It's My Birthday!

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:34 AM in , , ,
Hi! It's my birthday, so I have a very busy day planned, which includes fun things like shopping, books, movies, manicures, makeup, killer unicorns, happily taking a day off work, going out to dinner with my mom, and closing out the day with some awesome Vampire Diaries flashback action!  I believe this is referred to as a perfect day.  And I am psyched.

But I'm also still a little unsure about how I'd like to celebrate it with friends.  Should I make everyone come with me to paint some pottery?  But that gets expensive and then you have to go back to pick up your masterpiece.  I can't do anything at my house, since my best friend is allergic to my kitties.  Should I make everyone go to the park and ride the carousel and sit at a picnic table and eat cake?  But then you're opening yourself up to be subjected to wandering mariachi bands (no, I'm not sure why they solicit people at the park for money, but it is very awkward to tell them that you're uninterested and make them go away.).  I'm leaning the most towards having everybody meet up for brunch at this nice restaurant that overlooks the valley, where you can sit for hours outside (or inside, but why would you?) eating delicious buffet foods (served with champagne!  That way you know it's fancy.), which is also a little expensive, but has the added bonus of being time-flexible, which is a serious plus in a terrible traffic town like this. 

So I'd like to solicit your opinions.  What's the most fun birthday party you've ever attended, either your own or a friend's?

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BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Gods In Alabama

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , , , , , ,
I'd like to welcome you guys to the second official Book Hungry: A Twitter Book Club blog entry.  September's book was Cynthia's pick:

GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson!

I have to admit that I was curious about this one since I won a copy of BACKSEAT SAINTS in a contest (yes, I entered a contest for a book I knew nothing about mostly because I am competitive and LOVE winning, but also because I heart books), and at the time, Cynthia gushed about how much she loves Joshilyn Jackson's work, and that GODS IN ALABAMA was not to be missed.

I thought the book was really well done, too.  The rhythm of the writing, and the sounds of the setting, it's all so vivid that you're almost immediately immersed into Arlene's world.  I haven't been to Alabama in 15 years, or Georgia in at least 6, and yet I could practically feel the heat and smell the kudzu of the South, you know?  Also, cicadas are seriously gross--like, so, so yucky, and this reminded me once again, vividly, about why I hate them so much.

The other thing that Jackson excels at is characterization.  I thought Burr was terrific and sweet if at times wrongheaded, and Lena was hilarious, and sometimes so painfully honest that I was uncomfortable and wanted her to quit sharing.  I thought Florence was such a strong character that it's impossible not to like her, even though we're privy to her mild racism and multiple animal killings.  It's written in such a way that it's supposed to be horrific, but Florence's steel shines through her magnolia so frequently that it's hard not to relate to her, and the challenges she faces--she refuses to be pitied.  Clarice, who so easily could've been a cliche, was lovely.  It's completely understandable why she's Lena's favorite cousin.  And Arlene's first crush is sometimes so completely charming that the sweetness and the awkwardness of everything should be painful, but somehow isn't (no worries though, creepy awkward pain abounds--the book is definitely not all sweetness and light).  The only character who kinda felt cartoonish to me was Rose Mae, especially modern-day Rose Mae, but it didn't impact my appreciation for the writing in any particular way.  I felt awful for the young Arlene and her disturbing fantasies, but I appreciated that the twists in the story were just as slippery as Lena's way of thinking, and how Lena developed into the sort of person she is in modern-day Chicago becomes clearer with each additional detail we learn of young Arlene's past.

This is very much a book you'd find on the Fiction shelf, rather than the Romance and YA sections which are where I usually kick it, but sometimes it's fun to branch out and take a breather from my usual fare.  I find I don't usually engage emotionally with more literary novels, but I do readily slip into my more distant analytical cap and can analyze the text and appreciate the construction of the work, and it usually gives me some fresh perspective on something I'm writing as well, since it's harder for me to slip back out of that pattern of thinking.  And this book really is very well done.  Jackson describes it rather perfectly as "Southern fiction seasoned with a dash of literary murder mystery," and if that sounds like the sort of thing that appeals to you, I think you'll definitely appreciate this book.

If you'd like to see what the rest of the club thought:


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Random Quotes and Contest Entry

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:28 PM in ,
While looking something else up, I randomly stumbled across some fairy quotes, and they tickled me so much I feel compelled to share them with everyone else:

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."- Albert Einstein

“The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money.” - David Richerby

I hardly think Evie will mind me sharing those, which brings me to the second part of this catch-all post.  My entry for Kiersten White's contest!  I left my entry to the last minute because I am a procrastinator, not because I didn't want to give even more people a heads up.  I solemnly swear. (And P.S. If you haven't read this yet, you're missing out.  It's sweetly adorable and charmingly delightful, and I just want to hug it.  So sometimes I do.)  

