All Posts By

Pop Culture Nerd

Nerdy Special List April 2017

I’ll be having a birthday soon, which means I’ll have to confront something on my list of fears. This year’s challenge: spring cleaning. [Insert horror scream here.] I think I’ll read a book instead and hope the house elves come in the night to take care of the cleaning.

Here are the April releases we recommend for when you need to avoid doing something else.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman, trans. by Neil Smith (Atria Books, April 25)

I haven’t done a very good job of hiding the fact I love Fredrik Backman’s work. I’ve adored each of his previous three books published in the US, for their individual distinctiveness as well as their commonalities. But Beartown surpasses them all.

This time Backman takes a bit of a darker tone, and has an entire cast of protagonists as opposed to a central main character enhanced with supporting characters.

Beartown is a sleepy little village struggling in the economy. Jobs have left, but the town uses its hockey program as a reason to get up every day. Some residents are players or coaches, some former players and devout fans. This year, the junior team is positioned to go all the way to the championship. This could mean big things for Beartown: a hockey academy, a new arena, population growth. But a fateful night shakes the entire town and more than just the championship dreams could be extinguished.

Even though Backman’s tone is darker and graver than before, he still employs his smart wit and insightful perspective. Dialogue is sparse but sharp and the characters are brilliantly authentic.

One needn’t be a fan of hockey to love this book. Backman uses the sport as a vehicle for his rich themes, but it could have easily been replaced by any other sport…or community focus. Beartown is a universal tale of humanity—its strengths, weaknesses, beauty, and hideousness. Once again, Backman has stolen my heart with his larger-than-life tale of the common man.

Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope (St. Martin’s Press, April 18)

Conservative former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and liberal former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope teamed up on this book to show how efforts to save the planet are not only environmentally productive, they’re economically productive as well.

These two leaders look at the individual parts of climate change and offer solutions to the smaller parts, not one idea for the entire issue. They illustrate how this makes it more manageable as well as profitable. And they emphasize the need—and plausibility—for local governments, businesses, and citizens to take on these tasks instead of waiting for change from the federal government, especially in the current political climate.

The two men alternate chapters, addressing topics such as renewable energy, housing, food, and transportation. They don’t agree on everything, but Climate of Hope is a beautiful example of how progress can be made despite partisan differences.

It’s enlightening, motivating, and accessible, and should be required reading: for the good of the planet, the good of the people, and the good of the economy.

 

From Erin at In Real Life:

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole (Ecco, April 4)

This is one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read. The story opens with a detective, William Fawkes—or Wolf, as he’s known—with a sketchy past being pulled into a case involving a corpse comprised of stitched-together parts from six different bodies.

Pretty gross, right? Only, it’s not. This character-driven story is told with a respect for the victim that’s almost eerie. It’s not gratuitous. It is descriptive, but gracefully so.

Wolf and his backstory are at the center of the mystery of The Ragdoll (as the corpse is called), but the supporting cast—Wolf’s police colleagues, his TV reporter ex-wife and her colleagues, the victims and their families—makes this tale one to remember. As they each play their part in figuring out who the six victims are and what connects them, the urgency around catching the killer is palpable. Daniel Cole wastes no words; perhaps his former life as a paramedic honed his ability to vividly communicate just enough information.

Ragdoll is the first in a series; Cole’s publishing contract includes three books. If what comes next is anywhere near as good as RAGDOLL, readers are in for a wonderfully wild ride.

 

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil by Susan Ewing (Pegasus Books, April 4)

Heads up, shark and adventure nerds! Resurrecting the Shark is the story of the people who came together over the course of about a hundred years to solve the mystery of a 270-million-year-old fish fossil.

Now known as Helicoprion (“spiral saw”), this paleozoic shark has a two-foot-tall whorl of teeth sitting midline in its lower jaw like a circular saw, making Sharknado feel like staid Sunday programming. The fossil became a passion project in geology, taxonomy, paleontology, and the arts, from Australia to Russia to the United Sates.

Resurrecting the Shark is the compelling story of how it was ultimately determined what the fossil was, what it looked like, how it ate, how it lived and where.

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki (W. W. Norton & Company, April 11)

The minimalism movement has become quite popular lately, but Japanese editor Fumio Sasaki’s story of how he found greater happiness by giving up his possessions is more than just another piece of grist for the mill.

Sasaki shares his process (getting rid of just about everything, including his bed) and the emotional transformation that resulted. It’s a very personal journey, but the ideas and concepts are presented in a way that is both motivating and adaptable. Including photos and a list of tips, the book is physically beautiful (and minimal), as well as a fascinating read.

[Editor’s note: I need Fumio Sasaki to come to my apartment.]

 

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman (Harper, April 11)

It makes me happy that Ms. Hillerman is continuing her father [Tony]’s series with Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito. I like the marriage of Bernadette and Jim, and I love that Bernadette has a strong lead role in Ms. Hillerman’s books. I also like the respect that Bernadette and Jim have for Joe Leaphorn, and that they consider him a mentor.

In Song of the Lion, a bomb goes off in the parking lot of a high school, bringing another situation to light. How these two situations connect is a darn good story. Recommended!

 

From PCN:

Cruel is the Night by Karo Hämäläinen, trans. by Owen Witesman (Soho Crime, April 11)

Four friends sit down to dinner one evening in London, but some or all of them might end up dead before the night is over.

As the meal progresses, everyone gets more drunk and their true feelings for each other emerge, resulting in all-out violence. There’s even a sword involved.

Cruel is disturbing and darkly humorous, and fast-paced enough that you can probably devour it in one bite.

What are you reading this month?

 

Share

Movie Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Does anyone need a refresher on the plot of this “tale as old as time”? The one about a girl whose kindness saves a selfish prince and his household from a curse? No? OK, great. I can jump straight into details you may not already know about this latest version.

Yes, Emma Watson can sing. She doesn’t have the widest emotional range as an actress, but her natural intelligence, pluck, and sense of decency make her perfect as Belle, the bookworm who wants more than a provincial life.

