Friday, December 6, 2013

White Fire Delivers on the Promise of Pendergast

Five qualities of a really good mystery/thriller are:
  1. Draws readers in and doesn't let go
  2. Has compelling characters that readers can become passionate about
  3. Tells a captivating story that's exciting and interesting, suspenseful and scary
  4. Surprises readers
  5. Leaves readers wanting more

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What to Watch 12/5/13

I took a week off from blogging for Thanksgiving and setting up a book fair at work. It was a busy week! Here are some fun suggestions to entertain you this weekend, between your normal, everyday chaos, Christmas parties and shopping, you'll need a little down time, I'm sure. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Doctor!

Now and then, something truly remarkable happens in the world of entertainment. A 50th birthday is one of those things.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What to Watch This Weekend 9/14/13

While my recommendations may seem thin this week, if you haven't seen "Ender's Game" or "Thor: The Dark World", those ought to be at the top of your list. Here are a few other ideas:
On Netflix

If you haven't ever seen the show "Supernatural", now is as good a time as any to give it a look. It's been on TV for many years (I think it's in its 9th season), and I am not currently watching as it airs, but I did go back and watch the first couple of seasons recently. My first impression? It's so scary!! So maybe not for kids. Also now and then there are surprise sex scenes, so also not for kids. Luckily, they are short, not terribly graphic scenes. Actually, in all of seasons 1 and 2, I can't remember more than one, so thankfully that distraction is minimal. (One day I'm going to write a diatribe on the fact that Hollywood is filled with writeres who like to distract from actual STORYTELLING with sex scenes in their movies and TV shows... but this is not that day.) The show follows the Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) as they travel around the country fighting supernatural evil, including witches, ghosts, spooks, urban legends and demons. Though I didn't find it compelling enough to rush through, it is a show I will go back and watch from time to time, if I'm in the mood. Again, probably not for kids. It's scary, gory and there is adult dialogue, ifyaknowwhatImean.

At Redbox

With the second Hunger Games movie opening next week, it's a good time to rent the original and watch it again. For the uninitiated, this dystopic story is about a future where teens have to fight to the death to entertain the masses, which keeps everyone thoroughly oppressed by the government. It would be a rare treat if the movies were better than the books, but they do stand up pretty well on their own.


Comment below-- tell me what you're plans are!  Then pop the popcorn, make a mug of cocoa and settle in with your remote control or a good book. Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thor: The Dark World is Thorrific!

The good- Chris Hemsworth is very well cast, and seems to have grown into the role quite a bit. This time around, his Thor is much more natural and human. And his interactions with Loki are excellent-- the brotherly chemistry between them really works. 

Thankfully, the script for this sequel has a lot more humor than the original "Thor"-- I think the folks at Marvel and Disney learned something of real value when Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" was such a huge success in large part due to a script generously peppered with wit and humor. "Thor" benefits greatly from doing the same. 

I think the entire cast from the first movie returned for this film, including Thor's Asgardian buddies and family, and they have some fun moments. Natalie Portman's Jane Foster is back and somewhat more interesting this time, and Kat Dennings as her assistant Darcy is good as well, but it's Stellan Skarsgard who steals every scene he is in. I love the continuity between both "Thor" and "The Avengers" and his storyline in this film.

The bad- Some scenes seem rather rushed-- there were a handful of quick cut-aways that felt abrupt. Really, that's my only critical comment. Well, maybe also that the "Dark Elves" didn't really seem all that scary. I never felt like the heroes were ever in real peril, but in a film like this, that's okay.

The awesome- The special effects and CGI are, as usual, phenomenal in this movie. As I mentioned above, humor also improves on the first film so much-- no comic book-based movie should take itself too seriously, and "Dark World" achieves an excellent balance.

 But what really lifts this movie is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He endears the character with such depth-- Loki is a trickster, he is conniving, wicked, and clever. But he also feels sadness and disappointment and frustration and Hiddleston manages to relate a wonderful mixture of emotions beneath Loki's veneer of confidence and sly trickery. He really is utterly compelling as the villain and his performance threatens to overshadow all the heroes of the Marvel universe. I look forward to seeing what Loki will do next. (Though, it's been said that he won't appear in the sequel to "The Avengers".)

Oh, and one more awesome is a cameo by... well... maybe I won't tell you. You'll see. It's adorable and funny and made me so very excited for the next few Marvel projects. 

If you haven't made it to the theater for "Thor" yet, it's an excellent date movie, or take your teenagers. This is a great "popcorn" movie-- this film is what you go to the movies for. Fast, fun action and entertainment.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: "Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon"


For those who may have forgotten, by day I'm an elementary school librarian. This book was included in a packet of free books I got from Scholastic in a book order last month, and at first, I wasn't really interested in reading it. So many nonfiction books for children are, simply, boring. I don't know why that is, but that's my impression, and although this is an award-winning book, I figured it would just be dry facts and figures and not all that interesting.

