Thursday, June 30, 2011

Song of the Day: "Breathe (2am)"

Trailer: The Three Musketeers

I am sure there are various reasons why we're expecting this to be bad or inaccurate or whatever, but at the moment my feelings are as follows: Hot guys, swordfighting, intrigue, pretty clothes, and a female assassin? COUNT ME IN. But don't worry: I'll try to read the book before the movie comes out so I can be properly outraged with the rest of you.

You know, between this and Revenge, Dumas is going to have quite the Moment this fall, isn't he?

Morning Coffee (6/30/11)

Wow, it's the end of June already. Sheesh.

Learn how to select produce.

Read Six Things That Should Be Banned from Bars. I think I agree with all of them.

Marvel at the zero packaging grocery store. I want one!

Add me on Google+, even though this review shows that there may not be much of a point.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Song of the Day: "Who Says"

Selena Gomez's new album is out today, and I must admit I completely unironically love this feel-good song.

Trailer: Brave

The first trailer for Disney's Brave is out, and I'm . . . cautiously optimistic. I mean, if nothing else, we get Kevin McKidd's Scottish accent, and that's no small consideration.

Morning Coffee (6/28/11)

Sorry for the radio silence yesterday - I was home sick and not up to doing much other than knitting and watching Burn Notice.

Stock up on music with Amazon's $5 album sale.

Marvel at the track listing for The Muppets soundtrack, and at how well it signals the intended audience.

Read Malinda Lo's message to her adult readers.

Look at John Cusack as Poe.

Get excited for a Brian Wilson biopic.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My advance review of Suits!

Curious about the new show Suits? I've got a whole review for you right over here.

Song of the Day: "MK Ultra"

New Burn Notice online graphic novel!

Just in time for the Burn Notice premiere, chapter one of the online graphic novel A New Day has been released. For now, you can read online, and they'll allow for download to your mobile device soon. Note: It takes place after the season four finale, so if you're still catching up (as I am) you might want to wait.

"His superpower is his brain."

In preparation for tonight's premiere, I talked to Doug Liman, executive producer of Suits, and he said something that I thought encapsulated what I like about a lot of the characters on USA Network: that they're like superheroes, but their superpowers are their brains. Read about that and his other thoughts on Suits in my piece for TheTelevixen.com.

Morning Coffee (6/23/11)

Good morning? I think?

Watch the season premiere of Burn Notice and series premiere of Suits tonight on USA, and refresh your memory (or prepare to dive in for the first time) with this handy Burn Notice A to Z.

Read Jose Antonio Vargas's very important piece, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant."

Going to Comic Con? Heed Carina MacKenzie's tips.

Listen to free music from La Sera.

Follow my new favorite Tumblr, Joe Biden Eating Sandwiches.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of the Day: "Insensitive"

Trailer: A Dangerous Method

This is one of those trailers that makes it look like there's an about even chance of the advertised movie being great or awful. And it's also one of those movies that just invites you to do some reading beforehand so you can be properly enraged by everything they've messed up. And I'm unconvinced by Keira Knightley's Russian accent. But on the other hand, it has Michael Fassbender and pretty clothes, so I'm inclined to be lenient.



(Thanks to Alyssa for tweeting the link to the trailer!)

Morning Coffee (6/22/11)

It's Wednesday. But it's my Thursday! Because I'm taking Friday off. So. That's something.

Read Dave Weigel on Jon Huntsman.

Check out Alyssa Rosenberg's guide to women-centered culture for guys.

Be confused and/or impressed by this New York Times-scented candle.

Watch a sneak peek of Selena Gomez's surreal new video (via Hollywood Life):

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Get ready for White Collar with my interview with Marsha Thomason!

In preparation for tonight's Diana-centric episode of White Collar, I talked to actress Marsha Thomason about sexuality, diversity, loyalty, and more. Read my interview at TheTelevixen and make sure you catch White Collar tonight on USA!

Song of the Day: "Give Me Everything"

Album out today!

Trailer: Winnie the Pooh

I had barely paid attention to the fact that there was a new Pooh movie coming out this summer until I was sitting in the lobby of a movie theater reading and found myself completely distracted by this trailer. Holy effective use of a song, Batman.



Seriously, I keep tearing up. But Keane-induced nostalgia aside, I'm curious to see how this reboot does - it's obviously aiming for the adult audience, with the careful traditionalism and John Cleese narration, but will kids like it as well, or will it be too quiet and understated to hold its own against Cars 2 and whatever other animated fare is hitting theaters this summer? Let's hope the extant Pooh merchandising empire is enough to carry it through.

Announcement: New gig!

No, I'm not moving again. But as of yesterday, I am a staff blogger for Vampire-Diaries.net, the premier Vampire Diaries fan site. I'm proud to be there and very grateful to Red and Vee for asking me to join the team. I won't be posting all the links to my posts there over here, because most are short newsy items only of interest to fans of the show or books, but I'll let you know when I have anything up there that's longer or of particular interest.

Travel the world with Covert Affairs!

Over at TheTelevixen, I have some intel from executive producer Doug Liman on where the Covert Affairs crew is headed this season - and where he'd love to send them.

Morning Coffee (6/21/11)

Happy first day of summer!

Look at the fun Google doodle for today.

Listen to Rave On Buddy Holly, a new album of Buddy Holly covers streaming at NPR First Listen. The Black Keys! Fiona Apple! Modest Mouse! Florence + the Machine!