Dan Stevens, playing Beast, can sing, too, but his performance isn’t especially memorable. Out of hairy makeup, he’s Generic Pretty Prince. Robby Benson left a stronger impression with only his voice in the 1991 animated classic.

This live-action retelling is faithful to that previous version and has moments of splendor, but it doesn’t improve on the ’91 film so I’m not convinced its existence is justified.

The ballroom scene with Belle in her golden gown? Lovely, but no better than the iconic iteration. The “Be Our Guest” number? Looks more like a typical, splashy musical number here than an enchanting moment with a singing, dancing candelabra and his dinnerware friends. (Ewan McGregor does a fine job voicing Lumiere but I really missed the late Jerry Orbach in this scene.)

One thing that is different is the “gay moment,” as it’s been dubbed in the media. I was pleasantly surprised by it (saw the movie before director Bill Condon’s comments were made public). It’s funny and sweet and just a quick bit, neither in your face nor so ambiguous it leaves you wondering. It’s not a big deal. At all. The hullaballoo and boycotts are much ado about nothing, people judging the movie before they see it.

Oh, and also? Luke Evans, who perfectly embodies Gaston, is openly gay in real life but that didn’t stop the studio from casting him as the alpha male and Belle’s most ardent suitor. Disney is gettin’ with the times, yo.

Another difference is the running time. The animated movie is less than 90 minutes, but this one is about 2 hours 10, which might be too long for little kids to sit through. And this Gaston is more violent toward Beast than I remember the previous Gaston being. Yet this movie is rated PG. Who is its intended audience?

This inconsistency between themes and running time and rating perhaps means the new Beauty and the Beast is trying to be all things to everyone, but as the prince eventually realizes, bigger spectacles don’t equal more substance.

Nerd verdict: Competent if not quite magical Beauty 

Share

Book Review: DISTRESS SIGNALS by Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard’s Distress Signals—shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards’ Crime Novel of the Year after its UK release—opens with a man plunging off a cruise ship into dark waters, but readers will have to wait to discover why he jumped.

Adam Dunne’s girlfriend Sarah leaves Cork, Ireland, to attend a business conference in Barcelona. She doesn’t return. And no one can reach her. Then he receives her passport in a package mailed from France, with a note saying, “I’m sorry—S.”

Adam sets out to track down Sarah, not believing she would leave him like that. When he digs into her recent activities, however, he discovers a shocking secret, and that Sarah was last seen on a cruise ship called the Celebrate. He books himself on the same ship, but will he find Sarah or encounter his own death?

Though this is Howard’s debut novel, she writes with complete command of language, plot, and the thriller genre. She also knows the ins and outs of maritime laws that often lead to deaths on ships in international waters going unsolved.

The chapters alternate among the points of view of three characters: Adam; a crew member on the ship; and a boy named Romain, whose story occurs mostly in the past and is itself a mystery in how it intersects with the others. In a testament to Howard’s skill, Romain’s narrative is the most moving and resonant—his soul may be distressed but his humanity comes through loud and clear.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

Share

Nerdy Special List March 2017

March brings spring, and whoo boy, I could use some spring right now. Heavy rains (causing a tree to fall on a friend’s car—while she was in it) were rough, turning me into more of a hermit than usual. Good thing I have loads of books.

Here are the March releases we recommend. And no, I don’t know why they all come out today (except for the last one).

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog by Lauren Fern Watt (Simon & Schuster, March 7)

What started out as an impulse purchase ended up being a wonderful relationship.

Lauren Watt bought her canine best friend, Gizelle—an English mastiff—on a whim while out with her mother one weekend. Lauren was just about to start college and her mother decided she needed a dog.

By the time Lauren graduates college and moves to New York City, Gizelle is a whopping 160 pounds. But Lauren explains Gizelle had a gift for fitting into places she shouldn’t fit, and she fit perfectly into Lauren’s life in NYC.

As any pet owner knows, our best friends never live as long as we’d like them to, but when Lauren learns Gizelle has cancer—and after she deals with her initial grief—she decides she’d make a bucket list for Gizelle.

Gizelle’s Bucket List is heartwarming and heartbreaking, funny and sad. It reminds us that since we don’t have a lot of days with our pets, we should make the ones we do have count. Dog lovers will identify with many of Lauren and Gizelle’s experiences, regardless of how large or small their own furbabies are. Their tale will have every pet lover scribbling bucket lists for their four-legged best friends.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler (Ecco, March 7)

Beginning at a Wisconsin summer camp in 1962 and spanning six decades, Nickolas Butler’s newest novel is his best yet (and I deeply loved Shotgun Lovesongs).

Nelson, bullied overachiever, is the camp’s bugler. Jonathan is a popular boy at camp. The two form an unlikely and uncertain friendship.

As the years pass, Nelson, a Vietnam veteran, becomes scoutmaster of beloved Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan becomes a successful businessman. They remain connected as both Jonathan’s son and grandson find their way to the camp.

This is not a happy book, and at times it is deeply unsettling, but it is timely. It shows what the most ordinary of boys and men are capable of.

As it examines both Nelson and Jonathan at turning points in their lives, we learn about the ways they are shaped from their childhood, the men they become, and how complicated even the simplest person can be. It’s a novel full of heart, beautiful prose, and memorable characters. It will undoubtedly be one of my favorite books this year.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Celine by Peter Heller (Knopf, March 7)

When a terrific mystery is the least fabulous part of a novel, you know you’ve hit the jackpot as a reader. Peter Heller has created a simply sublime protagonist in Celine, a 69-year-old former government worker born with a silver spoon who now works as a PI helping to reunite families.

As comfortable in Jackie O sunglasses as her Glock shoulder rig, Celine is a recovering alcoholic who suffers from emphysema and creates sculptures using animal skulls. When a young woman seeks Celine’s help to find out what really happened to her long-thought-dead father, Celine and her husband Pete hit the road to find the truth.