What to Watch This Weekend 11/7/13

There are some great entertainment options this weekend!

In Theaters:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big Awesome!!!

I doubt you missed this, because it drowned the internet yesterday, but just in case you did, here you go. 

It's no big deal. It's just...


CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!


Yep. It's the new official trailer for the upcoming sequel. I am just a little excited. Just a little. As much as I like Thor, I think I'm looking forward to this one even more than that one. There's just something about Cap. He is so... heroic? I can't find the word I'm looking for... Help me out in the comments, won't you?

Anyway, the movie comes out in April, so this is really just teasing us, but I still enjoy it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BIG NEWS!!!

I don't know about you, but I think having to wait 2 years between episodes of the best TV show in the history of TV (yes, I know, I'm waxing hyperbolic, but I'm a HUGE fan and it's turning me into a bonafide geek!) is just plain cruel. It's been a long wait for some of us. I confess, I've re-watched series one and two a couple of times while waiting.

And the wait is almost over. Today, BBC announced that PBS Masterpiece will air Sherlock series 3 in the U.S., beginning January 19, 2014. You can read about the big announcement here or here or here

Or watch the teaser trailer (which about gives me heart failure, I'm so excited) here:


I'm too excited to form any more coherent sentences. LOOK!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What To Watch This Weekend

It's October!! Fall is a fun time for TV enthusiasts, and as the temperatures drop we love to snuggle under a blanket and watch good stuff.

My suggestions for this weekend:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: Excellent YA Novel

I've become a big enough fan of Brandon Sanderson's that I will buy any of his books now, sight unseen. There is only one other author (well, pair of authors) that I will do that with, and that's the Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. And that's mostly because I own the others, and I want all of them, but those I buy in paperback. Sanderson's books, I buy first edition HC. He's that reliably good.

I went to a Sanderson book signing a couple of years ago for... "Legion", I think... and he mentioned that he was working on his first YA book- a story about a boy who lives in a world where everyone with super powers is evil and he has to fight them without having any superpowers himself. That book is "Steelheart". I thought it sounded fantastic, and now, having read that book, I am not disappointed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Yesterday at the library, I picked up Neil Gaiman's new book for young readers, called "Fortunately, the Milk". The book is a quick read for adults like me and much lighter in tone and content than Gaiman's usual fare. "Milk" is a story told by an imaginative father to his two children, after taking a very long time to go to the corner store for milk. 

He meets pirates; a time-traveling, talking inventor who happens to be a Stegosaurus; island natives and their volcano God; and other odd characters along the way. The story is charming, amusing and the illustrations, by Skottie Young, are a perfect fit for the quirky nonsensical tale. 


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It took me a few days, but I finally got to watch the pilot episode of Joss Whedon's new TV adventure series, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Last summer's crowd-pleasing, enormous hit, "The Avengers"set the bar pretty high for Whedon-backed super hero stories, so I was a bit hesitant to get too excited for this show, lest it not live up to my expectations. Even a really good show can fail to live up to high expectations.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney Animated Fun

Last August, a couple of Disney movies I watched a lot when I was a child were released on Blu-Ray, and I recently checked them out from the library to see if they are as great as I remember them being. 


The first is "The Sword and the Stone". This is a Disney-fied retelling of the King Arthur/Merlin/sword story from old English mythology. This version has the sword miraculously appearing in a courtyard, upon the death of the rightful King. We meet Arthur, who is growing up in the court at Camelot as a 12-year-old orphan called "Wart", trying to be a squire, and failing miserably. Into Wart's life comes Merlin, who is a time-traveling wizard who takes him on as his pupil, so he can teach him all about the world and science and such. Entertaining hijinks occur, as Merlin changes himself and the boy into various animals including fish, birds and squirrels. They meet a wicked witch named "Madame Mim" and there is a wizard's duel, and eventually Wart finds himself as squire to Kay in a big tournament that has been declared to find a King. Having forgotten Kay's sword, Wart runs to find one and pulls the sword from the stone. The rest... is history. Though this film was never my favorite, I did like it a lot, but I have to say it did not hold up as well as I expected, and I actually dozed off while watching it. I hardly ever fall asleep during movies, especially short movies with musical numbers. Needless to say, I'm disappointed. It's still fun, and small children might enjoy it, but it is not as charming or entertaining as I remembered. 

The second is "Robin Hood", with all the characters played by various animals. Robin is a fox (as is Maid Marion, conveniently), Little John is a bear (voiced brilliantly by the same guy who plays the bear, Baloo, in "The Jungle Book"). This is also from English mythology, and follows the basic story of Robin stealing from the rich to feed the poor, dressing up in costumes and putting on voices and generally making Prince John look like a fool. There are excellent musical numbers, humor, and enchanting characters. This movie is still just as entertaining as it was when I was young. The story is exciting and fast-paced; the action is very Disney-friendly (no one dies, but villains get hit in the face with pies, piled on top of one another and knocked silly) but it's still enjoyable; and the script is witty and charming. Yes, it is for children, and yes, it is mild-mannered, but I thought it held up to the test of time very well. "Robin Hood" has long been my favorite Disney movie, and it still holds a spot in my heart.


