Romance novels have predictable endings (happily-ever-after for old-timey ones and happy-for-now in contemporaries), but they still should contain solid writing, and that precludes older than dirt cliches. Some romance novelists are much better writers than others ~ one way to tell right off the bat is if they avoid cliches and keep their writing fresh as a daisy.
It’s so off-putting to see the hero lazily described as having a chiseled jawline or with hair black as night. Ugh! And I don’t want to read that the heroine grows weak in the knees when he kisses her, nor do I want the kisses to be described as soul-shattering. It’s so boring I’d rather watch paint dry.
Some of my friends are huge Gilligan’s Island fans, but I never got into it. A big reason for that is suspension of disbelief, which for me is intensely subjective. While I had no problem believing that Jeannie was a genie or Samantha a witch, I couldn’t stand the fact that Ginger and Mary Ann were BAKING PIES on the island with no electricity, flour, etc. And not just any old pies either, but fluffy coconut cream pies. How did they get the milk to make the cream? It just bugged me so much. Why didn’t the women ever run out of makeup and hair products, not to mention you-know? What did they do for their “time of the month?” Mrs. Howell excepted. I’d rather have actual magic.
As an aside, not that it matters, but it also irritated me when people (men) would say they preferred the wholesome “Mary Ann” type as if she didn’t wear a ton of makeup and carefully style her hair. She may not have been wearing a glittering evening gown a la Ginger, but her look was just as deliberate. It’s funny how people (men) think Mary Ann looks “natural.” In my novel that no one read, I had the drug dealer/buyer go through this whole Ginger/Mary Ann routine that I thought was pretty damn funny. In fact, I had more fun writing my drug dealer dialog than the romantic leads, which may give you a clue as to why my romance writing career never took off.
Anyway, speaking of suspension of disbelief, I recently read a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The original book has a “logical” reason for the prince’s transformation and it makes sense how he grows to love and be loved in his beastly form. But this one had nothing that made sense. Some things were enchanted and some weren’t ~ magic happened when it was convenient to the story and arbitrarily disappeared when it was inconvenient. I have no idea why the writer thought this was an improvement on the original. She didn’t take a different angle as far as the moral of the story or anything else. And it took forever for the plot to get to the magic forest/castle, etc.; there was all this other gobble about Beauty’s father’s shipping business and her sisters blah blah blah. Annoying. The heroine was a redhead in this version ~ a “ginger,” as they say in England, which returns us to the theme of this post.
I had to research this post by checking in WP admin because everything in my mind is one gigantic blur. This probably has more to do with my age and general spaciness than the plague though…
Anyway, Dr Tanya, here are 5 movies/shows I enjoyed this year. Mostly I am copypasta-ing from prior posts. 🤩
1. The Duchess. This British drama starring Kiera Knightly and Ralph Fiennes is directed by Saul Dibb. It’s based on the married life of a real person, Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. Amanda Foreman wrote the biography upon which the movie is based. Michael O’Connor won the Academy Award for Best Costume ~ and the costumes are stunning. This is not a romance novel come to life, though it appears to begin as one. As time goes on, I keep hoping for happily ever after for the Duchess, but happiness seems to elude her at every turn. She has a wealthy and protected life, with every whim indulged, and we don’t dive into the problems of ordinary Englishmen in this film… one ought to be aware. But it is also true, and this is brought home to us a few times, that Georgiana’s life of luxury could be taken away at any point because her husband holds the key to everything. He gets to have a lover (as many as he pleases) when bored with marriage; she does not. Etc. There is criticism that the film is slow-moving, which I suppose it is, but I enjoyed it very much.
But if I want a story about a duke who is not only handsome and powerful but also a good lover/husband, I will have to read a Regency…
2. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Completely forgot that S10 had come on, yayyy! Oh, this is a treat. Larry is back in top neurotic, cranky form, and each episode is hilarious in and of itself, yet they’re all loosely connected too. What I love about Curb is they aren’t afraid to be absolutely outrageous to the extreme. You simply can’t predict the ridiculousness that will saturate the writing and dialogue. My favorite may have been Adolph the dog, but it’s really hard to choose. I highly recommend this to anyone with a sense of the absurd (and if you don’t mind liberal use of the F-word).
3. Life Itself. This movie killed me. I cried all the way through ~ I don’t mean a single elegant tear rolled down my cheek… no, I literally sobbed. Maybe I should have saved it for a less fragile time when my nerves weren’t so jangled up already. But too late! What’s weird is that some days, for hours and hours, I feel almost numb from this isolation. I just freaking persevere. Hey, it’s mid-April. We’re doing it. We’re getting through it. Maybe things, for most of us, will be all right. I don’t know. Yet, I started watching this film and… blammo!
