Friday, May 21, 2010

Current Obsessions

Since I've been in the writing cave, I haven't had much time to share my current obsessions with the blogosphere, so here's the stuff that's been sustaining my creativity and exciting me lately.


You guys all know I'm obsessed with SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready. But in case you missed it, I lavished praise on it here and interviewed the main character here. Seriously, I wish I could go back in time and give this book to my teenage self. It is everything that I wanted back then: edgy, punk, mysterious, spooky, and engaging.

Another book I wish I could back in time and give myself is HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly. I reviewed that one here a few months ago, but it is FINALLY coming out on Tuesday, so you absolutely must buy it. If you like my books, I can tell you for sure that you will adore this one. It's about a girl with "a touch of Asperger's" who is moved around a lot by her mom and definitely feels like an outsider, but she has an incredible love of music that sustains her and helps her connect to others. It just captures the feeling so many of us had as outsiders in high school and makes you question what "normal" really is. Seriously, buy it now. You'll probably read it in one day like I did and then you will be all ready for Tara's Women Who Rock Wednesday interview which is coming on June 2nd!

I just finished THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by Kay Cassidy. Kay was so funny when I told her I loved it because apparently she thought I would hate it. She said it's very different from my books and she was afraid since it includes cheerleading and makeovers it might get dismissed as fluff. Don't let the cover fool you. It is not fluff. It's a light read, yes, but that's perfect for summer. And yes it is very different from the two books I mentioned above and from my books in some respects. Though the main character Jess is a cheerleader, she still feels like an outsider and she still deals with all the image issues so many of us face. Most important, like the other two books I mentioned, this is an incredibly EMPOWERING read. As I told Kay, I wish The Cinderella Society existed in our world where there are far far too many Wickeds or mean girls. I wish the cheerleaders in my high school had been like Jess and her friend SJ because maybe I wouldn't have felt such a division between them and me. Would I have read this book in high school? Probably not. But I cheated myself out of a lot of things in high school because I was concerned with image in my own way. I embraced being an outsider to such a degree that everything I did had to be in line with my outsider image. And that's just as silly as doing everything you do in order to fit in. So now I embrace everything that appeals me, from pop like P!nk to hardcore punk like Refused. My favorite movie may be City of Lost Children but the TV show I watch every day? One Life to Live. So that is why THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY fits in just fine for me with these other two books. It was a really fun, light read that had a very serious empowering message.

Breaking with the YA/female writer mold, I also just finished by a memoir, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. It was suggested by a friend when I was looking to change up my reading and because I've been working on my bartender book. As much as it sometimes frustrates me, I do love my night job bartending at the Beacon Pub. It's a neighborhood pub and it fascinates me to no end the different stories that I hear there, the way people who probably wouldn't even acknowledge each other on the street become friends there and how I have developed so many friendships with a variety of people while working there. This memoir is about a boy who grew up without a father and in his search for one, he found a group of men at a neighborhood bar. I knew I would love the book from the first paragraph of the prologue, which sums up my experience of five years working at The Beacon and why I wanted to write a book set largely in a bar:

“We went there for everything we needed. We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.”


I need to read a book every night before bed or I don't sleep well. (I have noticed this on the nights when I work and try to go straight to bed.) But my other form of unwinding is definitely TV. During my outsider teenage years, I swore off TV (except my secret One Life to Live obsession). I thought TV was a braincell killer, a poor substitute for a book, mindless entertainment that was making us more stupid as a society. And there still is a lot of crap on TV. (But some of it is just too funny, like Rock of Love.) But there is also a lot of good guilty pleasure unwind drama stuff for me like OLTL, 90210, and Melrose Place. And then there are some shows that are telling incredible stories. Honestly, now I'd watch more TV if I had more time. And I love how you can get shows on DVD and catch up on what you missed out on now.

