Review: Yes Please


Yes Please
by Amy Poehler


2014 • 329 pages • Dey St.

The best story another person tells about Amy Poehler comes from Tina Fey’s Bossypants: it’s the story where Poehler and her BFF Seth Meyers are doing a bit in the Saturday Night Live writers’ room, and Poehler does something gross as part of the bit. Jimmy Fallon complains that the bit isn’t cute, and Poehler drops the comedy to snarl, “I don’t fucking care if you like it,” before getting back to being hilarious and gross. Fey writes about this incident with a peculiar, admiring radiance, like someone writing about the origin story of a beloved superhero, and uses it to jumpstart some discussion about women in the workplace. (The moral of the story? Be more Amy Poehler. This is a very good moral.)

The best story Amy Poehler tells about herself is as follows: during the promotion blitz for Baby Mama (or as we call that movie at the Church of Bowie, Labor Day), Poehler is having lunch with a non-comedian friend. Her face is plastered across taxis and buses and buildings in New York City and her friend is absolutely amazed. He asks her if she can believe that this happening. Yes, she answers—because she’s been working for a decade to get up to that point.

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At the Movies: Anonymous (2012)




2012 • 130 minutes • Columbia Pictures

Anonymous holds a special place in my biography—it’s the film that introduced me to theaters that serve real food while you watch, planting the seeds for my lifelong devotion to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. I saw Anonymous because I knew an underclasswoman in college who desperately wanted to see it. But the only place showing the film was a weird theater on the north side of town, so she needed somebody with a car, a free afternoon, and the willingness to submit themselves to Anonymous. And I, connoisseur of bad cinema, was that somebody. Off we went to Cinebistro, a restaraunt/theater joint with luxuriously cushy seats, a full bar, and twenty minutes of previews. I fell in love instantly.

And as for Anonymous? Well, Anonymous may well be one of the greatest bad movies of our times.

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Review: The House of Shattered Wings


The House of Shattered Wings
by Aliette de Bodard


2015 • 402 pages • Gollancz

Urban fantasy is a hard sell for me. It’s not that I dislike the genre as a whole, but more that I was never exposed to sufficient amounts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kiddo to develop a taste for it. (Instead, I was exposed to super sufficient amounts of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda. This means that I bleed unicorns and also means that when it comes to the new Warcraft movie, I am a reverse Alien vs. Predator: no matter if it’s bad or good, I still win.)

So The House of Shattered Wings never even made it on my radar until republished author Aliette de Bodard’s “On Colonialism, Evil Empires, and Oppressive Systems” back in September. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it; it is necessary and searing. It made me so excited for The House of Shattered Wings, despite my disinclination for urban fantasy, that I got nervous. (Although it’s not like that’s difficult.) Even after I started reading the thing, I’ve been Johnnie come lately to enough series that I was briefly terrified that I’d rented the second in the series. (This may seem unwarranted, but Memory’s review of An Apprentice to Elves excited me so much I accidentally rented The Tempering of Men instead of the book in question.)

Perhaps urbane fantasy is the best generic moniker to toss The House of Shattered Wings’ way—this is, after all, a novel set in the ruins of Belle Époque Paris, devastated not by World War I but by the war in heaven, brought forward several millennia. Continue reading

The Week in Review: November 15th, 2015

Stationery: Highlighters

Renay and I’s Adventures in Xena continue with “The Royal Couple of Thieves.” Spoiler alert: Autolycus is gross.


Normally, I do this post in chronological order, but I feel like it’s best to discuss the Paris attacks at the top. The Mary Sue has a post about what you can do to help. Yascha Mounk at Slate has a very clear-eyed piece about how to combat both radical Islamist terrorism and Islamophobia. I always feel so strange and useless in the wake of tragedy like this; I should feel sad, and do, but am always so unsure about how to translate that into meaningful help and action.

I hate that tragedy on this level strikes so frequently that I’ve had time to reflect on that.

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Review: Horrorstör


by Grady Hendrix


2014 • 256 pages • Quirk Books

Not a secret: I am a massive weenie. I spent middle school sleeping with my front to the window in my bedroom, because this would let me see the aliens coming, and I spent high school sleeping with my front to the bedroom door, because this would let me see the zombies coming. Even as a perfectly functional adult, I still screamed at the top of my lungs during my screening of Crimson Peak at a key moment, and that’s a (marketed as) horror movie that is barely horrific.

More of a secret: I spent the bulk of October scaring myself silly with YouTube theories and Let’s Play videos of Five Nights at Freddy’s.

For those unfamiliar, let me catch you up. Five Nights at Freddy’s is a series of survival horror point-and-click games, centered around a pizzeria with animatronics. (Think Chuck E. Cheese.) You play as the security guard, trapped in their office, and have to make sure that the animatronics, which walk around at night and attack any adults they find, don’t get you. The games ultimately become a resource management game, as your generator only has so much power and locking the doors, checking your security feeds, flashing your lights at the animatronics eats up energy.

