A couple of years ago, I went on a young adult reading kick.  For about two years, I consumed an incredible amount of contemporary young adult literature, despite the fact that, growing up, I had stopped reading young adult books when I was about 12.  What I discovered is that, unlike the anemic offerings on the shelves when I was a pre-teen (Lurlene McDaniel, anyone?), the young adult genre, in the wake of Harry Potter and Twilight, had blossomed into a thriving genre totally apart from the adult book world.

One of my favorite discoveries was Maggie Stiefvater.

Over the summer, I started to read the paranormal romances of Larissa Ione.  She combines a well-realized paranormal world and developed characters with…well, to be frank, really hot sex scenes.

Rogue Rider, the fourth book in Ione’s Lords of Deliverance series, tells the story of Reseph, aka Pestilence, the fourth horseman of the apocalypse.


CC2K newcomer Jill Blake offers up her first piece: This expert review of Emily W. Leider's examination of Myrna Loy, The Only Good Girl in Hollywood.

I have never heard anyone speak harshly of Myrna Loy. In fact, just the mere mention of her name elicits such a positive response it is hard not to crack a smile. My first encounter with Myrna's films was her work with Cary Grant in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse. She is brilliant in both roles and is one of Grant's greatest co-stars. When I eventually discovered her films from the 1930s, I finally understood why she is so highly regarded among classic film fans. Soon I began scrounging for every Loy performance I could find, including all the films she made with the charming William Powell, with whom she co-starred 14 times.

In the late eighties, Myrna Loy worked extensively and exclusively with James Kotsilibas-Davis to pen her autobiography Being and Becoming. This personal account has been the only significant information regarding Loy's private life and career until now. Emily W. Leider, author of Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, utilizes Loy's recollections from Being and Becoming, along with newly obtained material, in an attempt to piece together more of Loy's life story.

Leider begins with a detailed account of Myrna Loy's childhood leading up to being discovered in Hollywood. In her hometown of Helena, Montana, a young Loy took an interest in performing arts--especially dance. After the death of her father, Myrna, her mother, and other relatives moved to southern California. She continued taking dance lessons and eventually sought work to provide for her family. More importantly, Myrna desperately wanted independence. In 1923 she was hired as a prologue dancer at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. For frame of reference, these elaborate stage productions (which provided in-house entertainment for moviegoers), were akin to the prologues featured in Busby Berkeley's saucy pre-code musical Footlight Parade. Before long, Loy's beauty and talent were noticed by Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova. Myrna quickly acquired her first uncredited role in the 1925 film What Price Beauty? After several of these smaller roles, Loy was offered parts as exotics, often playing a temptress and homewrecker. She would be typecast in this kind of role until around 1934 when she gave breakout performances in Manhattan Melodrama and The Thin Man. Although she had shed one typecast, she gained another in being labeled "the perfect wife." Myrna Loy as the "exotic"

Leider writes of Loy's early years in Hollywood, including when she fell in love with a married man, producer Arthur Hornblow. Eventually they married, but Arthur's infidelities and lack of commitment led to their divorce. Myrna had four husbands in all, yet never found the reciprocal love she so desperately sought. Since she could not find complete happiness in her romantic life, Myrna looked for other ways to gain fulfillment. She was a dedicated volunteer during WWII and raised millions of dollars in war bonds for the cause. She was also quite active in liberal politics and outspoken against the House Un-American Activities Committee. A staunch supporter of President Roosevelt, Loy soon became friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and the two worked closely on social and political causes. Myrna was also an unabashed supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, which was not a popular stance at the time. Later in her career and life, Loy retreated from Hollywood to New York where she remained until her death in 1993. In the final years of her life she was finally recognized by The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award. Up to that moment, Loy had never even been nominated for an Oscar.

I have long awaited a biography on Myrna Loy. Her autobiography Being and Becoming is out of print, so finding an affordable copy has proven to be difficult. When I first heard of Emily W. Leider's book, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am slightly disappointed. Leider's account of Myrna Loy's early life is well written. I appreciate her attention to detail in retelling Loy's story from a different perspective than what has already been written. What I noticed is Leider references Loy's book numerous times (almost to the point of distraction), and it quickly becomes apparent that perhaps there really isn't much information about Loy's life outside of what has already been written. In other words, Loy wrote what she thought we should know about her and therefore disclosed a filtered, if incomplete version, which is fair. That said, there are a few new bits of information in The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, that according to Leider, Loy either briefly mentions in passing or ignores completely in her autobiography. For example, Leider discusses the reason behind Loy's inability to bear children, something that Loy never divulged. Myrna Loy 1930s

One of the trappings of the star biography is an author's tendency to give synopses of movies in an actor's filmography. In telling the story of Loy's early fledgling career and rise to prominence in Hollywood, Leider often falls into the pattern of film synopsis and review. I understand that anecdotes from the filming of Loy's movies is important to paint a complete picture of the surrounding events in her life. However, when plotlines are detailed from start to finish accompanied by critique and opinion (either Leider's or that of a film critic), it is too much.

