Book: Vintage Love

"Vintage Love"

26-year-old Crissy Lopez’s life is in dire need of a makeover. Her wardrobe revolves around ratty shirts and beat-up sneaks; her grueling schedule as a TV Executive leaves no room for a social life; and worst of all, she’s hung up on the Evil Ex who left her five years ago.

When her fashionable grand-aunt passes away and leaves behind a roomful of vintage stuff, the Shy Stylista inside Crissy gradually resurfaces. Soon, she feels like she’s making progress–with a budding lovelife to boot! But the grim ghost of her past catches up with her, threatening to push her back into depression. To finally move on, Crissy learns that walking away is not enough. This time, she needs to take a leap of faith.

If you come to Vintage Love looking for romance, you’d best look elsewhere. The love story told within the pages of this book is paint-by-numbers, and the male characters we are given don’t ever feel like real people. That said, if you do decide not to pick this book up, it’ll be a loss. Because Vintage Love, I feel, is a great love story–about loving one’s self.

I’ve learned to manage my expectations when it comes to local romance novels. Especially since they seem to be restricted to a certain number of pages. You can’t make a love story epic in 147 pages. That’s just the number of pages it takes to fall in love, and to get swept by the romance of it all. By the 147th page, you’re only getting to the meat of a love story: the conflicts. Because unlike other works of fiction where you can get invested in the main character within the first chapter, while you’re building your world and your conflict, love stories have to hook you in first with why you want to root for a certain couple to stay together–

Vintage Love does hook readers quickly, but you don’t root for the love story. Within the first chapter, you want Crissy Lopez to succeed–not at finding love, but at finding herself. Because, unlike in Save the Cake where we are forced to endure the mystery of what happened in the main character’s past, Vintage Love drops you right in the middle of the main character’s passion: film-making. Agay Llanera presents us a strong, independent woman who clearly isn’t happy with her life, but is making everyone else think she is.

Taking out the romance aspect of the book, I’m impressed with Llanera’s structuring of the plot. She makes a different use of death as a plot point, and uses examples instead of dialogue of how close the character is to the dead. The anecdotes and the way the character talks about the dead is a great way of establishing their relatioship without having to do extensive character-building. And while this particular relationship already ended in the first chapter, it clearly defines what happens in the main character’s life going forward.

Now, if we put the romance aspect back into the book, I’m not as impressed with the structure. We don’t get to know the male lead as well as we do Crissy, and it affects my need to root for their relationship. Bottom line: I didn’t care if they get together in the end. This is mostly because, as I mentioned earlier, the male lead doesn’t feel real. He’s not the end goal. He’s a plot device to get our main character to her actual goal: choosing to make herself happy. So when the inevitable relationship conflict happens, near the end of the book, I didn’t really care if the male lead goes. He’s served his purpose.

I can go on and on about what can make Vintage Love work better as a romance novel, but there’s really no need, is there? It’s already a good book. Just as long as you’re not here for the romance.

Movie: Wreck-It Ralph

"Wreck-It Ralph"

Ralph is tired of being overshadowed by Fix-It Felix, the good guy star of their game who always gets to save the day. But after decades doing the same thing and seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides he’s tired of playing the role of a bad guy. He takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a game-hopping journey across the arcade through every generation of video games to prove he’s got what it takes to be a hero. On his quest, he meets the tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun from the first-person action game Hero’s Duty. But it’s the feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz from the candy-coated cart racing game, Sugar Rush, whose world is threatened when Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade. Will Ralph realize his dream and save the day before it’s too late?” — (C) Disney

The first time I saw the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, I knew I was going to be in theaters its first day of release. And I was. And I loved it as much as I loved the trailer. Seriously. Even the really quiet parts.

Wreck-It Ralph has the perfect mix of adventure and heart, with a healthy dose of nostalgia. And by healthy, I mean just enough. The familiar computer game characters that appear on screen don’t take away the spotlight from the main characters–but they don’t feel like tacked-on gimmicks either, with Clyde (the orange Pacman ghost), Zangief (from Street Fighter), and a zombie from House of the Dead playing a part in pushing Ralph into his journey.

The pace of the story could do with some work, but it’s a film. It’s not like we can change channels or tune it out while in the theater, right? It’s not dragging, so it doesn’t really detract from the whole feel of the film. But some parts, I felt, could’ve been more … faster, I guess. Like the whole chunk of sequences that had Ralph and Vanellope working together to make a car.

I know it’s important to build the relationship of the two characters, but–maybe there could’ve been a better way to do it? Or, you know, they could’ve made this part shorter and just added a different scene prior or after to further push the relationship of the two.

Other than that, the only gripe I have about the movie is the first time we see villain King Candy work around the game codes. I felt like it could’ve benefited from a better lead-in scene, as the actual scene of the monarch swimming in codes was a little jarring.

Is that a spoiler? Sorry. It’s a very villain thing to do to cheat though, so it’s not that big of a spoiler…right?

Now, going back to why I loved the film, it’s actually very simple: Wreck-It Ralph is a celebration of who you are. Not who people want you to be, or what you think people want you to be. It celebrates the role you play in life, no matter how other people see it.

It’s a movie about who you are–not what you are.