Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reviewlet: "Secrets of a Summer Night"

At Kel's urging, I finally picked up a Lisa Kleypas romance novel! I decided to read "Secrets of a Summer Night," the first in the Wallflowers series, mainly because it's what was at the library at the time. But I'm glad I picked it up because it was quite a delightful little book!

"Secrets of a Summer Night" follows Annabelle Payton, a beautiful, aristocratic young woman during the Victorian era who, unfortunately, has no dowery and, therefore, is pretty much destined to spinsterhood. But Annabelle is determined to avoid that fate, and to save her destitute family - her mother and brother. Annabelle and her three other wallflower friends - Evie, Daisy and Lillian - hatch a plan to get her married off to a member of the aristocracy.

However, as fate would have it, Annabelle can't help falling for exactly the wrong man - Simon Hunt, an industrialist from a firmly middle-class family.

I really enjoyed "Secrets of a Summer Night." The story was good, and I loved the way that the plot unfolded. There was a real sense of urgency in Annabelle's situation, and that helped the book clip along at a really good pace. Annabelle is a very likable character, even when I had to roll my eyes at her for constantly rejecting Simon in favor of boring old aristocrats. It really speaks to Kleypas' good writing that I always understood Annabelle's motivations, even when I vehemently disagreed with what she did. I also absolutely LOVED Simon, who was a very well-fleshed-out and interesting character. He comes across as a haughty rogue in the beginning of the book, but throughout we get to see his tender side, his passionate side, his caring side, his wounded side, his ornery side, and on and on.

"Secrets of a Summer Night" is also a very sexy, sensual book. There is a LOT of delicious sexual tension between Annabelle and Simon, and although it takes a long time for a real payoff, it doesn't matter because the buildup is so much fun! Oh, but when it pays off, it PAYS OFF. Good stuff - just what I want from a romance novel.

"Secrets of a Summer Night" was an easy, breezy, fun summer read that I really enjoyed. I'm already looking forward to reading the other three books in the series, which is always a good sign! I strongly encourage anyone who likes romance to check it out!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: "50 Shades of Grey"

I finally did it - I joined the ranks of millions of women who have read "50 Shades of Grey" by E L James.

(Image from Wikipedia)

I have to say, despite a myriad of problems, I enjoyed the book. As Kel said when I was describing it, it was like those off-brand M&Ms in trail mix - it really isn't that great, but it's chocolate, so it's still tasty and you still want to keep eating them. Not only did I keep turning the page, I am planning to read the other two books in the trilogy.

The book follows Anastasia Steele, a recent college graduate, and her relationship with multimillionaire CEO Christian Grey. But Christian is, by his own admission, 50 shades of fucked up. He has commitment issues and a love of controlling people, and that is played out in his enjoyment of BDSM. He is a dominant, and he wants Anastasia to be his new submissive. However, Christian's relationship with Ana is different from all of his others - he does things way outside of his sphere, like have normal sex with her and introduce her to his parents. Ana, meanwhile, falls hard for Christian, despite the fact she knows that she's probably going to get hurt - both physically, because of his love of spanking, paddling and tying her up, and emotionally, because he's distant and emotionally scarred.

Christian Grey is an interesting character, and I'll admit that part of the reason I want to read the other two books is because I want to know more about him. He's a character with a background that plays out in interesting ways in his life - not only in his sex life, but also in his career, his relationship with his family, and the way he reacts to Anastasia when they're not having sex. It is sort of annoying that he is obscenely rich and incredibly gorgeous, though.

Unfortunately, Anastasia is much less interesting to me. She's kind of boring and she is comically naive. My favorite is her reaction when she wakes up from a sex dream about Christian (page 231):
What the hell just happened? I'm in my bedroom alone. How? Why? I sit bold upright shocked ... wow. It's morning. I glance at my alarm clock - eight o'clock. I put my head in my hands. I didn't know I could dream sex. Was it something I ate? Perhaps the oysters and my Internet research manifesting itself in my first wet dream. It's bewildering. I had no idea that I could orgasm in my sleep.
OK, I could understand her never having actually had a sex dream, since she was an innocent virgin before she met Christian. But she didn't even know it was possible!? I admit, I laughed out loud. That's sort of Ana in a nutshell - epically innocent to the point of being obtuse. At times, I just had to shake my head.

Also, I get tired of Ana talking about how ugly she is. I can understand being a little shy about your body or your looks, especially when you're dating somebody impossibly gorgeous, but I get tired of hearing about it.

I have gone back and forth about whether I like the whole BDSM aspect of the novels. I'm definitely not really into that scene, in the sense that being dominated doesn't trip my trigger, and since the novel is from Ana's perspective, the descriptions of being spanked, hit, paddled, tied up, etc., don't strike me as particularly erotic. However, I like the way it's handled, and, objectively, if you're into being a submissive woman in the bedroom, "50 Shades of Grey" is probably one of the best ways to read about that - better than some romance novels that use rape in an attempt to get that same feel. It's much better that the woman has agreed to everything happening to her and has ways to get out of it if she's not into it anymore. Progress!

Really, the whole BDSM, dominant/submissive relationship between Christian and Ana is even more interesting when you know that the novels started out as "Twilight" fanfiction. I am intrigued by the idea of Bella actually verbally and contractually agreeing to be submissive to Edward, as opposed to him simply doing it and her acting like it is normal. In some ways, I think the relationship in "50 Shades of Grey," as screwed up as it is, is more healthy for impressionable people to read than "Twilight" because at least the weird power dynamic is discussed, sometimes in excruciating detail. Of course, we'll see where the other two novels go, because I'm interested to see whether we get into a storyline about Ana "fixing" Christian through the power of her love for him, which can be a bad idea in a real relationship.