Overall, I have mixed feelings on Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood. I would like to revisit this book after reading Being and Becoming. Perhaps Leider's book will be a nice companion piece to Loy's, but in all honesty I was looking for something more.

Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood
ISBN: 9780520253209
University of California Press
October 2011
424 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood directly from the publisher, University of California Press. I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

This review was originally published on the classic film wesbite Sittin' on a Backyard Fence


Monday, 15 October 2012 02:00

In Defense of Romance

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I think romance gets a bad rap.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since I saw Eloisa James speak at the National Book Festival a few weeks ago.  I was struck by the fact that one of the most popular romance writers in the industry seemed almost apologetic about her profession, like she still had to justify to her (now deceased) parents and academic peers (she is, in her daily life, a university professor) why she was “just” a romance writer.

Monday, 01 October 2012 02:00

Rape as a Fantasy Trope

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Recently, urban fantasy writer Seanan McGuire—whom I interviewed a few weeks ago—posted an entry on her blog.  The gist of it was this: a reader asked her when one of her female characters was finally going to be raped.  She replied that they were not ever going to be raped, and the reader accused her of being unrealistic and not having respect for her work.

The National Book Festival is my favorite part of living in DC.  Every September, prominent authors from many different genres gather on the National Mall and talk about their work.  Last year, they expanded the gathering from one day to two, allowing the event to host a greater number of authors and giving you another day to catch the festivities.  The sheer number and diversity of authors this event features is amazing.  If you read at all, you can probably find at least one author every year that you’d want to see.

About a month ago, I won an advance copy of Seanan McGuire's Ashes of Honor, the latest in her October Daye series.  (Read my review here.)  I loved the book, and after I posted my review, I wrote to Seanan and asked her for an interview.  To my delight, she agreed.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye and InCryptid urban fantasy series.  In addition, as Mira Grant, she is the author of the Newsflesh trilogy of books, which I can only describe as "zombie politico-medical thriller."  I am thrilled to have her here on CC2K today.


Every so often, I read the description of a novel and immediately think, “I have to read this.”  That was what happened when I read the description of Emily Colin’s debut novel, The Memory Thief.  Being the instant gratification junkie that I am, I immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle.  Luckily for me, it was $9.99 well spent.

The Dark Knight Rises bookFanboy Comics' Bryant Dillon reviews the movie novelization of The Dark Knight Rises.

In my experience, there’s a strange phenomenon surrounding official movie novelizations. If they’re well written, they can actually exceed the quality of the film itself. (Don’t believe me? Check out the official movie novelizations of the Star Wars prequels!) This usually has to do with the talent of the writer and their ability to enhance characters and a story that comes attached to numerous limitations. Novelist Greg Cox may be slightly hampered by some of the unrepairable plot holes in his official adaption of The Dark Knight Rises, he but still manages to enhance the plot of Nolan’s final Batman chapter to a level that is sure to thrill and satisfy fans of the recently released film.

Monday, 27 August 2012 01:00

Odd Thomas Drowned in a Flood

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Or, how Andrew Vachss’ Burke helped me realize why I dislike Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas so much.

I didn’t know why I disliked Odd Thomas so much, only that I really, really didn’t like this character, or the books that feature him, for that matter. I hadn’t read anything by Dean Koontz in years. More like in over a decade. For awhile in my teens and early twenties, I was binging on Koontz. I think Phantoms was his first novel I read, and something about it hooked me. I read everything I could, and over the course of a few years made my way through his entire bibliography (with a couple of exceptions). I have some fond memories of those books, but then I just stopped. I was reading King and Rice and Clancy (and Koontz) around that time, and then I’m happy to say (without any sense of conceit or elitism) that I transitioned to better writers. Gene Wolfe. Neal Stephenson. Frank Herbert. Kurt Vonnegut. Joseph Conrad. Others. I recently came back to Koontz and his recent creation Odd Thomas. I obtained several of these Odd-themed novels in audiobook format at the low low price of $0 COUGH-Thanks Demonoid-COUGH, and I started listening to them at work and during my commute.

I listened to Odd Thomas. I didn’t like it. I listened to Forever Odd. I liked it less. I listened to Brother Odd. I liked it so little, disliked it so much, I vowed not t
o spend another minute listening to the followup Odd Hours. I’ve seen banner ads around the interwebs for his latest, Odd Apocalypse. I have no intention of reading it. And while I knew my intense dislike for these novels (my first such reaction to Koontz’s work) centered on the protagonist Odd Thomas, I had difficulty forming a specific argument as to why.

Then I read Flood, the first novel in the Burke series by Andrew Vachss, mostly on the recommendation of fellow CC2Ker Tony Lazlo. And my feelings toward Odd Thomas crystallized into a beautiful snowflake of disdain.