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Stephen P. Kiernan’s THE CURIOSITY is Part “Encino Man”, Part “Blast from the Past”

In 1991, two German tourists discovered the body of Otzi, the now infamous Ice Man, believed to have died and been encased in ice near 5,000 years ago. Though well-preserved, Otzi’s body more resembles traditional mummies than living, breathing tissue. But what if it didn’t? What if Otzi were flash-frozen, so to speak, encased in ice in perfect preservation and scientists had the reanimation technology? This is the question tackled by Stephen P. Kiernan in The Curiosity.

After joining an Arctic expedition in 1906, Judge Jeremiah Rice fell overboard into the Arctic Ocean and was perfectly preserved in ice. Dr. Kate Philo is a member of a modern-day scientific team working on a process to reanimate small ocean animals. Her team travels to the Arctic to harvest the creatures from the ice when they find and recover Rice’s body. They take him back to the lab where they reanimate him. When he awakens, he is thrown into a world completely different from the one he remembers. Kate takes it upon herself to help acclimatize him, and finds herself falling in love with the judge, who is so different than the men she is used to. It isn’t long before Kate realizes Rice is about to suffer the same fate as the reanimated shrimp and krill—his metabolism is speeding, burning up his energy, and he will soon die. At first, Erastus Carthage, the director of the project, attempts to control media coverage of the event, but it soon snowballs out of control, and Rice and Kate are on the run from both the media and the authorities.

The Curiosity is written from the points of view of four characters: Kate Philo, Jeremiah Rice, Erastus Carthage, and Daniel Dixon, the reporter Carthage initially hires as exclusive teller of the expedition’s tale.  While Kate, Rice and Dixon are written in first person point of view, Carthage is written in second person, and I’m not sure why. I’m also not sure why the two points of view I most dislike are third person omniscient and second person, perhaps because so few modern stories are told well this way. Kate is perhaps the most realistic character of the four. I found Carthage to be the stereotypical megalomaniac, better than thou academic type, and in spite of the point of using second person narrative—to put the reader into the role of the character—I neither liked him, nor identified with him. Dixon is portrayed as the hard-boiled, unimpressed, unfazed reporter who has seen it all, objectifies women (particularly Kate), and winds up portraying the team as a fraud. Somehow, it works. Dixon’s parts were quite amusing to read. Though Rice is interesting as a concept, I found his attraction to Kate a little two convenient plot-wise. The last thing he remembers is leaving his wife and daughter, and while they are long dead, they are not to him. Rice doesn’t seem to grieve much for them, making his attraction to Kate and his easy-going adaptation to the present somewhat questionable.

Part Encino Man, part Blast from the Past, and yes, per other reviewers, part Michael Crichton and Time Traveler’s Wife, The Curiosity is well-written with interesting characters. I found myself drawn into Kate’s romance with Rice and amused at the way the media is portrayed with the ability to spin information hundreds of ways. Kiernan juxtaposes the nostalgia of an idyllic and integrity-rich lifestyle of only a century ago with the fast-paced, technology and tabloid-integrity of the modern world. Though the story is predictable at times (Who didn’t see Kate’s hook-up with Rice from their first scene together? Or know that Rice would wake-up and surpass the expectations for post-animation life span?), and sometimes weighed down with scientific jargon, The Curiosity is an entertaining and interesting story that documents our fascination with pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, and then holding science’s successes up for vilification in the media.

Graphic from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16248197-the-curiosity

 About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to seriously write. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN, was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Movie Review – Disney’s TEEN BEACH MOVIE

 

I have to admit—I was excited when I heard about Disney’s Teen Beach Movie. Though corny by today’s standards (or any standards, for that matter), I used to watch the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movies as a kid. Born in the sixties, I loved the costumes, dance and music of my parents’ teenaged years. I also watched Annette on the old Mickey Mouse Club black and white re-runs, so it was cool to see what she did afterward. The last beach movie released was 1987’s Back to the Beach, which I loved, because in addition to being a blast from the past, Lori Laughlin played Frankie and Annette’s daughter. Back to the Beach was campy and silly and featured Pee Wee Herman singing “Bird is the Word”; what more could you ask?