Overall, the sex scenes are well-written enough and diverse enough that there's really something for most peoples' tastes here. Yes, there are several BDSM scenes, but there are other sex scenes, too, that are more traditional. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the diversity, because the rest of the book doesn't really do that. I think James spend so much time writing diverse sex scenes, she didn't really spend the time she needed to make the rest of the book good. She uses the same clunky turns of phrase throughout the book. It's easy to do - I've written enough fiction to know how easy it is to make your character wink or smirk 700,000 times - but editing should have fixed some of those problems. Of course, "50 Shades of Grey" was originally self-published, but it would have been good for James to have had somebody else read over it before she released it, because it is in need of some work.

So, is "50 Shades of Grey" really the shockingly sexy "mommy porn" that breathless news reports have made it out to be. Well, I'm not a huge reader of romance novels, but "50 Shades" didn't particularly shock me. There were quite a few sex scenes, and there were a couple of times when I found myself thinking, "Really? Again?" because they had literally just finished having sex. But "50 Shades" is not porn. I am not even sure it is erotica, because I am not sure where the line between romance and erotica is. Number of sex scenes? Number of descriptive words? Number of sex positions?

What I really think happened was that people who hadn't read romance in a while read "50 Shades of Grey" and were shocked by how much more descriptive it was than romance novels from the '80s and early '90s. People I know who read modern romance novels haven't been shocked by the descriptions of sex in the book, so I figure it must be sort of generational.

The graphic descriptions, plus the fact that the book describes something more than vanilla sex and it's connected to the marketing juggernaut that is "Twilight," makes it different and notable enough to spark interest and cause concern. It's all a bunch of needless hype, really, but, hey, it's also a damn fun read.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"True Blood" Recap: When Eric Met Bill

I have to admit that, amid all the plotlines on "True Blood" this season (and there are many), my favorite, favorite, favorite scenes are the ones with Bill and Eric. They crack me up.

What I liked especially this week, though, was a scene with Bill and Eric that wasn't part of their current Authority plot. Rather, it was in one of Pam's dreams, during which she keeps revealing the story of how Eric turned her into a vampire.

The year was 1905, and brothel-owner Pam has been having trouble with vampires draining her girls. In strolls the dashing Eric, who, despite having his pick of the "merchandise," wants Pam. She agrees, but only if Eric rids her brothel of the vampires menace. Eric bursts in on Bill and his maker, Lorena, draining yet another girl, and chides her for not controlling her progeny.

Of course, this leads into Pam's plotline with biting and abandoning her new baby vampire, Tara, but we'll get to that in a minute. Let's just revel in the fact that we got to see the moment that Eric and Bill met. For some reason, that just made me giggle. Look how far they've come!

So, Pam is still basically ignoring Tara, although she continues to dream about getting turned by Eric. After they have sex (offscreen), Pam asks Eric to turn her. Eric tells her he won't, because it's a lot of responsibility, being a maker - the bond is eternal. Eric gets ready to leave, and when he looks up at Pam, she's slit her wrists and tells him to turn her or watch her die. We know how this is going to turn out ...

Tara: Tara, meanwhile, is not doing well as a vampire. She ran away from Sookie and Lafayette at the end of the last episode. She nearly eats a girl who is changing her tire, but stops at the last minute and runs to Merlotte's instead. Sam gives her bottle after bottle of TruBlood and stashes her in the walk-in for the morning. He is, naturally, mad at Sookie and Lafayette for turning her. Personally, I'm ready for Pam to seek out her baby vampire and teach her how to kick some major ass. Oh, and at the end of the episode, Tara tries to kill herself in a tanning booth. Nooo! Tara!

Pam: When she's not dreaming about Eric, Pam is moping over Eric and running Fangtasia. Sookie shows up and begs her to help Tara, but she refuses, so Sookie zaps her with her fairy magic. Oh, and Pam can feel Tara killing herself! Save her!

The Pelts: Debbie Pelt's parents are looking for their daughter. First, they go to Andy, who interrogates Sookie and gets absolutely no information, then they go to Alcide. He confronts Sookie, and she tells him the story. I do like that Sookie doesn't really feel a lot of remorse, even though she probably should, because Debbie was absolutely batshit. Also, Lafayette is super freaked about them looking for Debbie, since he was an accomplice. Anyway, Alcide is mainly just pissed that Sookie didn't tell him what happened. C'mon, Sookie - find comfort in Alcide's big, manly arms!

Jason: Jason, Jason, Jason. What will we do with you? Still confused by his relationship with Jessica, he runs into Miss Steeler, a teacher with whom he had an inappropriate relationship. After she apologizes for their relationship and Jason hears about her life - divorced and living with a cat named Prince Charming - they have sex (again, offscreen). Then, he realizes that it was a mistake, their relationship really was inappropriate, his relationships are always toxic ... and he mopes some more.

Jessica: While trying on clothes, Jessica smells somebody epically tasty, who immediately runs. It's a male, presumably a fairy. Is this Claude, Sookie's cousin from the books? IMDB says it is!!!! (I LOVE Claude!) Anyway, she tries to find him, but he's gone (off to the fae world?) ... so she goes to Jason's house to use him as her own personal bucking bronco. But Jason isn't having it ... he's not happy with their fuck-buddy relationship. He tells Jessica he can't be friends with a woman because he doesn't know how, and she offers to put on a pair of his sweats, grab a beer and talk like friends.

Andy, Lafayette, Terry, etc.: Sheriff Andy didn't do much this week, but there was a pretty great little subplot about a picture of his naked ass showing up on Facebook, thanks to Holly's ornery boys. He also asked Holly to go steady, and she said, "Yes!" D'aww! Lafayette dumps bleach into some gumbo, then looks in the mirror and sees the brujo's face and dumps it out. Terry and his war buddy are going to go find their other war buddy, much to Arlene's chagrin. 

