The Boy

Why I picked The Boy: I was in the mood for a horror movie.

Seen before? No

Would I watch again? Probably.

I love scary movies, as you know, and ones centering around dolls and/or creepy children are some of my favorites so watching The Boy was an obvious choice.

In case you missed it, it’s about a woman who accepts a nannying position for a couple in England.  It’s a nice house, but it’s seriously in the middle of nowhere.  She arrives and learns that her charge is actually a doll that the family treats as if it’s alive.  Soooo parents are off on vacation and the nanny wastes no time in disregarding all the rules they’d left for her to follow…and, of course, the doll lets her know that no, actually that is NOT the way things work.

It’s not exactly a great movie (and I was not a fan of the ending) but it’s incredibly fun and there are a few genuinely good scares.

 

Hush

Why I picked Hush: I’d heard excellent things (and it turns out the people who did this also did Oculus!).  As a BTW, this is the Netflix movie centering around a masked man who terrorizes a deaf woman, NOT the Jessica Lange/Gwyneth Paltrow movie.

Seen before? No

Would I watch again? YES.

Okay, seriously, if you are into horror movies at all, you need to watch this one.  It’s so freaking scary, and also incredibly well-done.  It’s not as innovative as Oculus was, but the fact that the heroine is deaf made for an interesting twist, and the tension is high throughout.

 

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

Finished The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.”

The first thing you need to know about this is that it’s a YA version of Much Ado About Nothing.  (The synopsis doesn’t make that clear, but it’s true.)  And also, I absolutely loved it.  (Not surprising, really, seeing as how MAAN is my favorite Shakespearean comedy.)

Really, how can you go wrong with an updated version of that play that centers around pop culture nerds? Answer: you cannot.

Okay, so  I am completely in book smit with Trixie.  She’s way more sarcastic than anyone I’ve ever met (think Veronica Mars turned up to 11) and she is so passionate about everything.  And probably the thing she loves the most is being mean to/about Ben.  But don’t feel too bad for Ben—he gives back as good as he gets.

And, if you know the original source material (or pop culture at all), you know what happens next.  Except getting there is most of the fun.

Warning: this will make you want to binge Battlestar Galactica.

Highly recommended.

Modern Lovers

Finished Modern Lovers by Emma Straub.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college—their own kids now going to college—and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.”

I am a huge fan of Emma Straub’s, and I need to read The Vacationers soon.

Her books are seemingly simple and lighthearted, but they’ve got so much going on beneath the surface.

Modern Lovers is told from every character’s perspective, and it’s invaluable (at least for me), getting to spend time with every character.  It also makes it easier to empathize with them (especially in Andrew’s case, and Jane’s, because I think otherwise they’re the two most likely to come off incredibly poorly).

Obviously a major focus is on the romantic relationships, but I also loved the way that we see how the friendships have grown and changed over time.  Like a lot of people, I have friends that I’ve known since high school and college, and it’s interesting to see what may be in store for us.  (Minus the moderate fame; none of us did anything like release records or a hit song.)

Basically, this is the perfect book for the beach if you want a fun read that will also make you think and feel.

Recommended.

Saving Abby

Finished Saving Abby by Steena Holmes.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Steena Holmes brings us an unforgettable story of one woman’s courage and love.”

I love books that give you an impossible scenario and force you to choose which you’d pick.  That’s certainly true with this novel, because you don’t get much worse than having to decide whether you should save your own life or your unborn baby’s.

I completely adore Steena Holmes’ books.  They’re short and easy to read, but at the same time, there is so much character development and plot packed into them.  I can speed through them without feeling like quality has been sacrificed.  (I also love how prolific she is, but that’s because I am greedy and I want to read all her books.)

And best of all, this book doesn’t go the uber-melodramatic route that it would have if it had been written by another author.  This is…dignified, for lack of a better word.

Recommended.

 

Signs of Life

Finished Signs of Life by Selene Castrovilla.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The tables are turned with a vengeance in this tour de force love story. Nearly a year has gone by and now it’s Dorothy who is fragmented and lost, while Joey keeps the promise he had made her to better himself —even though she’s gone. Joey talks about what is happening in the present while Dorothy describes what happened before— in the moments and hours after the Glock dropped. This time the stakes are even higher, as Joey forces himself to move forward while Dorothy is frozen in place. But when he learns of a devastating decision, Joey races to find her before it is too late. Truth, consequence, repercussion and modern medicine collide as pieces converge in this psychological, thrilling story which begs the question: Can love really conquer all?

Okay, so I absolutely loved Melt (the first book in this series) and I was mostly really excited to read Signs of Life but also a little nervous. What if it wasn’t as good? What if the characters weren’t as great as I remembered them being? What if it didn’t feel as viscerally true as Melt did?