When my eight year old daughters started extreme fangirling on High School Musical, I thought I should see what it was all about. I was pleasantly surprised. I even went to the theatre to see the third one with them and really enjoyed it. While the storylines left something to be desired, the music and dance scenes were impressive. My daughters didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to watch Camp Rock, or Lemonade Mouth either. So when I read about Teen Beach Movie I was interested. My daughter insisted it was like Grease and she was all “been there, done that”. Even though I insisted it was more like Beach Blanket Bingo than Grease, she remains steadfast in her claim, refusing to take even a peek at Beach Blanket Bingo, headstrong almost-fourteen-year-old that she is, which is frustrating as this means I am unable to educate her on the finer points of popular culture on which I thrive.

Teen Beach Movie is surprisingly entertaining to watch. In the movie, Brady and Mac (short for Mackenzie) are in love. Mac lives with her grandfather on the beach, but she must go back to the city with her stuck-up aunt to attend private school for the rest of her education. Because Mac’s deceased mother wanted her to be the best she could be, Mac feels a duty to go with her aunt, even if it means breaking up with Brady to do so. Mac is a surfer, better than most of the boy-surfers out there, and she has been looking forward to surfing the forty-foot waves brought on by the coming storm, but surfing them would mean missing her plane. She awakes on the day she is to leave to see that her grandfather’s surfboard, the one always hanging from the rafters, is propped against the wall instead, and she decides to go for one last surf. Worried she may drown, Brady takes a Jet Ski out to save her. They both get pulled down by the waves and come up for air in the sixties, and soon realize they are actually in the beach movie, West Side Story, that Brady idolizes and knows by heart. The movie is about the love story between a surfer boy and biker girl who fall in love and unite the two gangs against stereotypical bad guys to save the day, but when the surfer boy falls for Mac and the biker girl falls for Brady instead of each other, they have a problem.

The music in Teen Beach Movie is pop-based with a retro flavour, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that there are a few I wouldn’t be above adding to my playlist. The acting is okay, but it’s what you would expect from an old time beach movie, that is to say, over the top. Ross Lynch as Brady is perfect as the lovelorn puppy dog who would be lost without his girl. Maia Mitchell is cute as Mac, but her character suffers from a case of she-doth-protest-too-much until she gets acquainted with Grace Phipps’ character, the girl biker, Lela and they become besties. Garrett Clayton plays the role of Tanner with vapid charm, though he looks a little too much like Zac Efron for comfort. The final surprise in this movie was seeing Kent Boyd of So You Think You Can Dance fame as Rascal, and while his acting is overblown (again, as you would expect from a beach movie), he was one of my favourites from the show and it was great to see him post SYTYCD, though I would have liked for his part to be a little bigger. He might have been good in either male lead. For sure he has the legs for it.

While Teen Beach Movie is not one of those movies I could watch again and again (like I do Men in Black, Legally Blonde, or Kate and Leopold, for example), it is quite enjoyable as a parody of the original movies. The song and dance numbers—though they may occur randomly as Mac points out—are entertaining, and the jokes—like how everyone goes surfing and emerges with dry hair—are kind of funny. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, and some borrowing from similar movies (Brady’s lifejacket fades from existence like Marty McFly’s siblings from the photograph in Back to the Future, and there’s a baby-doll sleepover scene like the “Sandra Dee” number in Grease, that comes off as a sort of mashup between “Sandra Dee” and “Summer Loving”), though I did miss watching my daughters try to dance along with the cast when they teach the moves during commercial breaks. Nevertheless, Teen Beach Movie is great entertainment for the kids as an introduction to a long-extinct genre, and memorable nostalgia for their parents. The hour and forty-five minutes I invested in watching the movie was time well spent.

