Television Review: The Office

the office

Summary from IMDB:

A mockumentary on a group of typical office workers, where the workday consists of ego clashes, inappropriate behavior, and tedium. Based on the hit BBC series.

For several months we have been spending our evenings watching The Office. I’ve heard good things about the show over the years, but only caught an episode here or there and never really got into it. At the urging of Chris we sat down and watched it from the beginning and it made so much more sense. This show is incredibly clever, hilarious, and heartwarming all at the same time. There were several instances where Chris and I caught an incredibly clever line that tickled our fancies and we would have to pause the show to laugh for several minutes before we could continue. Even minor characters had amazing lines that were just kind of thrown away in the story unless you were watching and purposefully trying to catch them. Creed was often that character. He has the most amazingly bizarre things to say. For example, in one episode he is the narrator and his take on the days events left us in stitches. (*This show has been over for two years, I don’t considered it spoiler-able.*)

In the parking lot today there was a circus! The copier did tricks on the high-wire, a lady tried to give away a baby that looked like a cat. There was a Dwight impersonator and a Jim impersonator, a strong man crushed a turtle… I laughed. And I cried. Not bad for a day in the life of a dog food company.

Check out all his quotes posted on http://officequotes.net/creedThoughts.php

Check out all his quotes posted on http://officequotes.net/creedThoughts.php

I love the show, but more than a few episodes made mad and occasionally anxious, I’m not going to lie. Michael Scott was both a horrible and brilliant manager. Steve Carell is a genius at playing the part. He did an amazing job of making Michael a human being even with all the crazy mad things he did. What a ridiculous person. Unfortunately, a very realistic ridiculous person.

michael scott

The humanity the existed inside rather caricatures was what made the show. sometimes this made me mad at them for being so human. I spent a time or two pacing the living room and yelling at the screen. I cried once or twice because of a sweet gesture from one character to another. I had all of the emotions, all of the time with this show. It is amazing. One of my favorite friendships to watch develop was Dwight and Pam’s. They understood each other even though they couldn’t always relate to each other. It was an odd, but sweet relationship.

That is probably the very best description of this show. Odd, but sweet. If you haven’t taken the time, you should check it out on Netflix. I recommend starting it from the beginning and working your way through the show. I found it made a lot more sense, and was a lot more fun when i understood all the inside jokes and quirks of the characters as they grew up before my eyes. What a wonderful, wonderful show.

eBook Review: Player Choice by Jeff Deck

Recently I was contacted by Jeff Deck co-author of The Great Typo Hunt, which was one of my very early reviews on this website. You can read my review of The Great Typo Hunt here. Jeff sent me a free copy of his newest creation, his eBook Player Choice, in exchange for an honest review.

player choice

Summary from Amazon:

It’s 2040. With neural implants, people can play games in an immersive virtual reality known as the aether space. Game designer Glen Cullather has a plan for the most ambitious aether game ever imagined: a fantasy epic that gives players the freedom to do anything.

But Glen’s own life is fragmenting into alternate realities. He can’t tell whether his aether game idea has succeeded, or failed miserably. And Freya Janoske is either his biggest rival, or his most intimate partner. Glen must figure out what’s real and what’s, well, fantasy—for his own survival.

Player Choice is a fast-paced gaming sci-fi adventure that dares to ask:

What happens when unreality becomes our reality?

The book is divided into two very distinct parts. The first part is about Glen’s very real alternate realities that are akin to reading about some very lucid dreams. The question is which one is real. Like lucid dreams there are some really real and emotional moments that make it hard to decipher what is happening, but like Glen I knew something was up and while I figured out mostly what was going on, I didn’t quite figure out everything. Which, as we all know, I enjoy immensely. I also enjoy reading about, discussing, and researching lucid dreaming, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book.

