggnog Lattes, and this year they've added a Skinny Peppermint Mocha. The Skinny Vanilla Latte is my default, so I have high hopes for this new drink. I'll try one this afternoon and report back tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Much Ado about Joss & Other Movie Links

What if Joss Whedon secretly got a bunch of your favorite actors to film a Shakespearean adaptation at his house? Yeah, that happened. (And now there's another movie, too> Does the man ever sleep?)

Finally! A darker-skinneed Heathcliff.

Get excited: Magic Mike, a.k.a. "the Matt Bomer stripper movie," is coming out June 29.

Moby Dick in space? I have no idea what to make of that.

A retrospective of film versions of Elizabeth I

Here's a new set of Hunger Games posters to excite/enrage you.

Music Break: "November" by The Wilderness of Manitoba

The Good Wife, "Affairs of State" - Recap at ThinkProgress

Head over to Alyssa Rosenberg's blog for my recap/review of Sunday's episode of The Good Wife.
By this point, I think Will is pretty aware of his own feelings, but does Alicia really know what she wants? If she honestly just wants a temporary rebound relationship, using someone who has loved her for years just seems cruel. But if she’s saying she wants to keep things casual because she thinks that’s what she should want or what Will wants, then there’s an even better chance of all of this exploding in someone’s face – probably Peter’s, once the next campaign gets going, and Alicia’s own, if she’s actually considering that political career Eli suggested.

Book Recommendation: The Cut by George Pelecanos

I'd somehow never read anything by George Pelecanos, though I'd always heard he was good, so when I read that he was starting a new series with The Cut, I figured I'd give it a try. And I'm hooked. Pelecanos's new hero is Spero Lucas, a military vet turned freelance investigator who specializes in finding lost things. He reads and kayaks and mourns his father and worries about his mother and casually kills people when necessary, and he's one of the most interesting and multi-dimensional characters I've come across in quite some time. The mystery plotting is tight and the language is descriptive but spare. It takes place in the DC area, and while I don't know enough to say whether it's realistic, it certainly has a strong sense of place. This is the sort of book that made me want to go back and read all of the author's previous work. Highly recommended for mystery fans who like their books to be hard-boiled but still character-driven.

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 11/1/11

Whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

10 p.m.:
Covert Affairs season 2.5 premiere, USA
This isn't my favorite USA show, but it's fun.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Classic Halloween & Other Holiday Links

This slideshow of mid-20th century Halloween photos is great.

I always love reading about food in other cultures, so this feature on what's eaten at Diwali was fascinating.

Want to escape for the holidays? How about a nice cottage rental?

In honor of the October snow, an old favorite: Make your own virtual snowflakes.

Halloween Reads: "The Fall of the House of Usher"

I've read plenty of Poe stories over the years, but had somehow never read this one, and when Sarah Rees Brennan recapped it in her first Gothic post, I knew I had to give it a try. And it was delightful, really, equal parts creepy and absurd, and just good. I'd forgotten what a good writer Poe was, although he obviously had some Issues, and was probably not a barrel of laughs to be around. It's amazing how much plot he gets into a story of less than twenty pages, and his language is extremely rich - "encoffined" and "clangorous" are my new favorite words. Since this story is so old, it's out of copyright, so give yourself a Halloween treat and read it online right now.

Haven, "Sins of the Father" - Recap at TheTelevixen

Sorry this is so late, but my recap of the Haven season finale, "Sins of the Father," is finally live at TheTelevixen.

This Week's TV News: Caffeine for 10/30

Renewals! Pick-ups! All sorts of stuff! Catch up with my column at TheTelevixen.

Happy Halloween!

I rather like the random Muppet videos this movie is prompting. Saw this one as a commercial during the morning news:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Link Potpourri

On Friday afternoons I'm going to start doing a roundup of links that haven't fit in with any of the themed link posts. Enjoy!

