Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

2014 Movies I saw this year (top 3 marked with an *)

300: Rise of an Empire (3D Imax)
The Lego Movie
*X-Men: Days of Future Past (3D)
The Fault in Our Stars
*Gone Girl
The Maze Runner

Total of 10 ( 4 less than last year)

Notable movies I saw in 2014 that were released before 2014 

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
We're The Millers
About Time
Man of Steel
Thor 2
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Blue Jasmine
Anna Karenina
The Book Thief
Pillow Talk

2014 movies I still want to see

Mockingjay Part 1
If I Stay

TV series I watched in 2014 

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Top of the Lake
The Bates Motel Season 2
Homeland Season 3
True Detective
Game of Thrones Season 4
Walking Dead Season 5
Orange is the New Black Seasons 1, 2
Orphan Black Season 2
The Mindy Project Season 3 (so far)

How was your year in movies and TV?

My Awesome Reads of 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 in Review: Music

I bought 136 new songs this year (a bit less than last year) including two albums, Unrepentant Geraldines/Tori Amos and The Brink/The Jezebels. 

2014 songs on heavy rotation (indicates top 5)

Every Other Freckle - Alt-J
Palace - The Antlers
Beggin for Thread - Banks
*Rollercoaster - Bleachers
Ashes & Embers - The Casket Girls
My Favourite Faded Fantasy - Damien Rice
Meowy Kitty - David Fey
*Beneath the Brine - The Family Crest
Tonight - Glass Towers
Yours to Shake - Greylag
Hymnals - Grizfolk
Afterlife - Ingrid Michaelson
*The Brink - The Jezebels
Past Life - Lost in the Trees
Night Like This - LP
No Rest for the Wicked - Lykke Li
The Writing's on the Wall - OK Go
Nothing But Trouble - Phantogram
Let it Go - Saint Savior
Blank Space - Taylor Swift
Forest of Glass - Tori Amos
*Weatherman - Tori Amos
Love Stained - TV on the Radio
Love is to Die - Warpaint
*Heavenly Creatures - Wolf Alice

Favorite finds from previous years (indicates top 5)
Loud Like Love - Placebo (2013)
Blush - Wolf Alice (2013)
*Something Good - Alt-J (2012)
Landfill - Daughter (2012)
How to Be a Heartbreaker - Marina and the Diamonds (2012)
Angels - The xx (2012)
Wonderland - Natalia Kills (2011)
Close Watch - Agnes Obel (2010)
Dancing Under Influence - Bedroom Eyes (2010)
*Pick Up The Phone - Dragonette (2009)
Hotblack - Oceanship (2009)
Sweet and Low - Augustana (2008)
Lost Coastlines - Okkervil River (2008)
*Oboes Bleat and Triangles Tink - Say Hi (2008)
Back and Forth - Maps (2007)
*Slow Show - The National (2007)
*Set Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol (2006)
Life Less Ordinary - Carbon Leaf (2004)
Consequence - The Notwist (2002)
Don't Go Away - Toad the Wet Sprocket (1989)

Thanks to my main sources for new music this year: iTunes, NPR, Spotify, Justin Chanda, David Fey, & Christina Franke.

Live Music in 2014

+ Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Frankfurt, Germany - January (My BIL bought us tickets to see the former lead singer of Pavement with his new band. Fun!)
+ The Jezebels - Frankfurt, Germany - March (Highlight: A Little Piece!! They are awesome live and I loved the whole concert)
+ Tori Amos - Frankfurt, Germany - May (Highlight: This was my first time hearing Weatherman. Mellow show, but had a blast with my SIL)
+ Tori Amos - Berlin, Germany - May (Highlight: Sugar and Northern Lad and Purple People all in the same set? Yes, Please!)
+ Tori Amos - Vienna, Austria - June (Highlight: Nice to get Josephine again. Also! Got to chat with Tori before the show and had a seat in the second row)
+ Tori Amos - Linz, Austria - June (Highlight: Tori's cover of Rise Like A Phoenix by Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst who won for Austria. What a great surprise! Also, chatted with Tori again and got a front row upgrade.)
+ Tori Amos - Stuttgart, Germany - June (Highlight: I've been requesting Beulah Land since 2007 and she finally played it for me! This show's setlist was pretty dark and my favorite of the 5. Also gave Tori a copy of Chasing Before/Chick and got a front row upgrade!)
+ We had tickets to see Ingrid Michaelson and Warpaint, and both acts had to cancel for family reasons. Shame!

Tori Amos with my books!!

Looking forward to 2015 -- we already have tickets to Alt-J with Wolf Alice (Feb 7th) and Rachael Yamagata (Feb 20th). Super excited!