What I enjoy is that it’s both terrifying and, refreshingly, not gory at all (except, briefly, the third). It’s the tension and the atmosphere: the game became a Let’s Play staple because there’s a very high chance of it surprising the bajeesus out of the player. When I heard that Warner Brothers had picked up the movie rights, I started dreaming about the most terrifying movie ever made getting a PG rating. (And also starring Ellen Page as the security guard. Think about it.)

So while I may not be able to sleep as soundly anymore because animatronics are after my dreams, dear readers, I have, nonetheless, contracted a taste for gimmicky horror. Which brings us to Grady Hendrix’s 2014 horror novel, Horrorstör.

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Page to Screen: Spectre (2015)


based on characters by Ian Fleming


2015 • 148 minutes • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Spectre feels like it comes from an alternate timeline: specifically, an alternate timeline where the double punch of Die Another Day and The Bourne Identity had not resulted in a hard reboot of the franchise. In this timeline, Brosnan bangs out another movie; Craig slips neatly and seamlessly into the role after fans mutter about how he doesn’t look like Bond (nerds: we’re the same in every timeline); and the quips and the gadgets are thick on the ground. It’s a simpler and more basic Bond franchise in that timeline. How back to basics are we with Spectre? Let me put this way: there are sexy naked ladies in the opening credits sequence again.

At the end of Skyfall, we saw Bond complete his evolution into a masterless monster; answerable to no one now that the one person who could control him was dead. What those final frames suggested was not that we could now return to business as usual, but that the inevitable attempts to do so by the institutions and infrastructures attempting to utilize Bond could only end in tears and explosions. (Just look at the way he sizes up Ralph Fiennes. He feels equal to that man, and that is dangerous.)

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The Week in Review: November 8th, 2015

New Jersey: Sunset

All I ever want to do lately is buy fancy pens and cheap notebooks. And eat chicken. The left command key on my laptop has decided to stop working, so we’ll see how long it takes me to either learn to use the right command key or give up and go to the Apple Store and refuse to let them keep Rory Eccleston overnight because I know that means a week.

Over at Lady Business, I shared my favorite book of October. Check out my fellow editors’ picks!

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Page to Screen: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)


The Phantom of the Opera
based on the musical based on the novel


2004 • 143 minutes • Warner Bros. Pictures

Crimson Peak’s box office may not be what Universal wanted, but I have been having a ball seeing it hit home with its intended audience: gothically and/or Romantically inclined women of all ages. I’ve seen (and, of course, promptly misplaced) tumblr commentary indicating that this was exactly what they yearned for as preteens when their mainstream and more current peers were focused elsewhere. All of this delighted sighing over romance and stylized frights brought me back to my own adolescence.

In 2004, back when I was a young preteen full of unspeakable urges (queer ones, not Byronic hero urges—well, not those Byronic hero urges), it was The Phantom of the Opera that captured the bloody hearts of the preteen Romantic hordes.

I mean, let’s face it: The Phantom of the Opera boasts a lot of similar elements as Crimson Peak. Beautiful, crumbling architecture, death looming in the shadows, young love, beautiful young women rising above their stations, gorgeous costumes, and brooding. Of course, there’s a Phantom in the sewers of Paris rather than [SPOILER REDACTED] in the attic, but both looming threats are surprisingly seductive. Oh, and there’s songs.

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Review: Honor Girl


Honor Girl
by Maggie Thrash


2015 • 272 pages • Candlewick Press

I’m always fascinated by stories about the messy process of becoming a person, whether that’s by developing one’s own identity outside of one’s parent, developing a sense of morality, or developing a sense of one’s desires. Chalk it up to a sheltered childhood or a belated coming out, but that process is fresh enough in my own narrative that I’m always hungry to see someone else’s just to compare notes.

Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl, a graphic memoir about Thrash’s experiences at Camp Bellflower and her first crush on a girl, falls perfectly into that category. Every summer, Maggie (as I’ll call the Thrash in the memoir to avoid confusion with the Maggie who wrote it) has attended the all girls camp as one of the few out-of-towners for years. She loves it, but, one summer, when she’s fifteen, she develops a crush on Erin, a nineteen year old counselor. Confused by both her first all encompassing crush and the fact that it’s on a girl, Maggie tries to make it through the summer like normal—but, of course, she can’t.

Maggie spends the bulk of Honor Girl puzzling out what’s happening to her, in a space that’s meant to be a safe haven for girls. But there are edges and limitations to even that, since it’s not a truly liberated context. Girls excitedly police each other’s gender presentation; Erin fights constantly with a girl named Libby over the ultimate safe space of the firing range; girls ritually tease and humiliate each other about crushes on the male members of staff. Once her crush on Erin becomes known to the main counselor, the counselor tells her that not only is being gay distasteful to talk about, but it’s an active threat to the innocence of the other girls around her. Because, I guess, queer kids aren’t entitled to innocence and safe spaces. Vomit.

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