Nice Try, Netflix: Enola Holmes

I knew, going into watching Enola Holmes that it probably wasn’t going to be very good. But I shrugged, and though, “Huh. Maybe it will be fine. I can at least give the pilot a chance.” I have no idea how I got the idea it was a TV show, but I was expecting a series with the mystery of the disappearing mother being a long thread tantalizingly teased throughout, and a smaller mystery solved each week. So I was wrong – I mean, I guess it was “fine,” if you believe in disrupting characters to the point that those characters are no longer themselves, and like to watch 16-year-olds barely survive in a dangerous city because you know how annoying teenagers are – of course, everyone is out to kill them. Oh, also – it’s not a TV Show (again, I have no idea how that idea weaved itself into my mind…).

Enola Holmes, which I keep wanting to turn into Enola Hughes because apparently my brain isn’t working today, has a great cast and a large budget, but sucks more than the psychic vampire siphoning off my energy and ability to think clearly today. In fact, Enola Hughes would be a more fitting name for both this movie and it’s main character, because there is no point in making a movie about the Holmes’ family if you’re going to change the characters of both Sherlock and Mycroft beyond recognition.

I think it means well. It’s like, “People love Sherlock, but do we really need another story about this rich white dude who’s just really good at solving mysteries? After all, rich white girls can be good at solving mysteries, too, as Veronica Mars showed us. AND that will mean we can give this film a feminist slant, which educated people in the crumbling facades of democracy that constitute former powerhouses America and England seem into.” For those of you who have noted that:

  1. Sherlock was not, initially rich, which was part of the reason he needed a roommate (hello, Dr. Watson!) until he became rich and famous by solving mysteries;
  2. Veronica Mars was also not rich, in fact a large part of that television series was about the struggle for power and respect in a city with stark divides between the have and have-nots, and V and her pops definitely fell into the “have-nots” category. (In fact, how she was able to afford her bitchin’ camera, completely new wardrobe, regularly maintained coif, and technology gadgets is a mystery of its’ own that will never be solved…);
  3. My faux quote ends in a preposition –

Well done. You are worthy of reading my blog. I did those things on purpose to see if you were paying attention, and you will probably not much like Enola Holmes.

For those of you who did not, you’re not being very observant and/or did not imbibe the same media as me, so sit in the corner with your conical hat, and feel about the fact that you might, in fact, like Enola Holmes. The movie is made to appeal to sheep, of which you may be one. You should feel bad about that, and you should engage in some serious self-reflection to try to avoid saying “baa” all the time in the future.

Enola Holmes is basically a re-make of 16 Candles with Bellatrix Lestrange as the purposeful mother, a very watered-down Jake who everyone is trying to kill, and the successful murder of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. As anyone who has read the stories is aware:

Mycroft is not a pompous, blustering idiot. Mycroft is more intelligent than Sherlock. He is also much, much lazier.

And Sherlock Holmes is not a handsome devil lackadaisically solving mysteries, maybe, if he feels like it. Sherlock Holmes is weird. He’s very passionate and high energy when he’s working on a mystery, which he works at with a focus that is possibly psychotic. And when he doesn’t have anything to keep him manic (i.e., another mystery to solve), he is melting into his couch because he’s coming down from his cocaine high, which as anyone who has ever listened to The Weekend knows, means that he is fucking depressed as shit.

Millie Bobby Brown is very pretty, and gives a decent performance as an intelligent woman capable of solving crimes and finding her own way in the world with the myriad of English pounds left to her by her mother. She’s less believable as someone who is naive and uses the word “nincompoop” more than once. And her scattered glances at the audience to break the Fourth Wall feel like a failed attempt to replicate the smart, well-loved performance given by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag, wherein PWB’s asides to the audience seemingly effortlessly convey meaning to the audience in what is ultimately a sign of her mental breakdown.