In February, another favorite, "The Jungle Book", will be released on Blu-Ray. I always loved the relationship between Baloo and Mowgli, the guidance and long-suffering of Bagheera and the sinister Shere Kahn and the silly snake, Kaa. I can't wait to watch it again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two Funny Oldies

When my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, our dad made sure our cultural education was filled with well-written, often hilarious and intelligent entertainment. 

Including a few episodes of the mid-to-late 1980's Steven Spielberg creation "Amazing Stories", which was somewhat similar in temperament to "The Twilight Zone". Each week's episode featured a stand-alone short story, ranging from sci-fi to fantasy or horror. Each episode was written and directed by different artists, including Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood,  and Danny DeVito.

My dad was pretty excited to show us one particular feature, from Season 2, Ep. 16. called "The Family Dog". I could tell you about it, but I would rather just show you. Enjoy:


Still to this day, we quote this cartoon. The dry humor, the facial expressions, the plight of the dog and the other family members, the way the little girl talks-- all hilarious.

Another short that we loved was this 1978 classic parody of Star Wars-- from long long ago in a galaxy where Youtube, How It Should Have Ended, Bad Lip Reads and "Spaceballs" had yet to be created: "Hardware Wars"
While it is rather dated, this is still pretty funny. 


I especially love the pastries on the princess, but the best part is when Auggie Ben Doggie grabs his head and Fluke says, "What is it, Auggie Ben Doggie? Did you feel a great disturbance in the force? Like thousands of voices cried out in fear and were suddenly silenced?" and Doggie says, "No, no, it's just a little headache." Ha ha... 

It was a strange decade, for sure.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Photo Issues

I just noticed that many of my photos are no longer showing on my blog posts. I don't know how to fix this without starting over with posting them, which is SO not going to happen, so I apologize and I feel bad and wish my blog looked more professional and all that, but I don't know what's gone wrong, so I don't know how to fix it. Most of the photos I use on this site are either from IMDB or from Goodreads. I'm wondering if that is the problem. Maybe (IMDB in particular) has begun blocking their images from being shared? I don't know. 

From now on, I will have to do things the hard way, by downloading images to my computer and then uploading them to the blog and captioning them to credit the sources, instead of uploading them directly from the URL where they live. Boo.

If anyone knows how to resolve this problem between Blogger and online images, please let me know. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy my blog. I sure enjoy having you visit. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

I enjoy a nice, fat novel. I like knowing that I will have a story to return to for at least a few days. But sometimes, it's equally pleasant to read a shorter book-- one that can be finished in a day. Yesterday, I read two such books-- Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", and Shannon Hale's "Austenland". 

Quick summary: "Pride and Prejudice"-obsessed Jane is sent to an estate in England that specializes in period-themed experiences by her rich aunt so she can get over her delusional crush on Mr. Darcy and learn to love men who don't live up to Darcy's standard of perfection. 

It's a light, fun book, perfect for a hot summer day. The characters are enjoyable, there's a twist at the end, and the story is amusing. I didn't get a lot of the Austen-related references; I've never read any of her books, and I've only seen a couple of the movies, a long time ago, but I still got the gist of what was being said, and I still quite enjoyed the book. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is known for creating unique fantasy worlds and deeply thoughtful characters and stories. I was excited to find a new book by him and equally happy that it was short. It's a book that can easily be read in a day, but the story is contemplative and layered and lovely.

You can read a synopsis here or here, and I don't like to fill reviews such, but if you only have time (or patience) to read what I've written, here's a quick summary: The main character tells a story, in flashback first person form, of magical, frightening and fantastical events that happened when he was 7 years old. The story includes magical phenomena, good versus evil (and the sometimes blurred lines between), creatures of death and darkness, and a trio of old-world good witches (for lack of a better word) who help him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

David Tennant Parking Only!


This sign is on the southwest side of my town. My brain always makes room for an extra N in the middle of that first word and I think how nice of them to reserve a space just for David Tennant here in little Tooele, Utah. 

Then I wish the TARDIS would show up.

Or Tennant in a car, even. That'd be okay, too...

I'll bring the cake.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Elementary: Americanized Sherlock Holmes

As anyone who is a fan of BBC's "Sherlock" knows, a hiatus of well over 12 months is far too long for a magnificent show, especially considering the heart-wrenching cliff-hanger at the end of the final episode of Series 2. I've gone back and re-watched all 6 episodes twice since early 2012. It's easily still my favorite show on TV.



Pitch Perfect: Fun, but Not For Everyone

Tonight, while my husband is away at Scout Camp, I finally got to watch "Pitch Perfect". I had to watch it alone, because (thankfully!) someone warned me that there are songs and dialogue that are rather adult in nature and I didn't want to be surprised with my kids next to me. 




















Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

In typical (and awesome) Sanderson style, the creation of the alternate world for this book is deep, layered, fascinating, original and full of surprises. It's also written as though you already know about all of it, rather than building everything in the first few chapters. This is what he did with "The Way of Kings", too, and I felt the same slow draw to get into the story with that book. Once I did get into the story, however, I was hooked. Particularly at the end. (In both cases!)

Fortunately, Sanderson's worlds are excellent, and his characters feel very real. Joel feels familiar, like I've talked to or known him before. His friend, Melody, is unique, but not in a crazy, inauthentic way. I appreciated that the bad guy wasn't who I suspected, and I liked the ending, which left many questions unanswered and set up the next book nicely. 


The steampunk, gear and gaslight world is kind of fun, and allows for the chalk-based mysterious magic to work well. Clockwork crabs cut the grass, and lanterns have to be wound up to work, and people wear cloaks and bowler hats. 

The drawings in the book are lovely-- very well done, though I couldn't begin to tell you which rithmatic defenses are which (Sanderson loves a complex magic system!) even though they are well described and diagrammed. My brain can't hold on to that kind of information for very long. 

Overall, a good Youth Fantasy Fiction book. I took a lot longer to get into it than I expected to, but once there, it was quite a fun read.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Case Against a Female Doctor

This has been the summer of Doctor Who at our house, as most of us have been watching all of the current episodes (well, except Series 1...) that Netflix has to offer. We spend many meal and car-ride conversations discussing the show, the actors, the writers, and the future of it all, now that Matt Smith has confirmed he is leaving. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Did You Miss This? Ken Burns

Some years ago, I became aware of Ken Burns' incomparable talent for making not only interesting documentaries, but politically neutral, educational and fascinating documentaries. I love a good documentary, but, frankly, much of what's out there look like bad copies of the 1960's filmstrips we grew up seeing in school. You must remember such classics as these:



I'm teasing, of course, but watching documentaries lately has brought to mind the nature filmstrips of my elementary school years... nothing too amazing to remember there!

There have been some great documentary films over the years, but nothing to match Ken Burns' incredible ability to layer music, photography, personal letters, documents, sound effects, historical footage and narration to weave a story that touches your heart and leaves an emotional afterimage that lingers. 

I've watched bits and pieces of his documentaries in the past (most notably, "Jazz", which is phenomenal), but I don't think I've ever watched an entire series-- some of them are very long. We decided to start watching those that are on Netflix, and it has been educational and fascinating. I've learned more about these events in just a few weeks of watching than I ever did in all those years of public school education history classes.

We started with "The Dust Bowl", partly because it is only 2 episodes long. Then we moved on to "Prohibition" and last night we started the 9-episode "The Civil War". It's daunting. These historical events are heartbreaking; I find myself continually amazed at the evil that we humans perpetrate toward one another, and grateful for those good people who have shifted the world (and our country, in particular) to a better place.

If I were homeschooling my kids, I would be thrilled to have such a rich resource such as these documentaries, to take segments from and use in American history instruction. What a great gift to the world. Burns deserves every award he's ever been given.

I highly recommend you watch these documentaries, if you have access to them through Netflix or your library or some other source. I consider them masterpieces. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I don't read a lot of Stephen King. Though I do enjoy a good scary story and fantasy novel, he always uses rough language. This book is no exception, but it is so unique and the story is so interesting that I mostly didn't care. Time travel is a tricky business, so the story of a modern-day high school teacher who goes back in time to try and stop the Kennedy assassination didn't really interest me at first, but my sister suggested it for our book club, so I gave it a go.

A few chapters in, I couldn't put it down. Even with the expected fictitious teacher cliches-- he corrects students' grammar, all the time-- whether in class or alumni; he is mild-mannered but tough; he catches kids drinking at a dance and lets them off the hook after a stern talking-to; and the one that seemed ripped out of so many other things (Glee, High School Musical, and I'm sure there are older references I'm forgetting) when he casts the High School football star in a play and everyone is astonished by the kid's depth and level of talent, the kid gets crap from his teammates and coach and nearly quits, blah blah blah...

In spite of that, though, the story really worked. The character development was believable and the adventure of him changing the future was intriguing. Above all else, Stephen King is a storyteller-- a really good storyteller.

I especially enjoyed the 1958-1963 stuff. My dad, who is coincidentally reading this book also, said it's been nostalgic for him. For me it's history brought to life. I haven't ever really pondered what the common public felt and experienced during the Cuban missile crisis, or the ongoing racism and anti-semitism of the time (though I am WELL aware of it, I hadn't really felt or "experienced" it, but through the pages of a good story, magic happens). I found those elements so much more educational than any history book I've ever slogged my way through for school.

