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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dear Gilmore Girls AYITL: Please Bring Back the Real Rory Gilmore

I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan. HUGE. I can't even tell you how eagerly I was anticipating the new Netflix miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. And, okay, I didn't hate every single part of it.  I really enjoyed being back in Stars Hollow and seeing all its weird and wacky residents again. But I also think this revival did something unforgivable. It took one of the best smart, bookish heroines in the history of smart, bookish heroines and turned her into someone who was completely unrecognizable to me. 

Old Rory Gilmore was amazing. How often do you see a smart girl on TV? Not a Big Bang Theory-style nerd girl, just a normal girl who really loves books and school and learning? Rory was smart and idealistic and principled. Not perfect, but real. And GG: AYITL took away every one of those qualities away from her.


The first episode starts with Rory making a quick visit to Stars Hollow to see her mom. - yay! She's impeccably dressed in a little black dress, camel hair coat and boots. She's written a piece for the New Yorker. She tells her mom that she's given up her Brooklyn apartment to free herself up to "travel wherever there's a story to write." She seems like a more polished version of old Rory, but still one who is pursuing her dreams of being a writer.

But ... she's misplaced her underwear. All of it. (Um, how does that even happen, exactly?) And instead of buying more, she come to Stars Hollow hoping to locate it. 

Yes, Gilmore Girls has always loved the running joke. Lorelai can smell snow, yada yada. But many of the new running jokes in GG: AYITL were also real danger signs. Take Paul, Rory's new (well, not so new to her but new to viewers) boyfriend. Yes, in the past, teenaged Rory made some questionable romantic choices. But poor Paul was possibly the worst running joke in GG:AYITL and evidence of the complete ruination of the Rory Gilmore character. She's "settled" by dating Paul: he's nice, bland, and completely forgettable. As in the fact that she constantly forgets that he exists. And knows she needs to break up with him but repeatedly "forgets" to do it. THIS IS NOT MY RORY. Old Rory was occasionally foolhardy or impulsive, but never this callous and cruel.

More bad Rory omens in the Spring. The cracks in her polish are beginning to show, which in theory is fine. I don't like when women pretend that they never struggle with career, romance, family. But Rory is long past pretending and well into denial. She attends a Chilton reunion (yay, Paris is back in all her prickly, neurotic glory!) But when Headmaster Charlton says to Rory "I've always thought the world of you" (aw...) and suggests that Rory might like to consider a teaching job at Chilton, she recoils as if he suggested a career as a pole dancer. "I don't think teaching is my future." What? Rory, you're a snob.

It gets worse. We think Rory has been jetting back and forth from London for work, but the reality is far more disappointing:

So ... I'm not completely anti-Logan. In the regular series, I thought Logan represented all the things that Lorelai rejected in her former life, a life that Rory was understandably curious about. And I don't think Logan is a bad person, he's just a person who isn't willing to reject his easy life of wealth and privilege. I think that, in his own way, he does love and support Rory.

But... he's unavailable. He's engaged to someone else. In this episode, we learn that Rory is basically his mistress, a kept woman whom he flies back and forth from Connecticut to London and sends cars for and sleeps with behind his fiancee's back. Ugh. Yes, Rory cheated with the married Dean, but I sort of thought she might have learned from that experience.

This all felt very icky to me. At the very least, could Logan please buy her some new underwear?

Rory's character takes another turn for the worse in summer. She and her mom are suddenly hanging around the Stars Hollow Community Pool. (Who knew there was such a thing?)

At the pool, Rory and Lorelai hire children to stand there, holding parasols over them (huh? - this was just extremely weird.) And Rory and Lorelai have become a pair of mean girls who repeatedly fat shame a neighbor of theirs who has the gall to show up at the pool even though he's overweight. This was beyond disappointing to me. Lorelai has always been immature, but I expected more from Rory. If someone at Chilton had been fat-shamed, she would have delivered a blistering lecture to the culprit and then written a op-ed for the Franklin.

There was a really great scene in the summer between Rory and April (Luke's daughter). April, a college student, is over for dinner and pretending like her life is Instagram-perfect. Then, when she and Rory are alone, she admits that she's not as perfect as she pretends, and just trying to figure everything out. Like all of us are. This was a great piece of writing. But sadly, it reflected well on April, not Rory.