If Enola Holmes wasn’t trying to insult the viewer’s intelligence by pulling people in with reference to a well-loved and established fictional character by changing all resemblance to that character, I probably wouldn’t take too much issue with it. In fact, I might even like it. As it is, however, the movie did fail me – first, by not being a television show (which, again, sounds much more likable, because – weekly mysteries done well are always fun to watch), second, by altering those well-established characters in a way that was neither interesting nor thought-provoking and really blatantly point out that the movie should just not in any way even try to affiliate with the beloved characters of Sir Doyle, and would have fared better as the screenwriter’s own flawed creations.

Nice try, Netflix, but fucking do better next time.

This Girl is Not on Fire…

Because She’s Too Pretty to Burn.

Oh yeah, I went there…

So, like, there’s this chick named Mick (short for Micaela). She’s, like, really pretty. People yearn to take her picture, and have trouble thinking of her as an actual person, because she’s too pretty and therefore pretty much made for objectification. She doesn’t like having her picture taken. She just wants to be taken seriously for her swimming and get the hell away from her mom.

Mick meets a girl. Veronica is all curves and femininity, an aspiring photographer. Veronica tricks Mick into taking an amazing photo, pressures her into allowing the picture to be shared on social media, and introduces Mick to subversive artists while herself potentially on the verge of becoming a commercial one.

Veronica know this guy named Nico. Nico is so close to Veronica he calls her “wife.” Nico is also an artist.

Three young people, none of them necessarily the picture of mental health, becoming entangled results in… Arson. Murder. Alfred-Hitchcock-movie-craziness.

I really enjoyed this one. The characters, when left to themselves and their own thoughts, are often a bit annoying. But teenagers are annoying, so this is reasonable. The plot moves along fairly quickly, and the novel is told from the three main characters’ points of view, with this rotation of voice preventing you from getting too annoyed and hurling your e-reader across the room. There is also just some batshit crazy in the plot of this novel. If you’re a plot reader, I highly recommend. Also recommend if you’re looking for a frothy, amusing read – like a pumpkin spice latte, there’s not a ton of meat to this story, but it’s definitely a fun, wild ride.

Your ’90s Slang of Choice is Telling

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was continually assaulted with this word I had not heard since I was… much younger (stop trying to guess my age, asshole): hella. I rolled my eyes, thought, What is this, the ’90s? to myself, and inwardly judged everyone I heard using it.

Hella, in case you haven’t spent much time in the Bay (or other areas of the country that still use it), is somehow able to be used as all parts of speech. It’s a tricky word, sneaking into your psyche until, after hearing and judging its’ spewing forth from the mouths of others continually, there comes the day when, unbidden, it leaves your mouth, and you realize you have been assimilated. I used it just the other day. Yes, I am a hypocrite.

But I also judge people much less for using this word, since I have realized that every area seems to have it’s ’90s slang word that has never left.

In the Metro Detroit area, where I’m from, it’s “bitch.”

Like the unassuming everyman, just blindly going through her day, I was blithely unaware that this was the case, until I had an argument with my husband. This time, it was over his taking the rest of the coffee I had made and not brewing a fresh pot. I had only had 1 cup so far for the day, and for those who incorrectly think I’m a normal person, let me assure you – I am a raging psychotic until I’ve had a few cups of coffee in me. I like to sit in complete silence until the caffeine level in my bloodstream gets high enough, like Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, but without all the push-ups. So while my flabby arms are in no way, shape, or form at all intimidating, the fury escaping my person as I fumed and grinded fresh coffee beans, got more water, retrieved a filter from beneath the coffee island was ridiculous. So, once I had consumed a couple additional cups of coffee and was once more safe to approach, my husband apologized, saying he realized Terry Tate would have tackled him.

If you’re saying: “… who? … what?,” I was in the same boat.

