Top Ten Reads of 2012

Happy new year

Happy new year (Photo credit: Amodiovalerio Verde)

 

I don’t write reviews. I don’t begrudge other authors that right, but I choose not to for a wide variety of reasons. What I do, however, is pick a top ten list each year and to those books I give five stars at Goodreads

This year my top ten in the chronological order that I read them with a brief blurb about what I loved:

1. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

OK, I read ’em all and really enjoyed all three. So there! My favorite was the second book because in that book, Anna and Christian do a one-eighty in emotional power which ultimately puts them on an even footing and drives their connection into the deepest layers possible. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a series about BDSM or sex, but about an intense emotion attachment between two very dissimilar people. While Anna is more a blank slate / insert your innocent self here character, Christian is the character that made the book a hit with me.

2. White Horse by Alex Adams

What a creepy post-apocalyptic world Alex created. A virus dubbed White Horse has decimated most of the population and those it hasn’t killed, it has mutated into horrific beings. Sounds like a lot of post-apocalyptic stories doesn’t it? The protagonist was what made this one a win for me–she is pregnant on a journey to reunite with the baby’s father. That and the “Before” and “After” storytelling method used.

3. Want by Stephanie Lawton

Want is about forbidden love between a piano prodigy and her much older instructor. Both characters are horribly flawed and the narrator/protagonist is merely a teenager with a history of abuse and neglect. As much as Stephanie made you seethe with anger at Isaac, the nearly thirty piano instructor, he was sinfully charismatic, too. Want is from the New Adult age group of books of which I am a big fan.

4. Theory of Attraction by Delphina Dryden

I adore brainiac heroes who are socially inept. Make him a high-functioning autistic with control issues that translate into some pretty steamy BDSM and I’m a goner.

5. About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

This was a perfect balance of completely amazing writing skill (filled with the right amount of humor and lovely word arrangements) and captivating plot. A buttoned-up Brit falls for a seemingly carefree American. OK, sort of a good boy / bad girl vibe…but only at first. What I loved about the characters was that while they appeared to be polar opposites on the outside on the inside they were kindred spirits.

6. Deep Desires by Charlotte Stein

Another one about a damaged hero (see Theory of Attraction) that I adored. I am a newcomer to the Charlotte Stein fan party but I’m ready to dance on the table. Nobody does first person as thoroughly and exhaustively deep as Charlotte.

7. Bared to You by Sylvia Day

I picked this up for free on my cruise ship this summer and decided to read it to see what all the fuss was about. As far as controlling billionaire stories go, this one ranks up there. The heroine is, if possible, even more flawed than the hero–shades of Wuthering Heights and Liz Taylor / Richard Burton in terms of tempestuous can’t live with him/her, can’t live without him/her.

8. What I Did for a Duke by Julie Ann Long

The most beautiful and drool-worthy period writer I discovered this year thanks to Dear Author and Goodreads (who are breaking my bank with all their excellent recommendations). A hero with an axe to grind chooses an innocent as his victim to do the most comparable harm to the man who cuckholded him…only the heroine is not at all what he expects. I loved watching the hero’s anger and thirst for revenge slowly dry up and turn into a different sort of hunger. Sigh.

9. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

A fantastic debut YA novel that was initially self-published. That underdog start captivated me at first. The hero, Josh picked up and ran away with the rest. I love two wounded souls finding their salve in each other. This also has the best final sentence of any book I think I have ever read, a sentence that those who skip to the end to read will never understand or appreciate without having read all the sentences that precede it.

10. Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas

I almost didn’t choose this one because one theme–the hero’s eight years of taking mistresses during his platonic marriage to the heroine–disturbed me greatly. But, allowing that both parties to that marriage agreed to it at the inception, I looked past it because I don’t think I have ever shed as many tears over a book as I did reading this one. Ever! I’m still a little pissed at the hero, but my empathy for the heroine makes up for it.

Alas with only ten to choose, I had some very close also-rans of:

  • The Duke’s Tattoo by Miranda Davis
  • Disarm series by June Gray
  • The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
  • Seducing the Beast by Jayne Fresina
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
  • Tempting the Player by J. Lynn
  • Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

And many, many more delightful nuggets from author friends and publishing siblings including: Sandra Bunino, Diane Dooley, L.S. Murphy, and many, many more

Thanks also to those wonderful reviewers who took a chance and read my debut novel and even extended a helping hand to a new author (as well as to my alter ego, Lila Shaw, who also debuted this year):  Tasmanian Jill from Goodreads, Julie Ramsey, Erzabet’s Enchantments, Ursula, The To Be Read Pile, Book Wenches, You Gotta Read Reviews, Jeanz Reviews, Jennifer Eaton, Jeep Diva, Guilty Indulgence, Never Ending Stories, Terri Rochenski, R Brennan…and so many other individual reviewers.

Huge, huge, huge thanks to my publishers:  J Taylor Publishing and Evernight Publishing who have been amazingly supportive.

Lastly, thank YOU to all my readers who read my books or visited my blogs, whether you left comments or reviews or not. I appreciate any time you gave me. Truly.

Happy New Year!!

 

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Holy Remake, Batman! Movies That Work. Movies That Don’t

 

Some movies are classics–destined to be remade. We never tire of watching the same old story told over and over every few years with different actors. Other movies, however, are so iconic it would be blasphemous to even consider remaking them, and if there have been remakes, who remembers them?

