I’ll Give You the Sun :: Jandy Nelson :: Book Review

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I’ll Give You the Sun :: Jandy Nelson

About the book:

Via Google Books: I’ll Give You the Sun, was published in 2014. It is a story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah. Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. As a series of family tragedies and misunderstandings creates a rift between the two, only by coming back together can they fully understand their story and set the world right again, to remake it.

I’ll Give You the Sun won the prestigious Printz Award, a Stonewall Honor, Bank Street’s Josette Frank Award, and is listed on numerous best of the year lists, including the 2015 YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults, NPR, Time magazine, and Rainbow List Top 10.

As of April 2015, I’ll Give You the Sun is published in 25 countries, and is optioned by Warner Bros for a film to be written by Natalie Krinsky and produced by Denise Di Novi and Allison Greenspan.

About the author:

Jandy Nelson is an American author of young adult fiction. Prior to her career as an author, Nelson worked for 13 years as a literary agent. She holds a BA from Cornell University as well as MFAs in poetry and children’s writing from Brown University and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She currently lives in San Francisco, California.

My thoughts:

Every once in awhile I fall in love with a book in a long term, I want to marry you and have babies and grow old together kind of way. I know it early on usually, or at least have a strong inkling, and as I go further, if it is true book love, I fall harder and harder, and start to slow down, slower, slower, not wanting to say goodbye to the characters, nor the world they inhabit. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is a true book love story for me. This book is now in the top 5 of my all-time favorites, and I am confident it will stay there.

How do I describe it? To be honest, I sort of don’t want to describe it at all, because I came to it not knowing anything, and I think it made the falling for it all the better.

I will say that it is about love, about family, about getting lost and finding your way back, its about art and artists, its about insecurities and doubt, secrets, lies, its about forgiveness and hope, loss and ghosts and dreams and love and freedom and self, all told through these amazing, unforgettable characters, and with an exquisitely slight brush of magical realism thrown in.

I want to know these characters. I want to eat donuts with Oscar and Guillermo, collect moon rocks with Noah and Brian, discuss magic and art and love with Jude, meet the “where the hell is Ralph” bird, Prophet, and see what happens on “the ark”.

I listened to this as an audio book, which I also would recommend. Julie Whalen is a favorite audio book/voice talent, and she was, as always, fantastic narrating Jude’s portion of the book. Jesse Bernstein was also exceptional narrating Noah’s side of things.

This will be the next book that I give to everyone, like God Shaped Hole, and say please read this.

My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of August 29, 2016

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My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of August 29, 2016

1. Roadies 

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Shelli and Bill

To be honest, the show had me at the initial trailer and early marketing, I mean Cameron Crowe gets me in a very personal way, especially when his storytelling incorporates music (like Almost Famous, and now Roadies), and then Winnie Holzman, too, the woman responsible for my second favorite television series of all time, the short-lived My So-Called Life, oh, and J.J. Abrams, too – I was destined to fall hard for the show. All that said, I ended up falling harder than I expected, and wound up at the end of this first season (please renew, Showtime) caring about everyone of the regular characters on the show, and even some of the one-episode guests – oh ,and the music, I discovered some new favorites along the way, and enjoyed many already-favorites. My favorites on the show – Bill and Shelli (relate to both of them so much), Christopher House and Milo – but really, I loved everyone – Staten House Band forever.

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Christopher House

2. Lucius

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Lucius

One of the bands I discovered thanks to Roadies is Lucius. Though I’d heard their music before, it had been on the peripheral, or in the background, but after when they guest starred, and performed, on Roadies I really heard them for the first time. I can’t seem to get enough of their music lately, and have found myself devouring their albums; “Dusty Trails” is my current favorite, that song just digs in under my skin and stays.

Dusty Trails (live) :: Lucius

3. Road Regrets :: Dan Mangan

“And Robbie likes his country tunes,
it’s never been the lens that I see through,
but I guess driving for a week or two,
puts words in your mouth

So find dodge,
and then get out of it,
it’s about as country as I get,
so you ain’t living ’til you’re living it –
not dead ’til you die.”

Sometimes I hear a song that I feel so deeply, so internally, a song I relate to so much that I wish I’d written it. From the “on the road” element (girls with gypsy souls really get what a road regret is), to the music tie in (“so find dodge and then get out of it”), to the notion of escaping, and living, and dying – all of it, I just feel so fucking much. And, I can’t stop listening to this song right now.

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Dan Mangan

4. “Remy” Playlist

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Arly Jover, who I would cast as Remy if I was casting my novel

I’ve been back to working on my vampire/post-apocalyptic/speculative fiction novel (and will be using an excerpt for my final creative piece in the horror/speculative fiction class I am taking), Inbetween Days (working title), and have been listening to the playlist I made for the lead character/reluctant hero, Remy, while I’ve been writing. Music is forever my muse, and this playlist, with 97 Remy-centric songs, is really doing it for me.

Listen to Remy here.Listen to Remy here

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Arly Jover (my “Remy”)

5. Black Mirror
“Be Right Back”
Season 2: Episode 1

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Domhnall Gleeson & Hayley Atwell

“Be Right Back” is my favorite of the Black Mirror series, and this past Tuesday, in my American Horror Story and Speculative Fiction class, we watched the episode. Though I’d remembered Gleeson vividly, I’d forgotten that Hayley Atwell was in it, too. This one hit so much harder than the first time I saw it, and the tears fell more than once as the episode played, which is probably part to do with my current emotional state, and the way loss and death and grief and love have been top of mind for me, especially when trying to sort out how to deal with the memory of someone I love who is not of this earth any more – irregardless of the way the episode stung this time, it still is my favorite.

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Hayley Atwell

6. Paper Girls

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Paper Girls

My most recent favorite comic series, quite possibly my most favorite of all-time, Paper Girls presents a story with teenage female heroes out saving the world, on bikes, the bikes they usually use for their paper route. The series starts in the 80’s, and has that real 80’s immersive feeling that “Stranger Things” has, along with a bit of that friends against the world (think Goonies and Stand By Me and ET). There is a time travel element happening, too, which makes me love it even more – I really recommend series, Brian K. Vaughan is brilliant.