I loved the mixture of the picture-perfect past (the root beer is full of flavor, people are very friendly and trusting, kids still say "sir", etc.) and the underbelly-- the cruelty of bookies and racists, the multitude of abusive husbands (though this book almost makes me think they were in the majority-- were they?), and the heat and stink and day-to-day happenings. I wonder, though, if so many people in the early '60's used the f-word so freely...

Would I recommend it? Well... mostly. If you don't mind some mild sexuality and a lot of cussing (as though everyone talks like that???), yes. It is a really good story.

Book Review: "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson, if you don't know, is a very well-known blogger called "The Bloggess". She is very well known because she is very, very funny. Her twisty view of the world makes for some hilarious misadventures, which she shares in this book. 

I would heartily recommend this to everyone I know except for one glaring problem: Jenny has an extremely foul mouth. And, by extension, writing voice. She unabashedly throws the f-word onto nearly every page, often multiple times. She talks without a hint of shyness or caution about... everything. EVERYTHING. At least that way, you know she's being honest and there is no confusion about what she might mean. No innuendo-- it's just all stark and in-your-face. Some of that made me a tad uncomfortable. I really don't like so much cussing and I normally don't read books with that much cussing, but she is just so dang funny that I kept going in spite of myself.

I found myself laughing out loud many times and when my kids wanted to know why I was laughing I couldn't tell them to read this book... 

She is very honest about her mental health, her former anorexia, her current RA, her heartbreaking miscarriages, and her very unusual childhood. Lawson has a talent for making almost anything funny. Her arguments with her husband (which tend to include death threats), the odd behavior of her dog, her former job in HR, and many of the basic things that happen in life are situated just right for humor and comedy. 

The book reads just like her blog. It is not narrative in any way; it's more a jumble of stories and experiences put into mostly chronological order. Some chapters were taken right from her blog. 

If you can handle her language and her lack of reverence about religion, (particularly about Jesus), you will enjoy this book. (To be honest, I skipped the chapter where she used Jesus' name a lot, so I don't know if it was sacrilegious or not... I wouldn't be surprised, though.)

It is really, really funny.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Still Alive

I've been super-insane-crazy busy the last few weeks, preparing my son (and myself!!) for his church mission. He will be gone for two years, and there was a lot to do, not to mention that I have three other kids with needs and stuff. 

Anyway, now that he's on his way and things are quiet, I'm out of entertainment budget money for a few weeks, while we catch up, so no movies for me. I really want to see "Man of Steel" and Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Despicable Me 2", but it will have to wait. It's not like I get paid for this stuff.

In the meantime, I've been watching WAY too much Doctor Who. I'm into Season 5 (revival, not classic) and I'm getting to know Matt Smith. I'm not as enchanted with him as I am with David Tennant, but I'm giving it time. My son seems to think he's better, so I promised to watch them all before judging. 

But so far, I like Tennant better. 

I'm also trying to get some reading in. I've been posting short reviews on Goodreads, since nothing I'm reading is all that amazing or current. I started this month's book club book, Stephen King's "11/22/63" and Brandon Sanderson's "The Rithmatist". If I ever finish them, I'll post reviews. 

What else...


Not much. Been killing a lot of brain cells on Pinterest and Youtube, trying to de-stress, so not much of great interest. I'm actually trying to take it easy as I recover from the emotional roller coaster of the last month, so it may be another week or two until I get to anything new.

Thanks for sticking around, though. I'll get back to my normal frantic pace soon. 


In the meantime, here's that song from Portal that is STILL stuck in my head now and then:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Movies of the 80's

I recently wrote a post about some movies I consider "classic" family movies, that every kid should see. Today, I thought it might be fun to make a list of some of the best films of the 1980's, since parents of my generation have a soft spot for them, but the next generation might have missed them. These are not movies I consider "must-see", but they are fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Best Classic Movies For Families

I'm kind of passionate about kids being "culturally educated" in the arts. Probably comes with being my dad's daughter. And, though I shouldn't be, I'm consistently surprised at the dearth of classic movies people have actually seen. It's depressing. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Now You See Me", Unless You Don't

If you think "Now You See Me" is a heist movie, think again. If you think it's a supernatural magic movie, you're also wrong. I can explain the whole movie in just a few words. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Trouble With Doctor Who

Dang dang dang.

I did it.

I got hooked on yet another British TV show.

"Doctor Who" regenerated in 2005, after a very long time off the air. It was completely off my radar. I had heard of the show, but had never seen any episodes, and didn't know anything about it.

Until now. 

My son has been watching lots of "Who" lately, particularly the episodes with Matt Smith as The Doctor, but when I started in, I wanted to go back further and start near the beginning. I wasn't especially impressed with the first few episodes (or the first Doctor) of the resurgence, so I jumped ahead to the point that David Tennant took over the role. Having skipped pretty much a whole season, though, I think there are some plotlines I missed, but it doesn't seem to matter much. I'm still hooked.

