Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Write Man For Her

The Write Man For Her by Christie Walker Bos

**

This book is a fun, sweet, enjoyable read. I would describe it as harmless. Not life changing. The main character is an adult woman taking a creative writing class. She's fascinated by her mysterious professor and hunts him down, discovering that he is paraplegic.

He is more enjoyable than many of the very dramatic romance novels with disabled heroes. He lives an independent life, is mostly well-adjusted, and fights the creepy bad guy.

The devo moments were fairly low for me. In a lot of ways it doesn't feel like Brant is connected. In other words, the writing lightly flies past how he moves, how he is living on a houseboat, how he deals with stairs, and the effect is like he is sort-of floating, but not grounded in the world.

There is an interview with the author available here: http://www.ruthmadison.com/interview-christie-walker-bos/



Family Reunion

Family Reunion by Jill Metcalf

No Stars

I was barely able to make it through this book, not sure why I kept trying. I suppose I thought it might get better, but it didn't.

There was a lot of head-hopping, switching point-of-view frequently and without warning.

The plot was thin and any conflict that came up was resolved within a paragraph or two, there was no sense of over-arching story. The book had no structure, the story meandering all over the place without coming to a real point.

The dialogue was very stiff and not believable, a trap that historic fiction can easily fall into.

The hero was difficult to take seriously, since he peppered his speech with affectionate terms in just about every single sentence he spoke. He also was used as the vehicle to describe the heroine, which meant that he was observing how in fashion her dress was and the hem line and style of ribbons, which made him seem like he couldn't possibly be a straight male.

In devo terms, the hero is paralyzed in an accident where a horse drawing a carriage got startled by some hooligans. Leaving aside the historical unlikeliness of him surviving with such an injury, the book glosses over too much. There are too-easy solutions for any difficulty that might arise. I didn't find any dev thrill at all, but that might be because I was already too frustrated by the writing and not able to get immersed in the story.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Planet of the Blind

Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto

****** Top Marks

This is a fantastic book.  It is Stephen Kuusisto's autobiography, it is wonderfully written with really interesting comparisons.  It is called Planet of the Blind because he feels that he doesn't fit in anywhere.  His blindness was caused by being born prematurely and the incubator was too oxygenised.  Although he can see something; colours and movement, his mother and father refused to accept that he was more blind than not and thus Stephen Kuusisto found himself not belonging to either the sighted world or the blind world. 

He is so positive and through his writing you completely immerse yourself in his life and see the world as he sees/saw it.  The enthusiasm to make things work for him, and as he states, he tried to pass as a sighted person and ran ahead with confidence; mercilessly bullied by students and teachers; there is plenty to relate too.  I would recommend this very highly, not only for its incredible dev factor but also because he writes so beautifully.

Heartsight

Heartsight by Kay Springsteen

This is a great story. We join Dan as another operation to try and restore his sight fails. He lives in isolation in a magnificent house on a beach. His life is forcibly changed when he crosses paths with Bella, a young child with downs syndrome. He is imediately struck by the child and her mother. Slowly a friendship between the three develops. There is great exposition subtly inlayed within the narrative. Dan is a great strong character and Trish, the mother, is great as she is 'normal' in that she isn't a femme fetal but an ordinary woman with insecurities over the way see looks.

The story takes off but I wouldn't want to spoil it by giving anything away.

The Devo factor is ever present and Dan, although very resentful at the start of the book, learns to live positivly with his disability.  He doesn't regain his sight and by the end it is clear that there will never be a chance to correct his eyes.

There aren't really any sex scenes but this fits into the story quite well concidering the bagage the characters are carrying around.  Wold give this book 9/10.

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn (romance short story anthology)
NO STARS

The only story in this anthology I was interested in was the first one, "Love's Light" by Linda Jones. Set in colonial New Hampshire around the time of the revolution. Alexander Stark is blinded in the fighting, and returns home to the family inn to recover. This sounded so promising, right? I was excited, and the reviews on Amazon were so positive. WRONG. There is a miracle cure about halfway through. ARG! I usually can tell when this is coming, it's not often I'm taken by surprise like this. SO disappointing.

Oh yeah, and the plot is almost exactly the same as Blind Obsession reviewed above this: girl who he thinks jilted him comes back under an assumed name, thinks she won't recognize her because he's blind, blah blah blah what a ridiculous plot device.

Blind Obsession

Blind Obsession by Lee Wilkinson

NO STARS

Modern-day romance, set in England

As a teenager, Autumn fell in love with her fabulously wealthy older neighbor Saul, but things went badly. He crashed his car after an argument with her, and the accident left him blind, seemingly forever. Autumn flees to the US to escape her guilt, and Saul becomes a famous novelist or something. At the start of the novel, Autumn, now 22, returns to London and interviews for a job as Saul's secretary with a fake name, as part of some half-baked plan to be near him and see if he still hates her. Before she realizes what's happened, he gives her the job and whisks her off to a remote cottage in the Yorkshire moors, supposedly to help him finish his next novel. Alone together for weeks, how long will it be before Saul figures out Autumn's true identity? And is he still angry at her for causing his accident?

Spoilers: not long, and yes. This is one of the most sexist romance novels I have ever read. Even though it was written in the 1990s, it reads like it's set in the early 1960s. Saul basically tortures, abuses, and rapes Autumn into submission (ok technically not rape because the narrator keeps telling us how much she wants him, but she's still telling him no). There's no question for either Autumn or Saul that she really is responsible for his accident because she made him angry, and that she now deserves all the psychological abuse he heaps on her. Her response is to love him even more in hopes that he will remember her good qualities too. Wow, classic battered wife syndrome: "He only hits me because I deserve it, and it's a sign of how much he cares." This really made me sick.

Saul is spiteful and mean. The description of his blindness is utterly fake and unconvincing. Then about halfway through, it turns out he got his sight back already. He was just faking it to make Autumn feel even worse.  I suffered through this crappy, horrible book and he wasn't even blind!! I feel totally cheated.

Blind Attraction

Blind Attraction by Myrna Mackenzie
*

Wow, this was a terrible book. I was really disappointed, because it had so much potential. Handsome young inventor, blind since birth, and a book that is a romance/sci fi/suspense hybrid, sounds intriguing. But no, it fails on every level.

First, as believable fiction. All the characters are completely flat, and act and speak like no human ever would. The story seems to take place in some alternate world where orphanages dot the landscape as if it were 19th century England, but the abandoned children there grow into genius multi-millionaire inventors who live in houses with armies of servants and supermodel social workers (our hero and heroine). Alyssa quits her modeling career to become the caretaker/head cook of the orphanage Conor funds. Seriously, what is up with the orphanages? Note to author: for the past 50 years, orphanages have been replaced with foster care and group homes in the United States. Oh and realism in the representation of blindness? Zero. Several times Conor even "looks" at people, what lazy writing. There's no miracle cure, but still the devo factor is low.

Second, as romance. Not only were the characters totally flat, they were weirdly obsessed with pregnancy and children. The big conflict is that Conor feels he will be "donating flawed genetic material" (he actually uses that phrase several times) and believes he should never reproduce, which he assumes Alyssa not only wants but deserves as an attractive woman. Ok, marriage (and eventually children) is the main goal of most romance fiction, but even in the rarified world of romance novels, the characters don't usually start discussing their reproductive plans on the first date, and then obsessively thereafter every time they even think about having sex. It's creepy and weird. Even creepier: what begins to change Conor's mind is sitting next to a heavily pregnant woman on an airplane who talks loudly to her fetus during the flight. WTF?!? I also couldn't take the extreme sexism inherent in the story. Conor is contacted by his genius family to help find the genius bad guys, placing him in extreme danger and under unbearable stress for some reason. To help him, Alyssa leaves the orphanage to move in with Conor in order to service him sexually and see that he eats and sleeps regularly, in other words, to take care of the female stuff while he does his manly man work, even though he does have a house full of servants (again with the 19th century lingo). And it's not just that, she's so passive around him, even "tilting her head up to be kissed" rather than kissing him herself. It's actually quite rare to find romances from the past 15 years this blatantly sexist, I was surprised.

Finally, as suspense. Like a lot of poorly-written romances, NOTHING HAPPENS (except some awkward sex scenes shoved into the plot at the requisite 1/3 and 2/3 marks). The backstory of the genius family is barely fleshed out; the main bad guy's crime is something called the World Bank Heist (seriously, that was the best you could come up with?). For all the talk of the EXTREME DANGER Conor and by extension everyone else is in, nothing ever happens, not even the slightest hint of a real threat. Once the romance part of the plot is resolved, the suspense part disappears completely. I thought there were pages missing at the end. Maybe the next installment takes up the gripping mystery of the WBH (they seriously call it that) but I can't be bothered to check.

This book is part of a series called Family Secrets, which seems like a genius marketing move: come up with an overarching suspense/romance story, and have a bunch of different authors write each installment, meaning that there is one installment published every month. It's much faster than any single author could write. But the quality of the writing is so amateurish, and it's clear this author didn't have any connection to the larger narrative. Even the cover is half-assed--why is there a picture of Conor playing a piano? He never does in the novel. It's like they got blind-guy clipart for the cover. Just one more indication that nobody cared about the quality of this book.

His Eyes

His Eyes by Renee Carter
***

This is a sweet, endearing teen romance. Amy is a senior in high school, in need of money to attend her college of choice. So she takes a babysitting job for the summer, but she's shocked to find that her charge is not a little kid but a boy her own age who was recently blinded after falling off a horse. Tristan hasn't adjusted well to blindness, and his mother hopes that Amy can help bring him out of his shell. This should have been a great book, but for me the devo factor was only middling.

The story is engaging, but not as good as it could be. Note that this book is self-published, so the writing quality will be different from that of a professionally published book. Judging by the brief bio at the end, the author seems to be quite young, maybe even a teen herself when she wrote this.