So we went to the internet, where half of our arguments are resolved (ahem: only one space is required after a period; two spaces is leftover from the days when everyone used typewriters…) or our pop culture knowledge is strengthened and shared. As YouTube will show you, Terry Tate was a football player (actual name: Lester Speight, T-squared is a fictional character) in the ’90s/early 2000’s who did commercials for Reebok where he used football maneuvers to handle common office problems (… like taking the rest of the coffee and not brewing a fresh pot). In addition to having abs for days (… yum!), this character is a funny reminder to, like, not be a dick, and guess what one of his slang terms is…

So, yes, watching old commercials with Terry Tate caused me to have a moment of self-realization and reflection, and I realized that – surprise, surprise, I am an asshole. I mean, I kind of already knew that, but in this case, I am an asshole for judging people constantly (constantly!) using “hella” in conversation in the Bay Area, when I still consistently use “bitch” in my own non-professional conversation with people I trust.

I remember having a conversation with someone from Boston, and asking what their word was – “wicked.” Not, like, “… witch of the west,” more like “wicked awesome.”

As a result of everything just detailed above, I have a theory that, whether you know it or not, your regular vocabulary includes a ’90s slang word that tells people where you’re from. If you use “hella,” you’re probably from the Bay. “Bitch” is Detroit. “Wicked” is Boston. Help me expand my geographical knowledge of America via ’90s slang vocabulary – those of you from other areas of the US, what is your ’90s slang word?

Should YOU enter writing contests?

Subtitle: My response to a potentially fictional post I thought I read on Longreads that I can no longer find

So, I could be sheepish and apologetic that I haven’t posted in awhile, but I think you’ve been okay without my random blogging, and I’ve been busy at work, so…. I won’t.

#sheep

While I was in the midst of struggling to meet a deadline for work, I read this article about why you shouldn’t enter writing contests that I thought was on Longreads, but I’m having trouble finding it, so it’s possible I’m either mis-remembering the source or I made it up, so… No hyperlinked source for this one, but enough other people have posted on this topic that I feel okay with responding to this potentially fictional article.

This is probably exactly what Hamlet would be like if I had written it.

I think there are some decent reasons not to enter contests – the judging of writing is fairly subjective, and even if your writing is flawless, it may just not hit someone’s buttons, and if you’re going to be depressed if you don’t win, then… you probably shouldn’t enter contests.

On the other hand, contests have this thing called a deadline that can be very useful if you need a fire under your ass to finish anything.

As long as you’re not actually expecting to gain, like, notoriety from the contest or anything, and enter purely as a means of driving yourself to finish something, I think it’s reasonable to enter a writing contest. I recently entered a Wattpad contest, and there is a rush from completing something, and I actually created something that I really like, so I feel like it was a win. But whether I win, or don’t win, doesn’t really matter. Winning is nice. Not winning isn’t a big deal. And no matter what anyone else thinks, I like what I wrote.

Thanks, Hamlet.

What are your thoughts? Do you enter writing contests? Why or why not? And what are your thoughts on Hamlet (Shakespeare’s or mine are both up for grabs)?

Streaming The Order

Netflix’s show The Order is the television equivalent of a sugar-laden, iced coffee drink – intriguing hints of original thinking and pacing, full of components that rely on your either not having a brain or deciding to turn it off while watching, and ultimately, a watered-down version of what you were hoping you were watching.

Two seasons. Twenty episodes. Witches. Golems. Werewolves. Magic. Drama. Cringe-inducing romance. Failed attempts at wit. Cults. Apocalypse. The Order packs a lot into the timeframe that it has, yet somehow generally manages to focus on the wrong things, turning a show full of amazing occurrences and people into a play-by-play of the romance between Jack & Alyssa, two of the most boring people you will ever meet, who take themselves way too seriously, and probably don’t eat enough food. [Warning: this post will be riddled with spoilers, so if you’re interested in watching the show and haven’t seen all of it, stop reading here.]