Grapic from: http://www.mouseinfo.com/gallery/files/4/1/2/7/teen-beach-movie.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to seriously write. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN, was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Book Review

In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Rosemary Cooke begins her story in the middle. She is in college in a cafeteria where she meets Harlow who is angry at her boyfriend and having a tantrum. Rosemary defends Harlow during her arrest and gets arrested herself. We soon learn Rosemary is broken, in a way. She is not close with her parents and estranged from her brother and sister. It is the mystery of Rosemary’s relationship with her parents and how her brother, Lowell, and sister, Fern go missing that drives the story forward. When Rosemary’s narrative circles back to the beginning of the story, we learn that her “sister”, Fern, is a chimpanzee brought into the home to be raised as her “twin” for an experiment her scientist father was conducting in the seventies.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a wonderful coming of age novel that is interesting both in the style of the narrative and in the story, containing a powerful message. The title refers to the fact that, when placed beside humans, animals—particularly apes—are not that different. Growing up, Rosemary’s father’s lab assistants endlessly compare Fern’s progress with her own. While Fern reaches certain landmarks before Rosemary—such as walking and “talking” (really signing)—Rosemary’s growth soon outperforms Ferns with little fanfare and she grows jealous of Fern’s attention which leads to Fern’s removal from the family. In doing this, Rosemary asserts her alpha role in her family pack, not unlike how later, Fern becomes the alpha animal in her lab “family”. When Rosemary tells us the end of her story, we learn the reason for her brother’s disappearance. Everything, from Rosemary’s inability to fit in with her peers to her brother’s absence, her mother’s emotional distance, and her father’s depression traces back to Fern’s removal from the family and Rosemary spends the remainder of the book trying to set it right.

Fowler has penned a page-turner here. Her prose is artful and easy to read, something to which, as an author, I aspire. The narrator is so candid in her guilt, the story reads like a written confession, which is where the interest lies.  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a book with social conscience, prompting us to think about the connection between people and animals and how, when we compare them side-by-side with ourselves, we are not so essentially different.

Graphic from: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2013/06/09/books/review/0609-bks-KINGSOLVER-cover.html

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

We’re the Millers – Movie Review

In We’re the Millers, Jason Sudeikis plays David, a drug dealer who is robbed and must smuggle a large shipment of marijuana in from Mexico to repay his supplier. After seeing how the police react to a family in an RV, David decides the best way to get the job done is to hire people to play his family as cover. Getting the drugs into the States proves to be the least of David’s problems. It’s not until they arrive stateside that his troubles begin. Little does he know, he’s been sent on a suicide mission. He doesn’t so much as pick up the drugs as steal them and spends the rest of the movie on the run from the actual smuggler and supplier and trying to avoid capture by the DEA agent the “family” has befriended along the way.

We’re the Millers is an okay movie, once you get past the vulgar language and graphic grossness (I think I may have scarred my 14 year old girls with the full-on deformed male frontal shots). While there’s no overt sex, there is a sort of comedic scene between 18 year old Kenny (played by Will Poulter), his teenaged “sister” Casey (played by Emma Roberts) and his “mother” Rose/Sarah (played by Jennifer Aniston), that is as uncomfortable (watching it as a parent with her children) as it is funny. We’re the Millers is on par with Grown-ups and Bridesmaids in its bawdy humour—remember the blue pee scene in Grown-ups and the diarrhea attack in Bridesmaids?—that is to say, unrefined. While a tarantula bite on the testicles is nothing to laugh about, Millers milks it for all its worth. Equally disturbing is the scene in which the a Mexican policeman’s expectation of a bribe is confused with the expectation of oral sex, compounded by the discussion in which David convinces Kenny that he must take one for the team and satisfy the officer.