Hey look! A simple and useful way to think about the Euro crisis!

NYMag has a fascinating profile of Carlina White, who was kidnapped as an infant and figured out who she was later on.

If your tagline is going to be "Not Science Fiction," you should probably check that it, um, actually isn't.

HP pulls a Netflix; doesn't split itself after all.

Apparently they are "close" to finding Sir Francis Drake's body. Well then.

Yoga and Vitamins: Worthless

Picture of the day: End Galactic Corporate Greed

Headline of the week: Man Caught Having Sex with Donkey Claimed It Was a Shapeshifting Hooker

Music Break: "Snow" from White Christmas

It snowed last night, which means, in my world at least, that Christmas music is now fair game. I'll try to hold out a little while before going all-Christmas-all-the-time on you, but I had to mark the occasion. I was going to find the clip of this song from the movie, but then I found these obviously amazing people who reenacted it in their dining room. May I be friends with them?

Candy Economics & Other Halloween Links

Head over to TheTelevixen and vote for your favorites in the Celebration of the Supernatural on TV!

A Semi-Microeconomic Analysis of Halloween Treats

Awesome: Women Laughing Alone with Salad: The Costume.

What Your Halloween Candy Says About You

This site creates a horror movie starring YOU and apparently people actually want this. I do not understand people.

Stuck for a last-minute costume? Here's a huge list of printable Halloween masks.

Halloween Reads: The Horribly Haunted School by Margaret Mahy

I loved Mahy's YA The Changeover, so I figured I'd give some of her kids' books a try as well. This isn't specifically a Halloween story, but it is about ghosts, so it seemed seasonably appropriate. It's a really cute story about a boy who is allergic to ghosts - he sneezes when one is around, and can only stop when it shows itself. His parents don't believe him and send him to a special school to make him "sensible," but of course that school itself is haunted - by a former headmaster who was much less strict than advertised and just wants to make sure that his students turned out all right. This book is hilarious, and also has some really nice things to say about the balance between sense and imagination and how to encourage that balance in children. It's perfect for an upper elementary age group. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print in the U.S., but check your library!

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/28/11

We're past the first few weeks, so let's just say that whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

8 p.m.:
Chuck season 5 premiere, NBC
Last season! I'm way behind on this show, but actually really like it, so I have vague hopes of catching up in time to watch the series finale with everyone else.

9 p.m.:
Grimm series premiere, NBC
A homicide cop starts seeing fairy tale characters. Honestly, I haven't heard great things, but I like the premise so I'll give it a try.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trailer: The Iron Lady

I bookmarked this months ago but realized I never posted it, and hey, the movie's not out yet, so better late than never? I'll admit I don't know as much about Thatcher as I should, but of course this looks fascinating anyway. Meryl Streep!

Music Break: "The Way You Look Tonight" by The Lettermen

The World's Best Breakfasts & Other Links for Food Lovers

Breakfast is my favorite meal, so this is possibly my favorite link of all time.

Real Talk on Cupcakes

I'll admit I want to go try Wahlburgers. Anyone?

Have you ever wondered what beer to drink with macaroni and cheese? Wonder no more.

Just in time for soup season: 20 Fall Soup Recipes We Love

Watching Footloose

I finally watched Footloose last night - the original - because somehow I'd never seen it. And I know the remake looks terrible, but I fear I will give in and see it anyway (though I plan to hold out for DVD - I'm not that dedicated to awful dance movies), so I figured I should see the original first. And it's one of those things that I can watch and recognize how it would have been such a monumental thing for viewers who caught it at the right age, but now it looks mostly like a cultural artifact - a bizarre, sometimes hilarious artifact. (I felt the same way about St. Elmo's Fire, for example.) Watching it now was somewhat entertaining, but more useful as a way to understand a set of pop culture references I'd always missed.

Nevertheless, it certainly had some impressive dancing. And I love the implication that all the Troubled Teen Boys really want is to be allowed to DANCE OUT THEIR FEELINGS.

