Monday, December 10, 2012

Movies Today: "Flashdance", "First Position"

Two wildly different movies, two very different reactions.


Why did I even watch this? I knew it'd be terrible. And boy, was it. It was all 80s synthesizers, neon glow, big hair, scary women, ugly dudes, and really aggressive dancing. It did make me wonder where that Super Powerful 80s woman went; the one who'd wear shoulder pads and stilletos and want to kick your ass at any given opportunity. I suppose that, as with so many trends in the 80s, it was taken way too far and just became way too crazy to sustain itself. I think that's probably a good thing. So it just wasn't a very good movie, but it's definitely fun to finally watch the movie that inspired so many horrible trends that are actually resurfacing nowadays. The cut-up sweatshirt! Legwarmers! Super-high-leg bathing suits! Mohawks! Awful stand-up comedians! Terrible movie.

First Position

I'm so happy Netflix recommended this. It's a documentary tracking the attempts of six young ballet dancers to compete and succeed at an International Ballet Competition in New York. There's three boys and three girls, ranging from 9 to 18 and from all kinds of backgrounds, and it's a fascinating movie. It's kind of amazing what those kids go through, and I liked that you could tell, very easily, that the kids love dancing. And there's nary a stage mom in sight! It's all about the kids, and it's heartbreaking, beautiful and inspiring all at the same time. There's some beautiful moments with the kids families and of course all the dancing we see is breathtaking. I'll even admit that the ending made me cry a little. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Idea:Movies I've Watched

I don't want to let this blog die. Trying to write book reviews obviously turned into a disaster, so I think I'll try to get back in the game by going back to how it started: writing about nothing, mostly as a way to get things off my head and keep track of some of the painfully mundane things I do every day.

One thing is to just keep track of movies I've watched. I tried writing it down in an actual, physical journal but found that really boring. Also, what's the point if no one will ever read it? At least with blogger there is an infinitesimal chance that someone will read it. But, whatever. Let me ask, though: Is there a movie version of Goodreads out there? I love how Goodreads gives me a chance to keep track of books I've read without having to write reviews, and just give them a quick rating. I don't know, is that even an original idea? Wanna buy it from me?

But I'll start now, and hopefully compile some kind of list at the end of the year or month. I watch a lot of movies. And I'll try to be as honest as possible and not fail to mention the admittedly terrible movies I watch on my days off when I just want to sit still for an hour without having to think too hard about what I'm watching. Like how I watched Tinkerbell the other day. And how I didn't hate it. It was actually super cute and fun and something I'd like to watch with my future daughter-who-will-probably-never-exist.

I won't even bother writing more than a two-sentence review, either. Gut reaction's the title of the blog, dammit, and I'm gonna stick with that. So, welcome to Five-Minute Reviews of Movies I've Watched.

 Ugh. Uuuugh. Big steaming pile of crap, seen through a dirty blue filter. What a terrible, nonsensical bore of a movie this was. I can't even think of one redeeming quality about it other than the casting of Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender, and even that is pushing it, because goddammit, no, it was a terrible movie and handsome men don't make up for lazy writing. Not even the visuals were that great. Everything was muddy and half-assed and confusing. I never once cared about anything that was going on in my screen, and never once did the filmmakers give me a reason to care. Definitely skip that one.

A while ago I asked my Facebook friends what the worst movie they had watched recently was. The question was prompted by having watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was fucking awful. Now, I don't think Prometheus was worse than that monstrosity, but it came pretty damn close. It's definitely the worst current movie I've seen this year. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book #10: 'Dead Star Twilight' by Chez Pazienza

Hi, I'm back! I know, I've been just the worst at reviewing books this year. And I've been reading, just...not bothering with reviews, as 5 of those have been re-reads. The worst part? I haven't written anything because the books I've read have been, for the most part, completely brilliant. And do you know how hard it is to write a review of a book you loved? When you feel like you can't possibly do it justice and trying to write something deep and meaningful about them will just make you feel like a dumbass because you just don't have the words to say anything more eloquent than "HOLY SHIT THAT BOOK WAS SO GOOD"? Yeah, that.