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7. Kelly Vivanco’s art

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“Mooring” by Kelly Vivanco

Music has always been a muse to my writing, a given perhaps considering how much music means to me, but it isn’t music alone that motivates and triggers plot bunnies and imaginative crafting, visual art has always held a significant key in helping to unlock story in me. Kelly Vivanco’s art has been, and still is, one of my writing muses – so many poems and stories and characters have been inspired by her paintings, as well as a ton of personal reflection. This one above (“Moorings”) is one of my all-time favorites, and always brings to mind the journey of self, and the realization that there are multiple selves within us, and that sometimes it takes a journey to make peace with our varying sides, and sometimes they need to work together to get to where you are trying to go – at least that’s what it sparks in me.

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“Space Within” by Kelly Vivanco

8. Issac Gracie

Terrified (live):: Issac Gracie

Issac Gracie showed up on my Spotify Monday Discovery playlist and I was drawn in, and blown away, immediately. His voice reminds me of the first time I heard Jeff Buckley sing, and his lyrics cut me like Elliott Smith did. I am terribly sad that I missed him by like one week when he was at the Hotel Cafe (discovered him the week after, I won’t miss him again). He is definitely one to watch, and listen to (side note: one of his songs was used in an episode of Roadies).

Last Words (live) :: Issac Gracie

9. Now, Voyager (1942)

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Now, Voyager, Bette Davis

I’ve been on a Bette Davis kick as of late, and was happy to see Now, Voyager featured on a recent Bette Davis day on TCM. This one was always my favorite, and still remains top of my Bette Davis film list. Not ever part of the story holds up, but the emotional heft, the connections, the self esteem struggles, and the tragic love story still slay me (oh, and that double cigarette lighting thing, too…*sigh*).

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Now, Voyager, Bette Davis and Paul Henreid

10. “Kia and Gio” by Daniel José Older

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Illustrated by Goni Montes

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many fantastic horror and speculative fiction stories during this summer quarter, in the American Horror Story literature class I have been a part of. One of my favorites we read was the short story, “Kia and Gio”, written by Daniel José Older, who also spoke to our class via Skype about diversity in the genre of horror/speculative fiction/science fiction and also about the writing world, and his life as a writer. I want to know so much more about Kia and Gio (Kia especially) and what happens next in that magical botánica.

You can read the story for yourself here.

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Daniel Jose Older

 

About a Boy (2002) :: A-to-Z of Movies :: My Top 5

About a BoyAbout a Boy (2002)
Written by Nick Hornby, Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

Once you open your door to one person anyone can come in.”  Will

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1. Movies adapted from books are a tricky thing, and most often not something I end up enjoying, especially not when its an adaptation of a book I love. I go in with so much hope, and typically leave so very disappointed. About a Boy (and honestly, all adaptations of Nick Hornby I’ve seen) is a definite exception. Though there are a few minor details I wish they’d done more like the book (mostly just wishing the character of Ellie was more flushed out), overall I loved who they cast, how they paced the film, and how it brought one of my favorite books to life.

Even some of the smallest details, like Marcus and his mother closing their eyes tight while singing Killing Me Softly are in this. And the dynamics between Will and Marcus, Marcus and his mom, Will and Marcus’ mom, and later, Will and Rachel, are complex and in-color, and in many ways how I pictured them while reading (and in some ways more/different than I pictured, in a good way).

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2. Music done well in movies means so much to me. The soundtrack to this is mostly filled with Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough) songs and they fit just so perfectly that now whenever I hear any songs by Badly Drawn Boy it is About a Boy I connect back to. There is something about his voice, the tinge of melancholy, the jadedness, and yet the sense of hope fits. It feels like post-modern folk tales set to song that weave in and out of the plot, and move the story along, sometimes informing the emotion in a scene.

I can’t think of a better choice for the music.

A Minor Incident :: Badly Drawn Boy

3. Fiona. Though the story really is about Will and Marcus, from the title, to the plotting, to the interactions and scenes, it is Fiona that I want to mention here. There are not a lot of representation of depression on-screen, and especially not in a way that doesn’t simplify it, or make it easily fixed, or tied up in the end. Fiona is one of those rare times when a character is shown in more than one dimension, and that one of the facets of her is depression. It isn’t solved, it isn’t given an easy “reason” to be there, it isn’t pretty or fixed at the end, but it isn’t all she is either.

The film doesn’t soften the impact depression has on others, either. You see the pain and fear it inflicts on Marcus, and what the consequences are. And Fiona, you see her struggle in such a real way, to be okay in herself, to be honest, to be a good mother, and to deal with with depression not always in a way that plays well on camera. I truly applaud the depiction of Fiona (and Toni Collete is just fantastic, as always).

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4, Christmas/holiday movies can be tricky. Sometimes they fall into predictability and over the top cheesiness, and sometimes that’s just what you need – all sugar and happy ever after and greeting card sentiment. My favorite holiday films though tend to teeter on the balance beam of complicated emotions and a strive for happiness that we all seem to crave that time of year.

About a Boy may not overtly be categorized a “Christmas movie” but it does revolve around the holiday, twice in the film actually, and, well, Will has his lifestyle because of a Christmas song, so it is a plot point. I think what it does for me, and why it became one of my favorite holiday films, is that it shows how family doesn’t have to be what we are force fed to believe in via media and culture and societal “norms”, no, family can be unconventional, and be about who we choose to bring around us. That is something that has always been true in my adult life, too.

“no man is an island.”

5. Will and Marcus, of course, as well, are part of what I love about the movie. The awkwardness of both of them, the way they trip over themselves, albeit in different ways, and what they learn from each other is wonderful to watch. Every time I watch the film (or re-read the book, actually) I change my mind a bit on who helps the other more. I think in the end though, they both help each other to grow, to feel a part of something, to be less alone, and to embrace life and love in a new way.