Jason Sudeikis plays the part of David with initial cool detachment, but, as you might expect, he mellows toward the end and realizes that he does, in fact, have some responsibility for his adopted family. Jennifer Aniston is more believable as the caring matriarch than the down and out stripper. Emma Roberts and Will Poulter play their parts—the battle-worn street kid with a heart of gold and the virgin ingénue—with stereotypical demeanour. It was nice to see Kathryn Hahn and Molly Quinn in the parts of the DEA agent’s wife and daughter. I’ve liked Kathryn Hahn since her Crossing Jordan days and enjoyed the way she plays the sexually frustrated prim-and-proper wife. I also really like Molly Quinn in her role as Alexis Castle, but her talent was underutilized in this movie, where she’s asked to do nothing but look as innocent as Poulter’s character, which she does, but it’s not enough for her to shine.

I went to see We’re the Millers because it was either that or The Butler playing at my local theatre and neither my husband or kids were interested in a heavy, historical docu-pic, but I wasn’t disappointed. We’re the Millers is a lighthearted, funny movie that had me laughing out loud at times and squirming at others. It’s mostly potty humour with a little quick and clever repartee mixed in, but it’s a movie that shouldn’t disappoint. 

Graphic from: http://www.bringthenoiseuk.com/201305/music/news/film-news-new-red-band-trailer-for-were-the-millers

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

This is not 50 FIRST DATES!

This is not 50 FIRST DATES!

Christine spends the first hours of each day reading in her journal and the rest of it recording what happens to her as it happens so she will remember it tomorrow. The victim of a hit and run almost twenty years ago, Christine cannot remember anything from one day to the next. She writes at her doctor’s suggestion, keeping both the journal and her doctor a secret from her husband, Ben. Over time, she learns she has had a book published, lost most of her possessions in a fire she inadvertently set, and lost her nineteen-year-old son in Afghanistan…or has she?

Told mostly through Christine Lucas’ journal entries, Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is a compelling page-turner. As an amnesiac, Christine awakes every morning unsure of herself. She “remembers” who she and her husband are by the labelled pictures posted around the bathroom mirror. Every morning, after she adjusts to the years she’s lost and her husband goes to work, she takes a call on her cell phone from Dr. Nash, who reminds her of where she’s hidden her journal. She reads it, gets caught up with her life, and then moves forward, frantically recording everything so she can pick up where she left off tomorrow. At times peaceful, at times panicked, Christine’s journal kept me on the edge of my seat, unable to put it down.

In Before I Go To Sleep, everyone, from the main character on down, has secrets to keep. It is these secrets that kept me reading. As we read each new entry in Christine’s journal along with her, both the protagonist and the reader realize things don’t add up. Is Christine a reliable narrator? Is the journal a fabrication, the next fiction she imagines? Is Ben as loving as he seems? What, if anything, is he hiding? Was Christine having an affair or was Ben? Who is Claire and why did she abandon Christine all those years ago? Is Dr. Nash to be trusted? These are questions the reader struggles with as the novel progresses; they are the questions Christine struggles with every moment of every day. While Christine begins each new day with a blank slate, reading the same entries in the same journal, Watson makes a concerted effort to spare the reader from that monotony, often glossing over Christine’s reaction to her age, the accident, the temporary separation from her husband after the accident, and the death of her son, but the parts that are repetitive are forgiven because the rest of the story is so compelling. You will not expect what happens once Christine finally pieces together the puzzle that is her life.

The hardcover version of this novel is 359 pages long; I zoomed through it (in eBook format, mind) in three days. I almost didn’t read it at all. Having been burned too many times buying eBooks sight unseen, it was a huge turnoff that Kobo didn’t offer a preview beyond the table of contents. Luckily, Kindle did, and before the end of it I was hooked. I was also wary because the premise sounded a lot like 50 First Dates. While Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore played this concept for its comedic worth, Watson’s interpretation is an absolute thriller, one that is worthy of being placed in the genre. I only wish I could find more books as powerful and as wonderfully written as Before I Go To Sleep.