Liszt, Bjork, & Other Links for Music Lovers

Was Liszt actually any good?

Oh, Bjork, honey. Did none of us ever explain the concept of musical notation to you? I'M SO SORRY.

I debated whether to put this Justin Timberlake fashion retrospective in a music post or a movie post, because he seems to be determined to be an actor recently, but OBVIOUSLY what we all want from him is a new album. (Kidding! I am happy to watch/listen to Justin doing WHATEVER HE WANTS. Music? Good movies? Bad movies? Reading the phone book? Sure!)

Coldplay's 24 Singles, Ranked. I had completely forgotten about "Shiver" until I heard it on the radio the other day. I love that song.

Really, Sheryl Crow? REALLY?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

P.D. James Does Austen & Other Links for Book Lovers

P.D. James has a Pride and Prejuice murder mystery coming out. !!!!! This is going on my Christmas list RIGHT NOW.

Seriously: Please Explain Scaring Yourself? (I read/watch some scary things, but the fright angle is always an unfortunate side effect, and I don't understand why people seek it out.)

This list of cocktails inspired by heroines of classic literature is awesome, and most of the recipes actually look tasty, which is more than I can say for a lot of novelty cocktail things. I want to try practically all of them, but especially the Scarlett O'Hara and the Mary Lennox.

This Joan Didion profile is fascinating, and her new book sounds really interesting, if painful to read.

I always love these behind-the-scenes pieces about judging literary awards.

Ooh! They're publishing C.S. Forester's lost crime novel!

Music Break: Vivace from Back's Double Violin Concerto in D minor

Trailer: Have a Little Faith

I had apparently managed to completely block this movie out of my brain until I ran across this trailer, because Mitch Albom is not exactly my cup of tea. But, you know, The Things I Do For Bradley Whitford. At this point, I'm just happy that this doesn't look quite as awful as I'd feared. And it's certainly got a solid cast. It will air on ABC the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Android Barometers & Other Tech Links

This Android Barometer idea is pretty awesome.

MC Hammer is launching a search engine. I've been thinking about this for three days and have yet to come up with anything wittier to say than " . . . wait, WHAT?"

Enough with the Ridiculous Product Code Names

Trying to make the Internet less annoying is a noble, if perhaps futile, pursuit, kudos to Is It Old?

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/26/11

We're past the first few weeks, so let's just say that whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

10 p.m.:
Whitechapel series premiere, BBC America
A British mystery! About a Jack the Ripper copycat! Starring Rupert Penry-Jones! Frankly, if that doesn't send you running for your TV, you should probably do some soul-searching.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Music Break: "Al dolce guidami" from Anna Bolena

I listened to Anna Bolena on the radio live from the Met last night, so I have concluded that obviously what your Tuesday afternoon needs is some weirdly cheery Italian opera about tragic Tudor monarchs.

The Good Wife, "Marthas and Caitlins" - Recap at ThinkProgress

Everyone's making deals with their personal devils this week, so head over to Alyssa's place to read all about it.
But, as anyone around her should really know, Alicia’s experiences with Peter have made her hate being used as a pawn in the corruption of others, and she tries to stick with her first choice, Martha. The committee votes for Caitlin without even notifying Alicia, which seems unnecessarily unprofessional, and she feels betrayed, especially when Will admits he voted with Lee. “I feel used, Will. I feel like I was given a job and it was taken away from me.” And that’s the heart of things, really: long ago, Alicia put her trust in a powerful man, embraced the role he gave her, and was betrayed; as a result of that betrayal, she had to build herself a new life, and now she fears that the same thing is happening with Will. If it had only happened once, she could safely blame her betrayer, but if a version of what happened with Peter happens again with Will, she’ll have to start wondering if it’s her, if she’s somehow bringing these things upon herself.