And that's the really long, really annoying way to tell you that I absolutely freakin loved the hell out of Chez Pazienza's Dead Star Twilight. Even that feels ridiculous, because saying that you "loved" a very personal, harrowing memoir about one man's battle with heroin addiction just feels particularly stupid, you know? I think the best way I can describe it is that it affected me like almost no other book has. It's gut-wrenchingly honest and heartbreaking, beautifully written and flat-out unforgettable. I can still remember the sadness, the horror, the beauty of some of the scenes in the memoir, even months after I finished it. It's the kind of story that stays with you. You should read it.

You can buy the e-book version of Dead Star Twilight right here. And you can (and should) read all of Chez's blog, Deus Ex Malcontent right after. That's it. There's a million more things I could say about it, but it would all feel pithy and silly. It's a great book, and you should read it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book #9: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

Yep, that Hugh Laurie. House? Really funny, super sexy British accent, you know who. I had no idea he'd written a book, but hey, the internet teaches you things! So I read it.

The Gun Seller is a convoluted, often hilarious story about spies, arms sales, international conspiracies and a lot of crazy car chases. It's like someone blended The Bourne Conspiracy with a Douglas Adams story, added a little bit of John Le Carre and a protagonist who probably acts a lot like House. The result is very, very funny at times, but also just flat-out confusing in others.

The whole thing is kind of manic, really. It's not surprising to anyone who's familiar with Laurie that the guy is a hilarious writer, and he keeps up the frantic pace throughout. The one problem I had, though, was that sometimes the story would jump around so much and so quickly that I had a hard time keeping track of what exactly was going on in the story. The fact that the main character keeps flipping sides and that everything is centered around things implied and not said, and that everyone keeps lying to each other didn't help matters much.

But, overall, it was a damn entertaining read. Laurie is a great storyteller and is pretty amazing at writing characters and dialogue. In just a couple of sentences you could understand exactly what a character was like, and that's not a talent a lot of writers possess.

Truth be told, I'm not even that much into spy stories, but this one was greatly helped by the humor and nonstop pace. Highly recommended if you want something funny and exciting, and a must-read for any Hugh Laurie fans.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book 8: "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger

Think of the worst boss you ever had. Think of every ridiculous habit, every ridiculous demand, ever time you wanted to set the building on fire because of them. Now multiply that by, oh, a thousand, and you'll end up with Miranda Priestly, the villain of this book and one of the most hilariously evil characters I've ever read.

The story is told by Andrea Sachs, a perfectly normal girl who dreams of being a journalist. Almost by accident, she ends up working at a prestigious fashion magazine named Runway, as the second assistant to the Editor-in-Chief, Miranda Priestly. Even though she hates everything about her job (which she's constantly assured millions of girls would kill to have), she stays because she's been told that it could lead to work with an actual magazine. Though, holy crap, I'm not sure any job would be worth putting up with a nightmare like this.

The job is ridiculous. Miranda treats everyone like shit, basically because she can. She makes outrageous demands, throws money left and right to get everything her way, is sarcastic, shrill, infuriating. And it's kind of hilarious to read. I'd say it's completely unrealistic, but I'm sure there's people like that out there. Brr.

So, the book is really about Andrea's nightmare year in fashion. It's funny and definitely hooks you in, though there's some boring distractions here and there, like the side-plots involving the boyfriend and best friend. And there's times I find myself wanting to shake Andrea and force her to learn just a little bit about the magazine and fashion worlds and not whine so much. I'm sure I would, too, but, come on.

But aside from that, this is, more than anything, a fun read. One second you'll be sitting there thinking this is all ludicrous and impossible, and the next you'll be yelling at the book wanting to slap a fictional horrible boss. Beware the nasty flashbacks, is all I'm saying. I didn't love the book (the subject is a little silly for me), but I liked it quite a bit. Miranda Priestly will stay in my nightmares forever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Books 6 and 7: "Kiss of the Highlander" and "The Dark Highlander" by Karen Marie Moning

Oh, boy. How do I get out of this one? How do I admit that I read not one, but two romance novels about sexy, sexy Highlanders who have racy adventures with plucky, virginal girls? I buck up, that's what. I sit my butt down and try to review them as quickly as possible so that we can all forget that this ever happened.


