From last Wednesday. Bunch of new people, only a few I’d seen before. As in the past, Julia Marshall’s “Sublime” was the best song of the night.
From last Wednesday. Bunch of new people, only a few I’d seen before. As in the past, Julia Marshall’s “Sublime” was the best song of the night.
The fact she understood a James Bond reference means she’s a keeper.
In this present tense story—I can still hear Harlan Ellison in my mind grousing, “I LOATHE present tense stories!”—a naïve redheaded bank teller in Brooklyn steals the check of a man who was just run over on the street, over a million bucks. For around half the story it’s about her guilt, but then things turn much more sinister as she’s threatened by gangsters and then kidnapped into white slavery.
The best thing here is the characters, especially the teller and the white knight detective she improbably pairs with to settle things. It isn’t till near the end that we learn who the true antagonist is, and then there’s a psychological tug-of-war to see who comes out on top, with the lead changing hands often. Perhaps a little too much plot there, but overall a satisfying conclusion.
Woman Without Fear
A neurotic self-conscious woman is drinking in a bar the night before her big software presentation when a very confident chemist wants to try his experimental happy pills on her. Also a present tense story, though not first person, because you need to get the snail’s point of view. . . yep, you read that right; I learned a lot more about snails than I ever expected to, or wanted.
At around the halfway mark I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen: would she become addicted, or were they placebos? The fact that I was invested enough to speculate tells me how much I was enjoying this.
Despite her crippling anxiety and her love for snails the protagonist comes off as very likable, especially when she strikes up a friendship with the hotel maid, though I think the only reason this is part of the story is so the maid can take a pill and show it works for her too. But the writing style and setting—you never really leave the hotel—were a little below what I desire, though I would have still happily given this a 4. . .
Except for the ending: it’s incredibly ambiguous, and in conjunction with the relative shortness of pages makes me think the story was cut in half, thus setting up a sequel. There were many possibilities as to what really happened, which is fine for a next-to-last chapter, but readers expect the story to be neatly tied up at the end. I felt cheated, and will probably not be reading the sequel; this drops my grade to
Character Kings 2: Hollywood’s Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting
This is basically a series of interviews with a few of what are called “character” actors, those whose name you don’t know but as soon as you see their photo you think, “Hey, it’s that guy from that thing!” (BTW, I saw a documentary on Netflix with that title on the same subject, but there was no overlap in the actors chosen; perhaps they were in Character Kings 1, which I have not read.)
Though there’s plenty of great acting and Hollywood notes, I did get tired of the author asking the same questions over and over. It mostly consisted of “How did you get started in acting?” and “How did you get that movie?” which showed a lot of times it’s more about who you know than how good you are. I was surprised by how many different answers there were to “How do you audition?” with some being contradictory to the previous, but then I suppose you have to go with what works for you. There are tons of photos—how much does each photo weigh?—as well as a selected filmography, though it mostly consists of the films discussed, leaving off some I would have liked to have seen included.
We Don’t Need Roads
While I’m not a fan of Back to the Future the way I am, say, of Star Wars or Twin Peaks—since I’ve reviewed similar books here—I liked it well enough to give this a try. On the other hand, because I haven’t seen them over and over, there’s too many things I don’t remember, but that’s not the book’s fault. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge amongst the fandom, for example, that another actor shot about half of the movie before it was decided he wasn’t working out and was replaced by Mr. Fox. Probably even less known is the accident while filming a hoverboard sequence, which nearly cost a stuntwoman her life, but then it’s said that the studio tried to cover it up.
There’s plenty of photos here, but the best part is the interviews, especially Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, who according to this doesn’t do much publicity. Of particular note is the times Spielberg would go to the studio hierarchy to fight for something he believed in, not knowing the movie had an almost-blank check. Definitely a lot of fun even if you’re not a fan of the series.
AKA Marcus Valerius Martialis, AD40-104. (Old for a poet, especially a Roman.)