Pantone Ornaments & Other Holiday Links

Christmas is two months from today! Two months! That makes me extremely excited, though I realize some of you react differently. I'm sorry. I'm warning you now, it will eventually get quite Christmassy around these parts. We're not going all-Christmas-all-the-time yet - I'm not that crazy - but here, have some holiday-related links to get you started!

These Pantone paint color ornaments are so pretty.

Michael Buble + Christmas + countdown calendar + GetGlue = My Favorite New Site

For a certain subset of the cheesy-Christmas-TV-loving public, ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas is in fact an annual event to which we look forward. Get some info on this year's lineup here. Mark-Paul Gosselaar! Nick Zano! Laura Vandervoort!

It might snow on Thursday. No, really. Is your crossbow ready?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/23/11

We're past the first few weeks, so let's just say that whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

8 p.m.:
Once Upon a Time series premiere, ABC
I've heard very intriguing things about this drama about a town where fairy tales are real, so I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

My feelings are apparently very complicated about this book, because I've had this window open for hours now and haven't been able to figure out where to start. So. Basically, my issue is that for the first 200 pages or so, I thought this was a page-turner but didn't actually hold up very well. But by the end, some of my issues had been addressed, and I really liked certain things, and . . . OH I DON'T KNOW.

Backing up! Divergent is about a post-apocalyptic society (in Chicago, I think) where the people have divided themselves up into five factions based on the virtue they think is most important: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (truth), Amity (peace), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (bravery). Which faction you're in defines basically everything about your life, from what you wear to what job you have to who your friends are. Kids grow up in their parents' faction; when they're 16, they take an aptitude text (with non-binding results) and then choose which faction to join for the rest of their lives. I really liked this idea, and thought both the way things were divided up (e.g. Abnegation controls the government because supposedly the selfless can't be corrupted) and the way it all broke down (Not going to spoil you!) were well thought out and believable. I did want some sort of explanation for why those virtues in particular were chosen - what about Kindness (though that's in some ways similar to Amity) or Industriousness? The latter, I'd think, would be particularly helpful in a post-apocalyptic society.

Our heroine, Tris, grew up in Abnegation, but her aptitude test gives her inconclusive results (where the "Divergent" in the title comes from), which is never supposed to happen. She's told that it would be dangerous if anyone found out, but not told why, and she chooses to enter Dauntless. (This all happens right away. Don't worry; I'm not spoiling you.) And this, honestly, is where she lost me for a while. I get why she didn't want to stay in Abnegation, but the idea of choosing Dauntless - where she's forced to fight and do all sorts of crazy dangerous things - is so far from my own psyche that I needed more help than the text gave to understand her choice. For me, and a lot of readers, I assume, the obvious choice given what we know about the factions at the start would be Erudite. They get to read all the time! It's not clear why Tris rules it out automatically, and though we later find out bad things about Erudite (and all the factions, really), that doesn't make it make more sense at the time, and some of them Tris herself doesn't know until later, so she couldn't be reacting to them at the start.

I think that is my issue with the book in a nutshell: For the first half of the book, I thought it was pretty contrived. Things seemed to be happening JUST so they would cause conflict between Tris and those around her (or internal conflict in Tris), not for any authentic narrative reason. Some of these things are addressed later, and they're not actually contrived at all - we just don't know the factors that make them make sense. The wait is necessary, because they make good reveals, and the characters themselves don't find things out until later. In some cases, these issues have to do with the structure of the world, so it's reasonable that Tris is reacting to them without understanding them, but in other cases, it really feels like the characters are reacting to things that haven't happened and knowledge they don't yet have. But the second half of the book is plotted really well, so I almost forgot about my issues with the first half. I DON'T KNOW.