 Graphic from http://www.harpercollins.com/harperimages/isbn/large/8/9781443404068.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Orange is the New Black Critique – Memoir and Netflix Series 

Orange is the New Black is the memoir of Piper Kerman, a woman who, at 34, is jailed for a crime she committed ten years earlier. At that time, Piper was in a relationship with Nora, an older woman and drug dealer for an international cartel. Aware of this information, Piper nevertheless agrees to transport money for her girlfriend. When the story takes place, though Piper has a new life, a legitimate job and a fiancée, she must surrender herself to the department of corrections to carry out her sentence.

I found Orange is the New Black, the memoir a day or so after binge-watching Orange is the New Black the Netflix series. Though memoirs aren’t my reading thing, the online reviews were good and the preview was interesting and easy to read, and so I bought it. The memoir turned out to be a quick read, taking me less than a week to complete. Piper’s narrative voice keeps the story moving and the reader turning pages. While I don’t regret reading it, I do regret not reading it before seeing the series.

Memoirs sell for a reason – they help people experience aspects of life they wouldn’t ordinarily get to experience, sleeping with the rich and famous, for example, or living through a long past moment in history. They detail lives out of the ordinary, and are usually didactic or uplifting in nature.  Piper’s story is both. Throughout the story, she gets on her soapbox to tell the reader sad statistics about the number of women who are denied some sort of treatment for ailments while incarcerated, or the proportion of those requesting early release or furlough compared to those who actually get it. Her story is uplifting because she learns to accept the responsibility in her situation and makes peace with Nora and gets out and lives her life, able to put her experience behind her. In the memoir, Piper elevates herself above the rest of the prison population in her narrative, but she is easily able to make friends and fit in, unlike the Piper of the series.

It took me one and a half episodes of Orange is the New Black to decide I wanted to see more. Part of the allure of the series is the way Piper is played as a fish-out-of-water. She wants to fit in, she desperately tries to fit in, but nearly always fails. Though she enters the system thinking she’s different from the other women there, she soon learns she is exactly the same, a point driven home by the last scene of episode 12 of the season. The series is equally horrifying and funny, albeit ironically so. Though Piper tries to mind her own business and quietly serve her sentence, she is dealt random acts of craziness in each episode that she’s forced to deal with, experiencing varying degrees of success. To add to the stress on the inside, she quickly becomes at odds with Larry, her fiancée, on the outside, which impacts the way she reacts to the randomness of events she experiences on a daily basis.

Her rekindling of the relationship she has with Nora on the inside is exaggerated in the series, and characters from the memoir are either similarly exaggerated or made composite for the series (Crazy Eyes, for example, is a composite of 2 or 3 characters alluded to in the memoir). The one thing that attracted me to the series is conspicuously absent from the memoir and that is the way the series gives the backstories of the other prisoners. I found I liked the inmates better when I understood their motivations inside and how, like Piper, they too are fighting to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their lives.

I understand that, while based on a memoir, much of the series is fiction and fictional characters are constructs (see my earlier post) and so the parts that I liked so much are made up to serve that exact purpose. Disregarding the fact that I don’t usually read memoirs, I much preferred the series to the memoir. While the memoir is a good, fast, interesting read, the series fills in the blanks of the story, blanks that, admittedly, Kerman could not know for fact.

Read the memoir first, then go to Netflix to see the fictionalized version. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by both. 

Graphic from http://blogs.metrotimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/orange-is-the-new-black-poster.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Rumplestiltskin is a Construct

All literature is a construct. This means it does not depict real life. Everything in literature has a secondary meaning that you, as the reader, are expected to interpret to unlock the author’s hidden message about society, human behaviour, and the human condition. Everything in literature has a significance, a reason for being there.