My biggest fault with this series is its’ insistence that we know all about how the relationship between Alyssa and Jack is evolving (or, in a few non-bile inducing scenes, not). These two characters are the worst ones in the show, which makes them the ones I want the least screen time with (except for a few episodes where Jack has amnesia, sort of, and is taken advantage of by someone infinitely prettier, smarter, and more fun), so to have their gross face-smacking and lustful stares thrust upon my poor, innocent eyeballs when I’m just trying to watch a TV show full of deadly, sexy beings, is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Sometimes, Jack is not the most awful (definition: not boring to me, personally) character on the screen. Alyssa, on the other hand, is always either annoying or infuriating. Okay, first of all, why does every person she meet seem to be sexually attracted to her? Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone is yearning to go to bed with a thin blonde girl. To top that all off, she is self-righteous in that selfish way a lot of white people have. Like it’s not enough to be privileged by virtue of having been born into one of the European immigrant families the US favors, and it’s not enough to be the Aphrodite of campus. She also has to be the most, the best at whatever she’s chosen to be “her thing.” In this case, magic. She literally almost brings about the end of the world because her new lover is killed. The fact that her lover attacked and tried to kill someone else not only doesn’t matter, but Alyssa revises history to talk about how selfless she was, just innocently trying to provide equal access to everyone to something that is dangerous when not handled correctly. You know, like a guns-rights advocate handing out Uzis at an elementary school. Nothing wrong with that, dudes, because Alyssa is in love with this particular guns-rights advocate, so obvs, nothing bad will happen. Alyssa needs to learn that what she wants is not synonymous with what needs to happen.

It also just feels sometimes like the writers are running out of ideas. I think it’s really interesting how many different ideas they’ve smushed together, but then near the end of season 1, you’re thinking to yourself, Is there anyone out there who’s not a werewolf?! Am… Am I a werewolf? Like, yeah, it makes storylines more complicated, but it also makes it seem so much less likely that all of this supernatural stuff is secretly going on, and we mere mortals have never encountered it. Presumably, part of why we mere mortals don’t know about it is because it’s very rare. But then, it feels like 85% of campus is a freakin’ werewolf, and it’s like, c’mon. My credulity is being stretched too thin.

That’s… not the kind of rack I meant. Oh, Alyssa did this for you? What a surprise. No, I will not feel better if she sleeps with me; quite the opposite. Ew.

In summation: I may stop watching now, the main love storyline is so (sososososo*infinity) annoying, the writers need to stop making everyone a werewolf, and Alyssa’s character should just go away. Forever.

The Well-Written Book that Sucked Me In Against My Will

… or, at least, my inclination.

… Did I spend too long making this rather pointless comic? Why, yes. Yes I did.

I was a lucky recipient of Sarah Goodman’s forthcoming debut novel Eventide. I’m not quite sure why I picked up this book, dark green in hue, with an ephemeral woman in a white dress immediately after reading Sue Miller’s Monogamy (post forthcoming). Monogamy was so realistic, filled with such beautiful writing, I think I just grabbed another book because it was time to read another book, and with the assumption that regardless of what I chose, it would be a letdown. Like the book nerd equivalent of waking up when you know it’s too early and you really want to go back to bed, but you just can’t, for some reason, and so you’re like: “Fine,” but then you’re noticeably cranky all day.

I’ll get up… but I won’t be happy about it.

So there I was, already cranky with Eventide, prepared to be disappointed. But try as I might (I’m pretty stubborn, so I did try to hold on to my grumpiness, like a child), Eventide was not disappointing.

Just let. Me. Be. Miserable!

To begin with, the author, a former journalist, uses many off-the-cuff remarks in the beginning of the book that gave me pause, due to the early-twentieth century setting. But when I did my cursory Google-search fact-checking, bitch had done her homework. All of the remarks made in Chapter 1, such as the petri dish, and potential employment in a typing pool, are reasonable. The narrator’s temperament, while feeling somewhat modern, also seems appropriate for someone young and from a city for that time period. So Goodman did good on not writing something implausible or historically inaccurate in her historical fiction (one of my personal pet peeves).

Bitch did her homework

I will say, I did not much like the protagonist, and while the lack of diversity in this novel was noticeable to me, it is period appropriate. Despite not particularly liking Verity Pruitt, she was well-written. She was annoying in the way that cocky young people can be, but she was also smart and brave and someone who will do anything for the people she loves. So annoying, but also someone you can’t help but root for at least a little bit.