Part of the message that Glen is trying to tell in his games is about player choice besides violence and human agency. But Glen has almost no agency in his own life. In fact, I really didn’t like his character at all for quite a bit. He’s that guy. The guy that thinks every single romantic female wants to cut away at his manhood. Just because he fantasizes about her, she must be who he thinks she is. He has no idea how to socially interact with anyone except for two people, and even then after years of friendship, he has hidden huge areas of his life from them. Yet, he expects everyone to respect him. This is the guy I’ve avoided all my life. Glen is unable to express anything except through anger or leaving. His interests must be everyone’s interests. How he sees the world is how it is. Introspection is for the weak. Yes, real healthy there Glen. Thankfully, Glen does learn a lesson or two and by the end of the first part I could at least stand him if not completely empathize with him. His choices led to where he is, and he has to deal with those consequences.

The second part of the book delves into Glen’s gaming world, the one that he created. I’ll be honest, not my favorite part of the book. But, I’m not the worlds biggest gamer. So reading about, what I’ll admit is a very cool gaming world, wasn’t as exciting for me as the lucid dreaming like part. I think people who are gamers, will really enjoy this part of the book. Jeff has definitely built a cool game in Glen’s world and the game has nuances that make it interesting on a deeper level than just conquering bosses. It was interesting, but I was looking for human interest pieces in among the gaming. Glen’s relationship with his girlfriend was interesting and Glen’s past was interesting. I wish there had been more of that than of the gaming, but that is just the type of thing I enjoy more personally.

Glen’s past is rather sordid. He has a lot of family issues. Which are usually the points of a book I really enjoy. I did have one minor issue and that was Glen’s relationship with his sister. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is not a healthy relationship, and may even need a trigger warning that it is of very adult non-healthy relationship issue. I think such things do need to be talked about, and dealt with and definitely fiction is an avenue for that discussion. But I don’t think gaming is therapy. Glen did not deal with his “coming to terms” with their relationship in a way that is conducive to him actually healing from it. He goes from one emotion about it to the next without any real introspective reflection or decision about what is healthy for him. I also believe it takes more than a few days to heal from something like that and while it is definitely a very good start that Glen started talking about his past with his friends, it is just that, a start.

I wish authors would create some sort of sci fi/ fantasy universal health center that they would periodically send their characters to so that people who read these books could see a way of dealing with emotions that isn’t slashing at them with magical swords or dousing them in potions. Take Harry Potter for example, that is one character that really needs some sort of therapy. I could name a ton billion trillion characters like that. I know this is one of my personal soap boxes, so other people who read this book may not have the same reaction.

What I do think is telling, is that I had a reaction. I like books that strike up an emotional feeling and engage me  in the world that I am reading. Jeff has definitely written such a book. As a side note, Jeff’s grammar past has definitely done him some good. I’ve read a few self-published books recently and his is definitely formatted the best, and didn’t have any typos or grammar mistakes that I caught. It was quite refreshing! If you want to give Player Choice a try, check it out on Amazon where it is free! I assume that is for a limited time, so hurry up and head on over there.

Player Choice leads the reader down dream like paths into alternative realities and worlds that will make them reexamine their own choices and agency.

Television Review: The Blacklist

I recently got hooked on The Blacklist thanks to Netflix and my love of binge watching shows. I was recommended the show from a friend and watched the first episode, but wasn’t so much impressed. However, I gave it another try and by the third episode I was hooked. This is my usual M.O. Which is why I give most shows three episodes before deciding whether or not I like it. And I love The Blacklist!

the blacklist

Summary from IMDB:

A highly articulate, erudite and intelligent businessman and mastermind, “Red” Reddington, has allegedly been on the “10 Most Wanted List” of various U.S. law enforcement agencies for over 20 years. The legend is that Red is as elusive an Artiste as he is clever; Red built and controls a veritable labyrinth of creative enterprises coupled with uncanny ability to gather and finesse information at the drop of a hat. On the first day at FBI for a new female profiler fresh out of Quantico, Red offers to bandy wits with the FBI. Red promises to deliver various criminals and plots previously unknown to any branch of law enforcement… and all Red requests in return is to choose his muse.

