Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Audible Wednesdays: Down the Rabbit Hole, By Holly Madison

So, I'm not a fan of tell-all books and I'm not really even a fan of autobiographies or even biographies. I'm not sure why, but I never got into them.

However, categorized in "weird things Jordan likes," I am a huge Girls Next Door Fan. When the show aired on E! in 2005, it was predicted that women wouldn't like the show, because it was related to Playboy. However, as my best friend Eliza and I discovered, we really enjoyed the show, following the lives of the blond bombshells of Holly, Bridget and Kendra, who were girlfriends of 80-something Hugh Hefner. It's strange, because it shouldn't work. The show was about 3 women, who look like what we were all pressured to be (or some form of it) in a polygamous relationship with a much, much older man with a reputation as a womanizer, living in a mansion in California without pretty much a care in the world. The show documented their first ever playboy pictorial along with befriending other beautiful women flown in to either test shoot or shoot their pictorials.

But I think why women liked the show so much was because inadvertently, the show actually documented the women's friendships with each other, and how noncompetitive they were with the 1 man that they were dating. I know Eliza and I liked the show for many reasons, but along with the fact that it seemed like all the women, for the most part, got along on the show, it capitalized on their personalities.

I have the first season, and sometimes actually put it on to watch it. After reading this book, I may get the other seasons (minus season 6) and possibly even Holly's World.

When the book came out, I put it on a few wish lists and went on my way. I always have a stack of books to read, and so it wasn't high on my list. However, when Audible did one of their sales, it popped up, and instantly I bought it. $6.00? Of course!

After I was badly burned by Magnus Chase, I was worried that Holly reading her own book was also going to suck. However, she did a great job reading her work. It felt like she was over for a gossip fest, drinking wine and going on about her crazy life. I was always fascinated with Girls' Next Door, and I wondered if their life was as peachy as they showed it to be. I'm not sure what I was expecting, only to hear that he was a monster and the girls were miserable for most of their time with Hef. It was a bit satisfying that Holly called Hef on all of his shit.

We know realities shows, for the most part, are scripted now, but back then, we were none the wiser. It was well orchestrated how Hef looked, but what we should have seen was a senile, old man who loved to keep his ladies controlled and docile.

I found, for the most part, Holly to be fair on her rendition of everyone, including her. The only person that she didn't say anything terrible about was Bridget, who I bet is a sweetheart and a good friend. I really related to Holly, especially during her time trying to figure herself out, and having such low self esteem being with a guy who controlled her.

I was surprised by Kendra and Holly feud that festered between them. Holly seemed to be fair, casting her in both positive and negative lights during the course of their friendship. It was sad that it ended that way, but Holly didn't seem too upset over it.

Overall, it was a great book and I was glad that Holly climbed her way out of those situations to find her dream man and now have a kid. I thought it was a bit cheesy at the end, but her happiness seeps through, and she deserves it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D #1 by Guggenheim, Peralta and Rosenburg

I'm so relieved that Agents of SHIELD, the TV show, became a good show. It was pretty rough first season due to the restrictions placed on them but I'm very glad that it turned itself around. I also wasn't sure about Agent Coulson becoming an actual protagonist instead of a weird side character that appeared in Marvel movies, but you know.... I actually liked what they did with him and the character. Good on you, Agents of SHIELD.

The comic book does a very good job of mirroring the TV show without it either taking away from the TV show or loading it down with unnecessary action or character development. All of the characters are there, Daisy (which by the way, who else is kind of weirded out that Skye just all of the sudden wanted to be Daisy? Sure, your father sacrificed everything, but I mean, you were called Skye for most of your life... It's not a detriment to him to still be called that.), Deathlok, FitzSimmons, May, Bobbi and Ironman, cause you don't have to pay RDJ.

The scene opens with Coulson getting beaten up, tied to a chair, and "takin' it like a man." He slyly calls his strike teams and takes down the bad guys with quips and snarky comments typical of Joss Whedon-esque dialogue.

There is a good setup for the story and the comic ends on a cliff hanger. However, again, like I said before, it's not imperative to read the comic to enjoy the TV show, and there is just enough action to not take away from the show itself. What this comic does is give more access to it's beloved characters and allow us to peek into their lives while they are not on the show. What I found interesting is that it completely ignored Daisy/Skye, choosing to focus on May, Fitz and Coulson.. oh, and Tony Stark.