While painted with wicked-smart humor, Celine is about loyalty, despair, art, obligation, and privilege, carried out superbly in Heller’s hands.

From PCN:

I’m recommending two this month.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Abrams ComicArts, March 7)

Bui was a toddler when she and her family came to the US as refugees from Vietnam. The ghosts of war came with them, and it took Bui many years to finally find the right way to tell her and her parents’ stories. She drops some truth bombs up in here.

This illustrated memoir is moving and funny, telling painful, complex tales without overwhelming readers. Sometimes Bui’s artwork says it all, no accompanying narration or dialogue needed. In this understated quietness, the Buis’ stories come across loud and clear.

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith (Forge, March 21)

Mia receives call saying her twin brother has gone missing in their N. Dakota hometown. And oh yeah, he’s suspected of knocking up one of his high school students and then murdering her. Mia goes home, encounters life-threatening situations as she searches for Lucas and tries to clear his name. Someone—perhaps more than one—in town is determined to keep her from exposing old secrets.

Smith’s characters are demented and dysfunctional but riveting. I especially liked how Mia and other female characters get to be messily three-dimensional. They have all kinds of issues but they feel like people you’d know.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

 

Share

Oscars 2017: And the Winner for Biggest Flub Is…

Wow. I tuned into the Oscars hoping for at least one surprise and I got it, all right.

In case you’d bailed on the very long show and haven’t heard: the wrong best picture winner was announced (La La Land) and the winners had already come on stage and were in the middle of their speeches when Jordan Horowitz, one of LLL’s producers, announced Moonlight actually won best picture, saying “It’s not a joke,” and raised the correct card to prove it.

My reaction:

Horowitz and the rest of the La La Land crew were incredibly gracious to the Moonlight group, hugging and congratulating them as they came onstage in a daze.

Before they could give their acceptance speeches, however, Warren Beatty explained he was given the best actress card by mistake. To make things momentarily weirder, Emma Stone, who’d won that category, said backstage she was holding the Best Actress card the whole time. Whaaaat?

Turns out there were two cards for each winner. See explanation here. Mystery solved. Or at least some of it. How/why was Beatty given the wrong envelope? Why did Faye Dunaway say La La Land when looking at the wrong card? (She declined to comment when The Hollywood Reporter asked her at the Governors Ball afterward.)

Here’s a clip of the confusing moment:

This closeup, tweeted by ABC News, shows Beatty holding the wrong envelope.

I liked both movies and would’ve been happy with either as the winner. In a way, both did win, for Best Handling of a Mistake Seen by a Billion People.

Now, let’s see…what else happened during the show?

Justin Timberlake opened it with an energetic performance of best-song nominee “Can’t Stop the Feeling” that got everyone up and dancing, which was fun. But little did they know when they sat down that they wouldn’t be getting up again for many, many hours.

Some highlights:

Most delicious surprise: No, I’m not talking about Viggo Mortensen in a tux. That’s no surprise. I’m referring to the free candy and donuts dropping from the ceiling to keep the audience happy and not hungry. I swear, if bag o’ chips had started dropping, I would’ve jumped in my car, driven over to the Dolby Theater, and tried to grab a few.

Funniest disrespect of a celebrity: Host Jimmy Kimmel’s continuing diss of Matt Damon. The actor was announced only as Ben Affleck’s guest when the two came out to present Best Original Screenplay, and then Kimmel tried to play Damon off with music when Damon tried to announce the nominees. His takedown of Damon’s performance in We Bought a Zoo—“his acting is so effortful”—got in some good digs.

Cutest kid in the candy store: Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Hamilton creator was enjoying the heck out of himself, happy and smiling big the whole night, like someone had put all his favorite things in the world in one place and he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was nice to see someone who wasn’t too cool or jaded to be there.

Cutest kid who’s actually a kid: Sunny Pawar. I’m not sure how I feel about Kimmel holding up Pawar Simba-style, but it was adorable how Pawar asked for Mike & Ike candy while that was happening.

Favorite dedication to theater nerds: best song co-winner Benj Pasek (with Justin Paul and Justin Hurwitz for “City of Stars” from La La Land) said, “[My mom] let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical, so this is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them.” I hated soccer in high school, too, and was much happier in theater. High five, Benj, and to all the cool moms.

Moments that made me cry: tie between Katherine Johnson, now 98, one of the real-life “Hidden Figures,” coming out on stage; and the In Memoriam segment, with Sara Bareilles singing “Both Sides Now.”

On top of the reel reminding us of so many greats we lost last year (nice touch to have presenter Jennifer Aniston mention Bill Paxton, who died yesterday), that song guts me every time I hear it. And then the segment ends with Carrie Fisher as General Organa saying, “May the Force be with you.” I was gone.

From L: Janelle Monae, NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle, Johnson, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best political statements: there were many, done eloquently. It was as simple as Alessandro Bertolazzi, who won best makeup for Suicide Squad, dedicating his Oscar to “all the immigrants.” Or as pointed as best foreign film director Asghar Farhadi, who stayed in Iran to show solidarity with his people being banned from the US, sending someone in his place to read his statement that says, “Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.” I never felt hit over the head or lectured by these remarks. And oh, yeah, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an Oscar.

OK, Mr. PCN is yelling at me from the other room that I have to wrap this up because it’s 1:30 a.m. I’d better move on to the fashion commentary before he cuts me off by playing loud music.

No one’s gown wowed me. Most looked fine but safe. Below are a few who did stand out, for better or worse.

Emma Stone

Mr. PCN: She looks great on the top half, bottom half is a lampshade.

 

Nicole Kidman

Mr. PCN: Nude woman with doilies.

PCN: It does look in photos like she’s wearing a fancy nude bodysuit, but the beading looked much prettier on TV.

 

Janelle Monae

PCN: So much going on, but she carries it well.

Mr. PCN: Why is she carrying two birdcages?

 

Halle Berry

Mr. PCN: Auditioning for The Wiz.

PCN: Little Orphan Halle gets caught in fishing net.