James Spader is amazing. His character Red is outside the normal anti-hero on television, he’s more like a movie anti-hero. He goes around killing people, in cold blood, without emotion, because he must to get to his end game. Which I still haven’t bloody figured out yet. At the close of season 1, some of his endgame became clear and his cleverness expounded upon, but mystery yet remains. And that makes this show awesome.

I once read this article on how heroes in large stories are written rather bland and very very normal on purpose. That way whoever is watching or reading the story can easily imagine themselves in that person’s place. I love Leslie Knopes, but she is a character and I don’t easily imagine myself in her place. Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone) us that every man character that the watcher/reader is supposed to easily place themselves inside of. She does get interesting as the show progressives, but at times she is tiring, and not as bad ass as I would hope. I’ve not given up hope on her becoming a little bit more of a character, because she is being set up to grow in that direct, but the first season she is very normal in her reactions and actions and character.

I have so many theories about this story line, but I’ll keep them to myself so I don’t spoil the best thing about this show, you never know where it is going. However, if you want to discuss theories, I’m opening up the comments for spoilers. So beware! Have questions? Want to discuss? Leave a comment. I’d love to swap theories.

eBook Review: Taking the Fall by Laney Monday

Taking the Fall by Laney Monday is a free ebook I downloaded after reading about it in my BookBub daily email. If you haven’t been getting BookBub’s emails, you really should sign up for their free service! It is awesome.

taking the fall

Summary via Amazon:

Olympian Brenna Battle once had the fire. Now, she’s just burned out—and burned by love. She’s ready to retire from competitive judo and pursue a new dream in a new town, with her biggest supporter, her recently divorced little sister, Blythe. But on their first day in town, Blythe falls for local sleaze-bag reporter, Ellison Baxter, and their small-town welcome is stained by Baxter’s murder. The weapon—Blythe Battle’s hair brush.

In this fast-paced, fun cozy mystery, Brenna, the proud new owner of the building that formerly housed Bonney Bay’s lone recreational opportunity for kids, Little Swans Ballet, is ready to turn tutu-clad powder-puffs into little warriors by opening a judo school for kids in its place. But now she must clear her sister’s name and save her new dream from ending even more disastrously than her Olympic hopes. Brenna must deal with one crazy member of the local police force, who’s determined to see the sisters pay—and another cop, whose deep brown eyes just might drive Brenna crazy—in a way her battered heart just can’t take.

I’ve read a lot of cozy tea novel mysteries, so I think I have a fair idea of what to expect when I read them. I found this book to be a bit aggravating. For a fairly intelligent woman and written character, Brenna does some crazy stupid things. Once something that did not even make sense with her character. Other than this flaw, the story is lively and interesting with some fun quirky characters. I liked Blythe as a character and I wish her background had been worked into the story a little more. I get that she is a side character, but a pretty big one. If she and Brenna have a great relationship this should be shown with back story, and it was a little lacking in the first book. I get that it is the first book in a series and the author doesn’t want to reveal everything, but a little more background of their relationship would have flushed out the story and filled in some gaps.

Riggens is the romantic interest in the story, and he is surprise! a cop. One of my favorite tea cozy novel series is the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris.  What was so unique about the series was the intelligence and ingenuity of Aurora while throwing away a lot of the cliches of the genre, for example her romantic interest was not a cop/FBI/badboywhoworksforthegoodguys type of person. While the character Riggens was different his insertion and place in the plot line was predictable. I would also have liked a little more background on him as he is another important secondary character. Hopefully that part of the story is also expounded upon in future books. In the mean time, can he at least make a decent move on Brenna? A kiss? A kiss! Not even a date. Bah. One of the reasons people read cozy tea novels is for the romantic interest, and his interest was a little low and a little lame. Get it together Riggens!