Paranormalcy has been super busy at my house, and here is the pictorial evidence:

Paranormalcy enjoys a late-night snack!

Paranormalcy makes new friends!  Aww.
Paranormalcy travels the world! Because...well, work is work and it needs doing.
Seriously.  Paranormalcy makes lots of friends and is terribly popular all of the time.
But most importantly, Paranormalcy has her picture taken with a cute pink camera!  Yay!  

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , ,
I AM SO EXCITED! I seriously love this show.  I missed the first two episodes last year (because I was busy getting pushed around by nuns and discovering Italian delicacies like French fry pizza), caught the third, thought it was all right, watched the fourth episode...and was completely hooked by the end.  I hesitated to tell people at first because I never thought I'd get into yet another vampire show after Buffy and Angel, but the fourth episode wasn't a fluke.  From that point on, the show has been a solid, shocking, awesome, heartbreaking, and gorgeous roller coaster of fun.

I'm really into Stefan, who's surprisingly emotionally mature for a 162 year old vampire attending high school (I'm actually being serious right now).  He's tortured and gorgeous, as is the law,  but he also has a dry sense of humor and a genuine need to be a good person.  I love that he does what's right because it's what's right, NOT because he thinks it's something that his girlfriend would want him to do.  Though she would, of course, since she's a genuinely nice person herself.  But he's complete in himself and has committed to his beliefs for a very long time.

But even better than enjoying the super hot male lead?  I'm really into the female lead too!  Elena genuinely cares about her family.  She even has friends, that she actually hangs out with sometimes, and she genuinely cares about them too!  Crazy, I know.  And even better than that?  The people on this show actually communicate with each other.

I know I just blew your mind, so I'll give you all a moment to recover.

Yes, there are secrets galore, and sometimes they write things that they shouldn't in their diaries, but when the going gets tough, and the stupid would keep things to themselves in order to land themselves in deeper trouble later?  Yeah, these characters actually talk about things, take backup, notice when something seems like a bit too much of a coincidence, and because it bears repeating: they actually talk to each other.  Just like real people would!  I love it.

And the entire cast is fabulous.  Okay, so sometimes I get a little bored with Elena's younger brother Jeremy, but considering the fact that within a very short period of time -- meaning just about a year -- he's lost his parents and, not just one, but two girlfriends (lost them as in all four are dead, not misplaced.  Just to be clear.)...I'll forgive him for being emo.  But I just hope he knocks it off with the self-medicating soon because it's hard to watch.

Then there's Matt, Elena's genuinely-a-good-guy ex, whom she's friends with because they've been friends their whole lives, and because she's actually a smart girl and dated a nice boy.  There's her best friend Bonnie, who's gorgeous, tough, and -- she recently discovered -- a witch.  Caroline, who by rights should be nothing more than just the usual blonde vampire bait, who knows nothing about the supernatural world all around her, is so delightfully charming that she ably represents the human population and why they should be protected.  There's Tyler, with all those tantalizing anvils dropped all over the place that he's either a werewolf or about to become one.  And finally, there's Damon, fun fun (pretty!) Damon, who, much as he wishes he didn't, has a good heart buried deep -- really really deep -- beneath his sardonic vampire exterior.  As much as he protests any goodness, as little patience as he has with his brother Stefan's human ways, he's a better person than he wants to be, for all the murder and truly horrific crimes he may commit.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing: Bad guys on this show?  They're actually bad, but so often complex.  And there are a number of guest stars that I fell in love with over the course of one episode that I wish we could have back, but we can't.  Because when you're dealing with vampires, sometimes death, and the sheer finality of it, needs to be made explicitly, heartbreakingly, clear.  And evil is evil and shouldn't be discounted.

The pacing of this show is one of its biggest charms.  It's so ridiculously fast that often you look up at a commercial break and can't believe how little time has passed because there's so much that has already happened.  It's truly delightful.

So yes, this is not just another vampire show with a love triangle at the center (It's kinda a love quadrangle, for all that Elena and Katherine look identical...).  It's a complex, messy, romantic, family drama with all kinds of twists and turns and heartbreak and betrayal.  Plus vampires!  They're like your gift with purchase.  Repercussions and hurt feelings that linger over the decades can get surprisingly messy, it turns out.

And now Katherine the awesomely badass vampire who started it all when she thought "hey, why choose between two pretty pretty brothers when I can have them both?  Forever?" is back.  And I cannot wait to see what she does.  Especially since, as Elena's ancestor and doppelganger, she has a lot of avenues open to her to seriously mess with everyone however she sees fit.

Um, so what are you guys all doing tonight?  Because I'll be hanging out with my TV and the CW around 8:00 to enjoy the premiere.