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“I was the star of the Will show, and the Will show wasn’t an ensemble drama.”

(though this trailer above makes it look so cheesy, and loses something about the movie that I love so much, so watch the trailer with that warning in mind)

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My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of July 20, 2015

My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of July 20, 2015

1. Book pages

14Though I do read books via my iPad, and “read” via my ears on my daily commute via Audible.com, there is something so intimate and sensory fulfilling in reading a book with paper pages and ink text. I’ve taken to snapping pictures of pages I’m on while reading, and I would love if more people did the same. I’d love to see what everyone is reading right now from books bought at a local bookstore, borrowed from a friend, or checked-out at the library (the photos are from a borrowed copy of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton).

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2. Rent 

16This week I had the chance to catch Plan-B Entertainment’s great production of a favorite musical of mine, Rent, at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. The cast was brilliant, especially the actors playing Mark (Andrew Wade) and Roger (Jonah Ho ‘Okano). The theater was relatively small, our seats were great, and the tickets were no more than a movie ticket would be, which made spending a Wednesday evening with live theater even better (I’d love to see more from this production team).

173. Eurythmics

Who’s That Girl? :: Eurythmics

I’ve been on an Eurythmics kick this weekend, playing a few of their albums while I read my current book and one of my magazine subscriptions. I took a break to watch some of their classic videos, too, like the one above (can you name some of the cameos from some of the 80’s musical celebrities in the video? I spy Bananarama and Marilyn), and below (why the creepy ventriloquist dummy?). Oh my stars, Annie Lennox is so stunning.

Love is a Stranger :: Eurythmics

4. Scream (the TV series)

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I was apprehensive as it is an MTV show (though I did enjoy the first season of Awkward), and sometimes TV versions of movies/movie franchises are lackluster, but this one is a fun ride. Full of satire and Meta moments, as the movies were, and clever in its writing and pacing, this one was a happy surprise. Fits perfect in that hot Summer nights when horror (especially of the campy variety) just feels like the great choice, reminiscent of Summer vacation sleepovers or trips to the drive-in.

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5. LOST Re-watch 

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Tuesdays and Thursdays are Podcast days during my commute back-and-forth from work, and I have quite a variety that I choose from, some weekly favorites, and others ones I will check-in with monthly. A new discovery coincides with my own TV re-watch – the LOST Re-watch Podcast. I’m enjoying the banter and the differing views, especially when someone on their panel is watching for the first time; the whole experience is like doing a re-watch with other people, something that a re-watch generally doesn’t provide.

Lost (Pilot moment)

6. The Killing

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The Killing has been my weekly show for months and months now, something I look forward to every Thursday afternoon on my lunch hour. It is coming to a close as I find myself in the midst of the significantly shorter Season 1. I’m going to be so sad when it finishes, and I am going to miss Holder and Linden so much.

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7. Vnyl

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I signed-up for vnyl, a monthly vinyl record subscription, after a co-worker of mine tried it out and loved it. It is awesome, and so much fun, getting three hand curated albums in the mail every month. You sign up and give them links to some of your social media (including discogs, where you can catalog your entire vinyl collection), answer some questions about your music taste, and each month your three albums are chosen with your taste and collection in mind (oh, and you get to pick a new theme, called a “vibe”, every month, too).

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8. Pines by Blake Crouch (Audio Book)

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I was enjoying the Summer event series, Wayward Pines (that is until the finale – ugh) and thought I’d start listening to the audio books. So far, I’m enjoying the first book and will probably listen to the other three. Although there is no mystery now that I’ve seen the show, I’m enjoying the writing style and the pacing, and the way they are unfolding the reveals.

Part 1 of the audio book

9. Born on the FM Waves of the Heart :: Against Me! featuring Tegan Quin

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This is my most played song this week, by far. It’s been a favorite for a long time, but I hadn’t listened to it, or the New Wave album in awhile, but after listening to a Nerdist Podcast interview with Laura Jane Grace I got in the mood. I love Tegan (from Tegan and Sara) in this song, too – such a fantastic duet.

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Living With Jigsaw by HandleBarMustacheLand

Because this made me laugh!

My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of February 9, 2015

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My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of February 9, 2015

It’s been a long while since I did one of these, so why not now.

1. Hindsight

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Time travelling back to 1995? It’s like Reality Bites, if Laney married and divorced Troy, and was in her 40’s, set to marry again, freaked out, and then went back to change everything, but more than that, to go and hang out with Vickie (or My So-Called Life’s Angela going back to fix things, but mostly to hang out with Rayanne – I think you get what I mean). My favorite part of this show is the complex female friendship that is being explored, yes, I love the music and the idea of going back and doing it all differently, but its Lolly and Becca I tune in for the most.

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2. Afraid of Ghosts :: Butch Walker

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Its been two weeks since this album came out and I seriously cannot stop listening to it. This kind of love/obsession for an album hasn’t happened in awhile, and I’m grateful to be feeling it and falling into it the way I am. I just hope Butch Walker comes to Los Angeles soon to play (please, please, please).

Butch Walker singing two songs off the album, Chrissie Hynde and Father’s Day

3. Samuel French Bookstore

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Today’s chalk board theme, at Samuel French

I hadn’t been to Samuel French since my first year of college, when my friend and I used to go to get scripts and monologue collections for our theater classes, and I wasn’t completely sure it was still there when my twelve year old daughter, and her best friend, asked where they could get monologues for their drama club. I was beyond delighted to find it was still there, and just as amazing as I remembered it. There was an acting class going on in the side room while I was there, there were so many plays and cinematic books and scripts and journals and I could go on – I love bookstores so much.