There may be some other nice moments in fall, but they don't involve Rory. In fact all the Gilmore Girls except Rory exhibit some admirable moments of personal growth. Lorelai is finally able to tell her mother how much her father meant to her (I found this scene extremely moving and well-acted.) Emily Gilmore freed herself from her empty mansion and the judge-y passiveeagressiveness of the her fellow DAR biddies and made a new life for herself. (I never really got the whole Gypsy-in-glasses-and-a-wig-pretending-to-be-a-housekeeper-who-spoke-an-imaginary-language, but whatevs.) Go Emily!

Rory. (Deep sigh). Rory took over the Stars Hollow Gazette. She was "rescued" from her boredom by the Life and Death Brigade (another really weird sequence). Oh, and she had some farewell sex with Logan and got pregnant. 

A bit of backstory: Gilmore Girls ran from 2000-2007. Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her writer-director husband, Daniel Palladino, decided to leave the series in 2006 when they had a contract dispute with the network, so they weren't involved in the show's final season. Sherman-Palladino had long said she'd planned the series to end with "The Final Four Words." And that she planned to use them -- nine years later -- in this revival miniseries.

Saving those final four words for so long was kind of like saving your most awesome outfit for nine years and then pulling it out of your closet. Outfits do have an expiration date. And apparently, so do final four words. 

Hello, 2006!
tl;tr: I am totally fine with having a Rory who isn't perfect and hasn't figured her life out. In fact, yay for that. But Rory went from Best Smart Bookish Heroine Ever to an underwear-losing, cheating, fat shaming snob. This is all kinds of tragic...

If you watched GG: AYITL. Tell me what you thought. If you liked it, please tell me about it!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing December 6-12

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the December giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Black Moon Mind Games Spindle
Black Moon (Zodiac #3) by Romina Russell (Razorbill)
Mind Games (Lock & Mori #2) by Heather Petty (Simon & Schuster)
Spindle by E. K. Johnston (Disney-Hyperion)

Did I Mention I Miss You Split the Sun True Power
Did I Mention I Miss You by Estelle Maskame (Sourcebooks)
Split the Sun (Inherit the Stars #2) by Tessa Elwood (Running Press)
True Power by Gary Meehan (Jo Fletcher)

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Finished Reading: The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner

The Twilight Wife
by A. J. Banner

To be published
on December 27, 2016
by Touchstone

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends. As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist. 

My take: Lately my in-box is crowded with Netgalley emails touting the latest thriller with a "final, shocking twist" in the vein of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. The Twilight Wife was compared to Before I Go to Sleep, a book I liked, so I decided to give it a try.

After a diving accident that led to her head injury, Kyra has two types of amnesia (retrograde, meaning she can't retrieve memories for a specific period of time, and anteretrograde, meaning she has trouble making new memories). So, not to be insensitive, but she can't remember much of anything at all. Kyra lives on a deserted Pacific Northwest island with Jacob, her doting, excruciatingly patient husband, who is willing to answer all her questions about her accident and their former life together ... repeatedly. Still, she's convinced that Jacob is hiding something from her. If he is, he's aided by their remote location and sketchy internet, which keeps her from finding out much of anything about anything.

The premise of this book was interesting, but the suspense level was pretty low and Kyra started to grate on my nerves after a while. Again, not to be insensitive, but at some point I began to wonder why she didn't write anything down. I mean, hey, I don't have amnesia but I have to make lists just to get by.

Finally, by the last third of the book, Kyra begins to unravel the truth about her accident and her situation, but the resolution didn't make any sense to me. (highlight for spoiler) Jacob was secretly in love with/obsessed with her, so he orchestrated an accident that got rid of her real husband but then left him with a fake "wife" who can't even remember what she did the day before? That plan didn't work out very well, did it? Kyra just wasn't worth the trouble imo. (end spoiler)

It took me a long time to read this book, which is never a good sign for a thriller. If you haven't read Before I Go To Sleep I'd definitely recommend that -- or the movie Memento -- over this book. If you are actively looking for amnesia stories, then hey, sure -- give this a try.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Freebie Friday: I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl Excerpt and Giveaway!

I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl
by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Balzer + Bray
on October 18 2016

Synopsis from Goodreads: Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying. So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.

Today I'm hosting a giveaway of I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, courtesy of the author. First, check out this excerpt from the book, then enter below to win a copy. How? Tell us about YOUR favorite MPDG!