In addition to my regular viewing, I am in the process of watching two series. My husband and I get Netflix and we have one queue for movies and one for TV on DVD. Recently we watched Deadwood and Freaks & Geeks, both of which I adored. Currently we are watching Battlestar Galactica. I resisted this for a long time. I don't know why. As a kid I adored Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wanted Jean Luc Picard to be my dad. I wanted to live on the Enterprise. But for some reason I denied my inner geek. But then several different friends told me how much they loved it. They were all quite different people, but all had taste I trusted, so I caved. I was addicted from the first episode of the mini-series. I love sci-fi that raises philosophical questions (Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite movies) and I love suspense and drama. BSG has it all and it freakin' rules. I'm only on season 2 though and I hear it goes downhill in the last season, so that's unfortunate.

My friend Jenny and I also have TV watching club that started with Veronica Mars (soooooooo good). Currently we are watching The Gilmore Girls. This is where I get my girly fix that I can't get my husband into. I love this show. The mother/daughter relationship is so much fun. The characters are so unique and I love the small town where it's set. I also love dramaedys. The bartender book is definitely inspired by my love of dramaedys and since it is a mother/daughter story in a small town, The Gilmore Girls has been an inspiration. Though my mom and daughter are very different from Lorelei and Rory. My mom, not nearly as responsible. My daughter, a lot more punk. My small town, a lot more boring. But it still gives me food for thought. I'm also on season two of this one. It's gonna take us a while. We try to watch an episode or two when we meet for our writing group, but we have to be careful not to watch it instead of writing.


Even though Courtney Love was my heroine in my early teens, I have to say I had my doubts about this one. I'm not gonna lie, I've always wanted a Live Through This II. Yes, I want the musicians I love to evolve. I wouldn't want to be pigeonholed myself. But Live Through This is just sooooo good and it's become my standard of measurement for Hole. Celebrity Skin was pretty damn awesome, but there was something about polished Hollywood Courtney that felt a little empty. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing her successful. Loved it much much more than seeing her drugged out and crazy like she was during the early 2000s when I felt embarrassed to call myself a fan. Her solo album, America's Sweetheart had potential. There were some real gems on there... but they were really overproduced and then there were also some tracks that clearly she had to be on drugs to allow out into the world (*cough* Uncool *cough*). So I was kind of scared that Nobody's Daughter might be the final nail in Courtney Love's coffin for me. And when I heard she was calling it Hole without Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf der Maur (who I know is not an original member, but her harmonies were what made Celebrity Skin for me), I was really on high alert.

On first listen, I wasn't entirely sold on the album. But part of that was all of my doubts preventing me from full enjoyment and I knew it, so I kept listening. The songs "Honey" and "Pacific Coast Highway" really stuck out. And then I started to see past the obvious in "Skinny Little Bitch" and "Samantha." And then I found myself humming bits and pieces from all the parts of the album. And before I knew it, I could not STOP listening to it. Especially "Someone Else's Bed." The became the theme song for my work in progress (the bartender book). It is a woman hitting bottom, losing all of her ideals, everything she believed in. It's about getting "down to your bones" and watching the world as you know it fall to pieces, knowing that you are largely responsibly for it. But there is still this sense that you/she will claw her way out. I've been there. My characters are headed there. And Courtney Love has definitely been there.

It's the emotional honesty of Nobody's Daughter that ultimately won me over. When I played it for my husband, his first impression was the same as mine: *shrug* I'm used to her songs sounding more angry. And yes, I was looking for that. I'm always looking for that bloodcurdling "It's not yours, fuck you!" from "I Think That I Would Die" off of Live Through This. I still crave the raw guitar sound of Pretty On The Inside. But in terms of raw emotional truth, Nobody's Daughter is my sequel to Live Through This. I wish it had come out in my early twenties when I was down to my bones. I miss Eric Erlandson, no doubt about that. But say what you will about Courtney Love's antics over the years, she is still an incredible poet.