A decently written tea cozy novel, Taking the Fall by Laney Monday fits nicely into its category and gives the reader what they expect from the genre. Interesting and fairly strong female characters with a dose of danger and mystery.

You can read another review here.

eBook Review: Dreamwalker

I recently joined NetGalley and received an eBook of Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy Book 1) by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles in exchange for an honest review.

dreamwalker 1

Summary from Amazon:

Seven Children, Seven Powers. One Enemy. Addy Walker is a normal California surfer girl until her mother dies and her British aunt enrolls her at a boarding school called Red Dragon Academy in Wales. At first the school seems okay, if a little weird. Which other school has a sun-day when it’s not raining? But when Addy stumbles upon a hallway that leads to a different and horrible part of the school she begins to have her doubts. Addy has always had vivid dreams but now these dreams are becoming frighteningly real and she has a hard time telling dreams from reality. Was it really only in a dream that she visited the cold palace and met the man who wants her captured? He calls her a dreamwalker and it seems that this is a special and dangerous power. Is Addy really able to move between two worlds or is she finally cracking up? Dreamwalker is the first book in the Red Dragon Academy series and in it we meet Addy, as well as snooty Pippa, brainy Raj, cheeky Sam, serious Coby, shy Gwyllum and worldly Celeste—all who may have been brought to the school because of their special powers. All of whom may be in mortal danger from a terrifying tyrant who calls himself The One, in a land that seems a lot like Wales, but isn’t.

Dreamwalker starts out with a great premise. Who doesn’t love schools full of magic and powers? The characters are all interesting and different, and I see a lot of promise in their abilities and friendships as the series grows. I was also fascinated that Addy’s power is one of dreamwalking since I have such vivid dreams myself. I easily related to how she felt when she realized that what she thought was something that really happened turned out to be her unconscious mind.

However, some of the promise I saw in the series was not realized in the story itself. I felt the pacing of the book was off, some parts moved extremely slow while the emotional aspects of some serious moments moved quickly with little development of Addy’s psyche. Addy finds out some things about her past that are quite shocking and would be devastating, especially to someone who has just lost their only support system. Yet she spends little time processing these things in anyway whatsoever, let alone in a constructive way. While I understand people have a perception of children as being resilient and teenagers as being closed mouthed when it comes to emotions, the inner turmoil is still there and that is something I did not see. Personally, I wish there had been more development of the emotional side of her character verses the adventures.

And the book is full of adventures. It has treasure hunts, haunted hallways, mysterious teachers, etc. I really did enjoy some of those scenes and moments that Addy has on her adventures. The premise and even the world building are well done. It is a decently written book except for some pacing and emotional character development. It is possible that these will be improved in the next book in a series, but I’m not sure I will read them to find out. While I felt a connection to Addy’s ability in dreamwalking, I didn’t feel a connection to Addy herself. Personally, I look for connections to the characters not just the world they live in. Overall, I think the story was interesting and it kept me reading despite some drawbacks. (This may have something to do with the fact that much of the explanation for things didn’t happen until I was ninety percent of the way through the book. Ninety percent!)

If you enjoy adventure stories about schools full of children with interesting abilities, you may find this book to your liking.

P,S. I know this is basically an ARC via NetGalley, but the formatting on my mobile device was severely lacking. I spent a goodly amount of my time trying to sus out who said what. I hope these formatting kinks are worked out for the people who pay to read the story.