One thing I have absolutely NO qualms about is the romance. Four, the hero and romantic interest, is an ideal YA hero, by while I mean that he's dreamy but also a decent guy and ALSO sufficiently flawed, so he doesn't feel fake. And once Tris gets past the "What am I feeling? I couldn't possibly be attracted to anyone!" thing that inexplicably plagues dystopian heroines (yes, I'm looking at you, Katniss), the love story proceeds perfectly. There's no love triangle (a nice change!); there are believable, hopefully surmountable obstacles, and those obstacles are both internal and external. The way the characters are drawn, it makes complete sense that Tris and Four would be attracted to each other AND would actually make a good couple - none of that "We're so different but just randomly meant for each other!" nonsense. And their chemistry is SCORCHING. They have one of my favorite YA romances in recent memory, and I've honestly found myself worrying about whether something will come along to break them up in the sequels.

So, yes, sequels. This is the first in a trilogy; the second, Insurgent, comes out next year. Whatever my qualms with this one, I'll definitely be reading the rest, both because I want to know what happens and because I'm interested to see how Roth develops as a writer. Divergent was her first book - I think she wrote it while she was in college - so I'm hoping some of the issues I had with it will be improved in the rest of the trilogy.

(And since this was Divergent and the sequel is Insurgent, I've been having fun coming up with options for the third title. Convergent? Emergent? Resurgent? Detergent? Ha. Yeah, I'm going to stop because at this point none of these are looking like words anymore.)

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/21/11

We're past the first few weeks, so let's just say that whenever there's a TV premiere, I'll try to let you know. Remember, you can see my regularly-updated TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

10 p.m.:
Boss series premiere, Starz
I was a big Frasier fan, back before I started watching much TV, actually, and I've heard good things from people who have seen this pilot, so I'm excited!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perfect Pumpkin Carving & Other Links

Everything You Need to Know About Carving a Pumpkin

Literary daleks are my new favorite thing.

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

Read Alyssa Rosenberg on Disney movies and masculinity.

My new favorite game: Cheese or Font

I meant to include this YA Op-Ed Mad Lib in my YA post yesterday, because it's awesome. But I forgot. So here it is!

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/20/11

For these first few weeks of fall TV, I'll have quick posts up at 9am each day reminding you of which shows start that night, with times and channels and maybe a quick thought or two. Remember, you can see my whole fall TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

8:30 p.m.:
Rules of Engagement season 6 premiere, CBS
It just occurred to me as I was typing that that I have LITERALLY NO IDEA what this is about. I'm not sure I've ever even seen a preview for it. Bizarre. IMDb unhelpfully tells me that this, like 99% of sitcoms, is about a group of friends in different stages of relationships. Okay then!

11 p.m.:
Gigolos season 2 premiere, Showtime
I don't actually know anything about this one either, but at least the title is pretty self-explanatory.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Vampire Diaries: The Psychology of Compulsion

At the beginning of the season, I didn't actually set out to make a habit of reading a lot of episode discussion and THEN writing about a popular point of contention, but that seems to be where I'm headed recently, so . . . okay!

This week, I've seen a lot of discussion about Klaus's compulsion of Stefan. The issue, in brief: Klaus compelled Stefan to turn off his emotions, but last season, Rose claimed that the emotion switch didn’t really exist, especially for older vampires. So should Klaus have been able to do that?

I'm theorizing that, at least for compulsions of a primarily psychological nature, if the compellee believes something is possible, it works. Turning off emotions doesn't break the laws of physics or anything, and I think if you really, completely believed you had to do it, you would. So even if there’s actually no emotion switch, if Stefan believes there is, Klaus can play upon this belief and the compulsion will work as intended. And so far as we know, Stefan believes in the switch.

Does Klaus? That's an interesting question, if not necessarily tied to whether the compulsion would work. After all, vampires compel people to believe things that they themselves know to be untrue all the time. But it would be interesting to know if he believes in it - though I'm assuming he doesn't. Does anyone remember whether any of the Originals have addressed this question?

Dear Fandom: Snap out of it.