Take Once Upon A Time’s Rumplestiltskin, for example:

I, Rumplestiltskin am a construct. I am a symbol of how power can corrupt even the most humble of people. As for physical symbols, I have many. I own a pawn shop that holds objects symbolic of the weaknesses of the people in the town. A shawl represents a happier time for me when I had a family and was no more than a coward. I imbued this with magic to help me find my son. I own a dagger with my name on it that is the source and symbol of my power. I embody the theme of good vs. evil. My story is the internal conflict I suffer as I battle my desire to be good and surrounded by people who love me against the thrill using my magic brings. I live in Fairytale Land, a place where the true good is embodied in princesses, princes, fairies, dwarves and true evil is embodied in trolls, evil queens, witches, and giants and magic is real. I take my name from the Rumplestiltskin of fairy tale fame, and my origins are based in that story, but I am so much more than that. I am the trickster. I am the Godfather. I am the everyman, the poor peasant who found himself the most powerful creature in the land and allowed himself to be seduced by it. I have lost my family, and no one really likes me. I am the heartless landlord, the wealthy miser, the lonely curmudgeon, but I also have a human side, one that is lonely, has desires, and wants to belong. I speak in riddles, use certain phrases in my fairytale life that bleed into my every day one. I maintain an accent that hearkens back to my humble roots. I reveal little personal information when I speak as knowledge is power, and in spite of my character flaws, power is what I crave, in spite of myself. Everything about me is a construct, designed to serve a purpose. My legend is vast because my character is diverse (and my actor is so talented) that the authors use me to my potential, writing and re-writing my history whenever they see a reason to further plot, character or theme.

Graphic from http://io9.com/5887438/supercut-every-single-maniacal-laugh-from-once-upon-a-times-rumpelstiltskin

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Literature is a Construct of Reality

I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been all but consumed with a grade 11 English course I’ve been teaching through eLearning. While teaching, a lot of time was spent on symbolism. Students find it difficult to understand that novels are not real life – they are constructions of real life, which means that everything in everything you read is there for a reason. Case in point are characters.

Characters are not real people. They are given desires, physical characteristics and relationships just like people, but they do not develop as a result of natural elements in combination with the nurturing environments in which they are raised. In my class, we discussed “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. In the play, Nora is a typical Victorian trophy wife with a twist – she’s unhappy with looking pretty and doing what’s expected by the men in her life; Nora wants something more. Were many women in Nora’s position unhappy in their lives, want to own their own property, make their own decisions, have the vote? Most definitely. Did many of them leave their husbands and children to try to have their fantasy lives on their own? Probably not. Nora is a construct in that she proves Ibsen’s point that women should want something more for themselves, and that they should make that desire known.

Likewise, Torvald is a construct of the typical Victorian man. He does not verbally abuse Nora with his condescending names, and by treating her like a child as this was the way he was raised to treat women. By law, women were infantilized. Like children are often treated as the property of their parents, women were first the property of their fathers and then of their husbands. Torvald works hard to keep Nora in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed. He gives her money when she asks though he teases her about it and asks her not to eat macaroons because they didn’t have the dentistry to repair rotten teeth we do today and it would have been expensive and ugly. When Nora comes clean about Krogstad, he reacts as most men would, I think, worried about what it meant for him. Given time, Torvald might have come around, because, at his core, he does think he loves Nora and is petrified at a life without her, but Nora doesn’t give him the chance to have time to think and formulate a plan as she has, for she leaves immediately after dropping the Krogstad bomb.

Funny they way how these blogposts evolve, isn’t it? I hadn’t meant to write so much about “A Doll’s House”, but I guess I had a lot to say. I’ll save my construct analysis of a character for the next post.

Graphic from www.cityweekly.net

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

The Ultimate Battle of Good vs. Evil

The Ultimate Battle of Good vs. Evil

Superman is my favourite superhero, bar none. The last Superman movie, 2006’s Superman Returns, blew me away. I was so looking forward to another blow-me-away Superman movie in Man of Steel. Instead, I left the theatre entertained, but somewhat disappointed.

Man of Steel was an okay movie. The special effects were spectacular. Henry Cavill is an attractive choice to play Kal-El/Clark—he certainly has the looks and body-type for the role. Michael Shannon, he of Boardwalk Empire fame, plays General Zod with stoic menace. Kevin Costner is perfect as Jonathan Kent. But for me, that is where the praise ends.

