Sunday, June 26, 2011

Internet Awesomeness 8

More awesomeness from the internets!!!

1) I've loved Kirby Krackle's song Ring Capacity for about a year now. It tells the story of Green Lantern's origins and a battle with Sinestro plus it's super catchy. I was really hoping it would be the song for the new Green Lantern film, but it sadly wasn't. Fortunately, we can all still enjoy their awesome video and hope maybe the next nerd film will feature a song of theirs.

2) One of my favorite Evelyn Evelyn songs is Sandy Fishnets, but it seems to be kind of an ignored song because it's depressing and disturbing. Vince Mascoli made an animated video for the song that I thoroughly enjoy in a simple mostly monochromatic color palate. My favorite part is the ocean sequence which has vibrant colors and a completely different style to greatly differentiate the fantasy world from their bleak reality.

3) Neil Gaiman is awesome. period. So when he makes a video threatening war with Britain if the Onion doesn't get a Pulitzer prize, it's by default awesome. He comes off so crazily charming.

4) This video by Jackson Pearce, author of Sisters Red and the upcoming Sweetly, is made of win. She frankly describes the ridiculousness of the gay marriage debate and urges people to use their voices and make their opinions heard. Gay marriage is now legal in New York (YAY!) which is surprising considering it's a Republican controlled state. Hopefully other states will follow and prove that the Constitution actually matters.

Hope you enjoyed the awesomeness for this week!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boyfriend from Hell

Megan Barnett is best friends with her mother, Suze and they do practically everything together. They start to drift apart when Suze decides to starts dating for the first time in ten years. Megan is utterly humiliated at the prospect of her own mother having a boyfriend before her. Not only that, but her two best friends, Matt and Erin, have decided to date too. Awkward! Then two mysterious men enter the Barnett women's lives. First, there's Guy Matson, Megan's new classmate: supremely hot and able to miraculously be a nerdy Mathlete and still retain a high level of cool. Next is Armando, the handsome art dealer Suze meets by chance. He's attractive, but something is a little bit off with him and Megan decides to investigate. One of them is Satan and Megan has to figure out which before either she or her mother gets dragged to Hell. Is it even possible to defeat Satan?

Boyfriend from Hell is obviously a paranormal novel, but it's grounded in reality and deals with situations that everyone can relate to. It was the normal, everyday aspects that kept me interested and reading because I had similar experiences when I was younger. Megan is a teenager and her relationships with all the important people in her life are changing. She suddenly has to deal with her mother's dating and the fact that she is no longer the sole focus of her mother's life. They used to be really close friends and now her inability to deal with the situation is putting a rift between them. Her friends Matt and Erin started dating and it puts a strain on their relationship with Megan. In both cases, Megan feels jealous and left out. Her life seems static while everyone changes and it makes her uncomfortable. The problems with her mother and her friends stems from her trying to deny and not acknowledge those feelings, which makes them grow and build until they explode over everything. Megan acts very childish and practically intolerable at first, but really matures and grows as a person by the end of the novel. I think everyone comes to a point where the relationship with their parents and friends changes just because of the nature of the transition from childhood to adulthood.

I really liked the supernatural and mystery aspects of the novel even though they weren't showcased until the last half of the novel. The devil and his creepy cult made for some good, but not too dark horror. I haven't read a lot of fiction where the devil is character that isn't over 100 years old, but the depiction of the devil was believable and dangerous without being over the top. This book had some twists and turns that I didn't expect, which is impressive. Not many books catch me off guard like that. The resolution was bittersweet and left a nice setup for the next novel, Earth Angel.

E. Van Lowe's fluid and masterful writing made this book one that I needed to finish. He captures the voice of a teenage girl authentically with Megan, flaws and all. I look forward to what's next for these characters in the next book, Earth Angel. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TV Themes I'm Obsessed With

Amy Ratcliffe at Geek with Curves did a post about theme songs she just couldn't skip when she watched them on Netflix or on DVD when it's really easy to get tired of them. Of course I have to post my own (and steal 2 of them from her).

1) Lexx

If you haven't seen or heard of this show, it's not surprising. Lexx is a quirky, weird, Canadian science fiction show about a crew consisting of a dead man, a love slave/cluster lizard, and a robot head aboard a living ship and their adventures. About 2 summers ago, I watched all 4 seasons with one of my friends and I was always eager to hear the Brunnen G battle song. It's on Netflix (even though is censored which I abhor, but it's better than nothing). The first season is a little rough to get through because the effects are so bad, but it gets better as it goes along. The characters and story are always funny and interesting and I wish the series was longer.

