Monday, June 30, 2014

June in review

Another month down guys, where does all the time go?

Let's just jump in, shall we?


What I Read:

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (my review)
Psycho by Robert Bloch (my review)
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (review to come)
X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Clairmont and John Byrne (my review)
Ms Marvel by G.Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (my review)
Wonder Woman: Blood by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins (my review)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven (review to come)
Captain Marvel: Down by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Christopher Sebela, Dexter Soy and Filipe Andrade (review to come)

Book Stats:

63% male / 37% female
75% American / 25% International
12.5% physical copy / 62.5% ebook / 25% audiobook
100% fiction
63% graphic novels / 37% novels

Big ol' comics month for me. I actually started another half dozen arcs, but since I'm only one or two issues in I didn't bother counting them. If you're after some new comic series to get in on though, definitely check out Warren Ellis' new Trees, The Wicked and the Devine by Kieron Gillen and Ms Marvel, which I've already reviewed and recommended, but seriously, it is tops.

I spent much of the month reading Lamb and listening to Burial Rites and both are brilliant in completely different ways. Listening to Burial Rites was a hell of an experience. Morven Christie is phenomenal, I found myself crying as I drove to work several times because of the way her voice would break as she read. She brought that book to life, so seriously, listen to this book. STAT. Lamb, which I've already reviewed, is hilarious and after I finished I jumped onto Audible to see what books of his were available, so now I am toying with starting Fool straight away, or listening to How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran before we start the readalong of her new book this month. Actually, since typing this I started How to be a Woman and it is fantastic. It's read by Moran, and it is actually the best.


Not a big month for movies actually. I saw Maleficent with Tom and thought it would have been a lot better if it wasn't based on Sleeping Beauty. If it had just been about a random fairy brutally assaulted by man who then takes revenge on man's daughter and then learns a valuable lesson it could have been poignant and complex, but instead I spent the whole time saying "you can't do that" "that's not how that's supposed to happen" "YOU CHANGED ALL THE IMPORTANT PARTS". And I know, I know, the Disney movie is only loosely based on the actual fairytale but since Maleficent isn't actually in the original fairytale that argument holds little water in my opinion. There is a reason that Wicked works, it's because it gives the story behind the story, it doesn't actually alter the story to make the bad guy a good guy who got screwed over. But Angelina Jolie is flippin' great, and beautiful and obviously having so much fun. I would like to look like her and fly around with giant eagle wings please and thank you.

There is an Australian film out called The Rover. It stars Guy Pierce and Robert Pattinson and is written and directed by David Michod, who also wrote/directed Animal Kingdom, and it is beautiful. Australian drama is such an under-appreciated gem, both here in Australia and overseas. It's always very sparse in terms of dialogue and intent (i.e. there's a lot left to the audience to decide/rationalise) and I think that makes people uncomfortable. Guy Pierce is phenomenal in this, and he's dressed just like my uncles (seriously, cargo shorts, worn-out button down and joggers/boat shoes is basically the uniform of middle class South Australia) which probably won't make you like the movie more/less but now you can visualise what my uncles look like. Also, Robert Pattinson was flippin' great. I've always enjoyed his interviews (his disdain for Twilight is brilliant) but he really impressed me here. I never expected to feel that way about a RPatz performance. 

I binge watched and reviewed Orange is the New Black, so if you have also watched that head over so we can discuss it and share our favourite gifs and moments. It'll be beautiful. 


I played a bunch of videogames this month. Or, I played two. I played the latest "chapter" of The Wolf Among Us, which is the Telltale Noir detective game based on the Fables graphic novel. It's really excellent, and if you've ever been interested in playing a videogame but weren't sure you would be able to handle the controls or like the full on war or world games then you should look into Telltale. Their games are very storybook-esque (partly since a lot are based on actual graphic novels) and more about the story than just mashing buttons. It's a lot of fun unfolding the story chapter by chapter, and the game is canonical, so you can use it as a jumping off point into the series! I've also caught up on The Walking Dead game by Telltale. I played the bridging episode and started the second season and ugh, it's as heartbreaking as the first. I really don't care for TWD (comic or TV) but the game is superb. Every action you make has consequences and you really feel the weight of you choices. People die around you, a lot of them because of what decision you decide to make. You finish the chapter feeling heavy with it all, which I guess a lot of people wouldn't like, but there's also something really cathartic about it.