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4. Take Me Home (2011)

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Joel from Parenthood wrote, directed and starred in a road trip/romantic comedy with is wife and I had no idea? Sam Jaeger is wonderful at all parts, and his wife is fantastic in this, as well. I have such a enormous love of “on the road” stories of unexpected friendship, and love – it is one of my all-time favorite cinematic tropes, without a doubt – and this one is definitely added to my list of favorites now.

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(available to stream on Netflix)

5. Giving Up the Ghost by Eric Nuzum

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This is a remarkable, yet very rough read, which is why I think its taking longer to get through than I initially expected. It is about the ghosts that haunt us in our lives, those we’ve lost, pieces we’ve lost in ourselves, and mostly about adolescence and the weight of depression and addiction and loneliness and love. There are times in this book where my emotions are so triggered that I have to stop reading, and I mean that in the best way – I’m a little over half way through and so far I highly recommend it (thanks, Bree, for sending it to me).

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Another character (though this is a real person) I’ve encountered named Laura that is dead, and eerily looks a lot like how I looked at the age she is in this photograph

6. Agent Carter

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I’m a Marvel fan, a Steve Rogers/Captain America fan, and I am definitely an Agent Peggy Fucking Carter fan, too. Though I am two episodes behind, I can still profess my love and admiration to a female-centric/female-hero television show set in the “cinematic” 40’s (like the first “Cap” movie). I wish it was a bigger hit, it should be a bigger hit, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting for?

Agent Carter clip

7. The Wolf Among Us (PS3 game)

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We picked the full game of this up rather inexpensively via Gamefly (like under $15.00, I think), and I was ecstatic as I had played the first chapter online and loved it. I’m a huge fan of the Fables comic book series, as well as a fan of RPG’s where it is more decision-based, and less fighting (I’m really quite terrible at in-game fighting, and aiming). The game play makes me feel like I’m in the comic itself, which is pretty damn keen.

Game Trailer

8. Listography Book Series

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I am a list lover, which anyone who knows me, and anyone who follows my blog, will attest to. The book above is my third in the series that I just picked up today (the other two my best friend sent to me at different times). These books are exceptional and perfect for any other list-obsessives, with awesome list themes, and cool art on each corresponding page to go with the theme.

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9. The Walking Dead :: Season 5 :: “What Happened & What’s Going On

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One of the most stunning and emotionally moving episodes of The Walking Dead than I’ve ever seen, visually, musically and in concept, and in subtext and meaning, it was all just amazing. Without spoiling (or at least trying not to do any spoiling), Tyrese got what Beth did not get, and we got to see The Governor again (sorry, I like him, but then again, I liked Shane, too). I’m not sure I can take the show and where I know it has to go, even though I know I will take it, but fucking hell it is hard on my heart and all my feelings.

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10. Tonight You Belong to Me :: Eddie Vedder & Cat Power

Tonight You Belong to Me

I love cover songs and I love duets. I also love both Eddie Vedder and Cat Power (Chan Marshall). What I’m not often a fan of is ukelele, but I dig it here.

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Friday Five :: Songs about flowers

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Songs about flowers

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I am not a fancy flower girl. I’ve never been fond of roses (they bring to mind death or pain, or apology, to me), or bouquets of any kind really, especially not as gifts, though I do love fresh cut flowers that seem wild and random warming up a house. I’ve been known to buy them myself at the local Trader Joe’s, or the flower mart downtown the few times I’ve been. My favorite though are wild daisies growing in untamed clusters or bushes, the kind I grew up with, that my Mom would braid into my hair as a child, and that I would later associate with a lover who used to call me Daisy sometimes.

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I love found flowers, the ones out in the world growing out of cracks in the pavement, or in deserted fields. Desert flowers have always been an unexpected surprise, blooms from cacti promising oasis in the dry desolation. I like tall, tall sunflowers like the ones I first saw on my cousins’ farm in Idaho where I spent a week during Summer once when I was eleven years old. Daises though, they are forever my flower, enough so that I have small one tattooed on my right leg. What is your favorite flower?

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The earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Emerson

It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ” ~ Colette

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair…” ~ Susan Polis Schutz

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

~ William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

These flowers will be rotten in a couple hours. Birds will crap on them. The smoke here will make them stink, and tomorrow a bulldozer will probably run over them, but for right now they are so beautiful.
~ Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

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Here are my top five flower songs for this week’s Friday Five. This one was hard to narrow down as I came up with enough to make a full playlist. What are your favorites?

1. Daisy :: Ben Lee

My muse is just a daisy with the most beautiful nature,
that will one day fall back in my flower bed
.”

2. Roses Grow :: Concrete Blonde

Up through the cracks,
up through the broken glass,
in the hot red light of a black and white,
roses grow.

3. Wild Flowers (live) :: Ryan Adams & Nick Casal

“And everything went up in smoke like wild flowers,
wild flowers, dear.”

4. Faded Flowers :: Shriekback

“These faded flowers,
precious as memory.
A veil of cloud,
correct as energy.
We had some good machines,
but they don’t work no more.
I loved you once,
don’t love you anymore.”

5. Where the Wild Roses Grow :: Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue

“They called me the Wild Rose,
but my name was Elisa Day.”

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Amy Dunne and how I felt about Gone Girl (the movie)

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Amy Dunne, and why Gone Girl (the movie) made me so uncomfortable
More a Reaction than a Review

Warning: If you have not seen the film and read the book by Gillian Flynn you may want to skip reading this post. This will be full of spoilers, lots of spoilers, but I have a lot to say about the movie, the book, and Amy Dunne. This is not as much a review than a reaction. After the picture below the spoilers will start to fly, so you may want to leave now. If not, well, read at your own risk.

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I came upon the book, Gone Girl, many, many times before I finally decided to read it. I will admit to thinking it would be a stereotypical, “destined to paperback copies sold at the check-out line at the grocery store” kind of book, and though it’s success has found the book winding up at said counters and nearly everyone’s “I’ve read it” list, the book was never a stereotype to me. Instead, it was a story that started as a he said/she said recollections of a failed marriage and possible murder that led me along one path, a path where I found myself often siding more with Nick rather than Amy. I felt sure of many things, but then that twist came along in the middle of the book and yes, I was surprised (understatement).