These pictures are included to entice you, so that I have a wider circle of acquaintances with which to discuss my favorite pretty show.  Just so we're all clear.

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VACATION - Paris! Rome!

My friend Abby is heading off on what is bound to be a fabulous trip to Italy soon, and I started to reminisce with her about my trip to Italy last September.  That whole trip was bananas, and every time I turned around, something crazier was happening.  It was all very hilarious, if confusing and/or uncomfortable at the time.

I should probably mention that the week before I left was hellish, since I got into a car accident, and therefore didn't have access to my car as I tried to get all my last-minute stuff under control (and deal with the insurance people which turned into this whole long extremely ridiculous mess), AND I was putting in 12 hour days at work to prep for the almost two weeks I'd be gone, and so by the time we finally left for the airport (at 3:00 am by the way), I felt like I hadn't slept in years, even if technically I'd slept for four hours the two nights previous, if not at all that night.  Then began the world's longest trip to Paris from Los Angeles by way of Houston and London, which necessitated an airport change in London, so we took a bus, enjoyed some delays, and finally arrived in Paris 26 hours later.  I was beyond delirious.  I didn't sleep at all, except for maybe ten minute catnaps while sitting on the floor of the last airport waiting for them to announce what gate they were going to move us to, but I was so terrified I was going to miss the announcement that it was hardly restful.  I have never been so tired in my life.  So what did we do bright and early the next morning?  We went to Disneyland Paris!  Obviously.  Where I got soaking wet in a couple of freak thunderstorms.

We decided to close out the evening with some slightly more high-brow entertainment, so we bought tickets to see one of the Spectacles at Versailles.  It's this crazy fireworks and water show that they put on at the Neptune fountain, and each year there's a different story.  They decided to tell the story of Cyrano de Bergerac while we were there, and you should all be impressed to note that while everything was in French, my six years of Spanish and two weeks of French class paid off because I was able to translate about 90% of our program fairly easily.  Note, however, that this is an outdoor show, at night, and it was BEYOND freezing.  The locals knew this, and wore heavy jackets and brought lots of blankets.  We did not.

After a little while, though, the show became so mind-boggling, that I could no longer focus on my sheer physical misery.  Apparently, Cyrano decided to help make the children of the moon, or something (look, it was in French, okay?  Also, it was a French play.  I wasn't expecting it to make tons of sense), but there are some things that are just universally understood when told through charades, and one of those things is the act of making babies.  First, the light up lady, uh, encouraged Cyrano's interest to grow, shall we say, and then Cyrano returned the favor, and then they got super friendly from behind, and then their friends joined in, and now I know what a light-up seven-way looks like!  Thanks, France.  The children sitting behind us found this all to be the most hysterical thing EVER, and I could not blame them because  I couldn't stop laughing either.  Trust me, the picture here doesn't do the spectacle justice (there really are people inside those light up costumes, and they're suspended by wires over a ginormous fountain.).

By the time we reached Rome, though, I had developed a full-blown head cold.  Very mysterious as to why, I'm sure.  So I did the sensible thing, walked into a farmacia, and bought some medication from a nice pharmacist who spoke not a word of English, as I mimed all my symptoms due to my supreme lack of Italian.  This makes for hilarious times for everyone, including the other visitors in the farmacia.  But whatever on earth it was that I was taking, it did make me feel moderately better, if extremely photosensitive (I was neon red for the rest of the trip), so we decided to call it an early night by visiting the restaurant across from our hotel and having some pizza.  By the way, I'm fairly certain that every restaurant in Rome is some sort of pizzeria, even the fancy ones.  That's the sort of thinking I can get behind.  However, once we reached the restaurant, we learned that our favorite sausage potato pizza wasn't an option due to lack of potatoes.  We mimed our sadness at this.  Our waiter (who is now one of my facebook friends as I am clearly some sort of international ambassadorial genius, obviously) offered to make it up to us by serving a sausage and french fry pizza.  You guys?  FRENCH FRY PIZZA.  I can pretty much die happy for having experienced this awesome thing.  We had French fry pizza for three out of the next five meals in Rome, as you do.

This is me awaiting French fry pizza. Also? Advertising Coke. 
Also? Crazy high on mysterious Italian cold meds. Please note my fuzzy facebook friend.

And as we were leaving Rome and a nun body-checked me at the train station (because of her terror at possibly being caught in the malfunctioning people-mover--I'm assuming she had adrenaline-enhanced strength or she missed her calling as a linebacker because I went flying) and my first instinct was to protect the French fry pizza (I was successful, no worries--and it was for the road, okay?  No judging.), I realized that traveling is possibly an even more character-driven experience than writing.  Which must be why I enjoy it so much.

What's the most hilarious thing that's happened to you guys while traveling lately?

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