2) Doctor Who

I first watched Tom Baker and Peter Davison as the Doctor and liked the cheesy and dated show. I recently started watching the revival of the series with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant as the Doctor. In the past few weeks, I've watched three and a half of the five and half seasons so far. I absolutely love this show and I feel excited and giddy every time I hear the theme. My favorite version of the theme is in the first and second season. If you haven't seen this show, I highly recommend it. The writing and acting is excellent and the effects get better as time goes on. The cast of characters is large and diverse and you're guaranteed to recognize some faces if you've seen any British TV or films at all.

3) Dollhouse

Dollhouse is a short lived TV show about an organization that rents people out with whatever personality desired for lots of money. Eliza Dushku really shined in this sci-fi show and I'm so disappointed it didn't get the chance to continue. The ramifications of the technology used to erase, create, and replace personalities in people was far reaching and a very interesting concept. The theme song is called What You Don't Know by Jonatha Brooke. It's a great song that works well for the show's concept and feel.

4) Firefly

Firefly is one of the best and underrated science fiction shows ever. Just watch the first episode and you're guaranteed to become addicted. It's only 14 episodes and 1 full length film long. This song is also one of the best themes. The lyrics, style, performance, everything is perfect. I can't get enough of it. It's one of the most played songs on my iPod.

5) True Blood

This show is a guilty pleasure of mine that I am both horrified and riveted by. It's pretty horrible, yet entertaining. The theme and the accompanying images really set the tone for the sleazy, creepy, sexy show. I don't really like country music, but the song really grew on me and I look forward to hearing it every time I watch an episode. I am looking forward to another season full of ridiculous story lines, bad acting, and creepy sex scenes.

So this is my list of shows that make it blasphemous to skip the theme songs. What about you guys? Any shows or theme songs you're obsessed with right now?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

City of Bones

Clary Fray likes to frequent an all ages club, Pandemonium, with her friend (who emphatically does not) named Simon. On a night like any other, Clary witnesses three teens gang up on a fourth in a storage room. She tries to save the bullied boy, but he is killed and then disappears. Clary is understandably shocked. The boy is a demon and the other three are Shadowhunters, educated and trained to kill demons from a young age using magical weapons and runes. Shortly after this event, Clary's mother, Jocelyn, is kidnapped by a rouge Shadowhunter, Valentine. He seems to think that Jocelyn can lead him to the Mortal cup, a powerful artifact that can create more Shadowhunters, so he can wage war against all demons and half-demons to keep the human race pure. The goal is to make all humans Shadowhunters, but only about 20% of all of them would survive the change. Clary, along with Jace, Alec, and Isabelle, must find the cup before Valentine does and then rescue her mother. Can they succeed before Valentine finds the cup?

I have heard lots of good things about the Mortal Instruments series, so I just had to read what all the fuss is about. City of Bones didn't quite live up to it, but I definitely wasn't disappointed. I really liked the characters. Clary is plucky and brave despite being largely defenseless compared to the trained and prepared Shadowhunters. Not only that, but she's also pretty clever and quick to get used to the strange lives that Shadowhunters live. Of course she makes some mistakes and acts kind of annoying sometimes, mostly when acting rashly and not thinking of others. But that's to be expected with any character. I know there are a lot of Jace fangirls and Jace haters. I'm somewhere in the middle. At first I thought Jace was pretty horrible, but as the book went on, he revealed more and more of the person underneath that hardened outer shell. I felt sympathetic toward shim, but I was still annoyed by some of his over the top bad boy behavior. With what I had heard before, I was expecting Patch (from Hush, Hush) levels of bad behavior. I'm glad that he was far from that and actually likeable instead of just being a complete tool.

The story is pretty predictable and basic for the genre. The characters seem to be especially thick headed in figuring out the mysteries that are pretty obvious much earlier. A lot of the book was dedicated to explaining their world to Clary and by extension the reader: the rules, the runes, the demons, the half demons, etc. It's a little tedious to get through, but admittedly necessary to understanding the story. Hopefully the second book won't have so much of this since the reader would be more familiar with the world and characters.

