The Selection or That Time I Absolutely Rooted For the Prince

The Selection by Kiera Cass

So when I was about 10 pages in I described this book as “like the Hunger Games, only instead of killing each other they have to compete to marry the Prince. So, kind of less awesome” and I stand by that.

Essentially that’s the plot of this story. In a distopian future a shattered United States is divided up into castes (see Districts) with little or no chance of individuals escaping the situation they are born in. There is a critical shortage of food generally, particularly for lower castes but the main character, America, (see Katniss) and her family do relatively well for themselves, although they occasionally face overwhelming poverty. America  works as hard as she can to protect her family, particularly her younger sister May (see Prim) and often experiences tension with her mother (see Katniss’s relationship with her mother). As well, she breaks the law (see Katniss and the law) mostly to spend time with the man she really, really loves – Aspen (see Gale). Slightly problematic about this relationship – she was 15 when she met him and they have been together for two years, trying to find a way to get married. I’m all for young love and all but … anyway that seems a little much to me somehow. I would have been more comfortable if everyone had been just a little older.

Anyway, my comfort about 15 year olds getting married is not the issue.

The prince of the country has come of age (like… why wouldn’t they make that 25 so America could have at least the been the legal age of consent when she met her true love?) and so it’s time for him to get a wife. Apparently the best way to do this is randomly select 35 young women/girls to come, live in the palace, have a televised life and hook up with the prince. America enters because Aspen asks her to, on the assumption she won’t get in. He breaks up with her shortly afterwards for her own good (I have it on good authority that that’s a lame excuse)

Spoiler! She gets in.

So its off to the Capital, I mean Palace, for our poor, hungry heroine where she’s made over, meets the competition and gets some maids.

While there she learns that she’s awesome at pleasing the crowds (see Katniss and her public image), doesn’t really like overly pretty clothes (see Katniss and her outfits), that the rebellions that are occurring at the edges of the country are way more serious then anyone outside the Palace knows (see Katniss and learning about the rebellions), publicly courts the Prince Maxon (see Katniss and Peta) and finds out that he’s actually kind of an awesome guy on the inside (see Katniss and Peta. Again)

The writing was unremarkable. Attempts to make America seem three dimensional are forced, weak and often quite lame. The other girls are, for the most part, cardboard cutouts including one of the most offensive, un-empowering female tropes ever – the Bitch – and the clever parts that could have been really played up like the wealth gaps and the contrast between the parties and the attacks by the rebels only serve as an opportunity for somewhat ineffective character development instead of being studies in their own right.

But I kind of liked it anyway. It was an easy read for sure, fun, cute, Maxon got a little more character development than any other and was kind of adorable and there were a few spots that had me laughing out loud. Mostly surrounding him and America, although sometimes the other girls, trying to find ways to be friends (yeah right, like that lasts long). I’m not going to say it was a great book, but it was nice book. A chick flick book. And I’ll read the sequel whenever it comes out.

Last movie I watched: None. We’re still on the Muppets.

Last TV episode I watched: Batman Beyond. Where Ten comes back and Terry’s all confused ’cause he really digs her but she’s a super criminal who keeps trying to kill him, although in her defense, she doesn’t know that he’s Batman. She is Terry’s Catwoman. It’s wonderful.

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At Christmas the only things you can read are comics

Seriously – in the 5 days I had off I managed to get less then 20 pages into my novel. Extremely unsatisfying. So comics it is.

Batman Arkham City End Game by Derek Fridolfs and Jason Shawn Alexander. Batman Dark Knight Prisoner No More by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch. Batman Beyond #9, 10 by Krul Porter Livesay, Nguyen Fridolfs, Beechen Breyfogle. Red Hood and the Outlaws by Scot Lobcell and Pascal Alixe. Young Justice Invasion Divided They Fall? by Greg Weisman and Christopher Jones.

Arkham City is the comic series based on the video game. Seriously that’s a thing. Well sort of anyway – I guess whoever made the game thought it would be cool if have all the villains living in a little city so Batman could systematically beat them up (the plot of the video game) and then DC built stories around why all the bad guys would be in a city. The Joker is apparently dying (I don’t believe it) in the set up for the game and in this comic he’s seemingly dead (still don’t believe it). But being the Joker he needs to screw with people even after his death. It’s a pretty dark story but kind of lacks the stuff I love most about Batman (bonding, emotions, clever detective work, etc). Good read though, that’s for sure.