Mark your calendar - The Vampire Diaries comes back on September 15.

Read Dahlia Lithwick on the Supreme Court Wal-Mart decision.

Watch John Green's video about religion and meaning:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Song of the Day: "Someone Like You"

TV Pilot Review: The Nine Lives of Chloe King

A new teen supernatural show, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, premiered last week on ABC Family. Based on a series of books, it's about a girl who turns sixteen and finds out that she's part of a supernatural race that's sort of cat-like, and also that she has people hunting her. The pilot was . . . basically as cheesy as it sounds, but not necessarily in a bad way. One thing that made this show stand out was that the teens actually talked like teens, and some of them even looked like teens. Chloe is an engaging and likeable main character, though I thought she accepted "Hey, you have superpowers!" a little too easily. Her best friend was horribly annoying, but the rest of the supporting characters ranged from "forgettable but fine" to "oh, kind of interesting!" The pacing and structure of the pilot made the supernatural mystery plot a little confusing, but it was certainly intriguing. And hey, it's summer. Snarky teens with good hair and superpowers? I'll stick around.

Guest Post: Another perspective on Edith Zimmerman and GQ

My cousin Elizabeth Welsh e-mailed me some interesting thoughts on Edith Zimmerman, Chris Evans, and GQ, so I asked her to turn it into a guest post for you all. I don't necessarily agree with everything she's saying here, but I think it's worth reading (obviously). You can find Liz on Tumblr and Twitter.

____

So I read the Edith Zimmerman piece in GQ, in the actual magazine.

I don't think it's the end of the world. As a piece of magazine writing, I don't think it’s very good. Like you, I do wonder what her assignment was. I also assume that she was working under a really tight deadline.

For me, the most revealing part was when she writes about Chris Evans trying to figure out if he can be the regular dude AND ALSO be the big famous actor guy. That’s the reason the most important part was at the end underneath her name, where it says that she's the editor of The Hairpin and that this is her first piece for GQ. Because I felt like she was going through that same thing, wondering if she could write witty things for smart ladies AND ALSO play the game and write the big schmancy masturbatory celebrity profile. Or even if she isn't trying to figure that out, I could picture her calling up her editor and saying, This is what happened but WTF on the planet am I ever going to write about it?? And her editor just saying, That sounds awesome, it sounds intimate and personal and real, just write what happened. And her still not really being sure how to do that, but needing to do it anyway, for the deadline, and for needing to get paid, and trying to maintain that perfect ironic po-mo distance that will (hopefully?) make it awesome but still not being sure how TF on the planet she's ever going to write about it.

But then I am not a professional writer.

I wonder why some people have just assumed they hooked up. She never says or even implies she thinks that they did. If she was drunk enough not to remember what happened (which, yes, was a MISTAKE any way you slice it), in many jurisdictions that would mean Chris Evans sexually assaulted her, since she was legally incapable of giving consent.

I think if she had been a dude the exact same things would have happened, except it would have been eye-rolling rather than outrageous, because then they would have just been stupid bros acting like stupid bros, and that I think is what's truly BS and sexist about the whole brouhaha. But then I am a huge proponent of platonic girl-guy friendships (and yes, I know she admitted to being attracted to him, but to me it still read like what people do when they hang out as friends, not go out on a date, as much as she may have loved for that to have been what happened), and it really frustrates me the way guy-girl friendships are so often misread, or greeted with skepticism.

I do think it is significant that they're both from Boston, and around the same age. Not because I believe her when she says that made it seem like they were out on a date, but because they were two people who seem to have both felt ambivalent about being on the knife's edge of needing do to things differently because they're on the cusp of something big (first big summer blockbuster, first big schmancy magazine piece), and Los Angeles is really far away from Boston. It’s easy for me to imagine them both feeling relieved to find comfort in what’s familiar. I grew up in Boston, and when I visited the West Coast it didn’t take me very long to realize the people out there are different. After spending three consecutive nights going out in Portland and Seattle, that third night in Seattle I was SO thrilled to talk to a sleazy almost-middle-aged guy from New Jersey just because I was finally interacting with someone where I felt okay about talking fast and being sarcastic.

I will be surprised if she’s ever asked to write a GQ piece again. I can see her being contacted by tabloids: Hey that Chris Evans piece was great, will you fake-befriend XYZ celebrity, get him/her to talk about his/her dirty secrets, and write about it for us?? I imagine she will say no.

So maybe the moral of the story is that still-becoming-established writers should not write profiles of still-becoming-established actors.

Mostly I just feel bad for Edith Zimmerman, because I don't think she deserves to be vilified.

And finally, since I’m also from Boston and probably around the same age as her and Chris Evans, I do have to state for the record: YES JAM'N 94.5. Baltazar & Pebbles 4-eva.

Morning Coffee (6/20/11)

Oh, hello again, Monday . . .

Watch the first episode of the new Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight at 8 on Current TV.

Smile at the adorable cheetah cubs. You won't be able to help it.

Prepare yourself for having to watch a Mitch Albom movie, Bradley Whitford fans.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Song of the Day: "A Kiss to Build a Dream On"

Friday Favorites! (6/17/11)

Let's try a new weekly feature . . . Consider this an open thread to tell me and your fellow readers what you've been reading/watching/listening to/eating/crafting/loving this week.

At the moment, I'm obsessed with John Le Carre, Company, Burn Notice, this shawl pattern, and frozen grapes. (They're good! Really!) How about you?

