Show Review: Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

I’m so bummed that this show didn’t get a fourth season. It really deserves one. Few pairings have made me laugh as much as Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore. Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo are such a good complement duo, too. For a show about a zombie, this show is so darn cheerful and sunny.

For anyone who hasn’t encountered this glorious horror-comedy, it’s a half-hour show that follows a California family after the mother becomes a zombie. \o/

Zombies in this universe are different than in The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead. Zombies in this still have their awareness and personality, they’re just alive and rotting away if they don’t eat. (It gets really, really gross, fair warning.) I’d say the zombies in this are most like the zombies in iZombie. But the comedy is probably more Shaun of the Dead, if we’re comparing zombie works.

Joel, the dad, is probably my favourite character. He’s desperate to be a good husband to his undead wife and his comedy is so perfectly timed by Timothy Olyphant. He had me laughing at pretty much every scene. Sheila, the wife, is wonderful. Drew Barrymore is an absolute gem and I love her so much. She’s been one of my favourite actresses since Ever After (BEST CINDERLLA, DON’T @ ME.) Abby and Eric, the younger characters, who are trying to figure out zombies and high school at the same time, are fantastic characters.

Honestly, for a show about zombies, this one is wholesome and lovely. The family aspect is so wonderful and they’re all easy to root for. The humour and jokes are top notch, and I especially love it for not being mean comedy. I like comedy that underscores being kind and supporting each other. Like Bob’s Burgers! Another excellent show, I might add.

Anyways, watch this one. Despite the fact that it was cancelled, it’s well worth a go and the three seasons we got are great!

Indie Books TBR.

There’s so many new awesome books that I’ve added to my TBR list that I can’t wait to read. If only I had more time!! I’ve had a couple of these for a while now and I hate how long it’s taken me to have time to read, but I’m hoping to be able to dive into them soon.

Has anyone read these yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Rise of the Dragon Queen (Legends of Ethota #1) by Darrah Steffen:

The creatures of old have vanished. Dragonia was once a kingdom where magic roamed freely, but now magic wielders are hunted without mercy. A resistance has formed to fight against the king’s oppression. Legend holds that one called the Dragon Queen will rise to return Dragonia to its former glory.

When Crown Princess Sammaria is kidnapped, the land is thrown into chaos. Her sister Jennica is determined to bring her home safely. Jennica will have to rely on her friends – and the gods – to save her sister, but an ancient force has returned to take control of a weakened Dragonia and threaten her quest. Will Jennica be able to bring her sister home? Will the gods interfere? Will the Dragon Queen rise in time to save the world from destruction?

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey:

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.

With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance.

She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

Each Little Universe by Chris Durston:

If Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett had written an earnestly nerdy story in a setting running on the ridiculous logic of Scott Pilgrim, it might have come out something like this.

For two oddball inventors, taking care of an unexpected new arrival – a girl from the stars – is hard enough. Dealing with the things that want her back may turn out to be harder.

A story about love in all its forms (but not a love story), Each Little Universe wonders with wit and insight about what it means to be human in a vast, peculiar cosmos. A celebration of all that is wonderful and strange about people, each member of its cast of twenty-first century weirdos is both larger than life and peculiarly familiar.

Fans of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, American Gods), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim, Seconds), and Haruki Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Killing Commendatore) will love this story, set in a world very much like our own but a little more strange, and the unusual take it offers on life, the human experience, and cats.

Paper Castles by B. Fox:

Foreclosures are hitting record highs; unemployment is skyrocketing, and the economy is in shambles.
Equally broke and futureless, 28–year–old James Brooke, a graduate architect, coffee-addict, and self–described average nobody has returned to his small hometown in West Ohio.

Torn between his fanciful dreams and the need to pay off bills, he struggles to find his own identity while facing a harder–than–ever reality. But living under his father’s rooftop while keeping his head in the clouds soon turns out to be a bad combination, and the mounting student debt forces him to settle for any job he can find.

That’s when he stumbles across a new coffee shop, a wayward girl with a talent for storytelling, and his own unresolved past. This unexpected set of things could help him figure out what his place in the world is—if that place even exists.