Dark Knight is one of the New 52 series that DC is using as an elaborate torture device ’cause they’re mean. This one actually comes before the one I’d already read and mostly consists of Scarecrow torturing Batman for reasons unknown and exploring Scarecrow’s back story. I totally admire that Batman writers are trying to make the villains sympathetic and genuine but I’m starting to feel like child abuse can’t the the only trauma that makes bad guys.  I’m pretty sure science can back me up there too. Anyway – fun times. Makes Batman getting rescued by Damian in the next episode way sweeter.

Batman Beyond (both of them, same story, continuation of each other) FILLED WITH AWESOME. Terry and the Justice League, or whatever they’re calling themselves in the future are fight Kobra and a really giant… cobra that’s trying to eat most of the city. Highlights include Bruce and Barbara rescuing Terry after Bruce half tricked him into becoming a demon (I know, comics cross genres too often) and both Tim and Dick showing up. SO GOOD. If there was a downside I’d have to say it was too much Superman.

Since I have such huge crushes on all the other Robins, it seemed unfair of me to ignore Jason, so I grabbed one of Red Hood’s New 52 comics. Awesomeness about this one? Red Hood beating up Superman. For like 2 seconds but still, you got to give him credit for trying. Also epic – the ending! And the cliffhanger! I mean, you always know setting Jason up to meet the Joker is going to be pretty fabulous but I guess it never gets old.

And apparently Young Justice is more than just a really smart cartoon, it’s a comic too! Just full of my favourite characters like Superboy (way less annoying than Superman) and Miss Martian (guess what? She’s an alien!) and adorable Nightwing and Batgirl awesomeness. Not that much story wise but I’m not sure what to expect. Its the first comic I’ve read that I found in the kids section.

Last movie I watched: Muppets Christmas Carol. My favourite Christmas movie. But the library didn’t get it back until after Christmas so I had to watch it last night. No biggie though! Turns out Michael Cane is awesome any time of year.

Last TV episode I watched: Merlin! Which is awesome!! And apparently cancelled. Which sucks a lot.

I know the 1960s Batman was trippy but this was just… well too trippy

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Niel Gaiman and Andy Kubert

Okay so maybe I would have liked this book more if I’d gotten it. But I totally didn’t. And I’m okay with not getting stuff. What I don’t like is not getting stuff because someone’s trying to say something vague and important and cryptic on purpose leaving the rest of us either faking understanding or admitting we have no idea what the hell just happened.

So Batman attending his own funeral to listen to all his greatest allies and enemies explain all the different way he died while chatting with his long dead mother, reciting the Batman version of Good Night Moon and then being born just left me wondering what I’d just read.

I didn’t get it but I liked the pictures.

They were very pretty.

Yeah, I don’ t know what to say about that book.

Movie and TV watching report: No one movies, Young Justice is still awesome.

The really awesome kids’ book that wasn’t (a kids’ book)

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fford

Note to publishers: The age of the the character doesn’t automatically mean you’ve figured out your target audience.

Jennifer Strange is a fifteen, almost sixteen year old girl. She is also very, very awesome.

But that doesn’t make this book funny for kids. I thought the country of the Ununited Kingdom, complete with a UKBC was hilarious. I loved each of the wizards and their quirky habits of giving themselves titles, playing tricks on each other and doing plumbing just to pay the bills. I thought the  idea of the government requiring paperwork for every single spell or risk a witch burning was super funny. The Transient Moose, the Quarkbeast and the Sisters of the Lobster are all wonderful.

But when the description of these wonderful things, plus the foundling system, the introduction of Tiger and the legend of the Dragonslayers takes up the first two thirds of the book I just can’t help but feel like most kids aren’t willing to commit to almost two hundred pages of quirky, fun but  slowing moving narration. I mean I love bureaucracy, eccentric old people and breakfast as much as the next fairly patient adult, but most of the kids I hang out with, probably not so much.