Well, if I were Joey, I’d have to snap my wrist with a rubber band for those thoughts.  Not only does this live up to Melt, it even surpasses it.

Melt is somewhat similar to The Wizard of Oz, but this book takes a new inspiration: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner.  I haven’t read it so I know for a fact that you don’t need to know it at all to fall in love with this novel.

Unfortunately, I can’t really discuss specifics at all, because we don’t learn very much about what’s going on with Dorothy until later in the novel.  So here’s what I can tell you: Dorothy and Joey are currently not together, although they are all the other person can think about.  Dorothy’s chapters are mostly flashbacks, showing how the separation occurred.  Joey’s are sometimes present day and sometimes flashbacks.  In the present day, we learn how hard he’s working to improve his life (he’s taking college classes! and reading! And learning how to speak better—I love Joey so much) and it’s so clear how much of that is because of Dorothy’s impact on his life.  (I can’t call her Doll as he does; it feels too intimate.)

Best news: this is now apparently a trilogy.  And thank God, because that ending is a cliffhanger and a half.

Highly recommended.

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here

Finished Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…”

Okay, so first you should know that I am absolutely obsessed with this book.  It’s incredibly clever and laugh-out-loud funny in parts, but there’s also this core of emotion that makes it this incredibly deep read.

And the other thing that makes it deep? This is a feminist novel.  Seriously, unapologetically, perfectly feminist.  And that manifests itself in a ton of different ways, but probably most profoundly in two ways: the first is how dismissive people are toward the things that girls like (in this case, the TV show Lycanthrope High, which honestly seems like something I would love).  Because it centers around a teen girl and her relationships, people dismiss it as cheesy and Scarlett internalizes that a little, apologizing for her writing and calling it just fan fiction.  You can also see her dad trying to make her more intellectual and giving her Very Important Novels to read…and they are, of course, written by men.

And the second is how teen girls treat each other.

It’s human nature to classify ourselves in relation to other people, and most of the time we either make ourselves better than they are or worse than they are (or, sometimes, both).  Scarlett has a tendency to treat Ashley (her best friend’s sister) like a complete idiot because she’s pretty and popular.  As a reader, I went along with it, because I was in Scarlett’s head.  During a fairly pivotal scene, we learn that Ashley’s grades are actually better than Scarlett’s.  It felt like a bit of a revelation because I was making the exact same assumptions that Scarlett was.

And this is all probably making it sound like this is a preachy novel or something kind of annoying about sisterhood, right?  And it’s not.  You don’t even really have to focus on it as a feminist novel (though you should, because “feminist” is not a bad word) to enjoy it.

I just need Anna Breslaw to release another book, like, tomorrow.  I’m making her a must-buy author.

Highly recommended.

Ricki and the Flash

Why I picked Ricki and the Flash: I hadn’t seen it and I am on a bit of a Meryl kick

Seen before? No

Would I recommend? Yes

This was so much better than I was expecting! It’s very funny and the cast is amazing (Kevin Kline and Audra MacDonald, especially) and it wss just a surprisingly good, darkly sweet movie. 

Death Becomes Her

Why I picked Death Becomes Her: I love Meryl Streep but I realized that I keep watching her later movies (Devil Wears Prada, especially) but I never watch her work from the 80s and 90s. 

Seen before? Yes, but not in years

Would I recommend? Maybe. It’s pretty fun but not really that good

Here’s an interesting thing about Meryl Streep: her early movies are critically acclaimed (Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Silkwood) and a lot of her later ones are ALSO critically acclaimed and almost guaranteed to come with Oscar nods. And in between, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, there’s a lot of less than stellar movies. (Although I do have a ridiculous fondness for The River Wild.)

And here’s a more interesting thing about Meryl Streep: she is the only actress I can think of who can’t deliver a bad performance. Death Becomes Her is not a good movie, but she makes it really fun and watchable. With most actresses, you can really see how the director and script change their ability to give a good performance. (My go to example is Natalie Portman. Compare her in the Star Wars sequels to Black Swan, and it’s hard to believe it’s the same actress.) But Meryl Streep? Always fantastic, always believable. 

Summer Days & Summer Nights

Finished Summer Days & Summer Nights, an anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.”

This is a perfect summer read.  These are lovely sweet stories (well, some of them) and are perfect for any YA reader.  Many are contemp, but there are also some paranormal and one that I would even classify as a horror story.  And many have happy endings, but not all do.

Basically, no matter how your tastes run, you’ll find at least one story here to make you smile.

Personally, my favorite is probably the Libba Bray (not coincidentally, that’s also the horror story) but every story in this collection is incredibly enjoyable.

Grab this book, a towel, some sunscreen and the beverage of your choice—summer is coming!

Recommended.