Friday, February 27, 2009

what makes a vampire book "bad"?

I couple months ago, I read and reviewed Field of Blood for Thomas Nelson. I just reread my review, and I was much more charitable in the review than I would be now. Honestly, I hated that book. Perhaps, at the time, I didn't realize just how much I disliked it. I can now say with certainty that I have no intention of reading the sequel.

Field of Blood was really my first exposure to vampire mythology. I've never seen a vampire movie, and I didn't even know the Twilight books existed until I saw a trailer for the movie at the beginning of the summer. My reaction to the trailer was, "This looks so stupid." As the summer went on, I began hearing more about the books. I'm normally fairly tuned into pop culture, so I'm surprised I knew nothing of the series prior to that trailer.

One day, my youngest sister mentioned that several of her friends were obsessed with the books and couldn't wait for the movie. She expressed interest in the movie, and I encouraged her to stay away from it. I began seeking out reviews of the books, and I found they ranged from "Vampire stories come straight from the pit of hell! Stay away!" to "They're really not so bad." The best review I read was by Tim Challies, whose blog I read regularly.

Then at Christmas, one of my cousins talked about enjoying the movie, and I knew both of my sisters wanted to see it. At that point, I decided to read Twilight for myself . . . I thought if I was advising people not to read it/see the movie, I should have an idea of its content.

I read Twilight in just a few evenings. While it's a huge book (498 pages), it's a quick read. I became engaged in the story right away. I found this book to be much less gruesome (and much more understandable) than Field of Blood. Really, there is no comparing the two books; they're both about vampires, and that's where the similarities end.

Twilight is a love story, plain and simple. However, that doesn't make it innocent. I have several concerns (SPOILER ALERT!):
  • Bella (the main character) rapidly becomes obsessed with Edward (the gorgeous, brooding vampire). Edward is equally obsessed with Bella.
  • Edward is a stalker. He watches Bella sleep! Yet Bella finds this sweet, not creepy.
  • Bella desperately wants Edward to turn her into a vampire so they can be together forever.
  • I've heard the argument that these books are "good" because Bella and Edward don't have sex before they get married. That's only because Edward shows restraint--if it were up to Bella, she'd sleep with him in a heartbeat.
One of my biggest concerns about Twilight, however, isn't based on the content, per say. I'm concerned with how obsessed teen girls become when reading the books. I'm sure not all teens who read Twilight become obsessed, but I know a few who have. One girl in particular is so into the books that I had to take one away from her in my class--she was surreptitiously reading it after I had specifically told her to put it away.

From what I can tell, Twilight is far different from most vampire books and movies. Edward and his family, the Cullens, don't even really seem like vampires. In fact, most of the concerns I have regarding Twilight could be applied to lots of teen fiction; these concerns have little to do with vampires and much to do with the portrayal of love (more accurately, I would say, lust).

Field of Blood felt evil. And it was intended to do so; with demon vampires and "those who resist," it's set up as a battle of good versus evil. Twilight doesn't spend much time dwelling on evil (though Bella is tracked by a vampire who doesn't hold to the Cullens' non-human feeding principles); it dwells on teen angst and relationships.

While not innocent, Twilight is not nearly the danger some make it out to be. Still, I would not allow my young teen daughter to read it, and I would discourage older teens from reading it, as well. I have not read the other three books in the series, but I have heard they are much more violent and sensual than Twilight (see the note at the end of the Challies review). Most girls who read Twilight will want to read the rest of the series (as I said, it's an engaging story), and I think that is the problem--a fairly innocuous book will draw them into the more dangerous material.

I guess it all boils down to discernment--something we could all use more of in our media consumption! I'm reminded of the theme verse from my first semester at Grace:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8
Does Twilight meet that standard? I'd say it doesn't . . . and neither do a lot of other things I've read and watched.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

dear er,

Please don't kill Dr. Carter. I quit watching you years ago, but you've pulled me back in with the return of the original cast members. I know you have a penchant for killing off main characters (Drs. Greene, Romano & Pratt, Kellie Martin, and that guy Neela was married to), but please, don't bring Dr. Carter back only to kill him. That would just be cruel.

it's time

It's time to buy an iPod. I've held out for a long time, even purchasing a $50 mp3 player a couple years ago. (This same player would probably cost me $20 today.) I don't need the brand, I thought. I don't buy music from iTunes, so what does it matter?

Well, the problem is that in this case, you get what you pay for. The battery is supposed to last for 12 hours; I'm lucky to get it to last 4. Right now, it's full with 233 songs on it. That may sound like a lot; trust me, it's not.

My sister bought an iPod (against my advice) last summer. I love it! I'm sure there are other mp3 players out there that are just as good, but boy, does this beat my piece of junk!

So, I'm in the market for an iPod . . . any suggestions for which type/size I should get?

Monday, February 23, 2009

music with a side of crazy

I watched the Academy Awards last night. I can't remember the last time I watched the whole show--maybe I never had before. I didn't expect to enjoy it too much (after all, the only nominated films I saw were Wall-E and The Dark Knight--and they weren't up for Best Picture), but I did want to see the opening musical number. (Do they always do one? I have no idea--I just knew Hugh Jackman would do one.) Take a look at the opening number.