Morning Coffee (6/17/11)

Friday! Finally! Hello, Friday!

Scroll down to the next post to find out if you won the Demon's Surrender contest! I posted the winners late last night.

Listen to Selena Gomez's new song. I rather love it, honestly.

Giggle at these updated famous opening lines.

Get excited about HBO's development slate, because More as the Story Develops has done some more casting (John Gallagher Jr.!) and Hobgoblin has a director: Darren Aronofsky!

Read about a day of awkwardness with Mitt Romney.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Demon's Surrender Contest Winners!

Many of you entered the contest (thank you!) and the RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR has chosen five of you to win a book:
Kelsey M!
Bailey!
MetzGirl!
Liyana!
raggedyanndy!
If you are one of these people, please e-mail me! If you are not one of these people, I'm very sorry, but I will do another contest soon - probably at the end of July, for my birthday, so make sure you check back! Thank you all so much for entering and spreading the word about Demon's Surrender!

Song of the Day: "Back to Before"

Morning Coffee (6/16/11)

Just Thursday? Huh.

Ponder the new Best Picture rules.

Read this fascinating profile of Michele Bachmann.

Watch this awesome new Burn Notice clip. (Warning: Someone at the show said there are some errors in the accompanying article.)

If you'd like to get angry, here's your ridiculous article of the day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Song of the Day: "Machine Gun"

Dear White Collar: You're On Notice.

(Since I haven't gotten my general spoiler policy post together, I suppose I should warn that anything that has aired on White Collar already is fair game in this post, so avoid if you wish. Whether these plot details actually count as spoilers is a separate discussion.)

White Collar returned for season three a few weeks ago, and while I'm thrilled to have it back, and happy enough with the case-of-the-week A plots, I've found myself deeply disturbed and even upset by what seems like the ongoing arc of the season: Neal and Mozzie's attempt to escape with the Nazi treasure. Now, I know that Neal's a con man and a criminal. I KNOW. Criminals do these things. But just because Neal is a criminal doesn't mean that it's in character for him to do any criminal thing, just for the heck of it.

And this escape does not seem to be in character. Neal has always made it very clear that it's not about the money for him. He's not greedy. It's about figuring things out, being the best, achieving the impossible. But this Nazi treasure con? Neal didn't even do it. Mozzie did. And Neal's not taking an active role in planning the escape. Mozzie's selling the art; Mozzie's coming up with new identities. We're supposed to think Neal wants to just ride along as a passenger on Mozzie's escape? WHY? Neal trying to escape by any means necessary makes sense if it's for a specific reason, like saving Kate. But escaping, without actually pulling anything off himself, just to . . . what, sit on an island with Mozzie and random girls and nothing at all to do? Rather than staying in New York with Peter and Sara and El and June and work he loves? That really does not seem like the Neal Caffrey we know.

I usually have a great deal of respect for writers' and showrunners' opinions and try to accept what they say as true, because the shows and characters are their creation so they are by definition right. But I have so much trouble believing Jeff Eastin's oft-repeated claim that Neal is just intrinsically bad to the core - because even if Eastin believes that, it's not what he and his writers have written. To put things in dorky but handy D&D terms, Neal's Chaotic, sure, but he's not Evil. Rather than a bad guy who wants to be good, as Eastin says, Neal has so far been portrayed as a good-hearted guy who figured out he was good at things that happened to be illegal and wound up using that as a way to survive. Remember, when Neal thought he could get Kate back, he wanted to settle down and go straight. He wanted to join the PTA. If, with no particular reason for the switch, we are now supposed to believe that he wants to leave everything and everyone he loves (except Mozzie), just for money - then, frankly, that's just shoddy writing.

Is this arc redeemable? Sure. Here are a few ways this could go:

1) In my wildest dreams, Neal is actually just playing along to build a really good case against Mozzie, who he will turn in to Peter and then Mozzie will go to jail forever and we won't have to deal with him anymore, the obnoxious creep.

2) In my slightly more practical daydreams, Neal is going along with Mozzie's plan, but has some other hidden motivation besides the money that will eventually make me hate this plotline less, and eventually help him reconcile with Peter.

3) In my fairly realistic hopes, Neal is honestly tempted, and almost goes through with it, but ends up deciding to sacrifice the treasure, Mozzie, or both in exchange for saving Peter or El or even Sara, in some way.

My deepest fear (I mean, about this, not, like, in the universe) is that the show has in fact been conning the audience all along. And I think that's different than having a con man as the main character. We know that Neal cons the other characters, but we're generally on the inside. When we see him act sympathetically when he's not conning someone other than us, though, that's a different story. We believe that, because the character doesn't - CAN'T - know there's an audience he's supposed to be persuading. If the show is using Neal to con the audience, though, then we're giving up any pretense of fair play and the entire thing is just emotional manipulation, and not the good kind. Veronica Mars pulled this off for one episode, but if White Collar has been doing it for the entire run of the show, I'm not sure they can come back from that. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is interesting and all, but I wouldn't tune in for that every week.

So come on, show! You can do it! Let Neal be tempted and conflicted, but not evil or suddenly greedy. Let Peter and El be a good influence. Let Sara give him a reason to stay. Let us have the show we thought we were watching for the first two incredible seasons.

Morning Coffee (6/15/11)

Wednesday? Yeah. I think so. Hi, Wednesday.

Celebrate Neil Patrick Harris's birthday by going to see him in Company On Screen at a theater near you. (I am!)