You are a stool pigeon and
A slanderer, a pimp and,
A cheat, a pederast, and
A troublemaker. I can’t
Understand, Vacerra, why
You don’t have more money.
You sold a slave just yesterday
for 1200 sesterces, Cal;
at last the lavish dinner you’ve
long dreamed about is in the pan.
Tonight! Fresh mullet, four full pounds!
You know I’ll not complain, old pal,
about the food. But that’s no fish
we’ll eat tonight; that was a man.
“The only thing that would make this kiss better is if you promised me you don’t have cooties.”
That’s why they call me the Romance Ninja. . .
I don’t think anyone would have thought this series would continue from where the last left off, with one of the leads in jail. But rather than painting herself into a corner, Ms. Sokoloff had a plan, no doubt thanks to diligent research into California law.
So there are more killings while Cara is in jail; is it a copycat, or a devious plan to make her look innocent? Considering the attitude of her defense attorney, I certainly thought the latter was happening. But once Cara is set free she’s back to her old tricks, and Roarke and his gang are on her trail again, as well as that of the other killer.
I admit to a little surprise at the Singh/Epps hookup, since throughout the last book and this one we see him getting angrier and angrier, which you wouldn’t think would be an attraction to a brainiac like Singh. I’m sure he treats her well, just wondering what she saw in him the first time.
Basically if you read the first two and liked them, you’ll like this one just as much, possibly more. There are some fascinating psychological insights; when I reviewed the previous books in the series I made a point of comparing them to Criminal Minds, and this one even more so, with multiple killers this time. And though San Fran is still the main locus, in this one there are trips to the East Bay and Santa Cruz, which brought back a lot of memories for me.
Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets
As one would expect, the title had nothing to do with anything in this short-story collection, though there’s plenty of what might be called science-fiction here: in the first story an alien posing as a Latvian restaurateur falls in love with a college pro-life activist; later there’s a world in danger of global cooling; another deals with the resurrection of millions. But I’m thinking this tome falls into the “literary” category, mostly because a majority of these stories do not have what would be considered endings, or a better word for it is conclusions. So if you like having everything wrapped up at the end, avoid this. The story ideas themselves are the most powerful, and the writing is well-done, but there isn’t much plot or character development—remember, short stories—here.
Joss Whedon’s Names
This book has an incredibly long subtitle, mentioning every film and TV series—and whatever Dr. Horrible falls under—Joss Whedon has done, which seems a little silly. This writer’s previous works deal with Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, and Sherlock, so she’s definitely a genre writer, and in her blurb it says she used to teach college.
This wasn’t what I was expecting, and unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant surprise. Came into this hoping for some insight as to why Joss chose these names, rather than just the meanings, something you can find in any baby book on the internet. There were valiant attempts to link the name origins to the characters, but it was all guesswork; maybe Joss simply liked the name or chose it because that was what his best friend as a kid was called. Since it is nothing but guesswork, there’s absolutely no insight, nothing new to be learned here. Ultimately a disappointment.
Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery
Okay, this requires an explanation from the 46-year-old guy, right? Well, I couldn’t read any new Hardy Boys because I did all that as a kid. I’d read some Nancy at the same time, but as a five-year-old boy it was much harder to relate. So why now? No particular reason other than needing a silly escape after trying to soldier through a book on why teens and twenties don’t want to go into politics, and ultimately giving up on it.
I have to say, Nancy’s been hit on the head so much that I wonder why she’s not a redhead, with all the blood. And can still walk, considering she’s had more concussions than a helmetless football player.
So as to this particular tome, there wasn’t anything all that special about it. Having devoured this type of story as a kid, it was easy to figure out the guardians weren’t whom they claimed to be. As always Nancy is nice to everyone and can’t conceive of anyone being mean unless they’re a bad guy; not even one shade of grey here. But considering I read the whole thing in less than an hour, in which time I didn’t think of anything else, it did its job of escaping me from the real world.
