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September 2012

My Life According to Books 2012

It’s that time again, when I share a little bit about my life, using sentences that have to be completed with titles of books read in the current year. This is based on a post I saw 3 years go at Reactions to Reading.

I always make up the sentences before I peruse my list of books to avoid tailoring them to my titles. My favorite genre is crime fiction so the results are usually a little nutty, but that’s part of the fun.

So, with books read in 2012 (they could have been published any year), here’s my life report this year:

Every Monday I look/feel like: The Nightmare (Lars Kepler)

Last time I went to a doctor/therapist was because: False Negative (Joseph Koenig)

Last meal I ate was: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)

My savings account is: Bleed for Me (Michael Robotham)

When a creepy guy/girl asks for my number, I: Never Tell (Alafair Burke)

Ignorant politicians make me: Dead Scared (S. J. Bolton)

Some people need to spend more time: (in) The Facility (Simon Lelic)

My memoir could be titled: Lunatics (Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel)

If I could have, I would’ve told my teenage self: What Comes Next (John Katzenbach)

In five years I hope I am: Leader of the Pack (David Rosenfelt)

Your turn! Either post your sentences in the comments, or link to them on your own blog and I’ll check them out. Have fun!

Click here for last year’s version.

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Marcus Sakey Helps Fight Pediatric Cancer

Just a quick note today about something author Marcus Sakey is doing to help fight pediatric cancer. During September, he’s donating 100% of the proceeds from his sales of Scar Tissue: Seven Stories of Love and Wounds to the Team Julian Foundation. According to the press release, the organization “was started by the Boivin family in memory of their son Julian, who was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor at the age of 4.” He passed away seven months later.

Marcus’s friendship with Julian and his parents predates Marcus’s publishing success, which he is using to help raise money for the foundation. Sales of the e-book version of Scar Tissue, which costs only $2.99, can provide funds for continuing research.

For more info about Julian and the foundation, go here. Click here to buy Scar Tissue from Amazon. (I couldn’t find a Nook link for it.) After September, Marcus will donate 50% of the proceeds.

Click away, get a book, and help a good cause!

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Mini Reviews of LAST RESORT, THE MINDY PROJECT, and BEN & KATE

The new shows are coming, the new shows are coming! This year, networks made several pilots available online (some have been pulled) before their premieres, which is great since I’m usually too impatient to wait for all the new series to debut. Following are a few quick thoughts of three I’ve watched.

Braugher, Speedman, Patrick. Photo: ABC/Mario Perez

Last Resort (ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 27)

This new series from Shawn Ryan (who also created The Shield) is easily the best of the five pilots I’ve seen. The crew of a submarine called the U.S.S. Colorado receives a suspicious order to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan, and when Captain Chaplin (Andre Braugher) questions its validity, he’s removed from his position and First Officer Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) assumes control of the sub. There are also some Navy SEALs on board, and an admiral’s daughter (named Shepard; ABC regulations must dictate a Shephard/Shepherd/Shepard on every show), and Robert Patrick, whom I’m always glad to see. I don’t want to reveal too much plot because there are several twists, but the pilot plays like a high-budget, high-tension one-hour feature, and was helmed by Martin Campbell, who directed Casino Royale.

Nerd verdict: Nerve-wracking Resort

See it now: Download it for free from iTunes

 

In back: Jarman, Anna Camp, Messina, Kaling, Ed Weeks, Amanda Setton, Stephen Tobolowsky. In front: Ike Barinholtz.Photo: FOX

The Mindy Project (FOX, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m., premieres Sept. 25)

I really wanted to like this, but the pilot didn’t provide as many laughs as it could have. Mindy Kaling plays OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri, who believes in romantic-comedy happy endings, which is partly responsible for her making bad decisions in her love life. The character is likable, but it seems as if Kaling has taken some of the edge out of her comedy now that she’s a sitcom lead instead of a kooky supporting character. Lahiri is far from being cookie-cutter, and Kaling does slip in some un-PC jokes, but the character isn’t crazy-funny like Kelly was on the The Office. Chris Messina, as a colleague whose constant hostility toward Mindy might actually be attraction, is interesting to me for the first time; I’ve always found him completely forgettable in movies like Julie & Julia and Vicky Christina Barcelona. Also engaging is Zoe Jarman as Betsy, Mindy’s assistant. She’s just weird enough for me to want to see more of her.