There are a few panels that stick out to me the most. In one scene, Fitz and May are training, and then Fitz asked MAY out on a date. Damn, Fitz. I'm not sure if it's going to work out, but I admire Fitz' bold move to ask her out, and May's willingness to accept. There was a lot of tension between May and Andrew on the show (which was so sad, you guys) and I'm glad that May is treated like a woman with feelings instead of a robot in the comic and giving her a chance to at least try and move on. However, I sort of feel like May may eat Fitz alive... and I also feel like Fitz will enjoy it. Fun for all!

Finally, I'm kind of put off by Coulson being REALLY BUILT in the comic. Like, him and Lola sleep together, which fine, whatever, and then they show him going to her computer to gather intel when she catches him. He's like... 40 or so. 40 year old men can be in good shape, and Coulson has to be in good shape to do his job, but... he has the receding hairline of an older man and a body of an inshape 25 year old in this panel. It was a bit off putting with baby smooth skin. I would think at least the illustrator would be more scars on him or make him a bit gritty. I get they want him to be an "Bond" like character, but... not appealing. At all.

I really like the illustration and the action in the comic and besides for the hunked up version of Coulson, it was a solid read. I hope I get more of this series, but I already have a backlog of a lot of comics to get through.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordian

I am unsure if I just did not like this book because I've finally grew out of Rick Riordan books (never) or it's because Christopher Guetig was just an awful reader. I think if he did read alouds in class, the students would have revolted. Maybe the funny accents would have saved him, but barely. Like, I think when he would announce read aloud times, it would take forever to get the kids settled, take out their books and probably would have had to read over kids talking until he read the part of Blitzen, and the kids would settle down because, hey, funny voices.

I was definitely into the Percy Jackson novels, despite being 23 when they came out. I read them all at lightning speed, and then went on to read his other renditions. He found a formula that worked and I will be forever jealous that I didn't get to it first.

I read about a year ago that he was working on Norse Mythology, and I was interested to see where it would go. Even though it seems like Greek and Roman mythology is the most well known, I definitely recalled spending summers trying to learn to learn hieroglyphics and walking like an Egyptian. However, Vikings with Travis Fimmel is definitely my cup of tea (and also fun and nerdy fact, Travis Fimmel was definitely my play by when I wrote guys on various Harry Potter role play forums), so I was interested to see how my man Rick was able to fit Norse mythology in tween vocabulary.

So, the story begins with a 16 year old boy named Magnus Chase. Usually in this demi-god superhero stories, the kids are around age 11, but he starts older, and Riordan makes another unusual choice: Magnus is homeless.

Edgy. Interesting. Urban. I like it.

However, I am brought up short because... the voice actor is terrible. And even though I complain about a lot of things, I always try to find at least something good in the things I complain about. I will never listen to a book that is read by him ever again.

I've heard and read some other reviews that stated that Magnus, despite being a homeless kid who ran out on his mom right before she was murdered, was too optimistic and tried to make the best out of every situation, with a funny quip in his back pocket. Except, I won't know if that's true until I actually read the next book in the series, because good ol' Chris was just awful. I suspect that Magnus is mostly sarcastic, using humor to deflect his personal turmoil. Towards the end of the book, Magnus actually states something like this, reflecting just how much he went through. I wish I was able to hear that more throughout the book.

Other than the fact that the voice actor blew serious ass, I was impressed with risks that Rick took with this book. He tried to incorporate a much more diverse set of characters, with a Muslim-American Valkyrie, who is set to marry in a few years, and like other Muslims I ever met, seems getting more comfortable with that idea. She fights her nature as Loki's daughter, but not as a Muslim. She is still struggling to find out who she is, but she's not revolting against being a Muslim.

Now, there is Hearthstone. He's a Deaf Alf and it's revealed that he is the only practicing magician. He has a tragic backstory, but he's accepted by his new family, Magnus included. I like how Hearthstone is a capable, strong person who doesn't want anyone's pity. I understand that it's Magnus' story, so the reader won't necessarily get Hearth's perspective... but, it's really not easy to read lips. At all. Even though I rely on reading lips to aid me in understanding people, it's very, very difficult to solely rely on reading lips and not have the audio behind it. A lot of sounds are formed similarly. I wished there was more of a communication barrier that there seemed to be because it would be more true to a deaf/Deaf person in a group of hearing people.

Overall, it's a funny, fun, YA novel. I realized there were a few more books from the other series I never got a chance to read, so there I go to order and read them! However, I think I'm going to be more selective with my audiobooks and listen to the voice before purchasing. Just brutal.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Uncanny Avengers #1 by Duggan, Stegman and Isanove

It's never a good sign when your husband gives you the comic and flat out tells you that it's not very good. He was right; it's not very good.

