My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.  Without further ado:

buffs2Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3: Still trucking along with this unofficial re-watch.  It’s so much fun to revisit the series.  I still think that season 2 has the best episodes (they hold the most nostalgia for me) but season 3’s arc is the best overall, so it’s been fun to watch that unfold.  I love Faith’s slow descent into corrupted evil and the mayor’s cheerful evil.  Also, Buffy wears some of the best (and some of the worst) clothes in this season.

Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy: Cybils reading season doesn’t start until October 1 officially, but I’m trying

to get a head start because I feel like I haven’t read as much YA as in previous years.  So I’m trying to read books I know will be nominated.  This is definitely one of them.  It’s so, so great.  So full of heart, smart, funny, and compelling.  I want to live in this book.  Julie Murphy’s an author to watch.

Zoo: I made J. watch an episode of this this weekend just because we were both wiped out from tough work weeks and needed something super, super dumb.  This fits the bill! It’s completely stupid and I love it.  Who doesn’t want to watch a bunch of animals lose their cool with humans and start picking them off one by one?

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

Book Review: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Heidi Wood sees a teenage girl holding a crying infant in her arms in the pouring rain while waiting for the train.  She can’t get the image out of her head, and it doesn’t help that she seems to run into the same girl and baby more than once.  Always a woman who puts the needs of others before herself, she finds herself offering the girl and the baby a place to stay, much to the chagrin and shock of her husband and pre-teen daughter.  But things don’t look up for the Wood family, nor for the teenage girl they’ve allowed into their home.

Mary Kubica’s second novel, a suspenseful psychological thriller that will keep readers up late into the night, succeeds on many levels in delivering a compelling story.  Told from multiple points of view, the novel allows its characters to drive the plot forward while also filling in the numerous blanks.  There’s plenty of ominous foreshadowing to alert the readers to an ending that won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but it never gives it all away, either.

The novel allows the narrators to dwell in the present situation as well as providing readers flashbacks to Willow’s troubled past.  As these events come into focus, it becomes clear to the reader that things aren’t what they seem for any of the novel’s characters.  All of the novel’s inhabitants are deeply flawed individuals, but they all retain a sense of their humanity in a way that makes them compelling and authentic.

There’s an almost hypnotic quality to the writing, and the narrative moves quickly enough that the novel becomes harder to put down the further along it plods.  There are twists to be found here, but they won’t be the ones that readers are expecting, making it all the more satisfying of a read.

Recommended for fans of suspenseful psychological novels.  Kubica is an author to watch.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. MIRA: 2015.  Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Expected Release Date: October 27, 2015

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

(summary via Goodreads)

I loved Talley’s debut and am excited to see what she can do with this unusual (and super important) topic.  It looks like it’s going to be a complex and complicated look at trans issues and I can’t wait to see how Talley handles it.  Also, upper-YA, which I’m always down for!

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

Delia’s estranged aunt has died and left her a huge old house.  Long before it was a private residence, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females.  Essentially an insane asylum for troubled women, the house earned the nickname “Hysteria Hall” from local townsfolk.  Rumored to be haunted, Delia and her family embark on what is supposed to be a summer spent readying the house for sale.  But the house likes to trap strong-willed girls inside its walls.  And it traps Delia.  After that, Delia starts to learn all about the house’s sinister secrets, and realizes that she’s not the only soul stuck in limbo.

Katie Alender’s innovative ghost story takes all the expected tropes and twists them around into something completely fresh and captivating.  Truly suspenseful and often smartly funny, this is a standout ghost story that will keep readers engaged from start to finish and is a great addition to any horror collection.  Perfect Halloween season reading, this is not to be missed.

It helps that Alender has come up with a better-than-average ghost story to start with.  Although the story starts in a fairly predictable way, it soon takes a sharp and unexpected turn, which is guaranteed to surprise readers and keep them completely glued to the page.  The high creep factor and the fact that none of the book’s characters are necessarily what they seem to be also keeps things interesting and the stakes high.  There’s an eerie feel to the novel throughout, and the gothic-style scares will keep readers on their toes.

Scary, original, and full of twists and turns, Alender knows her way around a creepy story.  This is perfect horror for readers who like their stories original and their gore on the very light side.  Wholly engrossing, this is a delight from start to finish.  Highly recommended.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender. Point: 2015. Library copy.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.