It’s hard to begin talking about Life Itself without giving anything away. The whole thing is about plot twists. It’s a writer’s movie, which explains why critics hated it. They always scorn writers’ movies. They despised Alex & Emma, which was clever and charming. Life Itself is primarily about unreliable narration. How do you know what really happened? The story is as only as true as the memory of the storyteller. When Will is telling Abby’s story to Cait, we aren’t sure what to believe. Can we trust Will when we know he’s mentally ill? Even if he is relaying the story accurately, what about Abby? How do we know she told the truth to Will? I find these sorts of dilemmas fascinating.
Life Itself is about stories layered within stories and on top of stories ~ it is a tragic yet beautiful layer cake of stories. It’s full of despair, yet love shines through too. You think you can’t bear any more and then… it’s good again. I loved this movie so much I wanted to stay up forever and write my own stories. That’s how I feel when I watch or read something that resonates with me on a deep emotional level.
Mmm, I love layers…
4. Of course I watched Chicago again this year! It’s one of my all-time faves. I adore Catherine Zeta Jones in anything, and this whole movie is just so freaking excellent. Who knew Richard Gere could sing? Right? What’s interesting is I can’t stand Renee Zellweger in anything else. Nothing. She’s so annoying. But this I love. And Queen Latifah knocks it out of the park. Stellar casting! 🤩
5. Mamma Mia (1 and 2… cheating lol). Love these two musicals! So much fun. The fact that they made two movies out of ABBA songs is amazing. They should do this with other bands I like, such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Anyway, the first one is about 20 year old Sophie trying to figure out which one of 3 men is her bio-dad. She feels the need to do this before she gets married. Her mom Donna (Meryl Streep!) is not a fan of the plan, especially when Sophie invites all three possibilities to Donna’s hotel right before the wedding. Hijinks ensue!
The second movie is Donna’s backstory of how she, an English girl, ended up owning a hotel on this obscure little Greek island. Young Donna is played by Lily James who is so great. We meet everyone else’s younger selves too and it’s all totally hilarious. If you like pure silliness, I highly recommend both.
And that’s a wrap!
PS: I also enjoyed Vivarium, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (have seen it multiple times), Dear Viola, Last Christmas, That Thing You Do, etc.
Rory continues his prompt series with four new questions for us…
Before computers, Smartphones and so on what were you using when writing your stories and creating your literature?
I used a typewriter or a pen and paper. But I didn’t get much done due to my OCD issues. I kept starting over when I made a mistake or had an edit.
What type of games do you enjoying playing online?
With friends (over Zoom), lately I’ve been enjoying Dixit, Codenames, Taboo, and Tribond. I bought Ticket to Ride (app) but lost interest. I also started playing Words with Friends again, plus Word Blitz and Quiz Planet ~ those are all one on one via Facebook. I also play various solitaire games until I get tired of them.
What age were you when you first started reading and what were you reading at that age?
I dunno… maybe 5. My favorite book was Artie the Smartie, about a fish. Actually, most of the books I enjoyed as a kid were about animals. Then at 12 I discovered romance novels…
How do you prevent boredom entering into your life and are you able to list 6 effective ways in which others could introduce to stop it from entering theirs?
Boredom is a nonissue for me now that I’m older and have the internet. There’s always something new to read! There are also a ton of movies I’d like to see. And of course all my writing projects are waiting for me. Idk what others should do to alleviate boredom ~ I’m not good at giving advice.
PCGuyIV continues his Truthful Tuesday prompt with some questions about books.
Do you have a favorite author? If so, who and why? If not, why not?
I have several! For romance novels, I love Jennifer Crusie. She creates very multi-dimensional characters. When I’m in the mood for a detective story, I like the late Lawrence Sanders, especially his Delaney and McNally series. When I want to read a short story, Ray Carver is my guy. He packs so much meaning into so few words. I also enjoy novels and short stories by Haruki Murakami… they’re a bit weird in a good way. And Robert Frost is my favorite poet. Hard to explain “why” with poetry!
What was the first book you remember enjoying reading?
Arty the Smarty! It was about a fish. Let me see if I can find it… Yes! Amazon has it for $149. Yipes, wish I’d kept my little books. 💰
What three books best sum up your taste in literature?
Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It (romance). Ray Carver’s Where I’m Calling From (literary fiction/short stories). The Third Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders (murder/drama/police work).
Welcome to Blog Carnelli! This is a fun, no-pressure, no time limit prompt. The idea is to use the six degrees of separation concept (that everyone is only six or fewer people away from Kevin Bacon) to connect books, movies, and songs.
Today I’m starting with the last item from my Six Degrees 2 post. That was the novel My Trashy Romance by Terry Black. I’m using the word black to connect to the first entry in this post.
1. “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. This 1966 song has darkly themed lyrics about depression and death. It’s one of their greatest hits, maybe because most people can relate to feeling hopeless from time to time.
