Top 16 Books of 2016

Yes, I usually do 15, but couldn’t cut it down.
Only a slight blurb here, but I’ve reviewed them all, so throw the title in the search box to the right and have fun.

Red Flags
Fourth in a series, first for me, featuring a female race car driver solving her cousin’s murder at the Long Beach Grand Prix. The description of running a car at over 200mph at Fontana race track is exhilarating.

Unicorn vr. Goblins
Came out just as I discovered this comic strip, which is the only one I read every morning. A self-described “weird” little girl named Phoebe makes friends with a unicorn titled Marigold Heavenly Nostrils; hilarity ensues. Goblins show up too.

Man, I Hate Cursive
Mostly simple self-contained jokes, like “the Far Side.” Sometimes corny but always fun.

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn
Continuing adventures of Phoebe and her Unicorn, as described above. Always hoping for another appearance of Todd the Candy Dragon.

Motions and Moments
Third in a series full of essays featuring an American living in Tokyo. This guy notices more stuff than Sherlock Holmes.

Dark Crimes
The best of a giant spate of detective series coming out of England. Sophie is easily my favorite police detective ever.

When Crocs Fly
Pearls Before Swine is one of the comic strips I lost touch with when my morning routine got truncated, so it was fun to revisit this in book form. Do not read if you are at all allergic to puns.

The Only Pirate At The Party
Anyone who reads this space knows I’m a huge Lindsey Stirling fan—just look at the photo at the top—but I can guarantee that had I never heard of her this book, her autobiography, would still be on this list as an amazing accomplishment. Read it for laughs, for commiseration—especially if you’ve ever suffered through an eating disorder—for the feeling of good triumphing over evil, or any other way. It’s just fun.

Wynonna Earp
You don’t need to see the cable series—I certainly didn’t—to enjoy what might very well be the best graphic novel of the year, in which a descendant of the famous lawman fights evil both human and not, and looks great doing it.

Spaceman
Dr. Mike Massimino is more famous for making fun of Howard on The Big Bang Theory than for actually going into space, but hopefully that will change as there’s more awareness of this incredibly accessible autobiography. Since a lot of people treat astronauts like superheroes—and who’s to say they aren’t?—this book goes a long way into proving they’re just like you and me too.

Baba Yaga
The Russian legend used to scare children into behaving gets a beautiful treatment, with a witty heroine drawn so cute you’ll want to adopt her.

Photographs From the Edge
Art Wolfe is the consummate nature photographer, and in this book spanning his decades in the business he proves it once again. The first photo, of the arctic fox, is stunning, and a fitting opening for what you can expect after that.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
The other contender for graphic novel of the year, this story from the “reimagined” version showcases Uhura as well as some new cadets, most of whom are enjoyable to get to know, even the taciturn Vulcan who unfreezes after a while; it helps that she’s got gorgeous green eyes. . .

You Had ONE Job!
A collection of photos that shows Americans not taking their jobs seriously enough to avoid even the simplest of bloopers. Nothing you can’t find on the internet, but packaged here in one place without having to do those stupid slideshows used to show off more commercials.

City of Blood
Police force in Paris look into a time-capsule-type murder, which escalates into a hunt for a serial killer. Unlike most books and especially TV shows, it doesn’t take an hour or even a few days to solve; forensics, autopsy, and interviewing all need time, and it’s given here. Also helps that the lead is completely professional—despite a family illness—rather than dour or suffering an existential crisis.

Fowl Language
A collection from a comic strip about an anthropomorphized family of ducks, with the father having trouble raising the kiddies, or ducklings. The LOL per page ratio is pretty high, as a lot of these get more than just a smile or a chuckle.

;o)

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15 Fave TV Actresses of 2015

Unlike previous years, I’m not going to bother ranking them. And as usual this is only broadcast TV; no cable allowed.
This list is apparently brought to you by the number K.

Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
Karen David—Galivant
Krista Allen—Significant Mother
Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
Kirsten Kreuk—Beauty and the Beast
Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Alana De La Garza—Forever & Scorpion
Jaimie Alexander—Blindspot
Molly Quinn—Castle
Melissa Benoist—Supergirl
Jennifer Carpenter—Limitless
Darby Stanchfield—Scandal
Rachel Skarsen—Reign

First 5 almost in
Bellamy Young—Scandal
Adelaide Kane—Reign
AJ Cook—Criminal Minds
Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
Rachel Bloom—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

;o)

15 Fave Books of 2015

It’s possible for a movie critic to see every movie released, though I couldn’t imagine doing it. It’s be a lot harder for a TV critic to see everything that came out this year, though probably not impossible. But there’s no way for someone to read every book or listen to every song released.
My point is this list isn’t the best books of the year; this is simply my favorite books of the 220 or so I got to peruse this year. And to make things so much easier for me, I won’t do them in any kind of order. . . um, they might be chronological, but not from best to worse or vice versa.

Included are links to my reviews as well as the author’s website.

AlphaStephen Brayton
Female private eye in Iowa martial arts her way through
the bad guys.

Random ElementsKate Donovan
Actress/wannabe FBI agent deals with stalkers, costars, and Machiavellian series creator.