I've been listening to Asgeir on repeat over the last two months. He's super-dreamy and his music just seems really wintery so it just feels really appropriate when I sit at my computer with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I also went on a Dolly Parton spree thanks to Laura mentioning the Dolly concert she bought tickets to for her and her mum. Which lead me to the Jolene cover by The White Stripes (which has always been my most favourite of covers) which lead me back into The White Stripes back catalogue, which I haven't listened to for aaaages. So it's been a very 'down the rabbit hole' kinda month for me music-wise.


And I think that'll do for this monthly wrap-up. How was everyone's June? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Lamb by Christopher Moore

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Written by: Christopher Moore

Published: 2002

Synopsis: The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years -- except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work "reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams" (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more -- except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdala -- and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

“Blessed are the meek, for to them we shall say "attaboy".”

 Laura had Alley appreciation week a few weeks ago, so this week I'm going to carry on the tradition by doing happy dances and fist pumping while chanting Alley's name over and over.

Go Alley! Go Alley! Go Alley!

In case you're new here, Alley's kinda a bit of a Christopher Moore fan. Just a little one though, it's not like she's read and re-read his books or anything, or professed her love for him on a blog. Or wait, maybe she did. Actually yeah, that's kinda why I'm dedicating this to Alley, because her enthusiasm finally paid off and I got around to reading, and loving, Christopher Moore's Lamb. This book is all kinds of awesome. It's fun and silly and inventive and just a little bit heart-warming.


Biff, officially Levi but nicknamed after the sound made when he's hit on the head, is brought back from the dead 2000 years after the fact to write his gospel which will fill in the gaps of the missing years when he accompanied his best friend Joshua (Jesus*) to find out how to be the messiah. And it's a hell of a journey. From their early days pining after the same girl (Maggie AKA Mary Magdelene) to travelling to meet and study under each of the three wise men, to witnessing the carnage at the festival for Kali, to buying elephants and vanquishing demons.

There's a lot of stuff going on in the 20 years or so they spend away from home, and while the events are pretty integral to them growing as characters and men, the real heart of the novel is the bromance between Biff and Josh. Like every nerd on the internet, I love a good bromance and Christopher Moore delivers, and then some. They tease and prank each other, argue and snipe, but they are two halves of a whole. Josh, as the son of God, is a little naive. He believes the best in everyone, and isn't really about to see the forest from the trees. Biff is his protector, physically and emotionally. While Josh is learning the tenets of Buddhism and the divine spark, Biff is learning to brew poisons and perform martial arts (and inventing judo - or Jew-do). They're the physical embodiment of the yin and yang amulet that Biff wears around his neck, one is the poison and one is the antidote, but both have their roles and both need the other. Considering this is the (lost) story of Jesus/Joshua the bromance seems incredibly apt. The story we all know of Jesus is one of sacrifice and love, but it's nice to think that there's someone who loved and sacrificed even more for the man who would become the most influential person to ever live**.

The angels are what really made this GIF appropriate.

So there's an elephant in the room who I probably need to address. I am not religious. Technically I was raised Catholic but I haven't been to any kind of bible study since I was 10. I'm mainly raising this point here because of what I'm about to say next, i.e. I don't really have a leg to stand on. Any time a book deals with a sensitive issue, people lash out and try and ban it or rail against it***. At first glance I could understand why people might look at the title and synopsis of this book and think that Moore is trying to either sensationalise the story for profit or just troll Christians. That is absolutely not what this book is. I'm sure there's plenty of blasphemy in the book and Moore says himself in his afterword that he took liberties with the story, but like Moore then says:
“This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do.”
So if you've avoided this book because you were worried that it was written by an atheist mocking your beliefs, then don't worry. And on the flipside, if you're an atheist/agnostic and you don't think a book about a religious figure is really your cup of tea/you know nothing about the whole thing then also, don't worry. It might use a religious figure to tell the story, but it's about a lot more than that. It's about the basic principals of Christianity, sure, but that can also be boiled down to the Wil Wheaton slogan "don't be a dick".

Jesus's whole message in a nutshell.

