Review: Everything That’s Underneath

underneath

Me and Too Many Words are now a Read and Review minion for Apex Book Company. (If you are a reviewer I’d definitely check them out here) They have an eclectic collection of really unique novels and anthologies. Their monthly magazine rocks. It’s an all-around awesome stop for horror, fantasy, and science fiction lovers. For my first pick, I went with Everything That’s Underneath by Kristi DeMeester. I was drawn to the breathtaking cover by Mikio Murakami.

I enjoy the darker side of fiction. Better yet, I adore the hint at more than we are being shown. Layers and layers of it. Kristi had me with the first line of her first story which shares the title of the collection. Both sets the groundwork and mood for the rest. Kristi’s lyrical, poignant style and sorrow-touched scenes bled together into a mystifying air that builds with each story. This is a splendid collection of her horror and weird fiction. Each story is truly a complex and haunting masterpiece.

If I had to call out one story as not only my favorite, but one that will stick with me for a good while,  it would have to be, The Wicked Shall Come Upon Him.

Wicked Shall Come Upon Him kicked me in the throat then held me in an embrace of flowing prose and clear, raw and painful images. Kristi paints betrayal and broken heart in a tale wrapped with the gleam of dark fantasy. There is so much to pull from each sentence. The moment I read the last word, I circled back to reread it. Just. Wow.

I definitely recommend this anthology. Kristi is a gifted writer and masterful storyteller. She juggles the balance of relatable emotion and otherworldly elements with a swift, fluid prose. So much emotion comes through each story which webs beautifully with the terror and tension many of them build.

You can find the anthology at the publisher’s site and on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

-J

My Thoughts on “Sing Me A Song” (Walking Dead Spoilers)

After last week’s frustratingly dull episode “Swear” I was really hoping this week’s episode would give me everything I love about the show. But after ninety minutes of a hodgepodge of shallow storylines, missed opportunities of serious badassery, and three too many useless scenes, I’m only more frustrated. I’m not convinced the writers know where they are taking the story and characters. Or, they are trying to milk as much out of the ideas they do have that they are willing to sacrifice the pace. From this point on there are serious spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up stop reading.

I’m really having trouble wrapping my head around why we needed to spend an entire episode solely with Tara last week only to rush from characters in Alexandria to the Sanctuary and on the road between. I was super interested at the beginning of the season. Negan gained control over Rick’s group with brutal force. We went to the Kingdom to find a tiger and a leader with an interesting backstory. Over at the Hilltop grieving, Maggie showed signs of being the leader everyone needs. My attention was in their grasp. After two kinda terrible episodes with only one more till the mid-season finale, my confidence in the storyline has dwindled tremulously. I had thought the first five episodes were pretty great (even the single focus on Daryl) but now it all feels like it’s going nowhere.

Spencer’s attitude towards Rick and every scene he was in really chewed my nerves. What was the point? I’m not sure where the writers are going with Spencer’s arc, but it’s hard to imagine any scenario that won’t be equally as frustrating. Is Spencer really gonna rise against Rick in a substantial way? Probably not. I don’t care about his character, maybe I’m alone there, I don’t know. He has shown nothing but over-privileged stupidity and has brought no value to the plot or crew. Can’t we just feed him to the zombies? Tara too, while we are at it.

There was too little Michonne. Watching her walk through a deserted country road while whistling was awesome and felt more like the real Michonne and not some watered down version. Her zombie barricade was cool! Side note: The whole let’s kill Negan thing would be cooler if a group worked together.

Carl shooting two Saviors was really cool, but everything after that felt forced and disillusioning. Is anyone else wondering why Negan has so many people willing to put up his cruelty? Yes, we have seen his numbers, and he kills people with a bat named after his deceased wife, but I’m not buying it. I want to. Negan’s prolonged smirk-wrapped words don’t bother me as much as some, but the storyline surrounding him doesn’t sit well. He tire-ironed some dude’s face for sleeping with one of his wives but doesn’t kill Carl? Throughout the episode, Carl tagged along while Negan went about his business which was weird. The scenes where Daryl and Carl made eye contact were definitely some of the better moments. After several uncomfortable interactions between Carl and Negan, they go back to Alexandria. I found it strange that Negan was enjoying the houses so much since he had already been to Alexandria. Was he too focused on the guns? The episode left us with the impression that Negan wants to take Judith. I guess? Either way Carl messed up. What started out as something cool with a lot of potential fizzled into something hard to follow. It would have been more believable all around if Negan killed Carl right away. Why doesn’t he want to? I don’t understand Negan’s motivation for keeping alive. Which I guess is what he was questioning himself at the end while he held the baby in his arms…
Surprisingly enough Dwight (who I can’t stand) and his x-wife were some of the most intriguing parts of this episode. It seems like one of them (probably the wife) slid the note under Daryl’s door, telling him to go. The conversation the between the couple on the stairwell was some of the best writing in the entire ninety minutes.
I don’t like feeling that the story is slowing down. It’s almost halfway through the season so it should be doing the opposite. Between “Swear” and “Sing me A Song” there were at least six times where I thought something cool was going to happen but then it didn’t.
Now that I’m sour about where the season has gone so far I find myself less impressed with the first few episodes. Pay off is important and there seems to be missed opportunities every four minutes. It doesn’t really feel like the viewers are being considered here. Believe me. I get the writer has to write. But the story arcs here are sloppy and disjointed. There is no impression that they are following the characters honestly since it’s impossible to get intimate with any of them.
So, yeah I guess I have mostly negative things to say about “Sing Me A Song.” I am curious where the mid-season finale is gonna leave us, and yes, I’m still a fan, just a frusterated one at the moment. Hopefully it’s fleeting.