The Oath & Blood Price: Part One by Peter-Shaun Tyrell:

Secrets have always kept Thalkin alive but when an acquaintance introduces him to the mysterious sellsword, Edelia, he uncovers a secret that could win a war. He only has to choose the side he gives it to.

The land of Duria is divided into two, the Borasian States of the Lord Procterates and Novu-Optu of the Godmen. Nestled in a border state is the town of Scor, where Thalkin is on the cusp of becoming a man yet does not know his path in life. Trust and friendship are distant concepts to Thalkin, but betrayal and resentment have always been close companions of this orphan.

In the backdrop of an advancing city that has little time for a street urchin, Thalkin will have to use all of his guile and street smart to not only avoid watchful eyes but to achieve his destiny.

Red Harvest Moon (The Wandering Knife Book One) by Miles Hurt:

THE TABLES FOR THE HARVEST FEAST ARE SET. AND THE GHULS OF URIZAN ARE COMING, UNINVITED.

Led by the colossus Krond, the flesh-eating ghuls are ready to blaze and burn across the lands of Soren. The village of Puttle lies in their path, where they will bring fire and death.

The Black Feather is an outlaw, an outcast, a Wandering Knife. But he is the only hope the villagers have in this dark hour. Bandit turned protector, the Black Feather is hired by the villagers to take up his sword against the marauders.

Krond seeks the Black Feather. The ghuls are hungry. And the harvest moon will shine red. 

Mini Review Roundup

*mostly comic books, one audiobook

True Blood: Tainted Love #1 by Marc Andreyko and Michael McMillian [comic]

Really liked this one! The whole gang wanting a prom at Sam’s and being silly ♡

True Blood (2010) #1 by Alan Ball, Mariah Huehne and David Tischman [comic]

These comics are actually so enjoyable! I want to check out the full length volume soon for sure.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, Volume 1: The Man on the Wall by Aleš Kot [comic]

I am absolutely in awe of the art in this one. S T U N N I N G. And I demand a Bucky and Daisy buddy show.

The Pack (The Pack, #0) by Mike Raicht [comic]

I found this prelude an interesting start and I’m curious to see where it goes. Much more gore-horror than I expected, though.

Ray Harryhausen Presents Flying Saucers vs. The Earth #0 by Ryan Burton [comic]

Liked the art, but was a little confused by the storyline.

The Final Girls #1 by Cara Ellison [comic]

I totally mixed this series up with The Final Girls, which is totally *totally* different. I ended up really enjoying it, though! It’s a solid start, I’m curious to see where the storyline goes!

The Final Girls #2 by Cara Ellison [comic]

I love everything about this cover, I must say.

The Final Girls #3 by Cara Ellison [comic]

I love that this is set in Scotland! And the artwork is great. Enjoying the characters, too!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, narrated by Jodie Comer [audiobook]

This was a great audiobook, and it’s so nice diving back into Wonderland! Definitely recommend.

PSA: Indie Bites Magazine Now in Podcast Form!

For anyone who likes short stories and audiobooks, Indie Bites Magazine is starting to release its stories in podcast format. Check them out here.

Review Roundup

Masquerade Season by ‘Pemi Aguda [short story]

This one really made me think and it hit me harder than I anticipated. Actually, Masquerade Season reminded me of The Giving Tree, honestly. One of those stories where the message makes you ache and it leaves you deeply melancholy.

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt [fiction]

I got a chapter sampler version, so I’m only reviewing the couple of chapters I read, but I really, really like the prose in this one. There’s a very distinct voice, which is so nice to find. The set up is very intriguing, and I’m really curious to see how it’s going to wrap up.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC-excerpt. Excited to read the full book!

Dust Bowl Venus by Stella Beratlis [poetry collection]

Woe be unto us: We thought dancing did not matter.

I really do have, like, a thing for poetry. I truly do. Poems are so fly, and these ones are awesome.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine [children’s books]

This is such an informative and awesome kid’s book! It’s interactive, which is great for teaching kids and getting them engaged with the material, and there are so many different birds that are described herein. It also delves briefly into how evolution and Darwinism work. A lovely, colourful book for young readers!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Longest Winter by Ed Brubaker [graphic novel/comic books]

I’m gonna admit, I picked this up because of the show. It’s awesome to finally have the focus on Bucky’s character, who I’ve always found interesting. This comic was quite compelling and I really liked the artwork. I was a bit confused? I feel like there was backstory I didn’t have, but maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the show/films universe. Like, I wasn’t expecting Bucky and Natasha to be so close! I liked them together, I was just a bit thrown. That said, I liked it overall. Definitely going to read a few more Winter Soldier tales. 

