Category Archives: Books

‘Beautiful Creatures’ authors’ idea of teen male not realistic

The Lovely Paula told me the kind of books I ought to write: Young adult for males. After reading “Beautiful Creatures,” I completely agree. The book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl features a male lead narrator who deals with a supernatural female — a nice switch from “Twilight” and many other young-adult novels — but there’s nothing very male about him.

Which is disappointing, actually. I’ve had “Beautiful Creatures” on my to-read list for a while, ever since I spotted it as one of the next big book series to help ease the sting from losing Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. One of the reasons was for the male lead.

And he starts out pretty male. Ethan Wate, 16, is part of the in crowd, a power shooter on the basketball team, fresh off of dating one of the most popular girls in school. But when the girl he has seen in his dreams suddenly starts attending his school, he gets very intropsective, moody, attentive to his dreams, romantic and borderline emo.

In other words: He doesn’t quite act like a guy.

I give Garcia and Stohl credit for making their lead a guy, but this guy is neutered. “Beautiful Creatures” features the same type of “Twilight” chastity that makes all the characters seem like brainwashed, scrubbed avatars of some adult’s perfect world. As Wate sticks up for his girlfriend in the midst of an outright witch hunt, he acts like a woman’s idea of a perfect gentleman. Consider:

  • During a scene where Ethan and Lena are wrapped together in a blanket, sharing a present and kissing for hours, he doesn’t once mention passion or the urge to do more.
  • Ethan spent more time describing the differences between two fictional dress shops than he did describing how the girls looked in the dresses. When he does get around to noticing girls in dresses, he’s more of a cat than a dog.
  • Ethan seems strangely resistant to Lena’s cousin, who happens to be a Siren.
  • As the year progresses, details about how Ethan has been money on the basketball court are treated like afterthoughts. Not one game is depicted. Practices are barely covered. No talk about scoring, rival schools or game-day anticipation. Then about two-thirds through the book, Ethan quits the team because he feels excluded by his teammates, who are really just super-jealous of his witchy girlfriend, apparently.
  • Not once in the book does Ethan deal with a natural part of being a teen guy surrounded by hot girls — or as Thea of The Book Smugglers says much better than me, he “never once does pop a stiffy or even think about sex.”

Those are all glaring character holes that make Ethan seem like some sort of mindless narrator golem, without a soul, passion or other emotional drives that make guys guys. I remember what it was like to be a teen boy, and though I diverted and didn’t act on my urges to get it on with girls who meant a lot to me, I still had those urges.

There’s other stuff in the book that’s pretty good. Wate describes a sleepy Southern town full of what makes the South the South, and the lushness of the scene makes it easy to feel Wate’s and Lena’s isolation. The explanation of the Casters is pretty decent, although it feels like there is way too much description and explanation at times.

But when push comes to shove, some of the bad guys fold too mysteriously. And the adults hide some pretty crucial information from Lena, who as it turns out, has a pretty big choice to make.

There’s two more books in the Caster chronicles, and I’ll probably read them. Granted, I’m not jonesing to scoop them up like I did “The Hunger Games,” but I’ll still finish them. Also, movies are on the way — the authors are stoked over who got cast as Ethan and Lena –so the stories should get even bigger. Hopefully the next two in the series and other future books address some of these not-so-manly holes.

In other words, it’s time for Ethan to nut up. And it’s time for me to start writing.

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Kindle-killer could hit shelves in March

The next big gadget from the makers of the iPod and iPhone could be available in March.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple plans to unveil its new tablet computer sometime this month. Unnamed sources say the new gadget will have a 10- to 11-inch touch screen, which will make it an iPhone that is definitely too big for your pocket. (The picture to the left is not an actual picture, but Gizmodo’s envisioning.)

The company has released no official information about what has been dubbed the “Kindle-killer.” But speculation around the net says that the device, which may be called iSlate, will be perfect for print media such as magazines, books and newspapers. That would give Amazon’s Kindle a run for the money. Also, we’ve long speculated about the future of newspapers; could we be seeing it here?

The gadget will be well-equipped to handle the new onslaught of Internet entertainment. Not only might it be able to run the more than 100,000 apps available for iPhone, but it could play movies and music as well. More speculation: Designers are planning to make the device capable of turning print publications into interactive experiences. Kindle-killer, indeed: Current versions of that product feature a small, black-and-white screen.

My only gripe about this tablet PC: No keyboard. What self-respecting writer would be satisfied with a writing process that might as well be tapping fingers on a desktop? I love the sound of a keyboard clicking, and I have used that as a criterion for buying keyboards and computers. I’m more impressed with Lenovo’s idea for a netbook-tablet combo.

Whether it will be a really big iPhone, a shiny e-book reader or a keyboard-less netbook remains to be seen. But the release will be big.

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‘Sherlock’ nothing like books, and that’s OK

I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve read most of the stories at least twice, and completely agree with the sci-fi writer (I think it was William Gibson, but I could be wrong) who said that the stories demonstrate the value of being observant.

I’m not a purist, however. As much as movies can ruin books (Jurassic Park), they can improve them as well (Lord of the Rings). The latter happened with director Guy Ritchie’s vision of the legendary crime fighter, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I was OK with the liberties he took with the legendary stories. Holmes and Irene Adler sharing an adventure? No problem. Holmes a brawling, stocky short guy with no deerstalker or legendary big pipe? Didn’t bother me. The biggest liberty was one of my favorites: Watson, played by Jude Law, was an assertive guy instead of the doddering groupie he plays in the written word. In this version, we didn’t read about Holmes explaining how he figured things out — we watch it actually happen.

The one thing that was true to the stories was Holmes photographic powers of observation and mastery of obscure facts. That resulted in what Globe reviewer Benji Tunnell described as an impossible mystery to figure out. He rated the movie highly, but wrote that part of the joy of a mystery is being able to solve it. That was never Doyle’s intent with Holmes — the writer didn’t want any of the readers to figure it out. He wanted readers to thrill at Holmes’ abilities.

Overall, great movie. Can’t wait for the sequel — which is obviously coming.

Joe: Geeked out about his new blog

I’m enjoying the fresh digs around here.

For those of you who followed me on Show You State, my apologies. I was recently promoted to Features Editor, and my understanding editor agreed that I had my hand in too many cookie jars. So no more Show You State… expect it to be deleted soon.

This blog is going to stick pretty close to the features world. Updated once every whenever-I-feel-like-it, I’ll post all about pop culture, from the major Hollywood releases to the latest viral videos. Should be fun.