It was an Audio Book version I first “read“, and when the twist came I had to pull over and hit rewind to listen again, and breathe through the shock experienced. Though I did suspect that Amy was alive, I did not see the complete, magnificent mind fuck that she was pulling off. From that point on I was even more riveted, and yet even though I knew that Amy was written as the “villain” in the plot, I still went back-and-forth on who I felt the most for. Though admittedly, Nick was usually the one I went back to, excusing my internal pull to root for Amy (especially in terms of surviving Jeff and Shawna, and escaping Desi) as a desire to ultimately see Nick’s name cleared.

If Amy survived and returned, Nick would be exonerated.

But, maybe that wasn’t all of it. No, the way I felt for Amy was far more complicated than that. There were moments in the book when Amy ranted about “the cool girl” myth (reminiscent of the “Mary Jane” or the “Magic Pixie Girl” tropes found in so much fiction) that hit a chord with me, as well as her chameleon like qualities and the way no one seemed to ever really know her, only knowing what she brought to them, and out in them – that hit a little too deep and personal to me. There were moments when Amy’s “evil” behavior went more than a few beats too far, and for that I kept siding with Nick – but then, I recently re-read the book, and the movie happened, and I have to say my loyalties shifted.

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It is a disturbing thing to realize you are similar to a mentally unstable, psychotic, villain of a character that everyone deems “Queen Bitch”. How does one come to terms in recognizing unattractive qualities in oneself when reading or watching a character you are supposed to despise? What happens when you start to feel sympathy for said character, and actually start rooting for her? What if it makes you feel really, deeply sad and alone when that all finally hits you?

No, I could not plot my own murder to frame someone for it, knowing they could either spend their life in jail, or be sentenced to lethal injection. No, I could not slash someone’s throat. No, I wouldn’t use a pregnancy to manipulate a life, or person, I wanted to keep. But, I do understand human behavior and people around me enough to probably pull some of that off, more than I care to readily admit.

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I grew up never knowing who I was. Some of that had to do with growing up in an abusive home, some of it had to do with having to live in a constant state of duplicity in order to keep said abusive home a secret, some of it had to do with learning to go numb and become a different person in order to survive. And, some of it had to do with being a lonely and shy young girl who never felt comfortable in her skin, or in her own sense of self.

Becoming a chameleon became second nature to me, and when I started to date and enter into relationships I could masterfully become the other person’s “dream girl”. I was that repulsive “cool girl” again and again, living my life to be exactly what the other wanted, often being called a “soul mate” after only one or two dates, getting them in ways that “no one ever did“, and ultimately supporting all of their dreams and desires. I became a fantastic lover (at least to the person on the receiving end, or so I’ve been told) and the coolest girlfriend, and later wife, who never revealed her jealousy or anger or any tangible wants or needs, well, not until it all went to shit.

And it ALWAYS all went to shit.

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I invariably felt lonely and not understood. All the efforts I put in to know the other person, to mold myself for that other person, well, that other person never reciprocated, mostly because they never saw that it was work to do so, they just thought I’d bloomed off some fucking tree as the perfect girl for them. But it was a lot of work, a lot of meticulous work, and in the midst of all of the work I’d somehow convince myself that it wasn’t work after all, that maybe I had found “my perfect match”, or at least my perfect self with that match, and then I’d start to relax and let myself open up, actually allow myself to want something back, only to be met by an endless slew of disappointment, and the realization that they did not know me at all. Not that it was any of their faults necessarily, because how could they know me? I didn’t know me. I only knew the “me” at that moment that I perceived they wanted me to be (usually perceiving right, unfortunately).

In the film, when Nick knows so little about Amy, not even enough to know how she spent her days, if she had friends, or even her blood type, it hurt deeply to watch. I felt this sharp pain somewhere deep inside and it made it a little hard for me to breathe. I think it was right then that I started to root for Amy.

But, what exactly was I rooting for?

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I think that I wanted her to have one of two “endings” (or futures). I wanted her to either be completely exposed for all that she’d done and have to face it, finally being seen truthfully and having to deal with the consequences, OR, I wanted her to leave her life with Nick. I wanted the rumored “new ending” of the film to be Nick waking up and finding her gone, because honestly I felt like she deserved a different ending. She and Nick were terrible together, they were not soul mates, not even in a “fucked up couple” kind of way, and honestly, raising kids together? Really?

For me personally, age has helped solve some of my “Amy-ness“. I do not turn myself inside out in order to become perfect for people anymore, though I still know others a little too quickly, and well below their surfaces. And, I am still rarely really known.

People will swear they know me so well, and deem themselves my best friend, and not know anything about me. I’m constantly told “I have never told anyone this” before a confession arrives in my lap, or a “we have so much in common” when really it is just one or two things I’ve picked up about a person that I then use to ease my shyness in conversations. Very few people know me well, nor do they try to know me well, and yeah, that feels really fucking lonely a lot of the time. A lot of times, too, it feels like they just don’t want to put the effort in, especially as it seems they are too busy enjoying how perfectly I seem to know, and fit, with them and their needs.

But, I have let some key people in closer than I have ever in my life previously. Just a few though. Trust is hard, and disappointment is usually what I get back in full.

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That said, I will be the first to say that I think I’m great at being a Mom, but other relationships I am not good at. Maybe I still haven’t found myself, maybe I still know too well how to be the chameleon, or maybe there is something deeply wrong with me inside. I don’t know. But, I know that for me all of that makes it very hard to watch Amy on-screen and not want her to make it in the end. It is hard not to root for her.

Back to the film though, there were very few people I felt for, or felt engaged with. Amy was definitely one of them. She was vivid and complex, warm one moment, ice-cold the next, and so fucking smart. She was cruel, too, cutting and manipulative. But, she had absolutely no chemistry with Nick, not even in the beginning, and that felt flat to me. In the book you feel the chemistry between them in the beginning, and even in the end in a disturbing way, but on film it was never there.