So even though I loved this book (seriously – so much adorable quirkiness and the Quarkbeast and sponsorship/real estate/capitalism jokes) I would never have put it in the kids section. Teen maybe, more likely adults who liked Thursday Next and other quirky British humour.

I fit into both categories.

Last movie I watched: Trout Fishing in the Yemen. Super cute.

Last TV episode I watched: Young Justice. This is a kind of awesome show! I mean, I’m mostly watching it for the Batman appearances, and also Robin/Tim but you know, it’s pretty good.

Four reasons I should never go to a comic book store

Batman: The Dark Knight: The New 52: #14 by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch, Batman Beyond #8 by Beechen Breyfogle, Krul Porter Livesay and Nguyen Fridolfs, Batman and Robin: The New 52: # 13 by Peter J Tomasi, Pat Gleason, Tomas Giorello and Mick Gray, Nightwing: The New 52 #12,13 and 14 by Kyle Higgins, Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez, Mark Irwin and Tom DeFalco

Reason #1: Batman

Reason #2: Batman Beyond

Reason #3: Batman and Robin

Reason #4: Nightwing.

There are actually a whole bunch of other reasons too (like Batgirl and Batwoman and Huntress and Red Robin) but I’m avoiding those. For as long as humanly possible.

Knowing me, that won’t be a long time.

Okay, so over the weekend I went to one of my favourite places (Toronto) and then into the Silver Snail comic book store. I’d been in it before, but it was pre-Batman so, while it had been neat to see all the statuettes of my favourite fictional people, it wasn’t really a big problem for me, walking out without having spent any money. I mean, I like statuettes as much as the next person but I’m still in that phase of my life where ideally everything I own would fit in my car so I can move with short notice. So, while it’d be hilarious to have a four foot likeness of Gandalf, it’s not really practical, and to be honest, I don’t really want one anyway. I like stories more than I like souvenirs.

Anyway, going to the Silver Snail when you’re not really into comics is like going to a music shop when you don’t play anything – you look at the shinies and then go home without really appreciating the genius and beauty of what you just saw.

It’s totally different when you want to read some of them.

So it’s happened – I’ve started reading comics. With each of the series I’ve picked up I landed more or less in the middle,  but I’m not finding it that difficult to work around that.

Nigthwing, being the darling that he is, spent two of the three comics I bought hunting down and getting pummeled by Lady Shiva, as well as investing all of his money in rebuilding the circus and it’s really neat. These ones, more than the others, are really focusing on both sides of Dick and Nightwing. Dick makes bad financial decisions out of a desire to help his circus family (but who are we kidding? He’s Bruce Wayne’s adopted child, he couldn’t go broke no matter how hard he tried) and Nightwing’s doing the best he can to keep the city safe while Batman and co are busy freaking out about how the Joker’s on the loose and killing people.

In the Batman Beyond, there’s a little less going on, or maybe it only seems that way because I only got the one, but it’s good. It opens with a series of really beautiful/heart breaking images that are Bruce’s worst nightmare and we learn that he’s dying (I’m torn on this one – I don’t think he’ll die of liver failure one way or the other, so it’s just a question of whether he gets cured or dies in some other, slightly more glorious way) but before Terry has the chance to come to terms with that, the world starts to end. Poor Terry – the more I think about it, the more I think he gets the shortest stick of anyone in the Batfamily (that’s the technical term for them… true story). Well, maybe Jason had it worse, what with dying and all…

Batman and Robin was a little less awesome ’cause it’s big baddie is zombies, which are pretty unimpressive but it opened with a few pages of really beautiful Bruce and Damian moments. I’m just getting to know Damian, but he’s definitely starting to grow on me. I feel like the comic did a really good job of balancing his kick-ass, hard core, punkiness with the reality that he’s just a kid and he really is looking for affection and approval from his father. And processing that his mother put a huge bounty on his head. I feel that’s going to really strain things between Bruce and Talia from now on…

The Batman one felt really, really short because most of it was Batman getting beaten up by Scarecrow and then off being unconscious somewhere else, and letting some serious plot build up elsewhere, presumably for the next issue. Again, my favourite part was the moment when Bruce wakes up and Damian is with him, where its clear for all their awkwardness that there’s a lot of love there too.