 

Jessica Biel

Mr. PCN: Cleopatra in space.

PCN: Golden camo, so she can be invisible in a jungle of Oscars.

 

Karlie Kloss

Mr. PCN: Isn’t she a Victoria’s Secret model? She should be wearing wings instead of a cape.

PCN: I just want to know—why is she at the Oscars?

Ginnifer Goodwin

Mr. PCN: Spanish vampire.

 

Leslie Mann

Mr. PCN: I thought Emma Watson is playing Belle.

PCN: I didn’t know IKEA shopping bags could be worn as evening gowns.

 

Isabelle Huppert

 

PCN: My favorite look, elegance crossed with badass. Look at that pose and those dark nails.

Did you watch? What did you think? (See complete list of winners here.)

Photos: Stone–Kevin Mazur/Getty, Huppert–Steve Granitz/Wireimage, all others–Frazer Harrison/Getty

Share

Nerdy Special List February 2017

Like many people, I’ve been distressed by what’s going on in DC and have found it hard to focus on reading for pleasure. I also wondered if movie and book reviews are too frivolous to write at this time.

But then I realized books are never frivolous, and we need to support the arts right now because arts programs are at risk of being defunded. Arts are a part of culture, and our culture is our history.

So, with great pleasure, I present you this list of February releases we recommend.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, February 7)

I read The Refugees long before the travel ban executive order was written, but how stunningly appropriate that I can recommend it as my Nerdy Special List pick this month.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s collection of short stories is rich in complex characters and relationships, with identity playing a recurring theme throughout the stories. Nguyen’s skill encourages his readers to connect with characters who are likely very different from themselves. In the current political climate, we can all benefit from more of that because, after all, we don’t tend to fear what we understand.

Nguyen’s language and imagery are stunning, making this collection captivating and memorable. I’m certain that even those who don’t tend to favor short fiction will find themselves engrossed in these gorgeous stories.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Shimmering Road by Hester Young (Putnam, February 1)

A little over a year ago, I was in one of the biggest reading slumps of my adult life. On a whim, I picked up Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline and absolutely loved it.

So I was both excited and nervous to read The Shimmering Road, Young’s second book featuring journalist Charlie Cates. I am happy to report it’s an enthralling read and a solid follow-up to her first novel.

Charlie, expecting her first daughter, is now in Arizona, searching for clues that might help solve the murder of her mother and half sister. Plagued by recurring nightmares, she can’t help but worry about the fate of her unborn daughter and that of her half-sister’s daughter, even as she gets drawn further into the mystery surrounding the murders.

The novel is fast paced, unexpected, and a pleasure to read. The Shimmering Road, as is its predecessor, is everything a page-turner—with a supernatural flare—should be.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone, February 2)

I find the idea of taking a cruise both intriguing and terrifying, so Catherine Ryan Howard’s debut thriller Distress Signals was right up my alley.

Adam figures he has a pretty great life, right up until his girlfriend, Sarah, doesn’t come back from a cruise to Barcelona. Adam goes after her, and that’s where any predictability in this story ends.

Help from the police? Nope. Her family? Nah. Adam doesn’t know whether Sarah is gone permanently or temporarily, voluntarily or by force, and as his unease builds, it’s impossible not to be roped into a story that doesn’t let up until the final page.

This alone would make this a fantastic book. But Howard shows herself to be a masterful storyteller by creating a parallel story that ties together with Adam’s beautifully and in a way I can’t explain without giving too much away.

If you like stories brimming with suspense and plot twists you’ll never see coming, you’ll want to grab a copy of Distress Signals immediately.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith (Lee Boudreaux Books, February 7)

After an 11-year prison sentence, Russell Gaines returns home to McComb, Mississippi, where he tries to get on with his life, apologetic to no one.

Despite a supportive father, however, the pull of his ex-fiancée and the vengeful family whose lives he changed keep throwing a wrench in his plans. Maben, a woman on the run with her young daughter, seems permanently caught in a web of problems. When Russell’s bumpy path intersects Maben’s troubled one, their rough lives only get rougher.

Smith is a beautiful writer, and a sense of poetry underlies the straightforward nature of his words. He writes about the slog of everyday life with integrity and grace, making even the difficult parts beautiful to read. This is a fantastic follow-up to Smith’s wonderful debut, Rivers.

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jone (Soho Crime, February 14)

August Snow is an amateur detective in what is hopefully a new series from Soho Crime. It’s set in Detroit, and is an excellent mystery in the tradition of Robert B. Parker. A bit of violence, a lot of smartass talk—set in my favorite city!

August is half Hispanic and half African American, and lives in the Mexicantown area of Detroit in the house his parents owned. He’s a former cop who went up against the department and was awarded 12 million dollars in a lawsuit.

He is asked to look into the business dealings of a private bank, and while he hesitates to take the case, the woman who wants to hire him is killed. August looks into her death, going up against the police department again, as well as hired thugs from the private bank.

August ends up with some great friends and/or teammates, and they work well together to take care of a variety of issues. He’s pretty firm about not being a private investigator, but I would be thrilled if he becomes one. Highly recommended!

From PCN:

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong (Minotaur, February 7)

The first in the Casey Duncan series, City of the Lost, knocked me out last year, and Darkness is weird and menacing, too.

Casey is still the detective of Rockton, the off-the-grid town in Canada where people go to hide from someone or something. She and sheriff’s deputy Will find a woman who’s been kept in a hole in a cave for over a year. All Rockton residents have shady pasts but that’s just nasty. And almost anyone could be the sick bastard who abducted the woman (she never saw his face).

On top of the twisted plot and a heroine I continue to root for, the setting of blizzardy Rockton gives me the creeps, amplifying how isolated Casey is, and how if she gets in trouble, she’s on her own.

What are you excited to read this month?

Share

Nerdy Special List January 2017

Since almost half the month has passed, I figured I should get this list up. I’ve been moving slowly due to January rains, days that get dark at 1:00 p.m., and my general tendency to be sloth-like. My big win today was changing out of pajama pants.