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Also, where were the women in this film? I will say Margo was incredible. Every time she was on-screen she stole the scene, and I felt the most for her relationship with Nick than I did for any of his other relationships. Carrie Coon is quickly becoming a favorite actor of mine, especially after this Summer’s The Leftovers. But, I felt cheated by the blink and you’ll miss her portrayal of Nick and Margo’s Mother. as well as there one-note, barely there scene with their Father. Their parents were pinnacle in shaping who Nick and Margo are, Nick especially in the way he holds all his emotion inside, how he reacts and acts with women, and how insecure he is.

Where was Hilary Handy and her past history with Amy? Complicated friendships needed to be explored in the understanding (or the not understanding) of Amy. It helps to establish her manipulations of all relationships, not just sexual or romantic ones.

Also, where was Jacqueline, Desi’s Mother? Her creepiness and off-kilter relationship with her son Desi is intriguing, as well as disturbing, in the book. Also, her hatred of Amy is a vital detail, especially when she tries to seek justice for her son’s murder, who she rightfully accuses Amy of. Also, the fact that Amy resembles Jacqueline is important to understanding Desi.

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Next up is Andie in the film. Where was the tough side of Andie, the side that bit Nick’s face when he broke up with her? Where was her characterization? She was relegated to just one-step up from her role in the Robin Thicke/Pharrell Summer “hit turned disaster” Blurred Lines video. This isn’t even a casting slag off, or commentary on Emily Ratajkowski acting abilities, but more to the writing of her character for the film.

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I will say that Kim Dickens’ Rhonda Boney was well-represented, despite her being too “Hollywood” in appearances. I do think the film captured the part of her that doubts Amy and the whole “set-up“, and her persistence in finding the truth. I do think they missed some of the cues of her belief in Nick and the companionship they have throughout. In the book it is that companionship and connection they have that makes the discovery of the diary, and the mallet from the Punch doll, that more heartbreaking to read because you feel Rhonda hurt by it. That was completely absent from the film.

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I also missed Tanner’s wife who was so well-written, and the young blogger who gets the unorthodox interview with Nick at the bar that shakes up Amy, and manages to fool her in thinking that Nick is finally seeing her, and which leads to Nick’s daily online messages to Amy. On my second reading, Nick’s deception is painful because you feel how desperately Amy wants to be seen and loved for her, even when her ego and need to be right overshadows that need.

Amy doesn’t want to be mistaken as Amazing Amy, or the “cool girl” anymore. She is so fucking sick of all that she’ll kill to destroy it, and those who keep fabricating her.

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Visually the film is on point. Details like the Amazing Amy book covers and posters are painfully accurate, “The Bar” is how I pictured, the abandoned mall is even spookier than I imagined, and the scenes where Nick is alone look and feel desolate and lost, which is perfect. I just did not believe in his scenes with Amy at all.

Now, there is one more character I haven’t mentioned, except in reference to Amy or Jacqueline, and that’s Desi. When I first heard that Neil Patrick Harris was cast I was excited. I love when actors take risks, and I was hopeful that he would do the part justice.

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I’m not sure if it was lack of full characterization, or if he was just not right for the part, but he was not Desi to me. This Desi was laughable at times, weak, desperate and not threatening at all. In the book Desi is cold, colder even than Amy, calculating, seemingly sociopathic, beyond creepy, and downright terrifying at times.

His controlling nature is barely touched on in this portrayal, nor is his misfired understanding of Amy. He remembers all the details of an adolescent Amy that is long gone, and tries to smother her in those misrepresented memories, keeping her a prisoner at the lake house, and hiding her away from his Mother’s judgement. In this film version, he is too sympathetic. It makes Amy seem even crueler, which is not necessary (we get that she’s cruel). To me, Desi was supposed to bring sympathy to Amy’s character, make you see her as a wild animal in a trap, to get the reader to start rooting for her.

There are other details that are missing too, some inconsequential, others that I truly missed (where was the “just one olive” inside joke between Nick and Amy?), and the first act felt flat to me, only really coming to life when either a) Margo was on-screen, or b) Amy and the big reveal happened.

Overall, I don’t think that I liked the movie. I do know that it left me feeling uneasy and sad, and that the longer I think about it the more I feel driven to reread the book and possibly write Amy a different ending. Maybe I will do both.

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My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of 9/29/14

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My Weekly Top 10 :: Spooky October Version :: Week of 9/29/14

1. The Psychedelic Furs

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The song that always comes to mind as soon as October begins is The Ghost in You by The Psychedelic Furs, it is that first song I go to, the first song I play. The band is a forever favorite of mine, a band that my oldest friend first discovered, and it was her copies of their albums that I first borrowed, made cassette tape copies of, and fell hard for. Their music isn’t spooky necessarily, and neither is The Ghost in You as a song, but there is something soulful to it, something forever and endless, a song, and a band, I never grow tired of hearing.

The Ghost in You (live, 1984) :: The Psychedelic Furs

2. Cabin in the Woods

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My husband and I saw this movie on opening night, the theater so full we had to sit in the front row, and yes, our expectations were sky high especially since Joss Wheadon was involved. The movie did not disappoint, no, it actually well exceeded anything we hoped it would be, quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite movies. It is smart, with sharp and witty dialogue, it satirizes horror tropes without cheapening them or becoming too broad stroked, and it was full of surprises (starting from the “are we in the wrong theater” beginning).

3. American Horror Story: Freakshow

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Returning next Wednesday is the anthology series of terror, American Horror Story. This time the series takes on the carnival/freakshow of old, and I anticipate really loving this season. I read a book awhile back (Dreamland Social Club) based around a group of young friends who were descendants of the “freakshow” element of Coney Island that I loved, and I hope they touch on some of the feelings of being both a societal outcast, and a significant part of an inclusive group, giving a conflicting existence of belonging, and not belonging.