What You Need to Know About "Who"

So, you want to watch "Doctor Who", but you don't know where to begin? Here are some basic things you might want to know:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blu-Ray: Warm Bodies

After reading my dad's article, I decided to watch "Warm Bodies", even though it's a decidedly different movie than my normal selections.

"R", the zombie telling his story through voice-over narration, doesn't know what caused the zombie apocalypse, but there are 3 distinct versions of people left on Earth-- the humans, the "corpses" (zombies as we know them) and "boneys", which are corpses that have given up and rotted into evil skeleton creatures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Club Book: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen

My sisters and I all like love to read, and we all enjoy similar books (mostly), so we decided to start our own little book club. Plus, it gives us an excuse to get together each month and eat food and chat-chat-chat, which is the best part. Aside from the reading. 

Our first two books were blah-to-terrible. We read (well, I think I'm the only one in the group who finished both books... so... yeah... girls-- get reading!!) "An Uncommon Reader" and "Gone Girl". 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book: Inferno by Dan Brown

I made the mistake of reading this article: a parody of Dan Brown's writing style, shortly before reading his newest Robert Langdon adventure, "Inferno". While it couldn't sour my taste for Brown's storytelling, it did point out that he uses some obvious and over-used (almost cliche) writing choices. The point here is, I may have gone into "Inferno" slightly jaded. That may have colored my experience in reading the book. Maybe not, though...


Monday, June 3, 2013

Flaming Passion

My daughter and I just had a funny conversation:

Katie: Mom, what does "flaming passion" mean? 
Me: Where did you hear that? 
K: I didn't hear it. I think I read it. 
Me: Where did you read it? 
K: I don't know. I just know I read it somewhere. 
Me: It's like a really strong feeling of love, affection and attraction. 
K: Hm. I bet they say that in "Twilight", huh? "My heart was filled with flaming passion!" 
Me: Well... sort of, but not in those words. 
K: Are you going to make me read those when I get older? 
Me: (laughing) No. It will be your choice.
K: I bet she says all kinds of things like that in "Twilight". It's probably stupid.

My daughter is nearly 11 years old, and pretty innocent. She only watches pre-approved, clean shows and doesn't read anything written for older people, so I think she's just not remembering. I suspect she heard it on the BYU-TV show "Studio C", used as a joke and without any innuendo, really (in the clip below). She is just smart enough to pick up an unknown phrase and pocket it away for later. Still, I hope this isn't one I hear her use later...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ender's Game

It's been many years since I first read "Ender's Game", which is kind of nice, because I had forgotten nearly everything about it, except the big reveal at the end (how could you forget that?!) This is a book that holds up very well, in spite of it having been published originally in 1977. I loved it as much this time around as I did the first time I read it. Ender is the perfect leading character-- he's lovable, but flawed. He's an unwilling hero, a natural leader and soldier and besides being brilliant, he is very sympathetic. We all know the feelings such as not being as "good" as some might think we are; feelings of shame or discouragement, loneliness and despair. 

The story is exciting, compelling and fascinating. There are many books that I would recommend you read without first reading a synopsis. Just trust me. It's worth your time. This is one such book. The science is believable, the aliens and space battles and technology aren't so far-fetched that the sci-fi-ness takes over the story and distracts you by making you realize that you're reading Science Fiction. Which, as we all know, only nerds do, right? Riiiiiight....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg (and Various Authors)

"The House on Maple Street"
25 years ago Harris Burdick walked into the office of a former children's book illustrator, Peter Wender,  handed him 14 incredible, seemingly unrelated, black-and-white sketches with cryptic titles and captions. Wender loved them. Burdick promised to return the next day with more illustrations and the stories to go with all of them. He was never heard from again. Years later, Wender's children began writing stories to go with the illustrations, and that spread into schools, where teachers assign their students to write stories to accompany the pictures, too. Recently, the pictures were shown to Chris Van Allsburg ("The Polar Express", "Jumanji"), who recruited 13 other well-known authors, including Stephen King, John Scieszka, Louis Sachar, Kate DiCamillo and Lois Lowry (among others) to write stories for the pictures. They are all included in the volume "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness- Brilliance on the Big Screen

I really liked the 2009 Star Trek film, and knowing this was the same cast and director, with the perfect addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, I expected to like Star Trek: Into Darkness just as much. I was not disappointed. I seldom see a movie that I walk out thinking, "I would go see that again." Even when I really like a movie, I very rarely want to go again. But this one? Yep. I would go again. It was that good.
From Empire Online
I am also unusually being tempted to write SPOILERS online about the movie!! Which I try to never do. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Alacatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians

I love reading anything by Brandon Sanderson. His talent for creating fantasy worlds and
unique and never-before heard of magical abilities is unparalleled. I'm continually amazed-- every book series of his is completely different than anything else I've ever read-- just fantastic. I think he's quickly become my favorite author. 

