Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical RomanceTwo Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance by Adam Bertocci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not too terribly much to say about this fairly quick, enjoyable read. It's The Big Lebowski as if written by William Shakespeare, with dozens of references to the Bard's plays woven in. I love Shakespeare and I love the Coen Brothers - I consider O Brother, Where Art Thou? my all-time favorite movie - so I had no reason to dislike this clever mash-up. It wasn't quite five-star spectacular along the lines of Shakespeare-inspired The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, but it was a plainly enjoyable effort.



I saw this book on the blog http://bookandbeer.tumblr.com/, where people post pictures of their books next to their beers. I immediately went and purchased a copy from an indie bookseller with my own funds, and I was not obligated in any way to review it.


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Friday, January 19, 2018

'Bonfire' by Krysten Ritter Review

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krysten Ritter's first novel is solid effort, a suspenseful tale involving environmental justice and the company that may or may not be poisoning the small Indiana town of Barrens, a town that loves the company slightly less than it loves Jesus but slightly more than it loves football. Our heroine is Abigail "Abby" Williams, part of a team of Chicago lawyers sent in to investigate the possibly pollution, but also a former Barrens resident herself. Abby's life has not been easy. She lost her mom to cancer and her father was abusive. The other girls at school bullied and tortured her, so Abby has worked hard to leave Barrens in her past.

Abby's childhood best frenemy Kaycee Mitchell hasn't been seen in Barrens since shortly after they graduated from high school. Although local legend holds that she escaped the small town for a more glamorous life, Abby suspects Kaycee's disappearance may be related to a rash of illnesses associated with the town's drinking water. To investigate, she much navigate reluctant small towners who are worried about their meager livelihoods, an estranged father who now seems more frail than frightening, and both locals and colleagues whose good faith can only be trusted so far.

In her quest to investigate the town's mysteries, in her traumatic past, and in her capacity to consume alcoholic beverages, Abby Williams may remind some of Ritter's fans of her Marvel/Netflix character Jessica Jones. Abby Williams may not have Jones' superhuman strength, but she is just Jessica Jones-like enough that Marvel fangirls will enjoy the read.

(Photo/Jana Lynn French/ Peabody, jjlynnf@gmail.com in New York City, New York on Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Ritter is a talented writer. Her debut shows psychological insight, the ability to paint a picture in the reader's mind, and characters well-rounded enough that they don't devolve into Midwestern stereotypes (and as a Midwesterner living in Indianapolis, I appreciate this). The ending doesn't seem completely fresh and original compared to other stories in this suspense genre, but I was willing to forgive this because I genuinely cared about Abby and was wrapped up in what was going to happen to her. But I imagine if she decides to write another novel, the plot will unfold a little more smoothly.

One of the three blurbs on the back is by Ruth Ware, the English suspense fiction author whose novel In a Dark, Dark Wood I enjoyed so well. This book reminded me less of that novel, though, and more of Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Knoll's protagonist was also desperately trying to escape a nightmarish high school experience.

I first became aware of Krysten Ritter as an actress on one of my all-time favorite TV series, Veronica Mars. In my head I imagine her as the black-haired but cold-hearted beauty Charlotte Campbell in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike novels. And yes, I love her in Jessica Jones and am eagerly awaiting its second season to appear on Netflix this March. So I read this while I'm waiting.

I purchased this book with my own funds from my local brick and mortar Barnes and Noble and was not obligated in any way to review it. My copy is signed by Ritter, but not personally. I just bought it off the shelf that way. It's pretty cool.



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Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Wuthering Heights Christmas Actually

This Tweet:

...reminded me that Andrew Lincoln, the actor from Christmastime favorite Love Actually who also plays Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, was also in the 2009 BBC miniseries production of Wuthering Heights. (His character's name in Love Actually is Mark, and Mark is declaring his love for the wife for his supposed friend Peter.)

Best. Edgar Linton. Ever.

He even gets to be a little bit sexy and we, the viewer, get a little preview of the butt.

So I did this.


Well, he IS. He should have been nicer to Isabella. And to dogs.

But the 2009 production is what introduced Catherine actress Charlotte Riley to Heathcliff actor Tom Hardy, and the couple has been together in real life ever since. They're on Season 4 of Peaky Blinders together -- although not in any of the same scenes. Which is a real shame, because her posh character May is bad for Tommy Shelby, but she might have been great with Alfie Solomons.