Any recommendations for me?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Year End Mini Reviews - Diverse Books

I've been a supporter of the We Need Diverse Books campaign since its inception and as such, I seek out diverse MG/YA novels during the year to read and review. Here are a few of them (that I haven't already reviewed) from this year. See also my We Need Diverse Books review archive.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Theo, an aspiring professional ballerina with a latent eating disorder, has her fragile psyche rocked when her kidnapped best friend, Donavon, returns after four years and she recognizes the accused kidnapper as her first boyfriend, Chris. Though this relationship is obvious to the reader as statutory rape, Theo denies this to herself and decides to keep quiet, even if her testimony could be the key to getting justice for Donavon. Colbert handles Theo’s emotional landscape with sensitivity and makes the stakes clear – if Theo talks she’ll become “tainted” and no ballet company will want to work with her. Colbert adds an effective subplot involving a secret affair with a classmate that serves to finally wake Theo up to certain truths and make her realize she needs to step up and speak the truth despite the consequences.

FTC disclosure: Borrowed

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

In this ambitious modern day reimagining of Antigone, Jamie Henry is an upstanding student trying to come to terms with both his adoption as a child by wealthy parents and his sister Cate’s recent release from jail after admitting to burning down a horse barn. To say much more would be spoiler-territory, but definitely keep reading for the explosive twist ending.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Ann Peters

When Alix's girlfriend Swan dies, Alix finds out that Swan was cheating on her with a girl from another town named Lianna. Alix and Lianna bond over their shared grief and feelings of betrayal. A fairly predictable yet sweet romance.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

Latitude Zero by Diana Renn

A mystery set in the international cycling world that features intrepid teen reporter Tessa who inadvertently gets involved in dangerous intrigue when a famous Ecuadorian cyclist hands her his gold chain directly before the race that kills him. There are many cycling terms and an exhausting list of suspects to keep the reader busy. Lots of nice description of Ecuador.    

FTC disclosure: Review copy from author

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Year End Mini-Reviews - E-Galleys

Well, hello again! Since there are only 11 days left in the year, I'd better say a few words about some of the 2014 review books I've read this year in e-Galley that I haven't gotten to yet. Shall we?

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

In 1900, Olivia befriends a hypnotist hired by her father to cure her of her of having her own opinion so she can accept a woman's "true calling". Winters once again provides great historical detail and a touch of the paranormal to support her inspiring story of suffragettes. Loved it!

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

197 is the fourth most valuable surrogate in the latest royal auction. She is bought by the conniving Duchess to bear a daughter worthy of marrying the king’s son – but in one-third the time of a normal gestation. Ewing seamlessly integrates world building and magical rules into the action. For example, in an early scene, 197 is permitted an evening visit to her family after years apart. To show both 197’s love for her family and her magical power, Ewing has 197 touch a barren lemon tree in the backyard and make it produce a perfect lemon in a matter of seconds. An interesting read!

That Night by Chevy Stevens

As a teen, Toni Murphy was bullied mercilessly and then sentenced to prison for killing her sister in collusion with her boyfriend, Ryan. 15 years later, Toni is out on parole and wants to find out the truth of her sister's murder. But this means facing her former bullies. Stevens puts Toni in impossible situations -- this novel made me so angry on behalf of Toni that I wanted to go into the book and help Toni get revenge. Highly emotional. 

The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

Shiloh and Gideon live inside the Haven where everyone is monitored and drugged, basically a dystopian nightmare. This very much reminded me of a less complex version of a well-known adult dystopian book, and so I figured out what was going on as soon as they talked about "terminals" vs "wholes".  A diverting enough novel that suffers the comparison to this other book (which I won't name because spoilers).

Killer Instinct by SE Green

In this teen homage to the TV show Dexter, Lane is fascinated by serial killers. She's also highly unsympathetic (especially bc she slut-shames her sister at every opportunity). Still, I was on board with Lane's adventures in serial killing until the very bizarre twist near the end left me scratching my head in disbelief. 

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Darcy is living the dream! Right out of high school and she's already sold a YA novel, moved to NYC, and started up a romance with a popular YA author. In alternating chapters, we get Darcy's journey as well as her "novel": Afterworlds. Since I enjoy both afterlife books and books about the writing scene, I was very entertained by this one, even though it was super, super lengthy.

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

When Lainey's boyfriend Jason breaks up with her, she uses techniques from the Art of War to win him back, including having co-worker Micah pose as her new boyfriend. Even though Micah is leagues different from Lainey, she finds herself really falling in love with him. A fun YA romance!

Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke

Del is a walker in parallel worlds who keeps running across the echo of her longtime crush in different worlds. O'Rourke combines science and music theory in her intricate world-building. I am excited to read the sequel to find out what happens next!