With that in mind, it's flawed but not terrible. The writing style is lively and fun, and the narrator Amy comes across as a likeable and original character. Unfortunately, all the other characters are flat stereotypes: the preppie rich kids, the hippy mom, and especially the evil ex-girlfriend, who seems to have stepped straight out of Gossip Girl. The slobs vs. snobs conflict between the public and private high schools also seems cliched--sure it happens in real life, but the way it's described here is more like an '80s movie. It's a bit disappointing that a young author so close in age to her subject doesn't offer a more authentic or original view of high school.

The depiction of blindness didn't feel very realistic to me either. I can't believe that a fabulously wealthy mom would not have her recently blinded son go through real rehab, no matter how reluctant he was, and that instead of hiring a trained therapist or tutor, she would hire a teenage babysitter. Rather than a realistic depiction of adjusting to blindness, the book hinges on the idea that Tristan used to only care about surface appearances--now that he's blind will he learn to see the inner beauty of a girl he would never have considered before?

Claire: The Blind Love of a Blind Hero, by a Blind Author

Claire: The Blind Love of a Blind Hero, by a Blind Author
by Leslie Burton Blades
****

This novel was first written in 1918. Lawrence, a blind artist, is shipwrecked off the coast of Chile. The only other survivor is a young woman named Claire, a wealthy socialite, and married. They help each other survive by hiking inland, where they come upon a remote mountain hut, inhabited by Philip, an intellectual recluse. Philip takes them in, but they are all three snowbound through the winter. With all three cooped up together, a love triangle is inevitable, but will Claire choose the blind man or the sighted man? Or will she choose her husband back home?

Although it is a love story with some elements of adventure, the author is most interested in the psychology of the main characters: in a primitive environment, will they resort to primitive behavior? What makes people fall in love? What is worth sacrificing for love? The characters spend most of the novel having long philosophical conversations with each other. Some readers might find it slow, but if you care about the characters, it's quite gripping. The language is rather old-fashioned (it was written in 1918 after all) but I didn't find it hard to read at all.

As the title indicates, the author himself was blind, and for this reason he creates a very realistic and sympathetic portrait of a blind man. Lawrence is capable and well-adjusted, passionate and handsome, but also painfully aware of how most of the world perceives him. In many ways, his character is far more nuanced than most of the blind characters that appear in romantic fiction, even now. Dev factor is high.

This book is terrific--highly recommended! You can buy used copies online, or download it for free here:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/30261

Death in the Dark Walk

Death in the Dark Walk by Deryn Lake
***

The first in a series of murder mysteries set in 18th century London, also featuring John Fielding. Very similar in many ways to the Blind Justice series, also featuring a young assistant helping Sir John Fielding solve murders. In this case, Fielding is very much a secondary character, only appearing in a few scenes, so the devo factor us quite low. On the other hand, the quality of the writing is much better than in the other series. The historical details are vivid and lively, clearly well researched. The main characters seem a bit naive and prudish for living in such bawdy times. It bothers me when historical novels conflate the morality of the 19th and 18th centuries, which were quite different. But overall, it's an enjoyable read.

The Matchless Miss

The Matchless Miss by Sorcha MacMurrough
*

Regency Romance. Also self-published, available only as a download through Amazon or HerStory Books. Another big disappointment. Sarah Deveril is the spinster sister of the local curate, taking care of his house while he's on his honeymoon. One dark and stormy night, a blind man, a wounded veteran of the Peninsular War, shows up on the doorstep, suffering from amnesia, but claiming to know Sarah's brother. Sarah takes him in, and of course they fall in love.

The author has done some research on the Regency period, but the quality of the writing overall is not very good. The dialog is painfully stilted and flat, alternating between archaic and modern speech. The word "helpmeet" comes up like 50 times, but most of the dialog uses the speech patterns of modern Americans. The historical details, like background on the city of Bath or on parts of the Napoleonic Wars read like they were lifted directly from Wikipedia. All the characters are impossibly handsome/beautiful, even the secondary characters. No one is average, everyone is perfect.

This read less like a wounded hero romance novel and more like hurt/comfort fanfic. There is a ton of sex, but for most of the novel, nothing happens. Then suddenly there's a lot of awkwardly written action right at the end. The characters are not believable: Sarah, the spinster sister of the vicar, has sex right away, and her lack of shame or reserve is thoroughly modern, not at all true to the time. Then suddenly at the end she transforms into a breeches-wearing, sword-wielding tomboy. Also, it's made clear from the beginning that Alexander's blindness is psychosomatic, not physical, so of course he gets his sight back in the end--UGH!! The way his blindness is treated is totally unrealistic--he even fools people in the town into thinking he can see. Huh? Both characters left me totally cold.

As with (some) fanfic, none of the details of the time, or of plot or character really matter, it's all just a framework to hang a whole lot of sex scenes on. By the way, the people who run HerStory books left some whiny comments on my bad review over at Amazon. But all the good reviews of the book were written by them, and it's the same for their other titles. They write a bunch of great reviews themselves and try to undermine the bad reviews in the comments. So unprofessional!

Rainbow's Promise

Rainbow's Promise by Marcy Gray
**

Modern-day romance. This is actually the same author as Taste of Love, Elizabeth Glenn, writing under a different name, so I had high hopes for this one, but sadly, it's not nearly as good. Like her other books, it's set in small towns around the Great Plains. The characters are a weird mix of ordinary and glamorous. Lily Ann is the adult daughter of an alcoholic, working as a data entry clerk but with no ambition in life, and afraid to love anyone. Josh was an internationally renowned, bestselling mystery author until he was blinded in a car accident 5 years ago. Now he's also struggling to raise his niece and nephew, after their parents were killed in a plane crash.

Part of the problem is that this whole situation feels completely forced, and the characters behave like no real humans ever would. Lily Ann finds after her father's death that he had been paying Josh money. Thinking Josh had been blackmailing him, she immediately drives from Kansas to Oklahoma to confront Josh, whom she has never met before. She discovers that he's blind, and in desperate need of a housekeeper, not only to cook and clean, but to keep a mean social worker from taking away custody of the kids. Lily Ann decides on the spot to give up her old job and move in with Josh permanently, but she lies about who she is. The rest of the plot continues in this unlikely fashion, with characters doing things seemingly at random to keep the story moving forward. Also it's clear from the very beginning that Lily Ann's father caused Josh's accident, but it's treated like some big revelation.

The characters just didn't grab me. Lily Ann seems to find her life's calling in doing housework for Josh. The kids are perfect little angels, who spout precious lines from Sunday school. Josh is handsome and appealing, but the author can't seem to decide if he's adjusted to his blindness or not. One minute he's perfectly in control, and the next he's freaking out because he tripped over something. Also he's decided he can't go back to writing novels because he's blind. Seriously? That's one of the few occupations you could go back to easily. In five years, he's never turned on his computer, but even in 1993, when this book was written, speech software was widely available.

The writing is also not great. There's too much telling and not enough showing: all the major psychological developments happen in the exposition, rather than in what the characters do or say. And it's very chaste, there's hardly any sex, unlike in some of her other books. Maybe it was the imprint. Read Taste of Love instead.

The Viscount in Her Bedroom

The Viscount in Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen
**

Regency romance. I really wanted to like this book. It has a lot going for it: a heroine who is fairly intelligent and spirited, independent and not whiny, also without a history of abuse (thank god for that). Simon, the hero, is also a nice guy, not an aloof jerk, rather accepting of his blindness, not enraged like in many of these kinds of novels. And there is no "miracle cure" at the 11th hour. Simon's blindness is handled more or less realistically. A lot of the story revolves around Louisa helping Simon to adapt and regain his confidence in society.

And yet the book failed to move me. Part of the problem is that Simon and Louisa are both so nice, and so very very earnest, they end up being rather dull. And it's not clear exactly what is keeping them apart. They realize they both love each other fairly early on. So why can't they be together? There's some nonsense about Louisa having a "fast" reputation, and Simon thinking no woman would want to marry a blind man, but both issues get resolved so easily it's unclear why the novel isn't over sooner. The sparks just don't fly between these two perfectly considerate, self-effacing characters.

The other problem is that the writing is not great. The narrative is bald and pedestrian. The characters speak in a jarringly modern way, especially the servants. The tone of all the dialog is totally modern American, not convincing at all. In spite of the over-emphasis on propriety and worrying about one's reputation, the way the characters act also feels anachronistic. Romance novels don't have to be this amateurish! There are a lot of much better written historical romances out there.

Taming Lord Renwick

Taming Lord Renwick by Jeanne Savery. **

A romance novel set in Regency England. Lord Renwick was blinded in a hunting accident in India, and retires to his country estate, where Eustacia signs on as his secretary to help him write his memoirs, of course they fall in love, etc. It's really silly and cheezy, there is some awkward humor, especially with his pet tiger which acts like a seeing-eye dog. Not great, but not terrible, and there is no magical cure, always a bonus.

Yours Until Dawn

Yours Until Dawn by Theresa Medeiros *

A Regency romance novel. Gabriel, the Earl of Sheffield, is blinded in the Battle of Trafalgar, and retreats to his estate. Samantha is hired to help take care of him, although she is in fact his fiancée whom he thought had abandoned him. The first half is devo-riffic, but about halfway through his sight miraculously returns. Fearing that he will recognize her, Samantha flees, but of course all is resolved in the end. Seriously, even when he’s blind, we’re supposed to believe that he really wouldn’t recognize her?