Yep, I binge-watched the entire fourth season of Peaky Blinders on Christmas Eve. It also had Adrien Brody, my beloved Geoffrey Fife from The Thin Red Line. I did not love the way he played his character Luca. It seemed like he was doing an awkward impression of Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

Although not played by an actor on the show, it was mentioned that one of Luca's rivals was a Chicagoan named Alphonse Capone. You know who has played Al Capone?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Graphic Novel for '80s Kids, Gamers, and Gunters

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming RevolutionThe Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was born in the late '70s and grew up in the '80s, so I have many vivid memories of the Atari game console, video arcades, the Nintendo revolution, the change over from Nintendo to Sega, et al. For me, this was a fascinating history of the technology that had to happen in order for the human race to have massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and other gaming technology at our fingertips.

I noticed some reviewers thought that it took the graphic novel too long to explain the background technology, but for me, the background technology and some of the names and faces behind it were some of the charm and fascination of this book.

If you're a fan of Ready Player One, this is an absolute must-read for you. Like Parzival, you need to know your gaming history if you want to navigate the Oasis.

I received a copy of this graphic novel in exchange for my review through BloggingForBooks.com.



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Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Beautiful, Meaningful Nonfiction Book for All Middle-Grade Readers

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black HistoryLittle Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vashti Harrison is a filmmaker as well as a visual artist, which explains why she did such an excellent job of intuiting which events in each woman's life to highlight to make each story compelling.

Every one of the 40 mini-biographies in the beautiful, inspiration book could be made into a film. Some of them have been, Hidden Figures being one recent example.



Harrison's drawings emphasis the contributions to society of these women, but also their personal strength, dignity, and beauty. This book for middle grade readers would make a wonderful addition to any school library, classroom, or children's bookshelf.


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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Uh-Oh, I Have a Crush on Another Boy

SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 2. 

Slight spoilers for Marvel's The Punisher, if you haven't seen the whole season yet. 

I haven't been very consistent with watching the Marvel superheroes series on Netflix, but my husband, Mr. Tit Elingtin, has been devouring them. I watched a bit of Luke Cage, which I really liked, and a bit more of Jessica Jones, which was also quite good, but with my inconsistent access to streaming Netflix this summer, I hardly watched any of Daredevil

I knew Deborah Ann Woll played a character on Daredevil. You may remember her from the Charlaine Harris-based HBO series True Blood. She played Bill Compton's vampire "child," Jessica Hamby, and much of Jessica's storyline was a love triangle involving her, Jason Stackhouse, and Jason's best friend Hoyt Fortenberry. The series ended with a happily-ever-after for Jessica. 


Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Tit binge-watched the latest Marvel series, The Punisher. Woll's character from Daredevil, Karen Page, had a starring role. I got hooked.

The Punisher is a Marvel title that I actually used to read as a teenager. My brother had a subscription. It was right around 1990, and the series was The Punisher: War Journal by Jim Lee and Carl Potts. 


The Punisher, a.k.a. Frank Castle, isn't a superhero. He has no superpowers. He's a violent vigilante who brutally dispatches criminals. His Backstory of Infinite Sadness is that his wife and two children were brutally murdered, and now he doesn't GAF what happens to him personally. He's on a suicidal revenge mission (or what TVTropes.org designates as "Roaring Rampage of Revenge") -- he just happens to be exceptionally skilled at killing criminals. 

This characterization may remind one of my fictional TV boyfriend John Reese

On the Marvel series, Frank is played by Jon Bernthal, my newest boy crush. He played Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead, but I didn't like Shane Walsh. No one likes Shane Walsh**. Shane Walsh was an abusive asshole.

Jon Bernthal as Al Capone in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Because as everyone in Hollywood knows, Jews and Italians are interchangeable.

I didn't make it that far into the TV series, but I understand that--SPOILER ALERT--his conflict with Rick ended in a physical fight in which Rick had to kill Shane or be killed himself. Then Shane came back as a zombie. Then Carl, the one of Lori's children whose bio dad is definitely Rick and not Shane, had to re-kill Zombie Shane. 

http://thatwritererinoriordan.tumblr.com/post/167866152170

He was a zombie. She was a vampire. They're perfect for each other. 

In this Netflix iteration, Frank Castle -- well, he's kind of an asshole too, what with the brutal vigilante killings and all. He has another side, though, one that's extremely loyal to his family and friends -- and yes, even romantic. Many of his memories of his slain wife Maria are very sweet, and he was clearly a loving, hands-on dad to elder child Lisa and younger child Frank Jr., even though he had to be away from them with the Marine Corps. He was a military dad, but a soft dad nonetheless. 

