Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4×16 Review (I Have a Date Tonight)

crazy ex girlfriend season 4

Last week, I started my review with a list of references and callbacks I found in the episode. I had a really good fun time doing that, so I thought I’d do it again. I apologize for the overuse of gifs and YouTube links in this review. I got excited.

  • Rebecca and Josh’s romance started at camp, so Josh brings her full circle by setting up a campsite for their date.
  • Rebecca’s first (crappy) date with Greg is at a taco festival. They had a good time, but Rebecca ended up singing “Settle for Him” in a porta-potty before going home with another guy. Greg planned to take Rebecca up in a balloon (where there isn’t a bathroom to flee to, not to mention no other guys). That plan falls through, but they do get tacos. Talk about full circle.
  • Speaking of the lack of bathrooms, Weird Al’s song “There’s No Bathroom” is a reprise of Naomi’s season 1 song “Where’s the Bathroom?”
  • When Rebecca is in her room before her date with Josh, there’s a giant stuffed alligator on her bed. Anyone else remember Ruth Gator Ginsburg?

nathaniel gator crazy ex girlfriend

  • In “Love’s Not a Game,” White Josh (and everyone else) sings, “the group mind has decided to bet on love.” The last time the group mind decided something, it was that Darryl and White Josh were in love. Historically, the group mind does not have a strong record when it comes to predicting romantic futures.
  • Father Brah is able to confirm that Jesus is cool with everyone betting on Rebecca’s love life because he graduated from Priest School. AJ is confused, thinking Father Brah said “preschool.” It’s the same mistake everyone made when Josh tried to join the clergy.
  • In the reprise of “Love’s Not a Game,” Rebecca sings, “This whole thing is a powderkeg. I have no choice but to cancel on…” She stops singing when she sees Greg, but fills the rhyme correctly with his name, spoken. This recalls the very beginning of the show when Rebecca sang about her move to “West Covina” and averted her rhymes at the last second to avoid telling truths she couldn’t confront: “My life is about to change. Oh my gosh. ‘Cause I’m hopelessly, desperately in love with… West Covina;” “Look, everyone, stop giving me the shakedown. I am not having a nervous… West Covina, California.”
  • Valencia lampshades the Greg recast: “He is practically a completely different actor now. And of course I mean ‘actor’ in the political and legal sense.” The show has a long history of breaking the fourth wall and then having characters immediately insert a ridiculous in-universe explanation for their odd word choices. It started with “Who’s the New Guy?
  • In the deadpool, someone predicted that Nathaniel would get trampled by elephants at the zoo. I don’t know about the elephants, but he sure does go to the zoo a lot.

nathaniel i go to the zoo crazy ex girlfriend

On to the episode!

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Dear Martin (Book Review)

dear martin
I will read anything endorsed by Angie Thomas or John Green. The fact that they both blurbed this one had me really excited.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone has gotten a lot of good buzz and it has been on my to-read list for what seems like forever. I’ve often heard it mentioned in the same breath as such books and All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The fact that Reynolds and Thomas blurb Dear Martin makes it harder to separate them. There’s no getting around the fact that The Hate U Give is the gold standard for YA novels addressing racism and police brutality, and while Dear Martin is a decent enough book, the fact that it is constantly compared to THUG only serves to diminish it.

What’s it about?

Justyce is a good kid who never thought he’d have to worry about race relations until he is racially profiled and arrested. After that, his relationship to race changes. Being black becomes a burden because he sees all ways it affects the way people look at him. Life at school is particularly trying. For every Sarah-Jane (who uses her white privilege to be an ally), there’s a Justin (who casually makes racist jokes and accuses his black “best friend” Manny of being too sensitive when he’s offended by them) and a Blake (who “ironically” wears a Klan hood for Halloween). To make sense of the world that he now sees with open eyes, Justyce writes to Martin Luther King, Jr. and tries to figure out how Martin might have lived in the modern world.

What’d I think?

I don’t know how to discuss Dear Martin, because it functions better as a think piece/discussion starter than as a novel. The more people discuss the continuing racial inequality, the better. However, as a novel… I don’t think Dear Martin is all that good. The writing is a bit juvenile, and Justyce and SJ’s debate class clearly only exists to allow Stone to engage directly in the discussions that need engaged. It’s a good thing to engage those conversations, but it comes across as lazy to abandon prose in favor of screenplay-like chunks of dialogue for full chapters. In those scenes, the characters almost cease to be characters and become merely arguments. It gets the arguments on the page, but they don’t feel organic. It’s like Stone has hung a lamppost: the only reason for this novel is this conversation.

