Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quickie Book Review: Bite Me: A Love Story

by Christopher Moore

Since I'm home sick today with a terrible cold—I'm incredibly congested, and my voice has dropped a few levels (à la Barry White)—I figured why not play catch up on my book reviews? And what better book to review than Bite Me?

The story picks up with Abby Normal, a young goth girl and minion to two vampires (Jody and Flood). She encased the two in bronze hoping that was the best way to keep the two lovebirds together for eternity. But what she didn't count on was a very large vampire cat named Chet wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting San Francisco by turning all the feral cats in the area toward his bloodsucking ways. While Abby scrambles to figure out what to do, her friend Jared accidentally releases Jody and Flood from their bronze prison, and Flood disappears into the night, driven slightly mad by his confinement. Now Jody must find Flood to get his help with fighting Chet, but Jody is also being hunted by three older vampires sent to clean up the mess left by Chet—and that includes getting rid of Jody and Flood.

It's fast-paced and funny, never letting the action slow for a single moment. Bite Me is a companion to Moore's other books Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck, and I do think you need to read those in order to understand some of the characters, especially the secondary ones like The Emperor (a homeless man whom every acknowledges as the Emperor of San Francisco) and Detectives Cavuto and Rivera. Plus, a few references are made to those books and to another that takes place in San Francisco, A Dirty Job. But it's great fun to read, filled with exploding vampires and lots of humor.

Bite Me: A Love Story
by Christopher Moore
William Morrow/Harper Collins
hardcover, 309 pgs.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Viewing

Skimming the list of his year's Oscar nominees, and I'v seen a grand total of...eight of the films. That's going through all categories. I'm actually not surprised at how low the number is; most of the movies released in 2014 failed to garner enough interest from either of us to go to a movie theater. (And, truth br told, I watched one of the movies a few days ago on Netflix.)

The movies?

Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
The LEGO Movie
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Ida
Maleficent

Is it sacrilege to say that I'm not all that interested in watching the Oscars?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

iTunes Saturday - Cherry Bomb

I think some folks might be a bit surprised by some of the songs in my iTunes list. True, I have showtunes, music from movies, dance music, many lgbt artists, and a bit of 80s classics, but I also like some songs that people would never suspect, such as this week's selection. The song was featured in the recent film Guardians of the Galaxy, but I've liked it for much longer. Cherry Bomb by The Runaways....

Friday, January 23, 2015

Netflixin'

These are a few more of my recent finds on Netflix that are definitely worth watching....

I watched an episode of this many months ago when it was on BBC America...or PBS. I don't know why, but I never caught another episode until Netflix. One weekend in December, I decided to watch the first episode and wound up bingewatching the entire 8-part series that night. For those who aren't familiar with Broadchurch, it focuses on the death of an 11-year-old boy in a small Dorset town. The series focuses on the police investigation lead by Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) as they uncover the dark secrets of the residents the town. Phenomenal acting and storytelling, and myriad red herrings, make for an engrossing crime thriller.

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A well-done creature feature from Norway, Ragnarok tells the story of Viking archaeologist Sigurd who tries to prove that the vikings explored much farther than was previous believed. When his brother returns with a Viking relic he found in Finnmark, Sigurd sets off to search for more proof, dragging along his two children. What they find when they reach Odin's Eye—a former Soviet outpost that's deserted—prods them into further exploration and an unexpected meeting with a creature who protects Odin's Eye. The movie's full of great action sequences and chases, some gore, and tells a great story. Plus, the filmmakers didn't overdo the CGI, giving us few glances of the creature, and it looks great.

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This last find is a Polish film that is currently up for two Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography). Ida tells the story of Anna, a young woman who was left on the doorstep of a convent years ago. Now, as she prepares to take her formal vows to become a nun, her aunt turns up, and the Mother Superior recommends that Anna take some time to meet with her. That meeting forces Anna to question her past and her life as in the Catholic church: she learns that her name is actually Ida and that she's Jewish. She and her aunt set out to uncover the whereabouts of her family and during this trip, Ida experiences the world outside the convent. It's a beautifully shot film, and I definitely understand why it's up for Best Cinematography. It doesn't hurt that the acting is equally beautiful, especially from both leads—Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida and Agata Kulesza as her aunt Wanda.

If you have the time, check these out!