Sweet GirlRachel Hollis
She’s sweet because of the food she makes, not her disposition, but one guy tries to change that.

Cold MoonAlexandra Sokoloff
FBI agent and vigilante serial killer square off for the third time.

InsiderOlivia Cunning
Young journalist goes backstage with metal band; love somehow ensues.

Investigating SherlockNikki Stafford
Everything you wanted to know about the show, just in time for the one-off.

Citizen of the Galaxy–Robert Heinlein
One of the famous author’s sci-fi classics done as an excellent graphic novel.

I am Sophie Tucker–“Sophie Tucker
You may not have heard of this over-the-top actress from the past, but after this you’ll never forget her.

Worrier’s Guide to LifeGemma Correll
All your worries laid out in graphic form so you can laugh at them, and yourself.

History of War in 100 Battles–Richard Overy
Excellent synopses of exactly what the title says.

Secret Kindness AgentsFerial Pearson
Teens learn to be nice rather than cynical; this one will warm your heart.
(bonus—her TED talk)

The Customer Service RevolutionJohn R. DiJulius
Why it pays to be nice to your customers.

Wrapped in PlasticAndy Burns
Just in time for the Twin Peaks reboot.

Jem and the HologramsKelly Thompson
Everything a graphic novel should be: fun!

The Silver ShipsScott Jucha
This first contact story is the best sci-fi of the year!

 

Almost there. . . if this was a top 20. . .

Beauty and Chaos/Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens–Michael Pronko
Pointed articles on all the little things that make Tokyo so fascinating.

Summer of FireKitty Pilgrim
A tour of Europe while trying to hunt down a killer (or just stay alive).

Field Marshall–Daniel Allen Butler
Definitive biography of the one and only Desert Fox.

The Future of SexLexi Maxxwell
If this is indeed the future of sex, it’s in good. . . hands.

;o)

Top 15 Fave Actresses of 2014

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.

;o)

Top 15 Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler songs

In keeping with the weirdest top lists I can possibly come up with, and in honor of buying my ticket to see Mark Knopfler in concert this summer, here’s my list of favorite songs from both his solo and Dire Straits days.

15 Sons of Scotland (Shot at Glory)
Who else could make Scottish soccer interesting? (Don’t answer that!)

14 Your Latest Trick
That amazing sax sells it. . .

13 Skateaway
I can picture Rollergirl so well. . .

12 Going Home (Local Hero)
Hardly anyone remembers this movie for anything but this song. . .

11 Private Investigations
Film noir music. . . I think that genre–if there are enough examples to call it a genre–was invented here.

10 Portobello Belle
I think I saw this girl at the famous market once. . .

9 Boom Like That
If you hate McDonald’s, this is the song for you.

8 Once Upon a Time–Storybook Love (Princess Bride)
You love the movie, you love the song. . . now you know who does it.

7 Sultans of Swing
“When he gets up under the lights to play his thing. . .”

6 Romeo and Juliet
Make sure you get the fingersnaps in the right place.

5 Brothers in Arms
Ah, that guitar outro. . .

4 Silvertown Blues
This is how all songs should be crafted. . .

3 Telegraph Road
14 minutes of sheer awesome

2 Tunnel of Love
When’s the last time a guitar solo broke your heart?

1 Sailing to Philadelphia
Even without James Taylor this song would be the most amazing tune ever. . .

;o)

Top 15 Favorite TV Shows, 2014 Edition

You know the rules: network TV only, no cable or Netflix, though I will mention a few of those at the end.

15. NCIS: New Orleans
Not a Bakula fan, but love Zoe McClellan since her time on JAG. There’s an easygoing Suthin’ charm to the show, which is to be expected in N’awlins, I guess.

14. Bad Judge
It’s awesome seeing the always cool and collected Kate Walsh be such an utter goofball.

13. Hart of Dixie
This show has only gotten better with the more frequent appearances of Kaitlyn Black, by the far the best character on the show.

12. CSI
Having been rejuvenated by Shue and Danson, it almost feels like the early years, though better. Perhaps that’s due to Jorja Fox coming back.

11. Rookie Blue
As long as Missy Peregrym keeps bringing it, I’ll keep watching it.

10. Criminal Minds
Not nearly the same since Paget left, but still fascinating in its delvings into the psychopathic mind.

9. NCIS
Another show rejuvenated by a new cast member. Nothing against Ziva, but the new girl has so much more personality, and since she’s married we don’t get Tony being his usual annoying self hitting on her all the time. (Don’t worry, he’s still annoying in other ways, especially with McGee.)

8. Wipeout
There’s nothing left to say, only enjoy: the wipeouts, the snark, Jill in such tight jeans they look to be borrowed from her 12-year-old sister. . .

7. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
Have to admit to a bit of disappointment here with the plotting and the pace, but watching Coleson and May will never not be fun. Skye isn’t as wonderful as she usta be, though. . .

6. Big Bang Theory
Another one that just keeps rolling along, doing what it does best, which is making me laugh at people even geekier than me. . .