I don't have to miss Melissa Auf der Maur though. I'm glad she's solo. My other musical obsession:

I don't even have words for this one yet. It is so epic. So visceral. It's a whole multimedia presentation that comes with a very cool comic book and a DVD that I haven't gotten to watch yet. Melissa is like this beautiful other worldly creature. If I hadn't interviewed her for Women Who Rock Wednesday (where she talks about OOOM), I wouldn't believe she was real. She's like a Francesca Lia Block character to me, which is really one of the highest compliments I can give. This album is going to be on repeat as I dive back into my paranormal YA (with a mixture of angry punk... Civet needs to put their new album out right now!) because it has the dark fairytale feel that I'm going for. It's just masterpiece. Music that you can see, taste, and feel as well as hear.

This is currently my fun dance-around-the-house music. I'm extra excited about this band because they are local and I love finding Chicago bands that I can really get behind, not to mention go out and see at tiny little bars. They remind me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet Veruca Salt with a little touch of Siouxsie Sioux. I also hear hints of the Go-Gos which is not surprising considering Jane of Go-Gos fame produced some of the songs.

The single, "My Head is a Bomb" is the most fun song I've heard in ages. Gorgeous harmonies (this is where my Veruca Salt comparison comes in) and you can't help but bounce around as you listen. And my other favorite is "Blue Line" which is a tribute to the L line I've been riding since I moved here, so I love hearing a musical ode to it. It's also beautifully and appropriately bluesy. The five songs on this EP show so much versatility, I think this band is going to be huge. They need to get a full-length out NOW!

So that's what I'm loving lately. I know the movies category is lacking, but I haven't seen many lately. If you have some to recommend go for it and let me know what your current obsessions are too!


Amy Lukavics said...

Yay! Book rec's! Also, I was really pleasantly surprised by the Courtney Love song.

Also again, my word verification is "Fergie."

Punk Rock Girl said...

Movie rec: "Pirate Radio" on DVD. Hilarious, killer (if slightly historically inaccurate) soundtrack, great message of the redeeming power of rock'n'roll.

Music: New stuff by Against Me!, The Soft Pack, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus.

And yay to Courtney's new album. Just defended her yesterday to some folk who think she's nothing but a skank. No way.

Amanda Ashby said...

Deadwood is beyond awesome!!!!! I'm currently obsessed with Florence and the Machine and I keep making everyone listen to it!!!!! I can't wait to read Kay's and Jeri's books!

Kay Cassidy said...

Thanks so much for including The Cinderella Society, Steph! You already know how much it means to me that you liked it, but thank you again. And dude, I MISS FREAKS AND GEEKS! I loved that show. My must-sees now are Glee and Flash Forward.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

The cinderella society really was empowering. fun, light read but very good.

I LOVE Shade. Need to read the final version though. I just have little reading time these days. :(

I do want to read harmonic feedback. it looks really good.


Kathy said...

I love Courtney and 'Nobody's Daughter' is fantastic. My Standout tracks are 'Honey', 'Pacific Coast Highway' and 'Letter to God.' I also like 'Skinny Little Bitch' because it feels very 1990s. I hope Courtney gets her shit together and gets Frances Bean back. It hurts me when they fight.

Anonymous said...


Robby said...

I cannot wait to read Harmonic Feedback.
I am afraid to listen to Nobody's Daughter. I am slowly thawing.

Harmony said...

I have Shade on my TBR pile but I'm definitely moving it up after reading this!

I completely agree about TCS. LOOVED it.

And Hole. <3

Jeri said...

Thank you for rec'ing SHADE again! I've been wanting to read Kay's and Tara's books ever since I heard about them.

Yes, BSG is phenomenal. We watched it faithfully until I think halfway through season 3 when it went on hiatus and we just sort of...stopped. We were loving it, so I don't know why we just give up on shows sometimes. Creatures of habit, I guess. Or maybe that was election year and we were getting news-obsessed.

I'm so glad to hear the new Hole is awesome. I've been longing for a sequel to LIVE THROUGH THIS. I'm going to buy it the moment some money comes in so that when we see them next month it'll be even better. Can't wait!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Glad everyone is enjoying my recommendations and thanks for all of yours! I'm checking them out!