Pay attention to the really important point Matt Yglesias is making on "men behaving badly."

Read about what Ayelet Waldman reads.

Listen to an NPR follow-up on the "dark" YA issue, if you can stomach it.

Read Carina MacKenzie on the Emmys and the CW.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Have you heard about the Chris Evans "profile" from the July GQ? If you've been around the Internet today, you probably have, but in case you somehow missed it, here it is. It's less a profile and more an account of how the writer spent her time with the subject drunkenly flirting with him rather than, you know, interviewing him, and it should be embarrassing for everyone involved - the writer, Edith Zimmerman, the editor, the magazine, even Evans himself, although really, he comes out looking better than Zimmerman does, and I suppose that was the point all along.

It's not just mortifying for Zimmerman herself, though. Plenty of female writers have been responding with second-hand embarrassment - and some outrage. As TV journalist Laura Prudom tweeted, "It's exactly why people don't take female journos seriously. A little flirtation from a hot actor makes us drop our integrity?" She continued: "As long as it keeps happening, it just paints female writers in a terrible/lust-addled light. We're not ALL gossipy flirts!" Indeed, we are not. Alyssa Rosenberg contemplates whether it's worth it to do this sort of story if the goal is to have female writers better-represented in magazines. I don't think it is. I'm not convinced that publishing articles by women that encourage the idea that women are unprofessional is necessarily better than not publishing articles by women.

One important aspect of this story, though, remains unclear: What assignment, exactly, was Zimmerman given? In the article, she suggests that she set out to write a regular celebrity profile, but abandoned any attempt at integrity or professionalism the moment she was presented with a pretty boy and a glass of white wine. In the piece, Zimmerman writes "Since we're both single and roughly the same age, it was hard for me not to treat our interview as a sort of date." If that's true, honey, I think you're in the wrong profession. And even then, there's "acting like you're on a first date" and then there's "drinking so much he has to put you in his guest room because you can't make it home." Being friendly (and, sure, flirtatious) enough to get invited to your interview subject's house is one thing. Having to write about how you don't remember anything about the house anyway because you were drunk: not so good. Daydreaming about marrying a hot actor? Perfectly normal. Writing about it in your profile of him? Probably not what your readers are looking for. Telling a gossip reporter that you have a crush on your interview subject, and then writing about that too? I mean, COME ON.

There's an alternative, though: Alyssa and others suggest that GQ may have assigned exactly the sort of piece they wound up publishing. If that's the case . . . well, I guess I'm sort of glad that Zimmerman isn't as clueless and out-of-control as she appears. But if she made up this whole "Tee-hee, this all JUST HAPPENED because I can't control myself around liquor* and cute guys!" thing, then that doesn't exactly increase my respect for her either. Throughout the piece, she contemplates the degree to which Evans is playing her, but the reader must simultaneously evaluate the degree to which Zimmerman is playing Evans (a relative newcomer to the celebrity game, after all) and therefore manipulating her audience as well. This story of a supposedly crazy, spontaneous experience looks more and more like a carefully-constructed event engineered by Zimmerman, by Evans, by the magazine, by all of the above, which makes it no more authentic than any of the "regular" celebrity profiles that detail favorite foods and workout routines. But at least those usual profiles are up front about what they are, rather than pretending to be something scandalous or transgressive.

And if GQ did in fact assign "drunken flirtation with celebrity," and Zimmerman deliberately took that assignment, then we're back to the issue of perpetuating stereotypes about female journalists and whether literally any representation is better than no representation. Sure, it's nice to say that a woman has the GQ cover story this month. But if the cost of that is that this behavior is what people think of whenever Laura or I or another woman say she's interviewing an actor, then I don't think it's progress at all.

* Note: The "Irish pub" at which Evans and Zimmerman first meet serves only beer and wine, no liquor. Sounds super-authentic! Just like - perhaps - the rest of the story!

Neal Caffrey Is Going to Woo

That was my main takeaway from my interview with White Collar's Hilarie Burton, partially because I am still in denial about Neal possibly going back to the dark side la la la I can't hear you. But anyway! Go read it for some interesting stuff about her views of her character Sara and her experiences on the show.

Song of the Day: "I'd Lie"

In honor of my favorite liars in The Demon's Surrender . . .

Demon's Surrender Discussion Post!

Happy book birthday to Sarah Rees Brennan and Demon's Surrender! Since I've been so pushy about getting people to read these books, I thought I might as well provide a space for discussion. I'm not going to say anything else in the main post here, for fear of spoiling, so head down to the comments if you've finished the book and want to talk!

WARNING: COMMENTS ARE FULL OF SPOILERS!!!!

Morning Coffee (6/14/11)

The cat has this new habit of being up and crazy from four to five in the morning. Then when my alarm goes off at five, he curls up and goes back to sleep. Am I going to have to start just getting up at four? Argh.

Mail your Father's Day cards. It's this Sunday!

Watch the season premiere of Pretty Little Liars and series premiere of Nine Lives of Chloe King tonight on ABC Family.

Read John Dickerson on last night's GOP debate.

Drink like your favorite author.

Check out this teaser for the somewhat baffling Nazi space movie Iron Sky:



And check back here later for a review of Deb Caletti's Stay.

Demon's Surrender Contest Update!

The Twitter portion of the contest is, as expected, now CLOSED.

I've been getting reports that people are having trouble commenting, though, so I'm going to extend the comment part of the contest for ONE DAY. If you are having technical difficulties posting your comments, e-mail me your comment text and I will enter you that way. Put something about the contest in the subject line so it's sure to jump out at me. The rules for entering are here.

