Wednesday, November 11, 2015

TV Show Review: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

So I know people were concerned, based on the advertising and the title, that this show was going to be sexist. Well, I randomly decided to watch the first five episodes and thus far, it doesn't trouble me at all. The story revolves around a young, successful woman named Rebecca. She's a Harvard and Yale-educated attorney who is on the verge of being made a junior partner at her law firm. She has everything she could possibly want, but she's stressed out, does nothing but work, and is utterly miserable. She keeps seeing these butter advertisements that ask, "When was the last time you were truly happy?" Well, one day she's walking down the street and she sees Josh.

Josh, you see, was her camp boyfriend when she was 16. He's a sweet, hunky dude with a positive personality and a laid-back attitude. When he sees Rebecca, he tells her he's been living in New York for a few months, but it's just not for him, so he's moving back home to West Covina, California. As an aside, he tells her it's too bad they didn't meet sooner, seeing as she's so hot and successful now. He tells her if she's ever in California, she should give him a call.

Rebecca's eyes glaze over as Josh walks away, and before you know it, she's turning down the partnership and moving to West Covina, California.

From day one, Rebecca is majorly in denial about why she moved to California. After all, West Covina is no paradise. It's portrayed as a shabby suburb four hours from the beach with an overabundance of pawn shops, cash advance stores, and strip clubs. But she insists to everyone that she is here for a fresh start, and West Covina just happened to be the perfect place for her. Yet, all the while, she's still looking for a way to get back together with Josh.

Despite Rebecca's decision to move across the United States to chase some guy she dated over a decade ago, she's actually pretty damn relatable. She's someone who was miserable and looking for a way out, and Josh just happened to suggest one. She has a feverish need for other people's approval, perhaps to make up for the approval she never got from her parents, and much better work skills than personal skills. She's also witty and quirky and prone to make literary allusions and do things like give courtly bows. All these things make her a girl after my own heart. And she's not entirely unaware of how bad her decision-making skills are. The one time she starts to realize that she moved to West Covina for Josh, she almost has a nervous breakdown. Luckily, her paralegal/new BFF, Paula, was there to talk her down from the ledge.

Oh, and did I mention that it's a musical? Yeah, that's the best part. For example, there's the "Sexy Getting Ready Song" in episode 1, which actually shows how unsexy the process of getting ready to go out really is. (Body hair removal, anyone?) 

Then there's the song about her girl crush, Valencia the yoga instructor, in which Rebecca confesses that she wants to grind Valencia's skin into a powder and snort it like cocaine. My personal favorite is "Face Your Fears," a song Paula sings when she's trying to encourage Rebecca to throw a party to get Josh to come over.

In any case, this show surprised me. There were some aspects of the plot I was 100% on board with, but I'm willing to see how they play out and I didn't find them upsetting or offensive. On the whole, though, I enjoyed it immensely and ended up going through the first five episodes in a single night. So if you like musicals, check out an episode and prepare to be surprised, yourself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones

Long before a lovable orphan named Harry suffered at the hands of the Dursleys, a lovable cricket-playing orphan named David Allard was hating life with his awful relations, Uncle Bernard, Aunt Dot, and Cousin Ronald. He tries hard to be grateful for the way they've looked after him since his parents died, but it's tough when all they seem to want to do is criticize him or send him away. When he gets stuck in their company one summer, he glumly anticipates months of misery.

Buy your copy here.

That is, until he meets Luke. Or, if Luke is to be believed, until he released Luke from a magical snake-filled prison. 

At first, it seems like Luke, charming and fun as he might be, is just plain bonkers. However, David's skepticism is put to the test when he's able to summon his new friend with the flick of a match. Add to that Luke's ability to start fires and wither plants with a touch and maybe he's not so crazy, after all.

But the trouble is, the folks who put Luke in prison aren't pleased by his escape. One by one, they show up to try to trick or force Luke's location out of David, with the most savvy participant in this battle of wills being a one-eyed gent who keeps company with a pair of ravens.

Ultimately, David will bargain with the one-eyed man to try to keep Luke safe, thereby embarking upon a quest that takes him through a bevy of Norse myths come to life.

EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE is a charming tale steeped in mythology, but offering a new and unique perspective on it. Between Diana Wynne Jones' capable prose and the likable main character, the pages flew by for me. Odd as he was, I also loved Luke, and at least one of David's relations turned out to be unexpectedly kind. If I had any quibble with this book, it's that I'd hoped for some clever twist or reveal as the pieces came together, a la HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, but alas, I knew my Norse mythology too well to be surprised by certain aspects of the plot. Still, even without any shocking twists or turns, this book is entertaining and well-written. I had fun trying to guess how each character and location fit into the Norse mythology motif. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to any mythology buff looking for a fun read that still has some cleverness to it.