Mika and the Dragonfly by Ellen Delange [children’s books]

Do you need a spoiler warning for a kid’s book? It’s only 17 pages, so I have no idea! But, uh, spoilers? Haha. The artwork in this is absolutely lovely, and there’s a good message about being kind to insects and making friends. I’m a little unsure about the method of resolution, though: the dragonfly’s wing fell off and the kid ends up gluing it back on.

Adults don’t take kid’s books literally, of course, but I’d just be sure to tell the kid you’re reading this to not to attempt gluing a dragonfly’s wing back on. I really worry about the dragonflies, okay?! That’s my only nitpick, though. Overall it’s a very sweet little book and definitely worth picking up.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Graphic Novel Review: Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms (2021)

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise

Synopsis: Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

Awww, this is such a cute graphic novel about two cheerleaders falling in love! Adorable. The artwork was bright and cheerful and the representation was wonderfully done, I must say. Definitely worth a go for anyone looking for a cheerful tale of love and pompoms! ❤

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Film Review: Possession (2009)

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Lee Pace need to be in more films together. They seriously know how to command a screen! Possession was great! It’s very much a suspense film, and has a bit of a fantasy/horror twist. Kind of. Maybe. Hard to say, really. But I greatly enjoyed the leading couple’s chemistry. The film has an engaging and surprising plot. And apparently there’s an alternative ending, which also sounds interesting, but it’s not on the version I watched.

Basically, a married couple celebrating their one year anniversary are destroyed when the husband dies chasing his ex-con brother in law who’s about to break his parole. Both are hospitalised, but only Roman, the brother, wakes up. He instantly tells Jess, the wife, that he’s her husband. Jess, rightly alarmed, tells him not to act crazy. But as Ryan, the husband, remains comatose, and Roman increasingly wins Jess over with details of her relationship with Ryan, the lines are blurred. It’s hard to tell if Roman’s crazy, if he’s manipulating Jess, or if he’s somehow genuinely Ryan in his brother’s body. I definitely wasn’t sure until the last ten minutes or so.

I gotta say, I was pretty surprised by this film. The acting is top notch and, as I’ve said, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Lee Pace have amazing chemistry on screen. Roman was a seriously messed up character, no doubt, but Lee Pace does a great job playing both Roman and ‘Ryan’. If you like suspense movies, definitely give this one a go!

Film Review: Breaking and Entering (2006)

Hm. This was an enthralling film, definitely. I’m not sure if I really liked it, but it wasn’t bad. I think my issue is that I have to really fall in love with the characters to totally enjoy a movie, even when the acting and plot are great. This one had the acting for sure. Everyone in this is extremely talented and I loved all the actors I spotted: Jude Law, Vera Farmiga, Robin Wright, Juliette Binoche. It was especially nice seeing Rafi Gavron in a central role, as I haven’t really seen him since Life Unexpected (underrated show!).

This movie follows Will, an architect who is having issues at home with his partner of many years and their daughter. When his office is burgled continuously, Will begins staking out the building to catch the thief in the act. During his nights, he begins interacting with a prostitute who buys him coffee in exchange for sitting in the warm car. When he finally catches the thief, Will chases him home and sees that his mother is the same woman he ran into at the park. On a (weird) whim, Will inserts himself into their lives and things quickly unravel for everyone.

There were definitely aspects of this movie that I liked. Will was a good father and I liked his relationship with Liv and Bea. The moments where he was being a good dad were great. I liked Oana, too. She was super funny. Not sure what I thought of Amira? I could empathise with her a lot, but she did so many questionable things. Like why, girl. WHY. Will was so questionable, too. So, yeah, it’s definitely a movie worth watching because it’s very well acted, but I did struggle with liking the characters as much as I wanted.

THAT SAID, the ending was great. Like, truly. I loved the final court room scene with everyone and the drive home scene, too. I think as a couple Will and Liv worked, I just didn’t want the side plot with Amira. I feel like it wasn’t necessary. But that is totally a matter of personal preference! All in all, a solid movie that I’m surprised I haven’t heard of before.