Bill and Eric and the Authority: I'm saving the best for last ... the Authority! Roman and the chancellors try to figure out what to do about Russell Edgington not being dead - specifically, how that's going to affect their public relations. So, they bring in their new Nan Flanagan ... none other than Steve Newlin!!!! He tells Roman, basically, it's all good - he can handle it.

Bill and Eric, meanwhile, are firmly in the grips of the Authority. They are fitted with iStakes, ingenious little harnesses that keep a stake right on their heart, which can poke into their hearts at a moment's notice. ("There's an app for that," the tech tells them.) It also tracks their every movement.

Another Authority member, Salome, tries to determine that Bill and Eric are trustworthy by having sex with them - first Bill, then Eric. Again, other than a few fully clothed thrusts, most of the fun was offscreen, which, WTF, "True Blood?" I demand more naked!

What was really fantastic was when they both realized they'd slept with the same woman. Bill's line was classic: "You know what they say about gentlemen ... they don't brag about sloppy seconds." They shared a little laugh and smirk about the whole thing, which I loved. I didn't think I was going to like the boys without Sookie around, but I really, really do.

Anyway, we also find out that Salome vouched for Nora, who admits to being a Sanguinista (vampire supremacist/fundamentalist), so naturally she's worried, and she and Roman talk about whether Bill and Eric are trustworthy as Roman and Salome get ready for some nookie. We FINALLY get Christopher Meloni's shirt off - score! - but again with the cutaway before sex. I expect a good scene next week, writers, preferably featuring Joe Manganiello, although Alexander Skarsgaard would be acceptable.

Verdict: I would watch a show with just Eric and Bill. They are the best part of the show! I'm really hoping that next week they get to go hunting for Russell Edgington. Pretty much the entire show, Bill and Eric have had an antagonistic relationship, but I love seeing them working together. Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgaard have great chemistry onscreen, and I love their scenes together!

After the very exciting first week, we've had a couple of slightly down weeks. It makes sense, because there's a lot to set up, but I'm ready for some payoffs to start - finding Russell, Pam and Tara bonding over being badass chicks, Alcide not wearing clothes, etc. There's also a lot of plotlines, and now we've apparently added another one with Claude showing up. Maybe he was just a way to get Jessica horny enough to go to Jason's, but if he is indeed going to be in this season, then we are possibly "biting off more than we can chew" (heh, bite). I'm hoping next week is going to amp up the action and the drama and the sex so we can get off and running with the season!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SYTYCD Audition Recap

New York

Amelia, Contemporary, Silent movie star look, good technique, great personality, can see her love of dance and passion through all her movements, great and very exciting solo choreography

Toshihiko Nakazawa, bit of everything, street dancer, fabulously crazy red hair, from intro package could go either way, has tons of control, has a very unique way of moving. not exactly smooth but also not overly popping, more entertaining than most people, quit during choreo

Austin Freeman, dancing the wiggle, whatever the hell that is, he looks like he should be a dual math and accounting major, I like him because he seems to self aware of how weirdly dorky he is, Tyce has bitchface on, the kid can't dance, but damn is he entertaining

Shafeek Westbrook, street entertainer, he has so much freaking strength, he is primal and animalistic yet at the same time amazingly graceful and ridiculously beautiful, I could watch him dance all day, watching him dance is like looking at a gorgeous piece of art

Leo Reyes, found his mom when she attempted suicide, auditioning so his mom can see him dance on stage, solid technique, but absolutely flawless storytelling and an amazing amount of passion, I also really like the R&B style of his dance, he is totally engaged on stage

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, trained ballet dancer from Switzerland, only trained in ballet but wants to not just do ballet, it is weird to me because his pure ballet technique is not the best I've seen, but his musicality is sick, he would not make it as a ballet dancer but I think he might really shine in this sort of show, the way he attacks his movements is amazing


Bree Hafen, has two kids including a 2 year old who loves to dance, feels guilty dancing because it takes time away from her family, she has almost a chaotic quality to her movement, there is something about her dancing that really touches me, just the passion in her face says it all, also her kids are amazingly adorable

Stepheon Stewart, zombie dancing, he is freaky yet funny, and the amount of control he has is just ridiculous, I love ridiculous street dancers like that, super buck

Hampton Williams, exorcist style, he is weird and chill and has pretty music, his dancing looks like if ballet went very very wrong, it is absolutely gorgeous to watch and some of the most purely powerful dancing I've ever seen, in a lot of ways it is super simple yet amazingly complicated, he is pure beauty and power

Daniel Baker, Australian, ballet dancer, his body is perfection, he is male ballet dancer perfection, graceful and manly, he looks so strong when he dances, it is not easy for men to look strong when they do ballet and he really really did

Sam Shreffler, on the autism spectrum but not necessarily autistic, listen, he is not going to get on the show, but he actually moves ok, he is exactly the kind of person that would be fun to dance with at a party or in a club (at least the kind of dancing I like to do), he also exemplifies how even if you are not good enough to be on a dance show that does not mean that you should not dance

Von Kipper, hates the show and doesn't want to be on the show, he's a bit of a prick, no? Cat Deeley puts the smack down on him for dissing the show, he is good at bboy, but he isn't anything special

Jarell Rochelle, is wearing suspenders which makes me adore him, his mom is adorable, he is pure performer, everything in his body and every movement has a purpose, and his smile makes everything even better, he has a gift of showmanship

Los Angeles

Alexa Anderson, made it to the green mile last season, she is basic contemporary, but her dancing is very dynamic and she really uses the whole stage, I like her but I don't feel like I'll remember her