 Part of Superman’s attraction is his humility, his relationship with his earth parents, and his internal struggle to be a normal human which will never be realized. Man of Steel’s Superman never fits in. He spends his entire life hiding the fact that he’s different. He saves strangers because he feels guilty seeing people come to harm. He feels responsible for Jonathan Kent’s death because he allowed him to die rather than expose his powers to save him. When Zod and his minions break free of the Phantom Zone, they want Kal to join them. The rest of the movie (which is most of it) devolves into a rehash of ET when Clark gives himself up to the authorities and then a good alien vs. bad alien scenario—similar to Transformers 3—once Zod tracks him down. The climax (if it can be called that) is Kal vs. Zod. At stake is the DNA of every future Kryptonian vs. the fate of humans on earth, a high stakes battle, to be sure, but one lacking the high emotional stakes an audience should have vested in the characters at this point in the plot.

In a break from the battle, Lois kisses Kal and says something like, “They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.” This is also true of the movie. Sadly, the second half of the climax is anti-climactic at best. After they kiss, more fighting ensues. Metropolis is destroyed. Jenny (in lieu of a Jimmy?) is almost killed. The story ends with Kal-El assuming his position as Clark Kent, reporter at The Daily Planet. Lois is the only one who knows of his secret identity.

For a franchise re-boot, I expected more plot and better character development. While Clark’s youth is told with charm, the rest of his story is one-dimensional. I will, in all probability, see subsequent films in the franchise. Perhaps, like the Sherlock Holmes re-boot starting Robert Downey Jr. in which the second movie was much better than the first, I will be pleasantly surprised. If I could give one piece of advice to director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan, and scriptwriter David S. Goyer, it would be that instead of special effects for special effects’ sake, plot and character development must always be of paramount importance. 

Graphic from http://b-i.forbesimg.com/robertwood/files/2013/06/Man-of-Steel-Henry-Cavill.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

Harper Curtis squats in a house, the owner dead and rotting in the hallway. In his pocket he finds a key. When he uses the key in the front door, he is taken to whatever time he imagines. He returns later to bludgeon the owner, thus coming full circle in the timeline. Harper travels through time looking for his “shining girls”, girls that emit an aura-like light that he alone can see. He finds them as children, making contact with them when he does, promising to return again, sometime in the future. When he finds them as adults, he brutally slays them, leaving with them a souvenir from a previous kill. The book opens with Harper gifting Kirby a small, plastic horse, years before the date left behind by the mould on the bottom off the horse’s foot. He returns later to murder Kirby, but unbeknownst to Harper, she survives and devotes most of her adult life to bringing Harper to justice. Harper’s hubris in leaving behind these anachronistic souvenirs is what eventually helps Kirby orchestrate his undoing.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is part Dexter’s evil twin, part grown-up Nancy Drew in the perfect combination. It’s been a while since I’ve read a page-turner, and The Shining Girls is a mesmerizing one at that. Beukes’ prose is literary and compelling. Her tone is gritty and dark, whether from Harper, the murderer’s, Kirby, the victim’s, or Dan, the reporter’s points of view. Whether depression, disco, or near-twenty-first century, Buekes’ story makes the era come to life. I love time travel as a plot device, but it must be done right. I need to know about the technology that transports the characters from one time to the next. Beukes chooses to make the device a psychic key, of sorts. Beyond the question of how the original owner obtains it (which is told in the final chapter), the reader is too caught up in the lives of the characters to question it’s true origin (i.e., from where or whom it originated in all time and how it got its power), which is a credit to the author, as I thought this would hang me up and sour me on the novel altogether; it didn’t.

Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Shining Girls is one of those novels I can see myself returning to in the future (no pun intended) to read and re-read before I am able to grasp all of the subtle nuances of the manuscript. And I will do this with gusto.

Graphic from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16131077-the-shining-girls

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!