Theater Review: Pavlov’s Dogs Improv Comedy Show

Chris and I went to an improv show by Pavlov’s Dogs at the Dallas Comedy House. The show is called End of the Month and is an “improvised show that is built around things that happened earlier that month” on the news. Off to the side of the stage sits a TV screen with dated news headlines scrolling past. Chris pointed out that the headlines were still dated 2014 even though the headlines were centered around the upcoming 2015 Superbowl. While slightly distracting, I thought it added to the weirdness of the show. Everyone was instructed to fill out a slip of paper of something interesting that happened to them that month and then deposit it in a bucket on the stage.

pdogs

The show starts out as though the audience is watching a live news show. Headlines are pulled from the television screen to the left of the stage and the troupe members act as anchors and then proceed to act out the scenes. I really enjoyed the “bits” that the anchors were able to come up with on the spot, but the re-enactment of the news scenes made for a rough start to the show. Only when the troupe moved on to Detectives Barry and The Cobra did the show pick up speed and laughs. Playing off of TV tropes and bad cop/good cop routines Detective Barry and Detective The Cobra had the room erupting in laughter as they attempted to solve a murder.

The last game is one where the actors are gathered at the local watering hole to discuss their days as news anchors, detectives, and investigative reporters. During this time one member of the troupe begins to tell a story and then ends it by reading off the pieces of paper from the bucket. What would seemingly be disjointed turned into a hilarious comedy piece as the real “interesting” things that happened to members of the audience are distorted, re-enacted, and tied to earlier routines by the troupe.

While off to a rather slow and rough start, the troupe rallied as they continued to play their games on stage. I laughed really hard when the detectives where on stage and during a few of the watering hole pieces, and not just because I’d had two drinks and a bag of Skittles. Improv comedy may not be fun for everyone as it can include a lot of awkward moments, but occasionally it also results in laughing until you are in tears. In fact watching the troupe interact with each other and the audience, and listening as a room full of people gave themselves over to the moment with laughter and giggles made me long to get back into improv acting myself.

Audio Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I downloaded The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (as read by the author himself) via Audible with a free credit. I’m quite a fan of Gaiman, so when I was searching for an audio book I am always drawn to his stories and discovered this one.

ocean at the end of the lane

Summary from Audible:

Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.

One of the reasons that I am constantly downloading audiobooks is that I like to listen to stories as I fall asleep at night as well as listen to them as I drive around town. I started The Ocean at the End of the Lane and immediately found myself drawn to this strange otherworldly tale, at times scary and intense, always imaginative and all consuming. But soon discovered this is not a good bed time story. I would lie there at night as Chris slept soundly beside me, wide awake staring at my phone to caught up in the story, too scared to stop the story, too frightened to keep going. I would pause it, try to drift off, then worried about the boy, sit up and start it again. Restless I started a different audiobook and drifted off to sleep within a matter of minutes.

This is not a book to try to fall asleep to.

Like his other stories, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of strange mythologies interwoven with such relatable characters that I was pulled into the story, sucked in, and had to fight to find my way out again. Though the main part of the story happens in a man’s past when he is quite young, it is not a story for children. At the same time, Gaiman is able to capture the voice of a young boy, reminding me of how I used to view the world, that I began to recall my own childhood, well, at least all the scary moments of growing up.

quote

As I’ve come to expect from Gaiman, his prose is wonderful and wonderfully read by himself. The pacing of Gaiman’s writing is beyond compare and I never step outside the story to wonder what will happen because I am always entranced by what is happening, in that moment. Some times so engulfed in the story that I can’t sleep. Gaiman has such an amazing talent for voice acting that I have come to love the stories he reads himself. Just the other day I was in a bookstore and discovered a book of his I have yet to read, but didn’t pick it up because I want to find out if it is an audiobook instead. My queue in Audible is full of books by Gaiman and I don’t see that discontinuing any time soon.

I realize that my review more describes my experience reading this book than what it is about, but as far as I can tell, this is the best way to review this book. For one, to describe the story would be to ruin the magic of the tale, anything more said than the blurb ruins the world building and character building that Gaiman worked hard to create. Secondly, I’m not alone in my experiential review of this book. Patrick Rothfuss’ own meandering love story about this book is more about his experience of reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane than a typical review.

This is a story to experience. So, go out there and find your experience. Buy a copy, listen to the audiobook, fall in love with Gaiman just a little bit more.