"Johnny Waacks" Gibson, waacker, the best way I can describe waacking is that it always looks to me like it should be a 70s drag queen doing it, and Johnny is pure adorable, everything has gone innuendo! the waacking is fierce, but also he has some other dancing technique because his turns are decent, I think you could take that personality and that style of dance and mold it into something brilliant, dropped during choreo

Eliana Girard, contemporary audition but also does aerialist work, and went to the Joffrey, and is a pole dancer (not in a stripper way), she is so adorable and fun and I love her, she has some of the best en pointe work I have ever seen, and her extensions are unbelievable, I would watch her dance for hours, she has amazing grace and power

Nick & James, the Ninja Twins, they are like a super gay version of Jedward, and I really really like them, if they can't dance and don't get on the show, they need a show on Bravo, I think at 32 they are over the age limit, but I need them on my tv in one way or another, and really, they are good dancers, and entertaining as hell

Sam Lenarz, her mom kicked her out, she has a quietness to her dancing, a subtle quality that is usually ignored by dancers in exchange for power, and the entire dance seemed very sweet and hopeful

Caley Carr, surfer dude with an epic mustache, is a tap dancer, so adorable, he has amazingly clear tap sounds and a ridiculous amount of flare, he also has some other dance technique in there, I would enjoy watching him on my tv every week, dropped during choreo

Megan Branch, from her intro package I thought she was going to be a dance team girl, but she is really kind of quirky in her movement, almost like a Mark Kanemura lite mixed with a traditional contemporary dancer, she has good technique and is interesting to watch

Cole Horibe, has dance and martial arts background, which is usually combined with bboying, but he seems like he is going to be contemporary, this is very much league of extraordinary dancers shit, something not seem before and absolutely unique to him, he is like a bundle of power

David Matz, circus performer, does cool giant metal wheel work, sometimes with the wheel on fire! he just absolutely blew my mind, that is so gorgeous and fascination and I can't figure out the physics of it at all, but I want him to continue to dance for hours for me, dropped during choreo

Stephen Jacobson, ballet dancer, his audition was crap and ridiculous, he did a pseudo-ballet type bullshit, and then rightly got schooled by Nigel, his actual ballet is amazing, really some of the best technique I've seen

Jonathan Anzalone, I remember when he was on before and he was an asshole, he is so much nicer now, he has turned from cocky to confident, and amazingly entertaining, the air he is getting on his windmills is amazing, I find him very interesting to watch and also sexy in a way that most bboys are not, dropped during choreo

Jasmine Mason, brother has auditioned the past three seasons, but they got in a car accident 6 weeks ago, he aimed the car to protect his sister, he was pronounced dead on arrival but came out of a two day coma, and is back dancing already, for 18 she dances really mature, and just has an engaging way about her, I want to watch more

Marshea Kidd, his dancing just brings joy out, besides his ridiculous technique and style, his emotion and passion means so much, and having broken his neck 6 weeks ago, he is truly inspirational

First of all...shout out to Debbie Allen, she is an amazing judge

Audrey Case, her turns have such an ease to them, everything she does is so full of control yet looks effortless, she also looks like there is nothing she would rather be doing than dancing, she just looks so darn happy.

Glitch, Boris, Andre from Dragon House, they all live together with a bunch of other dancers and are one crew, tried to create their own style

Boris Penton, dancing hip hop to piano music, has a double blue mohawk, he has an insane musicality to his movements, he freaks me out in the best way possible, the best way to describe his dancing is...have you ever seen a piece of music represented by colors? that is what his body did

Andre Rucker, I can't is like he is CGI, I just...there are no words

Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, he has more personality in his dancing than his roommates, but the same robotic quality to his popping, I mean...shut the fuck up. Out of the three...all of which were beyond words...he is the best, purely genius

Joshua Alexander, he is cute and good, but I'm not finding anything particularly engaging about his dancing, but I think he is adorable and had great personality, just a bit hectic in his dancing, I'm actually bothered by not liking him more

Tim Conkel, karate instructor, I sure hope he can dance because I already love him, he is slightly cocky but in the same way that DTrix was cocky, he reminds me of Steve Terada from Quest Crew, he didn't have a ton of dance in there, but his martial arts was ridic, and his ballet...oh my gosh! he may crash and burn in Vegas, but he will be amazingly entertaining while he does it

Jackson Alvarez, again with the crazy hiphop that sort of blows my mind, I just don't understand that sort of isolation, and how much fun is he? He did the Wobble! I love the Wobble! Debbie Allen Wobbling is my new favorite thing ever!

Janelle Issis, belly dancer, I don't know what constitutes good belly dancer, but her isolations are amazing and she is fun to watch, the performance level is amazing, I wish I could do that, it is sexy without being slutty

Danielle Dominguez, overly fond of bacon, the word I would use to describe her dancing is quirky, not your normal contemporary, interesting to watch

Courtney Kirby, with grandma who used to be a dancer and dance teacher, she isn't very smooth in her transitions, but her technique is good and she is different from other contemporary dancers, more like the boys of contemporary with lots of aerobatic tricks

Asher Walker, oh well he is just freaking adorable, he reminds me of tWitch with that overabundance of personality, one of the most purely fun hiphop performances I've seen in a long time, so fun and funny

George Lawrence II, used to do track to get his dad's approval, lost some of that when he quit for dance, he is made to dance, his dancing had a quietness about parts of his dancing yet such an extreme power, he doesn't have all of the technique of a lot of the dancers, but his passion comes through more than just about anyone

Abigail Ruz, there is some sexiness going on with her, and quite a bit of power

Calvin Turner, Jr., gorgeous lines and fabulous technique

Aubrey Klinger, I love her look and performance

Brittany Ortner, she's kind of ditzy, but her dancing is really fun, a bit of Fosse jazz mixed with contemporary, there is also an innocent sexiness to her movement