The one thing I’m not lazy about is talking books. Below are the January releases we recommend you check out.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Neverland of the 2016 Presidential Race by Richard North Patterson (Quercus, January 10)

fever swampThroughout the entirety of the 2016 presidential race—both the primaries and the general election—novelist Richard North Patterson wrote a weekly commentary for Huffington Post. Fever Swamp is a collection of those articles, with additional remarks from Patterson after the November election.

Patterson takes his legal background and the knowledge he’s accumulated writing political thrillers to base his arguments in facts, data, and other tangible evidence. His margin notes and section introductions indicate where his predictions went wrong and why, where he was correct and what that meant, and other insights looking back on arguably the most unprecedented election in American history.

Patterson is unapologetically liberal, he’s thorough and knowledgeable, and Fever Swamp is at times infuriating and at others terrifying, especially when Patterson discusses the Supreme Court. But it’s always enlightening.

It may feel early to scratch the scabs off the wounds created by this election, but we all need to be aware of what is now at stake. Fever Swamp is a good place to start.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey (William Morrow, January 24)

clownfish bluesIf you’ve read Tim Dorsey’s books, you know what to expect from Clownfish Blues and will be glad to hear he’s in top form. If you haven’t yet traveled to Dorsey’s Florida, you’re in for a treat.

In Clownfish, our erstwhile hero, Serge, and his trusty (although he can’t be trusted with much) sidekick Coleman are hard at work reenacting the classic TV show Route 66. Did you know a Florida episode of Route 66 introduced the country to the concept of a bookmobile? Neither did I. I didn’t even know there were Florida episodes. But I digress.

Like all Dorsey’s novels, Clownfish has moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. There is, however, much more than humor. Serge kills people with more style than any protagonist I’ve met.

The complicated plots highlights aspects of Florida life, yes, but also American culture as a whole, including state lotteries (and the people who play—and manipulate—them), undocumented immigrants, the legal system, psychics, and…sign spinning.

I would hate to be the person in a bookstore who has to decide where to shelve Clownfish Blues. Crime? Social commentary? Humor? Whatever you love to read, this will not disappoint.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Burning Bright by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam, January 10)

burning brightAs in real life, there is no shortage of literary military veterans suffering from PTSD. That makes what Nicholas Petrie has done with his protagonist Peter Ash all the more special.

Ash feels very grounded in reality, but also different in a way that’s both refreshing and unsettling. As Burning Bright (second in a series after The Drifter) begins, Ash hasn’t slept in anything but a tent or his truck for two years. Instead, he’s roaming the outdoors planning to get arrested, since being locked in a cell might force him to “get over” his claustrophobia.

While taking shelter in the California redwoods, Ash stumbles upon the nature fortress of investigative journalist Jane Cassidy, who is also trying to outrun forces beyond her control. Jane’s demons are external rather than internal, and take the form of dark-suited men.

It’s clear Jane is being hunted, and the men appear to be connected with her recently deceased mother, a genius tenured professor at Stanford. Unfortunately, Jane has little idea what her mother was working on that could spark such dark interest.

Jane and Ash join forces (he has nothing better to do and Jane is attractive), and her investigative prowess coupled with Ash’s brawn and resourcefulness make for a compelling team. Although the romance and competitive banter get a bit schmaltzy, it’s also obvious neither has connected with another person in a long time.

Petrie focuses on character and action and does both quite well. The pace doesn’t let up and the story turns are engaging. The investigation is fraught with mercenary violence and heady computer technology, but the characters’ talents always feel righteously earned.

Backed by a cadre of appealing secondary characters, Jane and Ash’s chase leads to a place they never expected and a satisfying conclusion worthy of the risks.

From PCN:

Blood and Bone by V.M. Giambanco (Quercus, January 3)

blood and boneWhen I first saw the cover of another edition of this book, it had nasty-looking jagged pieces of glass with blood spatters on them and my reaction was, Nope, not reading that. I’m terrified of graphic violence.

By the time the US version arrived on my doorstep, however, the cover has changed to something innocuous enough for me to pick it up. And I’m glad I did.

This is the third in the Alice Madison series but I was fine starting here. Madison is a Seattle PD detective trying to solve a series of extremely brutal slayings possibly linked to old cases that have already been solved. Or have they?

Madison is no-nonsense and so is the prose: after a long day at a murder scene, Madison picks up food on the way home but then doesn’t eat it. And that’s all that’s said about her emotional state that night. By holding back, Giambanco helps Blood and Bone resonate more.

Which books are you exciting about reading this month?

 

Share

Golden Globes 2017: Predictable *and* Surprising

Here we go, the first of one million award shows this season. I always look forward to the Globes because it’s usually the loosest, wackiest award show, with drunk celebs and the Hollywood Foreign Press often choosing odd winners (Madonna as best actress comedy/musical for Evita).

This year had predictable wins—La La Land swept, which I’m happy about—but some upsets, too, which kept us viewers awake at home.

Below are my own awards for the ceremony. The 2017 Nerdies go to:

Most smile-inducing musical number: OK, fine, there was only one number and that was the opening. Host Jimmy Fallon parodied La La Land but also referenced several memorable moments in movies and TV this past year, including what happened to Barb in Stranger Things and Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. He had help from singing stars like Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Sarah Paulson. I didn’t even know the latter two could sing. They always play such serious roles, it was nice to see them have some fun.

Best upsets: Aaron Taylor-Johnson winning best dramatic supporting actor in movies and Isabelle Huppert for best dramatic movie actress. I’ve long admired Taylor-Johnson for disappearing into his roles; I hated his character SO MUCH in Nocturnal Animals, but in real life, he’s well spoken and handsome and seems nothing like the lowlife he played. Huppert is a French legend, and though I’m too scared to watch Elle, I hear she’s fierce as a rape survivor who tracks down her attacker for revenge.