I've made this book sound incredibly emotional and serious, and while I think you can take some brilliant things from it, it is first and foremost a funny, funny book. From dad-level humour to some downright clever funny business, this book had me laughing out loud a lot. So I think I'll end this review on one of my favourite sections, where the reanimated Biff ponders the nature of today's rap music and slang.
“I've tried to get the angel to watch MTV so I can learn the vocabulary of your music, but even with the gift of tongues, I'm having trouble learning to speak hip-hop. Why is it that one can busta rhyme or busta move anywhere but you must busta cap in someone's ass? Is "ho" always feminine, and "muthafucka" always masculine, while "bitch" can be either? How many peeps in a posse, how much booty before baby got back, do you have to be all that to get all up in that, and do I need to be dope and phat to be da bomb or can I just be "stupid"? I'll not be singing over any dead mothers until I understand.”

Like I said. Funny.

*this isn't a case of changing the name randomly. Joshua is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua. 

**Or not live. Or be the amalgam of several men claiming to be messiah. whatever, you know the drill.

***Although I think Alley said in her review that this book hasn't really gotten that kind of negative press. Which is brilliant.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Audiobook Review: Psycho by Robert Bloch


Written by: Robert Bloch

Published: 1959

Audiobook read by: Paul Michael Garcia

Synopsis: It was a dark and stormy night when Mary Crane glimpsed the unlit neon sign announcing the vacancy at the Bates motel. Exhausted, lost, and at the end of her rope, she was eager for a hot shower and a bed for the night. Her room was musty but clean and the plumbing worked. Norman Bates, the manager, seemed nice, if a little odd.


“Mothers sometimes are overly possessive, but not all children allow themselves to be possessed.”

Psycho is without a doubt a fantastic film, it's one of the fantastic films. But it owes everything it is to Robert Bloch, because without the fantastic foundation he created with his book, the film would have nothing.

But with all that said and done, I never had a burning desire to read the book that started it all. I had always had it on my list of "one day in the future I'm sure I'll get a chance" books but I never searched it out at book sales or book stores or even gave it a thought when perusing the shelves at the library. That changed when I was mindlessly flipping around Audible looking for books to use my credit on. Psycho came up as a suggested book for me and at a meagre 5 hours (I was still a little burnt out from the 30+ hour epic that was The Goldfinch) it seemed like the perfect purchase.

Part of the problem, I expect, is that I knew the twist. I don't have a lot of issues with spoilers, it rarely stops me from enjoying something I read/watch, but the 'twist' in Psycho is so seminal (as is the shower murder to be honest) that I wasn't sure if reading it would actually add that much. I definitely think I would have liked the book more if I didn't know the twist (I'm dancing around it, but everyone knows about Norman Bates' predilections right?) because the final 15% of the book was harrowing enough for me, so I can only imagine how much people reading it when it originally came out must have been glued to the edges of their seats. But knowing or not knowing, this book is a brilliant little thriller. Well written, well paced, and (in the case of the audiobook) well read.

It's hard to avoid comparing the book with the film. For the most part I'd say the film does a brilliant job bringing Bloch's story to life, making only fairly minor changes. One point I do want to raise though is that Film Norman Bates and Book Norman Bates could not be more different. Well, psychotically they're the same, but visually not so much. In the film the dishy Anthony Perkins plays the role, while in the book Norman Bates is described as in his early 40s and overweight. Thanks to Ellie's review last year I know that this was an intentional shift made by Hitchcock but it got me to thinking of Carrie which had a similar shift from overweight and homely to thin and attractive (even if Sissy Spacek isn't exactly your traditional Hollywood beauty) for the leading character.  I don't know if I was more attuned to Carrie because it was a change that stuck out for me personally, but I feel like people seem less critical of the Psycho change than of the Carrie change in reviews and discussions on the film adaptation. Is it because Hollywood has a nasty habit of prettying up every female they can, or is it that we actually care less when they recast a male character as someone more handsome? This isn't a complaint of the book or the film, I think Anthony Perkins was brilliant as Bates, but it was a thought that popped into my head almost immediately and has been sloshing around in there for a week or two now. And now it is in yours.

Psycho is well worth a read, regardless of how well you know - or don't know - the film adaptation. It's a short, sharp thriller which teases out some interesting characters in such a short space of time. It also plays with some interesting ideas, touching on issues relating to familial relationships and obligations, magic and psychology to develop a horror story that has the potential to terrify because of the events (which are definitely more horrific than the film, surprisingly) but also because it so clearly and matter-of-factly lays out why the events of the novel happen.

