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January 2016

Thoughts on the 73rd Golden Globes

This was one of the weirder Golden Globes ceremonies in recent memory. Sylvester Stallone winning best supporting actor in a motion picture for Creed? Lady Gaga is the best lead actress in a limited series for American Horror Story: Hotel? Seriously??

After the presenters made those announcements, I wondered if they’d Steve Harveyed the ceremonies and read the wrong name. Gaga couldn’t even pull off a convincing acceptance speech. Then again, Madonna won a best actress in a musical/comedy Globe for Evita, so I guess the win makes sense in the world of the Hollywood Foreign Press.

ricky-gervais-ggRicky Gervais, as expected, had no respect for the celebrities in the audience—or NBC, the networking broadcasting the show—but everyone seemed good-natured about it, at least on camera. He did get a bit too graphic about Jeffrey Tambor’s, ah, jewels when wondering how the Transparent actor hides them while playing a transgender, making me miss former hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, whose sharp humor involves fewer comments about genitalia.

Gervais hugged it out with Mel Gibson, making up for his harsh comments about Gibson’s drinking and anti-Semitic rant when he last introduced the actor on the Globes years ago. Gervais’s intro this time: “I’d rather have a drink with him than Bill Cosby.” Gibson’s retort: “I love seeing Ricky every three years because it reminds me to get a colonoscopy.”

The first presenters, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, did a painfully unfunny, too-long bit with Hill as the bear from The Revenant. Paul Drinkwater:NBCUniversal via Getty ImagesLuckily, the banter got better, notably the bit by America Ferrara and Eva Longoria, who had to list all the Latina actresses they are not but are sometimes mistaken for: “I’m Eva Longoria, not Eva Mendes.” Ferrera said: “Hi, I’m America Ferrera, not Gina Rodriguez.” (The HFPA’s Twitter account thought Ferrera was Rodriguez when Ferrera announced Globes nominations last month.) Longoria said, “And neither of us are Rosario Dawson,” to which Ferrara replied, “Well said, Salma,” and Longoria said, “Thank you, Charo.”

Winners I was happiest about: Brie Larson for Room, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Matt Damon for The Martian, and Jon Hamm for Mad Men.

aziz-ansari-ggFunniest non-winner goes to Aziz Ansari. When his name is read as a best comedy series lead actor nominee for Master of None, he’s reading a book titled Losing to Jeffrey Tambor with Dignity. (Tambor was the frontrunner but Gael García Bernal ended up winning for Mozart in the Jungle.)

See a complete list of winners and some memorable moments here.

Let’s talk about the fashion. There weren’t many superlative outfits, either stunning or WTH, so I’ll just feature a few favorites.

Alicia Vikander


I’m not usually a fan of white dresses, but The Danish Girl star looked flawless in this. It takes a gorgeous woman to pull off a gown that kind of looks like an apron in front. The belt loops and delicate pleats make it interesting.

Olivia Wilde


Love the rich wine color. It’s so boring when people wear black sheaths on the red carpet.

Rooney Mara

She may not hit the jackpot every time, and I don’t usually like nude gowns (apparently this is blush in person), but there’s always something wild and funky to Mara’s choices. She’s the Girl Who Doesn’t Like Safe Choices. Something else I like about her: She doesn’t strike that affected pose most other actresses use, with one hand on hip and one leg forward (see: Olivia Wilde above), which supposedly makes you look slimmer but instead makes all the ladies look unnatural. Mara’s stance is more like: just take my picture so I can move on because I’m already bored with you.

Eddie Redmayne

eddie redmayne gg 2016

The men don’t have as many sartorial choices as the women do, but Redmayne repeatedly finds ways to stand out. This time, his jacket is dark blue and has subtle embroidery. The kerchief in pocket completes this classic-but-modern look.

Did you watch? Which were your favorite bits/looks?


Q & A with Robert Crais

After a long wait for readers, Robert Crais released The Promise last November. I pounced on it like it was the last piece of bacon post-apocalypse. It’s billed as an Elvis and Joe novel but also includes LAPD officer Scott James and his K-9 partner Maggie from Crais’s previous book, Suspect (read my Promise review for Shelf Awareness here).