Nerd verdict: This Project needs work

 

Kellum, Faxon, Jones, Johnson, Punch. Photo: FOX

Ben & Kate (FOX, Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., premieres Sept. 25)

There’s nothing really wrong with this sitcom; it just wasn’t special enough to make me want to immediately give it a season pass on my DVR. Nat Faxon plays Ben, a dreamer who moves in with his sister Kate (Dakota Johnson) and her five-year-old kid (Maggie Jones) because he can’t seem to hold down a job. Kate works at a bar and wants to get back into the dating game. In the pilot, Ben enlists Kate and his friends to help him stop the wedding of an ex-girlfriend. As with The Mindy Project, the most interesting characters seem to be the supporting ones. Echo Kellum induces chuckles as Ben’s pal Tommy, who is hopelessly in love with Kate. And anytime Lucy Punch shows up, you know things are going to get nutty, as they do here whenever she’s on screen as Kate’s randy coworker, BJ (yes, really).

Nerd verdict: Might be funnier as Tommy & BJ

Which new series or series return are you most looking forward to?


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Mini TV Review: REVOLUTION

The Jon Favreau-directed, J.J. Abrams-produced Revolution is one of the most highly anticipated new series of the fall season, and the pilot does show some promise, if it didn’t completely blow me away. The premise is that one day all electricity turned off in the world, with the reason seemingly known to only one man, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee). Fifteen years later, his son Danny (Graham Rogers) is kidnapped by soldiers working for General Monroe (David Lyons), and Ben’s daughter, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), sets out with her bow and arrow to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke) and hopefully convince him to join her in rescuing her brother.

The blackout in the opening, showing lights going out all over the globe, is eerie. Fifteen years later, life doesn’t seem that desolate, though, because Charlie is dressed in hip leather pants and has beautiful flowy hair that looks better than mine after two hours of blow drying and styling. But it’s not Spiridakos’s fault she’s so attractive; she reminds me of a younger Heather Graham and is a likable enough lead. The most interesting actor is Burke, who’s in the Han Solo role, a guy who’s maybe not always on the side of angels but we know he’ll do the right thing when it comes to important stuff. Giancarlo Esposito is appropriately steely as a captain in the Monroe army.

The show has high production values, with behind-the-scenes talent often found on movies (many have worked with Abrams in the past). The premise is intriguing enough to make me want to watch more, but considering what happened with The Event and FlashForward, we’ll see how long that lasts.

Nerd verdict: Interesting, but not quite Revolutionary

Revolution premieres tonight on NBC at 10/9c, but you can watch the entire pilot below.

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YEAR OF THE RABBIT

What am I doing to Meshach??

I’ve been somewhat MIA since the end of July because my days have been consumed by rehearsals for a play that’s finally opening tomorrow. The official description:

Ensemble Studio Theatre/Los Angeles presents the world premiere of Year of the Rabbit by Keliher Walsh, named the inaugural winner of the biennial Kentucky Women Writers Conference Prize for Women Playwrights by a panel of judges that included OBIE award-winning playwright Naomi Wallace.

This haunting and deeply moving play, directed by James Eckhouse (Beverly Hills 90210), intertwines the war in Vietnam and the present day conflict in Afghanistan to illuminate the devastating consequences of war across generations and ethnicities.

I play Lieu, a shaman-like Vietnamese woman who’s both the storyteller, a la Joel Grey in Cabaret without the singing, and…well, I control the universe. I’m getting quite drunk on power, actually.

The cast includes Meshach Taylor (Designing Women), Ashanti Brown, Will McFadden, Peter Mackenzie (Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23), and Keliher Walsh. All are fabulous people. The show is produced by Gates McFadden and Laura Hill. For more on its genesis and what it’s about, read this L.A. Stage Times interview with James and Keliher.

We run until Oct. 28 at EST/LA in Atwater Village. To buy tickets, go here. Would love to see you there, if you can make it!

Check out the teaser. That’s my eye in the opening.

Photos by Betsy Newman Photography

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Book Reviews: BREED by Chase Novak & A WANTED MAN by Lee Child

Even though I haven’t been home much, I carry a book with me—a big, physical, heavy one—wherever I go. I may end up stoop-shouldered but at least I manage to squeeze in some reading whenever I get a moment, like while I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for the Subway employee to make my sandwich.