Yet what really makes this book stand out and kept me reading is the story. The first few chapters are necessary, well written, but ultimately, not that engaging, exposition. There are also short chapter breaks interspersed amongst the main story that provide back story and are completely unnecessary. Like, do they help tell the story? Yes. But could the story be told just as well without them? Also yes. Do they add to the atmosphere? I guess. But again, in a way that I found annoying, much like the protagonist. I think, actually, that this entire book might be a set-up for a YA series. It works as a standalone novel, but it feels as though it is written with the idea of adding to it if it gains enough of a fangirl base. About mid-way through the novel, the story picks up within the main storyline, and that is when your eyes will be glued to the page, and you’ll be flipping pages faster than you can blink.

#touche

The story is melodramatic and crazy and frightening, a roller coaster of a latter half of the novel. It has twists and mental illness and faerie folklore and family and love and magick. And I didn’t much like the protagonist, although I didn’t want her to lose, but did love the villain, whose unveiling is like a mix between a car wreck that you can’t help looking at and the glamour of [insert name of beautiful, famous person you can’t help but online stalk here], with a hint of malice. Like, I don’t want to meet the villain in real life, but I loved reading her.

Verdict: You should read this.

Fine print – Slated for release in October. If intrigued and if you can afford it, please consider pre-ordering from an indie bookstore. #shoplocal #oratleastnotamazon

Did Netflix Original Heartthrob Noah Centineo Make the Same Movie Twice?

Noah Centineo (“NC” from hereon out, because typing out his full name every time I reference him in this post feels like too much effort) who made an adorable and endearing love interest in the Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, as well as Netflix original Sierra Burgess is a Loser, continued to play a high-school aged heartthrob in The Perfect Date, along with the ineffably talented Laura Maurano, and went on to make more movies that I’m not going to list in this post. I often like YA romance movies, so I have seen all of the aforementioned movies.

Then, I noticed another movie, which also featured Centineo, and which also featured a dating app, both of which are components of The Perfect Date. I was intrigued. The movie is called Swiped, and before you leave to go look for it on Netflix, let me warn you – It. Is. Terrible. Almost unwatchable. I put it on, and couldn’t finish it, and I willingly watch Hallmark movies for funsies. Sure, I’m mostly making fun of them, like the years where the costume designers didn’t hem anyone’s pants, the predictable plotlines, or the fact that as I grow older, the protagonist of A Christmas Kiss increasingly seems like an inept she-devil hell-bent on terrorizing her unsuspecting, successful boss who was just asking her to do her job, goshdarnit. But I’m still willing to watch these undeniably slightly terrible movies from start-to-finish. But I couldn’t finish Swiped. So, you know – perspective.

One woman’s Xmas kiss… is another woman’s Xmas nightmare

It kind of fascinates me that NC chose to do both of these movies, with fairly similar concepts, so close together. I mean, there are subtle differences. Although both movies feature technologically proficient teens with the capability to fairly quickly develop an app, The Perfect Date features high school students, whereas Swiped takes place in college. Additionally, although both movies feature teenage characters who are socially awkward, The Perfect Date features that teenage character as more of an intelligent teen girl who is an appropriate love interest, whereas Swiped features that teenage character as a nerdy teen boy who develops the app (I think, again, I could only stand like 20 minutes or so of the movie), seems to have mommy issues, and in reality, wouldn’t get laid (although he’s probably got some love interest in the movie, since I think he’s one of the protagonists). Both movies feature NC, and both rely on his good looks and charm to sway the audience as well as make him seem worthy of redeeming, as well as being a love interest, in spite of his character’s flaws. But only one of these movies work.

The largest differentiator between the two films that I discerned based on my cursory introduction to Swiped was budget. Mainly, The Perfect Date seemed to have one whereas Swiped seems to have been made with considerably less money. Swiped has that noticeable vacuum of sound that low budget films often have, where there is no background noise, which makes the lackluster dialogue that much more apparent. It makes the quirks that the characters should have lack humor, because the person talking to him/her/their-self who would seem odd with the right music playing in the background instead seems more like that homeless guy you walked by the other day muttering to himself and pulling his hair out of his scalp (for some reason, the latter feels a little less cute).