These two fine examples of ridiculously fun 'literature' are part of the cleverly titled "Highlander" series, where the basic premise is that there's a group of Highlanders who are druids and possess ancient, secret magic. They use it to travel through time and encounter sexy, plucky girls who change their destinies. And by that I mean 'Have lots of sexy with them and make them happy Highlanders". It's all outrageous and ridiculous and terribly fun to read.

The first, Kiss of the Highlander, features Chloe, the (you guessed it) sexy and plucky 21st Century chick who takes a trip to Scotland to find a guy to take her virginity. No, I'm serious. She actually says she's looking for a "Cherry Picker". YES. Those words are IN THE BOOK. So you get an idea how ridiculous it is. Anyway, she stumbles into a cave near a loch and finds Drustan, a super sexy Highlander who was put under a spell and has been asleep for 400 years. Awesome. So they have to figure out a way to get him back to his century, and they have fun (and sexy) adventures in the 20th Century.

The second book, The Dark Highlander, deals with Drustan's brother, Daegus. Spoiler alert (snerk): He used his magic powers to help Drustan and Chloe be together, and in the process somehow became a Dark Druid. He's now living in the 21st Century and is trying to find a way to keep from becoming a completely evil being or something. One thing that helps is having sex, because of course it does. So he runs into sexy, plucky Gwen and they're terribly attracted to each other. So he decides to take her to Scotland for some reason, where they have to try and get back in time to keep Daegus from turning evil. Or something. I honestly can't remember the details.

They're both equally ridiculous, and they're both damn good fun to read. There's all the stupid cliches of romances, but luckily the author has a great sense of humor about the whole thing. She knows it's silly and cliche, but she wants to have a good time writing it and for you to have fun reading them. And it works. They're two of the most fun romance novels I've read, and I'll confess it: there's some scenes that are incredibly sexy. Be warned though, they are graphic. Like maybe three steps away from flat-out pornographic. But really, that just makes them funnier.

So, I highly recommend these two pieces of fluff if you're looking for something completely harmless and fun to read. There's the usual hilarious dialogue, the "Aye, lass"es, the sex scenes and all the usual cliches. But the characters are fun and not completely stupid, and the plot is actually interesting. You'll probably crack up more than a few times, but I think that's actually intentional for once.

OK, now let's all forget this ever happened.

(Unless of course, you actually read them and want to talk about them, because I'm all up for that).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conversations on the bus

I take the bus to work. There's all kinds of bizarre, mostly harmless characters. One of them is this one lady in her 60s who works at the mall, and she looks like she jumped straight out of a 1930s MGM movie. Big, deep set eyes with heavy lids. Deathly skinny. Like a very old, very skinny Marlene Dietrich. I wonder about her.

Today she sits down on the bus, holding herself up like she's on screen. Someone from the back of the bus calls her, a very enthusiastic lady I couldn't get a clear look at. It was pretty obvious that Mrs Dietrich didn't want to give her the time of day. She even did that whole "I'm gonna pretend to talk on my phone right now to avoid talking to you" thing, but she was caught.

"Hey [Marlene]!"

"Oh, hi honey."
Voice like Gloria Swanson, I swear

"Have you seen [So and So]?"


"I miss her."


"You look so pretty today!"

"Aw, you're a darling."


"Ooh, where'd you get those pretty earrings?"

"Oh, honey, I don't even remember."

"They sure are pretty."

"You are a dear."

[Silence while Marlene goes through fake phone shennanigans]

"Hey, [Marlene], how's your cat?"

"Oh, she's good."

"What's your cat's name?"


Me: YES.

"Oh that is SO darling!"

[Marlene smiles, not looking up.]

[Long silence]

"My mom has a dog."


"Yeah. It's a little Shi-Tzu."


"His name is Reeses."


[End Scene]

I love the bus sometimes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book #5: "Something Borrowed" by Emily Giffin

I'm seriously annoyed that I spent $3 on this garbage.