So this is a pretty short and bland review, but it's always difficult to review books that a) everyone knows about, b)is a thriller with twists, and c) is an audiobook, because I just don't notice writing style nearly enough. So I'm going to sign off with a shrug and hope that you accept my "just read it, cos" as acceptable enough.

Monday, June 9, 2014

TV Review: Orange is the New Black (2014)

Orange is the New Black (season 2)

Created by: Jenji Kohan

Starring: Taylor Schilling
Laura Prepon
Jason Biggs
Kate Mulgrew
Natasha Lyonne
Pablo Schrieber

Synopsis: Shocking revelations and new arrivals shake up the lives and relationships of Litchfield's prisoners in the highly anticipated second season. (Via Netflix)

*since this this a review of season 2, expect spoilers for season 1 okay*


I know up above I said that this would contain spoilers for season 1, but you should probably prepare yourself for spoilers about season 2 as well because this is going to be a more general discussion post about the season rather than a broad review to interest people in giving it a go. So if you haven't watched it yet and don't want to have some major shit spoiled, then you best be heading elsewhere until you catch up.

*Spoiler dance* Last chance to get out before I discuss the hell out of this season.

I had every intention to try and spread this season out, maybe only watch two episodes at a time, but that didn't happen. That didn't even come close to happening. I started to wonder halfway through episode 6 whether I like this everything-at-once model of delivering a series. Do I appreciate having something to binge watch while everything else (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, It's Always Sunny) I watch is spread out over weeks and months, or am I only doing it because it's there and it's too tempting to resist? What do I actually get out of spending a Saturday night watching 6 episodes back to back? I'm excited that I got to watch it, but now that I realise I have a full year until I get more of the show? Maybe spreading it out by the week isn't so bad after all.

But my lack of will power is neither here nor there. What I really want to discuss is this latest season of OITNB and how much I adored it. While I loved the first season (my review is up above the line ^ there) I did have a few issues with it, mostly surrounding Piper and the love triangle between her, Alex and Larry. My favourite parts of the first season had to do with all the other prison ladies, and I think this season did a really great job of focusing on them more and making Piper almost more of a background character. Which is fantastic, because while she was our vehicle into the story and we felt her fear and discomfort and unease as she did, she's a lot more comfortable in her surrounds now, as are we, and we don't really need her any more. I'm almost a little disappointed they didn't go through with her transfer to Virginia, because while I liked her a lot more this season I think her role is done. We don't need more drama with Alex (which is clearly coming) or Larry and she's no longer the new girl completely out of her depth. If they started season 3 with her release I'd probably be okay with that*.

The series kept the chosen character/flashback model from the first season, and I think I enjoyed it even more than last time. There was almost a hint of the unreliable narrator in it, releasing small details that suggest one route before the full story is finally revealed and everything is flipped on its head. Take Morello, poor, poor sweet Morello. We're introduced to her as she's conducting a pretty nifty mail scam - ordering expensive designer clothes online and then claiming not to receive them and getting a full refund. I couldn't remember if we'd ever gone into what her crime was in season 1 (perils of the binge watch) but everything was set up to think that she was in Litchfield for fraud, until her "fiancée" is on the stand and starts talking not about mail fraud, but of stalking and attempted murder and damn if my heart didn't completely shatter. To remember her season 1 self and then see that everything she'd said was a lie/delusion was heartbreaking, to know that something in her was so broken that she'd convinced herself that they had a dog together and that she was willing to make an explosive and try and kill his real fiancée...that was some fantastically crafted storytelling. When she was in his house taking a bath and they got home? My god, I don't think my heart slowed for 10 minutes after she managed to get away.

