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Romance Readers Who Want a Great Movie Recommendation…Apply To These Two Books

22 Jan
Sitting down to a movie, either in your home or in a theater, should be filled with anticipation. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Sitting down to a movie, either in your home or in a theater, should be filled with anticipation. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

I guess like my reading, I am VERY picky about the movies I watch. For most films, I’m happy to read spoilers because I don’t like horrible surprises (says the woman who buys her own Christmas presents and tells her husband, “Honey, I absolutely LOVE what you got me!”). With a strong aversion to violence against women, I also use websites like Kids in Mind to give me a heads up when something horrible is embedded in a film so I can take a potty break or go make popcorn. (And screw you, Downton Abbey, for NOT giving me any inkling about what was going to happen to Anna. You’re dead to me.)

Wanting a feel good movie that reaffirms your faith in humanity or is inspired by the books you love is probably a fairly popular trait, but sometimes finding a recommendation you can trust is difficult. I went to a college known for its film program and while many of my friends studying that discipline didn’t necessarily wear all black and chain smoke, they were universally fascinated by the most obscure and depressing films, bandying about terms like “schadenfreude” and “jingoism”. Even now, when I listen to NPR film critics talk about the latest deep movie that thinking people should go out and see, half the time they are fascinated by the “dark underbelly of humanity” and discuss the lingering despair that follows you out from the theater while you are desperately drying the tears from your face.

Oh my. That’s not what I want.

Enter the queen of category romance, Heidi Rice, who somehow, while pumping out dozens of great romances for Harlequin, has also managed to have a full-time career as a film critic and a mother (how many arms does she have?). Perhaps sharing my sense of despair, she has admirably assembled a host of movies which appeal to the romantic in her recent book, Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love. While every movie she reviews doesn’t necessarily have a love story as the central theme, each one nevertheless strikes a strong cord in the area of relationships, and that’s really what we armchair psychologists dissecting our heroes and heroines like, don’t we?

Rice, utilizing the snappy British slang that makes her American fans smile while we enjoy her heroine’s witty comebacks, divvies up movies into the following categories (please note that all movie links will take you to the film’s page on the Internet Movie Database for more information):

  1. Oldies That Are Awesome (i.e., fabulous TNT classics like It Happened One Night, It’s a Wonderful Life, On the Waterfront, The Apartment, etc.)
  2. Cartoon Capers, But Not Just for Kids (i.e., movies that have you borrowing someone’s pre-teen to take to see Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, Up, Toy Story 3)
  3. Rom-Coms R Us (i.e., gems like When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, It’s Complicated, The Proposal, Silver Linings Playbook)
  4. Joys For the Boys (and the Girls, Too) (i.e. enough action for him, enough romance for her in films like Public Enemies, Cowboys & Aliens, Skyfall, Rush)
  5. Offbeat But Right Up My Street (i.e., doesn’t look anything like a romance but you love it anyway such as Julie & Julia, The King’s Speech, The Artist)
  6. Big Is Beautiful, Bold Is Even Better (i.e. those epic films where you can’t keep popcorn in your mouth because your jaw keeps dropping open, like Gone with the Wind, The Last of the Mohicans, Brokeback Mountain, Australia)

Like everything Heidi Rice writes, I loved this book (it’s nice to know my affinity for her is not limited to fiction). Witty, informative, candid and occasionally self-deprecating, Rice’s prose makes you feel like your knowledgeable best girlfriend is giving you a run down on all the movies you should see to wear your “romance lover” badge proud and loud. I adored her glossary (I had never heard the term “dick-flick” but I guarantee I’m going to use it at least three times this weekend). Explaining the difference between Harlequin KISS heroes and Harlequin Presents heroes, and then applying those terms to various movies, was sheer genius to help me understand the tone of the film. I especially liked that her subject matter ran right up to the end of 2013, so a few of the films are recent releases, giving the book a real currency I appreciated.

Writing a film review actually has some of the elements of the book talks we librarians utilize when doing reader’s advisory. Give the hook, but don’t give away the ending; compare it to a similar more well-known work so people have an idea what it’s about; and convey your enthusiasm for the story since that’s often contagious. Heidi Rice never gives away the farm in terms of the plot, but she tantalizes you with enough detail that you are reading in one hand and queuing your watchlist with the remote in your other hand! I actually found quite a few movies I hadn’t seen that I assure you I will be watching in the upcoming long winter nights.

