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.

Hearts, Fingers & Other Things to Cross

Finished Hearts, Fingers & Other Things to Cross by Katie Finn.

Summary (from Goodreads):

WEATHER ALERT: SEVERE STORMS AHEAD

Gemma and Hallie’s world has come to a screeching halt. Their parents are engaged, which makes them step-sisters. Nothing in the world could possibly be worse for Gemma and Hallie–they won’t let it happen. Even if it means putting their own feud aside to separate their parents.

Events quickly escalate as a hurricane rips through the Hamptons leaving everyone (including Gemma’s two exes, her current crush, best friend, and her nemesis) bottled up in one house. One big, miserable group of exes and enemies together allow secrets to unfold and plans to be plotted. The calm before this storm definitely doesn’t exist.

Katie Finn pulls out all the stops for this fast-paced, dramatic conclusion in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series, Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross.”

I was so in love with this series, and seriously could not wait for this final installment.  With everything that happened in the first two books, I had no idea how they could be topped in this one.  Turns out that the only thing Gemma and Hallie are better at than scheming against each other is scheming against other people.  In this case, they want to “reverse Parent trap” their folks and get them to split up again.  (Shouldn’t be too hard; Gemma, especially, has excellent experience at this.)

As you probably know, Katie Finn is the pen name for Morgan Matson* and while this series is not as emotionally intense as her other YA novels, it is incredibly fun and juicy.  (Absolutely ideal for summer and the beach.)

I’m not sure if Katie Finn has any more books coming, but I certainly hope so.  They’re absolutely delightful and don’t give me crying hangovers.  (I’m still going to need more Morgan Matson, though.)

* = who actually blurbed this book

 

Sealed With a Secret

Finished Sealed With a Secret by Lisa Schroeder.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Phoebe finds a beautiful antique at a flea market, she’s not sure whether it’s as valuable as it looks. But inside she discovers something truly amazing a letter written during World War II, from a young girl to her sister who’s been evacuated from London. The letter includes a “spell” for bringing people closer together: a list of clues leading all through the city. Each stop along the way adds up to magic.

Phoebe is stunned. Not only has she found a priceless piece of history, the letter is exactly what she needs — she’s also separated from her sister, though not by distance. Alice leaves for university soon, but in the meantime, she wants nothing to do with Phoebe. They used to be so close. Now that Phoebe has this magical list, maybe she can fix everything! That is, unless she accidentally makes everything worse instead…

From the author of My Secret Guide to Paris comes an unforgettable trip through London, with secret treasures around every corner!”

If you’ve ever talked to me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably figured out that Lisa Schroeder is one of my favorite authors.  She writes these amazing YA novels, but she also writes these equally amazing and adorable middlegrade books.  (She and Eileen Cook were my gateway into middlegrade, should that ever come up on Jeopardy!)

This book was no exception. It’s technically a companion novel to My Secret Guide to Paris (and centers around the sisters that Nora meets in Paris) but can function just as well as a standalone.  I loved Phoebe, who just really wants to be close to her sister Alice again.  It’s such a sweet wish, and when she finds that spell, she thinks it’s the perfect way to make that happen.

I’m not sure how to describe this without using the word “charming.”  But at any rate, if you know how it feels to be left behind, this book is for you.

Highly recommended.

The Fireman

Finished The Fireman by Joe Hill.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.”

I have been a fan of Joe Hill’s since I read Heart-Shaped Box.  It was one of the most genuinely unsettling books I’d ever read (then or since) and I knew that he was going to be one of my favorites authors.

His later books helped cement that (NOS4A2 is probably my favorite of his) and this one is just as good.  The easy comparison is probably to The Stand, and it’s a fair one to make (end of the world, focusing just as much on how the world ends as how a small group of survivors try to stay alive) but honestly, I think I preferred this.  (That may at least partially be because I catch a cold every time I read The Stand and it terrifies me every time, even though I know it’s coming.)

We don’t spend much time with Harper and Jakob before Dragonscale makes an appearance and even after, we spend much more time with Harper.  This works, because as we learn a little more about Jakob, it becomes clear that he’s a pretty wretched human being. (I would have liked to know more about what he was like before the world started ending, but I’m honestly 98% sure he’d be a jerk under any circumstance.)

And the book gets even better (and Harper’s life gets better) once we get to the community of survivors.  It also becomes such an interesting sociological statement of what becomes important when everything is falling apart.  What do people cling to once everything is essentially gone? And it’s not a spoiler to say that the community shows us the best and worst of humanity.

I found the book to be incredibly clever and sweet and funny and a little bit heartbreaking.  I loved the characters (except for the ones I hated, of course, but I could even understand and find empathy for them) and I miss them.

Highly recommended.

The Unexpected Everything

Finished The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?”