Damon Bellmon & Deon Lewis, auditioned last year but stole (or did a tribute to) their choreography, they are full of personality, I like them both, but their styles don't mesh perfectly, however their choreo is fun and exciting and unique, they are pure fun! Deon got eliminated during choreography, but Damon made it

Salt Lake City

Witney Carson, Latin ballroom, doing a chacha tango, she is really really good, her connection with her partner and the audience is great, and I feel like she could be even better if she had a stronger partner, he needs to be trained up a bit, but man, some of the best ballroom since Anya

Lynn Gravatt, doing alien space dance, she is weird, but in a really genuine way, and I like how much she cares about her dancing, there is a chaotic quality to her dancing, but also some technique, I actually find that I really enjoy watching her dance though I'm pretty sure this competition is not for her

Diana Tomasetta, she is sweet and adorable, I like that she really embraced some moments in her dancing and didn't fill every second, she is very engaging to watch, just gorgeous musicality

Gene Lonardo, Praying Mantis Man! he is weird but really good, very Mark Kanemura but with some contortion, I was expecting joke audition and he was fucking brilliant, both in performance and technique

Lindsay Arnold, ballroom and latin dancer, but with other styles thrown in, she and her partner are both really great, there is a lot of snap to her technique and also her performance is really nice and bubbly.

Mariah Spears, Krumper, such snap and power, but also other dance technique, however her krumping is legit, like ridiculously good at it with a lot of pop to it

Murphy Yang, was disowned by his family for pursing dance, what a unique and fun style of hiphop, combining some ballet into it, he just looks like he is loving what he is doing, his interpretation of the music is amazing, very entertaining and thoughtful, eliminated in choreo

Dareian Kujawa, grew up poor and hungry, he is shirtless and built, what comes through his dancing besides his ridiculous technique (besides his feet) is passion, every move has a purpose, wow he is brilliant

Johnny Ahn, thinks that he is God's gift to women, his partner (Whitney Hallam) looks like she is thoroughly annoyed with him, there dancing is amazing, but they are playing for the audience only and not for each other, they have no connection with each other, but the technique is amazing and the dancing was fabulous, both eliminated in choreography

Adrian Lee, auditioned in season 7 and I remember him and loved him, he has such polish to his movement, and every thing he does has a purpose and passion, his hands are a bit weak but everything else is spot on, I love him

Rachel Applehans, used to be super shy and now is really really not, I'm not always a big fan of overtly sexual dancing, but she is very captivating and flirty in her sexiness, it is almost burlesque in parts, though I'm not sure if there was enough technique

Leroy Martinez, he is a big guy and looks so sweet, he is in a dance crew that helps kids after school to keep them off the streets, his performance is beyond, and his popping technique is fierce, and then he ships out a back flip on his elbows, shut the fuck up, he's got skillz, he is one of only about three auditions I've rewound to watch a second time, everything about his audition made me smile, he reminds me of the guys in Heavy Impact crew from America's Best Dance Crew, eliminated in choreography

And now the auditions are done! Overall I think that this crop of talent is the strongest they've had and at least in auditions it has been light in contemporary, which is good. I like variety in my dancing. Time for Vegas, which I won't be recapping because that is crazypants. Come back in a couple weeks to find out my thoughts about the top 20!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"True Blood" Recap: Kind of A Drag

Episode two of "True Blood" was, of course, a little draggy.

It was to be expected, honestly, after such an explosive first hour of the season. Last week, we got to see what was up with everyone. This episode, we started settling in to the main plotlines of the season.

Still, we got some good moments last night, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season, to see where some of these plots go.

Little Vampire Lost: Poor Tara. Her maker, Pam, leaves her to head back to Fangtasia (after, thoughtfully, commanding her not to eat Sookie and Lafayette), and Sookie and Lafayette are tasked with getting Tara down into Eric's cubby from last season. Lafayette nearly stakes his cousin while she sleeps, but Sookie convinces him to give her a chance. But they're not going to get any thanks from her yet - when she wakes again, she tells them she'll never forgive them and bolts.

When Eric Met Pammy: We also got some flashbacks tonight to how Eric and Pam met. Pam was a madam in a brothel in 1905, and a top-hatted Eric saves her from a Jack The Ripper-esque murderer (and licks the blood off his finger seductively. Oh Eric.). He doesn't turn her ... yet.

Packmasta A: The werewolves want Alcide to be the new packmaster, since he killed the old packmaster. But, Alcide's all, "No, I'm a lone wolf. Grrr." The werewolves aren't happy. Also on the werewolf side, Marcus' Mom (does she have a name?) wants to spend time with her granddaughter, Emma, because she's convinced that Emma is going to be a werewolf. Luna is not about to let that happen, and she kicks Sam to the curb when he suggests that maybe Luna should get to know the pack just in case Emma is a werewolf. And the end of the episode, low and behold, in the place of Emma is a wee little wolf puppy. (I squealed, I'll admit it. I'm such a girl.)

Whorin' It Up: Jason and Andy got some time together this episode, and they discovered a Very Important Plot Point - Debbie Pelt's van. Jason also tries to get Hoyt to be his friend again, to no avail, and between that and getting attacked by a kid whose parents are getting divorced because Jason had sex with his mom, he starts to realize what a manwhore he really is.

Crazy Terry: Again. Terry keeps seeing fire in his dreams and is being freaky and having PTSD. Arlene goes to talk to Patrick, Terry's buddy. Terry and Patrick decide to go visit their war buddy who might know who's burning down their houses. I was going to give this subplot the benefit of the doubt, but I'm afraid it's going to be dull after all. Poo.