Funniest banter: Kristin Wiig and Steve Carell talking about the first time they saw an animated movie. We quickly realize these occasions were memorable for horrible reasons. And that’s how you do comedy.

Best speech, bar none: Meryl Streep. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award, instead of talking about herself, she spoke for five minutes about how we need to band together in this changing political climate to defend a free press and have empathy and not fear foreigners, pointing out Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Amy Adams in Italy, Dev Patel in Kenya, and Ruth Negga in Ethiopia.

You can watch below or read the entire transcript here, but the standout lines for me were “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” When she ends by quoting “the dear departed Princess Leia, [who] said to me once: ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art,’” I was in tears.

On to the fashion. For this, I’ll bring in my co-commentator, Mr. PCN, who always adds a unique perspective.

Thandie Newton

thandie-newton

Mr. PCN: She’s hot, as in she looks like she’s literally on fire.

 

Jessica Chastain

jessica-chastain

Mr. PCN: She was a bridesmaid who caught the bouquet, but then other people fought her for it and the bouquet broke apart all her over dress.

Natalie Portman

natalie-portman

Mr. PCN: I know she played someone from the ’60s, but she doesn’t have to look 60. The hair is too severe.

Zoe Saldana

zoe-saldana

Mr. PCN: Car wash.

Sarah Jessica Parker

sarah-jessica-paker

 

PCN: With her hair and white gown, she’s totally channeling Princess Leia.

Mr. PCN: The sleeves make me think the designer also designs straitjackets.

Blake Lively

blake-lively

PCN: She looks like Wonder Woman in evening wear, with the bulletproof bracelets and pockets made out of golden lasso.

Mr. PCN: I see a golden octopus wrapped around her from behind.

Nicole Kidman

nicole-kidman

Mr. PCN: This looks one of those Magic Eye pictures from the ’80s, but I can’t see what the hidden image is supposed to be.

Emma Stone

emma-stone_2

PCN: I saved the best for last. The actress who plays a girl with stars in her eyes is wearing stars on her dress. Perfection.

Did you watch? What were your favorite moments?

Photos: Getty Images

Share

Favorite 2016 Books

I’m baaaack!

I took off for a couple of weeks over the holidays, and when I go on vacation, I go off the grid. There’s no blogging or social media, sometimes no Internet or cell reception. I might as well have been in the witness protection program. And it was glorious.

This is me on Christmas Eve. The photo has not been doctored in any way.

78

Now that I’m home, it’s a good time to review my year in reading. My 2016 goal was to hit 60, or 5 books a month. I reached 58 but I’m OK with that. I’m not counting all the manuscripts I read for work so my actual total is closer to 80.

A few stats:

  • Authors new to me  31
  • Debut authors  13
  • Non-American authors  14

Shortest book: 224 pages (Phoef Sutton’s Heart Attack and Vine)

Longest book: 560 pages (Keigo Higashino’s Under the Midnight Sun)

Publishers I read most: Minotaur (9) and Mulholland Books (8), both crime-fiction imprints

I don’t know what all that means. I’m just posting stats because they make me seem scholarly.

This year was good, reading-wise. When I compiled my list of favorite books last year, only 3 made the cut and that plunged me into an existential crisis.

Happily the 2016 list is much longer. Here are my favorites in the order I read them, each with an excerpt from my review.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

passenger

In her thrilling standalone…Lisa Lutz (the Spellman series) keeps the pace blistering without sacrificing characterization. (Starred Shelf Awareness review)

 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligible

This modern interpretation of [Pride and Prejudice] is…both familiar and fresh, contemporary and classic. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve read Austen or Sittenfeld or neither. Eligible is a thoroughly charming read. (April Nerdy Special List)

 

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

city of lost

The complex mystery takes unusual turns, and the setting of isolated territory surrounded by menacing woods is as breathtaking as it is unsettling. (Shelf Awareness review)

 

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

lily and the octopus

Rowley is a lovely storyteller and astute observer of life, and he will take you on an emotional, existential journey you didn’t even know you were looking for. (June Nerdy Special List)

 

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope

collecting the dead

Steps is a welcome new series protagonist, not only because of his unusual [synesthetic] talent but also his sense of humor…. Refreshingly, he’s far from being a hardened hero haunted by his past. (Shelf Awareness review)

 

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

last days of night

Last Days is a cerebral thriller, full of twists, legal maneuverings, and courtroom drama, peppered with idealistic do-gooders and intimidating villains. (Starred Shelf Awareness review)

IQ by Joe Ide

iq

Isaiah and his sidekick, Dodson, are a hilarious urban version of Holmes and Watson. One can hear the characters talking in their lively, rhythmic dialogue, and the descriptions paint vivid pictures. (Shelf Awareness review)

 

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

tell-the-truth

While large in scope, exploring timely issues such as terrorism, racism, the plight of immigrants and social media’s lynch-mob mentality, the book also tells the heartrending personal stories of multidimensional and memorable characters. Bish is like a British (and a quarter Egyptian) Harry Bosch. (Starred Shelf Awareness review)

 

Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

under-midnight-sunHigashino, Edgar Award nominated for The Devotion of Suspect X, has created a Japanese Les Miserables…. The power of this novel lies in challenging the way we judge others…[asking] us to see that even people who commit horrific acts are capable of great courage, and sometimes they do the former because of the latter. (November Nerdy Special List)

What were some of your favorite books last year?

Share

Capsule Movie Reviews: FENCES, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, SING, and HIDDEN FIGURES

The holidays are upon us and the movies are coming out fast and furious, competing for your dollars. Since you’re probably doing last-minute shopping and have no time for full reviews, I’ll keep my comments concise for the following batch of films. (For reviews of Rogue One, La La Land, Jackie, and others, click on the titles,)

Fences

fencesDenzel Washington directs as well as stars in this movie version of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play about a black man in the 1950s who takes out his frustrations about life and career on his family.

No doubt the acting is strong, with Viola Davis a front runner to win the best supporting actress Oscar, but Washington’s performance is too over the top for me (they both won Tonys in 2010 for playing the same roles on Broadway).