Thanks! Good luck!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Song of the Day: "Don't You Remember"

My Critics' Choice Awards Picks

The Critics' Choice Awards will be given on June 20, and you can read all the nominations here. Here are my picks for each category, from among the nominations (so in many cases my first choice isn't even listed):

BEST DRAMA SERIES: The Good Wife

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES: Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES: Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES: Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES: Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)

BEST COMEDY SERIES: Community

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES: Joel McHale (Community)

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES: Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES: Apparently I have no opinion other than that I do not want Jane Lynch to win.

BEST REALITY SERIES: Uh, I guess Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

BEST REALITY SERIES — COMPETITION: Must we?

BEST REALITY SHOW HOST: Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars)

BEST TALK SHOW: The Daily Show

Trailer: Ironclad

A surely-awful historical action movie, just in time for my birthday! So thoughtful!

Morning Coffee (6/13/11)

Bleh, Monday. And I barely slept. So this should be interesting...

Catch up on this week's TV news with my Caffeine column at TheTelevixen.

Check out Bill Simmons's new site, Grantland.

Read Peggy Orenstein's take on Pixar's female problem.

Pick your side in Sorkin vs. Pawlenty.

And check back here later for my picks for the Critics' Choice awards.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

You should watch In Plain Sight tomorrow night. Trust me.

I was lucky enough to see tomorrow's episode of In Plain Sight early, and it is AMAZING. Quite possibly my favorite yet. You should watch it, and over at TheTelevixen, I have five reasons why.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Song of the Day: "He's Not a Boy"

Demon's Surrender Contest!

I've been telling everyone I know to read Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy for months. The third and final book, The Demon's Surrender, is finally coming out on Tuesday, so I decided it's time to put my money where my mouth is and buy some books to give away!

First: If you don't know why you should read these books, I've explained here.

The Basics: I will give you a bunch of ways to enter. (See below.) You may enter in as many ways as you like, though some of the types of entries have limits. Because my goal is to spread the word about the trilogy, some methods are "worth" more and get multiple entries. On Tuesday - Demon's Surrender release day - I will use a random number generator to pick at least five winners. (Maybe more, if I get some really good entries!)

The Prizes: At least five of you will win a copy of Demon's Surrender or another Sarah Rees Brennan book of your choice. So if you haven't read her at all, you can opt to start with the first book, or if you already have (or have pre-ordered) the whole trilogy, you can pick one of the anthologies in which Rees Brennan has a short story. (If you already have all of those too, well, we'll figure something out.) Within reason, you may pick the format of your prize - paperback, Kindle, Nook, iBook, etc. I may add additional prizes, contingent on the number and quality of entries.

The Deadline: Tuesday, June 14, 5:00am Eastern

Ways to Enter:

1. Tweet something that includes the hashtag #DemonsSurrender, my handle @katelinnea, and the link to this contest page: http://is.gd/F97PUC. Here's a template:
"I want to win @sarahreesbrenna's #DemonsSurrender from @katelinnea because [your reason]. http://is.gd/F97PUC"
You can change that around if you want, as long as you keep all those elements and do NOT put my name FIRST in the tweet (because then only my followers will see it, and they already know I want them to read the book). You may enter by tweet multiple times (up to 5 times a day, for a total of 25), but each entry tweet must be different. (So you could say "because demons are awesome" on one, "because I love Alan" on another, etc.) Each tweet is worth 1 entry.

2. Blog about this contest and leave the link to your blog post in the comments on this post. Each blog post (1 per blog) is worth 5 entries.

3. Review one of Sarah Rees Brennan's books on your blog and leave the link to your blog post in the comments on this post. Each review is worth 3 entries.

4. Review one of Sarah Rees Brennan's books on another site (Amazon, GoodReads, etc.) and leave the link to your review in the comments on this post. Each review is worth 2 entries.

5. Share this post on Facebook (and leave me a comment to let me know, because I'm not sure it tells me) for 3 entries.

6. If you've read Lexicon and/or Covenant, leave a comment on this post telling me a character you love or a couple you 'ship, AND WHY. (Or if you haven't read the books, recommend another book to me in the comments.) As long as you give reasons for your choices (and please avoid huge spoilers if possible), you can enter this way up to 8 times. (And yes, you can 'ship the same character with more than one person.) Each comment is worth 1 entry.

7. If you've done some other awesome thing to promote Demon's Surrender, tell me about it in the comments and I'll give you a surprise number of entries!

The Small Print: I reserve the right to evaluate entries on an individual basis if I think someone is being somehow fraudulent. I'm not going to set geographical limits, but if you live somewhere where shipping is ridiculously expensive, I may ask you to cover part of the shipping cost if you win.

Questions? No? Enter away!

15 Awesome Things in The Demon's Surrender

Later today, I'll be launching a contest in which you can do various things to be entered to win a copy of The Demon's Surrender or another Sarah Rees Brennan book, so I thought I'd make sure you all got properly excited about reading these books. Here, adapted from a review at my old blog, is a list of awesome things you will find in The Demon's Surrender.