At least this comic has more story than the Avengers comic I read a month ago. However, I'm not really into this at all. It's not a bad story, and it's interesting to finally read the conflict between Inhumans and X-men (because seriously... I get that there were rights involved with the movies, but... they are the same thing. It annoys me) but there are a lot of elements with this comic book that I didn't find appealing, and they WERE ALL TOGETHER IN ONE BOOK.

First of all, what is up with the illustrations? Now, I can't draw to save my life, and in terms of comics, I am not picky about how it is illustrated if the story is well done and the coloring is adequate. But I hated the way it was drawn. The coloring was also very dark and I thought the characters were drawn in a way that was very unappealing. It gives me the vibe that it was drawn this way just because it's a unique way of drawing.

Second of all, I am never interested in old Steve Rogers. He's old in the new Captain America, and I appreciate it because Falcon takes the mantel. However, Steve Rogers in this comic is Captain America and head of the Avengers Team. He's old and drawn weird, and maybe it's because I can't get over the fact that he's old, but he doesn't seem to act like Captain America. He just seems pushy, only cares about keeping the Avengers together and holding onto his youth. To quote a way better comic, "He's not my Captain America!"

Finally, I don't see why there is a conflict between Deadpool and the rest of the team. He's brash? Makes decisions in the heat of the moment? How is that any different than all the others on the team? Spider-Man is notorious for making on the fly decisions that gets people hurt. Why is he mad at Deadpool? I don't get it.

Now, I'm going to catch flack for this, but I also don't really see the big deal about Deadpool, either. I'm sure at one point, Deadpool was the only anti-hero of it's kind, but now it seems like every comic book explores the anti-hero. It seems like there is always a character that cracks jokes and breaks the 4th wall. Maybe my mind will be changed when I see the movie, or I read some of his comics. However, the exposure to him thus far has been underwhelming.

I'm not going to read the second issue. On to better things!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Thank you, Target! I found this book for 20% off, and since there was a movie about it, I figured, why the heck not? Apparently the movie blew (but that won't stop me from seeing it) but I heard good things about the book.

It's a standard, Young Adult novel about a girl and the end of the world. You're introduced to her, living in the woods with an M16 and a teddy bear, discussing how she can't trust anyone. Since The Others arrived, and the Waves started... she survived on her own. Her thoughts are young, but powerful, and she's realistic. I'm quite sure I would probably think those same exact thoughts, and I'm a heck of a lot older than her. She knows she's being hunted but still tries to go on a fool's errand to save her younger brother.

At first, you think it's just one point of view, but then we're slowly introduced to several characters. I was confused when Ben, or Zombie was introduced, thinking that Cassie somehow contracted the plague, but when I realize who it was, Cassie's high school crush, I wanted to see where it went.

It's rare that I read a book where I continually guess or make assumptions about where the book is going. I usually go for a ride and wherever the author takes me, I'll go. I may complain about the journey afterwards (and maybe even during it) but rarely do I try and guess the entire plot. I actually don't mind spoilers, because even though you find out how things happen, there is still a character's journey and there are still many other discoveries.

However, Yancey did a good job of making me want to guess. When Ben, and then Evan, was introduced, along with other characters, and paths crossing between all of them, I wondered how the novel was going to resolve itself. It's a big honking book, and there were a lot of perspectives. Where was Yancy going with this? How many books are in a series? When are they going to fight?

He made sharp turns, and the end result was a bit how I expected, but only after some sharp turns and false leads. Sometimes with YA novels, when the author makes the artistic choice to write in first person, they want to identify with their teenage audience, and use the same crippling YA, first person language. I understand the reasoning for it, but when it's done badly, it's done really badly (I'm looking at you, Stephanie Meyers). Absolutely Yancey uses limited first person point of view for several young characters... but it's not stifling. He even goes so far to use the same phrases between characters, and instead of wondering how on earth they know those specific phrases that could only manifest after humans formed a post-apocalyptic community(which was not done in the book), you are delighted that you are familiar with those terms, and you root for the teenagers to face The Others and fight.

It was a quick read, a simple concept, and does the right amount of show and tell. You find out a lot about the 5th Wave, and the destruction of Earth, but you have many more questions about the Aliens' arrival, what happened to their own world, and most of all, if you'll ever see Evan again.

I highly recommend reading the book. I hope they didn't butcher the movie too badly.