So it’s not the same movie, but it is possible that NC chose both movies for the same reason. My theory*: the idea of developing a dating app with a friend that helps him become a better person and find love so enraptured NC that he immediately signed on to do Swiped (a 2018 movie), and then, when the opportunity to make a strikingly similar movie was proffered, he doubled down, and signed on to do The Perfect Date (a 2019 movie). So why is NC so enraptured by this idea? Maybe he has secret Tinder/Bumble accounts, or maybe his love life is solely arranged by his agent, so the idea of finding love in any other way is intriguing and fascinating, or maybe he wants to be the next Steve Jobs, but, cursed with good looks and a lack of turtlenecks, has to console himself in the arms of pretty ladies in movies and on television instead of becoming the technological visionary he knows in his bones he would otherwise be meant to be.

Those are my rambling thoughts about NC and the mystery of the two similar-but-not-quite-the-same movies. What about you? Have you seen one/both of these movies? Did you also compare and contrast these movies – and if so, did your thoughts coincide with mine? Or, better yet, do you have a conspiracy theory about NC and why he did both films? Please spill in the comments below!

*Completely unfounded and likely untrue.

TBR Treasure Hunt: Summary

2019 has been over for awhile, and this post on contemplation and reflection of my own self-imposed task of getting through my TBR list is woefully overdue. In 2019, in an attempt to actually begin getting through my TBR list, I tried to read (and post about) one book from my TBR each month. I was better at reading the books than remembering to blog about them.

Let’s talk stats.

At the beginning of this quest, initiated in March 2019, my TBR list had 60 books on it.

In 2019, I read the following 10 books from my TBR list:

  1. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Short stories that play on the darker side of fairy tales, which adults told around a campfire with the kids in bed. These stories have influenced the likes of Neil Gaiman and other reputable literary darlings, but are not always 100% on point. 3 out of 5 stars
  2. Truly, Devious – At the elite Ellingham Academy, Stevie is getting the opportunity to pursue her passion of solving a cold-case mystery involving the very school she has recently joined. Then, her peers start getting murdered, and the pressure to figure out who is Truly, Devious becomes even more pressing… 5 out of 5 stars
  3. The Winters – Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this novel is a more modern setting and interpretation of the famed gothic novel. 4 out of 5 stars
  4. The Girl Who Knew Too Much – A mystery novel set in a small town close to Hollywood that fails to deliver on its’ promise of glamor, intrigue, and an interesting murderer. 2 out of 5 stars
  5. The Rest of the Story – Another of Sarah Dessen’s tales of the summer that changed everything, this novel is a bit more sophisticated, featuring a character who is the offspring of someone from both sides of the tracks who is learning about who she is and what matters to her. 5 out of 5 stars
  6. My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins’ nose for romance has resulted in this delightful anthology of YA romance stories from established authors that gives you a warm, butterfly-filled stomach, even in the midst of winter chill. 5 out of 5 stars
  7. A Study in Charlotte – Jamie Watson doesn’t much care to go to some stuffy prep school in America, but of course, parents don’t always give teens a choice, do they? At first sight of Charlotte Holmes, great-great-great granddaughter of Jamie’s great-great-great grandfather’s best friend, Jamie is intrigued. Then crimes alluding to the mysteries their great-great-great grandparents solved together, and Dr. Watson wrote of, begin occurring, and the pair have to begin working together to find out who is targeting them and why. 5 out of 5 stars
  8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Evelyn Hugo, the rich and famous and mysterious and glamorous actress, has granted magazine writer Monique Grant the privilege of hearing the story of her life – the real story – and writing a memoir on the rich and interesting material. For some reason. The well-read reader will likely figure out why Evelyn has chosen Monique far before the dim-witted and somewhat unlikable human standing in for a tape recorder does, and the ending of the novel was far too predictable and boring for the glamorous Evelyn Hugo around whose life it predominantly focuses. 4 out of 5 stars
  9. We Sold Our Souls – Horror novel following Kris Pulaski’s disgusting and visceral journey to face her enemy-and-onetime-best-friend Terry Hunt. Once upon a time, they were in a decent heavy metal band, before Terry stole their music to start a solo career that catapulted him to stardom. The world sees Kris as an insane conspiracy theorist who can’t congratulate her friend on his success, but Kris knows what really happened… 3 out of 5 stars
  10. The Raven Boys – Four boys who go to Aglionby, the private school primarily attended by the rich, are on a quest to find Glendower, a mythological Welsh king who is sleeping and will grant a wish to whomever awakens him. When they meet Blue Sargent, a girl raised in a house of psychics who is herself a psychic conduit and magnifier, their search heats up. But they’re not the only ones who want to find Glendower… And so begins the first well-written book in a YA fantasy series. 4 out of 5 stars