We're at that spot in the fall TV season at which the season is still young enough that it has the excitement that comes with the blush of newness, but old enough that fans have to face the fact that whatever dream season they had in their heads isn't magically happening, and as a result, fandom is LOSING ITS COLLECTIVE MIND. People are calling for showrunners to drown themselves. People are using, a site designed to advocate for real social change, to start petitions about PLOT POINTS. People are protesting the fact that networks dare hire actors who have political views. People are greeting happy announcements from actors they idolize with pure lunacy. I've seen instances with at least four different shows of people deciding they'll hate whole plotlines or seasons based on one image or casting call or tweet from a writer. At one site I write for, we keep having to close the comments on our posts because of "fans" being cruel toward each other and the actors. People are calling for fans to pray - actually pray - for fictional characters who may be in danger. Don't you think maybe God has a few or 500 more important issues on His mind right now? I mean, COME ON.

I'm self-aware enough to know that I am in no place to fault anyone for watching or thinking or talking about TV too much, and nor would I want to. But there's a line somewhere. I am always in favor of more good discussion and analysis and criticism of TV, of any art form. And art can and does change the world, but not through 'shipper wars or nasty personal tweets. I take fiction as seriously as anyone, but at some point, we need to stop and remind ourselves: This is television. Entertainment. The stakes are not that high.

So, consider this a plea for sanity. Step away from the computer for a second. Take a deep breath. Remember that this is fiction. Remember to save your outrage for the many very horrible, very nonfictional things going on in the world right now. Remember that the people in the computer are, in fact, people. Remember that all the writers and actors and showrunners are people, too. Remember Wheaton's Law. And for goodness' sake, if a show is really causing you that much distress, turn it off and watch something else.

The National Book Award & Other YA Kerfuffles

You probably heard about what happened with the National Book Award announcements. If not, Libba Bray will catch you right up. I don't have anything original to say about this; I'm just joining the chorus of others in the YA community who are outraged at the way the NBA has handled the whole thing. So, two things: 1) Lauren is an extremely classy lady, as you can see from the first interview she's given about this, and 2) You should all go buy her book right now. I did.

And last week, we had this incoherent Salon piece about YA. (I didn't have the energy to deal with it then.) Let me break down this argument for you:
1) There have been a rash of stories about people being worried about "dark" YA.
2) They shouldn't be worried, because "dark" storylines are good for kids.
3) All YA is light and fluffy, so...
4) Teens should just read adult books and YA shouldn't exist.
This is so obviously internally inconsistent that I'm not sure I can be bothered to point out how objectively dumb it is, as well. (Authors Beth Revis and Zoe Mariott do a good job in the comments.) But seriously, HOW DUMB. And the worst part is that the writer's points about heavier themes being okay and necessary are good ones, but they're lost in his obvious ignorance of the genre he's writing about.

IN BETTER NEWS, you should read Malinda Lo's "Why I Write Young Adult Fiction" and Sarah Rees Brennan's first Gothic Tuesdays post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Me Elsewhere: The Good Wife, Castle, & TV News

Elsewhere on the Internet over the past few days . . .

At ThinkProgress, my take on The Good Wife's "Feeding the Rat."

And at TheTelevixen, my recap of Castle's "Kick the Ballistics" and my latest update of TV news.

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/18/11

For these first few weeks of fall TV, I'll have quick posts up at 9am each day reminding you of which shows start that night, with times and channels and maybe a quick thought or two. Remember, you can see my whole fall TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

8:30 p.m.:
Man Up series premiere, ABC
Yet another of these "masculinity in peril" sitcoms. Are we done yet? (Answer: No, actually, if they ever schedule Work It.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tonight's TV Premiere Reminders: 10/16/11

For these first few weeks of fall TV, I'll have quick posts up at 9am each day reminding you of which shows start that night, with times and channels and maybe a quick thought or two. Remember, you can see my whole fall TV spreadsheet here. (All times Eastern.)

