SUMMER REVIEWS

July 16th, 2004

Summer is a good time to catch up on your TBR (to be read) list, and also to go to the movies, since everything (except on Fox—and maybe the WB and the N) is a rerun.

So I thought I would tell you what I've been reading and watching, and maybe, if you're bored, you could check out these books and movies (if you haven't already). Or if you know of some good ones I haven't mentioned, you could talk about them over on the message boards at www.megcabotbookclub.com.

So, here goes.

MEG'S SUMMER REVIEWS:

TV first, since it's the shortest, since there's nothing on:

TV:

NORTH SHORE:
This is basically the worst show ever, I hate it, and I can't stop watching it. Why do I even care? And yet, I do. Fox has MADE me care.

This show is best observed eating mint chocolate chip ice cream. Don't ask me why, but it's true. Try it, you'll see I'm right.

SUMMERLAND:
I tried to watch this show. I was EAGER to hate it as much as I hate North Shore, hoping I would not be able to stop watching it, either. I know a lot of you love it, because you keep e-ing me about it.

But it just doesn't do it for me. That girl from Full House…all I can think about is how Mary-Kate has anorexia now. SHE is not eating mint chocolate chip ice cream while watching North Shore. And that depresses me. So I had to stop watching it.

MISSING:
I have to watch this show, since it's based on some books I wrote. I think I can say without bragging that it's pretty good, since it has nothing to do with me. I really like the actress who play Jess Mastriani. Now, when I think of Jess, I think of her as that actress. Except that Jess in the books basically has a crew cut.

I like to eat nuts when I watch this show. Smoked almonds in particular.

DEGRASSI, NEXT GENERATION:
Okay, how big a crush do I have on Craig (and how great was that song he sang to Ashley, and WHERE can I buy a copy of both his song and hers)? But what is this I hear from my Canadian spies about Craig having impregnated Manny when he cheated on Ashley with her? The N is so not showing those episodes here and I can't say I'm too broken up about it because I really think it's about time people on this show START USING PROTECTION. For God's sake, did none of them learn a lesson from Spike in Degrassi First Generation? And okay, I guess in the context of the show, none of them were born when Spike got pregnant, so they couldn't have watched those episodes. But still. Don't they watch FRIENDS????

MONK:
I totally love this show about an ex-cop with OCD who solves crimes, and there are new episodes on, so I try to catch them whenever I can, only I never know what night they're on, or what station, so I always end up watching it at like midnight and fall asleep midway through. This is a problem, because it's a good show.

I don't eat anything while I watch this show because I've already brushed my teeth whenever it comes on.

NIP/TUCK:
This is the show that stars that guy from Charmed. Cole. I love Cole. I love this show because Cole is on it, and frequently, you get to see his naked butt. However, I don't understand what is happening on this show, except when Cole is on it. Because I always flip away to HGTV when they are not showing Cole, and watch House Hunters or whatever.

But I swear I'm going to stop doing this. Soon.

I don't eat anything while I watch this show, either, since it's on so late.

SIX FEET UNDER:
Some seasons I watch this show, and some seasons I don't. This season I'm finding it hilariously watchable. Lauren Ambrose, who plays Claire, and who was the original inspiration for Sam in ALL AMERICAN GIRL, is great as ever. The rest of the people I couldn't care less about.

Generally while this is on, I eat diet root beer floats (vanilla ice cream in diet root beer).

Okay, now on to movies:

MOVIES:

HELLBOY:
I don't know if this counts as a summer movie, since I don't remember when I saw it. But I still think it's the best movie I've seen all year. So I am putting it here. Four out of four stars for Hellboy.

SPIDERMAN 2:
This was a good movie. My favorite part was when the New Yorkers on the subway saved Spiderman. That brought tears to my eyes. The part I didn't like was when Doc Ock got all those packages delivered to him so he could build his second fusion reactor. Um, hello. What was the address on those packages? “To Doc Ock, Old Abandoned Warehouse By The River”? My UPS guy TOTALLY would not have dropped a package off there. This is why S2 was not as good as Hellboy in my opinion (come on: Selma Blair's Liz could take Kirsten Dunst's MJ in a smackdown any day), but it's still way up there: Three and a half stars for Spidey 2.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11: All the people I saw this movie in the theater with started crying during it. I understand President Bush's supporters are upset about this movie. I guess I could see why, but I don't understand why they just don't go out and make their own movie, telling the story from their point of view, if they feel that strongly about it. I'd go see that, too. I bet it would be hilarious. Three and a half stars for FAHRENHEIT 9/11.