My TBR is currently sitting at 112 books:

In summation:

Overall, this has been fun! I like decreasing, and then increasing, and then decreasing my TBR pile, and will continue to do so, though I am not going to even bother pretending I will post blog posts about each of them. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that, in general, I did enjoy the books on my TBR. My self-confidence in my ability to know what I like is bolstered. How does your TBR fare? Do you have any specific recommendations that I should add to that Sisyphean TBR list?

Plain Bad Mediocrity

Brookhants, a property housing a boarding school that was last peopled with students in the early 20th century, is haunted. Parents stopped feeling comfortable sending their girls there after the mysterious deaths of several of the students, as well as members of the faculty. The terrible deaths surrounding the property, as well as the unconventional lifestyles and love interests that people the property’s tragedy, made for a fascinating, bestselling read when literary talent Merritt Emmons had her non-fiction book featuring the mystery published as a precocious teen, and are now in the works to become a (hopefully) blockbuster, (at the least) expensive movie featuring the famous and beautiful Harper Harper and her B-list co-star Audrey Wells. … what could go wrong?

If I were to draft a book wishlist, a book description fairly similar to the synopsis of Plain Bad Heroines would be on it. As a fan of thrillers/horror since elementary school, as well as enough of a follower to read shit because Emma Roberts’ book cult suggested it, it’s almost like Emily M. Danforth’s novel was crafted specifically for me. Sprinkle in characters that challenge heternormativity, and an intelligent, rich mentor character who met Truman Capote, and I have got to fucking read this book.

Give me ALL the books!

Unfortunately, although the plot and characters are interesting, this book was not as enjoyable as I was hoping.

Plain Bad Heroines is an interesting conundrum of a novel, in that it has really forced me to evaluate what I desire from the books that I read. Objectively, I consider the plot to be interesting. It has two primary timelines – one occurring in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, the other occurring more recently, in the early twenty-first century – and both timelines include interesting plots and have an approximate equal weighting. Objectively, I consider the characters to be interesting. There were characters I liked more than others, but the majority of the characters are either fairly well fleshed out, or appropriately rely on stereotypes that allow the reader to quickly understand them. I will say, not all of the characters really grow or change, but given that this novel is in large part a thriller/horror novel, I think that is okay. When you think about a lot of famous horror movies, the main character struggling to survive is often a static character, who may become traumatized, but has not really changed at his or her core, and has instead shown how his or her character has allowed him or her to remain alive. So, given that I agree that the plot and characters in the novel are fairly well done, what, exactly, was my problem with the novel?

That is an excellent question.

I’m going to try. Also, way to call bullshit on my stalling tactics.

Right.

I think the missing element for me with this novel was writing style. There were moments, brief glimpses, where the prose style was enjoyable to me. However, for the most part, the writing of this novel felt a bit plain. It was not that the sentences were even necessarily poorly crafted, they just didn’t appeal to me. The information that should have been conveyed was conveyed, it was just done in a way that felt too simple, that drew too straight a line from point A to point C. In essence, I think that this novel shows craft and shows writing, but just does not do so in a way that is in accord with my artistic sensibilities. I would not be at all surprised to discover I am in the minority in my feelings while reading this novel. At the same time, my honest, true feelings are that the writing style takes an interesting idea peopled with interesting characters and fails to elevate the story, leaving the book instead one more mediocre novel populating store bookshelves starting October 20th.