While there were plenty of flashbacks and stories for other characters, the shift in group dynamics because of a) Red's downfall from season 1 and b) Vee's arrival were definitely the prominent season arcs. Vee, man. She scared the shit out of me. She was this pied piper type figure, luring in the young and the vulnerable and lacking any empathy when it came to the girls (and boys in the flashbacks) who were drawn under her spell. Any time she had a run in with a character and then we saw that character alone, I was convinced they were going to die in the most brutal way. I first hated her because her flashback scene with child-Taystee gave me the willies, but then she stepped in between Poussey and Taystee's friendship and HELL NO, that will not stand. And then she used and abused Crazy Eyes and I switched to eagerly rooting for her death every time she was on screen. Poor Crazy Eyes, and bravo Uzo Aduba, she was unbelievable all season. The stand outs for me were when she was with SIS and Healy when she's convinced she must have done it and you see the turmoil and confusion just wrecking havok on her psyche. And the scene back in her bunk when she's crying with the uno cards? Ugh, she's such a complicated, broken and sad character and makes my heart hurt.

The other big thing I wanted to bring up was Healy. In season 1 I had thought he was misguided and a little (okay a lot) homophobic and old-fashioned before turning into an absolute maniac by the final episode. I expected for him to remain the villain for me in season 2 but nope, I am utterly confused about how to feel about him. On the one hand his fear of the lesbian agenda is infuriating and hateful and the lengths he's willing to go to hurt or disadvantage "those" women is disgusting. But then you see him actually trying to make things work with his wife and help the inmates with his safe place group and it's like, why are you making this so hard on me?! I know one of the best things about the show is how grey everyone is, there's no bona fide villain or hero, but I just don't know what to think about Healy. He seems to represent both sides of the coin and I got dizzy trying to keep up with his aggressive asshole schtick one minute and his vulnerable helper-puppy persona the next. Is he a good guy with anger issues (and old fashioned ideas about feminism and homosexuality) or is he a shitty guy who believes in therapy? I JUST DON'T KNOW.

And just as quickly as it started, it was all over again. I was almost a little disappointed with the way the finale episode ended, most likely because season 1 finished with such a shatteringly stressful cliffhanger and this one just sort of...finished. I think it did a really good job of lining up the stories for season 3 - Alex will be back, Caputo will struggle as assistant-warden, Pennsatucky and Healy will probably have a continuing story, Daya and her baby will likely become the A-story - while also wrapping up a lot of the season's arcs. There'll probably be some fall out over Rosa's escape and Vee's death (death? Do we think she's definitely dead?) but I think they'll be handed pretty quickly. When it finished my sister and I discussed whether it's better to end with a cliffhanger like in S1 or wrapped up (with new roads laid out) like in S2, and while I can see the benefits to both I can't help but think the cliffhanger is a bit more satisfying. I think you could argue that it's a cop out, a way for the writers to set up something without really having a proper conclusion for it right away but there is something incredibly gratifying (maybe even masochistic) in ending a series that you get all at once with a juicy scene like the end of S1. Like, here's 13 episodes to binge watch and just when shit is getting real BOOP, privileges revoked. Or maybe that's just me.

Small details to note before signing off and heading to the comments to discuss it all with you.
~I loved Laverne Cox with her bob haircut, and damn her toned arms. And nawwww, making inroads with her son?
~I loved the way they started Piper's story (and the whole series) this season. It brought back the fear and confusion that was in the first couple of episodes of S1 and also helped kickstart her attitude for the season.
~I really enjoyed the nun's story and her narcissism and Rosa's little story with the kid in chemo. They were stories that had consequences and weight, but they were also nice/funny stories outside of the gloom of prison. the Sister's story in particular felt almost slapstick at times, like when she was posing with the fake blood?
~Lori Petty was great, but I was sad she only had a cameo.
~Was there more boobs this season?
~Nicky still remains one of my favourites. She's so on point and I love how little she cares about just laying down the truth for people. I really hope that she doesn't fall back into drugs next season, my heart will break.
~They clearly spend many painstaking hours looking for the perfect young child/women actresses to play the flashback versions of characters. I could absolutely see the woman playing young Rosa in the cancer-stricken, prison-wearied woman we know and the child playing Crazy Eyes at the birth of her sister was so on point.
~Is Larry going to be off the show now? Because I really am done with him. Goodbye Larry.

*That sounds so mean. I think Taylor Schilling is doing a brilliant job, I just don't know if her character is really necessary any more. I'd rather they got rid of her now while she's at her top, than keep her in and keep recycling the same love life drama over and over until I dislike her again.

Guest Post: After 20 Years, The Giver is Finally a Film by Spencer Blohm

Spencer Blohm is back with another guest post, guys. This time it's about the upcoming film The Giver and some of the ins and outs of the process that's occurred from book to film.