Did I mention the best part? No? Well, this informative, fun book is only $.99 – no joke! So run out and get personalized recommendations to satisfy the romantic in you.

One area that Rice stays clear of is the sinkhole of book to film adaptation, a particular pet peeve of mine. I firmly believe the motion picture industry exists solely to ruin books for me, so when it comes to my favorite classics, you have one testy woman on your hands if you open with this conversational gambit! Also by Harlequin is the hilarious, yet oh-so-informative, Pride, Prejudice and Popcorn: TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre by Carrie Sessarego.

It was startling to find out that the author and I clearly had been separated at birth. I, too, continue to reread Jane Eyre each year and have since I was a pre-teen, getting something different out of it as I’ve grown and matured. I also didn’t understand what the fuss was about with Pride & Prejudice until I realized that it was all in code (and I had read about the constraints of the Regency period) and what people were saying versus what they were feeling were two different things. Finally, I also possess a virulent hate for all things Wuthering Heights and do NOT understand what all the blather is about since Heathcliff is a first-class dick and I want to shove Cathy down a flight of stairs.

My usual mantra, but now I’ll have to reconsider watching some of these adaptations after reading Sessarego’s hilarious (and informative) work.

Yet, using prose so funny I found myself laughing out loud late into the night, Sessarego accomplishes the impossible – she actually has me thinking about watching some of the adaptations I’ve avoided like the plague due to their lack of faithfulness. Probably this is due to her masterful approach to the material. With each work, she begins by delivering the improv version of Cliff Notes, boiling down the material to it’s essence and helping the reader understand all the plot nuances you’ve might have forgotten if it’s been a while since you read the book. Then she covers the TV and movie adaptations, indicating the year, actors, director, etc. and rating them on a star system with oodles of details about how they stayed true to the book or veered away (and if it worked or not). Extremely helpful was when she made clear that the writing had ruined the script but a particular actor totally embodied the character the way a reader would enjoy. Her “Final Scorecard” at the end of each section highlights a summary of the “best of” the adaptions (i.e. “Best Mr. Darcy” “Best Rochester” etc.) and she even has a terrific “Special Features” section with tantalizing little bios of the original book authors – and trivia and a music playlist!

Since this excellent (and much needed) book is a mere $.99 as well, I’m thinking that fans of these books are fools if they don’t run out and buy this puppy for immediate consumption. Honestly, this book would make a terrific basis for a themed party (or series of them) with English grad students, best girlfriends or even a fun English class (don’t think I won’t be pitching it to my English teachers on Monday) since it still manages to delve into the core of each book in order to determine if the adaptation met the objectives of the original work. Sessarego blew me away with her wit and insight, so much so I’m hoping she has another media criticism book in the pile so I can look forward to visiting with her on a different topic.

Enjoy your romance – the mystery of love and relationships that reminds us why it is good (and sometimes painful) to be human – in book and on film. With guides like Heidi Rice and Carrie Sessarego steering us to good films, we can’t go wrong.

Happy reading!

E-reader Lust: How Amazon’s Newest Paperwhite and It’s MatchBook Program Can Make You a Better Reader

5 Sep

The Kindle Paperwhite is incredibly bright, offering no glare in outdoor conditions and a strong contrast for readers, making it easy on the eye.

My e-reader lust knows no bounds. Perhaps because I am such a voracious reader and love ebooks as much as paper ones (sometimes more) I’ve yet to meet the e-reader I didn’t like – Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and tablets like the Nexus or my wonderful iPad (both sizes are amazing). I have an iPad which I use for other aspects of my life, but naturally my Kindle app (and iBook and Nook apps) are the center of my reading existence as they allow me to access the more than 1300 ebooks I have in my Amazon account (and no, I am not making that number up). With so many authors putting out novellas and short stories ONLY available in e-book form (and many outstanding authors debuting solely with electronic books), I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the romance genre without one.

Yet despite my slutiness in all gadgets electronic, I do believe strongly in Kindle products and apps because I think that Amazon has the market cornered with its combination of great selection, some of the best prices, and access to my library with virtually every electronic device on my desk and in my pocketbook. Whether it’s my phone, computer or iPad, I can grab a hold of my books virtually anywhere and since I will begin reading my book in progress if you leave me alone for two minutes, that’s pretty important to me.

I actually bought a basic level Kindle last Christmas as a present to myself because 1) with the push buttons to advance rather than a touch screen I could put it in a ziplock and read ebooks during my marathon bubble baths, 2) I’m an Amazon Prime member for the free shipping and Amazon Instant Video access (so worth $79 per year) and that means I get to borrow books for free each month with an actual Kindle device and 3) it was only $69.