Lady Izumi Sihkibu (Japan, c. 970-1030)
With not a thought
for my black hair’s disarray,
I lay myself down
soon longing for the one whose hands
have so often brushed it smooth.
Better do this before it’s time for the 2015 list. . .
Because this is only network shows, I can’t include Anna Silk, Emmanuelle Vauger, and Rachel Skarsen from Lost Girl and Rachel Nichols from Continuum, but they woulda made the list if it was so inclusive.
15 Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
My fave character from JAG, her beauty still shines.
14 Madeline Stowe—Revenge
She must have a portrait in the attic. . .
13 Rachel Bilson—Hart of Dixie
I don’t doubt she’d be higher on the list if, like any sensible doctor, she didn’t wear five-inch heels.
12 Aisha Tyler—Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Nothing sexier than a sense of humor.
11 Stana Katic—Castle
She’d be higher if it wasn’t for the blondage that distracts from those gorgeous eyes.
10 Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
I think she’s far more attractive when she goes for cute rather than glam.
9 A.J. Cook—Criminal Minds
Another lady who doesn’t seem to age.
8 Jill Wagner—Wipeout
She’s funny enough to be on Whose Line.
7 Amy Acker—Person of Interest
From the cuteness that was Fred to the sheer bad-girl gorgeousness that is Root.
6 Molly Quinn—Castle
Amazing to look back at the Castle pilot and see how much she’s grown.
5 Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Gorgeous and goofy; a deadly combination.
4 Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
So beautiful and so funny; another deadly combination.
3 Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
It took two of my all-time faves returning to TV to finally knock her from the top spot. Can’t really think of anything I haven’t already said about her wonderfulness.
2 Alana De La Garza—Forever
Amazing that from the first moment I saw her so long ago she hasn’t changed a bit.
1 Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
There are no words. . .
Had Galavant debuted one week earlier Karen David would be on this list; as it is, she’s definitely on the 2015 edition.
I’m gonna live forever. . . dammit, jinxed it.
How to Act Like a Grown-Up
The title says it all: short chapters dealing with the behavior that should be exhibited in situations as diverse as stores, cell phones, driving, Facebook, interviews, sex, voting, watching movies. Not only are the chapters short, the entire book is too, with certain passages repeated in large print, so it’s over pretty quickly. And why is the accompanying graphic a woman’s shoe?
I have no complaints about the text or the ideas. This is a well-written and meaningful book for our times, though it is sad to realize how much it is needed. Yet it’s for that very same reason that I doubt it will do much good. The author writes, “It’s no insult to find out you’ve been wrong. It stinks, but try to be happier that you learned the truth instead of bummed out that you were wrong.” This is the most important passage, because it personifies the hopelessly optimistic tone of this book. Everything is well said, and most people would benefit from reading it. . . but the problem is most people won’t read it because they don’t think they need it, and those who do read it will never admit any of this applies to them. The entire time I was reading I felt like this was all great, but no one is going to follow this advice. And that made me sad. . .
3.5 pushed up to 4/5
Whereas a few years ago Sweden became a hub for mysteries translated to English, now it’s Germany’s turn; this is the fifth or sixth I’ve read in the past year. The premise is simple: man finds photo, has daddy issues, piques a journalist’s curiosity. But of course things are never that simple, especially because there’s another narrative going on, taking place during World War 2.
For a while the journalist is the protagonist, but when she’s killed this turns from a history mystery to a murder mystery. The new lead is a small town cop derisively described as a “small-town sheriff” who talks to cats. Oh boy. . .
This could have easily been two separate stories, but thankfully they tied together very well. The last twist did indeed surprise me; nothing told me it was coming. And the killing of the journalist turned out to be. . . probably not a spoiler, but why take the chance?
Altogether a well-written book; setting and plot in particular stand out. The one place that could have been improved was the dialogue in helping to set each character apart, especially in the historical storyline; there’s a character guide in the beginning, but I was hoping not to have to refer to it as often as I did.