Charmed Destinies

Charmed Destinies Ed. Mercedes Lackey **

A  fantasy-romance anthology hybrid. Three short stories in the romance genre, set in made-up lands with magic and all. The last story, “Moonglow,” by Catherine Asaro, is set in some poorly-defined vaguely Scottish land where people practice magic based on colors and shapes. Yes, it’s just about that lame. The hero is the long-lost prince of the realm who is the victim of a curse that has left him blind and deaf, and of course the heroine is his arranged bride who must free him from the curse. With something like this you know there will be by definition a magical cure, and there is, pretty early on. A few of the early scenes have pretty good devo value, but as a whole the story is poorly written and very very silly.

This Is All I Ask

This Is All I Ask by Lynne Kurland ****

A romance novel set in medieval England. Gillian of Warewick is forced by her abusive father to marry Lord Christopher of Blackmour, but she doesn’t know that he had lost his sight a year previously. Yes, this has all the romance clichés: forced marriage, abused heroine, keeping the disability secret, but in spite of all that, this is one of the very best romances Devo Girl has ever read. The author seems to get the devo mindset, because she lingers in all the right places. The quality of the writing is good, the characters are engaging, and the devo factor is high. If you’re looking for a satisfying romance with a blind hero, this is by far one of the best.

Entwined

Entwined by Emma Jensen ***

A Regency romance novel. Nathan, the Marquess of Oriel, is an English spy in the Napoleonic Wars, who is partially blinded by a would-be assassin. As is usual in this kind of novel, he retires to his estate to live out his days in angry solitude, until our heroine turns up to rescue him from himself. However, in this case, the heroine is not a timid, high-class beauty, but the daughter of the town drunk, and Scottish as well, Isobel MacLeod. The awkward Scottishisms seem a bit contrived, but Isobel is a feisty, likeable heroine. Nathan is not completely blind, but there is no miracle cure either. The writing is better than average for a romance, and the story is exciting and enjoyable.

Taste of Love

Taste of Love by Elizabeth Glenn ****

A modern-day romance, published 1983, featuring a blind hero. Not great writing, but remarkably satisfying. Briony has been in love all her life with her older brother’s best friend, Patrick, who was blinded in an accident when he was ten. He moved away to become a history professor, but now he’s back in town and Briony is determined to prove to him that she’s not a kid anymore. But a few things stand in their way, such as the fact that Briony is already engaged to someone else, and Patrick’s reputation as a player. The quality of the writing is not great, and there are a few unrealistic details, such as that Briony, the daughter of two college professors, would grow up to be Miss Texas (seriously), then give up the life of a beauty queen to become a professor herself, or that at 26 she would still be living with her parents. However, this is one of the best, most swoon-worthy blind heroes in all of romance fiction. Unlike most books where the hero is recently blinded, Patrick lost his sight as a child, and seems very confident and well-adjusted. The plot does not revolve around him regaining confidence or feeling emasculated. He’s already successful and clearly popular with the ladies, which is refreshing. Even better, he’s depicted as attractive not “in spite of” or “even though” but BECAUSE he’s blind. And he’s not angry or emotionally repressed, like so many  romance heroes; he’s good-natured and charming. Briony does come off as rather childish, but she has a lot more spark than most romantic heroines, and I really like how aggressive she is in coming onto him. And the sex scenes are super hot. Even though it’s quite old, the writing does not seem dated. The author must surely be a devotee herself: the descriptions of Patrick, and the way Briony sees him, are exactly right. She even describes Briony feeling a “sweet ache” in the pit of her stomach when she looks at him. It’s almost uncanny. The author wrote several romances under the names Elizabeth Glenn and Marcy Gray, all featuring disabled heroes. Yes, definitely a devotee.

Miss Ware’s Refusal

Miss Ware’s Refusal by Marjorie Farrell ****

A Regency romance, and one of the best in terms of quality writing. Simon, the Duke of Sutton, is blinded in the Napoleonic Wars, and shuts himself up in his London home. Judith Ware is a poor relation to gentry, forced to become a governess. Mutual friends arrange for Judith to work as a reader for Simon, and of course they fall in love. Although this is an older book (published 1990) and the setup sounds trite, it plays out in a very realistic way that feels far more historically accurate than most romances. The author is clearly influenced by Jane Austen. Although she mentions Judith reading Emma, the real influence here is Pride and Prejudice. Imagine a blind version of Mr. Darcy. Yes, it’s that good. No purple prose, no miracle cure, no embarrassingly awful sex scenes, just good solid writing.

Paradise Found

Paradise Found by Mary Campisi NO STARS

A modern-day romance featuring a blind hero. But he miraculously regains his sight about halfway through, so Devo Girl didn’t even bother to read this one. With these kinds of books, it’s a good idea to peek at the ending before you begin.

The Blind Knight

The Blind Knight by Gail van Austen ****

Sadly, this book seems to be out of print, but it’s worth searching out. The book is based loosely on the legend of King Arthur, and set during the reign of Henry Plantagenet (1154-1189). The idea is that Merlin has become an old hermit, living in secrecy in an ancient forest. A cruel and abusive lord murders his wife, and in revenge Merlin curses the lord’s wife to give birth to a blind albino boy. The plot follows this boy, Mallory, from his tortured childhood until he grows to manhood, learns to fight and reclaim his estate. Oh yes, and he falls in love with Merlin’s daughter. All this may sound hopelessly corny, but trust me, it’s good. Van Austen describes Mallory in wonderfully sensitive detail, plus there are actual sex scenes--you can’t ask for much more. Devo Girl has read this book at least a dozen times.

If You Could See What I Hear

If You Could See What I Hear by Tom Sullivan **

You’ve got to hand it to Tom Sullivan for making a career as a blind celebrity (sort of). Devo Girl remembers seeing him on TV occasionally in the 80s, but that singing career he is so optimistic about in this book never did pan out. In spite of the terrible cliches, the hack writing, the Christian moralizing and the tacky 1970s setting, this book is a devo classic. Devo Girl finds herself drawn to read it over and over again.  His description of blindness in childhood is perhaps unequalled for its candor and fascinating detail. This book was made into a movie in 1982 in Canada, which you can find on Youtube.

Eyes of Silver

Eyes of Silver by  Michael A. Stackpole  *

Nice cover art, but what was between the pages was pretty disappointing. This is pure sci fi/fantasy genre writing, and not very imaginative at that. The author would have us believe this is some made-up world, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of European history will recognize that the book is based pretty closely on political intrigues in Europe just after Napoleon, except people have magical powers. Names of places, people and religions are disguised so thinly as to be laughable. Add to that a huge cast of characters who all seem to have 10 names each, and a nearly incomprehensible plot. The character with eyes of silver is Malachy Kidd, an English, excuse me, “Ilbeorian” warrior priest blinded in the line of duty. There are a few good scenes with him, and there is another disabled character who appears at the very end, but these were two paltry rewards in an otherwise dreadful book.

Milton in America

Milton in America by Peter Ackroyd *

Not only is this not a great devo book, it’s only mediocre as literature. The premise, that John Milton, the blind English poet, fled to the Puritan colonies of New England after Charles II returned to the throne in 1660, is interesting and plausible, but this British author’s descriptions of colonial New England ring false. Also, this is an intellectual novel, which means plenty of experimentation with narration and point of view. In the end, it all wears rather thin and Milton, who began as a sympathetic character, becomes a homocidal maniac. Oh yeah, and his sight is magically restored, because obviously Ackroyd does not know how to write a blind character. In spite of a few good scenes, Devo Girl really can’t recommend this book.

Making Out

Making Out by Katherine Applegate ***

This is a romance series for teenage girls. That said, these are still some pretty entertaining books. The plot revolves around a group of eight young adults who live on a tiny island off the coast of Maine, through their senior year of high school and freshman year of college. One of the characters, Ben, is blind. Each of the characters gets equal time in the story, so Ben is not always in the spotlight, but Applegate’s characterization of him is excellent, and she’s not afraid to make him an object of desire. Ben’s character really rings true. One of the major plot points involves Ben’s undergoing surgery to cure his blindness, but the whole thing is handled in a smart and non-cheezy way.  Also Applegate uses some interesting devices, such as printing sections from each character’s diary in his or her own handwriting. Ben’s diary is typed, of course. Devo Girl recommends these books to those of you who like teen romances (you know who you are). Be sure to start with the first book, Zoey Fools Around, and read them in order. Each book contains a character’s name in the title, but it doesn’t really determine which character gets the most focus, so be sure to read them all.

Blind Justice

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander ***

This is the first in a series of murder mysteries starring Sir John Fielding, a blind magistrate in 18th century London. Although these books are fiction, Sir John was a real person; his portrait hangs in the National Gallery in London. Together with his brother, the novelist Henry Fielding, he formed London’s first police force, called the Bow Street Runners, and served as a judge to the lower classes from his court in Covent Garden. The series is set in the 1770s, and is narrated by a teenaged boy named Jeremy who becomes Sir John’s assistant. While Sir John, being middle-aged and fat, is not exactly an object of lust,  Devo Girl still recommends these books highly. The descriptions of London are lively and fascinating, with many vividly drawn secondary characters.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Precious Things

Precious Things [Kindle Edition] Gail R. Delaney

Jewell starts a new job and falls for the boss.  A simple story, simply written.  The forward is interesting as the author stated at the beginning that when she originally went to show the story to publishers they didn't think anyone would buy a romance novel where the lead character was deaf.  And that is pretty much the only reason I purchased this book.

The dev factor appears in spades.  The deaf character, Benjamin, is a highly successful trust fund manager.  He is ambitious, fiery, gives not quarter to his deafness but as Jewell slips into his life, you get a feel that he has been isolated and having someone who can sign proficiently and connect with him on several levels, he realises just how isolated he was. 

I love that there is references to how he has to direct her to look up so he can lip read and that during passionate episodes the writer states his eyes relucantly have to focus on her mouth.  Also is several places they use sign language to comunicate confidentially or he will sign very subtly to her with his hand down by his side so the other person in the room doesn't realise.