Listen, I'll read trashy romance novels and enjoy them for the silly fluff they are. I'll read the "diary" of a call-girl and forget about it as soon as I'm done. I'll walk away from a sappy Nicholas Sparks book understand why someone would read it and love it even if I didn't. But a book like this? It just makes me angry and resentful that I wasted my time and money on it. Because it's just crap. The fact that it was a best seller and that it got turned into a movie just pisses me off even more.

The story is stupidly basic. Rachel is turning 30. She's a lawyer in New York and though she has a pretty nice life, she does nothing but sit there and whine about it without bothering to do anything about it. Her best "friend" is an over-the-top attention whore named Darcy, who is engaged to the "perfect" guy, some boring pretty boy named Dex. On the night of Rachel's 30th birthday party, Darcy goes home and Rachel sleeps with Dex. Uh-oh. What to do? Tell Darcy? Not? Forget about it? WHO CARES.

See, some writers could do something with that story. Make it a real conflict, show us how the incident could drive apart Darcy and Rachel. The big problem here is that Giffin makes Rachel to be a completely insufferable character. She whines constantly. She resents Darcy for stealing her thunder at every turn since they first became friends in 3rd grade. But she's such a damned pushover that she has never said a single thing to Darcy that would make her stop acting that way. She does nothing about anything. She just whines, constantly.

This is how every single scene in the story plays out:

"I'm Rachel. I hate my cushy life, my job and my best friend. But everything would be so much better if I had a boyfriend! Darcy tried to get me to have fun last night, how dare she? We've been friends since the 3rd grade even though I totally hate her attention-whorey ways. In revenge, I'm gonna have sex with her completely bland fiance that I am inexplicably in love with (mostly because he's Darcy's boyfriend and he talked to me once), and not tell her about it. I am such a good friend, unlike that bitch, Darcy!"

Ta-da! Now you don't have to read it.

This book isn't just boring and generic, it's obnoxiously boring and generic. There are no high stakes for anything that happens. I didn't care about any of the characters or what happened to them. Rather, I wanted to take Rachel aside and shake some sense and gumption into her, because her endless whining was driving me insane.

Don't read this. Ever. Don't let your friends read it. It's obnoxious, insufferable, and will just make you angry. It's not even worth the clearance priced I paid on it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book #4: "The Mist" by Stephen King

Oh, how I wish this one had been longer. Not that the length of this Short Story wasn't perfect-- I just didn't want it to end, you know?

This is King at his best. Short, quick sketches of characters, a terrifying phenomenon (a strange mist starts creeping over a small New England town, weird things happen), tense and scary action sequences and a look at what happens to normal human beings when confronted by the supernatural.

It's something every King fan has read before, and it's totally satisfying. We have the usual roster of characters: the Rational Family Man, the cute little kid (who, blessedly, isn't incredibly annoying this time), the Guy Who Goes Nuts, the Religious Nut (King just loooves his crazy Bible-thumpers, doesn't he?), the drunken rednecks. They're all familiar and we feel like we know them But as usual with King, it's not what the characters start out as but what they become that's so much fun to read.

How would you react if you were caught inside a crowded supermarket while something really horrifying happens outside? Sure, everyone would want to be the rational guy trying to keep things from falling apart, but who says we wouldn't be the one sitting by the beer cooler trying to drink away the crazy? King has always been great at this, and this isn't an exception. This is one of his best short stories--fast-paced, bizarre, and completely terrifying in parts.

But I do wish it had been longer, because it's one of those stories that you just want to see continue out into the larger world and--but I'll shut up and not spoil it. I'll just say that I was sad to find out it was so short. And that's a damn good thing in my book. I missed Old School King, and this was a good one to go back to.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book #3: "An Impossible Attraction" by Brenda Joyce

Godtopus bless the Romance novel.

Because after all that depressing, deep reading, sometimes you just need something mindless and fluffy to cleanse your pallet, you know? And when that mindless fluff just happens to be 99 cents as an e-book and a mere 200 pages, how can you resist?

This one kinda worked. It had your usual Bodice Ripper players: The poor damsel in distress, the rakish rich man with the dark past, a disapproving society and lots of longing glances and heaving bossoms. Not a lot of sexy stuff, though, for which this book loses about 50 points with me.