His first youth fiction book, "Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians" is a quick, funny read, packed full of adventure and glib, self-aware narration, and the witty, layered remarks from the cheeky title character keep it moving along at a good pace. 13-year old Alcatraz begins by warning the reader that he is not really a very nice person, then launches into the first story of his adventures battling the evil librarians, who have been secretly enslaving us "Hushlanders" and teaching us false history, science and geography.

Being a librarian myself, I found the premise of a world controlled by secretly evil librarians (the "Hushlands") hilarious and intriguing. I knew I had to read this book. Of course, the evil women librarians are all horn-rimmed glasses-and-bun-wearing women who prefer things (especially books) to be in order and to "avoid making an incident".

There are some very funny sideways references to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Harry Potter" (in a scathing and very funny exchange between Alcatraz and his grandfather in the last scene) and other other works of fiction-- little, hidden Easter eggs for fantasy/sci-fi fans. I laughed out loud at those. Alcatraz also lampoons authors, reading, literature, and readers of fantasy with his snarky commentary. 

I also enjoyed that the heroes' names are all names of prisons: Alcatraz, Leavenworth, Sing-Sing,  Bastille and Quentin. And I thought the talking, harmless dinosaurs was genius.

The very best thing about the book, though, is the first of two surprising "magic" systems. The second (Occulation- the use of special lenses for specific purposes by special people called Occulators) isn't really fully understood in this book-- I can only assume books 2-4 will address them both in more detail. The first magic is very amusing and completely unexpected. The talents of the leading good guys are things such as "the ability to fall down" or "always arriving late" or, in Alcatraz's case, "breaking things". This may not sound like much, but the way the characters use these talents is brilliant and unique.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books. Sanderson wrote on his blog that this was intended to be a 5-book series, but as of today, only 4 have been published, so it will be interesting to see whether it's wrapped up in 4, or left hanging. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

"Dad is Fat" is a funny book written by a very funny man. If you've never heard Gaffigan's standup comedy
routines, you need to check out "Beyond the Pale" or "Mr. Universe" or "King Baby". Great stuff. His Hot Pockets and cake stuff is hilarious.

So now he's written a book about fatherhood. Gaffigan and his wife, Jeannie, live in a 2-bedroom walk-up apartment in New York City with their five (5!) kids, all ages 8 and younger. They have all sorts of misadventures-- trips to the park, subway rides to preschool, cab rides to various other activities, bedtime shuffling routines, insane vacations and weekly Catholic church attendance, just to name a few. He touches on a variety of areas of parenthood and adulthood, on the struggles of raising a family in New York, on his own childhood as the youngest of six kids, and things like taking his brood "camping" in a tour bus, plus so much more. The book is varied and chapters are short, so it's easy, light reading, but still compelling enough that I found myself drawn back to it.

I liked this book a lot, it was funny enough that I laughed out loud quite a few times. There's a lot of typical Gaffigan-style self-deprecating commentary and a lot of crazy scenarios he and his family get into (I can only imagine living the way they do-- no yard, no car, downstairs neighbors... I shudder...) and it's all very entertaining.

The best thing about the book is how much of it is filled with genuine affection for and appreciation of his wife, Jeannie. She sounds like a saint. His praise and adoration of her is sweet and endearing, but in no way takes away from the humor of the book.

It's a fun read, perfect for summer.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: Gone Girl

This book gave me headaches. For four days. Headaches. And made me feel a little nauseous.

Why did I finish it?

I don't know the answer. 

In my defense, the mystery is compelling, and though the characters aren't remotely likeable, they are fascinating in the way road kill is fascinating. But... ugh.

You can read a full synopsis of the story here, I don't want to rehash it. Suffice it to say that the main character, Nick Dunne is accused of murdering his wife, Amy, but things aren't all what they seem to be. 

I appreciated the setup, the trading points-of-view, from Nick's first person to Amy's diary entries for the first half of the book, and I appreciated the half-expected, but still interesting twist right in the middle, but, again, I didn't like any of the characters.

And the foul language and lewd, nasty sexual chatter is just... beyond disgusting. 

Normally I put down a book with this much f-word in it. 

Why didn't I put it down?

And everyone in the book talks this way-- vulgar and curse-laden, as though everyone living in Nick and Amy's world are junior high boys in a locker room. Junior high boys who have only recently discovered the inner thrill of talking like gutter trash. 

Someone, please inform Gillian Flynn that:
  1. Profuse swearing does not improve a story. Nor does it make you a better writer. If anything, it's a cheap, low, easy way to inject "passion" into dialogue-- expletives instead of expression or intelligence. Not pleasant.
  2. Filling a book with sexual vulgarity does not make you a better writer. You are not a 13 year old, dirty-minded little boy. Don't assume that you will sell more books by pretending you are.
  3. Most people living in America don't talk like we lick dumpsters for kicks, so writing ALL your characters that way doesn't make us want to read more of your books. Although, judging from the number of reviewers who didn't even comment on the vulgar dialogue, maybe more of America licks dumpsters for fun that I think... I don't know anyone who talks like these people do.
Ugh. I should have put it down. I feel like I need a shower, now. And that's only partly because of the trashy language-- the end of the story left me feeling sullied and disgusted. And dissatisfied. It was a weak, non-ending that, frankly, made no sense.