Ugh – I wanted to like this so much more than I did!

Did you read it, or are you planning to do so? If so, what did you think or what is most interesting/intriguing/appealing to you?

Audrey Hepburn & the Disappointing Movie Based on an Intriguing True Mystery

Amazon Prime occasionally has some hidden gems, and I was both excited and intrigued to see an old film featuring Audrey Hepburn that I had not only never seen, but had never head of, entitled Mayerling. My lack of knowledge could be seen as a sign that I am not a true Audrey Hepburn fan, or it could be a sign that this movie is terrible, and as such, has been hidden away for awhile because why go out of your way to save a shitty movie, even if it does star someone with grace and charm? Regardless, I decided to watch it.

Unfortunately, it is a pretty terrible movie.

Not funny bad, either, just… very dull. So you can watch it, if you’re, like, trying to go to sleep or something. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did watch the entire thing, in case there was some saving grace at the end of the film. There wasn’t.

Wondering why Audrey Hepburn would have participated in this mediocre production, I began to research. Although a terrible movie, the incident that inspired the movie is very interesting. You are probably a better history student than I am, and already know that Mayerling is the village in which Habsburg heir Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress Mary Vetsera both died in mysterious circumstances in a hunting lodge, resulting in instability that culminated in the death of the archduke Franz Ferdinand, the crisis that instigated WWI. If you are not already aware of this string of events, don’t worry, you are not alone. I just looked this shit up, and can direct you to a few articles about the event, including one by the Royal Opera House, the site Naked History, and, of course, the obligatory Wikipedia article.

#datedculturalreferences

An unsolved mystery involving both the aristocracy and having such terrible results is obviously going to hit all the right gossip buttons for most of us. After reading up on the matter a bit, I was kind of surprised that the version featuring Audrey Hepburn and her first husband Mel Ferrer was so dull, uninspired, and frankly, chose the lease interesting solution. The lover murder-suicide pact because the Crown Prince’s family just didn’t understand his son idea is, admittedly, very romantic. Until you find out that the Crown Prince had syphilis, and had already suggested a murder-suicide pact to his former mistress, a woman a bit older and less impressionable than Mary, who declined. This fact changes the story a bit, doesn’t it? And becomes a mentally and physically ill older man’s seduction of a younger girl, culminating in his using his influence in a deadly manner. Until you find out that the body of Mary Vetsera has since been exhumed – and there was no evidence of a bullet wound at all, although there was evidence that death had been caused by violent blows to the head. This end doesn’t entirely rule out the theory of a murder-suicide pact with the Prince, although it does make such a theory decidedly less romantic. Then, there are the rumors that Mary’s family showed up to the lodge to beat the shit out of the Crown Prince (he was, after all, probably taking advantage of Mary at least a little bit), with the Crown Prince accidentally killing Mary during the ensuing brawl, and being murdered by her relatives as a result. There’s another theory that Rudolf took Mary to the lodge to break up with her, and perhaps she reacted violently, causing the prince to kill her in self-defense, then kill himself in horror at what he had done.

THE Hunting Lodge

So many theories, and a mystery that will never be solved (particularly since no one has permission anymore to exhume Rudolf’s remains). Every theory more interesting than the one chosen for Hepburn’s movie.

So why was the most romantic and least likely solution chosen for Hepburn’s movie? And why did Hepburn and Ferrer agree to star in it?

More mysteries I do not have an answer for, although my theory is that it somehow involves her husband’s interests, and perhaps recommended itself to her romantic, though misguided, sensibilities. I fear, however, that my musings on this matter might be the least interesting solution, also. What are your thoughts? Would love to hear your wildest or favorite conspiracy theory!