After 20 Years, The Giver is Finally a Film

Lois Lowry’s The Giver has been a mainstay on most teenagers reading lists since its release in 1993. Whether you read it in school or on your own time, the story of Jonas, the Community and, of course, the Giver, holds a spot in many reader’s hearts today. The book took shape when author Lowry asked herself what a world would be like with no war, no poverty, no unhappiness, and no disharmony at all. She told the Washington Post that after establishing this peaceful world, “then I introduce the idea that something is not quite right in this lovely place.”

The resulting story was considered by some to be too dark and controversial for teens or older children to read, and there were even attempts to ban the book. This took Lowry by surprise; she was actually “astonished” when she heard of this controversy and in the same interview went on to explain, “I think The Giver is such a moral book, so filled with important truths, that I couldn’t believe anyone would want to suppress it, to keep it from kids.”

Now, 20 years after it first simultaneously won accolades and condemnation, the book will be (finally) making its way into theaters this coming August. The novel no longer stirs up the controversy that it once did, considering the radical changes in society since its release, but it’s central theme is something that is timeless, and will surely be extended to a new generation thanks to the film. While not much is know about the film itself, here are a few things that we know regarding its creation...

The film rights to the book were originally purchased in 1994 by Bill Cosby and his production company, ASIS Productions, who formed an agreement with Lancit Media Production to create a film adaptation of the book. As the years went by, multiple screenwriters were brought into and subsequently left the project, and Walden Media eventually became the central production company.
One constant through the film’s journey to the big screen was the interest of Jeff Bridges. After being introduced to the book by his daughter, he became interested in optioning the rights to the film, but not for himself, telling Variety,“I originally thought of the role of the Giver as a vehicle for my father, the late Lloyd Bridges.” Thanks to the many years spent in pre-production, Bridges now will assume the role, saying, “at 61 years old, I feel the time is right for me to do it.” He also serves as a producer of the film.

Joining Bridges on the production side of the picture is director Phillip Noyce. It’s worth noting that among Noyce’s best known works are the action/thriller films Salt, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger (all of which you can catch through streaming and on demand services online or from your cable provider). This means we can likely expect the film to be more fast-paced than the book, and to really milk those suspenseful moments. While Lowry didn’t have a role in the screenplay itself (which was eventually written by Michael Mitnick), she told the Washington Post that she read it and offered suggestions but understood that “a movie can’t ever be the same as the book.” Producer Nikki Silver echoed Lowry’s sentiments, citing a concern in trying to translate Jonas’ heavy internal dialogue to the screen, and saying that the film took so long to be made because they needed the right screenplay, which would be able to do just that.

Of course, it was quite a process to find Jonas himself as well. Rumors swirled for months as to who would get the part after the casting process was announced, and the part eventually went to a relatively unknown Australian actor, Brenton Thwaites. Joining him and Bridges in the cast is the legendary Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, much to the delight of, well, everyone. Rounding out the cast are Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard as Jonas’s parents, and Taylor Swift, who appears in a few brief moments as Rosemary, the former Receiver of Memories.

As you may have previously seen on this site, a trailer was recently released for the film. Of course, fans of the book were quick to react to the fact that the film is not in black and white like the book, but the studio assures us that parts of the film will be shown as written. The Giver will make its debut in American theaters on August 15th, so be on the lookout for more information and sneak peeks about this highly anticipated film.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment blogger who lives and works in Chicago. When he’s not busy working he can be found catching up on all his favorite TV shows or checking out the newest movies. His sadly neglected Twitter is @bspencerblohm.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Graphic Novel Mini-reviews # (It's all about the lady heroes)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Uncanny X-Men)

Written and illustrated by: Chris Clairmont and John Byrne

Published in: 1981

My Thoughts: I decided to give the comic a read after seeing the film and seeing how much criticism the film received for taking the Kitty Pryde role and giving it to Wolverine. It was my first (I think?) X-Men comic and eh, it was fine. It's a 5 or 6 issue arc and in all honestly, only an issue and a half actually has anything even tangentially related to the DOFP storyline. Perhaps it's dealt with further down the line, perhaps it isn't. It was a bit clunky in the writing (as all older comics tend to be) and the characters all seem to love their internal monologues, but it was fun seeing the proper line up of X-Men and also note all the ways the films series shot themselves in the foot by starting out how they did. So an interesting experiment, but I'm not sure if I'll be going back.