9 p.m.:
The Walking Dead season 2 premiere, AMC
I know everyone in the universe except me is into this, but I am just not a zombie person.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Good Wife, "Get a Room" - Recap at ThinkProgress

And here we have it.
Eli and Kalinda finally met and realized they were kindred spirits last week, but this week, the fundamental difference between them becomes obvious: Kalinda deals in facts, while Eli uses facts as tools to affect the higher truth of image and perception. When Kalinda’s investigation shows that the cheese company’s culpability is far from clear, Eli is frustrated, and explains that it’s not that he wants their client to be guilty – it’s that he wants it to be over so he can pick up the pieces, fix things, and move on. And when Kalinda goes to Cary for information on the mediation case, he finally calls her on the way she uses people’s feelings for her to further her investigations. Cary sees through Kalinda’s manipulation of others’ feelings, but he has obviously bought into her illusion of having no feelings herself. That one is going to really blow up in her face one of these days.

Castle, "Head Games:" Recap at TheTelevixen

Sorry this is late, but here you go!
When Castle asks Beckett whether she thinks this was a crime of passion, Beckett says that it was a crime of love. Castle: “Though that would depend on whether Cynthia Hamilton was in love or insane.” Beckett: “Well, sometimes there’s a fine line between the two.” They look at each other a little too long just then, and I know some fans think the relationship anvils are falling a bit too hard and fast this season, I’ve been rather enjoying them.

Catch Up on Last Week's TV News

Today I'll be posting links to things I've written elsewhere that you might have missed this week. I usually try to post them here right after they go up, but my back injury messed things up this week. Have a great weekend!

Here's my Caffeine column of TV news from October 9.

Changing the Monarchy & Other Links

They might change the rules of the British monarchy so first-born daughters could rule. Wow.

Really, National Book Awards? Really?

Someone is transcribing her grandmother's diaries from growing up in the twenties. Fun!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Community: In Defense of Jeff and Annie

(Includes discussion of events through two episodes ago, but nothing specific about last week.)

Is this the season of Jeff and Annie? The musical number in the premiere (which was, of course, happening in Jeff's head) suggested that it might be, and their conversation in the Model U.N. episode made it clear that that's how they're thinking - but also that they realize it's kind of weird and icky. And Community fans seem quite divided over whether the ickiness outweighs everything else, whether the show should even go there at all.

First, about that ick factor: yes, he's significantly older than she is and has a lot more life experience. The show often codes him as an adult and her as a child. To some extent, though, I think both Jeff's cynical world-weariness and Annie's determined naivete are personas they put on to preserve certain images and protect themselves. And by the standards of TV relationships viewers are asked to accept and often root for, this is nothing. She's well past the age of consent and he's not her teacher or her boss. Neither of them are running around killing people or hurting each other. Sure, one or both might come out of this with a broken heart, but come on, this is college. That's what's supposed to happen.

For me, the potential ickiness is outweighed by the reasons why their relationship seems natural and the ways that they actually seem to be good for each other. Again, this is college, and Jeff is exactly the guy a girl like Annie would go for. (And really, under everything, Jeff is a pretty decent person, so Annie could do much worse for her "bad boy" phase.) Other than perhaps Abed, they're the most intellectual of the group, so the pairing is natural from that standpoint. Sure, Jeff is presented as a slacker and cheat, but don't forget that on another show, this same basic character would be - and is, actually, hi Suits! - presented as a brilliant boy wonder who used his innate talents to con his way into a prestigious career.

But most importantly, they seem to actually care about each other and be good for each other. When Jeff is with Britta, she feeds into his cynicism and they fall into a spiral of negativity, but Annie calls Jeff on his nonsense and makes him admit that a lot of the cynicism is an act. And Jeff protects Annie to an extent but also makes her engage with the real world. They see through each others' acts, which allows them to relate in a more genuine way with each other than with almost anyone else. And really, that alone is reason enough for the show to give this relationship a try.