There are some gaps between the story is being told and the one that I think means to be told. MLK’s thing was nonviolent protest, and Justyce tries to follow in his footsteps, but pretty much all the problems are solved by violent action. The racist policemen are neatly murdered off-page, and while there’s one line from Justyce about that not being the way to do things, nothing in the actual narrative condemns it. I think Dear Martin means to advocate King’s methods, but in actuality it seems to be saying, “nonviolent methods don’t solve the problem.” When Justyce tries to quietly and calmly speak the truth, he is spoken over. When he acts violently, he gets people’s attention. It’s the wrong kind of attention, but the only time anyone actually listens to what Justyce has to say is when he uses his fists. The only exception to this is a presentation on racism that he gives with SJ. Since SJ came up with the idea and did the project jointly with Justyce, though, it’s hard to claim that it’s Justyce’s voice people are listening to. SJ is pretty awesome, but Justyce shouldn’t need her to be heard.

In case you’re wondering, SJ’s last name does not start with a W. She exists primarily to be a social justice warrior (I say that with love; being a warrior for social justice is something to strive towards, not to malign), and her name almost reflects it. Maybe an editor or someone thought it’d be too on-the-nose.

Speaking of the female characters in Dear Martin

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We Are Okay (Book Review)

we are okayI’ve heard a lot of good things about We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, and since I have read and liked her work before, I figured this would be a good book to get my reading schedule back on track (I try to read 100 books a year, and I’m pretty far off the pace).

Summary: What’s it about?

Marin has run away from her old life. She has made a habit of being alone, and has gotten special permission to stay in her college dorm over Christmas break because she has no family to go home to. She looks forward to the solitude, but before that she has to survive a three-day visit from her best friend Mabel. Mabel’s visit promises to force Marin to confront everything she fled home to avoid; it is the first time Marin has spoken to anyone from before and Mabel, like everyone else, has no idea what happened.

Review: What’d I think?

I read We Are Okay in a couple of hours. I read for an hour or so before bed, went to sleep, and then woke up and finished it. So it is definitely compulsively readable, and the writing is certainly very good. The alternating chapters between the present day and to the time before, when Marin still lived with her grandfather, keep the reader fiercely focused, and the friendship between Marin and Mabel is very sweet.

The way that LaCour explores Marin’s depression is really well done, especially through Marin’s lack of interest in the things she used to love and the way she turns back on her belief that things are better when they’re complicated.

For the most part, I really liked the book. However, I feel that the brevity and simplicity of the writing takes something away from the revelation. Marin fled from her old life and cut herself off from her friends and family, and I had very specific suspicions about what drove her away. When I finally found out the truth, I felt strangely let down, because the scattered hints had led me to a much more traumatic conclusion. I don’t mean to downplay what Marin actually went through, since it is certainly no fun, but I thought that it was going to be something much, much worse. My first reaction was, “Really? She freaked out this much and uprooted everything and shut herself off from everyone for this?” I had to step away from the book and really work through it slowly to figure out why Marin was so deeply upset, and I don’t think I should’ve had to work that hard to have an emotional response to the inciting incident of such an emotional, internal novel.

What’s the verdict?

We Are Okay is a great quick read. Emotionally, it did not hit me as hard as it seems to have hit others, but I can still see that it is a well-written novel that deserves its reputation. Report card: B

My Cousin Rachel (Book Review)

my cousin rachelSummary: What’s it about?

My Cousin Rachel, written by Rebecca author Daphne du Maurier, tells the story of Philip Ashley and the mysteriously charming widow of his cousin/surrogate father Ambrose Ashley. It is a great surprise to Philip when he hears of his cousin Ambrose’s marriage while abroad; it had long been understood that Ambrose had no interest in matrimony or children and that his estate and belongings would all pass to Philip. Philip becomes concerned when Ambrose’s return home is repeatedly delayed and his letters become scattered and erratic, and one in particular suggests that Rachel means Ambrose harm. Eventually, he travels to Italy to visit Ambrose only to discover that Ambrose has died and his widow, Rachel, has disappeared. Suspicious and heartbroken, Philip returns home as master of his estate. He has only just settled into his new routine when he receives word that Rachel is coming to visit. Although he suspects the worst of her, Philip finds his cousin strangely entrancing.