Broadchurch image from Crosshair Press. Image for Ragnarok from Geeks Podcast. Image for Ida from IMDb.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quickie Book Review: The Quarry

by Mark Allan Gunnells

Dale Sierra convinces his friend Emilio Gambrell to help him with a project—scuba diving into Lake Limestone to determine if the tales surrounding its formation are true. Emilio doesn't see the point in the dive, but Dale's become obsessed with Lake Limestone and its history. The local story goes that while workers were digging limestone from the quarry, they hit a natural spring, making the site too dangerous for more digging, so they allowed it to slowly fill with water. But Dale doesn't buy the story, and his poking around for more information only piques his curiosity.

The dive seems to be going well until the rope to which Dale is attached beings jerking violently, spooling deeper and deeper into the water. Emilio does his best to stop the rope, and slowly, slowly, Dale manages to make his way back to the surface and quietly catches his breath. And then he tells Emilio good night and walks away...without so much as a word about what happened. As the days pass, Emilio notices a change in Dale—cutting classes, skipping practice (and jeopardizing his scholarship), ignoring off his friends.

A female student disappears. Then, a professor claims to have been attacked. Emilio knows that Dale's behind this, but he doesn't want to believe it. Determined to uncover the truth, Emilio begins his own investigation into the terrible secret hidden at the bottom of Lake Limestone.

A good page turner, I finished the book in one sitting. I had to know what happened to Dale, and for me, that's a great sign of any book—not wanting to put it down until the very end. Nice pacing, a unique monster (which is also impressive), and even a main character who happens to be gay...and I liked that Emilio (the gay character) doesn't fall in love with Dale (the obvious choice). Sure, he has a crush but winds up falling for someone else, and that plays into how Dale interacts with Emilio. The Quarry is a good, old-fashioned creature feature, and I enjoyed every word.

The Quarry
by Mark Allan Gunnells
Evil Jester Press
trade paperback, 221 pgs.

Image from Good Reads.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Obsessive

My first obsession growing up was collecting rocks. I wanted to be a geologist when I grew up and started learning everything I could about rocks, and whenever we went camping, I would scour the trails and the riverbeds for anything to add to my collection. Of course, I begged my folks to buy rocks for me at gift shops, so I had a Thunder Egg and Amethyst from Death Valley, gold flakes from Placerville, and a special sheet with rocks and gems attached from the Grand Canyon. But my favorite was a quartz crystal I found near my grandfather's cabin in Yucca Valley.

The enjoyment of rock collecting faded after a while, only to be replaced by philately. Talk about nerdy...I was already learning to play the clarinet and was good at math, so stamp collecting just upped the nerdiness a notch. But I loved learning about the different countries, sifting through my cookie jar that was filled to the brim with used stamps, getting excited when an especially difficult stamp found its way into my books.

After a while, that, too, was replaced by something else. Vinyl Mickeys. Old sheet music. Disneyland pins. Foursquare badges. Souvenir books from musicals and plays. They seem to fall into recurring pattern of little things that strike my fancy, but none lasting too long.

This time, I think I've found something that might last a bit longer. So now, I'm hooked on identifying birds, thanks to the Audubon app I downloaded. I'm noticing a little bit of excitement when lunchtime rolls around—my chance to stroll around the bay and watch the birds. I've identified 16 kinds so far, ranting from American Wigeons and Western Bluebirds to Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and an Osprey. And I'm remembering them, which surprises me. Ask me about one of the old stamps, and my mind goes blank. Same with the rocks. I can no longer tell what each Vinyl Mickey represents. But the birds...I don't know why they seem to be sticking. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Weekend of Theater

This past weekend found us attending the theater on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, we drove to Burbank for another performance by one of our favorite comedy troupes, The Troubadours. Most of their shows are mash ups, usually combining Shakespeare with modern music (The Comedy of Aerosmith or Fleetwood MacBeth). They also do the same with holiday-themed shows, so Saturday, we caught one of the final performances of The Snow Queen. Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale, this time accompanied by the music of rock group Queen. The music fit incredibly well with both the story and with the Troubadours' comedic improvising, and I think it was one of their best shows. And it was made even better by John Andrew Quayle's performance as the Snow Queen—though you may know him better as Prince Poppycock. He rocked and wailed on those songs, much to the delight of the entire audience.

Last night, we finally made it to the Ahmanson for Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, starring Dame Angela Lansbury. She was incredibly funny as the medium Madame Arcati who unwittingly conjures up the ghost of Charles Condomine's first wife, Elvira. The entire cast was brilliant, making the comedy seem natural, especially Susan Louis O'Connor who played the maid Edith perfectly. Who knew a play about the afterlife would be so charming and witty. Plus, getting to see Angela Lansbury was quite a treat, too.