I'm Wolverine! What a way to remind us that he has a big movie coming out! And Anne Hathaway? That girl can sing! (Having seen Ella Enchanted, I already knew that . . . now someone cast her in a musical!)

I wasn't expecting another musical showcase, but there was one! I question the use of Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens (had the Oscars not run on ABC, would they have been chosen? And to have Efron as a presenter, too?), but overall, lots of fun!

However, my favorite moment, by far, was when Ben Stiller walked onstage. It took only a moment to realize what he was doing: lampooning this interview Joaquin Phoenix did on Letterman a couple weeks ago. Hilarious!

Yeah, there were awards, too . . . but how many of us watch the Oscars for the awards?

Friday, February 13, 2009

things to do on a snow day

  1. Not sleep in, as the call came after my shower . . . once I've showered, I'm awake.
  2. Write a letter of recommendation for one of my students. It had to be mailed today, and I'd completely spaced it off.
  3. Finish Twilight. I'll have more to say about this in another post.
  4. Stare out the window at the snow and be thankful I have a job with snow days.
  5. Work out. This is one my least favorite activities (go figure!), but since I have a whole day free, I couldn't come up with good enough excuses not to.
  6. Watch Alias. Fortunately, the mailman didn't have a snow day, so he was able to deliver this from Netflix!
  7. Spill sparkling water all over my book, coffee table, and VCR remote.
  8. Drive my sister to her teacher's house. There are seriously like six inches of snow on the ground (and my car!).
  9. Do dishes. Reluctantly.
  10. Get blown away by romance. No, not in my own life, but romance is romance, right? My assistant coach's husband stopped by this afternoon to drop off flowers for me to give her at the speech meet tomorrow since she'll be gone for most of Valentine's Day. How sweet is that?
  11. Change my calendar to February.
  12. Drink half a pot of decaf coffee. Believe it or not, Walmart's Sam's Choice decaf is quite excellent.
  13. Begin work on my new (or old?) cross-stitch project. My grandma started it years ago and never finished it. My goal is to have it completed by her birthday in July.
  14. Make turkey noodle soup.
  15. Brush my teeth. As I was eating said soup, I ran my tongue over my teeth and realized they felt "fuzzy." Then I remembered that, as brushing my teeth is the last thing I do before rushing out the door for work and I didn't go to work today, I never had brushed them.
  16. Watch Psych.
  17. Go to bed--the alarm will go off at 4:15 a.m.!

Monday, February 9, 2009

virgin lips--a defense against memory loss

Back in 2004, Jodi gave me Blackfor Christmas. As far as I can remember, that was the first Ted Dekker book I read. (I think I maybe started Blink before that, but I know I didn't finish it.) After that, I couldn't get my hands on Dekker books quickly enough. I enjoyed House, which he cowrote with Frank Peretti, but it seemed to be lacking something. So I was a little cautious of Kiss, cowritten with Erin Healy.

I began reading last night while Nate & Steph were watching the Super Bowl episode of The Office, so my mind wasn't completely on the book right away. After they left, though, I really got sucked in, and I finished it before going to bed (albeit much later than usual!).

Kiss is the story of Shauna McAllister. Her father is running for president when she and her brother are in a terrible accident, and she spends six weeks in a coma. When she wakes up, she can't remember the last six months of her life. As she tries to figure out what is going on, she discovers that she can steal memories from others by--you guessed it--kissing them. (Sometimes, just a touch will work, too . . . but Shauna most often goes for the kiss.)

I don't want to give too much away here, but I will say that I had the "bad guys" pegged from the beginning. Also, I expected it to be much more of a romance, considering the title and the back cover, which proclaims it's "packed with romance." Not hardly! Publisher's Weekly states that the book also "shines light into black-market child trafficking"--well, it does list a couple of human trafficking websites, and one of the characters had a child sold on the black market, but it's hardly the focus of the book. When things finally get wrapped up and the reason for Shauna's amnesia --which does involve human trafficking--comes to light, it feels rushed. For the first two thirds of the book, the reader learns things as Shauna does, but at the end, the reader is left in the dark--perhaps to build suspense leading up to the climax? I felt cheated, and in the deluge of information, the end lacks the punch I'm sure the authors intended.

This was a quick (3 hour) and enjoyable read, but I still prefer Dekker's solo works, especially the Circle trilogy (or quartet?--there's a Green scheduled for release in September) and Skin.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

25 random things about me

This is the latest facebook obsession. I thought I'd take a page from Melody's book and post mine here.