Review: What’d I think?

My Cousin Rachel is an excellent book. I really enjoyed it. du Maurier is a master of suspense and atmosphere. Philip’s inner turmoil is really well done, particularly at the very beginning and the very end, and the central question of the novel—namely, did Ambrose really die of a brain tumor, or was he poisoned?—is terrifyingly compelling.

However, I have one complaint. It’s the same complaint I have with Rebecca. The pacing is really weird. The set-up is very, very slow. There is an exceptionally slow build up and then everything spirals out of control in the blink of an eye. Nearly three hundred pages elapse before Philip’s twenty-fifth birthday, after which the pace of the novel transitions from slow crawl to breakneck sprint. If you’ve read Rebecca, that’s probably not surprising to you.

The narrator of Rebecca stumbles around her new life with a misconception for hundreds of pages before discovering a secret that upsets everything and kicks everything into high gear. When I read Rebecca, I was bored until I hit that turning point and then I read the rest in a single sitting. My Cousin Rachel is not quite so bad. Thanks to the clever framing, the reader pretty much knows what is going to happen and constantly experiences the creeping suspicion and doubt that Philip slips in and out of, depending on how enamored he is of Rachel at that particular moment. There is also more going on in My Cousin Rachel early on than in Rebecca, so I definitely prefer it. I just wish that du Maurier had pushed Philip’s coming-of-age a few chapters forward so that we had slightly less time in the build-up and more in the falling-apart.

Philip is a great narrator because he is deeply biased. He makes up his mind about Rachel before he meets her and then quickly falls for her, so his judgement is never anywhere near impartial. Experiencing Rachel through his eyes is difficult because he is so clouded by emotion. Rarely has an unreliable narrator been used to such effect.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4×15 Review (I Need to Find My Frenemy)

crazy ex girlfriend season 4

“I Need to Find My Frenemy” is a hilarious episode. I liked it much better than last week’s somewhat lackluster offering, and that will be reflected in the number of quotes in this review. There’s a lot of everything in this episode. Lots of characters. Lots of callbacks. Lots of songs. Lots of color. Lots of jokes. Lots of growth. I laughed out loud multiple times, and then I realized that everyone is converging and reaching their destinies because there are now only two episodes (and a concert) left.

Left: Me @this episode. Right: Me realizing the show is almost over.

There are so many fun references and callbacks this episode, some obvious and some more subtle. I’m sure I missed some, but here are the ones I caught:

  • While buttering a piece of toast, Rebecca asks what she’s supposed to do now that her drama dream has fallen through and then says, “No, I’m not asking you, butter. You’re never any help.” Back in season 1, a lot of Rebecca’s decisions (including the move to West Covina) were prompted by weirdly specific butter advertisements.
  • The Math of Love Quadrangles” is a reprise of “The Math of Love Triangles” from season 2. Rebecca wears the same dress and references the props from the original number. Nathaniel, Greg, and Josh take over the roles of the backup dancers/singers.
  • When Rebecca and the others find Audra in the hotel room, Heather and Valencia explain that they’re there to help: “Females helping females. That’s called sisterhood.” This is a direct quote from Valencia’s season 1 song “Women Gotta Stick Together.”
  • “Women Gotta Stick Together” is referenced a second time when Valencia runs into “Denise Martinez, that bitch I cannot stand.”
  • Audra tells the girls that they can’t call her crazy: “You can’t call me crazy, because when you call me crazy you’re just calling me in love. BAM!” This, of course, is a lyric from the season 2 theme.
  • Heather explains that by coming to Audra’s rescue “We’re basically heroes. Dare to defy.” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs on the CW, which is famous for its superhero shows and uses “dare to defy” as its tagline.
  • Rebecca and Audra’s JAP praise fight is a reprise of their “JAP Battle” from season 1.
  • The horrifically expensive suits are Fett Regoso… the same Fett Regoso who has a perfume add during Slumbered and whose underwear line Josh wants to represent. Now that I watch Queer Eye, I’m more aware of Fett Regoso (he’s the one played by Tan France).
  • It may not be an intentional reference, but those super expensive suits the girls rock strongly remind me of their “Let’s Generalize about Men” wardrobe. Paula and Heather even have the same colors, and Audra–who is emulating Rebecca-from-the-past–is wearing Rebecca’s blue. Valencia and Rebecca, who have grown the most, have updated their colors. Is this me reading way too much into the costuming? Probably. Get over it.