1. A gritty, compelling contemporary British setting - with an extra hidden layer of magic
2. Hot brothers fighting evil, while being somewhat shady themselves. (I have a weakness for this.)
3. A young male feminist
4. Two strong, independent teenage girls, who totally pass the Bechdel test
5. The girls are both awesome but very different (physically and otherwise), but both attractive, and to some of the same boys.
6. Characters who are gay, just as a matter of course. Totally not a big issue, in the best possible way.
7. Plot twists that genuinely surprised me, and yet made complete sense in retrospect. (Honestly, that's pretty rare.)
8. Exciting fights, of both the magic sort and the knife sort. And sometimes the magic knife sort.
9. A demon's hilarious/sweet/scary version of romance
10. Wonderful sibling relationships, some continued from the first two books, plus a new one that's both sweet and fierce.
11. Ridiculously hot make-out scenes. (One features a book, because SRB knows what the nerdy girls like.)
12. One of my new favorite fictional couples ever
13. Many, many lines that will make you literally laugh out loud, plus at least a few that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
14. Oh, did I mention the hot guy taking care of a baby?
15. And the DEMONS and MAGICIANS and DANGER and FIRE?

Do you want to read it now? You'd better. Really. It's so good. Check back around one to find out how you can win a copy!

Morning Coffee (6/10/11)

Oh, HELLO, Friday. We've been waiting for you. I'm heading off on a little weekend trip, so things will probably be pretty quiet around here.

Vote in the season MVP poll on Vampire-Diaries.net, and while you're there take a look at their very good explanation for why they no longer have anything to do with EyeCon.

Read Sherman Alexie on "dark" themes in YA fiction.

Watch USA Network this summer. Alyssa Rosenberg explains why. For the record, my top three picks would be Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, and White Collar, which was sadly missing from the article.

Get ready for a Brian Epstein biopic. Wheee.

Marvel at this politician who seems to think that people who work for the government don't have real jobs.

And check back here later for my attempt at formulating a coherent spoiler policy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My new favorite thing.

Yes, it's a Battlestar Galactica promo. Stick with it. I promise.

Song of the Day: "Ten Cent Pistol"

How the Emmys Work

The Emmy Awards nominating ballots were published this week, and there's been a lot of buzz and excitement among some fan communities about people and shows "getting on the ballot." I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but since I'm No Fun At All and feel compelled to address People Being Wrong on the Internet, I will try to insert some sanity, or at least some facts, into the discussion. (Please note: I'm not an expert, and if I've gotten anything wrong, please tell me!)

What's a nominating ballot?

A nominating ballot is a list of all the people/shows/etc. who can be nominated in a category. They have not already been nominated.

How do you get on it?

You enter yourself, basically. I believe that as long as you pay the entry fee and meet the eligibility requirements (basically that you're on the right type of show for the category, and it aired in the right time frame in primetime on a station that's available in 50% of markets in the US), you get on the ballot. There's a caveat that they can consider entries on an individual basis if necessary, but this is not a selective thing. Being on the ballot does not mean that anyone but you/your publicist/your show/your network thinks you deserve an award.

How do we know it's not selective?

Did you SEE how many times The Cape appears on these ballots?

So Nathan Fillion/Ian Somerhalder/other actor I love being on the ballot doesn't mean he got nominated or won something?

Sorry, no.

So how DO you get nominated?

Members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences get the ballots and vote on who should be nominated. Each member can vote for a certain number of entries within each category (usually five or six). All members can vote in the Best Program categories, and the other categories are voted on by their respective peer groups.

When do we find out who's actually nominated?

July 14.

And then what?

Then the Academy members vote again, among those nominations.

And the actual awards are given out . . .

September 18, right in time for all the presenters to plug their new fall shows.

Wait, what controls whether someone is on the ballot as a lead actor or supporting actor or guest actor?

To enter as a guest actor, you must be billed as a guest when the episode airs. Regulars on a show, however, decide themselves whether to enter as lead or supporting. (I say "themselves," but I'm sure in some cases people at the show or the network have some influence on this decision.) So, for example, Rob Lowe entered as a lead actor for Parks and Rec, but Ian Somerhalder entered as a supporting actor for The Vampire Diaries.

Who would YOU nominate?

I'm glad you asked! Since there's nothing I love more than picking things from ridiculously long lists and being opinionated, I am working on a post about this very thing.

I hope that cleared things up a bit. Questions? Anything I missed? Hit the comments!

TV Pilot Review: Switched at Birth

I won't dissemble: Switched at Birth is cheesy ABC Family summer teen fare. But it's delicious, delicious cheese. It's about two teen girls who discover that they were, yes, switched at birth, and have to deal with getting to know each others' families - and figuring out what to do next - given their differences in class, culture, interests, and abilities. (One of the girls is deaf.) This double fish-out-of-water setting heightens the normal elements of teen drama - boys! rebellion! annoying parents! - and gives the main characters a real, concrete reason for the common adolescent experience of feeling like outsiders in their own lives.

So far, at least, Switched at Birth has better writing than some other ABC Family shows (hi, Secret Life!), and the acting is solid, especially from leads Vanessa Marano (of Gilmore Girls) and Katie Leclerc. I studied sign language as a kid, so I was thrilled to see the extensive use of ASL on the show, and the pretty balanced discussions of aspects of deafness and Deaf culture. Between that and the class issues the pilot faced head-on, this cheese might actually have a surprising amount of substance. But really, it's just fun. So many openings for crazy drama in this situation! I'm looking forward to spending my summer getting to know Daphne and Bay and wondering which will be the first to kiss the other's boyfriend. (You know it's got to happen.)

Morning Coffee (6/9/11)

Longest week ever, yes?