Let’s take a look at a few from each category, why they do or don’t lend themselves to remakes and the pitfalls to avoid with an otherwise foolproof classic formula.

Green light, top view (Photo credit: mag3737)

Remake = Green Light

Anything by Jane Austen

pride and prejudice

pride and prejudice (Photo credit: Apostolos Letov)

Pride and Prejudice tops my list of hard to mess up movies. I growl at and sigh over every Mr. Darcy (David Rintoul—1980, Colin Firth—1995, Matthew Macfadyen 2005) and root for every Elizabeth Bennett (Elizabeth Garvie—1980, Jennifer Ehle—1995, Kiera Knightly—2005) no matter who portrays them. All that’s necessary to kindle my affection is for Darcy to be a “great tall fellow” with a prejudicial attitude and Elizabeth to be a sharp-tongued beauty with an excess of pride. Darcy and Elizabeth are the ultimate antagonistic lovers in denial. He is the consummate snob who, despite his better judgment, falls for a woman with deplorable relations. When Darcy finally declares himself, Elizabeth gives him a boot up the ass until he proves his worth. How can you go wrong with that? For the most part a filmmaker can’t and won’t so long as he or she remains faithful to the original material and follows a few edicts:

  • Thou shalt not modernize the dialogue, embellish or abridge the story.
  • Thou shalt not beat the viewer over the head with subtleties hinted at but not necessarily focused on by Ms. Austen.
Cover of "Mansfield Park (1999)"

Cover of Mansfield Park (1999)

In violation of these edicts is the 1999 version of Mansfield Park, starring Francis O’Connor as Fanny. This is a story of a woman adopted into wealth who witnesses the romantic maneuverings of her foster siblings while facing her own challenges. The movie depicts shocking scenes of the heroine walking in on an adulterous couple in flagrante delicto. I like the sexy as much as anyone else, but not in a Jane Austen movie. Sorry, but, no. In addition, the film’s heavy underscoring of slavery was another misstep. Slavery, while a reality in Ms. Austen’s time, was merely hinted at in the book. Ms. Austen did a bang up job with her tales of societal mores and manners by circling what needed to be circled and subtly tilting her head at what she preferred to leave unsaid. Keep your crayons between the lines please.

Superhero movies

Superman

Comic book heroes translate exceedingly well to film and usually improve as computerized and other special effects grow in sophistication. We want these movies to be made over. No diss intended to the late Christopher Reeves, but I’m looking forward to seeing Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel, not only because he’s a delicious bo-hunk of a man but because I look forward to the special effects. Superman in 2013 for the win!

Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters

Speaking of special effects, the 2011 version of Green Lantern, starring the ever-tasty Ryan Reynolds featured remarkable computer effects. For much of the film Ryan’s head was superimposed on a computer-generated body. So as a pitfall to beware, it is possible to take CG a little too far. Mr. Reynolds’ body is his best feature. Green screening it into oblivion was just wrong.

Another key to keeping comic book hero stories on the winning side of the coin is to stick to the tropes established in the comic books. Don’t dress Superman in silk boxers and a fishnet t-shirt or give Clark Kent wire-rimmed aviator glasses. Batman’s sidekick is his male ward, Robin, not a smart-alack street urchin. Comic book readers are pretty persnickety about their heroes. Filmmakers should avoid flipping them off.

Red emergency light (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remake = Red light

Please Mr. Producer, please, please, never remake any of the following movies or I will haunt you from beyond the grave.

The Technicolor Classics:

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland (1939), is noteworthy as one of the first motion pictures in color (most of it). One of the best-known films of all time, the L Frank Baum classic infused its DNA into our popular culture. Who hasn’t said, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” or “I’ll get you, my pretty!” Though Broadway spawned an adaptation called The Wiz (1974, which was later made into a film in 1975), the differences were significant enough to avoid a jihad. I’ve never seen a remake of The Wizard of Oz nor do I wish to.

Cover of "Gone with the Wind"Gone With the Wind(1939) is another Technicolor movie starring Vivienne Leigh and Clark Gable and is based on the Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name. With a heroine equally admirable as she is detestable and a virile blackguard hero with enough logged Stairmaster hours to sweep a woman up a tall flight of stairs for some ravishment, what’s not to love? Throw in breathtaking settings and costumes, and you’ve got an epic full of win.

Cover of "This is Spinal Tap (Special Edi...
A more modern induction into Claire’s “Break the Mold, Please” museum is This is Spinal Tap(1984). If you’ve never seen this film, I will personally come to your home and make you watch it. I’ll even pop the corn while you queue up the DVD. Parody at its finest by some of comedy’s most elegantly subdued but brilliant, this “mockumentary” about a heavy metal hair band brought all new meanings to “eleven” and “Stonehenge”. I cannot even bear to imagine this film in the hands of any other than Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and a huge cast of cameo actors.

Alas, the older I get, the more I see remakes of movies that debuted in my youth. I can be a curmudgeon and shake my fist at the infidels, or I can assess my level of sentimental attachment to the original, and determine if my love is for the story or for its depiction. If the former, remake with my blessing. If the latter, well…I think I’ll stay home and read a good book instead.