So as you know, I am a huge, HUGE fan of Morgan Matson and have been ever since I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.  That one will likely always be my absolute favorite, but I’ve loved everything else, too, and will even agree that her books get better with each one.

Sooooo yes, this is her best book yet.

There are a lot to love about her books, but I think my absolute favorite is the way that she portrays friendships.  In this one, Andie has a rotating cast of boyfriends and crushes, but her constants are her best friends: Palmer, Bri and Toby (and Palmer’s boyfriend Tom, who is generally forgotten).  And you guys, I loved them.  I would be so happy with companion novels from any of their perspectives, and I would also really love a sequel about Andie and Clark.  (All the books about these people, seriously.)

It made me smile and laugh and cry and there may or may not have been a moment or ten where I hugged my Kindle.  (Shut up; you don’t know my life.)

Like all of her books, this one is highly recommended.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Finished My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

I didn’t read Grady Hendrix’s first novel, Horrorstor, but I’ve heard excellent things.  I’m also going to need to change that, because this book freaked me out on a very visceral level.

A blurb said it was The Exorcist meets Heathers, and I can absolutely see that.  Except picture it as being Heathers, just slowly getting darker and darker and darker until all of a sudden, you realize you’ve been seriously terrified for the past several chapters and it’s late and you should sleep but it’s at a scary part and you just know that it is not a good idea to stop there, so you keep reading because you’re scared to stop reading and scared to keep reading and the only way out is through, so you keep going.

And that probably makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, except I absolutely loved it.  It was an incredibly fun (and terrifying) novel.

And I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t get scared too easily.  (I don’t and this one did it.)

Highly recommended.

Deadpool

Why I chose Deadpool: Because everyone loves it

Seen before? No

Would I recommend it? Yes! To anyone who’s not easily or moderately easily offended. 

You guys, I loved this movie. It’s crazy violent, wickedly funny and just over the top in the best way. I think this is my new favorite superhero movie. 

Ryan Reynolds is perfect in this. It’s super meta but that basically just makes this the superhero version of Scream. 

I love everything about this movie. 

The Bassoon King

Finished The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rainn Wilson’s memoir about growing up geeky and finally finding his place in comedy, faith, and life.
 
For nine seasons Rainn Wilson played Dwight Schrute, everyone’s favorite work nemesis and beet farmer. Viewers of The Office fell in love with the character and grew to love the actor who played him even more. Rainn founded a website and media company, SoulPancake, that eventually became a bestselling book of the same name. He also started a hilarious Twitter feed (sample tweet: “I’m not on Facebook” is the new “I don’t even own a TV”) that now has more than four million followers.

Now, he’s ready to tell his own story and explain how he came up with his incredibly unique sense of humor and perspective on life. He explains how he grew up “bone-numbingly nerdy before there was even a modicum of cool attached to the word.” The Bassoon King chronicles his journey from nerd to drama geek (“the highest rung on the vast, pimply ladder of high school losers”), his years of mild debauchery and struggles as a young actor in New York, his many adventures and insights about The Office, and finally, Wilson’s achievement of success and satisfaction, both in his career and spiritually, reconnecting with the artistic and creative values of the Bahá’í faith he grew up in.”

I am a huge fan of The Office and so I would’ve read this book even without the fact that the introduction is written by one Dwight K. Schrute.  (If you love that show as much as I do, I absolutely dare you not to read it and not laugh out loud at least three times on every page.  AT LEAST.)

So yeah, come for the parts by Dwight and the Office anecdotes, but you’ll stay for the rest of it.  It’s clever and sweet and just good.

I always forget just how many things Rainn Wilson has done that I’ve loved (including, God help me, House of 1,000 Corpses).  Obviously I think of The Office first, but he’s also in Galaxy Quest! Almost Famous!  The Rocker (one of the most underrated comedies ever, according to me).

Also, he just sounds like a great human, and we need more of those.

Recommended.

Rocky Balboa

Why I picked Rocky Balboa: I love this series so much but I’ve only seen this one a few times.

Have I seen it before?  Yes

Would I recommend?  Yes

So as you know, especially if you are Facebook friends with me, I am totally in love with these movies.  I even love Rocky V, even though it’s not very good.  (And I should probably rewatch it, although I don’t know when that will happen.)

As we learn in Rocky IV, Rocky is very good with the motivational/thought-provoking speeches, and this one has my favorite.

As I was watching this, I was trying to decide what my order for the Rocky films would be, both in terms of quality and in terms of my own personal fondness.  It’s hard, because again, I love these movies.  But near as I can tell…

QUALITY:

Rocky, Rocky II, Creed, Rocky Balboa, Rocky IV, Rocky III, Rocky V

FAVORITES:

Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky IV, Creed, Rocky III, Rocky Balboa, Rocky V