Let me know if you caught any references I missed!

Now onto the episode!

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Supernatural 14×16 Review (Don’t Go in the Woods)

SPN season 14

Supernatural is headed into its last season! It got announced yesterday that season 15 will be the last. I’m not exactly surprised, but I also didn’t expect to read that. I haven’t been watching from the start (I got into the show around season 10), but I’m still surprised. I’m not either happy or sad. I think that the overarching storylines will get to progress without backsliding more now, which is good, but also… I guess that’s the end of all those “Supernatural will never die” jokes.

I was not really looking forward to “Don’t Go in the Woods.” The trailer for it didn’t excite me; it looked like a typical bros-only monster-of-the-week monster hunt. While those episodes were Supernatural‘s bread-and-butter at the start of its run, they don’t interest me much anymore. We’ve seen Sam and Dean hunting together many, many times. Routine hunts only really grab me when there’s a third character hanging around to change the dynamic. Honestly, I don’t even care who the third character is, though of course Cas is my favorite (for a character who has been around for more than 100 episodes, he hasn’t been on many casual hunts). Jack, Mary, Rowena, Claire, Bobby, Jody, Donna… there are so many characters who could tag along that it’s always a bit of a letdown when the original Winchesters head out alone.

Honestly, Sam and Dean’s side of the episode was pretty much exactly what I expected: fairly predictable, a little boring, nothing new. Thankfully, Jack tried and failed to make some friends this week, and his adventure was much more interesting.

Sam and Dean

Sam finds a case—a girl was killed in a forest, and though the official report cited an animal attack, the area has a suspiciously high death rate—and suggests rounding up Cas and Jack and heading out. Dean, however, makes it clear that this will be a brothers only hunt: Cas felt cooped up in the bunker and is gone, and Dean doesn’t want Jack out hunting with them until they have a better sense of what exactly is going on with him.

They visit the morgue and examine the body, which has burn marks around the mauling. This gives Sam enough information to figure out that they’re hunting a Kohonta, a monster from Native American legend. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t find lore with information how to kill it, but Dean is confident a shotgun shell to the head will take care of it. Ignoring the town sheriff’s strict commands to avoid the woods, Sam and Dean go hunting. The sheriff catches them in the woods angrily and tries to force them out until the boys explain that they know about monsters and they’re there to hunt it.

The sheriff did not realize that the Kohonta was a real thing until he saw it when his son’s girlfriend (the victim whose death flagged Sam’s attention) was killed in the cold open. He’s been trying to keep everyone out of the woods to protect them. He tells the Winchesters the monster’s history: Kohontas aren’t born. They’re made, and they can be killed by a silver blade to the heart. This one was created by a curse. It was one of the first white settlers in the area, and when a particularly cold winter came around he survived by cannibalism and then didn’t stop being a cannibal once other food was available. Instead of just killing him, the villagers cursed him to become an eternally starving monster whose stomach would eat him from the inside out if he failed to feed.

Honestly, what a dumbass curse. Like, oh no, this cannibal has been terrorizing and eating us. What should we do about it? I know! Let’s turn him into a monster who still wants to eat us, but who is a lot better at it.

crowley spn dumbass

It’s also worth noting that this episode has a really strange relationship with race. The Kohonta was one of the first white settlers in a Native American community. Both of the victims that we see have Native-American significant others. The sheriff and his son are both Native American, but the son’s girlfriend was white. The second victim, who is killed while hiking, was black; his girlfriend, who survives, has Native American features. Having observed this, I expected racism to be an actual, textual, tangible element to the episode but I don’t see that it is. Maybe it was just a weird writing/casting disconnect? Or maybe I’m just not seeing something obvious. If you’ve got ideas, let me know in the comments.