The shot of Goodreads on the newest Paperwhite.

All the various Kindles since the original one debuted haven’t really tempted me since their color screens and multimedia abilities are all matched, if not surpassed by my iPad 2. But when the Kindle Paperwhite came on the scene, oh, that’s when my e-reader infidelity ramped up! The Paperwhite is light just like my original Kindle (it’s the height and depth of a ballpoint pen, so extremely comfortable to hold) but the contrast with its e-ink beats everything on the market, with a no-glare screen that makes reading into the wee hours easy on tired eyes. But the newest Paperwhite, just announced a couple of days ago and priced at $119, has features which have ramped up the urgency and catapulted it into this year’s holiday gift category. Namely, Amazon is choosing this model of Kindle as the featured device to promote its seamless integration with Goodreads.

Now THIS is a development. While some people threw up their hands when Goodreads was acquired by Amazon earlier this year, I haven’t noticed any changes to that community as of yet, so I’m not getting my knickers in a twist about the partnership, particularly because I was hoping something like this would occur. You see, with those aforementioned 1300 books, I spend a pretty decent amount of time putting titles into my Goodreads account since I use it to religious track my reading, and a device/Goodreads integration would save me a lot of time and energy.

Organizing your Kindle books into collections is only an option on actual Kindle devices.

I adore Goodreads not just for the rating and tracking ability, but because I can organize my books into shelves, which are mostly for me to indicate where I keep said book (“in kindle,” “Lendle”, “my paper copy” or “in library”). But with the endless stream of book covers in my Kindle app, my inner librarian aches for a better way to organize these. On any actual Kindle device you can actually organize your books into “Collections” which would be utterly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G as I have always wanted to push each new book I buy and finish into subgenre romance categories (Paranormal, Suspense, Contemporary, Holiday, etc.) which would make it a breeze to pick for better blogging. Having my NetGalley books in a “Review These” collection would also be pretty nifty, making me that much more efficient, and this librarian adores efficiency like Seven of Nine loves running a diagnostic (Star Trek Voyager fans, anyone?)

Whether it’s with a thirty cent Ziplock bag or a state-of-the-art waterproof case, reading and baths are synonymous for romance readers.

But attachment to touch buttons is also becoming a thing of the past as the bathtub becomes fair game with the advent of accessories like the DryCase which works with a variety of devices (including my iPad) and would enable me to bring any device (*manic giggle*) into my fabulous cast iron tub circa 1930. I could even use their DryBuds to listen to music while I’m soaking since the case has a waterproof headphones jack! My God, I’d never get out…Take a look at the video to see how great this is and they are not even expensive – the DryCase retails for around $60 for the tablet size and the special earbuds are around $30. Considering that I’d pay as much for a decorative case that wouldn’t even offer protection from rain, I don’t consider that an exorbitant one-time cost.

MatchBook, bundling print and ebooks for voracious readers who want their authors anywhere, anytime.

Okay, so my most-wanted reading device is clearly fantastic, but Amazon also listened to experts like those at Publisher’s Weekly and realized that bundling ebooks with print books was a damn clever way to push more books. Duuuhhhhh. Enter MatchBook (super clever name!) where – like their audiobook offers which are discounted when you purchase the ebook – an ebook version of a book might be offered at a significant discount, with the majority landing in the $.99 to $2.99 range.

This could be a goldmine for Amazon, as I sometime make a print/Kindle choice for a lot of my books, often choosing a used print copy to save money since the Kindle version is not a discounted price (if I’m not going to pay the list price for the paper book, I’m hesitant to do it for the Kindle version). A used copy makes Amazon less money (and makes the publisher no money since they got their profit on the first sale of the book), but by bundling a new book and it’s ebook companion, I get two versions of the book (which I like to have for my favorite authors and series) and Amazon and the publisher make more of a royalty off me, while I actually save money. MatchBook will be retroactive, offering readers the discounted ebook versions off everything they’ve purchased from Amazon since 1996 that has an eligible ebook. With those 1300 books, I’m kind of curious to see how many offers I might have!

So I’ll be going to sleep with a smile on my face, dreaming of Paperwhites and bubble baths and even more books for my money. Take a look and see if Amazon’s newest offerings can fulfill your e-reader lust or if another device will fit the bill, but whatever you do, keep reading.

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