2. The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. This is a suspense novel centered upon a Degas painting that the heroine has been commissioned to reproduce. She suspects that the piece is itself a forgery and becomes involved in a tangle of lies and thieves.
3. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie. This romance novel is a fun romp through the world of art fakes and forgeries. Tilda, the heroine, and many other characters are constantly pretending to be people they aren’t.
4. We’re the Millers, a filmstarring Jennifer Aniston. This comedy centers on a drug dealer who needs to go to Mexico and pick up a shipment or else be killed. To be inconspicuous, he recruits a stripper (Jen) and a couple random teenagers to pose as a family.
5. “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band. This 1976 song talks about revolution and the impoverished. Yet, despite these heavy themes, the narrator would prefer to simply fly away to the sea and be free of it all.
6. Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien. This is a heartfelt story of a little broken bird and the biologist who cares for him his whole life. It’s a love story and it’s wonderful. I highly recommend it.
Okay then. That wraps up my third post on Blog Carnelli. I hope you enjoyed it and will join in with your own. Since I want to keep track of my connections in order not to repeat any, I created this handy little table in Word. In real Carnelli, if you repeat any item in a round, you are out of the game.
1. Today I’m taking the last entry from my previous post (“Folsom Prison Blues”) and using the theme of feeling stuck (a word in FBP’s lyrics). One of my favorite songs, “Hotel California,” also has a trapped theme. It’s by the Eagles. Initially the narrator feels welcome at the HC, but eventually realizes there is no escape. The song includes the line this could be heaven or this could be hell.
2. The 2019 movie Vivarium (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) also switches from the idea of something that seems great to the realization that it’s horrible. A young couple go to look at their possible dream home with an estate agent. He disappears and the couple is left stranded in a maze of horror. They are forced to raise a baby who may be some kind of demon from hell (or an alien).
3. Speaking of hellish homes, I present We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. What’s going on here? Is this creepy family dead or alive? I enjoyed this psychological horror story very much. I also love a story told by an unreliable narrator. The novel has two sisters as main characters.
4. One of my favorite romcoms, 27 Dresses, features two sisters dealing with their romances. They are first of all in love with the same man (for a while) and second must untangle themselves from various deceptions. It’s a funny and sweet film.
5. “Alice’s Restaurant” repeats the lyric 27 glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one to be used as evidence against us. Those were pictures of the heap of trash that the narrator and a friend illegally added to on Thanksgiving. This is a war protest song by Arlo Guthrie about the Vietnam draft, among other things.
6. My Trashy Romance is a fun story about a trash collector who falls for a librarian. Initially, they hit it off, but she discovers something that upsets her, so she breaks up with him. But does he win her back? This witty novel is written by my real-life friend Terry Black.
Okay, that’s it for my second six degrees / blog Carnelli post and I will continue on at some future date…
I found this fun challenge at Sandmanjazz. As I did with the books (not the bingo, but the 30 days), I’m going to do these movies in blocks. So instead of a post a day for 30 days, I’ll have 6 posts total. Here’s my fifth set of films…
21. You’ve Got Mail and 27 Dresses are tied for my favorite romcoms… and they both make me want to fall in love. They have that standard romance novel trope of mistaken identity, but I’m not tired of it. Unlike other tropes (switching places, time travel, misunderstood eavesdropping, etc.), mistaken identity stories still appeal to me. You fall in love with someone, not knowing who they really are, but when the truth is finally revealed, you love them even more. Why I like this the best, idk. Probably some freudian thing…
22. Fantasy-world films, like most sci-fi, do not normally appeal to me. But there are always exceptions. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’s was a fantasy film I loved.
23. Risky Business means a lot to me. Weird, right? I have nothing in common with any of those characters. But I knew people like them. The idea that Joel’s hard work meant nothing to the Princeton recruiter, but setting the dude up with a hooker got him in… well, that just sums up our effed-up values as a society, doesn’t it? Even I go ooh Ivy League to this day until I step back for a second and remind myself of (waves arms) everything.
24. I don’t normally care about directors ~ I like what I like. But Rob Reiner and Martin Scorsese happened to have directed a large number of my faves. Since I’ve already mentioned a few of RR’s films (WHMS, Alex & Emma), I will give Marty a shout-out here. Goodfellas is in my top 5 favorite films of all time, and it’s a Scorsese-directed flick. I do rewatch it frequently. Don’t forget After Hours though, a super weird dark comedy with no mafia characters. It is also one of Marty’s and I love it.
25. A film that inspired me? Hmm. Hidden Figures was pretty inspiring, not that I could relate to it personally, since I don’t struggle for anything because lazy. If it’s difficult, I give up. But I appreciate how others keep fighting for their dreams.