Steve Still Hearts Jason: One of the two best subplots this episode ... STEVE NEWLIN. I am loving his story arc, and I was amused by him tonight. He showed up at Bill's mansion to join Jessica's party (Jessica was holding up the keg while one of her little college groupies drank out of it), and his little dorky dance alone was awesome. Then, he pulled Jessica aside and offered her $10,000 for Jason. She got the price up to $20,000 (I'll admit, I was saying, "Jessica! No! You bitch! You wouldn't!") ... then told Steve that Jason's not for sale. Another little tidbit ... Steve let it slip to Jessica that Bill isn't the king anymore! Is Steve in with the Authority? And who is the King?

A Rad Bromance: And then, we had the best parts of the episode ... Bill and Eric, who had been affectionately called Fuck-Up One and Fuck-Up Two by Nan Flanagan, according to Roman, the head of the Authority. (Side note: Yay! Christopher Meloni! I hope he takes his pants off next week!) So, Bill and Eric are tortured in various ways by the Authority minions, trying to get them to betray each other. Is it weird that I'm a little touched that they stayed true to each other? Then, they're dragged before Roman and the Authority Board (or whatever they're called), and, after a ritual (where we learn that the Vampire Bible sayeth that Lilith is the mother of vampires and that vampires are made in God's image, rather than humans) they play their trump card: Russell Edgington. Well, that gets the attention of the Authority. Heck. Yes. Fuck-Up One and Fuck-Up Two are going on a ROAD TRIP TO DESTROY RUSSELL EDGINGTON! YEEEEEEAH!

Like I said, this episode was a little slow, but we're setting up for some explosive plotlines ... most notably, Bill 'n' Eric go after Russell, Tara comes to terms with being a vampire (and hopefully goes all badass), and Alcide perhaps learns what happened to Debbie (which draws him closer to Sookie, and then his clothes fall off ... I hope!).

I can hardly wait until next week!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kel's Musings on True Blood

Jen has already given you her thoughts on True Blood, both what she is excited for this season and a recap of the first episode. I thought I would give a secondary opinion because True Blood is awesome enough for dual recaps.

What I Liked:
Vampire Tara! I guessed this was the way Tara would go for a while. I actually thought she would turn back in season 3 with Franklin. I think she will hate being a vampire for a few days (nights) because Tara hates vampires, but then I think she will embrace the power. I also think Tara vs. Pam could be epic.

Eric has a sister. A vampire sister. And she and Eric like to have hot hot sex. Apparently most people found that kind of creepy. But I put forth that it really isn't at all. Think about Eric/Pam. They definitely have had a sexual relationship in the past and Eric is Pam's maker which is like her vampire father. Vampire families have sexual relationships. Let's not worry too much about it, ok? Also...anything that involves Naked Eric is ok by me!

Speaking of...there was a lot of nudity, no? We got naked Jason, naked Andy, scantily clad Jessica, naked werewolf chick, naked Sam, naked Eric, naked Nora (Eric's sister), naked Sookie, naked Lafayette. Pretty much the only two who stayed fully clothed were Bill and Alcide. This all bodes well for the season.

I also really like the Authority stuff and the Werewolf pack stuff. In a show full of sex, violence, sex, intrigue, and sex, I am really interested in the politics. I think this season will show really interesting differences between how Vampires deal with authority and how Werewolves deal with authority.

Russell Edgington is back. 'Nuff said.

What I Didn't Like:
Man, I really love Terry and his marine buddy is really hot, but I just don't care about their and Arlene's storyline. I just cannot see how that storyline will play into the other main plots that I actually care about. I may revise my opinion by the end of the season, but at the moment, I just don't really care about that entire plot.

Andy Bellefleur. Oh man. I feel like he could be an interesting character. But they just don't seem to do anything with him. Also, Bon Temps could use one good, normal character to offset all the weird. Andy would be good for that, right? Let's make him just a really good Sheriff. It would give Jason someone to look up to and ground the entire world a bit more.

My biggest problem with the premiere was that I haven't watched any True Blood since last season ended last August, so I had kind of forgotten a few things. Like how Alcide killed Marcus. Or why Bill and Eric didn't tell Sookie that Russell wasn't dead. Or what the hell Sam's girlfriend's name is.

Overall, I am wicked excited for True Blood. Even when the plots go crazy and there is too much going on, it is still a super fun show. There are always amazing quotes and for how dramatic everything is, I still feel like True Blood is a comedy.

So, to end this, I am going to give you some of my favorite quotes from the episode. Be warned, it has bad language. Because it is True Blood.

"My dead heart beats for you" -- Steve Newlin to Jason Stackhouse
"We fight like siblings, but we fuck like champions" -- Eric about Nora
"Don't fucking growl at me" "I'll make whatever fucking noise I want" -- Lafayette and Alcide (this one I feel like is really only awesome in the delivery, but it really made me laugh)

Monday, June 11, 2012

"True Blood" Recap: Turning Tricks

"True Blood" is back, and it's up to its old tricks again! The first episode, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" was maybe a bit scattered, but I'll give them a pass - there are a lot of new story arcs to get started.

Sookie, Lafayette, Tara & Pam: When we last left Sookie back at the end of season 4, she had just killed Alcide's murderous ex-girlfriend, Debbie Pelt, in her kitchen ... but not before Debbie left a hole in Tara's head. Lafayette comes downstairs to see the carnage (right after the death of his boyfriend, Jesus, the last thing Lafayette needed was his beloved cousin dying on him), and then in waltzes Pam, looking for Eric. That gives Lafayette an idea - Pam could turn Tara into a vampire. (I would just like to say that I suggested this when Kel said that maybe Tara would become a vampire - I hoped it would be Pam who turned her!) Despite the fact that Pam hates Tara and Tara hates vampires, she agrees, and soon Tara and Pam (in a Walmart sweatsuit - genius!) are in the ground for Tara's possible transformation. (Pam warns that it might not take.) During the day, Sookie and Lafayette clean up Sookie's kitchen and find out that Jesus' body is missing (where is he!?). Then Alcide appears to warn Sookie about the return of Russell Edgington. He offers Sookie a place to stay, but she decides to stay put.