The damsel in distress is Alexandra Edgemont (Brenda Joyce loooves her some clunky names), an older (read: 25) spinster who has given up having a life in favor of taking care of her drunken father and two younger sisters. She's The Beautiful One Who Sacrifices All and Is Woeful and Always Crying Because of Sad Things. The stunningly handsome rake is Stephen...Covington? De Winterbottom? Doesn't matter. Clarewood, that's it. He's a fancy, rich duke who has a secret heart of gold and a way with the ladies. He sees poor, helpless, beautiful Alexandra at some ball and decides to make her his mistress, as he does. She immediately swoons into his arms (literally and hilariously) and falls in love with him on sight, even though he's heartless and unfeeling and doesn't have that much to fall in love with, honestly. So she decides to become his mistress, they have one night of mindless sex, then he gets angry because she lied about being a virgin (wait...what? so what?!) and kicks her out. This happens at least three times. I lost count.

It's all very ridiculous and overwrought, of course. Also flat-out hilarious in parts. Brenda Joyce just isn't a very good writer, and tends to fill her pages with ridiculous dialogue that sounds vaguely Olde Timey and is all just very silly.

My favorite part, though? I kept noticing how she kept repeating certain words, and much like Inigo Montoya I had the urge to shake her and yell "YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS" in her face. Like..."slammed". As in "Her heart slammed". Thanks to my handy and awesome little Nook, I did a search and found that, in a meager 200 pages, this lady uses the phrase "her [or his] heart slammed" a whopping 26 times (and only twice does she use the verb correctly). She sometimes does it twice in the same page! Another one? "Her heart lurched". LURCHED, y'all. I kept wondering if poor Alexandra just had a really bad heart condition, because that's just not supposed to happen to your heart, honey. I think you might be having a heart attack! The lurching thing? Used 20 times! I LOVED IT. There was also "Thundering", and "sinking". Lots of hearts doing things hearts just shouldn't do. I think Miss Joyce needs to learn some new adjectives.

So, you know. This book's just there. It's apparently part of a very long series, and definitely not one I want to read more of. I want my Romance Novels to have a little bit more Romance and a lot less disturbing things in it--like, say, less selling yourself to a man and then falling in love with him, or less loving him in spite of the fact that he's a total dickhead. That's just not right, people. Also: More sexy stuff. I don't care how hokey your dialogue is if you can at least have some fun sexy stuff.

That's way more words than this book deserves, but I had fun writing this. I'm still wondering why there's a British character named "Alexi", or what the main guy even looked like, or why Alexandra was so dumb. But it was mindless, silly fluff, which is just what I was looking for. And, seriously, I cracked the hell up every time someone's heart kept "slamming". Ten points for that!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book 2, "No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel" by Janice Dickinson

Well, that was intense.

Before I'd read this, the only thing I knew about Janice Dickinson was that she was that one screechy, mean and altogether hilarious (and terrifying) judge on America's Next Top Model who was crazier than Tyra Banks. And that's saying a lot. I knew she had been a huge model in the 80s, one who currently looked like a terrifying alien spider wearing a woman's skin, and that that was due to extreme levels of plastic surgery. I had no idea she had lived such a damn fascinating life.

This is an autobiography, and it reads like Janice Dickinson herself: crazy, intense, crude, but definitely interesting. She's not the world's best writer (by far), but the brutal honesty of her writing can get you past that pretty quickly. She's full of horrifying stories about the worst parts of the 70s-- Studio 54 sex, drugs, sex, celebrities who take drugs and have sex, perverted photographers, the whole deal. But it's not just a story of a spoiled model, because Janice Dickinson has one hell of a dark past, and the entire book is peppered with a lot of regret and shame, which makes Janice Dickinson incredibly sympathetic sometimes. I wasn't expecting that.

