60 Books In 2019 #21: Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

Aside from helping pump up my Goodreads numbers quickly, the thing that’s great about reading YA books is realizing how lucky kids are to have these stories, when I wish I could have.

When I was mired in self doubt and body shame in my teens, I wish I’d have Julie Murphy’s books. The closest I had was a terrible novel called Life In The Fat Lane, about a pretty popular girl who got a thyroid condition who’s entire life was ruined when she gained twenty pounds.

Yes, you can imagine how a chubby insecure 14 year old reacted to that one.

Life In The Fat Lane is exactly the kind of book the ladies of Dumplin’ and Puddin’ would throw on a bonfire at one of their sleepovers and dance around the flames while singing, “Here You Come Again” at the top of their lungs.

Millie and Callie, the dueling narrators of Puddin’ like Willowdean before them don’t take crap. They’re different about it, of course. Sweet as pie Millie smiles and kills with kindness, while Callie, a recovering mean girl just shuts people down. They make a wonderful team, and their story of finding friendship and happiness after an adolescence full of disconnection and discomfort is really really wonderful.

Seriously, I’m loving my YA run. There’s more to come, of course, but for now, I’m jumping into some adult based stuff with Farewell Dorthy Parker, by Ellen Meister. I’m letting a ghost back in, but it’s a silly ghost.

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60 Books In 2019 #20: Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My experiment in contemporary YA fiction continues with Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda which was the source material for Love Simon last year, which I still haven’t seen all of, and I really need to, but the parts I have seen are pretty great.

One of the things that I get annoyed with in a lot of teen based media, of the mainstream variety is it’s deep, deep misunderstanding of what a standard suburban adolescence actually looks like after, say 1985. Particularly the way computers, and then the interenet and then cell phones really changed the way teenagers interact.

Simon Spiers and his friends are the kind of dorky kids I hung out with as a teenager. Simon himself is a casual theater dork, having done the school musical, his best friends are into anime and video games. They all love indie rock. Simon is also gay and trying to figure out how to come out.

They live in the suburbs of Atlanta. (An area I know QUITE well.) I remember being a kid once and my mom complaining that she wished I would watch something about NORMAL kids for a change. And both Simon and All The Boys are probably the stories she meant. Kids who have friends, and siblings they like and hobbies that fill up their days. This isn’t to say there isn’t conflict, Simon has plenty of conflict, but there’s something familiar and refreshing about this book. Simon’s coming out reminds me of quite of few friends, and there’s one day described where all the kids in the school production of Oliver (The movie changes it to Cabaret? Once again, YA books getting suburb high school right and Hollywood fucking it up.) have a sing along after rehearsal to Disney songs. That’s a thing I actually did. Kind of A lot.

The plot of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is the kind of sweet love story that all kids should get to project themselves into and I’m so glad it exists for queer kids growing up. The questions of coming out probably aren’t going to change much.

Up next is Puddin’ because you guys know how much I love Dumplin’ so why not delve further into that world.

60 Books In 2019 #19: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

As you’ve no doubt seen, dear readers, as I’ve tracked my reading over the past 2 years, Contemporary YA has not really been my thing.

It never particularly was, even when I was the target demo.

With the exception of Meg Cabot, if I was reading YA there better have been a chosen one of some kind involved.

I’m trying to change that, especially as I detox from the OD of Speculative Fiction of the past six months.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before seemed like a good place to go next. People seem to like it and there’s even a Netflix movie to follow up with!

I loved it. I loved the silly conceit, and the supporting cast and especially loved Lara Jean Covey, the book’s darling protagonist. One of the things about YA that’s fun as an adult is seeing yourself in it in retrospect.

Lara Jean, kind of shy, very dorky, family oriented, rule following and boy crazy but really only theoretically was so like me at 16 I was floored. Lara Jean is a little bit naive, a lot opinionated, and very loyal. Like, I said, I see a lot of myself in her.

The sweetness of this book can’t be overstated though. It’s pure delightful fluff, that goes down smooth, like a milkshake or a sugary blended espresso drink or something. This is a Frappuccino of a book. I can’t wait to read the sequels.

Up next is Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Alberelli. I’m going fluffy for a minute! Hang in for the ride

60 Books in 2019 #18: Fosse By Sam Wassan

I love Broadway musicals.

Of all the things I love, I count it as my first love. One of my earliest memories is being allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch West Side Story on TV and being completely enraptured. A few months later, my mother took me to see one of my babysitters in a high school production of Bye Bye Birdie, and that’s when I realized could sing and dance in front of people.

Like almost all theater people, I have my Fosse memories. Theater Camp versions of “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango.” A high school version Sweet Charity, and rehearsing “I’m A Brass Band,” ad nauseum. (Katie was Charity, she was very good.) Playing Berthe in Pippin opposite my oldest friend. Insisting on “Magic To Do,” opening a revue I was masterminding for Tom Foolery.