His friendship with Karen Page is developing into a slow-burn romance, but obviously with quite serious complications, him being a wanted multiple murderer and her a reporter. Karen has become his berserk button - don't dare threaten her. They've saved each others' lives now, and there was a significant forehead touch in an elevator. 

Forehead touches are not sex but often foreshadow sex in the future. They also convey an emotional connection. Frank is really a one-woman-at-a-time type of guy, and his commitment to Maria was deep and genuine and lasted longer than her life. In one scene in which he's badly injured and near death, he remembers dancing with Maria at their wedding. 

Their ship name is Kastle, and I ship it so hard. I really want Frank Castle for Karen Page, not for myself. 

However.

Frank's characterization hits upon several of the tropes that I find particularly delicious: the wounded warrior trope, the outwardly tough guy who's soft as a kitten belly around the right woman, and the woman who's strong enough to stand on her own two feet but inwardly melts when the tough-soft guy's around. Frank Castle is covered in blood, scars, bruises, and stitches most of the time, which is true to the comic books, and WHY DO I LIKE THAT?!? But I do.

And Jon Bernthal is one of my (many) favorite boy types: Yeshiva Boy Who Grew Up Hot. He has clearly been working out for this physically demanding role and as a result has back muscles that look awesome in his many shirtless scenes. He has big, soulful, dark-chocolate brown eyes, and why wouldn't Karen be into a Frank who looks like this? 

Karen and Frank can't possibly have a happily-ever-after ending. I won't pretend I think they're going to end up getting married and having children. One of them probably ends up bleeding out in the other's arms. Vigilantes don't get to grow old gracefully. Ask Mr. Reese. 

I'm asking for heartbreak once again, but I can't help my stupid feelings. I'm shipping Kastle. It'll go right up there with my other OTPs, like CaReese, Destiel, SnowBaz, Johnlock, and all the other shipper nonsense I get myself into, most of which are doomed to end in a puddle of blood and tears. 

P.S. I do highly recommend the Night at the Museum movie trilogy if you haven't seen it already. The third film, one of the last performances of Robin Williams, is especially bittersweet and poignant but ultimately worthwhile. And Rami Malek as the young mummified Egyptian pharaoh Akhmenrah is also quite handsome. 

**Some people probably like Shane Walsh. If you do, I'm not judging. He's fictional. Go for it. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

'How to Think' by Alan Jacobs #NonFictionReview



This was a relatively quick read and introduced many interesting subjects that have to do with biases and how we perceive others who have beliefs different from our own. One of the main ideas that I took away from reading this book was the concept of "escalation of commitment."

Escalation of commitment is a psychological concept. When human beings - and all of us are prone to this - commit ourselves to something financially, philosophically, socially, or otherwise, then when we become faced with evidence that said thing is wrong/incorrect/a bad investment/bad for our health, etc., we do an irrational thing. We defend that thing even harder. 

The classic example of escalation of commitment is the gambler who keeps losing, but has already sunk so much money into the game, the gambler refuses to stop playing. A more contemporary example, hinted at but not explicitly stated in this book, is the behavior of those American voters who voted for Donald Trump for president. Now they see what a truly incompetent, unkind, and potentially dangerous person he is -- but they root for him even harder. They just can't psychologically bring themselves to cut their losses at this point. That's escalation of commitment. 

Perhaps an even more egregious (or just as egregious) contemporary example is the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama. Although many credible witnesses have brought forth testimony that Moore attempted to sexually assault, seduce, or at best sexually harass them when they were under the age of 18, Moore is nonetheless primed to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama. The voters who support him have escalated commitment to the point that they're willing to overlook these credible accusations. Worse, some of them are blaming the victims of these alleged incidents for their own roles in their "seduction." 

I have been thinking about Alabama a lot because Tit Elingtin and I watched a live performance of the stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird a few weeks ago. I wish all Americans could be periodically reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish we all understood that Tom Robinson is the good guy. 

Alabama, Judge Roy Moore is the Tom Ewell of your story. He doesn't deserve your vote. If he did those things he's credibly accused of, he deserves public shame and humiliation, and possibly criminal indictment. Alabamans, now is the time for you to be more like Atticus Finch and less like the people on Tom Robinson's jury. 

It's kind of a shame that the people who could most benefit from this kind of reflection on the thought process are not the ones most likely to read this book. However, ever single literate adult speaker of the English language could stand to benefit from this refresher course on thought bias and how to treat our fellow human beings with a little less contempt and a little more humanity. 

I received this book from BloggingForBooks.com for this review. My next Blogging for Books pick will be:


The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey and Jack McGowan