Crais went on tour right before the holidays, and will appear tomorrow (Saturday) at the Santa Monica Public Library at 3 p.m., as part of the library’s 125th anniversary celebration. But first, he was kind enough to fill out my questionnaire about his adventures and provide glimpses of his life on the road.

Most unexpected experience:

The Promise debuted at #1 on the NY Times e-book list. In November. When dreadnoughts like King, Albom, and Grisham are plowing the pre-Christmas waves. I expected to be swamped.


An enormous, 50-foot statue on the road from Cincinnati to Dayton. I asked my driver, “What’s this?” He said, “Touchdown Jesus. We call it Touchdown Jesus because of how the arms were raised like he’s signaling a TD.” I studied the statue, and didn’t see it. “His arms aren’t raised. They’re spread to the sides.” He nodded. “This is the second Touchdown Jesus. The first was struck by lightning and destroyed. They changed the arms when they built the new one, but he’ll always be Touchdown Jesus to me.”

TD Jesus

Most suspenseful:

The car service hired to drive me from Vero Beach to Jacksonville flaked at the last second. It’s a three-hour drive, and I had to be in Jacksonville for a couple of live radio interviews, so the publicists really had to scramble. They found a replacement, but there was just no way we were going to make it. Too many miles and not enough time. But this new driver? This cat was Han Solo. We blasted up the highway like the Millennium Falcon. I had to, ah, close my eyes a couple of times, but we made it.


Most fun with TSA:

The TSA were great. Three different agents recognized my name, and asked about Elvis and Joe. What’s not to love?

Best meal eaten:

Flounder and fried green tomatoes at The Olde Pink House in Savannah. I’m drooling as I remember.


Most surreal moment:

The bar in the basement of the Olde Pink House. Ghosts.

Most beautiful sight:

I was in New York City when Paris was hit by the terror attacks. The next day, I happened upon Washington Square Park, which was filled with people. I don’t know how many, maybe a few thousand. Here were all these people, Americans, some of whom were waving French flags, who had come together in this spontaneous show of support for France. I found it moving and beautiful. I still do.


Favorite activity between signings:

Flying. No calls, no email, and I’m on to another event.


Favorite souvenir:

Fans brought so many wonderful gifts. Little stuffed German shepherds. Cookies to represent Elvis and Joe and Maggie. I loved them all.

maggie cookies

All photos: Robert Crais. To stalk his snaps, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


Nerdy Special List January 2016

Happy 2016! Hope your holidays were beautiful and full of things that made you all fuzzy inside. Or on the outside, if that’s your preference. I don’t judge.

I had a wonderful time with family, mooching off Mom and Dad, loafing around in jammies for days, eating 97 of Mr. PCN’s homemade cookies, having a Star Wars marathon with nieces and nephews who were seeing all the movies for the first time, then engaging the kiddos in long discussions afterward. Nerd heaven.

But enough blathering and let’s get down to business with the first NSL of the new year. Here are the January releases we recommend.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam, January 26)

where-it-hurtsReed Farrel Coleman introduces retired cop Gus Murphy, his new series protagonist, in this dark tale. Gus lost his son to an unknown heart defect two years earlier and hasn’t recovered from the devastation. It tore his remaining family apart and now he works for—and lives in—an old rundown hotel. He doubles as the building detective and airport shuttle driver. When a man Gus arrested during his years on the police force shows up asking for Gus’s help investigating the murder of his son, Gus has to confront more than the case in order to have any chance at solving the crime.

Coleman has consistently created dynamic and layered characters in his crime novels, and Where It Hurts is no exception. The histories and skeletons make these characters fascinating and empathetic. They are also a beautiful reflection of the cultural diversity of the Long Island setting.

Coleman excels at turning a breathless phrase amid ugliness and despair: “A pleasant, button-down guy, he was an okay cop who figured the best way to get ahead was by keeping his head down and to paint by the numbers and to stay inside the lines when he did. His wardrobe was strictly K-Mart and so too were his dreams, though he wasn’t altogether unambitious.”