There’s no one in the history of theater like Bob Fosse, really no one in the history of entertainment. A director, performer, writer and of course choreographer, anyone even marginally familiar with his work has immediate associations.

I picked up Fosse to feed my obsession after watching Fosse/Verdon (Finale tonight! Then onto the movies…I haven’t watched Charity, Cabaret or All That Jazz in ages, and I’ve never watched Lenny or Star 80.) knowing that this was it’s main source. Learning that it was written by Sam Wassan who wrote 5th Avenue At 5 AM probably my favorite show business book, made it that much sweeter to pick up.

Reading a good biography is like falling into another world for me. And Wassan is a great biographer, he makes you a part of Fosse whirling show biz world and his twisted hurting psyche. Using the ingenious device of counting down from his birth to the day of his death, Wassan provides the kind of ticking clock and rhythm that the man himself likely would have approved of.

And while there’s glitter, there’s also sleaze. Bob Fosse wasn’t really a great guy. He was mercurial, a perfectionist, an alcoholic and a womanizer. But oh God, the work. Excusing bad men who make good art is an age old conundrum, but seriously, there’s not much in this world I’d trade Chicago for, would you?

That seems to be Wassan’s point, by the way. Everyone who knew the man seemed to think that what he created was worth the hassle. And that’s something worth examining. Gwen Verdon. Anne Reinking. Nicole Fosse. Steven Schwartz. Fred Kander. Joe Ebb. Liza Minelli. All of them.

You can hear the drums and the band’s all throughout Fosse and that’s what makes it matter to me.

Up next is To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. It’s to be a summer of fluff and love for me, reading wise, I think. And this is how we’re starting it.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

So I’m using the summer and the shortened to Game Of Thrones year plus the end of The Skywalker Saga in December to Rewatch Star Wars, (Or in the case of parts of Rebels and all of Resistance, watch for the first time!)

Since the New Triology, (referred to as NT from now on,) I’ve had the distinct pleasure of really diving into this world. I’ve loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember and it’s probably my favorite topic of conversation.

So, you’re going to be treated to weekly updates, sometimes a movie, sometimes a season of one of the shows. (Or, an episode of one of the shows, when The Mandolorian hits our streaming plans.)

This week we’ll start at the begining, mostly because release order is messy and frankly, I’d rather knock out The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones, you know?

So, last night I watched The Phantom Menace, and…I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I swing so wildly on this movie. I don’t think it’s good. Not even in a fun so bad it’s good way. It’s a deeply misguided movie, with story choices that seem to come out of left field, many of which could be better with slight tweaks. (Aging Anakin a few years and removing the slavery subplots, for example would do wonders for the movie’s clunkier stuff.)

The performances are stilted, something that gets marginally better as the Prequel Trilogy (PT) goes on. Liam Neeson is great from jump, and it’s a shame they never found a way to work Qui-Gon back into things. Obviously Ewan McGregor shows promise, and he’s definitely the most lively here, though Natalie Portman comes to life when she’s allowed to. The raid on the throne room in Naboo is probably her best moment in the whole PT.

There’s just not a lot to engage with here, which is a real shame. I want to engage as positively as I can in these reviews, even with the movies I don’t care for. I’ve had a enough of toxic whining and nit picking in fandom for a lifetime in the past two weeks. (Haven’t we all? How do we feel about Khalessi’s turn to madness? King Bran? Is the show sexist? God I’m tired…)

So, what are the things I like in The Phantom Menace. I actually think it starts and ends strong, it’s the middle that’s wonky. Pretty much any time there’s action, it’s really really good. It’s my favorite of the John William’s scores. (They’re all wonderful, but “Duel Of Fates” is so fricking good, it puts it over the top for me.) Darth Maul is great. The cast is superb and the movie looks much much better than I remembered.

And it is a good starting point for the saga is the thing, just, some odd and clunky choices were made, so we’re stuck with them now. Such a shame, to be truthful.

Anyway, next week we gear up with Attack of The Clones, which is just awful, but again, very pretty and does have my favorite performance for Ewan McGregor. I’m trying to get these done and on the schedule a few weeks ahead so I don’t find myself struggling like I did with some of the Marvel stuff.

 

 

Game Of Thrones Winner: “The Iron Throne”

And now our watch is ended. Winter has come and gone, and we have some winners. Well, today, we’ll talk about the winner of the final episode. Tomorrow we’ll get into what this all means in the grand scheme of a decade, a show, a lot of nerding out and well, it’s time to go home now.

So, who’s our last winner:

I think we have to give it to the one, the only, the fabulous:

Queen In The North Herself, Sansa Stark, long may she reign.

The Queen In The North

Sansa kept her people safe and free, and was crowned. She got to nope out of King’s Landing and do her thing.

I love Sansa. (I don’t know if y’all have been paying attention.) I’m very glad she got her happy Elsa ending and her cool crown and her badass wolf throne.