“Opening Night”

4. Lost Souls :: Poppy Z. Brite

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I have been a fan of vampire mythology and fictional storytelling since I was a little girl, and have devoured most books and films I could get my hands on (yes, even the sparkly ones). Lost Souls, by Poppy Z. Brite, is by far one of my all-time favorite vampire stories, one that has been far too long since I’ve read (I need to remedy that this month, I think). Set in Missing Mile, North Carolina, at a club where the disenchanted goth kids come to gather, we meet Ghost, Nothing and Ann, three characters that you will not quickly forget meeting.

5. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Audiobook
Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

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Part one of a three book series, Discovery of Witches is more than a story of witches and vampires and other monsters, though it is full of all of the above, but more of a historical adventure story full of romance and intrigue and libraries. This was a different read than I expected, and the audio book captured me, keeping me enthralled with the lives of Diana and Matthew, and both of their families. I have yet to read, or listen to, the next two in the series, but they are there waiting in my Audible queue.

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6. Last Night on Earth

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A collaborative game best played with a group of four or more, Last Night on Earth is like a zombie movie, or The Walking Dead, come to life. Each team plays either a zombie horde, or a group of survivors hoping to, well, survive, if you choose to be the latter you receive character cards that tell you who you are, what your strengths may be, and even a little personal detail that help you embody, and best utilize, your part of the team. This is my son’s favorite of all our board games (he likes to be part of the zombie horde, preferably with me on his undead team).

TableTop plays Last Night on Earth with Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci

7. Sandman 
Written by Neil Gaiman

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The picture above is a poster that illustrates all of the characters from the Sandman series, a poster my oldest daughter has on her bedroom wall. This was my first comic series that I loved enough to collect and obsessively read, talk about, and recommend to people, and it still holds up after multiple re-reads. I still hope to someday see a cinematic version of this series, hopefully for a cable or internet showcase, as I think the characters are so rich and vivid, and potentially immensely watchable.

Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos on Comic Connection

8. Final Girl

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I do wish this was out already as I’d like to watch and review it as a companion piece for my “Final Girls” series I’m doing every Monday in October. The cinematography in this is slightly off-putting, giving the film an off-kilter feel reminiscent of some of the British horror films of the 1960’s. I enjoyed Abigail Breslin quite a bit in the horror film Haunter, so the fact that she’s starring in this makes me even more interested – oh, and Wes Bentley, too.

9. Haunted :: Sinead O’Connor & Shane MacGowen

A somewhat unexpected musical pairing, one my Mom would describe as “that song you love with that beautifully voiced woman singing with a muppet” back when it was released, and I played it non-stop, is one of my all-time favorite duets. I love the dynamic between them, the differences, and the storytelling aspect. This is one of those songs that I’ve written to, and created stories about, over the years.

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10. Monster Mash  by Andrew Bowser
featured on Nerdist
It Came From YouTube” and my husband

From Director Andrew Bowser comes a comedy short that both pays homage to and satirizes the Zombie genre. In the adventurous tone of 80’s favorites like Monster Squad and Weird ScienceMonster Machine follows inventor Vincent Dooly and his best friend Terry Futterman as Vincent unveils his latest creation. Will this machine be Vincent’s masterpiece, or will it unleash a dark power that no man can possibly control?

My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of 9/22/14

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1. The Bangles

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Maybe its the upcoming concert at the Troubadour that one of my oldest and dearest friends and I are going to this Fall, or maybe its adolescent wish that never quite went away of being in an all-female band (if I could of been a Bangle I always wanted to be Michael Steele). This week I’ve been addicted to their first album, All Over the Place, especially the songs Going Down to Liverpool and More Than Meets the Eye.

Going Down to Liverpool :: The Bangles
with Leonard Nimoy as their grumpy driver!

2. Pride

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I wrote a review for this movie after seeing the screener earlier this week which exalts all the love and enthusiasm I have for this film, so I’m not sure what more I can say except that the movie has been with me ever since I saw it and I can’t wait to see it again on Sunday. Pride is one of those movies that I want to take everyone I know to see. It also makes me want to go dancing, too, or at least dance around the house to the all the music from the film.

3. Outlander

OUT_107-20140523-EM_0121.jpgThe show goes away until April after tomorrow, and I will miss it so. Claire is fascinating to me, frustrating, familiar, rich and complex; I relate to her in more ways than I have words, not to the time travelling, but to her characterization and motivations. I love how strong she is written and portrayed, and yes, as much as we all love Jamie, this show is Claire’s completely.

4. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

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It may be time again to return to the Thursday Next series as its been awhile, too much of awhile really. I still think these books would make an epic television series, detective Thursday entering inside books to solve crimes of literary and supernatural proportion, yes, yes, I’d watch that. This is the book that started it all, where Thursday has to enter into Jane Eyre through a “Prose Portal” to catch a killer.

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5.  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Audiobook
Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori

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I am a huge fan of Audio books, especially since I have such a horrendous daily commute to and from work. I have quite an assortment of titles, and have read/listened to a ton over the last two years especially, and the best of the best are not just great stories, but stories told by exceptional narrators. Middlesex is by far the best I’ve ever heard, Kristoffer Tabori takes on the multiple characters in the book, both male and female, both young and old, and does so through their aging and time so perfectly, each one taking on a uniqueness that was unmistakable, bringing the fantastic book to vivid life.

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6. Dixit Journey

61BhS2LOtxLBack to the board games from our game nights, a favorite of mine is Dixit Journey, a game of pictures and imagination and breathtaking art. Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which player selected which card, for instance “Alice Through the Looking Glass” because perhaps the picture card has a girl and a mirror on it, then all of the players have to lay a card face down that they think fits that “description“. The storyteller shuffles his or her chosen card with the cards received from the other players, and all cards are then dealt face up, and then the players (except for the storyteller) then secretly guess which picture was the storyteller’s, using numbered voting chips.