Film Review: Stardust (2007)

I was trying to find a great romance yesterday and just couldn’t, and then I put on Stardust and it’s filled to bursting with romance and ticked all the boxes. It was so great! The film is based on the book by Neil Gaiman and follows Tristan Thorn, a young man from the town of Wall, who goes on a hunt to bring a fallen star back to Wall for his beloved Victoria.

In the story, Wall is a small town in England that borders Stormhold, a magical kingdom on the side of Wall’s wall (it’s not a very big wall, either). Before the central events of the film, a young man, played by the fantastic Ben Barnes, crosses from England into Stormhold and ends up fathering a child with a woman he meets at a market filled with magical creatures.

Eighteen years later, in Stormhold, the remaining sons of the king are battling each other for the crown. The ghosts of the brothers already passed watch over them, cheering the remaining brothers on. The king, as his dying act, sends his necklace with the power to rule Stormhold up into the atmosphere. The necklace hits a star, which falls to the ground.

Back in England, the child from the beginning is now a grown man named Tristan. Tristan is madly in love with the town beauty, Victoria, and is trying desperately to win her heart. When he and Victoria witness the star falling, Tristan promises to bring the star to Victoria as an engagement token. Quite problematically, when Tristan finds the fallen star, he learns that the star is now in the form of a woman. Tristan resolves to bring the star, Yvaine, back to Wall for Victoria. Yvaine is dragged along, the necklace the brothers want around her neck. Also at the same time, three sister witches are plotting to steal Yvaine’s heart, because if you eat the heart of a star, you live on, young and powerful. The heart of the last star they killed years before is almost gone.

As the witches and the princes follow Tristan and Yvaine, they find themselves coming across an unexpected group of pirates and their charming captain. Along the way, Tristan’s feelings for Yvaine grow and he starts to change his mind about Victoria and the scope of the mission he’s on.

I loved this film, honestly. It’s just so charming. The whole cast is great – Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Henry Cavill, Ben Barnes and more. Honestly so fantastic! I loved Tristan and Yvaine so much, but every character was engaging and wonderfully portrayed. Definitely a film I’ll be rewatching!

Film Reviews: The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

I am having a Wes Anderson Sunday. I was trying to think of bright, sunny movies to watch and the first thing that sprang to mind was The Darjeeling Limited, which is funny, because I haven’t actually watched the film in years, but I think my brain just went: whimsy = Wes Anderson, and that’s exactly what I needed.

I love how colourful and bright this film is. The soundtrack is perfect for Sunday mornings. And the film is just so darn funny. Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are bloody hilarious together and I forgot so many of the scenes – the snake on the train, Rita, the constant bickering between the brothers; each brother waiting for one to leave before spilling the beans had me in stitches. Maturity, who needs maturity?! It’s a great film if you’re looking for brotherly love, bonding, banter and bickering.

I forgot about how much I didn’t like the mother character, too. Anjelica Huston is a great actress, but the character – oh! She was so thoughtless to her children. I’m really glad they supported each other, because she was very frustrating and cavalier. I want to know why. I don’t feel like we got enough context about the parents, actually. We know that they’re grieving their father, who is in a brief cameo by Bill Murray, but we don’t know much about him as a character. I like that everything focuses on the brothers and their growth and feelings, but it’s hard to understand why their mother just up and left them, and what their relationship with their father looked like before his death.

I followed The Darjeeling Limited with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I actually haven’t seen before. I’ve always meant to, but somehow never got around to it. I’m really loving it so far. The casts in these movies are amazing and I love ensemble movies. The back and forth banter in the opening scene was great. Wes Anderson has such a way with setting the scene, bringing in the right music, making a story. It’s something I also really see in Bryan Fuller productions, too. (Thinking Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, Star Trek, etc.) That ability to make you fall face first into their universe. Not every director can do that and these two are especially good at world building and atmosphere. Peter Jackson is another that comes to mind (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Mortal Engines, etc), but there’s something remarkably whimsical about Anderson’s productions that I love. His films are like if macarons came to life with a 1970s soundtrack and colour palette, and I am here it!

Perfect sunny Sunday films for sure!