5 Reasons to Watch Ghost Squad

*I will receive a pack of Cards Against Humanity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

5 Reasons to Watch Ghost Squad

Set in the Chicago-land, Ghost Squad is a fun mockumentary that’s a delight to watch. Quirky and funny, the pilot episode made me chuckle, laugh, and even chortle. Andy Kushnir, director and co-writer, accurately described the show to me as, “It’s Ghost Hunters meets The Office.”

Here are 5 reasons to drop what you are doing and watch Ghost Squad

1 – It’s set in Chicago

I’m biased, but I’m also right. How awesome is it to have a connection to a location in a series? Pretty awesome. Everyone who has been to Chicago will recognize the lake in the background as Desperado Miller, played by Abby McEnany, drives along the shoreline. The very realness of the city helps the series earn the weird turn it takes as Desperado tells the audience that she knows a ghost murdered her mom.

Desperado is the lead paranormal investigator for Ghost Squad 4.  She and her team head to the suburbs to exorcise a ghost. I appreciate when it’s acknowledge suburbs are used instead of trying to disguise one city for another. By acknowledging the place where the story happens is in the ‘burbs means we can use our our suspension of disbelief towards ghosts and not location.

2 – Ghost Squad is a fun mockumentary

I love me some absurd characters and there is no lack of absurd characters in this fun mockumentary. From motivational speaker Wind Larmer, played by Carley Moseley, to the Dinkel twins, played by Jo Feldman and Neil Jacobsen, absurd characters and situations abound. Each one which a solid motivation for their craz,y making them funnier as they become more relatable. Wind was a hoot. The way she went into evangelism mode every single time she had a line was brilliant. I could tell it was to hide something shoved deep into the recesses of her soul,  just like all evangelists.

One of my favorite things to play is the straight man to another improviser’s absurd one. Playing the straight man in a comedic show is a lot harder than it looks and is often overlooked in kudos and recognition. So, shout out to Laurel Krabacher who played Jodi Furber the home owner of the haunted house. She plays the straight character to an ensemble of absurd ones. She been through some real life of tragedies and here she is faced with yet another problem – a ghost. Being a sensible person she reaches out for some help and gets a motley crew of people who mean well, but who also eat all of her chips and salsa.

Also, shout out to Damian Anaya as Frank Fanning, the other straight character in this episode. He also happens to have  one of my favorite lines in the entire pilot, “I’m not, you know, one of those guys that like can’t talk about another guy’s penis, but uh, it’s just that I uh . . . don’t care? Yah, yah, I don’t care.”

3 – relationships and Apparitions are real

I like that the the reason the show is funny is tied to the characters and the relationships they have with each other. When relationships are the foundation of a series and characters are fun, it’s the set up for a great show. Ghost Squad has relationship drama in spades, quirky fun characters, and has the makings of a great series.

I was worried the joke would be that spirits weren’t real and this squad was running around futilely chasing ghosts. Instead, it’s a very real obstacle the crew must overcome. The story revolves around whether or not they can band together to help Jodi Furber. Instead of being about the thing, the show is about the people.

4 – outstanding writing, directing, and production

I appreciate when  time, effort, and money are put into a production. Ghost Squad is very well written.  From the relationships to the one-liners everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The editing, directing, lights, sound, all of it are first-rate. Andy Kushnir and Carley Moseley wrote an exceptional story, and then they followed through with an excellent production.

Every bit in this episode is grounded in reality. For example, even though Desperado Miller seems over the top at times, it’s because she’s just very Chicago. Take a stroll through Andersonville, or hop the 22 Clark street bus, or walk into a Jewel-Osco and you will find a version of Desperado in the deodorant aisle talking to the store clerk about how aluminum gives women breast cancer. Someone who is over eager, under prepared, and yet thinks they have everything figured out.

5 – The Episode Ends With You  Wanting to See More

Since we dive right into the story, we only learn pieces of the character’s pasts in this first episode. I want to know more. I want to know the background story of Sendrick X, played by Peter Kim. How does a clearly self-absorbed crazy goth kid seem to be the most responsible person at times. Will we get to meet members from the other squads? What deep dark secret is Wind Larmer trying to hide behind a sunny smile?

So many questions! I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next episode to find out! You can watch the pilot at Ghost Squad on Vimeo.