Bill & Eric: Bill darts out of his mansion to save Sookie when he hears the commotion over at her house (Eric is decidedly more hurt by her rejection), but before he can move past the porch, he's caught in silver netting by the Authority. Eric follows, and soon the pair are in the trunk of a car. They escape with a well-placed explosion and realize that Eric's vamp-sister Nora was in the car - and wants to help them. (She also wants to have sex with Eric, which, duh, and they do. "New Orleans is only 60 miles away," Bill reminds them as they get hot, heavy and loud in a shipping container.) Nora gets Bill & Eric new identities and warns them that they can never go back to Bon Temps ... but they're almost immediately surrounded by the Authority again. I smell some wacky Bill & Eric misadventures this season. I think there's a bromance brewing!

Jason, Jessica & Steve Newlin: Jason is finding himself in a similar situation to his sister ... fending off the romantic advances of vampires, except Jason has to do it while he's a lot less intelligent and a lot more naked. Steve glamors Jason into letting him into his house, then ties him up and admits that he's a gay vampire American, and he's in love with Jason. Jason tells Steve he's flattered, but "this dog don't bark that way." Steve moves in for a bite, and Jessica flies in and tells Steve that she's an older vampire and she's claimed Jason as hers. Jason rescinds his invitation to Steve, who flies out the door but, I'm sure, not out of Jason's life. Jason & Jessica have more sex, and Jason endures the taunts of Hoyt and his friends at Merlotte's the next day with class, but the next night, when Jason is off-duty, Jessica is having a party with cute college kids. Yeah, her "claim" on Jason was just to save him from Steve. Still, the fact that Jason couldn't sleep with one of the cute college girls means that things aren't done in the Jason-Jessica department.

Sam: Sam, if you'll remember, was there when Alcide killed packmaster Marcus, the ex-husband of Sam's girlfriend Luna. So, naturally, the pack thinks Sam killed Marcus, and they want Marcus' body back. Oh, and to punish Sam. With a few well-placed threats toward Luna and her daughter Emma, Sam admits to the murder (taking the fall for Alcide, who he doesn't want to rat out) and goes with the pack. They torture him for a while before Sam tells them where they buried Marcus, but then Alcide shows up (Luna alerted him to Sam's sacrifice) and says that he killed Marcus. That means that Alcide is now technically the packmaster, even though he's a lone wolf. He's not happy, and stomps away as the werewolves start eating Marcus' body. *shrug* Werewolves.

Andy: Andy and Holly wake up in bed, naked, when Holly's kids get back from their hunting trip. Hug, my ass, Holly! So, there's a budding romance there. Also, Andy takes a bribe from the local judge. Bad Andy!

Terry & Arlene: Terry's war buddy, Patrick, shows up and, eventually, tells Terry that their squadron-mates have had a lot of tragedy after "that night in Iraq" ... specifically, many of them have lost their homes to fires (just like what happened to Terry & Arlene!). Also, Terry gets scary pissed at Patrick and attacks him ... which is especially disturbing to Arlene after Ghost-Rene's warning.

The Cliffhanger: Since every episode ends on a cliffhanger ... Sookie and Lafayette take their places to wait for Pam and, hopefully, Tara to rise. Pam rises, complaining that there is dirt in her bra, but Tara stays stiff. Sookie and Lafayette cry, and suddenly ... Tara pounces out of the ground and onto Sookie! Roll credits!

What Worked: There are some interesting plotlines here:
  • We get to see more about the Authority, which, from interviews I've read, sounds like it could be a clever way to make a statement about politics. 
  • Bill & Eric just may be the perfect pair for this show. I'm hoping for many wacky misadventures.
  • More werewolf stuff will be good too. There's only so much you can do with vampires, and I'll be glad for some werewolf world building. (Especially if we get to see more of Alcide! Grr.)
  • I'm actually pretty interested in Terry's storyline. What happened in Iraq? Is it going to be supernatural, like everything else on this show, or could we have a nice, normal plotline that doesn't include witches, vampires or werewolves? Either way, it ought to be interesting.
  • Vampire Tara very well may be a great addition to the show. I love Rutina Wesley, but Tara was a little one-note last season. Being a self-hating new vampire may serve her well - the only other new vampire we've followed was Jessica, who loved her new fangs.
What Didn't Work: There are a few things that I'm skeptical of this season:
  • Steve Newlin's lust for Jason seemed a little bit out of left field. It's amusing, and there's a good commentary on hypocritical religious people there, but it was just a bit of a stretch. (A lot of that same commentary could have come just from Steve becoming a vampire.) Still, there was some great writing and acting in that scene, and I'll be willing to overlook some of it if we get a good Steve-Jessica-Jason conflict going on.
  • Andy is a good minor character, but they keep trying to do interesting things with him and it never seems to get there. The same old "Andy as a crooked cop" storyline is a little old. I do like the idea of him having a nice relationship with Holly, and I also enjoy his scenes with Jason.
Overall Opinion: A great return to Bon Temps, and a good appetizer for the rest of the season!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Five Things That Thrill Me About New Season of "True Blood"

The new season of "True Blood" starts Sunday, and I can hardly wait!