I enjoyed all the adventure and secrets that City of Bones had to offer. It's like a cross between Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The action was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. The twist at the end is a little unexpected. I suspected it earlier, but dismissed it as being to weird for a teen book. I would recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy and similar teen books.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, June 12, 2011

20 Years Later

In 2012, something happens that kills countless people, leaving London reduced to a graveyard littered with bones instead of a bustling city. Twenty years later, London is ruled by gangs that are constantly at war, pushing the boundaries on each other's territory and causing innocent people to get caught in the middle of their quarrels. Teenage Zane and his mother Miri have a garden in between two gangs, the Red Lady's Hunters and the Bloomsbury Boys. They treat the sick and wounded from both sides in return for being left alone, unaligned with either group. A new gang is introduced when a strange girl is kidnapped from the Bloomsbury Boys using lightning to stun them. Titus, the girl's brother, resolves to save her. He befriends Zane and a girl from the Red Lady's gang named Erin. Together, they discover their own unique powers and work together to save Titus' sister from the mysterious kidnappers.

20 Years Later is a good young adult post-apocalyptic story. The new world is dangerous and mysterious. The main characters in the novel are teens and they know very little about the event that destroyed the world as we know it. They don't know anything about life in the past. Electricity, makeup, and most modern amenities are alien to them. It seemed more like it should have been set a hundred years in the future. Somehow it made sense because most of the characters are teens who have only known this world. The adults are very close lipped about it and are more concerned about protecting the children instead of communicating or educating. I enjoyed the gang power struggle. This type of rule seems much more likely than one central government in the event of an apocalypse. Groups just carve out their own territory and fight to defend it until they lose and someone else takes over.

I really liked the main characters. Zane is an idealist with healing powers and a desire to become a doctor. He was a little too innocent for believability's sake, more like an eight year old than a fifteen year old. With all the blood and violence he sees on a fairly regular basis, I would think he would be more worldly and cynical. Titus fits worldly cynical very well. He doesn't hesitate to make hard decisions when they are necessary. His sister's safety is his first priority and he doesn't waver from his mission at all. Erin is also more experienced and hardened than Zane. Her father is the best Hunter in the Red Lady's army and she is training to become a warrior just like her dad. Despite her hard exterior, she opens up to Titus and Zane and considers them her best and only friends. She is fiercely loyal and, like Titus, not afraid of fighting for her own safety and the safety of her loved ones. All three characters are very different and pulled in different directions, but manage to keep their friendship.

Although I liked 20 Years Later, it kind of pales in comparison to other more gritty and dark dystopias in the genre, such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Hunger Games. The writing does need some work. The ending was a bit of a let down, there are a few plot holes, and the frame story tries too hard to incite interest in a sequel. I will be reading the second book and I hope the story gets even better.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tim Burton Signing

A couple weeks ago, I went to the LA County Museum of Art to see Tim Burton. My boyfriend and I arrived at the museum at 8am and we were greeted with a huge line that stretched about a block away from the actual museum, outside of the La Brea Tar Pits. We waited for a while and I met up with a girl I knew from school named Crystal and her friend Phil. Hanging out with them was awesome and made the first couple of hours go by really fast. (The signing actually started at noon.) Phil has a blog of his own called The Brave New, where the goal is to do something new everyday. This month's theme is eating new food every day. I think this is a great idea and something that could put more spice into anyone's life. He had some really crazy stories about raves and eating weird foods. Anyway, some lady came to tell us that we probably wouldn't see him and to stay may be wasting hours of our precious lives. I, being a crazy and dedicated Burton fan, opted to wait until the very end in hopes of meeting the director and author that I most admire. So, my boyfriend and I waited for another few hours and were finally rewarded. Of course, we called our friends back to line so they could meet him too. I was super giddy when I met Tim Burton and I told him that I've been a fan of his work practically forever. He was very nice, despite having to meet about a billion people and then fly back to England for filming, and signed my big giant coffee table book of his art. Here are some super fuzzy pictures because we weren't allowed to used flash, which makes my camera go all crazy. This is Phil with Tim Burton.

I am very pleased that I have met 2 of my trifecta of awesomeness, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. All that remains is Danny Elfman, which will hopefully eventually happen. This Sunday, I will be seeing the actual exhibit, so hopefully I can take some pictures and share them with you guys. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Joey Crouch has a pretty normal life. He lives with his mom and plays trumpet in the band at school. His whole world is turned upside down when she dies in a tragic accident and he is forced to lived with his estranged father, Ken Harnett, in a rural town. Life in this new town couldn't be more different. Teasing and bullying are common occurrences and he finds himself at the bottom of the pecking order, mostly because he lives in squalor with his father who is commonly known as the trash man. Their relationship is shaky to say the least and they don't communicate well. After a while, it becomes clear that Harnett makes his money stealing things from graves. After the initial shock, Joey wants to learn about this new trade that opens the door to a new world full of strange, grotesque characters, horrific sights, family secrets, and himself.