Read (my boss!) Maureen Johnson on "dark" YA fiction.

Pick up People magazine for a Father's Day essay by the President.

Nutmeg Staters, be proud of the legislature for doing various awesome things.

Watch The Fix's five best/worst political scandal press conferences.

Check out Bill Simmons's new site, Grantland.

And check back here later for a review of the new show Switched at Birth.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Song of the Day: "You're the Top"

I really need to get my tickets for this revival.

What are you looking for in a book review?

One of the things I want to do with this new blog is be better about actually reviewing all the books I read, and I'm working on a somewhat standardized format for these reviews. So! I have questions for you!

1. What factual information do you want with reviews? Obviously title, author, genre . . . do you care about publisher? Year of publication? Page count? ISBN? Author's site or blog? Other things?

2. I usually link to Amazon because it's easy and they give an image. Is that good or is there somewhere else you'd rather be linked? (I'm an Amazon affiliate, but I do it mostly for ease of linking and have never really made any money from it.)

3. How much plot summary do you want/need? Is a few sentences describing the basic premise enough to get the gist, or do you need more to help you decide whether you actually want to read the book?

4. Do you prefer to read reviews with thoughts on different elements (characters, writing style, etc.) separated - see reviews at Forever YA for an example of what I mean by this - or do you like to have things integrated into a more essay-like format? (I really prefer the former, so I'm not sure I'll pay much heed to your answers for this one, but I'm still curious as to what you think.)

5. When should disclaimers come in? Obviously if I'm reviewing something by a close friend or someone I work for, I'll mention that. But how about an author I've met a few times, or worked with in some way, or someone I chat with regularly on Twitter? I'm not sure exactly where the line is drawn.

And . . . I don't know, anything else? Please don't feel obligated to answer all these questions - I'm interested in your opinion even if you only have thoughts on one of these topics! Thanks!

Summer Reading List for TV Lovers

Need some suggestions for summer reading? There are a bunch of upcoming new TV shows that are based on books, and if you like to be obsessive thorough like I do, obviously you need to read the books before you watch so that you can be properly prepared and/or ready to be outraged at how much the show changes things.

Show: The Nine Lives of Chloe King, ABC Family, June 14
Books: Nine Lives of Chloe King series by Liz Braswell: The Fallen, The Stolen, The Chosen. You can get them in one volume.
About: Chloe begins to develop special abilities - possibly related to cats, somehow? - and finds out she's actually part of an ancient race being hunted by assassins.

Show: The Lying Game, ABC Family, August 15
Books: The Lying Game and the forthcoming The Lying Game #2: Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepard
About: Emma goes to meet her long-lost identical twin Sutton . . . and finds that Sutton has disappeared and everyone assumes Emma is her. (Perhaps this show will be Ringer's little sister.)

Show: The Secret Circle, CW, Fall
Books: The Secret Circle trilogy (The Initiation, The Captive, The Power) by L.J. Smith. The three books are now confusingly published in two volumes.
About: Cassie moves to her mother's hometown and discovers she's part of a lineage of witches.

Show: The Finder, FOX, Fall
Books: The Locator series by Richard Greener. The Knowland Retribution and The Lacey Confession are out of print, but you can get them for Kindle.
About: Walter Sherman . . . finds things. That's why he's The Finder. Or The Locator. The show is technically sort of a Bones spin-off, but the books are unconnected to the Bones books or show.

Show: Revenge, ABC, Fall
Book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
About: In this loose adaptation/update, a young woman returns to the Hamptons to get revenge on the people who did . . . something unclear but obviously horrible . . . to her family years ago.

Show: The Firm, NBC, in development
Book: The Firm by John Grisham
About: I read this book, but apparently all I remember is that it was about a lawyer, and I think the mob. I can tell you exactly where I was when I was reading it and what the weather was like, though, because apparently that's the stuff my brain thinks is important to remember. Anyway, the show will pick up ten years after the book (and movie), after the main character and his family get out of witness protection. (Apparently they didn't consult Mary Shannon, because she would have told them it was a bad idea.)

RIP Lilian Jackson Braun

The BBC reports that mystery writer Lilian Jackson Braun has died at 97. She wrote the extensive Cat Who... series over the course of forty years, and while the last few books declined in quality, I do recommend that you try the earlier ones. They're the perfect escapist small-town cozies for a rainy day on your summer vacation. Try 1989's The Cat Who Went Underground, in which main character Qwill is himself on summer vacation at his lake cottage, or start at the beginning of the series with 1966's The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.

Morning Coffee (6/8/11)

Wednesday? Really? Only Wednesday?

Read about the lives of child brides.

Ponder why on earth someone decided that what Ulysses really needed was an extra step in the reading process.

Watch Matt Bomer being adorable on Live with Regis and Kelly.


Matt Bomer guesting on Regis & Kelly on Monday... by pfyrestorm

Look at this paper in Current Biology co-authored by Colin Firth. Yes, that Colin Firth.

And check back here later for a Summer Reading List for TV Lovers and a little survey about what you're looking for in book reviews.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Song of the Day: "It Only Takes a Moment"

In honor of the White Collar premiere tonight, how about a little Matt Bomer?

Novels are not prescriptive.