There are many, many, many things that thrill me about "True Blood" each season - I love the soap opera-esque storylines, the excellent dialogue (it is seriously quoteworthy!), the clever commentary, the pop culture nods, the cartoonish violence and, of course, the sexy sexy sex (my dad doesn't call it "vampire porn" for nothing).

But there are five things I am especially looking forward to when Season Five starts:
  • Russell Edgington. I love his brand of crazy, and I am SO glad that he is reappearing this season. And he will be in a murderous mood. That is a bad thing for our heroes (and antiheroes) but a very good thing for viewers.
  • Christopher Meloni's role. I've been sad all season of "Law & Order: SVU" since Meloni isn't on the show anymore, so I was thrilled when he was cast as Authority head Roman Zimojic. I can't wait to see how he fares as a vampire.
  • Pam! Eric's "child" is awesome, full stop. Last time we saw Pam, she was complaining about how a girl named Sookie (and her "precious fairy vagina") could steal Eric away. She is a wonderfully bitchy character, and she gets all the great lines, so I'm pumped to see what she does this season.
  • Steve Newlin. Steve, Fellowship-of-the-Sun-pastor-turned-vampire appeared at Jason's door at the end of last season, and previews show that he's going to be back this season. Steve seems to be enjoying his newfound fangs - the preview shows him attacking Jason. And, he's still wearing his preppy nerdwear! Perfecto.
  • Alcide Herveaux. I kind of 'ship Alcide and Sookie, so I'm hopeful for a relationship this season - there are a couple of quick clips in the previews that show some tension between them. But even if they don't, I still love Alcide - he's sweet and tough and extremely good-looking.
All I really know is, I'm pumped for "True Blood" to start. What are you looking forward to seeing this season?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: "Sleeping With the Fishes" by MaryJanice Davidson

Sometimes, an intriguing character can take a so-so book and elevate it to something worth reading.

That's exactly what happened with "Sleeping With the Fishes" by MaryJanice Davidson.

The book follows Fred (real name Fredrika Bimm), a half-mermaid marine biologist in Boston. Her life is going as normal as it can for a half-mermaid until two gorgeous men show up to try to discover why there are toxins in Boston Harbor - fellow marine biologist Thomas and Artur, High Prince of the Black Sea. They both fall in love with Fred, of course - much to Fred's annoyance.

The concept is amusing, and I like the way Davidson handled the mermaid stuff - when Fred and Artur get in the water, they grow a tail. Why? Because they're merpeople! They can breath underwater? How? Who cares! It didn't need to be explained more than that.

Unfortunately, Davidson seems to have had a good concept but not quite a way to use it. The plot is a little bit contrived, and the ending comes out of left field a little bit. The whole style of writing is a bit scattered - the narration goes from person to person, with several people getting a chapter about them, but without a ton of reason for the switches. The book really could have been told entirely from Fred's point of view, I think. Overall, it was a bit of a mess, more like a first draft than a fully fleshed out novel. In the introduction to the book, Davidson talks about how she started over a couple of times and the manuscript was late. Clearly, they were waiting for a book from her so they rushed it into publication. It's kind of a shame, because with a little bit of polish it could have been excellent.

There is one thing that really redeemed "Sleeping With the Fishes" for me - Fred the Mermaid. She's standoffish, cranky, sour and self-absorbed - just how I like my chick-lit heroines! She's maybe just a bit too cranky, actually - like Davidson had something to prove - but I like that Fred gets annoyed by the guys and their love for her and just wants to do her job. She's actually a pretty sucky mermaid - allergic to shellfish, gets seasick on boats, etc. - but she's a great marine biologist (partly because she can talk to fish, and partly because she clearly loves it).

"Sleeping With the Fishes" is an incredibly fast, easy read (I think it took me 3 hours total, if that), so it didn't bother me too much that it wasn't a terribly good book. And, I liked Fred enough, and was interested enough in the continuing plot, that I'll probably end up reading the other two Fred the Mermaid books. While it's far from a glowing review, it was a fun little read and I'm glad I picked it up at the bookstore.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

I love history and I love horror, so reading "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" seemed like a no-brainer to me - especially since there's a movie based on the book coming out soon.

It wasn't the best novel I've ever read, that's for sure, but the concept and the cleverness of author Seth Grahame-Smith were enough to keep me entertained.

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," purportedly written from secret diaries of Abraham Lincoln, posits that pretty much everything that had any affect on Abraham Lincoln's life, from childhood through his assassination, was connected to vampires. It's a fun, if obnoxiously trendy, concept that works through most of the book. Grahame-Smith does a great job of weaving well-known history with the "history" of vampires in America he's created.

I was impressed by many of Grahame-Smith's sharp ideas. He did a great job with his rules for vampires, taking the best bits of vampires from a lot of different pieces of pop culture, and he sticks with them. Vampires are still scary - no angsty "Twilight" sparklepires here! - but there are some good, or at least not completely evil, ones too.

Grahame-Smith also does a great job keeping the story moving. He doesn't get too bogged down in either history or fiction. In fact, one of my biggest complaints is that the book almost rushes through a few points, as though Grahame-Smith was afraid that people wouldn't keep reading if the pace slowed down at all. I would have liked a few things to be fleshed out a bit more.

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" also makes things just a little too perfect at times. It does get a little silly to think that absolutely everything we know about Lincoln is related to vampires, even if he was the greatest vampire hunter America ever knew.  I would have liked to have seen at least one episode that turned out to be "just life." I know that the book was concentrating on the vampire hunting side of Lincoln's life, but just a little bit more detail and a few more episodes would have gone a long way toward making the book just a little more believable. Well, as believable as the idea of Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires can be, anyway.

Overall, though, I enjoyed "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and I am pumped about its prospects as a movie. Many of the problems of the book should disappear in movie form, and we should be left with a pretty great vampire movie.