Beyond Paradise

Beyond Paradise by Elizabeth Doyle
**

This is a mildly entertaining, if flawed, romance. The setting, on Martinique amid displaced French aristocracy is interesting. Sylvie's family clings to its title but has no money, so they arrange for her to marry wealthy but dissolute Etienne. At first she prefers the dashing pirate hunter Jervais, but when captive pirate Jacques kidnaps her as part of his plan to escape, she falls for him instantly. Soon Sylvie finds herself pursued by all three men. Although it's clear she loves only Jacques, how can the two of them escape, and even if they can escape, how can they have a future together?

It's not a bad premise, however, this is 100% fantasy, and the utter lack of any kind of realism bothered me. The author's historical research seems to have been comprised of multiple viewings of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The characters all speak and behave in ways that are not only anachronistic but often surprisingly out of character, simply to move the plot along. And the prose turns to purple on occasion, there are a lot of descriptions of his "cushiony lips" and "tight thighs" etc.

But what really bothered me the most is the totally unrealistic depiction of deafness. Jacques supposedly was born completely deaf, yet somehow he taught himself to speak French, English and Spanish perfectly, and to read lips. This is simply not possible. Even the best lip readers will not catch every word, even under ideal conditions. But here he has long, complicated conversations, with only the occasional slightest difficulty. He also has a sign language, but it's not mentioned or used very much. So his deafness is only sort of decorative, and the author pushes it aside when it suits her. Just because it's a romance novel doesn't mean we have to throw all realism out the window. The Highland Wife is a much more realistic depiction of deafness that is still a satisfying romance, and a better book overall.

In spite of these problems, however, I found the characters rather charming. Sylvie is clever and spunky as a sort of proto-femninist. And Jacques is appealingly boyish. He's not the typical alpha male romance hero. Although he is physically strong, he's sensitive and tender-hearted. Fans of the "wounded hero" type will not be disappointed.

World of Silence

World of Silence by Don Coldsmith
****

It's fairly well-known that the Plains Indians used a universal sign language to communicate among tribes that spoke different languages. Have you ever wondered if that sign language could have also been used to talk to deaf people? This is that book.

Set in an imaginary Great Plains tribe after the introduction of the horse but before the great western migration of white people, this book is part of a much longer series, but you don't have to read the others. This one stands on its own just fine. Coldsmith uses an odd sort of prose style to imitate the way their language works, at first I found it a bit annoying but eventually I got used to it, and even found it beautiful, if excessively plain.

The book is divided into three chapters. The first, Speaks-not, is about how the main character loses his hearing as an infant, and covers his childhood. The second, Hunts-Alone, is about his adolescence, and courtship with his childhood sweetheart, Far Dove. I liked this middle chapter the best--their romance is quite sweet. The last, South Wind, is really about his grand-daughter, whom he is forced to raise alone (for reasons I won't reveal), and it's all told from her perspective. Speaks-not is not shunned by his tribe because of his deafness, quite the opposite, he has a very successful life as a fully-functioning member of the tribe. The main conflict in the third chapter is how South Wind, having been raised alone, can re-integrate with her tribe.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable read, very well-researched and detailed, and a positive, realistic portrayal of deafness. It even inspired me to do some research online about the Plains Indians sign language, and all the signs Coldsmith describes in detail are authentic, as far as I can tell. This is an original and imaginative novel, recommended.

Blind Voices

Blind Voices by Tom Reamy
****

This novel was first published in 1978, shortly after the sudden death of the author at age 42. It's his only novel, although his SF/Fantasy short stories had also gained him some attention.
Haverstock's Traveling Curiosus and Tent Show arrives in a small Depression-era town in Kansas. The people are amused at what seem to be extraordinary, supernatural beings, but because they are mixed in with obvious fakes, most people shrug the whole thing off as a trick. But the circus really does contain supernatural beings, who are enslaved by the villainous Haverstock. The book follows three local girls whose fascination with the circus leads to sexual awakening fraught with danger. Rose falls for one of the roustabouts, Francine for the monstrous Minotaur, and Evelyn for Angel, a mute albino boy with powers to control the elements. The story is thrilling and evocative, but it's the love story between Evelyn and Angel that I liked the best. It's sweet, tender, and heartbreaking. I have reread this book many times and it always holds up.

More Than Words

More Than Words by Elizabeth Glenn
***

Lee Ann Chung is a Chinese-American librarian working in a small Texas town. At obedience school for her dog she meet Keller Hunt, a police detective on leave from work after an injury on the job causes him to lose the ability to speak. They fall for each other immediately, but Keller isn't ready to commit until he finds out if he will recover his voice. The unusual characters add interest to what would otherwise be a fairly pedestrian romance. Although she's called "exotic" a few times, it's refreshing to have an Asian American heroine who is not stereotypical--Lee Ann is feisty and assertive. Keller is a bit more battered than the standard romance hero. When they first meet, he's wearing an eyepatch. He communicates by writing notes. But I didn't like that the outcome of the relationship hinges on whether or not he regains his voice.

The Spider’s Web

The Spider’s Web by Peter Tremayne **

A murder mystery set in ancient Ireland, this is part of a series featuring super sleuth Sister Fidelma, an advocate of the courts. As a trained lawyer of sorts, she travels the countryside solving crimes, with her sidekick Brother Eadulf, who plays Watson to her Sherlock Holmes. In this outing, she sets out to investigate the murder of a village chieftain. The primary suspect is a young man named Moen, who is blind and deaf. It’s clear from the beginning that he has been framed, and much of the tension lies in Sister Fidelma’s effort to exonerate him, but how can a person who can’t speak testify in a court of law? It’s an interesting premise, and the author has clearly done a lot of research on the time period, but unfortunately, the book is weighed down by an excruciatingly dull prose style. Every character speaks as if he or she is reading from a textbook, and the whole thing is about as lively as a diorama in a history museum. Moen, who emerges as a kind of Helen Keller of the Middle Ages, is a fascinating character (and handsome!) but he’s only in a few scenes.

The Highland Wife

The Highland Wife by  Lyn Stone. ****
A romance novel set in Medieval Scotland, the hero is deaf. Robert MacBain travels to the Highlands for an arranged marriage with Mairi MacInness. He thinks that as part of the negotiations, she has been told about his deafness, but she hasn't, then they are attacked and one calamity follows another and he can't find a good way to tell her. The plot revolves around him trying to find a way to tell her, and her trying to figure him out. The whole miscommunication plot threatens to get frustrating, but I found the arranged marriage plotline both more realistic and more interesting than the average romance. The question isn't will they ever get married (they already are), but will they learn to understand each other. What sets this one apart is that unlike every other "wounded hero" romance, Robert is not some aloof, cold-hearted asshole--he's really sweet and generous. And Mairi is not some sheltered bimbo, she actually shows some intelligence. Also the story is not entirely from Mairi's point of view; about half the narration is from Robert's POV, and we find out a lot about how he lost his hearing as a small child, and how his mother invented a sign language and taught him to speak and lip-read. The descriptions of his deafness are very realistic; the author indicates in the dedication that her son is deaf, which explains the realism. Devo Girl highly recommends this one, very high dev factor.

The Bride of Trouville by Lyn Stone **
The prequel, of sorts, to The Highland Wife, taking place when Rob is a child. Rob’s widowed mother, Anne, is forced to marry the French Comte de Trouville. She resists him, not only because she has been traumatized by her abusive first husband, but because she is afraid that if Trouville discovers Rob is deaf, he will be disinherited. So she tries to hide Rob’s deafness from him. Unlike most “big misunderstanding” plots, this is a legitimate fear: Trouville really does not intend to allow Rob to inherit the estate, and it’s up to Anne to prove to him that her son could be a competent lord. The descriptions of Anne raising Rob and teaching him to speak and use a made-up sign language are compelling, and clearly based on the author’s own experiences. Even though the devo factor is low, the writing is engaging, and the characters are interesting.

The Quest by Lyn Stone *
A sequel to The Highland Wife, although as in most romances, the focus is on a different couple. Rob’s stepbrother, Henri de Trouville, returns to Scotland from a disastrous campaign in France. On his way to Rob’s estate, he meets up with Iana Duncan, a young widow fleeing a forced second marriage. The two seek shelter with Rob, and most of the action takes place at his estate, but he’s barely a secondary character. This one is not nearly as good as the other two. Henri and Iana are potentially interesting characters, but the writing falls down in the second half. Even worse, Rob is reduced a cartoony parody of himself, relegated to little more than a human lie-detector. Disappointing.

Kevin’s Story

Kevin’s Story by Adrienne Staff and Sally Goldenbaum *


A modern-day romance written in 1986. Wow, this has to be one of the worst books ever written. Seriously, it’s on a level of the worst online fan fiction. Even though the hero is deaf, and there is no miracle cure, and there are a lot of sex scenes, Devo Girl still can’t give this more than one star. A girl has to have some standards, right? So why is it so bad? For one thing, it's horribly dated. For another, the authors ask us to believe that Kansas City is home to the privileged, elite, jetsetters, and that Kevin, who owns and manages a cookie factory, has a glamorous, desirable career. The heroine, Suzy, is somehow going to launch her own brilliant career by becoming the spokesmodel for Kevin’s Kookies, and … yeah, I could not keep reading. A book, unlike a movie, can be set anywhere. If you want to tell a story about impossibly beautiful and wealthy people, why not set it in New York or LA, with lawyers or something? Don’t try to convince me that the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce annual reception is the social event of the season. Later on they appear on the Today Show to be interviewed by  Jane Pauley. Wow, that’s some cookie factory! The idiocy continues: Kevin somehow lost his hearing in a car accident. A car accident? Is that at all likely? Wouldn’t he be more likely to have an SCI or TBI? Kevin’s factory workers are all deaf, but the management (except him) are all hearing. It’s taken for granted that deaf people ought to work on the factory floor because the noise doesn’t bother them. Suzy reveals that she knows ASL because she had a deaf friend in high school, and somehow, after a few false starts, she’s instantly completely fluent. The authors spend a little bit of time at the beginning explaining how ASL works, but otherwise their depiction is not realistic. For instance, they make it seem like ASL is exactly like spoken English, which is not true. The frequent sex scenes are equally unrealistic and laughable, even for a romance. Within the first few pages, when Suzy auditions for her spokesmodel job, she decides that rather than her own clothes, she would look best in a Kevin’s Kookies t-shirt, so she changes in his office, and whoops! he sees her naked. Not long after, as they go for a drive together in his cookie van, they pull a blanket out of the back, and go have sex in a public park. In the middle of the city. In the middle of the day. Now you know why romance novels have a reason, however contrived, of keeping the hero and heroine apart as long as possible. Without that, there’s really no story, and no reason to keep reading.