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Pacifica Review: Finding My Center

This morning I started feeling . . .  off. So, I stopped what I was doing and thought, “If I open the Pacifica app right now what bigger emotion would I input and what underlying emotions would I tap on? …. Definitely “OK.” Not “Great”, but not “Awful.” I would probably put… “Floating” as an underlying emotion (even though it’s not an option in the app), maybe “Distracted.”

Hmmmm… OK. Now, how do I get to feeling “Grounded” and “Motiviated”?

It’s probably obvs from the fact that I haven’t posted in six months that life gets busy and it’s hard to find time to center ourselves. While I’m thankful for every single program that I’m a part of that takes up my time because I love all the things that I’m doing, it can leave me feeling outside of the moment. Like I am just doing the actions and not being present. It can be hard to find time to work at being still, centering myself, and self-regulating my emotions.

There’s An App For That

Also, did you know there’s an app for that? Well, kind of. There are two apps in particular I use to help me when I need to find a moment of stillness or I need to understand what emotions I am experiencing and problem solve if those emotions need regulating. Today I’m going to talk about Pacific, I’ll write about Insight Timer, the other app that I use, in the future.

Pacifica App Review

The app I use on a daily basis to aid me in discovering underlying emotions and understanding on those interaction with my other obligations is Pacifica. I set up Pacifica to ping me once a day at random. When it pings me I take a moment to stop and think about my overall emotional status, “OK”, “Good”, “Very Good”, etc. Then I look at the list of underlying emotions or feelings that the app provides and add those as well.

I’ve discovered that some days I can be “Very Good” and feel anxious. That some days I am only at “OK”, but still feel grateful. There are stats and a weekly update the get an over arching view of how my emotions have ranged throughout the week or month. This helps me look at particular stress points in my week and make sure I do some extra self care on those days.

 

It’s Not Just an App, It’s a Mindset

But the really cool thing after consistently using Pacific every. single. day? When I am “Not Good”, I realize it, I stop and think, ‘What underlying emotions exist right now?’ and ‘What can I do to address these emotions.’

Just like this morning, even though I had not been pinged by the app yet today, I was able to walk through the process of understanding my emotions and coming up with a solution because I have been doing that every. single. day. even when I feel “Very Good.” Using the app has changed the homeopath ways in my brain for the better.

It’s A Learning Curve

I don’t know about you, but I definitely was not taught to self regulate my emotions when I was growing up. I was told to stop having the emotions, which is not the same thing. I was told it was all hormones and to suck it up. I was not taught to take stock of what emotions I was having, to express them to myself, and to figure out a way to address those emotions with problem solving skills. Instead I was berated for not praying my panic attacks away.

Just this year I discovered the relief and feeling of support that comes from finding a good therapist. She encouraged me to see a doctor who has medication that helps my brain regulate serotonin levels. Now I have medication that addresses my anxiety and depression on a biological level.

I was never going to be able to just will it away, pray it away, or suck it up. My brain needs medical help for biological regulation of my mental issues just like people need medical help for their biological regulation of their physical issues.

My only wish is that I had discovered this earlier. Adulting is a learning curve.

Movie Review: Swiss Army Man

I went and saw Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter fame) in the theater this past weekend.

Swiss Army Man

Summary from Goodreads:

A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.

Surreal is a good word for this movie, also disturbing and flatulence.  Honestly, I could leave that one sentence and it would be my nicest review of this movie that I could give, but I guess I’ll put some effort into why I found this movie not exactly up to par with my expectations of humor and heart in a movie about disconnection and death.

Those are elements of humor and heart in this tale, but the reality of the story line grows more and more depressing as I settle into my understanding and emotional take away from it. In the end, there isn’t much to it. A man finds a dead body that he befriends and uses as a way to get back to reality. Sorta. Not really. Maybe? There are some joyous moments as Hank, played by Paul Dano, finally connects to something, in way he has not in his entire life. There are some funny moments as his adventure with a dead body takes him to surreal places. However, those moments do not mask the harsh reality that in the end it is a story about a man whose first real connection in a long time is to a dead body.

That is just depressing.