SAVED!: This is the movie starring Jena Malone as a Christian high school student who gets pregnant trying to “cure” her gay boyfriend of his gayness. It was totally cute and I loved every minute of it. There were parts that reminded me a lot of my own high school, which was a public, not a Christian, high school. There was a bit of miscommunication with some of the staff of Bloomington High School South circa 1981-1985 over the whole separation of church and state thingie. Oh, well. I hope they've straightened it out now. Three stars for Saved!

DAY AFTER TOMORROW: This movie was kind of stupid (ahem: the mechanical wolves? Please. What happened? Was there a wolf shortage at the Trained Animal agency?) but I still liked it. At least there was a rational explanation for why everything that happened in it happened. It's stuff that could really happen (global warming causing an ice age), and it had Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) in it. Any movie where he and Dennis Quaid play relations is OK in my book. Two and a half stars for Day After Tomorrow.

HARRY POTTER 3: This was the best of the Harry Potter movies, I thought. I liked how it was all dark and misty the whole time. This is how I picture everything that happens in the books when I read them, so it was cool by me. Three stars for Harry Potter 3.

Okay, here's what's new on my iPod Playlist (please note: this is only what's NEW on the playlist. Damone, Halo Friendlies, Lash, Liz Phair, No Doubt, Bowling for Soup, Something Corporate, Rooney, etc are still there. They just aren't new to me anymore).

Warning: I am going through a heavily Pop phase. Please do not hold this against me:

MUSIC:

SO CALLED CHAOS by Alanis Morisette
Um, I'm sorry, but “Eight Easy Steps” is the best song ever, and also the story of my life. Alanis? Yeah, hi. Please stop spying on me.

PIECES OF YOU by Ashlee Simpson
I love Ashlee Simpson. Love her. Love her show. Love her sister's show. Love her sister's husband. Love their house. Love the mom's crazy dog. Love Ashlee's song. Will love her album. I love Ashlee Simpson. There's nothing I can do about it. Please stop hating me for it.

UNDER MY SKIN by Avril Lavigne
Maybe not as good as her first album, but totally decent. I really like “He Wasn't”.

METAMORPHOSIS
by Hilary Duff
I know you all hate her. You've told me so, repeatedly.
But I don't hate her. I have never hated her. I'm not saying she's any Ashlee Simpson. But “Little Voice” has been playing over and over in my head since I heard it. It's catchy. So sue me.

And here are some books I've been reading:

BOOKS:

SKINNY DIP by Carl Hiaasen
If you've read every book Carl Hiaasen has ever written, the way I have, you will recognize some of the characters in this book. But you don't HAVE to have read his other books to understand this one. I think this is his best book ever—about a lady whose husband pushes her off a cruise ship (but she doesn't die, and sets out to get revenge)– because he was very restrained with the slapstick, and you really cared about ALL of the characters, except maybe one or two, and they totally end up getting what they deserve. And no animals died, either, which was a relief because as I was reading, a lot of animals went missing. One alligator does bite it, but it wasn't like you got to know him first. Highly recommended.

#1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith
I didn't want to read this book because it's set in Africa and stories set in Africa tend to have bummer endings. I know this because I did African Studies as my “Culture” requirement in college, which meant I had to read a LOT of African literature. This mystery series, about the first female private detective in Botswana, not only doesn't have a bummer ending, but it's actually quite funny. Also, I learned a lot of stuff about Africa I never knew. If everyone on the planet read these books, I bet we'd all get along much better. There are a bunch more books in the series after this one, and I haven't been able to read them all yet, but I'm definitely going to, because these books are really sweet without being sappy. And I love the heroine.

DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDOROY AND DENIM by David Sedaris.
I have loved David Sedaris since his book ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY. His stories about his family are hilarious. I love his sister Amy, too. Some other funny memoir collections like this, if you like those kind of books, are Haven Kimmel's A GIRL CALLED ZIPPY and A PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT by Sarah Vowell. Laurie Notaro has a new book out called I LOVE EVERYBODY (and other atrocious lies) that I have just ordered. I will let you know how it is.

SOMETHING ROTTEN by Jasper Fforde
This is the fourth book in the Thursday Next series, which begins with THE EYRE AFFAIR. It comes out August 5, and Mr. Fforde will be touring the country talking about it. If you get the chance, go see him live (you can see his tour schedule at his website, www.jasperfforde.com). I have been raving about this series since last summer, when I first picked up EYRE AFFAIR. SOMETHING ROTTEN may be the last Thursday Next book. A certain Brit (no, not Mr. Fforde) snuck me an advanced reader copy, so I've already read it. Certainly everything (ALMOST—Mr. Fforde, if you ever read this, I still have a question about Thursday's brother) gets tied up at the end of Something Rotten. I can't recommend this series enough. Everyone who likes books will love this series. Maybe even Harold Bloom. I know that might be a stretch, but I hope someone sends him a copy (Harold Bloom, I mean. He's so cranky, he needs a good book and I think THE EYRE AFFAIR might be just the thing). It is totally awesome.

THE RULE OF FOUR by some guys whose names I forgot
I tried to read this book. I got about 30 pages into it before I had to take what turned out to be a permanent break from it. I found it very hard to relate to the characters in it because supposedly they are all in college, but none of them were acting the way I remember people acting in college. For instance, none of them were drunk. None of them were sitting in front of the TV watching Monty Python or a Madonna rock block. And none of them were going, “Should I go to ceramics? Or just blow if off?” like I used to. It just didn't seem very realistic to me. I'm sorry. Maybe I should give it another try.

RIGHT HO, JEEVES by PG Wodehouse
I had never read anything by this author, but Susan Juby kept going on about him in her blog. Plus my friend Dr. Michele Jaffe was all, “YOU NEVER READ WODEHOUSE?” Even her HUSBAND said this. So it was like a challenge. So I bought some and I have to say, it's very, very good, in like a dry, sarcastic way. It's basically about a guy back in 1920s England and his butler, Jeeves. The guy, Wooster, gets into these scrapes, and Jeeves bails him out. It's very calming and restive to read. I kind of wish Jeeves was MY butler. PG Wodehouse wrote a bunch of books, so I have a lot to get through, which makes me happy. Highly recommended.

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF MARY STEWART by Mary Stewart
Most people know Mary Stewart as the author of the Merlin trilogy, a set of books about the Arthurian legend told from the point of view of Merlin. I am not a big fan of Arthurian legend, though, so I can't get into these. The books of Mary Stewart's that I like are her romantic suspense novels. I have two homes now, one in New York and one in Florida, and I have found there are a few books I have to keep two complete sets of, one set in each house, and Mary Stewart's are one of them.

What makes each book so good is that the girls are just like you and me—totally normal, innately good people, who love animals and worry about little kids, and who narrate their book in the first person–and there's always a hot guy, who may or may not be evil, but who ALWAYS intrigues. Some of my favorites include, in no particular order, MADAME WILL YOU TALK, MY BROTHER MICHAEL, THIS ROUGH MAGIC, THE MOONSPINNERS, WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT, AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND, THORNYHOLD, TOUCH NOT THE CAT, THE IVY TREE, and NINE COACHES WAITING.

If you are looking for an author to glom onto this summer, I can't recommend a better one than Mary Stewart (although Jasper Fforde, PG Wodehouse, and Carl Hiaasen would be good, too). I wish I could ask Mrs. Stewart to do a live chat on www.megcabotbookclub.com. But I'm afraid she would say no, and that would crush me forever.

So I will have to placate myself by rereading every single one of her books this summer.

Well, that is it for my summer reviews. If you've discovered some new book or TV show, or movie or musician that you think we should try, be sure to let the message board know!

Don't despair: we're almost halfway through the summer, so there's still plenty of time to get through that TBR pile. Just leave the cell phone at home, go to the pool or beach, and dive in! And don't forget the sunscreen.

More later.

Much love,

Meg