Wonder Woman: Blood (Volume 1)

Written by: Brian Azzarello; illustrated by: Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: Wonder Woman is without a doubt my favourite superhero and it hurts me, it physically pains me, to think we still don't have a WW film. But for the time being I will make do with Azzarello's recent run of WW comics. And as much as it sucks that we don't have a WW film (cameo/intro in the upcoming Supes V Bats notwithstanding) these comics do help. They're brilliant. While I love superhero comics, I rarely have an emotional connection with the characters or the content. But this volume hit me right in the feels, man. WW is so fragile and troubled but she's also this incredibly strong and independent and fiery woman. And I love her so, so much.

Ms Marvel (issues #1-4)

Written by: G. Willow Wilson; Illustrated by: Adrian Alphona

Published: 2014

My Thoughts: Kamala Khan, what a perfect accompaniment to Wonder Woman you are. Kamala is 16, Pakistani-American, and struggling with the usual teenager problems (boys, misunderstanding parents, concern trolls) while also dealing with apparently being turned into a superhero after sneaking out to a party and getting caught in a mysterious fog. But guys, I'm dead serious, this comic is phenomenal. It deals with so many issues, from the issues of a young Muslim girl trying to fit in to the absurdity of superhero costumes (which totally don't include underwear btw) to taking on someone else's mantel to the true meaning of having superpowers. Kamala (along with her friends Bruno and Nakia) is an incredibly well written, well rounded character. She's an absolute must for superhero fans, but if you're after well written and illustrated comics, specifically ones with realistic portrayals of women - well, this one is a real winner.

Guest Post: Real Fiction by author Ted Galdi

I've decided that a few guest posts might help fill in the holes my lack of reviews have caused. This post is by new author Ted Galdi about the benefits of 'real' fiction and his new book. Enjoy!

When reading books or watching movies, I've always found it interesting when the fictional story takes creative liberties with well-known, real-life "things." For instance, in The Da Vinci Code, though the characters and conflict are completely fictional, a lot of the important drivers of the story - institutions, works of art, symbols, etc - have existed in the world for hundreds of years if not more. Though some made-up context is added around these aspects, it happens in a way that preserves their historical integrity and doesn't try to transform them into something they're not. When writers use this technique with the appropriate balance, the result is powerful. Audiences are able to instantly relate to the story because it features things they already know about; less exposition is needed since the simple introduction of these elements conveys unspoken supporting information; the journeys of the characters seem more realistic since they're happening among recognizable scenery.

I recently finished writing my first novel, Elixir, a thriller about a teenage genius on a mission to create a "super medicine" to save his sick girlfriend. When writing I relied heavily on the concept of "real fiction," trying to incorporate commonly known things into the book on the small level all the way up to the large. For example, a major conflict point of the story involves Sean, the main character, cracking something called The Traveling Salesman Problem, which is considered the biggest mystery in computer science. The challenge is to write a formula that can automatically find the shortest route a traveller (like a salesman on a business trip) can take through any number of world cities, while passing through each at least once before returning to the original. It sounds simple enough, and it is for a low number of destinations. However, once you include ten cities the amount of possible "paths" to choose from is over 350,000. The scope gets exponentially more complex as more locations are piled on, skyrocketing to over 85 billion potential paths at 15 cities. In Elixir, Sean invents a formula that can in deed locate the shortest route among all 85-billion-plus of these combinations and many more. This discovery winds up catapulting him into a storm of problems, where he's chased down by "real fiction" pursuers such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the United States Secretary of Defence.

Weaving real-fiction pieces into a story can make it more relatable and appealing. If you're an aspiring writer, definitely consider this effective tool in your next project.


This guest post was by Ted Galdi, author of the upcoming thriller Elixir. For more on Ted and his book, visit the official website at

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May: What I read, What I watched, What I did.

Since I have been leaving rather large gaps between reviews I decided a monthly re-cap wouldn't hurt. Not only does it give me an opportunity to finally start making note of my stats (a la What Red  Read) each month, but it also gives me a platform to talk to you all and rubbish on about whatever it is I have going on at the time.