This allowed me to finish two books recently so I thought I’d share some thoughts, even if I’m only on a ten-minute break and typing with my iPad on my knees while one hand is clutching a protein bar.

Breed by Chase Novak (Mulholland Books, out now)

Alex and Leslie Twisden, who have everything except children, go to great lengths for Leslie to conceive. They go to a shady doctor in Slovenia, who grants them their wish, but with horrible consequences. Ten years later, the children—twins—are locked in their rooms at night, which doesn’t prevent them from fearing for their lives.

Novak (a pseudonym for Scott Spencer) used omniscient POV so it’s hard to get attached to one character, and there are many. The detached tone helps keep some of the gruesomeness at bay, but it also prevented me from being completely sucked into the story. And some of the details were still too disgusting for me to have much fun while reading. (People with stronger stomachs may not have this problem.)

I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief at the beginning of the book, when the Twisdens visit the doctor in Slovenia. The man is such a crackpot; the ingredients in the magic, ah, serum are so wrong (foreign substances that should never be injected into your body); and the implantation process is so horrifically ridiculous that it’s a wonder the couple didn’t run out of the office screaming. I’d guess any sane person would, no matter how much he/she wants a baby. Since Alex and Leslie went through with the procedure, I thought, “Well, what did they expect?” Yes, I got judgmental, which took away from my empathy for them, even though I could tell they loved their children and tried to be good parents despite what was happening to them.

Nerd verdict: Creepy and gruesome, but lacking emotional heft

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

A Wanted Man by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, out now)

I think Child and Jack Reacher are review-proof by now; fans will buy the books no matter what critics say. It’s especially fortunate, then, that Child doesn’t just coast and churn out the same ol’ thing every year. For the first 200 pages, Reacher doesn’t do any butt-kicking at all, but the book is no less engrossing for it. The story picks up where Worth Dying For left off, with Reacher hitchhiking out of Nebraska, trying to make his way to Virginia to meet Susan, the woman behind the sexy voice that was on the phone with him for much of 61 Hours. His 6’5″ frame, bruised face, and broken nose don’t make him look desirable as a passenger, especially at night, but one car containing two men and one woman does stop for him. Reacher soon realizes something’s off when the men ask him to drive…right before they encounter police roadblocks.

Much of the suspense comes from Reacher recognizing he probably shouldn’t have accepted the ride, and our wondering what he’ll do about it. One of the passengers might be a hostage so whatever he does must prevent the innocent from being harmed. It’s also interesting how the arc about Reacher heading to Virginia to meet Susan is being teased over several books.

(SMALL 61 Hours SPOILER)

The last we saw of her, she was being deployed to Afghanistan. What will Reacher do when he finds out?

END OF SPOILER

The bone-crunching does eventually happen, along with some expected humor and unexpected twists, making Child’s novels something I’ll always stop and pick up, no matter the time of day.

Nerd verdict: Reacher is definitely Wanted

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

What are you reading? How do you squeeze more reading into your day?

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Giveaway: Harlan Coben’s Mickey Bolitar Series

I started tech last week for the play I’m doing, which means long hours, so most days I don’t even know what time or month it is. In addition to rehearsals, there’s some promo work, including the radio interview I have this Thursday, posing for stills, and shooting some footage for a trailer. When I have all the materials and links, I’ll post them here in case anyone is interested.

Moving on to the business at hand, I’m giving away two sets of Harlan Coben‘s Mickey Bolitar (YA) series. The first, Shelter, came out last August, and the next installment, Seconds Away, will drop September 18. Here are the official descriptions of both:

Seconds Away

When tragedy strikes close to home, Mickey Bolitar and his loyal new friends—sharp-witted Ema and the adorkably charming Spoon—find themselves at the center of a terrifying mystery involving the shooting of their friend Rachel. Now, not only does Mickey have to continue his quest to uncover the truth about the Abeona Shelter, the Butcher of Lodz and the mysterious death of his father, he needs to figure out who shot Rachel—no matter what it takes.

Mickey has always been ready to sacrifice everything to help the people he loves. But with danger just seconds away, how can he protect them when he’s not even sure who—or what—he’s protecting them from?

