These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories


In his debut book, Luke Mogelson masterfully weaves together 10 stories linked by the war in Afghanistan. Each story shows a glimpse into the life of a veteran, a family member of a veteran, or a civilian living abroad, at some point during or after their time in Afghanistan. It demonstrates the harrowing effect of war on those we send to fight it and those they’ve left behind. Some of the stories contain characters that shows up in another story in the book and you learn something more about what happened to them before or after their previous appearance. This book illustrates that many who have fought in a war have a hard time adjusting to life outside the military once they return home. Many of the stories even seem to end abruptly, without much explanation of what happened next. This could be frustrating at times, but I think it’s poetic that the endings weren’t always tied up with a nice little bow. By now we’ve all heard of PTSD, but it can manifest itself in different ways. I think this book is an excellent example of how people cope (or don’t) in different ways.


Beautifully written with countless haunting passages

Tragic insight into PTSD and the multitude of experiences in war

Includes stories about what it’s like for a contractor or civilian in Afghanistan during war time, which is a view that hasn’t been talked about as much as the experience of soldiers


Some of the abrupt endings left me confused

It wasn’t always clear when a character from another story showed up, I had to reference the book jacket multiple times as it mentions all the stories that are tied together.

Quotable quotes:

“It was my favorite because it angled out to a wide base that made it difficult to knock over, because there was often vodka in it instead of coffee, and because the wide base meant that the more you drank, the harder it became to reach the bottom.”

“Nowadays, only the families remain: fathers with nothing else to give their sons, sons with no one else to be except their fathers.”

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Ink and Bone

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 6.46.35 PMInk and Bone by Lisa Unger is not to be confused with Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, which was also released this year. Although, the book by Caine DOES sound interesting so I might read that one too…but for now I’m talking about Lisa Unger’s new book. Ink and Bone is a supernatural thriller about Finley, a young woman who uses her psychic powers to solve the case of a missing girl. The book follows the people living in and affected by the town of The Hollows after a young girl is abducted. Months pass with no leads so the desperate mother turns to a private detective and his psychic friend as a last ditch effort. This is Finley’s first time trying to use her ability so she’s filled with insecurity and doubt. Unger vividly paints the portrait of a small town where everyone knows everyone. The abduction of this girl has rocked her family to the core and made a mess of their lives. They’re unable to move on even though there’s little hope of finding her alive.

I’ll start with the things I liked about the book. In general I thought it was well written and enjoyed the story. It kept me engaged enough that I finished it in a day when I had a hard time putting it down. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but it seemed like the marriage of the parents was well written. It was flawed and shaky and seemingly always on the verge of completely breaking apart. I particularly resonated with the line, “More than anything else, resentment was the death of love. It killed slowly.” I typically would not be drawn to a story with a supernatural element but this one handled it well. Skepticism was acknowledged and the visions never seemed to overwhelm the narrative.

There were however, a couple of things about the book that bugged me. Finley herself seem like a bit of a cliche. A girl with pink hair who rides a motorcycle and covers her body in tattoos to “make the outside match the inside.” The ending managed to mostly catch me by surprise but in retrospect, it didn’t really seem to make sense. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. Also, Unger seems to have some serious disdain for millennials. There are a couple of times in the book where they’re harshly maligned such as with this gem, “People of her generation were all about texting, which was just one example of their soullessness.” I mean, I get it, everyone hates millennials, let’s move on please. The texting dialogue between young characters was also a bit over the top and she was constantly referencing apps like, “with a flashlight app on his phone” or “she typed the coordinates into an app on her phone.” I don’t know anything about Unger but it seemed like she was either an older person trying to write like she’s hip with this generation, or she was writing for an older generation that would need these things to be explained. I know this is totally nitpicky, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes in these moments.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It was gripping and fast-paced. I thought the story was well done and the characters felt like real people, outside of the Finley cliche that is. I’d recommend this as a light and quick read if you like thrillers and don’t mind the supernatural.


DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Book Review: The Last One

The Last One Cover

I had the pleasure of reading Alexandra Oliva’s debut novel about a woman who joins a survivoresque reality show for some adventure, and finds herself fighting to survive for realsies. In this show 12 people are left to survive in the woods and face challenges that have been set up before them. The producers have given all the contestants nicknames that boil each person down to their profession or stereotype. There’s Biologist, Black Doctor, Tracker, Rancher, Asian Chick, and so on. The book is from the POV of Zoo, a young woman looking for one last adventure before settling down and starting a family. What the contestants don’t know is that while they are traipsing around the woods, a real tragedy has struck the world. As the weeks progress Zoo finds herself coming across increasing evidence that maybe the devastation she’s been stumbling upon isn’t all a setup for the show.

