Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Reviews - Sept 2015 - You're Never Weird on the Internet, Never Said, Heart-Shaped Box, The Imaginary

I didn't read any books in July and August. Seriously. Weird huh? I've decided it was a symptom.

Here is what I read in September.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

So Felicia Day came to Changing Hands in Tempe in August. My girls, who are avid Supernatural fans, begged me to attend the event. Even though it was a school night. Even though we didn't have extra money to buy books. Even though I had to drive an hour to get there. I said yes. What kind of writer tells her kids that they can't attend an author signing, especially when they reeeeeaaaally want to go? Seriously.

So we went. The store was HOT. I mean, a hundred degrees hot. There was no difference in the temperature between being outside (in Phoenix, in August) and being inside and the line was EXTREMELY long. But the girls were enthusiastic. And Felicia was delightful. She was patient, kind, and glamorous. Calista almost hyperventilated.

PLUS Felicia's book is also delightful. It's charming and funny and brutally honest and I think the perfect read for anyone who finds themselves a square peg in a round hole.

Warnings on: language, etc.

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Calista recommended this book, and while it took me a while to get around to it, I must say that I'm glad I read it. The Imaginary follows the adventures of Rudger, an imaginary friend who gets separated from his human and finds himself hunted by someone who eats imaginary friends.

This is a wonderfully creepy book for middle-grade readers, with lovely illustrations by Emily Gravett. I particularly love the end papers.

Appropriate for readers of all ages.

Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams

Carol's newest book. She read part of it at WIFYR and it made me cry. Told in the alternating POVs of twin sisters, it gets to the heart of why one has had drastic changes in her physical appearance in a very short amount of time, and why no one knows the reason. Written in verse from one POV and standard prose from the other. It's a quick read, about anxiety, relationships, and the sometimes toxic power of secrets.

It's a good book. Sisters. Love. Finding our way back to each other. I hope Carol keeps giving us true human stories in her accessible teen voice for years to come.

Warnings on: mature themes, but no questionable material.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I first discovered Joe Hill when I ran across his collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts. (I looked for a link to my review of this book, only to realize I haven't reviewed it yet.) I loved 20th Century Ghosts so much that I knew I would try a few of his novels. If you don't know about Joe Hill, he is Stephen King's son. He began his writing career under the shortened version of his name (Joseph Hillstrom King) because he wanted to succeed based on the merits of his writing. I admire that.

Heart-Shaped Box is Hill's debut novel. It's told from the perspective of Jude Coyne, a retired rock star who inadvertently purchases a ghost online. Jude finds out that this ghost is holding a grudge, and that it won't stop following him until Jude is dead. What follows is a harrowing race against time as he and his girlfriend try to escape their inevitable demise.

This is an atmospheric read. I had to make sure my closet door was closed when I read it late at night. It has a few missteps, as any debut novel does, but horror fans will like it.

Warnings on: language, violence, sexual situations, disturbing imagery.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Best Movies Streaming on Netflix Right Now - September 2015

Okay, you know the deal. I don't write these posts for the big  movies that happen to be streaming on Netflix. I write these posts for the ones people might not know about. For the indie films, the foreign films, the classic films we never thought would show up on Netflix, and the ones you may never have heard of. If you've seen my lists before, you know what types of things I like. And if you liked the previous lists, you'll like this. If you're new to my movie lists, check out the old ones.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It has three limitations:
1. Things I've seen.
2. Things I noticed were on Netflix
3. Things that I like.

Here's the best stuff streaming on Netflix RIGHT NOW:

Housebound (NR - New Zealand)
When a young woman is convicted and placed
under house arrest with her strange family,
she begins to suspect her house is haunted.
In the vein of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
and Cabin in the Woods.

Amelie (R - French)
Quirky and romantic, this cute little comedy
stole my heart.
In French with subtitles.

The Babadook (NR - International)
This horror metaphor for depression 
is mesmerizing. The tension is slow burn,
taut, and perfect. VERY creepy.

Bernie (PG-13)
Dark dramedy featuring Jack Black
in one of my favorite roles: a do-gooder
mortician who let's the town's wealthiest
widow get the best of him.

Cake (R)
O.M.G. you guys. I can't say enough about Cake.
Jennifer Aniston is brilliant.
So so good. So so sad.

Frequencies (NR - British)
Alternate-universe sci-fi romance:
how far you get in life is dependent on
your frequency. Higher frequency = more luck.

Hamlet (2000 - R)
Okay, I know it's not great. But if you haven't seen it, 
you should. Bill Murray? Ethan Hawke?
Hamlet delivering his soliloquy in the ACTION
section of a video-rental store? Classic.

The Double (R)
Based on a Dostoyevsky novella, this black comedy
is a dystopian mind bender. Beautifully shot and laced
with absurdity and melancholy. Jesse Eisenberg is great.
If Terry Gilliam's Brazil is an acid trip at Woodstock,
The Double is shooting heroin in a dirty alley in the rain. Alone.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (R - British)
Dramedy concerning a psychiatrist who decides to
take a trip around the world to research happiness.
Didn't get great reviews overall, but I love Simon Pegg,
and I loved the heart of this film. 
Sometimes critics just need to let it go and smile.

Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13)
Wes Anderson. I just love some Wes Anderson.
And Moonrise Kingdom does NOT disappoint.
It has been described as an eccentric,
pubescent love story. YES.
Watch this before it gets pulled.

Nightcrawler (R)
This film is chilling -- Jake Gyllenhaal oozing 
around with that hungry coyote look in his eyes.
WOW. One of the most under-appreciated films
of the year.

Primer (PG-13)
I have told people to watch Primer. Those of you
who know me have probably heard me mention it
more than once. Contemporary sci-fi about two 
software designers who accidentally invent
time travel in their garage. And it's not a comedy!

Rescue Dawn (PG-13)
Based on a true story, this film follows several
POWs during the Vietnam War who organize
an escape from their prison camp.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (R)
When the MC's wife leaves him, he sets out on
a quest to find the one that got away (not his wife), 
hoping to reconnect before an impending 
disaster destroys the Earth. On the way, he makes 
an unexpected friend.

The Sixth Sense (PG-13)
Shyamalan's debut. 
And it's streaming.
Right now.
On Netflix.

The One I Love (R)
An unexpectedly creepy and cerebral romantic comedy.

Zathura (PG)
Another board-game-sucks-you-into-an-insane-
fantasy-world film, Zathura is sweet, hilarious,
 and imaginative.
And directed by John Favreau.

To Kill A Mockingbird (NR)
How long has it been since you've seen this film?
Too long.

Hot Fuzz (R - British)
Did you know Hot Fuzz was on Netflix?
Now you do.

Hugo (PG)
A beautiful film about the advent of film.
As seen through the eyes of adorable
Asa Butterfield when he was a wee lad.
ps. This film is gorgeous.

The Hurt Locker (R)
This film put Jeremy Renner on the map for me.
It's painful and sad and timely and you'll never
forget it.

Consider this a public service announcement. 
Now you know that The Big Lebowski is on Netflix.

Man on Wire (PG-13)
Exploring Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between
the Twin Towers in 1974, this is a fascinating documentary.
If you're planning on seeing Robert Zemeckis' new film The Walk,
starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, watch this first.

Oh, and those of you who haven't watched Daredevil?
This is the best thing Marvel has done. Hands down.
Go. Watch. Now.

Let me know if you watch any of these, what you think, what you recommend.
Thanks for reading. Have fun watching. Until next time.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Quotables: Gandalf and Mr. Miyagi

Here are the new Quotables. I've decided to break up this run into two groups: Mentors and Creators. So these are both Mentors. And the creators so far are Neil and Ray. To the creators I'm going to add Walt Disney, Tim Burton, Jim Henson, Stan Lee, Isaac Asimov. 

Gandalf the Grey
For prints click here.

Mr. Miyagi
For prints click here.

Any suggestions on who to add to the Quotables list?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Series: Quotables

So for those of you who haven't been watching the Instagram account (@treadingwords), I have started a new series. They're called the Quotables, and they sprang out of a GISHWHES item. One of the items was to create a beautiful tribute to Leonard Nimoy. Now, being me, I couldn't just film my kid do an interpretive dance wearing pointy ears. I had to make something special. So I decided to make a painting of Nimoy as his most famous character, Spock, and inscribe the painting with quotes from both Nimoy and Spock. Here's how it turned out:

I got a nice response to the piece, and I thought maybe someday I would make more. Then all of a sudden, it was Ray Bradbury's birthday, so I decided to make one for him as well.

It then occurred to me that these might make a good series. I had already made two pieces of art featuring personalities that I considered to be creative and spiritual mentors, so I decided to carry on with that theme. I decided to make them all related to speculative fiction. Of course, Obi-Wan had to be next.

And in my estimation, directly after Ray comes Neil Gaiman:

Each piece is 16x20 inches, acrylic on canvas. The first three I did the quotes in ink, but they'll be entirely paint from now on.

So now the series is growing... has grown, into two separate beasts. I was calling it my Quotables: Mentors series, but I am dividing it now between Mentors and Creators. So the one series will feature film/show mentors (ones that are meaningful to me, but I will consider suggestions), and the other will feature creators (again, creators that have had an impact on me).

For now, the mentors and creators will spring from speculative fiction, that is, characters who appear in shows/films with a fantastic element (sci-fi, fantasy, or what I would consider urban myth), or creators who have had a hand in shaping the speculative fiction genre. After these first two series, I will move on to heroes, villains, and companions. There are countless sources to mine for characters, so these will keep me busy for a while.

If you would like prints, visit the Etsy store here. More will be added weekly. Also, the original paintings will be for available for sale.

I finished the portrait part of a new mentor a few hours ago, so I will be adding the quotes later today. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for chances to win prints of the finished pieces.