I had never heard of this before getting an advance copy and still have not seen this book in a store. It's surprising because this is a great read that can easily appeal to both adult and older teen readers. Rotters is a unique and very dark coming of age story that centers around the distasteful profession of robbing graves. I've never read a book on this subject, but I figured it would be pretty disgusting and intense. It delivered that in a big way. Decaying corpses, rats, foul odors, and maggots are described in the most loving and beautiful detail. The grave odor that permeates Joey's life is so well described that I feel that I can practically smell it as I read. Daniel Kraus' masterful writing almost leaps off the page.

The other amazing thing about this book is the characters. Each one is richly imagined and after reading the novel, these characters still stayed with me. Joey in particular is a wonderful character that changes drastically throughout the course of the book. At first, he's consumed with grief over his mother's death and strives to get straight A's in school. Then he moves to Bloughton and is constantly bullied because of his father and the stench that follows him. I really felt for him because of both the bullying at school (by teachers and students) and the horrible treatment from his father. He reacted weakly to the abuse and seemed to accept his lot in life. During the second school year, his demeanor changes. His confidence grows and he lashes out in an incredibly satisfying way. He leaves to learn from another digger, but this one is an enemy of his fathers. After the exciting finale, Joey is just himself. He comes into his own with some scars and aches, but with his own sense of self instead of what others try to push onto him. Even though it was encased in gruesome detail and grave robbing, Joey still experienced what most of us experience in our transition from child to adult.

Rotters is an exceptional young adult book that isn't afraid to delve into dark, gruesome territory. I would only recommend this to people that are fans of horror and those that aren't squeamish. I will definitely read whatever Daniel Kraus writes next.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Fiction is Too Dark, Whines the Wall Street Journal: A Rant

An article in the Wall Street Journal came out yesterday whining about too much darkness being present in young adult novels. This article frustrates me and depresses me at the same time. I'm going to try to put my feelings into words, but if I fail and blather on, please forgive me. I'm going to take a page from Neil Gaiman and provide a warning: contains me. I don't usually write about such personal things, but I think it's really necessary because this article brings back strong memories and feelings for me. The quoted sections are directly from the article.

* "How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it."

First of all, these "pathologies" (as if being violent is some sort of disease) have been written about well over 40 years ago. Ever hear of the Bible? the Marquis de Sade? Vladimir Nabokov? Euripides? Obviously the writer of this novel doesn't seem to have actually read much literature from any era. People have been writing about violence, brutality, and various paraphilia for literally thousands of years.

* "If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is."

I know this may be hard for some to realize, but life is not all butterflies, glitter, and rainbows. Everyone has their own problems and unique experiences. To say that darkness doesn't exist in young people's lives is to stick your head in the sand and refuse to see the truth. Teens commit suicide, have sex, cut themselves, and a whole slew of other things that these people don't want to hear about. How are teen books that reflect this "hideously distorted?" If the author and the people commenting in praise of the article are lucky enough to have a perfect life with nothing so unsavory, then they are very lucky indeed. For the rest of us, I'm so happy that young adult authors are not afraid to be frank about the realities of life.

* "Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures."

I just want to relate my own experience with YA for a second. Young adult fiction provided me a place where I belonged and felt comfortable in more ways than one. My childhood was difficult because I had an emotionally, physically, and mentally abusive mother and a complacent father. I thought that all families had parents that fought constantly and that everyone was terrified of their own mother. I just thought no one talked about it. How's that for normalizing pathologies? Young adult novels provided me with an escape when I needed it and provided me with much needed catharsis when I couldn't have it in real life. Without young adult novels, I don't know what I would have turned to for escape and release. To ignore such dark realities is to make teens believe that they are alone in the world and that their own dark experience is singular. I think it's just irresponsible and equivalent to brushing teen problems out of sight and out of mind. And to assume that teens will just copy whatever behavior they read about is just ridiculous. Give them a little more credit than a five year old please.

*The author goes on to describe Judy Blume's "'Forever,' in which teenagers lose their virginity in scenes of earnest practicality. Objectionable the material may be for some parents, but it's not grotesque."

I have read Forever. It's one of the most laughable and unrealistic depictions of teen sexuality I have ever read. I read it in high school and it was just incredibly cheesy and as far from "earnest practicality" as you can possibly get.

* "But whether it's language that parents want their children reading is another question. Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books."