While the premise itself isn’t anything groundbreaking, I found this book to be a fascinating look into media, the internet, and reality TV. In some of the chapters we witness what takes place in the editing room as the producers and editor tailor the show and it’s characters to what they want the world to see. These chapters also often end with the comments section of a Reddit like forum discussing the show. The rest of the time we travel along with Zoo as she tries to survive in the wild. As things around her get crazier and crazier she stretches further and further to convince herself that it’s all a part of the show. At times it becomes frustrating, almost unbelievable that she hasn’t figured out that what’s happening is real. But you come to realize that people often would rather live in denial than face the truth.

I saw a lot of myself in Zoo, as I’m sure many readers will. I also drew a lot of parallels with her marriage and my own. As she Lord-of-the-rings it through the wild she reflects on the life, and husband, she left behind. She feels real, as does many of the other characters. Even the typical useless-but-hot girl, Waitress, has enough time to show some depth and nuance. While the show has broken them all down into one-dimensional cartoons of humans, they still come across as people.

This book is already showing up on lists of great beach reads, but I think it’s much more than that. I think beach books don’t usually make you think too hard about the world in which you live. While The Last One doesn’t say anything we don’t already know about reality shows and the media, it still weaves it into the narrative in a way that opens your eyes to it without hitting you over the head. I read the book in one sitting so it’s definitely a quick read. And I’ll admit, there was a point that I ugly cried. Like UGLY. CRIED. HARD. But I’m so glad I read it. It’s one that will be sticking with me for a while.


DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

The Best And Worst Of Oscar Fashion

The Academy Awards were last night. Did you watch? I sure did. If you’re keeping track at home I was dead on with my predictions post on Saturday. Most were easy to guess but I’m quite proud I got Melissa Leo right considering most people were guessing Hailee Steinfeld. For my troubles I won an awesome gift bag at my friends party. Among many other things there was a black feathered crown (Black Swan) and a tiny glittery cowboy hat (True Grit). It was quite epic.

Anyway, on to the point of this post: fashion! There were a lot of gorgeous gowns last night. I feel like a lot of people played it safe so there weren’t too many “WTF is she wearing?” moments. There was a scant amount of color on the red carpet. A lot of creams, gold, and neutrals which made it a little bland. If it was a color, it was generally scarlet red. Naturally most of my favorite picks injected a bit of much needed color to the night.

Here are my top 5 favorites:


Hailee Steinfeld


I. Love. This. Dress. It is so pretty and feminine. Not to mention age appropriate. Unlike many other famous teens who choose to dress as sexy as possible in an effort to assert their maturity, Hailee went with something modest but crazy adorable. I also love how different she looks from her character in True Grit! Long gone is the “unattractive to boot” nuisance, hello lovely lady!


Natalie Portman


I just knew she’d look amazing. Natalie consistently shines on the red carpet and last night was no exception. She picked a perfectly cut dress to accentuate her  “I’ve got a baby sprouting” bosom that flowed down gracefully over her belly. And the color is absolutely stunning! One problem I have, her earrings.  Tassels? Really? They looked like they belong at the ends of my curtains.


Mila Kunis


Another beautiful lady kind enough to give us some color at the ceremony. The lace at her bust is ultra feminine while being super sexy without crossing over into slutty territory. I’m pretty sure that had to be taped to her to prevent a little nip slip, but it looked great.


Scarlet Johansson


I have to admit, I’m one of those women who hates her. Hates her cause she’s so effing beautiful. I mean, I’d so go gay for this woman. I’m glad she didn’t disappoint this year. Again, pretty color. Love. Also, lace. Just a hint of skin left us wanting more. Her hair looked great too. Just the right combo of loose curls and a little “bedhead” messiness achieved a glamorous and sexy look.


Amy Adams


It must be so much fun to be a redhead. There are many colors that go well on a ginger and make an outfit pop. Amy picked the perfect color to match her mane. The modest neckline was offset by the form fit and showed off her slim body. I’m not a big fan of her necklace, but I’m willing to forgive her.


Now for my top 5 least favorite:


Cate Blanchett


This outfit could have been great. I love the color. Her hair and make-up are so soft and ethereal. Soooo close. But no, someone had to make a weird picture frame type outline on her chest and stick barnacles all over this perfectly lovely dress. Still, I give her a lot of credit for being one of this few women this year who took a risk. Still love you Cate.


Reese Witherspoon


Reese makes it onto this list solely on the merit of her hair. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a side shot to fully show the extent of this atrocity but trust me, it’s bad. It looks like someone crossed a Barbie doll with a pageant queen. Pageant Queen Barbie. The ponytail is a big poof of fake hair that just might have actually come from a horse. She also played it uber safe with a black strapless dress.


Nicole Kidman


Ah Nicole. So regal and beautiful. And yet so so wrong. She has actually made quite a few fashion missteps in the past so this one will just be added to the list. I’m fairly certain this dress was made by folding a napkin into a Japanese inspired origami dress. Big fashion risk that did NOT pay off.