Excerpt from I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

Somewhere between the lobster scene from Annie Hall and when the goob from Garden State told Natalie Portman that she’d literally changed his life in four days (seriously?), I had a revelation.

The wacky outfits.

The unexpected actions.

The positive feedback loop.

The relentlessly sunny dispositions.

Manic pixie dream girl was a formula.


“Mmhm.” He was curled up on his side next to me in bed, head cradled in the crook of his arm, half-asleep. Apparently, the manic pixie marathon hadn’t circumvented his need for a weekend nap.

“Wake up, Princess,” I said, patting his cheek.

“Did you open my thumb drive?” he muttered.

“Not yet. I’ve got some science to lay down on you.”

He yawned. “Already laying down.”

I pushed myself off the bed and planted both hands on the mattress, then shook it violently.

“It’s the big one! Duck and cover!”

Spencer jolted awake, flailing his arms as he rolled off the edge of the mattress, collapsing in a heap on the floor.

“Oh shit!” I leaped across the bed and peered down on him, a tangle of limbs. “Are you okay?”

Spencer sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. “Not funny.”

“I don’t know. It was, kinda.”

He pushed his palm against my forehead and rolled me back onto the bed. “Oh yeah? How do you like it?” Then he pounced on top the mattress and jumped up and down in his bare feet.

The headboard banged against the wall and the metal legs groaned in protest.

“Stop!” I shrieked through my laughter. “You’ll bust through the floor.”

“It’s the big one!” he cried, mimicking me. “Duck and cover!”

“Cut it out!” I grabbed Spencer’s leg while he was midjump and yanked it toward me. He lost his balance and came crashing down on top of me; his elbow barely missed knocking out a couple of my teeth.

“You wanna play rough?” Spencer asked, trying to sound mean but coming off more like a Disney villain. Then he went for my weak spot: my feet. He grabbed my legs together, flipping me onto my stomach, then wiggled his fingers lightly on the soles of my feet. “Vee have vays uf making you talk,” he said, using a fake German accent.

“Stop!” I was laughing so hard tears were welling up in my eyes.

“Oh!” Spencer said, feigning surprise. “You want me to stop?” He tickled my feet again, and I let out a howl. “Are you sure?” Then he leaned back so he could see my face.

I took advantage of his lapse in concentration and twisted my torso, ripping my legs from his grip, then I went for his ticklish weak spot: the side of his stomach.
“Payback’s a bitch.”

I heard a creak on the stairs. “Anak?” my mom called up. “Is everything okay?”

We froze, limbs tangled. “Fine, Mom!”

“Don’t call me that,” she snapped from the other side of my bedroom door.

 I looked up at Spencer, who pressed his lips together to silence his snickering, then composed myself. “I’m fine, Flordeliza.”

“Good.” Then the stairs creaked again as she retreated.

I lay there panting, Spencer hovering over me. His goofy, toothy grin reminded me of the younger, smaller version of the guy I’d known for so many years. As I stared up at him, the smile faded. His breaths slowed and deepened, and the muscles around his eyes softened. I thought maybe he’d roll to the other side of the mattress, but he stayed put, balancing over me with stiff, outstretched arms, his blue eyes locked onto mine.

I felt my face grow hot, and for the second time that week, I felt embarrassed with my best friend.

“Bea . . .”

I didn’t even give him a chance to finish. Something in my stomach gurgled and tightened, like I’d eaten raw eggs. Whatever I thought Spencer was about to say, it instilled an instantaneous panicked reaction, and I needed to do something—anything—to cut him off.

“I have a plan to get Jesse back,” I blurted out.

Every muscle in Spencer’s neck tensed up at once, giving him the wide, veiny look of a pro wrestler posing for the camera. His eyes darted away from my face as he pushed himself off me.

Excerpted from I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL © Copyright 2016 by Gretchen McNeil. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, a writer, and a clown. She is also the author of Get Even as well as Ten, which was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and an ALA Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth and was nominated for Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012 by Romantic Times. Gretchen blogs with the Enchanted Inkpot and is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels.

Enter the giveaway below -- all you need to do is tell us about your favorite MPDG in literature or film or popular culture!