The boys and the sheriff have a discussion about lying versus telling the truth, specifically in the context of telling the world about monsters. The sheriff brings up some valid points, but the Winchesters are certain that the monsters of the world ought to be kept a secret except in special circumstances. I feel like they’ve explained it better in the last, but this time their qualms just sound… misguided. Since Sam ultimately advocates for telling the sheriff’s son the truth and Jack’s lie by omission is framed as something to be very, very worried about, I’m assuming that this is intentional and we’re meant to be reminded that truth=good and lie=bad.

The sheriff’s son goes into the woods to try to avenge his girlfriend’s death, but he fails miserably. He is about twenty seconds away from dying when the Winchesters and his dad happen upon him. The Winchesters get the son out of the way while the sheriff fights, and then Dean lures the monster to a place where the sheriff can finish it off. Sam encourages the sheriff to tell his son the truth about the monster, and the Winchesters head home.

Pretty straightforward and uninspiring.


Thankfully Jack’s side of the episode is more fun and more interesting. There’s more character work; the focus is on Jack struggling with his new powers, not on the deaths of characters who appear onscreen only to die. Plus there are some fun tidbits, like the callback to the Ghostfacers (man, I loved those guys) and the revelation that the guys have movie night every Tuesday. At this point, little domestic details like that are more exciting to me than a standard hunting trip.

Before heading out, Dean tells Jack that they don’t want to leave the bunker empty and gives him a shopping list. At first, Jack is frustrated to be left behind, but he cheerfully agrees to restock. When he gets to the grocery store, he runs into Max, Stacy, and Eliot (in case you don’t recognize those names, they’re the kids from episode 300), who are quick to draw him into conversations about the supernatural. Jack adorably tries to brush them off—

ELIOT: Are [Sam and Dean] hunting ghosts?

JACK: What’s a ghost? I should go.

—but is happy to talk when he finds out they’re in on the secret. Of course—having only hung out with Sam, Dean, and Cas—Jack has absolutely no idea how to relate to normal other people.

MAX: Do you ever, like, hang out?

JACK: Well, we have movie nights on Tuesdays. Dean usually picks. I’ve seen ‘Lost Boys’ like 36 times.

MAX: I mean with kids your own age.

JACK: Well, I”m two… enty. I’m twenty. Two. I’m twenty-two.

Poor Jack is so cute.

He is starved for younger company, so he agrees to hang out. He’s eager to make a good impression, so he happily engages with Eliot about monsters and hunting. Things get awkward when Jack tells them about demons—and how they can look like any normal person—and then tells them that he’s killed one. When he tries to demonstrate his combat skills, he fails miserably at knife-throwing.

The downside to relying on supernatural powers is that it lets you neglect your other skills. Jack is determined to demonstrate a good throw, and he tries so many times that it just becomes embarrassing. Eventually, desperate to impress his new friends, Jack whips out his powers. If he’d left it at his first successful throw and a few levitating tricks, he’d have been fine, but—along with many other things—Jack doesn’t know when to quit.

He whips the angel blade around theatrically (and dangerously), protesting that he has everything under total control even when the others  get nervous. Max calls for Jack to stop, but Jack ignores her until a terrified Stacy tries to flee and Jack accidentally impales her with the blade.

Jack heals Stacy, but it’s too late to repair the damage to his tenuous new friendship. Max, Stacy, and Eliot are now terrified of him, and rightfully so.

Then he packs himself away at the bunker and pretends that nothing happened. He only mostly succeeded at the shopping list that Dean gave him; he didn’t get the beer because all his IDs are fake and he doesn’t like lying.

Jack, my dude. You’re two years old but you look 28. Your biological father is literally Lucifer. You aren’t human. There is literally no way you will ever get a legitimate ID, so you may need to let that particular quibble go. Absolutely practice truth-telling in other areas of your life, but the ID is a place you’re gonna have to bend a little.

dean spn let it go

Jack is given every opportunity to tell the boys the truth about the incident with Stacy. Dean, newly bolstered by the whole truth=good thing, admits to Jack that he left him behind intentionally because he doesn’t want Jack using his powers yet.

DEAN: Because we care about you, you deserve the truth.

Way to go, Dean.

Sam asks Jack if anything happened while they were gone and Jack blatantly lies. Noooo, Jack. Way not to go.