It’s Not Me, it’s You by Mhairi McFarlane: I’ve been tearing through this funny novel about a thirtysomething woman who has to restart her life after her fiance sends a text to her meant for his mistress.  It’s very British, very sweet, and compulsively readable.  I’m enjoying it a ton.  If you like lighter lit about females, friendship, and making your way in the world, this is one to check out.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2: I over-indulged on Friday night and buffs2subsequently spent much of Saturday laying around being a total lazy ass.  I spent much of that time watching season 2 of this show in what has become a sort of unofficial re-watch of the series.  Man, I love this show.  It’s been some time since I really re-watched the series, and I’m definitely experiencing it in a different way than before.

alohaAloha: So I watched this movie despite my better judgment and found it completely lacking.  I read about it afterward, and I was legitimately stunned to see it described as a “romantic comedy,” because this movie was neither “romantic” nor “comedic” at all.  What it was was boring, hilariously self-important, embarrassingly miscast, and kind of racist?  Also kind of TERRIBLE?  Do not recommend, no matter how much you love Emma Stone (this is the second time she’s turned in a performance where I find her wholly irritating, which I never thought possible before).

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me reading and thinking this week.

“I Have Never Turned Heads”: What It’s Like When You’re Not the Object of Desire (Salon)

I don’t read Salon these days at all, but a really interesting conversation between two YA authors on Twitter brought me to this depresso essay by a woman whose husband has admitted to never being attracted to her body.  The discussion on Twitter was great, and the essay itself is well-written:

My husband is honest enough to say that he has never found my body particularly desirable, but still he asked me out on our first date three years ago because he found my way of being in the world, my sense of humor and my intelligence, sexy. “That matters more,” he says, “and makes you beautiful to me.” Sometimes thatto me breaks my heart a little bit; sometimes it makes me feel loved.

At any rate, it’s worth a read and a ponder.

Books Roxane Gay Has Recommended on Twitter (Book Riot)

Unpopular opinion time: I never understood what The Butter–Gay’s offshoot of The Toast, one of my favorite places on the internet–was trying to do.  So when it was announced recently that they were abandoning the project, I wasn’t sad (and I also wasn’t surprised, which makes me think that maybe my opinion isn’t so unpopular after all).  But I still think Gay has a lot to offer the internet, and her Twitter feed is great.  This is a roundup of the books she’s read and recommended in the past year, and it is a treasure trove.

Welcome to Hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the Slow Death of the Web (The Verge)

This is one of those articles that has found me at a particularly apropos time.  I’ve been thinking a lot about ad blockers because I recently started using one when I found it impossible to navigate one of my favorite forum sites without it.  The site would redirect and had intrusive pop-up ads on every site.  I have no trouble supporting sites I like by viewing ads and even clicking on them from time to time, but when they start to seriously impede my ability to navigate and enjoy the site, it becomes a pretty serious problem for me.

This great article breaks it down for us and then also expands into what it means for mobile web browsing, which is the future of web:

So it’s Apple vs Google vs Facebook, all with their own revenue platforms. Google has the web, Facebook has its app, and Apple has the iPhone. This is the newest and biggest war in tech going today.

And the collateral damage of that war — of Apple going after Google’s revenue platform — is going to include the web, and in particular any small publisher on the web that can’t invest in proprietary platform distribution, native advertising, and the type of media wining-and-dining it takes to secure favorable distribution deals on proprietary platforms. It is going to be a bloodbath of independent media.

It’s a very accessible, very excellent look at an important issue.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

Book Review: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

A collection of horror stories from some well-known YA authors working today, this anthology is full of chills, thrills, and bloody resolutions.  Each story draws inspiration from other parts of pop culture, including movies, books, TV, and even songs, and each one interprets these inspirations in various creepy ways.  The stories run the gamut from the fantastical to the all-too-real.

This anthology of horror is the perfect read for the Halloween season.  Full of stories that offer different things for different readers, there are standout tales as well as a couple of convoluted stories that never quite make it off the ground.  Like most anthologies, this is a mixed bag that has a great deal of successes and a few missteps.

The diversity of the anthology’s offerings make this a must-purchase for fans of horror and supernatural tales.  There’s something for every reader of the horror genre, including truly chilling takes on a zombie apocalypse, ghost stories, new takes on urban legends and classic fairy tales, and more.  One standout is Carrie Ryan’s “In the Forest Dark and Deep,” a truly terrifying take on the Alice in Wonderland story.

On the whole, this collection of stories is a lot of fun and offers such a wide variety of stories and writing styles that it’s likely to attract a wide range of readers.  The stories are bloody and actually scary, making this a read best suited for readers who can handle a bit of gore.  Best read in small doses but easily consumed all at once, this is a solid entry into the YA horror genre.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke, et al. Dial Books: 2015. Library copy.