  1. I share a birthday with Pete Sampras and my first real crush. (To clarify: I have the same birthday as the first boy I liked, and I have the same birthday as Pete Sampras. I do not share my first real crush with Pete Sampras.)
  2. While You Were Sleeping has been my favorite movie since I saw it in the theater in 8th grade. It will remain my favorite movie until the day I die.
  3. I am a horrible multi-tasker.
  4. When I was in 2nd grade, I learned that a classmate's father had graduated with my dad. For some reason, I thought this meant we were destined to marry. This troubled me greatly.
  5. It's very difficult to convince myself to go to bed early (and by early I mean before midnight)--even during speech season, when I get up at 6:15 on weekdays and 5:30 or earlier on Saturdays. Perhaps this is why I'm crabby during speech.
  6. I would probably pass out if I ever met Dean Cain.
  7. I went through a phase (OK, a decade) where I was completely obsessed with figure skating. Just ask my siblings.
  8. I once turned around in church and saw that Lori Wick was a few rows behind me. Of course, I didn't go talk to her--where were all my bold friends when I needed them?
  9. My most despised chore growing up was crushing cans. My dad would bring home huge garbage bags full of cans (most from games at school), and we kids would have to crush and bag them for recycling. The smells, the bees, the fighting with my siblings . . . it was horrible.
  10. If you call me but don't leave a message, I won't call you back.
  11. I worked as a telemarketer for two summers.
  12. My siblings and I once acted out The Sound of Music using my soundtrack. You'd probably like to know how old I was at the time, but I don't want to tell you!
  13. During my one and only trip to LA, I unexpectedly got to tour the Gilmore Girls set. No one was around, so we even went into Luke's Diner to take pictures! (Thanks, Regina and Jen!)
  14. While on the WB lot, we also met George Lopez. Meeting him did not cause the reaction mentioned in #6.
  15. I've started many handwork projects; I rarely see them through to completion. Actually, I think I've only seen one through to completion--the one I gave to my cousin for Christmas.
  16. I come off as shyer than I really am because I am very quiet and often don't know what to say.
  17. In college, I was "adopted" by a family from my church. The wife was a real mentor to me, and I was able to share my hopes, dreams, and struggles with her in a way that I never before had with an older woman. God brought her into my life at a time when I was really thinking through and struggling with what I believed and why I believed it. I've lost touch with her, but I'll never forget her influence on my life.
  18. One of my college roommates and I used to do a wicked impression of the guy who made our coffee.
  19. I DESPISE writing captions--or as we call them in yearbook, "cut lines." They are the bane of my existence as a yearbook adviser.
  20. I wish I could remember my grandpa better. I have a few clear memories of him before he got sick, but mostly I can only remember the hard times.
  21. I hate cleaning.
  22. I have a weakness for all things (books, movies, TV shows) time related. If you write a book or make a movie, just throw in a time loop, and I promise I'll buy it.
  23. I can't act. At all. Yet I coach the school's speech team.
  24. I'm absolutely obsessed with LOST. I could discuss it with you for hours. And yes, it does have a time element to it.
  25. My next handwork project (which I WILL finish!) will be completing a cross-stitch wall hanging my grandma started but never finished.

fireproof in 60

Yup, I'm talking about Fireproof yet again. If you've already seen it, go here to watch a hilarious 60 second summary. (Click on "Fireproof in 60" under the movie player.) If you haven't seen it, rent it, then watch the summary. My sister and my surrogate sister were practically in hysterics :-)

Monday, February 2, 2009

what i'm reading and listening to

A few weeks ago, I listed some books I'm planning to read. Here's how I'm doing:
  • Sunset by Karen Kingsbury. Finished it the day after my reading post. It "wraps up" the Baxter saga, which is sad, but I was very excited to learn that two of the characters will be in Kingsbury's next series.
  • On A Whim by Robin Jones Gunn. I read this in two evenings. If you read the Christy Miller books, you'll want to read this (and the one that comes before it). The only thing that's a little odd to me is that when I read the Christy Miller series in junior high and early high school, Christy and Katie were older than me. Now, even though like 15 years have passed in the real world, only 5 have in the Christy Miller universe. Still, it's a fun read.
  • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley. I've only read the intro and the first chapter so far, and I'm already doing lots of underlining . . . and I don't normally mark up my books! I feel like this woman really gets me. And I loved her definition of extended singleness: "One day past the marriage of a close high school friend, your younger sister, or even your own niece or nephew." I'm looking forward to finishing this one!
Now for the music. This is how I've spent $10 of my $15 gift card:
  • "Everything"
    by Michael Buble. I considered buying the whole album, but I could think of too many other songs I wanted! This song was featured in the recent Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Loving Leah. As soon as the movie comes out on DVD, I'm totally buying it.
  • "Return To Pooh Corner"
    by Kenny Loggins. I've loved this song ever since I first heard it on Delilah about 12 years ago, but I never before thought of it when I was trying to spend free music credits.
  • "Total Eclipse Of The Heart"
    by Bonnie Tyler. This is one of those songs that I don't know why I like so much, but I do.
  • "Dragonheart--Main Theme" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" from 100 Greatest Film Themes (6 CD SET)
    If anyone is looking for a gift for me, this CD set would be perfect . . . I certainly can't justify spending $60 on CDs!
  • The Forecast EP by B.Reith. Yeah, you read that right--I bought hip hop!
  • "Ultra Violet"
    by Joanna Pacitti. Thus continues my obsession with music from What I Like About You. Interestingly, Joanna is a contestant on American Idol this season. I don't watch the show, so I haven't seen her, but it seems to me that she shouldn't be eligible, considering she's already had a record deal. But I don't know their rules . . .