I love Jack’s storyline this season. It’s nerve-wracking to see him flirt with the dark side; and I’m really worried for him. He walks the line between cutely innocent and legitimately terrifying this episode, and it is really well done.

I just wish that the other side of the episode were as good. Sam and Dean’s basic hunting trips don’t engage me the way they once did, and Dean playing into the porn-and-beer-loving dudebro persona always annoys me (now that we’re headed towards endgame, hopefully that’ll disappear). Dean is my favorite character because of the way that he has grown out of that and matured into a better, more three-dimensional character. It’s been a great arc, and the last thing I want is for him to revert á la Barney Stinson and/or Andy Bernard (I’m still bitter about those character regressions). He still has elements of his earliest iterations, but he has grown so far past what we see in this episode and the backslide frustrates me. I blame Cas’ absence.

dean where's the angel supernatural

Speaking of Cas’ absence… did anyone see a trenchcoat this episode? We’ve had such a lovely run of Cas episodes that I forgot I was supposed to keep an eye out for them.

Supernatural returns on April 4, and lots of characters will show up, including Cas (hooray!), Anael (cool), and Nick (booooooooooooo).

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Episode credits:

Written by Davy Perez and Nick Vaught

Directed by John Fitzpatrick

Starring Jensen Ackles (Dean), Jared Padalecki (Sam), Alexander Calvert (Jack), Skylar Radzion (Max), Zenia Marshall (Stacy), and Cory Gruter-Andrew (Eliot)

gif credits here, here, and here

Our Chemical Hearts (Book Review)

our chemical heartsI must have read a positive review for Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland at some point, because it was on my to-read list even though the summary didn’t sound like something I’d be particularly into. Despite that, I ended up really enjoying the novel and, bizarrely, the things I liked most are the exact opposite of the things I usually gravitate towards.

Summary: What’s it about?

Grace is not the sort of girl one normally falls for. She wears oversized boy’s clothes, has poor personal hygiene, walks with a pronounced limp, and distances herself from even her closest friends. However, fall for her Henry does. Grace’s odd behavior draws him in, and since—on her good days—Grace is funny and engaging, Henry starts to believe that she is the one for him. Despite his friends’ warnings that Grace will break his heart and the uncomfortable truth that Grace only seems to love him back when she’s drunk, Henry launches headfirst into the relationship with unearned confidence that it will last forever.

Review: What’d I think?

There’s one minor spoiler in this review. It’s an integral part of the plot, and very easy to predict, but it is still technically a spoiler. It’s not big enough to put in it’s own section, but I have marked it so anyone who wants to avoid it is able to.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Sutherland started Our Chemical Hearts from a laundry list of problematic romance tropes that she wanted to address, because it confronts a lot of issues a lot of romances (and especially teen romances) unintentionally play into. Depression is not mysterious or attractive, and romantic love does not cure mental illness. Love does not always last, and teenage romances don’t end in marriage and happily-forever-ever-after. Obsessive, stalkerish behavior is obsessive and stalkerish, not romantic even if the stalker believes him/herself to be in love with his/her target.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4×14 Review (I’m Finding My Bliss)

Remember when I said that Rebecca’s decision to pursue theatre was going to go poorly? Yeah, I was right.

umbrella academy klaus called it

Admittedly, I thought it was going to fall apart because Rebecca can’t hold a tune when the problem is actually that Rebecca objects too much to the backward, overtly sexist lines that she is asked to perform. I’m still counting it as a correct prediction.

It’s a storyline that, honestly, doesn’t work for me.

There’s a lot going on in “I’m Finding My Bliss.” In addition to Rebecca’s theatre exploits, the episode features Valencia’s continued quest to be a bride, Greg’s soft restaurant opening and a major life decision, Paula’s job hunt, and Nathaniel and Josh’s enduring feelings for Rebecca. With the exception of Heather, who merely supports Greg, every main cast member has something to do this week, which is great. Normally I would be really excited about that, but this is not one of the better Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episodes. I laughed at some of the jokes, I enjoyed Valencia and Darryl’s parts, and I was excited if not fully satisfied by the reprises, but as a whole I walked away from this one a little bit… meh.