Silent Heart

Silent Heart by Deborah Simmons. NO STARS

A romance novel set in Revolutionary France. An example of the very worst, most laughably wretched romance writing. The author keeps telling us how intelligent the heroine is, but she acts like a moron. The hero treats her with contempt, openly mocks her, and uses her for sex, but she loves him anyway. He's supposed to be mute, but it's obvious within the first few chapters that he's only faking it to disguise his identity. Stupid plot, stupid characters, purple prose, ugh, don't waste your time.

Dark Thirst

Dark Thirst by Sara Reinke ****
A supernatural romance novel about a deaf vampire.  A deaf vampire! How awesome is that?! This is a great antidote to that namby-pamby Twilight; if only this would get made into a movie instead. In this take on the old trope, the vampires, who call themselves the Brethren, live isolated in Kentucky farmland, in a series of family compounds that seem like a polygamous Mormon sect, only with lots of money and without religion. Brandon, who was left deaf and completely mute as the result of a brutal assault when he was four, grows up isolated and scorned in a community that only values strength. His father brings in a deaf tutor for a time, who teaches Brandon ASL, but the rest of the family don’t want him mingling with humans. Brandon runs away to New Orleans (why are all vampires stories set in New Orleans?) to try to find his old tutor, but instead finds the tutor’s sister, a cop named Lina, who offers to help him. This is a terrific and really unusual romance. First of all, Lina is a few years older than Brandon, she’s African-American, and more athletic and boyish than most romance heroines. She’s much tougher than Brandon, who was not only tortured and abused by his family, but is inexperienced in the real world. Second, the depiction of deafness is compelling and believable. It makes sense that Lina is fluent in ASL, because her brother is deaf. The vampires are all telepathic, but because most of the scenes are between Brandon and Lina, there are lots of descriptions of sign language, and the author describes real ASL signs. The supernatural element adds a nice twist—he’s scared to have sex with her because he might accidentally kill her—but when they do give in, the sex scenes are HOT. The only downside is that it’s the first in a series, and ends on something of a cliffhanger….

Dark Hunger by Sara Reinke **
This is the sequel to Dark Thirst, and as you might guess from the unimaginative title, it’s not as good. The main problem Devo Girl has with this book is that it follows the romance convention of having the sequel be about a different couple, and in this case, the new couple is far less interesting than the first one. Come on! So what if Brandon and Lina finally got together as a couple, they’re still on the run from the Brethren, the story’s not over yet! But no, this book focuses on two others who are on the run with  them: Brandon’s twin sister Tessa, and Lina’s former police partner, Rene, who is also half-vampire. Rene is also a RAK amputee, wounded by a gunshot in the line of duty and forced to retire. There are a few good scenes of him in the shower, and the sex scenes are pretty good, but unlike the first book, this one falls into the old gender stereotypes. Rene is a smug asshole, and Tessa is a beautiful, delicate ballet dancer. Oh and of course, she is fleeing her abusive husband, blah blah blah. We want more Brandon!! But no, not only is he hardly in this book at all, there are some hints at the end that he may be magically cured. The book ends with a horrible twist and a cliffhanger, that just was really unpleasant. The publisher has not picked up the series, so don’t expect part three anytime soon. On her website, the author claims she has found another publisher, but the third book will again be about a new couple, this time Rene’s long-lost half brother, or some such nonsense. Very disappointing. Maybe it’s time for some deaf vampire fanfic.

The Raging Quiet

The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan. ***


Young adult romance. The setting is imaginary, but bears a strong resemblance to medieval Ireland/England. Teenage Marnie travels to a new village with her new husband, whom she thought she loved, but who is clearly a brute. On their arrival, she sees the villagers beating a boy whom everyone thinks is mad. Marnie soon discovers that he is not mad; he's deaf, and can't speak. The brutish husband is quickly and conveniently dispatched, and the novel revolves around Marnie's attempts to communicate with the boy, whom she names Raven. They make up a sign language together, but the villagers think she's a witch. Even though the writing is a little thin in places and the setting seems more like a Renaissance Faire than a real place, there are some accurate touches, like the descriptions of village festivals. And in spite of its flaws, Devo Girl enjoyed this book a lot. The author says at the end that she was inspired to write this by her experience working in a deaf school, and the author’s experiences come through: the depiction of deafness provides a sense of authenticity that the setting lacks. The difficulty Marnie has in communicating with Raven, and his fearsome anger at not being understood feel very true-to-life.

Devo Girl liked this book so much she wrote a sequel herself, which you can read here:
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5755825/1/Raging_Quiet

Love’s Sound in Silence

Love’s Sound in Silence by Meg Hudson. *


A modern-day romance, but written in 1982, and laughably dated. In this overly long and needlessly convoluted story, Midge goes off to spy on her best friend’s twin brother, who has been keeping some secrets. Brian Vandervelt, the scion of an implausibly wealthy Knickerbocker family, lost his hearing in an explosion as a young man, but has set out to prove himself by running the family newspaper in the small upstate New York town of Coxsackie (commence childish giggling). He has kept his deafness a secret from his sister; the other secret is that someone at the paper is trying to kill him to get his inheritance. Midge loyally goes to work at Brian’s paper, and of course falls for him instantly. This has all the hallmarks of a bad romance: gratuitous overuse of exclamation points? Check! A pedestrian setting passed off as the height of glamour? Check! A glacial pace, slowed by awkward, boring history lessons about said pedestrian setting? Check. Painfully embarrassing sex scenes? Only two, but check and check. Since this is an older book, it also subscribes to the ideal alpha male mystique, so Brian is a cold, aloof asshole who forces himself on Midge even as he’s verbally abusing her. In fact, she gets sexually harassed at work by both Brian and another of her bosses, but she’s such a nonentity, it’s hard to care. She’s also too stupid to remember to face him when she’s speaking—she forgets every single time. Ugh. It’s not just the clothing in this book that’s dated, although the descriptions of Midge’s and Brian’s outfits are hilarious. Finally, the devo factor is fairly low. Midge spends a lot of time feeling sorry for Brian, but the depiction of his deafness is cursory at best.

Tell Me How the Wind Sounds

Tell Me How the Wind Sounds by Leslie Guccione **

Young adult romance. Amanda is a sulky, spoiled teen stuck on a small island off the coast of New England for the summer with her parents. Jake is a deaf teen who lives on the island. He communicates using a mix of ASL and speaking/lip-reading. The dated 80s references are occasionally, unintentionally hilarious, and the writing is quite dire in some places (including some glaring, repeated spelling errors, such as peak/pique). But the depiction of deafness is really well done, as is the description of ASL and lip-reading. About half the narration is from Jake's POV. Amanda is kind of a brat, but Jake emerges as a really interesting, well-rounded character.

Mary Mehan Awake

Mary Mehan Awake by Jennifer Armstrong ***

Young adult novel, only about 100 pages long, set in the US around the time of the Civil War. As the novel begins, the war has just ended, but Mary is mentally and physically exhausted after two year working as a nurse to wounded soldiers. She goes to work as a maid for a scientist and his wife in upstate New York. There she meets another servant, Henry, a former artillery man who was deafened in the war. It's a love story, of course, but also the story of how Mary recovers from her experience of the war. The whole thing is from her point of view, we never really find out what Henry is thinking. They communicate solely by writing. No magical cure either. I really liked this book--the writing is really excellent. The descriptions of the landscape, and the sensitive portrayal of their feelings, are remarkable. This novel is actually the sequel to The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan which tells about how Mairhe/Mary emigrates to the US from Ireland with her family as a teen, and how her brother is killed in the Civil War (although I haven't read the first book). There is also an edition that combines both books under the title Becoming Mary Mehan.

Freak City

Freak City
USA 1999 ***

It's about a rebellious young woman who is put against her will in an institution, and about the people with various disabilities she meets there. Her roommate, played by Marlee Matlin, is developmentally disabled. The main character falls in love with a young man who is a quadriplegic (played by Peter Sarsgaard), and while Devo Girl was not so happy with the ending, overall it's a very sensitive portrayal of disability, and even darkly funny in many places. Jonathan Silverman also plays a blind guy living in the same institution.

Sadly, this film has not yet been released on DVD, but you can buy VHS copies online.