Edited to add: I apologize if the post didn't explain the MPDG enough. If you're still a little unclear on the concept, a MPDG is (as per Wikipedia) "female characters who have eccentric personality quirks and are unabashedly girlish. They invariably serve as the romantic interest for a (most often brooding or depressed) male protagonist. "Urban Dictionary adds: "A pretty, outgoing, wacky female romantic lead whose sole purpose is to help broody male characters lighten up and enjoy their lives. " As characters, they're often underdeveloped (beyond the quirkiness of course)...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing Nov 29-Dec 5

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the November giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Vampire Academy Teach Me to Forget Fate of the Tearling
Vampire Academy: 10th Anniversary Edition by Richelle Mead (Razorbill)
Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman (Merit)
The Fate of the Tearling (Invasion of the Tearling #3) by Erika Johanssen (Harper)

Girls in the Moon Frozen Charlotte Avalanche
Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally (Harper)
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell (Scholastic)
Avalanche by Melinda Braun (Simon Pulse)

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Jen the (Hallmark Christmas Movie) Virgin Part II

Last week, I did a post on watching Hallmark Christmas Movies for the very first time. Thanks to my friend Karen @ FWIW reviews for the inspiration, and all of you for your enthusiastic support of this project -- you can read Part I here. 

I'm pleased the present part II and, if I can withstand the relentless mockery of my family, there may be a part III...

My Christmas Dream (2016)
Starring Danica McKellar, David Haydn-Jones and Deidre Hall
I loved The Wonder Years and had high hopes for this one. Danica looks fantastic and seems like a cool girl IRL, what with her math degree, so Hallmark should have given her a good script. But as I watched My Christmas Dream, my mind kept drifting. Danica plays Christina, a department store manager. You know how every town has the good mall and the sad mall? Well, poor Christina is the boss of the sad department store in the sad mall. In the part where I was still paying attention, the love interest spills paint on Christina's dress and then she fires him. Or doesn't stop someone else from firing him? He's a divorced dad with a adorable kid, and she wants some kind of promotion from Dr. Marlena from DOOL. There's probably more to the plot than that, but I kind of zoned out.
Jen's Rating: DNF

A December Bride (2016)
Starring Jessica Lowndes and Daniel Lissing
A December Bride was sheer cheesy Christmas perfection - my favorite HCM yet! It had better developed characters and a real plot, plus a sweet and charming romance. Layla is an interior decorator who toils thanklessly for her mocha latte-loving boss. Layla's also undergone terrible heartbreak when her cousin stole her fiancĂ©. When Layla is asked to decorate some corporate offices for the holidays, she runs into Seth, the man who introduced her fiancĂ© to her man-stealing cousin. She's not thrilled to see Seth, but makes it clear that the least he can do is accompany her to her cousin's wedding so she's not dumped and dateless. (Layla should feel better that the wedding seems to take place in the rec room of a nursing home, with the most half-hearted decor ever.) At the wedding, Seth feels so bad for Layla that he tells everyone they're engaged and ... a fauxmance is born. This couple's chemistry was adorable. Seth is clearly crazy about Layla, but she's too oblivious to see it. I also loved the fact that the man-stealing plot was actually fully developed, exploring the cousins' relationship so that the whole thing wasn't just a stereotypical catfight. For you HGTV fans, there's also a subplot where Layla competes in a Christmas decorating contest with her boss.
Jen's Rating: Five Chocolate Santas!
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Broadcasting Christmas (2016)
Starring Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain

Can Sabrina the Teenage Witch really be 40? Melissa Joan Hart was cute and relatable in this show about Emily, who competed with her boyfriend for a big network job in New York, lost out, and resigned herself to being a local TV reporter in small town Connecticut. Dean Cain, whose boyish charm has turned a little bland, plays Charlie, the now-ex-boyfriend who beat Emily out for the job. When a sidekick spot on a popular morning talk show (think Live with Kelly!) opens up, these two (along with a couple of other contenders) audition for the job and have to face up to their failed relationship. Okay, so this movie wasn't romantic at all, but it was fun. I didn't feel any spark of chemistry between these two, but it was entertaining to watch Emily and Charlie try to one-up each other to impress the show's host and win the promotion. This movie also had the funniest HCM line so far: "You're my 100 year old fruitcake."
Jen's Rating: Three Chocolate Santas
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Freebie Friday: Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Happy Friday - if you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope you had a great one.

Today I'm giving away a book that's been raved about, a book that's one of the finalists in fiction in the Goodreads Choice awards, a book that the publisher was kind enough to send me...

...and a book that I don't think is for me. Click on the cover to find out more:

This will be US/Canada only - it's a big hardcover. Hope the winner enjoyed it!

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