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Tag Archives: romance

Four of Hearts (2013): Deuce of Spades

Four of Hearts (Eric Haywood, 2013)


Revised tagline: some legs can’t be uncrossed. photo credit:

First off: while I don’t necessarily consider talking about the content of a character’s character to be a spoiler for a movie, there are those who might. As such, this review can be considered to have spoilers. Proceed with caution.

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Hunting Season (2011): Tease Me, Freeze Me

Selena Kitt and Blake Crouch, Hunting Season (Excessica, 2011)


This will not be a truly free country until we have the unfettered right to arm bears. photo credit: goodreads

Erotica author Selena Kitt and thriller author Blake Crouch might seem an odd pairing for a collaboration. But hey, look at how many non-noise acts Merzbow’s done collaborations with. (If you haven’t heard his new one with Boris, Gensho, it’s even better than Rock Dream, the collaboration that introduced Boris to millions of noise kids and Merzbow to the wider world.) Sometimes you put two things that don’t seem like they’d go together well in the same dish, and magic happens. “Hunting Season” is quite a nice goat’s head stew, especially given that both authors rein in their normal genre tendencies and write what is, essentially, a contemporary romance novel that happens to be boiled down into eight thousand words, give or take. One of the things that does, where romance novel conventions are concerned, is dispense with the “you thought…” “wait, you thought…” silliness in the space of about a paragraph, when I’ve read books where it can go up to fifty pages. That alone is a refreshing enough shot of adrenalin for romance readers to pick this one up. Crouch does slip in a thriller angle, as ridiculous as it is, and Kitt seals the deal on it with the story’s Big Twist(TM), but in general, I only got impressions of which author was writing which bit, and that is a solid complement to both.

I enjoy both Crouch and Kitt as solo authors, so I went into this one pretty much knowing I was going to enjoy it. If you’re not familiar with one or both, you may want to check out their solo works first (my recommended starting points are Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed for Kitt and Desert Places for Crouch), but if you like those, you’ll want to pick this one up. *** ½

My Sucky Teen Romance (2011): Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

My Sucky Teen Romance (Emily Hagins, 2011)

8-bit-style representations of the main characters, with Paul munching on a heart, grace the movie poster.

“The only thing they told me not to eat on a first date was spaghetti!”
photo credit:

Despite only giving Emily Hagins’ first feature, Pathogen, three stars (but let’s remember, three is still “above average” on a five-star scale), I unhesitatingly recommended it in my review because, well, it’s a zombie movie that was made by a twelve-year-old and, aside from having basically no budget and some problems with acting ability, was a clever, fun take on the genre. Hagins returned five years later with her third feature, My Sucky Teen Romance, a teen vampire comedy whose purpose is to make fun of teen vampire comedies. And my favorite thing about it is that in every way, it’s obvious Emily Hagins took Pathogen as a learning experience. My Sucky Teen Romance is a much better movie technically, with much more solid acting and a clever script (written by Hagins). In short: if you like your teen comedies with more romance than raunch, My Sucky Teen Romance is for you.

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Amélie (2001): Jeunet Without Caro: Oil Without Vinegar

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

[originally posted 3Dec2002]

The title character, in a red blouse, smiles against a green background on the movie poster.

Impish or Satanic? Your call.

For the past two years, I have been reading reviews of Amélie that all have one thing in common: the word “sweet.” I have no idea what film these people were watching, but it wasn’t the twisted little minor gem I saw on Sunday night. “Sweet” may be the last word I’d have come up with in trying to describe it. I should have had more faith in the brilliance of Jeunet. (Of course, all of these same people persist in describing Audrey Tatou as anything from “pixie-like” to “gorgeous,” as well. I found her rather disturbing-looking, as I find everyone in Jeunet films.)

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Waiting (1999): An Accurate Description of the Book’s Pace

Ha Jin, Waiting (Pantheon, 1999)

[originally posted 7Mar2002]

A braid of hair hangs halfway down a woman's naked back on the book's cover.

Much more exciting than watching hair grow.
photo credit:

Waiting, the 1999 National Book Award winner, is something special. It is one of the first few books of what will hopefully become a renaissance in minimalist writing.

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If I Stay (2014): Adam Tied to Stone

If I Stay (R. J. Cutler, 2014)

Chloë Grace Moretz, tiled, with a number of other shots from the movie, graces its poster.

Troubled Sleep.
photo credit:

R. J. Cutler is known for his documentaries; 2009’s The September Issue garnered raves on the festival circuit. Now he turns in his first big-screen feature, and a movie more different than The September Issue you are unlikely to find this year. If I Stay was adapted from Gayle Forman’s novel by Shauna Cross, whose output to date has been, well, somewhat underwhelming (Whip It, What to Expect When You’re Expecting). I’m not entirely sure what happened, but sticking this script to this director caused some form of magic to happen. How good is this magic? According to my spreadsheet, If I Stay is the three hundredth film I have seen so far in 2014. It is the fifteenth of those to get a rating of four stars or higher (as I write this opening paragraph, I am not yet sure if I’m going 4 or 4.5). Less than half of them have been features (the rest are shorts). This is, in a word, a stunning film.

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Thurston House (1983): There’s No Sex in Your Violence

Danielle Steel, Thurston House (Dell, 1983)

[originally posted 14Feb2002]

Of all the reviews over which I have fought with Amazon, this one takes the cake. I had to submit it three dozen times over a space of nine months before they would print it. To this day I have no idea why. photo credit:

Of all the reviews over which I have fought with Amazon, this one takes the cake. I had to submit it three dozen times over a space of nine months before they would print it. To this day I have no idea why.
photo credit:

Over the past quarter-century or so, Danielle Steel has sold more novels than there are people in America. Fifty-three books, with sales (at present, according to Steel’s website) of more than four hundred sixty-three million. She’s one of a handful of novelists who have not had a single book go out-of-print in decades. Remember those old Slim Whitman late-night TV ads talking about how he’d sold more albums than Elvis and The Beatles? Well, Danielle Steel really HAS. She’s the Slim Whitman of the book business. So what is it, I asked myself for years, that makes people read Danielle Steel so obsessively? What is it about her books that makes them so all-fired popular? I must have known I would eventually want to know the answer, because some years back I picked up a worn-out dog-eared copy of Thurston House. And thus my education in mass-market romance begins.

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