The movie looks like a play that was filmed instead of a true adaptation, i.e. it’s static with mostly one location and lots of monologues. What works on stage is too big and presentational for a more intimate medium. It should’ve been opened up more but instead it feels, well, fenced in.

20th Century Women

20thcenturywomenMike Mills based 2010’s Beginners on his dad and directed Christopher Plummer all the way to an Oscar for the role. With 20th Century Women, Mills tells the story of his mother, played by the radiant Annette Bening.

Dorothea is an earthy single mom raising her teenage son, Jamie, in 1979 Southern California. She asks for parenting input from the man (Billy Crudup) renovating her house, a female boarder (Greta Gerwig), and Jamie’s best childhood friend, Julie (Elle Fanning), on whom Jamie has a not-so-secret crush.

These characters form an unusual family unit, each with his/her own story that’s both funny and sad, but the film is a showcase for Bening, whose every line and emotional note rings true.

Sing

sing-pigsThe premise: a koala bear is determined to save his crumbling theater by holding a singing competition. Contestants include pigs in sequins, a piano-playing gorilla, a shy elephant, and a rock ‘n’ roll porcupine.

You don’t have to be a kid or like animation to enjoy this movie. The story line is sparse and characters don’t get deep backstories, but the movie is infectious with its can-do spirit and never-give-up-your-dreams mentality. Kids will be delighted by the funny animals and adults will tap their feet to the soundtrack, which includes singing by stars like Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Hudson.

Hidden Figures

From L.: Monaé, Henson, Spencer

From L.: Monaé, Henson, Spencer

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monaé play the 3 female black mathematicians who “helped [the US] win the space race,” according to the subtitle of Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book, from which this movie was adapted.

The racism and sexism these women experienced frustrated the heck out of me, and made me wonder how much more our country could accomplish (and how much faster we could do it) if qualified people are simply given a chance, regardless of skin color or gender.

The story is ultimately inspiring, though, considering all that Katherine Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were able to achieve despite the obstacles in their way. The cast is all good, but Monaé as the confident, sassy Mary is the one with the breakout role. It’s incredible that this is only the singer’s second on-camera acting role (after Moonlight).

Though he has limited screen time, Glen Powell also stands out as John Glenn, one of Katherine’s champions. I hope the real Mr. Glenn got to see how well he was portrayed before he left Earth to explore the next dimension.

Which movies are you excited about this season?

Photos: Fences/Paramount, 20th Century Women/A24, Sing/Universal, Hidden Figures/Fox

Share

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Spoiler-Free Movie Review

 

rogueone

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. I might be even more spoiler-averse than you are. In fact, that made me miss the first 5 minutes of the movie.

I went to a screening without being told what I’d be seeing, and when Rogue One started, I thought it was only the trailer and refused to watch it. When the “trailer” didn’t end, I was like SHUTUPISTHISTHEACTUALMOVIE?!?!

I’ve been using ninja-level deflecting methods for a year to avoid everything related to this movie so I had no expectations. And ended up thoroughly enjoying myself, whooping with glee several times.

Rogue One has the rebel spirit and enough references to the previous Star Wars movies (the best ones—you know which I mean) to make you feel that nerd’s delight, but it forges its own identity, too. It’s both familiar and different enough so that it doesn’t seem to be rehashing the same ol’ plot points.

Felicity Jones imbues Jyn Erso with heart and spunk, making her an engaging new addition to the cast of characters. After seeing the actress in supporting roles, it’s nice to have her front and center as a strong action heroine, a guise she dons comfortably without having to try too hard.

One of my favorite things was seeing not one but two Asians in significant roles. (I mean no disrespect by not including the actors’ names; if you’ve been avoiding trailers like I did, maybe you don’t want to know ahead of time who they are. I only mention Jones because she’s hard to miss on the poster everywhere.) I’ve been a fan of this franchise for almost 40 years, and I can’t believe it took this long to see people who looked like me playing important characters. Say what you will, but representation absolutely matters. The Force can be with me, too!

This group of rebels is the most diverse bunch so far. While no cast has matched the star power and chemistry of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, Rogue One‘s leads leave their mark.

What else is there to say? This movie isn’t just Disney milking the franchise for all it’s worth. It’s a thrilling adventure that fills in the blanks and melds neatly with what we already know about that galaxy far, far away.

Photo: Disney

Share

Nerdy Special List December 2016

This month, I asked our illustrious contributors for a December favorite or one from any month this year, as long as it hasn’t appeared on the NSL.

Since you might be looking for gift ideas, how about considering some of these titles? I’ve added suggestions about the perfect recipient(s) for each book.

I’d like to thank Jen, Rory, Erin, Lauren, and Patti for having such excellent taste in books and sharing their recommendations all year long. Though they probably wish to distance themselves from me in public, they make me feel smarter by association.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

The Boy Who Escaped Paradise by J.M. Lee, trans. by Chi-Young Kim (Pegasus Books, December 20)

[Ed.: For the intellectual with exotic tastes, but safe for those who vomit easily.]

boy-escaped-paradiseLast year J.M. Lee blew me away with his English debut, The Investigation. This year he doubled down with The Boy Who Escaped Paradise. Both novels employ the richest of language in complex plot lines about dynamic and multidimensional characters.

Ahn Gil-mo is a young, North Korean math savant with Asperger’s syndrome. He is sent to a prison camp because of his father’s transgressions. While he’s in the camp, he makes a promise to always take care of his best friend, Yeong-ae. It’s this promise that takes him on an Odyssey-like trek across the globe.

Even if you fear numbers and feel nauseous at the mere mention of the word math, be not afraid. This book will win your heart, as it did mine.

It’s an epic adventure, a crime novel, a cultural expose. The Boy Who Escaped Paradise is a sure bet for a satisfying read.