Melissa Leo


Once an actress becomes crazy famous they usually hire a stylist to get them ready for awards shows. Often the biggest fashion flops are made by women who are just new enough to fame that they haven’t yet hired someone to tell them what to wear. I applaud her commitment to wearing something she loves, but it just didn’t work. The fabric looked like a doily and she had a ridiculous popped collar. I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of her in the coming years and hopefully she’ll pick up a thing or two about fashion along the way.


Gwyneth Paltrow


I’m not a big fan of shiny gold dresses but I actually like this one on her. My problem is her hair and make-up. Her hair is crazy bleached out and I’m pretty sure she just ran a straightener through it before heading to the biggest night in Hollywood. Her make-up is waaay to neutral and coupled with her hair and tan skin almost make her looks ill. Or at least more like a trophy wife spending too much time in the tanning salon.


Well that’s it! All in all and okay year for the Oscars. Now that awards season is officially over everyone will have to go back to paying attention to more important things. 

Oscar Predictions


It’s that time of year! As an avid movie lover I relish awards season. I love the movie stars, the dresses, and most of all, the Oscars. I know a lot of people find them boring but I think they’re fantastic. I love the speeches. To me it’s a great insight into some of my favorite stars. Which ones just read off names and put people to sleep? Which ones just cry? And which select few, use the speech as a chance to be funny and interesting? I’m looking at you Clooney. Great speech in 2006.

So as someone who loves the Oscars so much I naturally like to come up with my list of predictions. Let me take a moment to pat myself on the back and say that at Oscar parties I’ve been to for the last three years, I’ve won the Oscar pool every time. Granted, I’m usually the only one there who pays a shit ton of attention to awards season, but it still makes me feel special. So fuck off with your judgement. I made sure to see all of the main nominated films this year and it’s definitely been a good year.

And now onto the predictions! I’ll just do the top 6 since that’s all most people care about anyway. Kidding. I care. I care a lot Mr. Sound Editor.

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

This is one of the “anyone’s game” categories this year. I feel like the top contenders are Helena Bonham Carter and Melissa Leo. I think the Oscars will highly favor The King’s Speech tonight and that may trickle down to Bonham Carter. However, almost everyone I’ve talked to about The Fighter has come away talking about Bale and Leo (and the sisters of course). Her performance stands out just enough that I think she’ll edge out Bonham Carter to take the Oscar home.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Hollywood sure has been sucking Renner’s dick ever since The Hurt Locker. Maybe they feel bad about not giving him the statue last year, but not enough to give it to him this year. Rush was amazing in The King’s Speech. He made the movie. I thought it was going to be drab and boring but the relationship between him and Firth was perfect. The Oscar is going to go to Bale though. There are few actor’s who throw themselves into a role as much as he does. I think he chooses “transformation” roles to keep his street cred while still doing the Batman movies. I think it will pay off this year and he’ll ride in his limo home a winner.

Best Actress:
Natalie Portman – The Black Swan
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

I really wish they could give it out to two people this year. Both Portman and Williams deserve it. Blue Valentine left me emotionally fucked up for a couple of days. Williams was so hauntingly real and wonderful. This award is all Portman’s however. There’s no doubt she’ll win. Black Swan would not have been the same movie without her desperate, fragile, tortured ballerina. She was phenomenal.

Best Actor:
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Javier Bardem – Biutiful
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
James Franco – 127 Hours

I really wish Jeff Bridges would win for this one (and why wasn’t Damon nominated for supporting? He was fantastic also). He has a already won an Oscar though and Firth has not. He also deserved one for last years A Single Man. Sometimes the Academy likes to give awards not for the individual performance, but as more of a, “Well you’ve done a lot of great work and we think you should have a statue.” Firth is a consistently great actor and deserves to have one of these on his shelf.

Best Director:
David O. Russell – The Fighter
Joel and Ethan Coen – True Grit
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech

I find it endlessly amusing that years ago Aronofsky was attached to direct The Fighter with Brad Pitt at the helm. He dropped it and picked up Black Swan and now he’s up against his previous project. Funny. Anyway, neither of them are going to win. All of these films are great with equally talented directors. I think this year belongs to The King’s Speech so I’m giving it to Hooper. And since traditionally (though not always) Best Picture and Best Director go hand-in-hand…

Best Picture:
Toy Story 3
The Social Network
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The King’s Speech
True Grit
The Fighter
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right

I’m not a fan of the extended 10 film nomination. Everyone knows they did it just to let a few more “commercial” films in there to attract a wider audience. The Oscars favor indie films and always will. That being said, damn I wish Inception would win. Best Picture in my heart. This year it was really hard to decide. I think it’s between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. I feel like The Social Network has more of an “epic” feel to it that the Oscars love but I think it’s just commercial enough though that they would rather give it to the slightly smaller film, The King’s Speech. I’m not 100% confident of this position, but it’s what I’m going to stick with.

So! What do you think? Did I get any wrong? Which films do you favor to win? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Early in the week I’ll be back with a fashion review of the dresses on the red carpet.

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