Perfectly Imperfect People: Gilmore Girls Revival

It’s taken me a second to get my thoughts together on the four-part reunion of one of my favorite shows. Like many, I was counting down the days until Gilmore Girls “A Year in the Life” became available on Netflix. After waiting for a quiet evening, I lit candles, poured wine, and grabbed a box of doughnuts. Within the first five minutes, I was in pieces. I experienced so much emotion on a variety of scales at such fast rate I was forced to take breaks between scenes. Like, seriously there is a lot in these episodes. They are very dense. I was concerned that there would only be four. I wondered how they could pull it off. But, they did do that. I don’t think I realized how much so until after I had watched it through the first time. There are spoilers below so if you haven’t watched all of it yet, stop reading and come back.

Before I get into specifics that stood out to me, I’ll say this: As a whole, I thought it was incredible and everything a die-hard fan could wish for. The creators rode the perfect balance between giving us familiar nuggets to hold onto and the proper growth in these complicated characters over the last ten years. Just, truly gorgeous. Sure, I would have liked to have seen more Sookie and Jess, but I’m sure I’m not alone there. The moments they were present were incredible. I really felt like I was visiting old friends. Gilmore Girls first aired in 2000. I was a thirteen-year-old insecure, bookworm with big dreams.

Rory rocked my world.

Finally a character on TV I related to and not just aspire to be more like. And, Lorelei (oh, how I love her) I didn’t relate to her when I was originally watching because I was a teen. That being said, I would have taken her as my mother in a heartbeat. Even though their mother-daughter relationship demonstrated how the linked the two were, they still had their issues. As a fellow young and quirky mother (though not as young), it’s really refreshing to see it as empowering rather than shamed or mocked. The whole show holds this flawed heart that is so real. The strong-willed are capable of anything. I love that message. It’s an important one. I rewatched the entire series once I became a mother and enjoyed the show in a whole different way.

One of the best things about Gilmore Girls is hanging out in Stars Hollow with the characters. Starting the four episodes in the town square with both Lorelai and Rory was the perfect way to start off.

“I smell snow.” (Such a great line!)

How can you not love the very real blend of weird, heartbreaking, and determined? Both Lorelai and Rory have dreamed big since the very beginning. The fact that they are selfish, and sometimes self-sabotaging only makes them better, it makes them real.

Since the episodes were so chock full of emotion, references and everything that made us originally fall in love with Gilmore Girls and I didn’t want to comment on a stand alone episode. I have a lot to say, but I’m gonna just focus on my top three things about the Revival that I loved the most. Who knows, there may be more posts to come about this. Just, so good! Amy Sherman-Palladino and Danielle Palladino truly did an outstanding job. You can really tell their hearts were so in. I mean can you imagine creating Gilmore Girls? I bet those strong-willed women would get restless on the shelf.

First of all, without a doubt, my favorite part was Emily’s story arc. I mean, wow this was standing ovation worthy.  Losing someone you love is a pain unlike no other. The effects are life changing. I know first hand how the experience of great loss alters you forever. Emily’s life was completely centered around Richard. She chose the path of a career wife. When Richard is taken out of the life they built, it all no longer means anything to her. That’s such an accurate portrayal. Watching Emily deal with the loss of her husband and change while she grieved for him, simultaneously punched me in the gut and reached out with a warm hug that said: “I’ve been there too.”

Throughout the year, we watch Emily fall apart, go to therapy, sell her belongings, sleep in, get a boyfriend, and lash out very “Lorelai-style” at a DAR meeting. The best part of all? When Emily takes to the sea by moving to Nantucket. Gilmore Girls is known for their media references, but this takes the cake, partly because no one comes out and says it. Emily moves to a house on the water and volunteers at a whale museum in Nantucket. The scene where she is standing in front of whale art similar to art found on a Moby Dick cover blanketed me in chills. Another fantastic aspect to the Moby Dick reference is that Rory quoted it directly right before her Logan stole the boat at the end of Season 5. I’ve included the full quote below. It’s always been one of my favorites.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.” -Ernest Hemingway

Another one of my favorite aspects of the show was how unraveled Rory was. I’ve read several reviews that rips the revival apart for how disheveled and weak Rory is. The same reviews bagged on her casual and expensive affair with Logan. I love these things. Let’s not forget Rory was never put together. She was a perfectionist. Yale and the first round of Logan spit her out for a good bit. As a writer, I’m very familiar with what a confidence battle it can be. Rory’s confidence was never that great. She put on this facade. Maybe to protect herself? Maybe to remove herself from her mother’s exact path? I think where we find Rory at 32 in a very realistic situation. I found it oddly comforting.

The genuine augments hit me each time. Blowouts between characters on the show has always been something we can count on. While the show was airing on CW (possibly WB back then) the fights were there, and sometimes heartbreaking but nothing quite like the raw and impactful arguments that took place in the revival. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was on Netflix, or now that everyone is older and has been through so much the writers decided to leave out any lightness. There were hilarious moments then bam these arguments between Luke and Lorelai, Lorelai and Rory, Emily and Lorelai were so real. The characters just went there with what they said.

So, yeah, those were my favorite parts. I hope there is more to come. Considering how much they left in the air and the last line (which I loved), there is a good chance there will be.

Other Favorite parts:
Kirk has pig
Luke and Lorelei’s Alice and Wonderland Wedding
Rory’s Buffy reference
Rory writing a book about her relationship with her mother
Jess turned out to be a good guy (just like we knew he could be)

What were your favorite parts? Things you didn’t like? Share in the comments below!