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson (Viking, September 13)

[Ed.: For the folks who like ’80s TV and riding motorcycles without helmets because they think they’re badass.]

obvious-factAn Obvious Fact makes for a dozen novels in the Walt Longmire series. And even though Walt is the sheriff of the least populated county in the least populated state in America, Craig Johnson still manages to keep the stories fresh and highly entertaining.

With a little Sherlock Holmes, a little Dukes of Hazzard, and a whole lot of motorcycles, Fact centers on a hit-and-run that leaves a man comatose in Hulett, Wyoming, during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Walt, his trusted friend Henry Standing Bear, and Absaroka’s wily undersheriff Vic Moretti are on the case even though it’s out of their jurisdiction. There’s plenty of action, laughs and surprises.

Series fans who haven’t grabbed this one yet are in for a wonderful treat, including an introduction to the Lola. If you’re new to the series, I encourage you to start back at the beginning with A Cold Dish.

Any of the books can be read on their own and enjoyed, but Johnson has built a community with his characters and their relationships have evolved, especially over the last six books. To truly appreciate that quality, you want to grow along with the Absaroka gang. It’s a fabulous journey.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet (Flatiron Books, October 4)

[Ed.: For your friends in prison who are always trying to bust out.]

guineveresSarah Domet’s debut novel takes its name from the four protagonists, all named Guinevere and all abandoned at the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent.

Vere, Win, Ginny, and Gwen are desperate to escape their circumstances and hatch a plan to do so during a parade in a float. When that fails, the girls are sentenced to work in the convent’s sick ward, where they hatch yet another plan, this one involving comatose soldiers.

Each Guinevere has her own voice, though we hear most from Vere. Woven into the girls’ tales are the stories of the lives of various female saints. The nuns generally remain in the background, but are well drawn and not stereotypically Catholic, which I greatly appreciated. The nuns, though strict, genuinely care for the girls.

Rather than a novel about faith, Domet’s debut is instead a wonderful coming-of-age tale. It’s a subtle, complex novel depicting the inner lives of teenage girls, and their search for home and family—a winning combination with lovely writing. Don’t miss it!

From Erin at In Real Life:

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad, October 6)

[Ed.: For the insomniac who likes to be so scared by books that s/he might need to wear a diaper. But not Erin. She can handle scary stuff like a boss.]

never-aloneWhen it comes to stories that make me—often literally—perch on the edge of my seat, I know I can count on Elizabeth Haynes. Her latest is no exception, and it is one of the best books I read in 2016.

Sarah Carpenter lives in a remote part of Yorkshire, and she hasn’t had an especially easy time of things. She finds herself alone after her husband dies and her grown kids move out, so she’s pleased when an old friend, Aiden Beck, shows up needing a place to stay for a while.

Sarah is well able to look after herself and is no shrinking violet, but her kids, friends, and friends of her kids are all concerned about Aiden’s presence, for markedly different reasons. And they might be right to be…but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that.

Elizabeth Haynes has an extraordinary ability to pull readers right into her tales. I started reading her books when our very own PCN reviewed Into the Darkest Corner back in 2012. (Funny side note: The first time I met Elizabeth at a book event in England, I asked her to sign a book for PCN. When I told her that PCN had to stand in the hall to finish reading it, Elizabeth exclaimed, “I loved that review! It was one of my favorites!”)

Never Alone is spooky and creepy and captivating. Page-turner? Check. Fascinating? Absolutely.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Kill the Next One by Federico Axat, translated by David Frye (Mulholland Books, December 13)

kill-next-one[Ed.: For the uncle you like to make crazy by gaslighting him.]

Argentinian author Federico Axat’s US debut is a spectacular mind-meld of a psychological thriller, and it’s no surprise that Kill the Next One has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Ted McKay wants to commit suicide after discovering he has a brain tumor, but he’s interrupted, gun to his head, by an insistent knock at his door. The complete stranger on his doorstep makes Ted an offer he can’t refuse: kill two men, one who deserves to die and one who wants to die. In return, someone will kill Ted so he can die a heroic victim rather than by his own hand.

As Ted tries to follow through with the secret suicide club plan, his reality becomes as mixed up as a kaleidoscope. It’s unclear what is real (is a deranged possum really following him around?), who is telling the truth, how Ted was chosen and why.

As his sanity becomes more questionable, memories start pushing to the forefront of his mind, bringing frightening clarity. Axat brilliantly creates an environment permeated by doubt and one can’t help but begin to question reality on a larger scale. How do we know what’s real and who to trust?

The story is chilling, but Axat infuses it with humanity while maintaining the nightmarish atmosphere. Kill the Next One is thrilling perfection.

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

city-bakers-guideThe City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller 

[Ed.: For the pyromaniac pastry lover, or your third cousin once removed.]

Pastry chef Olivia Rawlings accidentally sets a fire in the club where she works in Boston, and escapes from it all by moving near her best friend in Guthrie, Vermont. Olivia gets a job at an inn called the Sugar Maple Inn, concocting wonderful desserts as she adjusts to small-town life.

Her transition starts a bit roughly, but as she meets people and tries different activities, it becomes apparent that Guthrie is quite possibly where she’s meant to be.

I am in love with books where people start over and find the perfect new place for themselves or a new career. I loved being with Olivia and most of the people in Guthrie. Since I read it, I have thought about it often. This is one of my favorite books of 2016!

From PCN:

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Touchstone, November 15)

9781501117206_p0_v8_s192x300[For the bathrobe-wearing, diminutive aunt who always fights you for the last drumstick and kills at drunk karaoke.]

Anna Kendrick is hilarious in movies, on talk shows, and Twitter, so it’s no surprise she’s also winning in book form. My full review is at Shelf Awareness, and part of what I said was “her breezy tone and accounts of social awkwardness make her seem like a friend you’d love to hang with…if she weren’t too lazy to clean her house and invite you over.”

Despite having been nominated for a Tony and an Oscar and working with celebs like George Clooney, Kendrick lives in sweatpants, fails at adulting, and owns her nerdiness—how could I not be charmed? I think you will be, too.

Are you giving or asking for books this season? What’s on your list?

Share