Anyway, the most important thing I learned from this experience is that comics are incredible complicated. Like, if I wanted to read everything about Batman that was released by DC this month, I would probably have to follow at least a dozen different comics when you add up all the spin offs for sidekicks and villains and the Justice League. And they overlap and they intersect all the time to make huge monster stories that span across hundreds of publications. It’s craziness, it’s madness, I couldn’t keep up with it even if I wanted to.

And that’s wonderful.

Last movie I watched: Halfway through the 3rd Transformers.  Kind of unimpressed. Going in I assumed that Shia LaBeouf would at least be adorable enough to make it worth while, but even that’s been a letdown. On the bright side, I really like elephants.

Evidence for my previous statement regarding how I read like I’m a ten year old boy

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

I love Diary of  Wimpy Kid. It’s super cute. And funny. And awesome. And full of little drawings of people. All of these things make it super duper nifty.

I also like books that make me giggle loudly in crowded coffee shops while I sit in comfy chairs next to sleeping people. Super helpful.

So, having prefaced what I’m about to say with all these wonderful things I like about Diary of a Wimpy Kid I’m going to admit  that this one was not my favourite.

And I’m not sure why exactly that is, because even the parts that I wasn’t sure I liked, like the the police coming around for the toy drive or Greg shoveling the church parking lot were hilarious, fit in nicely with the character and the story telling style and made sense. I just felt a little like, I don’t know, these experiences were less likely to reflect (what I perceive as) the ten year old boy experience. Like having a sleepover with a grade 4 class, I can see all the boys farting or making fart noises and then giggling about them until the teacher made them fart behind a curtain which only makes the giggle worse (obviously). That’s just a thing I think would happen. Some of the stuff in this book seems less likely to be real somehow. I don’t know.

Maybe Christmas was just getting in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

Whatever, it was still good, I still giggled, and I’m totally looking forward to the  next one, whenever it comes out.

Since I wrote my last post I haven’t watched anything.

‘Cause it was like ten minutes ago.

What weekends are for!

Alcatraz versus the Scrivenger’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson

So this is the fabulously funny second book in Alcatraz’s autobiography.

It picks up more or less after the end of the first one – Alcatraz is waiting in an airport to be picked up by his Grandfather Smedry, whose Talent is always being late (I know people with that Talent too). Therefore the agent of the librarians’, the Scrivenger’s Bone, finds Alcatraz first and he’s rescued just in time by Bastille, her mother Draulin, Alcatraz’s newly discovered uncle Kaz and his cousin Australia in a giant glass dragon. First of all, what more could you want out of book?

Then, to make things even better, Alcatraz manages to use his lenses to get in touch with Grandpa Smedry and finds out that he is looking for Alcatraz’s long lost (presumed dead) father at the dreaded Library of Alexandria.

Enter the rescue mission.

So, since I’m not actually a ten year old boy (although I seem to have their reading habits) I’m just going to have to assume that they really like this book because its fun, it’s funny, it’s fast paced and full of adorably, profoundly boyish statements like “Girls smell funny” and excitement over using turning yourself briefly into a jet. All these things are awesome.

I am a literary snob so I kind of adore Alcatraz’s commentary on writing, literature, tropes and Brandon Sanderson’s other works (for example, The Wheel of IT TAKES WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH Time TO READ THIS SERIES). He bemoans that none of his family or friends have the moral fortitude to die for the purpose of the narrative arch. He discusses metaphors carefully and meticulously. He goes out of his way to draw attention to small details and then orders us for forget them so we will be surprised later and he writes a fake last page so anyone who skips to the last page (SPOILER Bastille is dead) will have the whole book ruined.

I had many laugh out loud moments. Which was awkward since I read quite a bit of it in a bus station/on a bus. Whatever.

The last movie I watched: Wolverine Origins. I’m trying to figure out why it wasn’t more awesome. It had most of the stuff you need to be awesome – a kind of complicated plot, cool characters, Hugh Jackman, but somehow… it just wasn’t as awesome as the other X-Men movies.

Last TV episode I watched: A Batman. I feel like this show is really hard on ex-cons. This one featured an ex-con with an invisibility suit that he used to kidnap his child. Batman won though.