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Supernatural 14×15 Review (Peace of Mind)

SPN season 14

I’ve decided that Steve Yockey is one of my favorite Supernatural writers. He wrote last week’s episode and cowrote this week’s, and both of them have been really fun. “Peace of Mind” is a sillier episode than we’ve gotten in a while, and the silly episodes are always amongst my favorites. I think at some point this season the costume designer was like… “You know, Sam doesn’t get to dress up enough” and then…

It doesn’t happen very often that Sam gets to be the silliest character. He’s usually the straight man while Dean clowns around and Cas is, well, Cas… so it was amusing to see him as a gee-golly-shucks 50’s dweeb. And he wasn’t the only funny part of the episode. Dean freaking out about the snake was also hilarious (lol at the recap reaching way back to 4×06 for Dean’s last snake encounter). It was also really fun to see Sam and Cas team up. There’s no question that they have a close relationship, but it is rarely the focus of an episode. Plus, Cas doesn’t usually get the episode POV, so that is pretty cool as well.

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The Road (Book Review)

the roadI have very, very slowly been making my way down one of those 100 Books to Read Before You Die lists. I didn’t actually bring my list to the library with me, which was a critical mistake. There are two classic novels with nearly identical titles. There’s On the Road by Jack Kerouac and there’s The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I picked up the latter; the novel listed is the former. In other words, I just spent two weeks reading what is very possibly the most boring, pointless book of all time and I don’t even get to cross it off my list.

Summary: What’s it about?

A man and his son slog down an apocalyptic road.

Review: What’d I think?

I knew this book was a classic, so I knew there would be some risk of not liking it. Classic novels are extremely hit or miss for me (for example, I LOVE Jane Eyre, Les Misérables, anything by Jane Austen, The Scarlet Pimpernel, etc. I hate anything by John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway). However, I was not fully prepared for just how much I’d be bored out of my mind. The Road may not be my absolute least favorite book of all time… but it’s in the running.

Caution Angry Rant
I have nothing positive to say about this book. If you liked it, you may want to find a different review.

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10 Reasons to Watch The Umbrella Academy

Since I get proportionately more readers on my TV episode reviews than my book reviews, I figured I’d expand my TV blogging  and talk some about shows I’m enthusiastic about but don’t watch on a week-to-week basis.

My most recent obsession is Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. I’m not a comic book person, so I’ve never read the comics the show is based on. I like the show enough that I may eventually go back and try the comic, but this list is from the POV of a person going in with zero expectations.


What’s it about?

It’s hard to explain. Here’s what IMDb has to say:

A disbanded group of superheroes reunites after their adoptive father, who trained them to save the world, dies.

10 Reasons to Watch The Umbrella Academy

1) It’s a superhero show, but it’s not a superhero show

Superheroes are super popular. You literally can’t avoid them right now. They dominate movies and TV shows in addition to their usual comics. They’ve even made their way into YA novels. For people who love superheroes, that’s a good thing. Personally, I do, both because I legitimately enjoy them and because my family has disparate tastes and superheroes stories are amongst the only movies we can all watch together. However, there’s a lot of superhero fatigue right now. How many MCU movies are there? Google says twenty-one. And that’s not counting the TV shows or the DC universe or the X-Men. Umbrella Academy is somehow both a superhero show and not a superhero show. It would appeal to superhero fans (that’s why I tried it) but it has a very different feel. It’s more family drama than superhero saga. Speaking of that…

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Supernatural 14×14 Review (Ouroboros)

SPN season 14

Clearly I’m going to have to put some effort in to get back on schedule for my TV reviews. Sorry this is late.

After an appropriately long THEN that reminds us of the major plot elements from this season—specifically Dean’s plan, currently on hold, to lock himself and Michael in the Ma’lak box at the bottom of the ocean and the current, shaky status of Jack’s soul—the episode opens on a weirdly sophisticated cannibal preparing a gourmet human feast to share with his pet snake, Felix. It’s actually pretty cool how they delayed the reveal that this is the monster. It’s almost always the victim who opens the episode, and I was prepared for Noah to get killed, not to do the killing.