Murderball

Murderball
USA
2005
****

Documentary about quad rugby. Devo Girl really really loved this one when it first came out. It's a very realistic look at both the sport and the lives of some of the players. This one has also been discussed extensively on PD:

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=248

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=347

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=587

Avatar

Avatar

Ok, this one doesn't really need a review. This film was such a huge hit, I can't imagine anyone hasn't heard of it. There has been extensive discussion on PD, and more is always welcomed. Here are a few threads:

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=2372

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=devs&action=display&thread=2374

There was also a book club selection that was a fanfic of Avatar:
http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=devs&action=display&thread=2568

Gattaca

Gattaca   USA   1997   ***

This is actually a great sci fi movie, and on a more objective scale would get more stars, but its devotee appeal is mixed. The movie is set in the not-too-distant future, when DNA testing has become so advanced that doctors can tell everything about a person’s physical and mental potential just by their genes. In a world where every baby is genetically engineered for perfection, and job applicants are screened by their genes, our hero Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is an outcast whose defective genes relegate him to  a life of menial labor. Convinced that he is just as good as anyone else, and obsessed with becoming an astronaut, he buys the identity of a man with better genes and fakes his way into Gattaca, the company that will send him into outer space.  The man whose identity he buys is Jerome (Jude Law), whose perfect genes once made him a success, but who lost it all after he became a paraplegic. Now Devo Girl finds this very disturbing. The idea that genetics could determine how our whole society is set up is a scary one, and becoming more plausible every day, and of course the first to lose out in such a society would be those born with disabilities. The whole moral of the movie is that a person is more than just his physical potential, and even though Vincent is physically disadvantaged because he has a heart condition, he is still able to do as much as anyone else. But then we have Jerome, who becomes totally useless as a human being because he can’t walk. Is this because Jerome still believes that he must have a perfect body in order to live a meaningful life? Or would the movie have us believe there is a fundamental difference between an invisible disability such as a heart condition, and an all too visible SCI? The fact is that Jerome is angry, embittered and not very likeable. But ethical questions aside, it’s worth the price of admission just to see hunky Jude Law fling himself out of his chair and drag himself up a flight of stairs. Uma Thurman also appears as the love interest (for Vincent of course--damn, she went for the wrong guy!)

Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves   Denmark   1996   no stars

Directed by art-house darling Lars von Trier, so already you know it’s going to be more painful than entertaining. Bess (Emily Watson) is a simple-minded girl living in a tiny town in the north of Scotland. She falls in madly in love and marries Jan (Stellan Skarsgard) who has come to the town to work on an offshore oil rig. Shortly after they are married, he breaks his neck on the job. Medical care in the tiny town is limited so he spends the rest of the movie in bed, clinging to life. Bess is of course convinced he will recover, and nurses him herself. She doesn’t seem to notice that the combination of a head injury and drugs has made him insane, so when he encourages her to have sex with every man she meets because he can’t have her himself, she does so. This movies is creepy and gross. It’s all about style and ideas, and nothing real about SCI. Jan’s injury is just a plot device, nothing more. Plus he’s not even attractive. Devo Girl hated it.

The Waterdance

The Waterdance   USA   1992   ***

This is an honest look at the realities of spinal cord injury. Writer and co-director Neal Jimenez himself has an SCI, and this movie is clearly based on his real life experiences. Joel (Eric Stoltz) breaks his neck while hiking, and the movie covers the time he spends in rehab. The plot is pretty predictable: he faces the difficulties of adjusting to SCI, has problems with his girlfriend Anna (Helen Hunt), we see a little bit about his roommates and their similar struggles. The characters are two dimensional and not terribly engaging. But this movie is highly recommended for those of you who have never met a real person with SCI, if only to get a small dose of reality. However, Devo Girl has one major problem with this film, and that is the weird framing device. When Joel enters the rehab center, and again when he leaves, we see a much more severely disabled boy in an electric wheelchair silently staring at him. What is the point of that? To make a distinction between ordinary people who just happen to be injured and the “real” crips, i.e., the "freaks" born disabled? Or is he silently chanting “One of us, one of us” ? Either way we find it disturbing, and totally unnecessary.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?


Whose Life Is It Anyway?
USA
1981
**

Originally a play by Brian Clark, Whose Life is it Anyway? tells the story of Ken Harrison, a sculptor played by Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Mr. Holland's Opus), who is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a car accident. Ken is terribly depressed as a result of his accident and wants to end his life. Since Ken is unable to kill himself, he hires a lawyer to help him win the battle to have himself taken off life support. This part is a little different from Dreyfuss's other films, but he grows into the role and handles it very well. Unfortunately, the plot of the movie is extremely depressing. Ken doesn't learn to adjust to being a quadriplegic, but instead only thinks about dying. He never even gives it a try. If only Ken could have met someone like Devo Girl, his life may have turned out differently.

Saved!

Saved!
USA
2004
****

Aside from being a funny and creative satire about Catholic school, centering on a high school senior (Jena Malone) who becomes pregnant, this is a great devo movie. Macaulay Culkin, all grown up but still cute at age 23, plays a paraplegic student named Roland who shuns his overprotective sister and finds love (or at least lust) with the school "bad girl" Cassandra (Eva Amurri). In one scene, Roland wheels closer to Cassandra so that his foot brushes against hers, his own creative attempt at "footsie"; in another scene, he sports Cassandra's hickies on his neck. Paradevo applauds this movie for recognizing paraplegics as being sexy.

The People VS. Larry Flint

The People VS. Larry Flint
USA
1996
**

This movie tells the true story of Larry Flint (played by Woody Harrelson), the founder of the sleazy pornographic magazine Hustler. The movie includes incredible performances by Harrelson and Courtney Love (lead singer of the band Hole), who plays Flint's wife Althea. However, as a devo movie it falls flat. Flint builds an empire around his magazine Hustler as he fights for the rights given to him by the First Amendment, but his struggle is cut short when a sniper shoots him in the spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. But don't expect any scenes involving Flint dragging his paralyzed legs. Throughout most of the movie, Flint is fairly oblivious to his injury-he may as well be an AB sitting in a chair. If you want to see a great movie, The People vs. Larry Flint won't disappoint you. If you want to see a great devo movie, look elsewhere.

The Men

The Men
USA
1950
****

In Marlon Brando's first major film, he plays Bud, a paraplegic WWII veteran adjusting to his new disability in a hospital for veterans with spinal cord injuries. Bud initially feels that his life is over until his fiance Ellie (Teresa Wright) convinces him that he can still lead a full and happy life with her. Life is blissful until Ellie begins to have doubts of her own. This movie has got it all for the discerning devo. It's got the very handsome young Brando rolling around in a wheelchair, determined to stand up on his own for his wedding ceremony, even getting himself into a barroom brawl. And Jack Webb, in a supporting role, is surprisingly sexy as a sarcastic paraplegic ex-Sargeant who is taken advantage of by a pretty face.

Bone Collector

Bone Collector
USA
1999

In this gruesome film based on a book, Denzel Washington plays quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme, who is drawn into solving one last crime from his bed. Lincoln enlists the help of a young female detective named Amelia, played by the sexy Angelina Jolie, and sparks fly. This movie pushes the brink of everything disturbing and disgusting, then it goes too far. If you want to see a good movie about a psycho killer, see Seven or Silence of the Lambs. If you want to see a good devo movie, this isn't worthwhile either. Denzel Washington is very sexy as always, but there's more to playing an interesting quadriplegic than lying in bed all day and not moving. For all practical purposes, Lincoln might as well have just been sick in bed. This movie just didn't give Paradevo that special devo thrill.

Born on the Fourth of July

Born on the Fourth of July
USA
1989

Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, a young man who goes off to fight in the Vietnam War and returns home as a paraplegic. Ron is initially devastated by his injury, but comes to see his purpose as a protestor against the evils of the Vietnam War. There are some great scenes and Cruise plays the part brilliantly, but Paradevo has two major complaints with the movie. First, it's primarily a movie about the evils of war and Ron's injury is secondary. Second, Cruise is usually one of the most attractive men in Hollywood, but he badly needs a shave and a haircut in this movie. Tom Cruise at his best as a paraplegic is orgasmic, but as is he gets only three stars.

(W)hole

(W)hole by Ruth Madison
****

Modern day romance about a devotee girl who falls in love with an SCI guy. This is the first novel (so far) to portray the devotee experience, and it's movingly accurate. The author, Ruth Madison, is a dev herself and member of PD. Highly highly recommended for every devotee, and for anyone who wants to understand us.

This book was the subject of the first book club:
http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=devs&action=display&thread=2486

and has been discussed extensively in other threads as well:
http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=devs&action=display&thread=2437

http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=2472


And now there is a sequel, (B)reathe
Devo Girl also gives the sequel ****

Elizabeth goes to college, but things with Stewart are not as perfect as she imagined. She still has a long way to go before she can get past the guilt and shame of being a dev, including attempts at internet dating and trips to a therapist. But what will her mother say when she brings home disabled boyfriend #2? Recommended, of course! This is about you, don't miss it!

Stolen Shadows

Stolen Shadows by Mary King
*

This is the first of a series of books about a young couple, both doctors, who buy a mansion and set it up as a rehab house for homeless or foster-care teens who are recovering from major disabling accidents. There's a rotating cast of characters, mostly boys, several with SCI, although there are other disabilities as well. Many of them are also victims of sexual abuse.

This book was very highly reviewed on Amazon, but I found the devo factor nonexistent. Also it's just not a good book. It is self-published, put out by a vanity press, and the lack of editing really shows, not only in little ways, like typos and misuse of language, but in big ways as well. The story takes forever to get going (it's more than halfway through before they even build the house), and there are dozens of characters whose stories are told like little vignettes, but many of them don't go anywhere. There's just no structure to any of it, and the first volume ends very abruptly.

In spite of many realistic touches, the story is told like a mixture of a romance novel, true crime, and medical drama. The two main characters are impossibly beautiful, talented and wealthy. For instance, the doctor is not only gorgeous and at the very top of her field, but she's also a math whiz AND a musical genius who performs with a symphony orchestra. Also she and her partner are only in their late 20s. The descriptions of both of them are straight out of the cheeziest romance novel, which detracts mightily from the realism.