Runner up is Ghost, who is the goodest boy and deserves all of the snuggles and treats he wants. WHO’S A GOOD BOY?

Drogon is also a good boy. We’ll get to it.

Sansa’s Agency Watch

She’s the Queen In The North BITCHES. She should be Queen of Westeros but ya know…stories? I guess?

Arya Badass Watch

Arya is off to discover America. I bet in this world, America-equivalent has like Gryphons or something.

YOU SUNK ALL MY SHIPS

I wanted the tragic lovers ending for Dany and Jon. And Jaime and Missandei were already dead, so I appreciated that Brienne and Grey Worm ended their stories honoring their fallen lovers. But like, they all died. All of ’em.

Bran Stark’s Excellent Adventure

King Bran The Broken. (Terrible name Tyrion, I mean really.) I understand the trajectory and hey! Tyrion and Samm invented democracy, (of the Greek variety, where the oligarchy pick the leaders, but it’s better than hereditary monarchy.) And to quote Mary, “well, they picked a white guy but at least he’s disabled.”

#NotAStark #NotABastard

Whatever, man. Jon’s back at the wall, and he pet Ghost who is a good boy. A very good boy.

Who’s a good boy?

Good Boy

The Dragon Has Three Heads

There’s a whole lotta nothing going on there. But I might come back around to something about the three remaining Starks being the heads of the dragon, but I think it’s more that Benioff and Weiss aren’t particularly interested in the prophecies, so that’s why we also never really followed up on Jon being The Prince That Was Promised. (It’s definitely Jon though.)

We did get Dany’s ending though, and tragic, as she died in Jon’s arms. (CALLED IT!) And then Drogon. Drogon melting the Iron Throne was a good piece of spectacle. But I found the most stirring part of the whole situation (for me) was Drogon nudging Dany’s body was lovely.

You guys, thanks for going on this journey with me. This started as a goof and became something that I really looked forward to each year as the show came back. I’m not going to make promises about the spin offs…if they ever happen.

So what now? I mean, immediately? I’m rewatching Star Wars. All of it. All 10 movies, all 3 cartoon shows. So that’s what Monday will be until December. So just wait until next week…when I’ll talk about The Phantom Menace. Am I super psyched to watch The Phantom Menace again? I am not. But I will do it for you, dear readers, and also for my own brain weirdness.

Your Pikachu Is Very Unusual

Detective Pikachu.jpg

Detective Pikachu is exactly the live action Pokémon movie I wanted when I was twelve.

Ok, back then I thought the Pokémon should be Muppets but otherwise, yeah.

Silly, interesting and surprisingly emotional, with clever use of the characters abilities, the movie really delivers. The character design alone gets this one pushed towards the top of the heap.

But luckily everything is clicking on this movie. The cast is wonderful. Justice Smith is adorable as Tim Goodman, a young man who has to find his missing father in the sprawling experimental Ryme City. (Where humans and Pokemon live together.)

He meets up with Lucy, played by Kathryn Newton, who is a spunky reporter who speaks really fast and has big blue eyes, and blonde high pony and wears rocking blazers. She basically stepped right out of an anime, and I adore her.

The main event though is Detective Pikachu himself, who is voiced delightfully by Ryan Reynolds. The damn thing is just so cute, and Reynolds tempers his usual style a bit to feel into that, and it’s something pretty special.

The mystery of Tim’s missing father is very fun and twisty in a family friendly way, and without spoilers turns out in the most Pokemon way possible. (THE POWER OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THIS MOVIE.)

Truly good family movies are really rare and even more appreciated when they actually show up. This is a truly great family movie, and that’s saying something, this early in the season.

Rankings:

  1. Avengers: Endgame
  2. Detective Pikachu

Trailers:

Blinded By The Light – Hooo, boy, that’s a movie that’s going to make me weep like crazy. I know I’d be pressing my luck trying to get my mother to the movies three times this year. (We’re trying for Rocket Man, I know I’ll get her to Downton Abbey and I think she’ll like this.) But I do think I need to push her on this one.

Angry Birds 2: NOOOOPPPE

Sonic The Hedgehog: I didn’t watch the trailer when it dropped a few weeks ago and everyone freaked. It looks, fine? I mean, kinda ugly and weird, but not like awful. I’m not going to see it.

The Addams Family: I want it to be good. I’m obsessed with the new character design for Wednesday.

My Spy: Is it a requirement for all wrestlers turning actors to make a dopey action comedy where they work with children? Like, when they leave the WWE, do the McMahon’s present them with a script saying that if the movie isn’t made within 5 years their souls will be reaped? (I’ve maybe been watching too much Supernatural.)

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters: I mean, I’m sure the Kaiju fights are awesome. And the “Over The Rainbow” trailer is mindblowingly cool. I just, cannot get myself psyched for this movie at all.