Shelter

The stunning young adult debut from international bestseller Harlan Coben is now in paperback!

Mickey Bolitar’s year can’t get much worse. After witnessing his father’s death and sending his mom to rehab, he’s forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he’s met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally be improving. But then Ashley vanishes. Mickey follows Ashley’s trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that Ashley isn’t who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey’s father. Soon Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

Two winners will receive a copy of each book. To enter, leave a comment about something you accomplished as a teen that still makes you proud. Giveaway ends next Tuesday, September 18, 9 p.m. PST. US residents only. Winners will be randomly chosen and have 48 hours after notification to claim prizes.

Good luck!

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The Nerdy Special List

Every month, indie booksellers release something called the Indie Next List, which contains their recommendations of titles being published that month. It is a great resource for finding new, noteworthy books, and has been responsible for me adding more height to my TBR tower.

This inspired me recently to create my own list by polling a few blogger pals to see what their recommendations are, and the Nerdy Special List was born. My friend Lauren helped me brainstorm the name, which I thought was appropriate since each blogger is a specialist in a certain genre, except for Jenn at The Picky Girl, who will cover anything that satisfies her eclectic pickiness. The other participants are Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts, spotlighting crime fiction titles, and Danielle at There’s a Book, who will alternate between children’s, middle grade (MG), and YA recommendations. I will round out the list, most likely with a crime fiction selection, but I might deviate as my mood dictates.

Jen, Jenn, and Danielle probably need no introductions to fans of the genres they cover, as all are established, smart, passionate bloggers. I’m thrilled they agreed to do this with me. Each month, we’ll choose one book as our favorite new release and hopefully give you exciting titles to look forward to.

I present to you the inaugural Nerdy Special List, with our September selections, in alphabetical order of blog name:

Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts recommends: A Death in Valencia by Jason Webster (Minotaur Books, Sept. 18)

In his second crime novel featuring Detective Max Camara, Webster pokes at a volatile issue: abortion rights. A paella chef is found murdered, an abortionist is kidnapped, the pope visits Valencia and Camara finds himself homeless. Cámara is the archetypal detective—a loner with baggage and disdain for authority but ultimately doing what he does for all the right reasons. It’s a dark, complex plot in a fascinating locale.

Jenn at The Picky Girl recommends: The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain (Hard Case Crime, Sept. 18)

If you’ve mourned the loss of truly good pulp fiction, I’ve got good news for you: James M. Cain’s previously lost final novel, The Cocktail Waitress, doesn’t shortchange in atmosphere, story, or a sensual femme fatale. Ron Medford, abusive and alcoholic, pounded on his small son one last time before leaving and crashing his car into a culvert. A rookie cop has it in his head that Ron’s wife, Joan, helped him on his way. Broke, scared, and desperate to tear her son from the clutches of her derisive sister-in-law, Joan takes a job as a cocktail waitress and meets two men—one, a broke idealist who tempts her; the other, wealthy but older, who is tempted by her. But is Joan looking for a better life for her son, or is she just spinning her web yet again? For fans of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, Cain’s final novel is an unexpected delight.

Danielle at There’s a Book recommendsIn a Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm #2) by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton Juvenile, Sept. 27)

“Once upon a time, fairy tales were horrible,” begins In a Glass Grimmly, a dark adventure for all readers but especially those looking for superb writing at any reading level. Adam Gidwitz has proven again that a story is never fully complete if a talented writer, such as himself, doesn’t want it to be. A grim narrator with an even darker tale, a luscious new world, a nonstop adventure, and strong characters make In A Glass Grimmly my favorite read for September, hands down.

PCN’s recommendation: Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham (Delacorte Press, Sept. 25).

I got tingles while reading this book, which happens when I discover an exciting new writer and series character. Harry Bingham, in his debut novel, introduces crime fans to Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, a woman who’s exceptionally good at her job in a South Wales police department, but is emotionally and socially disconnected due to a rare condition that I found myself looking up after finishing the book. She has difficulty translating physical signs into emotions—does increased heart rate mean fear, excitement, or love? Fi is tough and witty, even if she doesn’t mean to be, and the puzzle of her own past might be as complex as any case she encounters.

Many thanks to Jen, Jenn, and Danielle!

Hope you find many great reads this month. Anything you’re really looking forward to? (See other lists here.)

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