The descriptions of spinal cord injury are extremely detailed and realistic, which I appreciate; there are not enough novels that have this level of realism. However, there's something kind of creepy about the way it's discussed. Bowel and bladder issues are a part of SCI, but the author really dwells on those details excessively. By about the 10th description of enemas, catheters, and messy accidents, it crosses the line from realistic detail to voyeuristic obsession. There's a scene near the beginning where the doctor teaches a very reluctant teenage girl how to catheterize herself, and she comforts her by saying that in a few years she won't even think twice about it, she'll have a wonderful life and will have gotten past the shame and pain to focus on more positive aspects of her life, which is a very good point. However, the novel itself never does that. As soon as a character starts to adjust, he or she disappears, and we are left with an endless parade of trauma. I suppose that reflects more on the doctor's point of view, but the other creepy thing about the book is that every single character, even the doctors and their acquaintances, at some point suffers some horrible tragedy, from severe injuries to horrific childhood sexual abuse, and several characters suffer both. Any one of these characters might have made a compelling novel, but with so many of them crammed into one book, it starts to read like an anthology of Reader's Digest "Drama in Real Life" stories. Except even with those, we aren't expected to believe that all the people live together.

A Man Like Mac

A Man Like Mac by Fay Robinson
***

John Patrick "Mac" McCandless is a athletic coach in his late thirties whose life was changed six years earlier when he received a bullet in the spine, rendering him a paraplegic. Keely Wilson is a former Olympic runner whose life was similarly changed when she was hit by a car, causing permanent damage to her legs and lungs. Mac had been Keely's coach eleven years earlier, back when she was just high school jailbait, and now she approaches him once again to help her train to return to the Olympics. Although well written for a junky romance novel, this novel is riddled with slightly irritating inconsistencies, including the nature of Keely and Mac's history eleven years earlier, but I tried not to let that bother me. The book hits all the major devo chords: Mac makes up for his insecurities in the bedroom by mastering the art of cunnilingus, Keely gives him a very accessible bath, and some other surprises I won't give away. Keely is only mildly irritating and Mac is nice enough to leave you sighing that there ought to be "a man like Mac." The book gets a solid three stars, but falls short of four because I hate these fucking romance novels.

"I should be proud of being called the Mouth by women who are only interested in me for oral sex?" --Mac McCandless (He's right... "Mr. Pussy" would be a much better name.)

Molly Meets Her Match

Molly Meets Her Match by Val Whisenand
***

In this short novel, the eponymous Molly meets wheelchair-bound Brian Forrester, who is apparently her match. Molly helps provide Brian with a "helper dog" to increase his independence. Brian immediately falls for Molly, who rebuffs him repeatedly because she doesn't want to get married. Brian and his brother agree that there is no point in trying to go out with Molly if she doesn't want to get married, so I guess the author of this novel has never actually met a man before. Then for some reason that's not entirely clear to me, Molly moves in to Brian's living room. Even more baffling is her fear of being rejected by Brian, who has hit on her non-stop throughout the entire book, when she sneaks into his bedroom in a satin teddy (that he bought her). Despite my dislike of these cheesy romance novels, this was actually sort of a sweet story. It deals with most of the important disability issues and doesn't follow the cookie-cutter plot of the above two novels, although all three have in common women in their late 20's who are virgins (who are we kidding now?). It starts out kind of slow, but I liked the message in general. Brian never walks again, but he learns that he is still capable of working as a mechanic and that he can still please Molly in bed. That's worth three stars to me. Although if they mentioned "Brian's rippling muscles" one more time, I probably would have hurled the book across the room.

Come Lie With Me

Come Lie With Me by Linda Howard
*

The fabulously rich and handsome Blake Remington is paralyzed while mountain-climbing and only the fabulously beautiful and determined physical therapist Dione Kelly can help him to walk again. Although Blake is a difficult patient who challenges her methods and authority at every turn, Dione is a physical therapist with an unsinkable spirit and unwavering compassion and will not give up on Blake, despite his refusal to engage in physical therapy. Adam, I mean, Blake won't engage in PT unless he's absolutely guaranteed he'll walk again. Does this sound a little familiar? Does this sound like the exact same book I just reviewed above? Well, there's a twist in this one. In this book, the physical therapist Dione has a dark past. In fact, the back cover proclaims that her "soul was as paralyzed as [Blake's] body." Wow. Sounds intriguing. By page 96, Blake was already practically walking again and I stopped reading at that point. I guess I'll never know if Blake and Dione live happily ever after. I'll assume not.

Adam's Fall

Adam's Fall by Sandra Brown
**

I read this book a number of years ago, but I remember it well enough to say it wasn't all that great. I'll use amazon's description to help me in my review. The premise is somewhat ridiculous: the fabulously rich and handsome Adam Cavanaugh is paralyzed while mountain-climbing (thus the clever title "Adam's Fall") and only the fabulously "beautiful and determined" physical therapist Lilah Mason can help him to walk again. Why are the beautiful ones always so determined? Although Adam is a difficult patient who "challenges her methods and authority at every turn", Lilah is a "physical therapist with an unsinkable spirit and unwavering compassion" and will not give up on Adam, despite his somewhat baffling refusal to engage in physical therapy. For some reason, Adam won't do PT unless he's absolutely guaranteed he'll walk again. Why? I don't get it. It seems almost as if this is just a really contrived plot device. I don't want to give away whether Adam and Lilah eventually get it on, but according to the amazon summary, "Lilah's professional duty and her passionate yearnings clash." I hate it when my professional duties and passionate yearnings clash... that's the worst. From page one you know Adam's going to walk again, and the worst thing about this book is that this is the only way there can be a happy ending. Kind of a shitty message.

Flowers from the Storm

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
**


Regency romance. At the outset, this one is a bit different from the standard wounded hero romance. Christian, the Duke of Jervaulx, is a rake and a bounder, but a brilliant mathematician, who suffers a stroke. The characters describe it as a “fit” and consider it God’s vengeance for his dissolute lifestyle but the symptoms are clear: weakness on his right side, difficulty seeing things to his right, and severe aphasia, that is, inability to comprehend or produce written or spoken language. Christian’s family send him to a genteel asylum and plot to disinherit him. Coincidentally, he is found by Maddy Timms, a Quaker girl working in the asylum as a nurse. Maddy recognizes him, since her father, who is blind, had collaborated with Christian in writing papers on mathematics.  Maddy tries to help Christian, and of course they fall in love. Of all the obstacles romance writers think up to keep the hero and heroine apart until the last few pages, this one is one of the more compelling. There is the matter of getting him out of the asylum, securing his estate, and regaining his faculties, but the real problem for Maddy is her religion. She believes very strongly in modesty and chastity, and if she marries outside her faith, she will be not only cast out of the Quaker community but cut off from her father. All of this is very promising in the first half, but the second half does not live up to the potential. Christian is a fairly typical alpha male; even after the stroke, his character never changes from a demanding, self-centered asshole. Maddy is more interesting, but for all her intellectualism, she is surprisingly passive. Judging by the huge number of comments on Amazon, this book is a big deal in the romance genre, supposedly proving that romances can be great literature. The writing is a bit better than average, and the author takes a big risk by rendering many of the early scenes from Christian’s point of view, including the garbled language. But in the end, because the characters fall into conventional gender roles, the novel seems rather clichéd. And the devo factor was surprisingly low, because for all that Maddy is supposedly his nurse, she never does anything to actively help Christian, he just sort of recovers on his own. It’s not a miraculous or complete recovery, but I still found the book unsatisfying.

The Guarded Heart

The Guarded Heart by Barbara Hazard.
*

A romance novel set in Regency England, although most of the action takes place in Vienna, which is a change of pace. Erica Stone goes to Vienna to find her cheating husband, only to discover he has been murdered. The Duke of Graves enlists her as a spy for England, and even though she is terrified of him, eventually they fall in love. He has a club foot. The writing is pretty good for a romance, but the devo factor is low, because the Duke’s disability is relatively minor and doesn’t end up factoring into the plot very much, and because he is an aloof, controlling jerk right up to the inevitable happy end.

We So Seldom Look on Love

We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy
****

This is a collection of short stories, nearly all of which feature characters who are disabled or deformed or otherwise different. Ok, some of the characters are female, and not all of them make for orgasmic fantasies, but all the stories are really interesting and very well written. The title story in particular is one of Devo Girl’s favorites. It’s about a young girl who is a necrophile, not that Devo Girl is also into dead bodies (she isn’t) but the descriptions of her coming to terms with her sexual deviance are touchingly real. After she reveals her secret to a friend and is rejected, she says, “I cried at what seemed like a cruel loss. I think I knew it was all loneliness from that moment on. Even though I was only thirteen, I was cutting any lines that still drifted out towards normal eroticism. Bosom friends, pajyama-party intimacy, I was cutting all those lines off.” It makes us cry every time. No other story captures so well the frustration and the thrill of having a strange secret fetish. This story was also made into a movie under the title Kissed.

Geek Love

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
***

This book is a devo classic, and also very well written. A husband and wife carnival team decide to create their own freakshow by giving birth to children with genetic mutations. The story is narrated by one of their children, and is a thrilling look at the hidden, lost world of the carnival sideshow, where physical differences are valued and considered beautiful.

The Morning Side of Dawn


The Morning Side of Dawn by Justine Davis. 
***

Yet another cheesy modern-day romance, but one that’s a bit better than average. Dar is a double amputee who occasionally uses prosthetics but prefers wheelchairs he designs himself. And he's an athlete too! Very sexy. The story is pretty good. The perfectly gorgeous supermodel heroine, Cassie, is kind of annoying, but Dar is an interesting character. It’s rare to find a double amputee male character in a romance novel, mainly because there is no possibility of a magical cure, so this book gets props for handling the issue head-on.