Plus, it feels as though the writers didn’t really know how they wanted to end it. I wont give away the ending, but I will say this, I expected maybe a sad ending or a weirdly wonderful one, like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World or Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind or countless other quirky and surreal movies that have heart and humor, but Swiss Army Man felt as though the writers wrote a weird ending to just to have a weird ending. Just, what is the weirdest way we can end this …. and yah lets do that weird ending. An unsubstantial ending that I felt derailed the entire journey of Hank.

I was the only one that thought this coming out of the theater. Everyone  in my group agreed it was a weird little movie, but several people loved that the ending was random and weird. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel my initial reaction was correct, that it was a non-ending in a way that was not very meaningful to the characters. And I think an entire movie that revolves around two people, one of them a dead body, should have a meaningful ending for those two people.

Interesting movie, yes. Fun to see the interactions of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, yes. Fascinating story, yes. Weird, humorous, and maybe worth watching at home some afternoon when your brain is going strange and you need a strange movie to watch alongside your strange brain. Sure. But. .  but. . . don’t expect to have a sense of . . . anything when you have finished watching it.

What it really boils down to is that it is a movie about farting, a dead hairy bottom, and a sad man who cannot connect with reality in any shape or form. Even sadder is that as a viewer I was wholly disconnected from the characters by the writers’ and director’s choice about how the story ends.

Audiobook Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

After re-reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, I decided to check out his most recent publication Armada and found the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, at my public library and borrowed it.

Armada by Ernest Cline

Review via GoodReads:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

This was an interesting story where a fantasy becomes reality, with a side of conspiracy theory. I did like a few of the characters, they were interesting, and I really like Zack’s mom. As a protagonist, however, Zack did not catch my interest in the same manner that Wade Watts from Ready Player One did. Plus, I’m not a big gamer so that part was only so-so for me. I have no fantasy of my little Mountain Goat Mountain game coming to life in a way that I can save the world, not even a little bit. So maybe some of my disinterest in this story is my disinterest in shoot-em-up games in general.

I did enjoy Ready Player One and Cline is a good writer, I just think some of the over arching story line of Armada was rather predictable . I guessed every single plot twist when the character was introduced, so it was more about seeing if I was right than it was about expectations that a completely new revelation would happen. It’s an interesting sci-fi story, for gamers probably way more interesting, and a decent read over all, it just wasn’t for me in particular.

Wil Wheaton does a good job voice acting, and he is excited by the genre he so that gives his voice excitement and probably one of the reasons I stuck with the book. However, he does not do voices as well as some other voice over actors that I listen to, so there were a few characters I had a little trouble keeping straight, but he does a good job overall.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, you should it is amazing, definitely read it before reading this book to get a better idea of Cline’s storytelling abilities. You can read my review here.

Armada, is  worth checking out from your library if you want a fun summer sci-fi read based on the gaming community.

Audiobook Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

I borrowed the audiobook of The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher from the local library. It is read by.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Summary from GoodReads:

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

This book made it onto my Top Five Books I Enjoyed that were Outside My Comfort Zone in 2015 post because  I generally do not enjoy high fantasy but I ended up really engaging in this story. Maybe part of this was that it was an audiobook and I did not have to keep names straight because the narrator had excellent character voices and I followed along so much easier.

Ok, so the reason I really liked this story was that there are people who can speak Cat. No joke. It is amazing because Butcher has cat psychology and physiology down pat and brings this real world knowledge to the story, giving it ground in reality even though people are living in the clouds (literally) and talking to cats! Bridget Tagwynn is one of those people and she is such an interesting character. Of a lower status than those around her, but with training in how to be a strong human being, and an understanding of how people interact and react she is just a great shining example of a strong female character that isn’t hateful or bitter. All the characters are interesting, have depth, have things I liked about them and had things I rolled my eyes about, because they are human and have a reason for being part of the story.

I’ll dare say I enjoyed this cast of characters to a greater extent than the cast of the Dresden Files. Not because I now dislike Dresden, but because this series has a wider cast of strong main characters instead of just the select few in the Dresden series. From Gwendolyn Lancaster who is a little too enthusiastic and know-how when she first arrives for training at the Academy to her cousin Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster who seems a steady sort of person, but manages to have depth as well, to Rowl, a cat, who manages to be helpful and unhelpful all of the time. A really interesting play of people and story line, masterfully told.