I won't read any more of her books. 

Ever.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Summer-to-Christmas Movie Season 2013

Can you feel it in the air? The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the blossoms are... blossoming, school is almost out... that can only mean one thing! Time to go to the movies!! Summer movie season seems to start earlier and earlier. And even though there is usually a cinematic lull in the fall, we have some wonderful shows to look forward to at Christmas this year, too!

Movie season 2013 kicked off last weekend with "Iron Man 3" (or, arguably with "Oblivion", back in April) and continues at top speed for a few weeks.There are an inordinate number of superhero sequels and dystopian worlds-end stories, along with a handful of unique, stand-alone features to look forward to. 

Here is just a sampling of what's coming up next:

Next weekend, on May 17th, the much-anticipated sequel to 2009's "Star Trek" opens: "Star Trek Into Darkness". I'm super-duper-geeking-out excited about this, as one of my favorite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch of BBC's Sherlock (which is my favorite TV show), is playing the villain. I really enjoyed the 2009 movie, too, so I'll be getting tickets to see this on opening weekend!

Will Smith's presence in summer seems like a tradition, hearkening all the way back to "Independence Day" from July of 1996, and including the "Men In Black" franchise and "I, Robot" and many others. So it comes as no surprise that he'll have a big sci-fi adventure this year with "After Earth" on May 31st. His son, Jayden, gets second billing, and it's directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Not sure what to think of that... Jayden gave a mediocre performance in 2010's "Karate Kid" re-imagining, and Shyamalan hasn't had a hit in many years, but maybe this will be a pleasant surprise. And I'll see almost anything with Will Smith...

"Now You See Me" is a heist thriller, where a group of illusionists commit heists during performances, giving the money to their audiences. This movie looks so good, I'm actually as excited about it as I am about any of the superhero films coming this year. If nothing else, it's one of the better trailers I've seen this year. And who doesn't love Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman? Plus Jesse Eisenberg, who is very good at the fast-talking smarter-than-everyone character rounds out a promising cast. This one comes out on May 31st.

On June 14, "Man of Steel" resets the Superman story, with a new version of the caped hero's origin story, starring Henry Cavill. The trailers look enticing-- hopefully this will be one the whole family can enjoy. Superman has always been such a great role model of truth, justice and doing the right thing.

June 21st has two movies opening, one for kids and one for... not kids: "Monsters University", the sequel to the beloved "Monsters, Inc." and the literal zombie-apocalypse horror/thriller "World War Z", starring Brad Pitt. You'll probably find me with the kiddos and not the zombies... Sorry, Brad.

In spite of concerns over racial insensitivity, Johnny Depp as Tonto in the July 5th's "The Lone Ranger" doesn't seem any more over the top than any other Depp character, and Armie Hammer appears to fit the big, white hat and the mask of the title character. I suppose the quality and potential offensiveness will remain to be seen, but it looks like a fun western adventure.


Also on July 5th, the sequel to 2010's "Despicable Me", simple titled "Despicable Me 2" hits theaters, and I'm sure it will be filled with more of Steve Carrel's signature shtick and the goofy minions that we all loved in the first movie.

Hugh Jackman returns as the title character on July 26th as "The Wolverine". Apparently a sequel to the 2009 film, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", it takes the title character to Japan to encounter an old enemy. So many superheros, so little time...

I wouldn't mention "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" except that geek favorite Nathan Fillion surprised me by appearing in the trailer-- he's playing the god Hermes. I will probably see it just for him.

On November 1, I will be right there with all you other geeks, nerds and wanna-be's standing in line to see "Ender's Game". This is one of the most beloved sci-fi books of all time, and if you haven't read it, do so before you see the movie. I don't know whether they will slaughter the story or stay true to it, but the end is one of the best twists ever, and even if you see it coming, it's better to read it yourself than to have it spoiled online or onscreen. Seriously. Read it.


One week later, on November 8th, the hunky Chris Hemsworth returns as the title character in "Thor: Dark World". 'Nuff said.

And on the 22nd of November, Chris' brother, Liam Hemsworth, returns with the great Jennifer Lawrence and the adorable Josh Hutcherson in the second "Hunger Games" movie "Catching Fire". Fans of the books will show up in droves. Others? Maybe not so much. 

Probably THE most anticipated film of the year arrives on December 13th, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" starring the great Martin Freeman (I also love him-- he plays John Watson on the aforementioned "Sherlock"). You and I both will be in line for this one, right? 

It's looking like one of the best years in superhero and sequel history. Hopefully there will be more great films than duds this year.

What did I miss? This is a VERY condensed list of films I'm excited about, but what would you have included on this list? 


All images used are from IMDB.com.