Admitting I read this rom-com is seriously gonna cut into my macho cred. . . oh, waitaminute, I don’t have any! Never mind, as you were.
Like a confection, I enjoyed this book in two large bites. The best way to describe Max, the main character, is to say that if I had met her in real life I would have turned around and run away as fast as possible. And kept on running. Reading about her is much safer, though I still cringed a few times at how she lets her anger, ego, and stubbornness rule her decision-making, mostly to hide her insecurities and her past.
She starts off as a bartender—when all the alcoholic description popped up I let out a little groan—but conversely this made it easier to accept all the food stuff—no pun—when she gets a job managing a famous pastry chef’s operation. Okay, I’d probably try the pretzel and potato chip brownie, but that’s it. Everyone has her jumping through hoops, but for once she wants something bad enough to keep her mouth shut and work to achieve it.
The other plot is the romance, with a guy whom she at first can’t stand—of course, wouldn’t be a rom-com without that. Other than the reveal of who the “competition” was at the end—saw it coming from the moment she arrived—it was a fun ride, and I figure it’s extra good because I didn’t care for all the food stuff—again, sorry—yet still loved it. I’m going to give Rachel Hollis a big compliment, or rather two, by comparing her to a couple of my favorite authors, Caprice Crane—though not to her level of snark—and Meg Benjamin.
Fifteen Minutes to Live
The title is misleading, but in a good way, writing-wise; in the reality of the story it’s just as sad.
If you’ve seen the movie “Memento” you know what’s at play here; interestingly, this book came out before the movie, but I’m not sure about story on which the movie was based. In this one it’s a woman who’s suffering from the inability to make new memories, plus she can’t remember anything after high school, which is why she runs off to the guy who was her boyfriend at the time.
There are several subplots that play into her illness, the most important one having to do with a predator teacher. There were parts that left me confused, as confused as the characters; most of it was okay, but it really left me gasping for comprehension at the end until it was explained, but my point is I shouldn’t have needed the explanation. This drops the score from 4 to 3.
The characterization of her illness is well done, at least I would imagine it is without researching the subject. There were many disparate characters, most of which were well-written. And it was kinda fun for me to read a story that basically took place in my backyard, not just Southern California but the Pasadena/Glendale area.
Though I was annoyed to find this is actually from 1998; President Clinton and Daryl Strawberry are mentioned.
The Amazing Journey
Like a lot of kids, Austin goes on a long vacation before starting college; unlike them, he goes with his father. A trip through Hawaii, Korea, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, London, and Paris makes up this book.
As always, it’s the small touches that sell a travel memoir. I had a good laugh at the obsequiousness of the Chinese tour guide, and mentioning, “This is Mr. Wong. He will be our driver. He is one of the very best.” Yeah, they do that a lot in China, and though I didn’t enjoy my trips there, this was a great moment. Particularly liked his description of the base camp of Everest, seeing the giant mountain without its usual clouds; been there, both literally and physically. What made that section difficult to read was the knowledge that the poverty of the area just got worse, considering the giant earthquake last week.
Always reminded of the diversity of views when I found myself thinking the opposite to his remarks about London and Paris, especially about wandering in each city and its museums. It would have helped if someone told him there was a back door to the Louvre, but he found another way.
What was intriguing was his mention of a few incidents like his eye-stare with a Chinese soldier and his defense of a poor horse, which gave off more of a “look at me, I’m such a good person!” vibe. His son also exhibited a dangerous amount of ego in not telling about his illness, but I suppose in a way that simply makes them more human in the reader’s eyes.
a photojournalist's snapshots of life here, there and everywhere
★★★ COSTUME DESIGN ★★★
Romance on Wry
A little BIT OF THE EVERY DAY............A good writer is basically a story teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind. - Isaac Bashevis Singer
Transportation News & Views
Romancing the planet; a love affair with travel.
life in the South African bush, through the eyes of an American city girl