This is true because parents who find offensive material want to ban it from being read by everyone else instead of simply choosing not to buy or check out that book for their child. They want to make decisions for other parents and force authors to censor their works.

These people should really read the young adult books and look at how the issues are being dealt with in the novel instead of just screeching that there's incest, homophobia, cutting, sexuality, cursing, or whatever in the novel. These are things that teens actually experience. Also, their hatred for vampire books is just weird and confusing. I just want to shake these people. They should just be thankful that teens are reading, considering that one in four people read no books last year. That statistic is just flat out depressing. To dampen those numbers anymore over this is just ridiculous.

My last grievance is with their list of books appropriate for young adult girls and boys. The boy list has science fiction (one of them is ironically Fahrenheit 451) and war novels as if these books aren't also appropriate or recommended for girls. Did these lists really have to be separated by gender? As if boys can handle more gritty and dare I say violent books than girls.

These adults trying to ban teen books have obviously lost sight of what it is to be a teen and how life really is. I still love reading YA because I can remember being a teen and I still relate to the struggles of the protagonists, no matter how different they are from me. That transition from childhood to adulthood is a fascinating one especially in our society where there is no real support system to help teens into adulthood. Literature is where my support system was and I'm sure that's true for many others even today.

Ok. I think I'm done. I really do apologize if this is just incoherent ramblings because I'm really tired and am being a bad blogger by not rereading what I have written. I just had to get my feelings out on here to express my crazy bundle of emotions. If you feel as dismayed as I do, I invite you to go over to Twitter and search for #YAsaves to see readers and authors alike defend young adult fiction.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Netflix Horror Movie Mini-Reviews 2

More horror movies from Netflix! And to Jessica Secret, I have added Rabid Grannies to my queue and will share my thoughts here soon.

1) Cabin Fever 2

This is a cheesy, fun sequel to an original cheesy, fun film. It's so over the top and ridiculous that you just have to laugh. In this one, the flesh eating virus introduced in the first film is spreading to the local high school on their prom night. It makes fun of both teen and horror movie conventions with over the top gore and a silly high school plot. I liked the ending, but I felt that some needless scenes could have been shortened or removed outright. The guy who played JT from Deadgirl is in this one, and although he did a pretty good job, I couldn't help but think "zombie rapist" every time I saw him. I would recommend this to people who like really gory horror comedy.

My rating: 7/10 fishmuffins

2) Summer's Moon

This is a mediocre horror movie with Twilight's Ashley Greene. It's about a girl named Summer who goes in search of her father, who she has never met. She meets a guy named Tom, they sleep together, and then he locks her in his basement garden to keep it beautiful. It's part creepy romance, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and part Misery. The film is obviously trying to mooch off Greene's fame, but Twilight fans and die hard horror fans really aren't going to like it. There's not enough romance and too much blood for the Twihards and there's not enough actual horror or blood for hardcore horror fans. It should have gone either one extreme or the other instead trying to pander to two polar opposites.

My rating: 5/10 fishmuffins

3) The Living and the Dead
A mentally ill man lives with his parents in a large mansion. His father has to leave and hires a nurse to take care of that man and his ailing wife. The son locks the nurse out of the house, insisting that he take care of her himself even though he is obviously not fit to do so. Forgoing his medication, he becomes more and more delusional and erratic. It's a race against time for the father to come home before anyone gets hurt. This film is incredibly depressing and really good. Everything from the gloomy, empty mansion to the weary inhabitants works together and creates such a heavy and claustrophobic atmosphere. As the film progresses, it gets harder and harder to differentiate what is real and what are the hallucinations of a schizophrenic.
This film is guaranteed to get under your skin.

9/10 fishmuffins

4) Suck
This is a great horror comedy. A band called The Winners is the exact opposite of their name. They are desperate to make it as a band and their last chance is a concert with supposed industry people set up by their sleazebag agent. None of them believes that it will happen, but they go through the motions. Their luck turns around when the bassist encounters a vampire who turns her into one. Now, their shows are more crowded and people actually seem to like them. The other band members also want to be vampires, but a vampire hunter follows them across the country, eager to slay them before any more humans are killed. This movie is much more than just comedy. Besides vampires, it has great original rock songs by The Winners and cameos by rock legends Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. There are even cool easter eggs like recreations of famous rock album covers in the movie. This isn't a sappy romance, but a campy rock adventure with plenty of blood, clever humor, and Malcolm McDowell (he's just awesome). The ending was meh, but the rest of the film was surprisingly funny and well made.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

Do you guys have any movie recommendations?