TableTop plays Dixit with Wil Wheaton, Leo Chu, Casey McKinnon and Beth Riesgraf

7. Black Widow, Issue 1
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Cover Art by Phil Noto

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I’m a comic girl and a Marvel Universe fan, and yes, I have my favorites in the comic book realm and the cinematic realm. One that crosses both is Black Widow who I love, and who I’ve actually written some “fan fiction” about, as well. The current Black Widow comic book series is phenomenal, both is story and in artwork – I highly recommend it.

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8. Annabelle

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Oh what a way to start October but with a prequel to one of my favorite recent horror films, The Conjuring. Creepy dolls and haunted houses and yes, I am so in. Directed by John R. Leonetti, written by Gary Dauberman, and produced by one of my favorites of modern horror, James Wan – I am so ready for spooky October (stay tuned here for the month of October for lots and lots of scary treats).

9. Beats So Lonely (live) :: Charlie Sexton

If you saw Boyhood this Summer Charlie Sexton played Ethan Hawke’s roommate and bandmate in the film, who we get to see at two different points in time, and in the character’s lives. Back in the mid-80’s Charlie was a teenager and had an album of New Wave/Pop/Punk songs with a Rockabilly feel, and my best friend and I fell head over heels for him. That deep voice, those high cheek bones, that skinny frame – oh my stars we were so into him, and his songs.

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Charlie in Boyhood (still dreamy to me)

10. A Brief History of Robin Thicke 2013 Summer Hit, Blurred Lines by Glove and Boots
from YouTube and recommended by my husband

Glove and Boots are two “Sesame Street” type puppets who do product testing, review music, and offer up other pop culture tips or news as a Vlog. This one is both witty and head scratching, just adding one more thing to lose (or lose more) respect for Robin Thicke about (you go, kids of Marvin Gaye). And yes, we are all so sick of this song, I agree.

My Weekly Top 10 :: Week of 9/15/14

11311. Journey

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There’s a radio station here in Los Angeles (The Sound) that does a Triple Play Thursday, and this week one of those three-song blocks was Journey, and I found myself turning it way up past “eleven” and singing-a-long with complete musical abandon. The thing is, I’ve always had a significant sized soft spot for Journey, but then along came Glee, and though yes, I liked the show in the beginning, they did hammer the over-played nails into the Journey-coffin with their endless version of Don’t Stop Believin’, that seemed to play all the time. But, you see, Glee and I went our Separate Ways and the time apart did me, and my feelings for Journey, some good, enough so that I have Open Arms (and ears) for Journey again.

Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ :: Journey
(look at that hair and that tied at the waist shirt!)

2. Fish Tank

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You know when you watch a movie that gets to you so much that you just can’t shake it, so much so that you find yourself thinking about the characters, peeling back the surfaces trying to sort out what you think was deeper within, and making up next steps and stories for them in your head? Well, that’s how Fish Tank has been for me this week. I even had a dream that I was swimming with Connor (Micheal Fassbender).

3. The Killing

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The Killing is my new show to binge on, well in the way I binge, which is slowly, savoring no more than two episodes a week. I want to take this in with care, giving it time to unfold and effect me, as I already feel it did when I watched the Pilot episode this week. Though I have no predictions or guesses yet, I find myself already enthralled with Sarah, and admittedly a little more than a little attracted to Holder.

Season One Trailer

4. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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My daughter brought home her friend’s copy of Eleanor and Park that she borrowed to read, and I picked it up after she’d gone off to sleep to re-read a few of my favorite parts, but ended up reading big chunks of it again. My heart still gets all tied up in this story, and in Eleanor, and her struggles at home, and her loneliness and fears, and love of music, and of Park. I enjoyed reliving those early moments on the bus, sharing comic books and mix tapes.

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5. Grantland Hollywood Prospectus Podcast

GrantlandHollywood Prospectus is one of my favorite podcasts because of their knowledge and sharp wit, and taste in television. I started listening to them over the Summer, taking in their takes on Fargo, The Leftovers, The Strain and this week, some of the Fall network dramas. They had me laughing especially when calculating the impossibility of enough Naval crimes to fill approximately 64 hours of NCIS shows per season, oh, and they also had some interesting things to say about the state of music today, and the death of the rock band.

Here’s last week’s episode for your enjoyment (or as the Grantland podcasts sign off, for your ear balls!)

6. Murdered: Soul Suspect

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A different kind of “undead” game for the XBOX 360, Murdered has a mystery to solve and you are the undead who has to do the solving. You are Ronan, a detective turned ghost trying to solve your own murder while you are trapped in a limbo world called Dusk.

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7. All Nighter: Stealing Coins by David Hahn

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Kit Bradley is a 20 year-old art student and petty criminal who knows it’s time to leave her delinquent past behind, but isn’t ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. Her social headquarters is an all night diner, and while trying to put the ‘off’ on an on-again-off-again boyfriend, she runs into an old flame, and an enigmatic loner named Martha, who alters Kit’s life forever. I just started this today, and I’m way intrigued – stay tuned for future “Top 10’s” where I might report back on how it is.

IMG1108398. Pride 

I have preview tickets to see this movie on Tuesday and I’m really excited to see it. U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. I have never heard of this story, but I love when life brings about unexpected friends and allies, and when circumstances build a bridge of connection and understanding.

The-Pride-movie-poster9. Divine Hammer (live) :: The Breeders

I love the introduction of “just a bunch of rock chicks who like to play loud guitar music“. I’ve been into 90’s female fronted, and full banded, rock bands. I love the way the Deal sisters voices sound together.

10. Top 10 Alternate Endings
via WatchMojo.com and courtesy of my husband

My husband and I have become addicted to the Top 10 lists on WatchMojo.com, even if I have issues with the fact that they did a series of decade defining actors, but have yet to do actresses (I’m still waiting, Mojo). This particular one takes on their Top 10 best movies with alternate endings. I knew about most of them, but somehow missed that there was an alternate to the Scott Pilgrim ending.