So let's begin!


What I Read:

Captain Marvel #1 by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Dexter Soy (illustrator) and Emma Rios (illustrator) (my min-review)
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (my review)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (my review)
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksky (illustrator) (review to come)

Book Stats:

25% male / 75% female
75% American / 25% International
25% physical copy / 50% ebook / 25% audiobook
100% fiction
50% graphic novels / 50% novels

Not too shabby for a poor reading month. Granted, I was reading/listening to The Goldfinch for a couple of months all up, so it's almost disingenuous to count it in this months reads when it was mostly done, but eh, what are you gonna do?

For the last week or two I haven't really had the energy to start a new book. When I finish my work for the day, I've felt like a few issues of a comic book are about all I can handle. I just started two new books today though Lamb by Christopher Moore and Psycho by Robert Bloch (audiobook) so hopefully I've managed to put my reading block behind me. Lamb, by the way, is flippin' hilarious. A fantastic book to start the new month's reads with.


It's been a kinda big month for movie dates, although I'm sure I'll forget some of them. I went to see Godzilla, X-Men and Bad Neighbours with friends. They all had their good and bad parts. Godzilla deserves some respect for backgrounding the monster fights (there's a particular scene when some army guys are parachuting that's particularly impressive) but they forgot to write actually interesting characters to put in the foreground. I don't have to see 2 giant monsters fight for the entire 2 hours, but the characters actually have to do something if I'm going to watch them instead. Brian Cranston was fab though. X-Men was solid, although there's a lot of "BUT WHY DO THIS INSTEAD OF THAT YOU MEGALOMANIAC" moments which make you shake you head and thank the stars the cast is so attractive (seriously Fassbender, damn SON). Bad Neighbours (called just Neighbours in the states, but you don't have a shitty soap opera to distinguish between) was the crap-coated cherry on a really shitty night,  so I don't feel like I can really say anything. The baby was flippin' great though. Seriously good casting there (and I'm not even lying/joking/being a dick right now).

We had friends over to watch Sinister, which is the Ethan Hawke found footage horror film that just faded into existence. It was a fairly decent film actually, some great scares and the found footage aspect is woven into the story, rather just being a complete fad-grab. I watched Side Effects on Netflix and was disappointed with it, watched Our Idiot Brother on Netflix and yawned a lot and watched half of I Give It A Year on Netflix and felt incredibly insulted. So not a great month for Netflix.

On the other hand, I rewatched the first two seasons of New Girl because I only watched it sporadically the first time around, and while I still have some issues with the show, it's pretty hilarious and has some really great moments. Although I think I'm in the minority who thinks Nick Miller is the least interesting/funny character on the show. I also finally began a Buffy rewatch because it's been 2.5 years since I last went through it and that's FAR TOO LONG.

Egads, look how long this section is. See what I mean when I say I'm favouring TV/film over books at the moment?!


I'm planning a hens night as we speak and guys, it is hard! I'm not a big fan of the penis straws and sashes, but it's not my hens so I have to somehow toe a line that gives everyone the tacky/silly fun they expect from a hens while not being so atrocious that I want to die. It's sapping my will to live you guys. Nah, in truth I'm excited to get to do this for my friend, but there is definitely a certain amount of AGHHHHHHH to the whole thing.

My house decorating is coming together. I tried to tackle my library/spare room today and got as far as taking all the books and DVDS of the shelf before collapsing on the couch and giving up. The idea of rearranging furniture is far more fun than actually rearranging furniture. But I did manage to shift the shelves ever so slightly, so it wasn't a complete waste of my time.

And I think that's it. I can't really think of anything else to touch on. I wanted to write a bit about misogyny and feminism in the wake of the US shootings last week, but I think I'd just end up yelling in CAPS and crying so I might leave that for a few weeks before even attempting it. I will send you all over to this article at Jezebel though, where Erin Gloria Ryan spent a day in the MRA/PUA chatroom that the man-who-shall-not-be-named frequented and the results are truly chilling. It's not a pleasant read, but it's a handy article to have in your arsenal if anyone tries to suggest that this crime had nothing to do with rampant misogyny and issues of entitlement.

Uhhhhh, what a downer to end on. QUICK KAYLEIGH, THINK OF SOMETHING UPBEAT.

*Tap dances away*


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