But I attribute my ability to read this high fantasy story with greater ease to the voice actor Euan Morton. He did an amazing array of voices and I easily followed a wide cast of characters trotting across and unfamiliar landscape. His Rowl voice is literally stuck in my head, it is that good. I really recommend this audiobook, he is a wonderful voice over actor.

There is a lot to this story that I can’t even fully get into with a review, but I would suggest it for anyone who enjoys strong characters, both male and female. and for people who enjoy adventure romps that have depth. Don’t be put off by the high fantasy, steam punk aspects, or talking cats, this story is more than the fun  setting it is about the very real and interesting characters that make up a group people who are trying to accomplish something together.

Audio Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I borrowed The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman from my local library. This audio book was performed by a full cast which I always love so much!

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Summary from GoodReads:

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

I’m biased when it comes to Gaiman, I usually find his way of writing stories and viewing life so interesting. This story definitely has it’s twists and turns and didn’t exactly go where I thought it might. At the same time the story feels familiar because it is based on fairy tales we all know and love. I do like retellings and I love a good mash-up so those aspects of the story kept me listening, plus it is a short story so it was over really before I knew it. But that was also part of the problem, there wasn’t as much development of character that I normally expect from Gaiman and the twists were OK, but not of the deep and dark and unexpected caliber that I have come to expect from the author.

Listening to a full cast is always fun, it makes telling the different characters apart easier and I enjoy hearing several people chime in on a story. No one stood out as particularly brilliant or horrible, just good voice actors giving life to  a story. (As I read the audio version of the book, I cannot comment on the supposed amazing pictures of the hardcover, but I hear it was brilliantly done.)

I enjoyed this retelling from Gaiman, but it is not my favorite of his stories. Some of the story line was predictable and it was so on the go adventuresque (that’s a word, I think?) that I didn’t get the same sense of development of character as I have from his other books. The ending was different than I expected, but not so much so I was blown away by it. While a fun fairy tale retelling/mash-up story to listen to, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

AudioBook Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

So…. just realized I have not posted a book review this entire year. What? Some of that is because a lot of the new series or new books I was trying out at the beginning of the year did not make me excited enough about the story line to write a review. Some of it is because this year has seen a lot of changes and my reading time has diminished so I’m not reading as many books. I’m going to attempt to get caught up. (Where’s my laughing/crying emoticon when I need it?)

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill Read by Cynthia Holloway

I borrowed Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill as an audio book from my local library, it is read by Cynthia Holloway.

Summary from Goodreads:

They killed me. They healed me. They changed me. Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world—and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker…and this one decided that the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead. Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I’ve traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude—and servitude. Right. But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I’m surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan’s attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone’s still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches? My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

OK, I’ll admit I picked this one because it was about vampires in Chicago. I mean what is not to love about that premise? It’s the reason I picked up Jim Butcher’s books, and I loooove those. I was also excited because this is currently a 12 book series with the 13th book to publish this year. I love finding new series and being able to binge read them. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

While there were some intriguing family dynamics that added some interest to the over all plot of girl gets made into a vampire and is trained by a really old, but extremely hot, vampire who expects submission, but Merit is a modern woman who refuses to submit, it wasn’t enough to make the series stick out from the rest of the genre. I really wish there had been a little more about the transition from being an academic whose life revolves around an all consuming thesis to becoming a vampire who has to give up that life long dream. Perhaps that is developed later in the series as sometimes it does take an author a good three books to really develop a character.

Cynthia Holloway was a decent narrator. She has a low and interesting voice. I generally do not have difficulty with narrators, I like listening to audio books and respect the hell out of voice actors. I took a class on it in Chicago and it is hard work! I do recommend listening to a sample reading before downloading and audio book if you find that some narrators turn you off the story. I do this if I’m going to buy the audio book and not just borrow it from the library.

Chloe Neill is a good writer and so this was not a bad book to read, I did enjoy parts of it, I was just wary of how much time I should continue to give the series as there were some “this has been done” parts as well. Obviously the series is popular or there wouldn’t be so many books in the series, and there are some reviews on Goodreads that suggest as a series it is quite good, so maybe I should borrow the other books in the series to see if I find the series to be more interesting than the first book.

But can we have some urban fantasy covers where the female characters are in actual fighting gear? Or even fighting? Midriffs and belly rings are hella sexy, I agree, but not exactly fighting gear. Just saying.