This woman holds nothing back. She fully admits to being spoiled, arrogant and shameless. She's seen everything and done everything (and everyone!) and doesn't care who knows it. There's something disarming about that much honesty. And she admits to her worse mistakes, and how none of the sleeping around, the drugs, the fame, ever made her very happy, because of how messed up of a childhood she had. The whole thing definitely shows you the dark side of celebrity and fame: when you have everyone around you telling you how perfect you are (because it'll make them money), why would you want to do anything differently? It's a terribly dark world, and the fact that she survived a whole lot of horrible things is proof that she is one tough, tough chick. And you gotta admire her for it.

I don't know who I'd recommend this to, but I'd definitely say it's worth a read. There's a lot of darkness in the book, but there's also oodles of dirty celebrity tidbits and funny stories. It's definitely memorable. I know I'll never look at Liam Neeson the same way again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cannonball 4, Book 1: "Interview With a Vampire" by Anne Rice

Maybe the third try (for me) is the one. The one where I finally review every book I read this year. Come on, Fig. Do eet.

There were two questions constantly running through my mind as I read this book. One: Why am I reading yet another book about vampires? And two: Why is it that people who write about vampires always have the whiny, boring vampires as their protagonists?

As to the first question: I don't know. I suppose after reading the shitfest that was Twilight, followed by the campy fun of the Sookie Stackhouse series, I wanted a different take on vampires. Something serious and dark, more along the lines of Dracula. So based on vague recollections of people telling me this was good, I picked it up.

As to the second question...hell, I don't know. Anne Rice, like Stephanie Meyer (ugh) and Charlaine Harris (in the first Sookie Stackhouse books, at least) decided to tell us about the constantly conflicted and whiny vampire. Like Edward and Bill, Louis is the one vampire in the world who isn't happy about being vampire and who refuses to have any fun while being an immortal, impossibly beautiful and powerful being. Why? Why spend eternity grieving about your basic nature and being miserable about who you are? Just walk out into the sunshine one day, kill yourself and save us all from having to read about your misery. Let the fun, crazy vampires like Lestat be the main characters of the story--they're so much more entertaining to read about.

The plot here is your basic Vampire fare. Louis is a vampire telling his story to a reporter sometime in the late 20th Century. He was originally a wealthy plantation owner living in New Orleans near the end of the 19th Century. He had a pretty good life until his brother died in a silly accident, which led Louis to become all depressed and emo-like, wanting to die but lacking the courage to kill himself. Along came Lestat, a batshit-crazy vampire who one day decided to make Louis his companion, mostly because Louis is rich. Lestat is outright evil and conniving, and pretty soon Louis gets tired of his company. But he still sticks around, whining and complaining about being a vampire, feeding off rats and other animals because he can't stand eating humans. He mostly just sits around and whines, waffling about good and evil, life and death and a whole lot of other very boring stuff. After a while he makes a young child, Claudia, into a vampire, who pretty soon gets sick of all of Louis' whining, too.

There's just so much whining. And what's most infuriating about the book is that the characters surrounding Louis are almost all fascinating in their own right. But, instead of focusing on them, Rice decides to just let us hear Louis complaining and wringing his hands about the things that they do. Claudia is a particularly interesting character--she's a monster trapped in a child's body, unable to change or grow and hating Lestat and Louis for it. She wants to do a lot of things--to take advantage of her immortality and learn more about vampires, while Louis just wants to sit there and...I don't know, whine some more. They travel to Europe and meet more vampires, most of whom end up getting quickly tired of Louis' whiny bullshit. Just like I did. Because it just doesn't stop, and pretty quickly I learned to just skim over long passages of Louis questioning the meaning of life and vampirism, because I wanted to get to the good stuff where the actual vampires do something.

It's just not a very good book. It suffers greatly from the fact that Rice picked an incredibly boring character as her narrator and protagonist, one who gets very tiring very quickly. And there's just too many passages where Louis just sits there thinking about being a vampire, instead of just being one. The story is slow and dry, only getting interesting when other people intervene--it's never Louis who does anything worth reading. I guess this might appeal to some people; those who want to philosophize and really think about what it means to be a vampire, but I'm just not one of those people. Or rather, I think there's ways to make this interesting, but Anne Rice just didn't do that for me. There's actually some good scenes in the book, but in the end they're too few and far between to make the book a compelling read.