Noah eats his victim’s eyeball, which lets him see Sam and Dean break in before they actually get there. He grabs his stuff and leaves hastily, and by the time Sam and Dean—and Cas, Jack, and Rowena—arrive a few minutes later, he’s gone. The Winchesters are frustrated because they’ve been chasing this guy for a while and he always slips away before they get there. They thought they had him for sure this time, since they brought Rowena in for a tracking spell. It’s not a total waste, though. Rowena notices that the victim has black residue on his lips, which gives the crew a lead.

The team splits up. Dean, Cas, and Jack go to a restaurant while Sam and Rowena do some research. The main reason for this is to separate the crew for some interesting bonding moments. Rowena is worried and curious about what is going on with the guys. The last time she saw Jack, he was on death’s door and now he’s magically back on his feet and seems totally normal. And Dean is holding an archangel in his brain. Which—as Cas says—isn’t sustainable.

Sam brushes away Rowena’s concerns about Jack by basically saying it’s fine. About Dean, he just says…

SAM: Because he’s Dean, and Dean is Dean.

Honestly, that’s the show. Any question about Supernatural can and should be answered with this quote.

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Darius the Great is Not Okay (Book Review)

darius the great is not okayI had no particular reason for reading Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, but I’m really glad I did.

Summary: What’s it about?

Darius Kellner is half Persian, technically. He’s inherited his mother’s Persian looks (and the racist abuse he gets from some of his classmates at school), but that’s about all the connection he has to his culture. He can’t speak Farsi and, aside from occasional and largely silent Skype conversations with his maternal grandparents, he’s never even met his mother’s family. Despite this, he’s no closer to his father, who is übermensch and endlessly disapproving. When Darius’ Persian grandfather’s health takes a turn for the worse, the family packs up and travels to Iran for the first time in Darius’ life, and his experiences there—as well as his friendship with his grandparents’ neighbor Sohrab—affect him deeply.

Review: What’d I think?

This is a very character-driven novel. Darius’ relationships are all balanced with an expert hand, and they are all extremely different and extremely compelling. Of course, by virtue of getting the most pagetime, his relationships with his father and Sohrab are the most affecting.

The official blurb emphasizes the friendship with Sohrab as if it is the most important aspect of the novel. Personally, I would argue that it’s second to the relationship with Stephen, but that’s not to say that it isn’t central. I’ve complained in the past about novels—even some of my favorite novels—producing a friend character out of nowhere for a protagonist whenever one is needed. Friends don’t just magically appear and drop their own lives and relationships when a hero comes calling, so it is really refreshing to see a friendship like the one that unfolds between Darius (or Darioush, as Sohrab and his Persian relations call him) and Sohrab. They like each other right off the bat, but the whole novel consists of their friendship gradually expanding and deepening as they get to know each other. Sohrab is an excellent character in his own right, and an even better friend. He’s not perfect (which is what makes him a good character) but he is kind, owns up to his mistakes, and works to understand Darius even when it’s difficult.

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Radio Silence (Book Review)

radio silenceI’ve read many positive reviews about Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence. It seems like almost everyone whose blog I follow has read and loved Radio Silence, so it has been on my to-read list for a long time; I finally found it at my new library and I’m glad I did, because it’s just as good as everyone promised.

Summary: What’s it about?

Frances is the perfect student: she’s the head girl, makes perfect grades, and is certain of success at university once she gets her inevitable acceptance. At home, Frances is different: she loves nerdy, patterned stockings and she enthusiastically and obsessively draws fanart for her favorite podcast, Universe City. Then Frances befriends Aled Last, whose twin sister Caryse was friends with Frances before she ran away two years ago, and discovers that he makes Universe City. Aled and Frances are able to be themselves with each other in ways they can’t be elsewhere, at least until everything goes wrong.

Review: What’d I think?

There is so much to like about Radio Silence. It is exactly my kind of book. The characters—all of them, from the protagonists to the minor side characters—are extraordinarily well-developed. Frances is the only POV character, but the other characters are so real that their emotional journeys are just as plainly realized. Aled and his best friend Daniel are done particularly well. I don’t think I could’ve have known Aled any better even if half the novel had been written from his perspective.

Frances and Aled are gloriously nerdy. They’re so enthusiastic about all the things they love, even if they keep their enthusiasm quiet when they’re out in the real world. The way that Frances and Aled bond over their enthusiasms is beautiful and very real, and I love how completely Oseman averts the boy/girl friendship = romance trope that is so ubiquitous and annoying.

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