His humor isn’t lacking, either: “Long Islanders believed that world peace would only be achieved through shopping and not even the Dalai Lama himself worked as hard at world peace as the citizens of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.” Where It Hurts is an all around great start to a promising new series.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 5)

splitfootMr. Splitfoot is Samantha Hunt’s latest novel and it’s a strange, intense journey for fans of Gothic fiction. Nat and Ruth are two teenagers living in the Love of Christ! Foster Home, Farm, and Mission. The founder of the home, Father Arthur, only wants the most extreme cases of child abandonment. He doesn’t want kids with families that may reunite or a long lost aunt that might step in; he wants the lost causes.

Mixed in with the grim material are humor and absurdity that keep the novel from getting too dark. The Mother of Love of Christ! sings Black Sabbath’s “Mama, Mama, I’m Coming Home” to the motherless children as they do the heavy lifting, and Ruth declares “Jesus is a hottie” and sincerely means it. Nat and Ruth, siblings by choice, know they need to find a way to earn a living before they age out of the home, and that comes in the form of Mr. Splitfoot. He helps Nat speak to the dead. It begins with the other orphans, but soon draws the attention of Mr. Bell, who brings Nat and Ruth a much more profitable clientele.

Interspersed with Nat and Ruth’s life as spiritualists is Cora’s story. Cora is Ruth’s pregnant niece. One day Ruth arrives unannounced, unable to speak, but insistent that Cora accompany her, destination unknown. Although the novel sounds—and is—very odd, it is also well crafted. Samantha Hunt has written an intricately plotted, ghostly love story that I would highly recommend. It’s a novel I am certain will stick with me through the coming year.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown, January 19)

even dogs in the wildI’m not sure exactly how it’s possible that Ian Rankin’s books keep getting better, but they do. Even Dogs in the Wild is the latest in his Rebus series, but I wouldn’t call this a Rebus book, because Rankin’s universe of characters, including Siobhan Clarke, Malcolm Fox, and Big Ger Cafferty, are every bit as much a part of the story as John is.

Rankin can weave a mystery as well as any storyteller, and he does exactly that in this novel. Murders connected by ominous notes at the scene and committed by an apparently invisible individual would be a conundrum to lesser cops, but Rebus, Clarke, and Fox are a formidable team. And it is against this backdrop that Rankin unfolds one of the sharpest studies in character—into the human heart and soul—in modern literature, and it is a pleasure to read.

Rankin will be touring in the US starting at the end of January (specific info available on his website). He’ll be in New York, St. Louis, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, and—wait for it—Fairway, Kansas.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen (Running Press, January 5)

no baggage

Does the thought of a hotel messing up your reservation give you angina? How about not having one at all? Clara Bensen throws all kinds of caution to the wind when she agrees to take a trip across the globe with a man she only recently met on an Internet dating site. If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, she’s agreed to travel his way: no itinerary, no hotel reservations, no baggage. They each carry nothing but a toothbrush, a credit card, a passport, and the clothes on their back

This is the story of Clara’s trip with Jeff, but it’s really much deeper than that. Both have recently been hit with difficult life circumstances and the trip presses on nerves and emotions that force them, Clara especially, to face their fears and issues. It becomes readily apparent you can leave your luggage behind, but your life baggage is always with you.

More of a life journal than strict travelogue, No Baggage is both fun and introspective. Recommended for travel junkies and anyone who’s thought of chucking it all and taking to the road. (Read Lauren’s full review here.)

From PCN:

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer (Grove Press, January 12)

SHUT EYEAfter this book and last year’s Rubbernecker (featured on August’s NSL), Bauer is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. Her characters are quirky and full of sharp humor, even in the face of dire situations.

Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel can’t let go of the unsolved case of a 12-year-old girl who went missing a year earlier, but his boss wants him to look for a lost poodle belonging to Marvel’s boss’s wife.

Anna Buck’s 4-year-old son is also missing, and she starts having strange visions that may or may not provide clues to her son’s—or is is it the missing girl’s?—whereabouts. The police and her husband think she’s just nuts, though, and her credibility is shot even lower when Anna admits she consulted a TV psychic before she started having her revelations.

Through multiple viewpoints, Bauer unspools a gripping story that allows little shut eye until you’re finished.


Which books are you looking forward to this month?