5. NCIS:LA
Never thought I would have it this low, but ever since that horrible plot used to cover Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy–sending Kensi to Afghanistan to snipe her former fiancé–it’s been tough to get back into. Still one of the best shows around, though.

4. Forever
Even in the show they had to mention Alana DeLaGarza’s cheekbones. Beyond that, the leads have the kind of chemistry all TV pairings wish they had and only Castle has achieved lately. Though I do wonder if Henry’s killed in Brooklyn or the other side of Manhattan if he’ll be reborn in another body of water. . .

3. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Aisha Tyler is more fun than Drew Carey. Miss some of the guys from the previous shows, but the new ones are just as good, and once in a while the celeb guests really hit it out of the park.

2. Castle
Far from going downhill with them getting married, this show just keeps chugging delightfully along. The western was my fave epi since the second season.

1. State of Affairs
You all know by now I love Katherine Heigl, but this show would be almost as spectacular without her. It’s quite obvious their consultants and writers know their stuff, and I am frequently impressed by the variety of plots they conjure up. That being said, I’ve got a few story ideas floating in the noggin, if they ever need them. . .

On Netflix
Warehouse 13
This is what happens when creative people make a show where anything goes; they frequently go anywhere and everywhere, in a good way.

Continuum
Always liked Rachel Nichols, but this shows just how well she can act. At times the story is fascinating, at others tough to follow–changing to a different timeline, for example–she grounds the story with her fish-out-of-water attempt to get back to her time and family.

Lost Girl
Possibly the first nice succubus in history. The snark flies at full speed between her, wolf boy, 2 female humans, a no-longer king, and various other powerful creatures, now including a gorgeous blonde Valkyrie. . . but aren’t they all blonde?

Hinterland
Mostly gritty, sometimes weird, detective show set in Wales. The main character could be a little more. . . human, and I’m so tired of seeing damaged cops on TV–and hope to never see them in person–but some of the stuff here is as fascinating as Criminal Minds.

Mythbusters
Where else can you go to get your myths busted? Even the narrator is hilarious as they take the experiments to their logical conclusions. . . and then well beyond. Hope Grant’s leg has healed from when the karma hammer smacked him. . .

The Wall
As hard as it is to watch Gillian Anderson as anyone but Scully–the blonde hair helps–she’s amazing as an incredibly cold-hearted detective on the hunt for a serial killer in Northern Ireland, played by the guy who’s gonna be the lead in 50 Shades, I’m told. . .

;o)

Top 15 outings of 2013

Was talking to a violinist who told me the last time he’d played Summer from the Four Seasons, he’d been going so hard he lost control of the bow and hit a percussionist twenty feet behind him right between the eyes.
“There there,” his wife soothed. “It was just a percussionist. . .”

15        Oct 5   Burning Man Decompression
Woulda been higher if not for the allergy attack, but awesome because I finally—yes, finally!—got to shoot my buddy Christiane in conditions that didn’t cover her face or had the sun behind her or anything.

14        Apr 3   UCLA Beach Volleyball
Never cared much for my favorite sport on the sand—with just two players—but seeing ladies I’ve been rooting for made it a whole lot better.

13        Mar 14 2 Broke Girls at Paley
Getting to see the upcoming episode a few days early was cool, but finding out how witty Kat—well, the entire cast, really—was had to be the highlight.

12        Aug 27            Caprice/Missy Peregrym
I love Caprice Crane’s books enough to put up with her idiosyncrasies at her signings, but every time has been with the faint hope that her buddy Missy—who plays Andi on rookie Blue—might show up, and she finally did. . .

11        Oct 12 NCIS: LA convention
Well, not exactly a convention, but certainly a get-together of fans flying in all the way from Germany, with plenty of people from the show and even officially recognized by the network, with their PR people in attendance. One of the actors even showed up. . .

10        May 4  UCLA Archaeology open house
Even without Dr. Cooney giving the lecture—she had to give way for a British lord—it was mostly, though not thoroughly, fun herding Christiane’s kids around.

9          Feb 10 What is art? Paulina Logan and Vixen
Loved Vixen’s fire act and Paulina’s Lovely so much I went twice. . . though the second time was also to take photos, and included a UCLA gymnastics meet beforehand. {Two links}

8          Sept 21 Marina V house concert
A house concert at the musician’s house—that’s new, right?

7          Dec 24 Stomp
The Percussionist’s Wet Dream

6          May 16 Natalie Gelman at Hotel Café
(Bonus for being on the same blog: June 5 Before Midnight/Riddle the Sphinx at Molly Malone’s)

5          Sept 18 Los Angeles County Fair
“I went to the LA County Fair and all I got was this Jeri Ryan poster. . .”  (and the next 5 blogs after the one linked)

4          June 22 Molly Quinn in Kindertransport
I keep tellin’ ya, everything’s better with redheads. . .

3          July 9   Catalina
Birthday trip.

2          Oct 26 Mark Knopfler at the Wiltern
Happy to finally take the Telegraph Road in person. . .

1          May 12 Daniela Ruah in Proof
Getting a hug from your favorite actress is too awesome for mere words. . .

;o)