This week - like all weeks recently, it seems - there's been a crop of articles in major publications that make a variety of ridiculous claims about books and authors and readers. I'll get into some of the specific arguments later, but first I wanted to address what seems to have become a pervasive theme: that novels are dangerous because they prescribe beliefs or behaviors that readers accept and mimic unquestioningly. It's a theme in the Wall Street Journal YA article that's been getting a lot of press, and YA readers and authors on Twitter have shown just how silly this assumption is under the #YAkills hashtag. And Megan McArdle accepts it as an underlying premise in her piece on art and politics. As Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in her great response to Megan's piece, "I’m befuddled by the idea of the passive reader that seems to pervade Megan’s piece . . . Art is playground, context, fodder — not marching papers, and not a straightforward recruiting tool."

This idea of prescriptive fiction is fair to neither readers nor writers. It assigns to authors a purpose that they may neither intend nor want. Characters in novels are generally not intended to be behavioral models for readers, and while authors' worldviews certainly affect their writing, novels that are specifically intended as evangelism are rare. Thinking of fiction as primarily a method of instruction or persuasion overlook the fact that novels are usually read and written for the stories and the characters and the beauty of language. As Malinda Lo wrote in her response to the WSJ article, "the idea that YA is primarily about lessons strips it of the possibility of being art, and therefore of being taken seriously. It turns it into moral pablum." Writers want to entertain their readers, to make them think about things. Most are not actually trying to produce armies of clones. Lo again: "I’m writing books to explore my place in the world. . . . I’m writing to tell damn good stories to people who want to read them."

And those readers deserve some credit. All but the very youngest should be able to distinguish fiction from reality, and the idea that not everything we read is completely true or good is not a difficult one. Readers don't completely rearrange their belief systems every time they read a novel. That's just laughable. Sure, there are books that change the way we look at the world, but that doesn't happen in a vacuum, and it's not a simple "book says A so reader believes A" correlation. Books give us new ideas to think about and new contexts in which to play with ideas, and we internalize those ideas - accept, reject, pick out our favorite bits - and integrate them into our belief systems along with all the ideas we get from other sources and influences.

We avid readers sometimes like to say that books are magical, but let's not take it too far: reading a novel doesn't lead to automatic brainwashing. On the other hand, if we accept this idea that we as readers are powerless and passive, this suggests that we should stop reading fiction that portrays a wide variety of political and philosophical viewpoints because new ideas might hurt us. And that's where the real danger lies.

Morning Coffee (6/7/11)

Happy Tuesday!

If you're in the Boston area, head over to Wilson Middle School in Natick tonight for a YA Extravaganza with Maureen Johnson, Sara Shepard, and Sarah Mlynowski. (Let me know if I'll see you there!)

Tune in to USA Network tonight for the season premieres of White Collar and Covert Affairs.

And if you're in the market for USA Network's new DVD releases, go to Target. They're having a sale on both White Collar season two and Burn Notice season four, and if you buy both at once there's an additional discount.

Or enter to win Covert Affairs season one or White Collar season two from The Televixen!

Listen to this Dresden Dolls rarity, "New England." It's pretty delightful.

Watch this impressively put-together Vampire Diaries fanvid.



Read this analysis of Sony passwords.

And check back here later for some ranting about People Saying Dumb Things About Books, and the return of my Song of the Day feature!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Summer Shows Off the List...

I tried to watch Franklin & Bash and Love Bites and didn't get more than five minutes into either of them. Honestly, I'm not too broken up about it - there are a bunch of shows I'm trying to catch up on over the summer, so I don't need tons of new stuff. But here's where they went wrong for me . . .

Franklin & Bash: I don't demand verisimilitude from my legal shows. I love The Good Wife and even like Fairly Legal. I really liked Raising the Bar, which is why I was trying this one in the first place. But this was just TOO silly, and too unrealistic, and I just couldn't take it.

Love Bites: I hated basically all the characters in the first few scenes. I vaguely considering skipping to the next vignette - it's some sort of "anthology" show - but couldn't really be bothered. The whole vignette business put me off to start with, honestly, because the show's concept was confusing and I don't like the idea of watching something while knowing I shouldn't get attached to the characters.

So, I'm 0 for 2 for new summer shows so far. I'll have some pilot reviews soon, assuming I actually make it through any of the pilots . . .

So. New blog!

You may be wondering why I'm trying out this new space. I've been considering a change for a while, and yesterday I decided to just go for it. I'm hoping this version of the blog will make things better in a few ways . . .

1. The name/URL is more consistent with the version(s) of my name I use everywhere else.

2. The comment options are better, especially because I don't have to manually approve each one.

3. Blogger allows posting by e-mail and other easier mobile options.

4. I can schedule posts to automatically post in the future.

5. It's easier to mess around with the layout and to keep the layout consistent across all pages.

6. Tags! And a tag cloud! I am rather too excited about this.

7. Multiple authors gives me the option to have guest bloggers in the future.

8. Things are just generally easier to change and keep track of with Blogger.

9. And this lets me have that Google/Blogger "follow" thing. I STILL don't understand why people use that. Isn't it like RSS but inferior? Get off my lawn! Anyway. You all use it, and now I have it.

So . . . yes. Here we are. Comments? Suggestions? Anything not working/difficult to read/etc.?

Morning Coffee (6/6/11)

Catch up on the latest TV news with my most recent Caffeine column at The Televixen.

Watch Switched at Birth, premiering on ABC Family at 9/8c tonight.

Listen to my new obsession: Friendly Fires' "Live Those Days Tonight."



Take the Naipaul test: Can a writer's gender really be identified in a short excerpt? (Hint: No.)

And check back here later for a little about this new blog and my thoughts on a few of the new summer TV shows.