This book was a PD book club selection in February 2011:
http://paradevo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=devs&action=display&thread=2618

Nobody’s Perfect

Nobody’s Perfect by Hirotada Ototake ***
Translated from Japanese, this is the autobiography of a young man who was born without arms or legs. The cover picture alone is worth the price of the book. While the relentlessly upbeat tone gets a little annoying, the detailed descriptions of his daily life are just, well, fascinating.

Warm Springs

Warm Springs
***

A biopic about FDR and his recovery from polio. Originally an HBO movie, now available on DVD. Starring Kenneth Branagh, who does a reasonably good Roosevelt. Compared to photos of FDR when he was younger, there is some resemblance. Cynthia Nixon (and a whopping set of false teeth) stars as Eleanor Roosevelt. She's pretty wooden in most of her. But even though in general the film is only ok, not great, the devolicious quotient is high. They even used CGI to make Branagh's legs look all skinny, and you see it a LOT. Devo Girl was pleased. There are some other hunky patients too. The film was shot on location in the actual cottage and pool at the Warm Springs resort, and they even used the actual motorcar with hand controls that FDR used. There is a short documentary on the DVD as well, although Devo Girl feels a little strange experiencing feelings of lust for a former president.

Twin Falls Idaho

Twin Falls Idaho  
USA  
1999  
****

An independent film about conjoined twins, which is not a typical disability, but this movie gave Devo Girl that tingly devotee thrill. Plus it’s really excellent as a movie. Mark and Michael Polish, who are twins in real life (the normal kind, not joined, but the illusion in the film is so good you start to wonder) wrote, directed and starred as Francis and Blake Falls. Francis and Blake are joined at the chest, but have retired from their job as sideshow freak due to illness. They meet up with Penny (Michelle Hicks) the cliched hooker with a heart of gold, and she falls in love with Francis, which causes problems for Blake. Devo Girl wants to know, why couldn’t she just love them both? But then we wouldn’t have a movie. The plot is not so important as the visual images of Francis and Blake and how they negotiate every day life and try, unsuccessfully, to fit in. It’s very touching, and covers a lot of the same emotional territory as other disabilities.

There’s Something About Mary


There’s Something About Mary   
USA    
1998   
**

A pretty funny comedy with Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller, about a guy who just can’t forget the girl he had a crush on in high school. Part of the joke is that Mary has men throwing themselves at her all the time, but she hardly seems to notice them. One of these poor losers uses braces and crutches. He’s a minor character, but there are some really funny scenes with him. It’s not at all PC,  but trust me it’s hysterical.

Rory O'Shea Was Here


Rory O'Shea Was Here
UK
2004
***

Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy) is a young man with muscular dystrophy who enters a home for the disabled and changes the life of a resident named Michael (Steven Robertson), who has cerebral palsy. Rory is the only person who can understand Michael's speaking voice and talks him into entering a project for independent living. All goes according to plan until they hire an attractive young woman named Siobhan (Romola Garai) to care for their needs--and Michael falls in love with her. Rory does a fine job playing the part of an attractive young quad and his performance never disappoints. There's tremendous chemistry between Rory and Siobhan as she simultaneously spars with him, undresses him, and helps him with his transfers, yet it's all a tease--nothing ever comes of it, which is why the movie falls short of a four star rating.

Crippled Masters

Crippled Masters  
Hong Kong  
1984  
****

This is a low-budget Hong Kong kung fu movie, so consider yourself warned. But don’t let the terrible dubbing, the utter lack of any plot, the low production values and the chop-socky sound effects deter you: this is the REAL DEAL. The two main characters really are disabled; there is no ES involved. Also, although the movie would have us believe otherwise, they were clearly born with their disabilities. One man is a DAE amputee--see him water the fields and tend the farm with his feet! The other cannot use his legs (perhaps polio?)--see him walk on his hands! For various silly reasons, they are forced to learn kung fu and become an invincible fighting team. Their dexterity and skill are truly a wonder to behold, made all the more amazing by the knowledge that these are real people.

Wild Wild West

Wild Wild West   USA   1999   *

A remake of a very silly TV show that was itself a parody of the Western, with lots of gadgets. Ex-Shakesperian actor Kenneth Branagh (oh how the mighty have fallen) is the mad scientist evil megalomanic, a Southern gentleman whose legs were blown off in the Civil War, effects created by computer. He has a pretty cool steam-powered wheelchair that we get to see in detail, but really this is just another case of deformed = sociopath.

Kingpin

Kingpin
USA
1996
**

In this comedy by the infamous Farrelly brothers, Woody Harrelson plays an ex-bowler named Roy Munson whose bowling hand has to be amputated after a hustle goes wrong. Depressed by his own lot in life, Roy searches for a bowling prodigy to restore his lost glory. He finds this prodigy in a young Amish man named Ishmael (Randy Quaid). True to the Farrelly brothers' style, there are plenty of tasteless jokes involving Roy's rubber hand being popped off and Roy accidentally destroying things with his hook. Other than that, Roy seems completely oblivious to his missing hand and we never even get a glimpse at the stump. One redeeming devotee feature of this movie is that Roy gets the beautiful girl (Vanessa Angel) at the end, but she doesn't seem like much of a devotee at all. She can't appreciate him like we would.

Idle Hands

Idle Hands
USA
1999
***

In the spirit of Evil Dead 2, this movie involves a teenager named Anton (Devon Sawa) whose hand becomes possessed. After Anton's hand kills his two best friends, he becomes fed up and slices it off with a butcher knife so that he walks around through half the movie with an impressive stump. Anton is very sexy to begin with and even more so with only one hand. His love interest is played by Jessica Alba, the star of Dark Angel, a favorite TV show of devos everywhere. In Paradevo's opinion, this movie is a hilarious portrayal of laziness and mild drug use, but it's the amputated hand that makes it great.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump
USA
1994
***

The Academy Award winning film about the unusual life of an idiot savant named Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Big). During Forrest's stint in Vietnam, he saves the life of his Lieutenant, a fellow named Dan (Gary Sinise). Although Dan survives the war, both his legs are amputated and his wishes that Forrest had let him die. Sinise plays the role brilliantly, and arguably the most memorable scene in the movie is when his stumps are revealed before the camera. Unfortunately, true to some sort of Hollywood rule, Dan's appearance becomes increasingly unkempt while he is confined to the wheelchair, spoiling his good looks. Only when he is fitted for prosthetics at the end does he bother to clean himself up, but by then it's too late. Still, it's a great movie for devos, especially those who don't mind the hippie look.

Butterflies are Free

Butterflies are Free
USA
1972
***

This movie is very much of its time, not just with the groovy clothes and all the talk about hippies. The cinematography and acting style all seem very dated. It's basically the stage play in front of a camera--nearly all the action takes place in Don's apartment, and the delivery of the lines is very stage-y. The clever quips are charming but also are very typical of a Broadway play.

However, I still really enjoyed the movie. While it seemed stiff in many ways, the characters are amazingly complex. Don, the young blind man, doesn't just want to be independent of his mother, he wants to be treated like a regular person by everyone. Jill is a free spirit, but her flightiness is a mask for real emotional scars. And even Don's mother who comes off as a stereotype at first grows and changes over the course of the film.

Edward Albert is handsome in a Ken-doll kind of way, and while he's a good actor, he speaks in a very affected way that was occasionally annoying. He's hit or miss at playing blind; he's more convincing in some shots than others. But Goldie Hawn really shines. This film was impossible to find for a long time. I'm really glad it's out on DVD finally.

Bliss (Season 2)


Bliss (Season 2) 2003
**

This was a soft-core erotica series for women on the Oxygen Network. Each episode is a 30 minute short story. One of the stories in season 2 is about an older woman who seduces her blind piano tuner.

I am all for erotica by and for women, but surely we can do better than this? The production values are painfully low, the plots and dialog are bare-bones, and the actors are stilted and unattractive. It's just like porn for men, only the camera never strays below the waistline.

I was particularly interested in the story about the woman who seduces her blind piano tuner. He was actually pretty good looking, but terrible at playing blind, not convincing at all. The woman was older and not attractive. I believe older women can be sexy on film, but at least give her something better to wear than foundational undergarments. It was a good premise, mildly entertaining, but overall not very well executed.

Blind

Blind

Netherlands
2007
Dir. Tamar van den Dop
****

Blind is a beautiful, moving, haunting film, set around the turn of the century. Ruben, who is blind, lives alone with his mother on a huge, remote estate. He has regressed to a nearly feral state, and driven away all the servants. But Marie, who has been hired to read to him, refuses to put up with his bad behavior, because she wants to read the books in his library. As she reads to him from Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, they begin to fall in love. But Marie, who is an albino, and older than Ruben, and also has scars on her hands and face, believes she is ugly, and that he only loves her because he can't see her. With the possibility of surgery to restore his sight, will Ruben still love her?

This may seem like a cliched plot line--normally I dislike the "ugly girl/blind guy, will he still love her if he can see" kind of story because it seems so trite. But this film manages to transcend the old cliches, to tell a fairy-tale like story that is powerful and moving. Lines from The Snow Queen are quoted throughout the film, which makes it even more like a fairy tale. Without giving anything away, the film deals with the story in a very original and satisfying way.

The acting is sensitive and convincing. The actress who plays Marie is of course a movie star so she's not really that ugly, but she plays the part with a toughness and lack of sentimentality that is refreshing. And the guy who plays Ruben is great, alternately angry and vulnerable, and very good looking. He does a great job playing a blind person, which not all actors bother to do well.

The cinematography is stunning. Each scene is beautifully shot, with careful use of color and lighting. The film does a really good job of showing Ruben's point of view in a creative way. The sound design also is careful and sensitive, and the music is beautiful.

I can't recommend this film highly enough. It's too bad it hasn't been released in the US. You can buy the region 2 DVD online; it has good English subtitles, but you will need a region-free DVD player.