I think my experience with Rice's vampires ends here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The End of Cannonball 3: Lists and lists and more lists

Cripes. Well, so much for keeping up with reviews this time. I kinda suck at that.

BUT! I did finish 55 books this year. I squeaked out the 56th at noon on January 1st, so I'm not counting it. I'm still pretty damn proud of myself, because reading 55 books in one year, while working all kinds of hours and trying to keep the house from becoming too chaotic can be pretty damn hard sometimes. But I made myself read at least half an hour before going to sleep and another half hour when I wake up, and it worked out pretty well. The one thing that saved me towards the latter half of the year was getting a Barnes and Noble "Nook" e-reader, which is an incredibly beautiful thing. I never knew just how amazing it was until late one night when I had finished Catching Fire (the 2nd book in the Hunger Games Trilogy) and I was itching to read the next I just went to the B&N store on the Nook and bought the next one. Right there. From bed. At 2 in the morning. Five minutes at the most. TECHNOLOGY! HOLY SHIT!

So, anyway. I still want to try and finish the reviews I have left. I'm pretty sure I'll join the Cannonball again for its 4th iteration, but I want to get #3 done and over with before I do.

Here's some quick End-of-the-Cannonball Lists!

Best Books of 2011:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. World War Z by Max Brooks
3. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend by Christopher Moore
4. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

Lessons Learned: I love series. And damn, there's some good Young Adult reading out there (both my #1 and #4 are so qualified). I also like zombies and funny books.

Best Series of 2001, Because Damn, I Read a Lot of Series This Year:

1. A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
3. The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris
4. The D'Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas
5. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Lessons Learned: Second verse, same as the first. I also like how this shows that my tastes in reading are pretty damn eclectic.
Worst Books of 2011:

1. The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory (GAWRGH)
2. Misfortune by William Stace
3. Dead of Night by Randy Wayne White
4. Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl by Tracy Quan
5. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

Lessons learned: I hate bad historical fiction, and I hate being bored by books. Also: there's a lot of bad writing out there and I'm glad I avoided most of it.

Tear-jerkiest Books of 2011, AKA: Books That Feel Like a Punch to the Gut:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
3. The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman
4. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
5. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

Lessons learned: Good lord, woman, stop reading books about the Holocaust. Also: Keep a box of tissues by the bed.

Biggest Disappointments of 2011:

1. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
2. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Lessons learned: Not everything Neil Gaiman does is gold.

Biggest "Wait...Did I Read That? I Totally Forgot:

1. Misfortune by William Stace
2. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
3. Fool by Christopher Moore

Lessons Learned: Zzzzzzz.....

Best "Damn! White Suburbanites Have it Tough, Yo" Books of 2011:

1. Little Children by Tom Pirrotta
2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
3. Needful Things by Stephen King
4. One Day by Dave Nicholls
5. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

Lessons Learned: The problems of suburbanites can make for really awesome books.

Favorite Heroines of 2011:
1. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games Trilogy
2. Sookie Stackhouse, The Southern Vampire Series
3. Elizabeth I, The Life of Elizabeth I
4. Arya Stark , A Song of Ice and Fire
5. Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief

Lessons Learned: Chicks are awesome, man. Modern literature really is creating some badass females, and I love it. Also, Elizabeth I kicked all kinds of ass.

Favorite Heroes

1. Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
2. Biff, Lamb
3. Oskar Schindler, Schindler's List
4. That One Yonkers Dude from World War Z
5. Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan: The Three Musketeers

Lessons Learned: Duuuuuudes. Dudes are cool.

Favorite Villains of 2011:

1. The Zombies, World War Z
2. Everything, Catch-22
3. Leland Gaunt, Needful Things
4. The Capitol, The Hunger Games Trilogy
5. Lord Voldemort, The Harry Potter Series

Best Comic Book, Not That I Read A Lot of Them, But This One Is Still Awesome:

1. Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton-- you can read her comic on her website. Do it!

Lessons learned: Kate Beaton is amazing.

Best People on the Internet for Recommending Books:


Lessons learned: Listen to Pajibans when it comes to books.


Damn, I love making lists.

Anyway, here's to some good books in 2012!