Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stephanie's Current Obsessions

I thought it was time to take a break from the writing talk (though if you do want a bit more of that, check out my post on YA Outside the Lines today about what I've learned about my writing process from the Bartender Book) and give some love to other artists by sharing what I've been obsessed with lately.


Oh, The Wire. I had more than one friend tell me that it was the best TV show ever made. They were friends I trusted, so I can't really tell you why it took me so damn long to watch it, except that cop shows usually aren't my cup of tea. But the thing is The Wire is not a cop show, it's a modern day tragedy, a show about the state of our society, a part of society that doesn't often get a voice. And those are the kinds of stories I like to read, watch and tell, so like I said I have no idea what took me so long and if you haven't seen it yet, I don't know what is taking you so long because now I'm going to be one of those people who tells you that it is absolutely the best TV show ever made. The way it explores our criminal justice system, the "war on drugs," the political system, the media and especially the inner city education system.... I don't have words. I don't need words because The Wire speaks them for me. It's one of those very rare shows that just gets better season by season. I thought there was no way I'd love a season more than the first season, but then I got to season 4, which is probably the best. The fifth season isn't as strong probably because there were a lot of threads to tie up and they had a lesser number of episodes to do so in, but it's still damn good, better than any other show I've watched. I'm used to watching shows that I love either get cancelled and leave me on a cliffhanger *cough My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks cough* or stay on too long and burn out *cough X-Files and Grey's Anatomy cough*. This feels like pretty much the only exception to that rule. I must say I am bummed that HBO didn't renew it because I think they could have done more, but at least it had a satisfying conclusion, a very satisfying conclusion in fact.

My husband and I were so hooked on it that we were staying in on Friday nights and watching like 4, sometimes even 5 hour-long episodes. We finished it at the beginning of March, right before I had to start pulling those 14 hour writing days and then we went on vacation, so we are only now starting to watch TV again and we are going in slowly because it almost feels like nothing will be good enough for us after The Wire. We're currently watching a mini-series called The Corner that pre-dates The Wire, but is by the same producers and deals with some of the same subject matter. I'm enjoying it though my husband finds it very depressing. Next will be a little sci-fi break as my brother has been harping on me to see Firefly forever. And then I think we will finally check out Mad Men. We've also been watching The Big Bang Theory because we need something light. But yeah, I just don't know if there will ever be as good as The Wire. If you have suggestions, do let me know.

While I was pushing myself to get through the Bartender Book, I didn't have much reading time, but I decided to do a little re-reading of some contemporary YA that I really love. Both of these authors handle their troubled narrators so well (and as you know those are the characters I love to write) and the books are much shorter than I usually write with some of the backstory either omitted or carefully woven in. Since those are challenges for me, I was reading them sort of for that purpose, but ultimately just got sucked into stories again. Like staying up way past my bedtime to finish sucked in.

So, if you like my books and haven't read BEAUTIFUL by Amy Reed or CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers, you absolutely must.

I wish that I had had both of these books as a teen because I relate to both of the main characters in certain ways. Like Parker in CRACKED UP TO BE, I spent a lot of time trying to be perfect. I wasn't the head cheerleader and I didn't really let it be known what an overachiever I was, but even during my worst periods in high school, I still aimed to be a straight A student, but life spiraled out of control and while I didn't break down for the same reasons or in the same way as Parker did, I just relate. A lot. And the book is crazy well-written in a way that makes me jealous. Hence the re-reading so that I can hopefully improve upon my next contemporary YA (have an idea for it, not sure when I will write it.)

I also relate a ton to Cassie in BEAUTIFUL. No, I really never felt beautiful (but does Cassie really feel that way?), but I had a period where I acted a lot like Cassie and had friends a lot like her friends and yeah, I've just been there and I wish this book was there for me when I was and I hope it finds it's way to all the teens who need it now. If you liked BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, you will definitely love this book.

And then my most recent read, which has led to a little reading break because I'm having a similar thing that I did when I finished watching The Wire, wondering if I will ever find something quite this good again. I wanted to crack this book the day it came out, but I saved it as my reward to myself for when I finished writing The Bartender Book:

Yes, that would be DARKEST MERCY, the last book in the Wicked Lovely series which is up there in all time favorite series for me along with the Harry Potter books and Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat books. When I first read WICKED LOVELY, I was floored. I hadn't loved a YA with magical realism/fantasy elements that I loved so much since Francesca Lia Block. I wrote a gushy fan mail to Melissa. And I wrote her another one at the end of the series because the end was so perfect. Melissa clearly knows her stuff when it comes to folklore and the way she seamlessly weaves into her stories, well, I bow down Wayne's World I'm not worthy style. These books are so lush and beautiful, so perfect for those who love myth and lore like I do, and best of all, the women in them are strong, they are real role models and the stories are all about choice, so even though they are other worldly stories, they translate to this world and give you a lot to think about. Again, wish I had them as a teenager and so relieved they exist now for me to point to when the teenage girls in my life ask for recommendations and I want to give them something fantastical that isn't all girl swooning over the boy who will save her. The characters all really grow in this series too. Even one guy that kind of irked me through out, grew up in the last book. Very pleasing. *Stands up and applauds Melissa* Now I absolutely cannot wait for her adult book, GRAVEMINDER.


All I listened to for the past two months was my bartender book soundtrack and bands related to that soundtrack, so the other gift to myself after I finished was this, which I've been listening to non-stop since:

That would be one of my favorite bands ever. In fact I think they are the only band formed after the early nineties to grace my personal all-time top five favorite bands list which goes 1. Nirvana 2. Hole 3. Social Distortion 4. Rancid and 5. Civet You have to be pretty fucking awesome to break into the personal top five. And these ladies are.

That would be Suzi on the left and Liza on the right. They are sisters and the core of Civet. Liza does lead vocals and guitar and Suzi does lead guitar and backing vocals. The rest of the band has been in flux over the years, though I hear the guys that have joined them now are awesome. I first discovered Civet right before the release of their first album with Hellcat when Melissa Marr (wow, such syncronicity that I blogging about them both today) ran a contest on her blog before my first book I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE came out challenging people to share their favorite songs by kick-ass women. The girl who introduced me to Civet via their song "Son of a Bitch" won first place in that contest. Liza and Suzi pretty much are the kind of women I had in mind when I dreamed up Emily and Regan from I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and Civet is like my fictional band, She Laughs, a powerful fucking band fronted by a woman that I would love to see top the charts. If I was in charge of the universe, the Britney Spears' of the world would be replaced by the Liza and Suzi's.

Anyway if you want to read more about these two ladies, here is an interview with them I did while they were on tour supporting their last album Hell Hath No Fury. (It's a Women Who Rock Wednesday interview and I swear I will try to bring those back soon.) Love & War is the perfect follow-up to that record. It's hard-rockin punk at it's best and if you are a punk fan and haven't discovered this band yet, you are missing out big time. Also if you're a self-proclaimed bad girl like me, the songs are probably like a musical version of your diary with plenty of lessons learned and reminders of why you've got to stay strong and live life the way *you* want to not the way anyone tells you to. It's that perfect mixture of an outlet for your anger and a personal motivator that I think good music should be. My favorite tracks change constantly, but among the top for me are "Sunset Strip" (Including the shoutable line: "We're all bad girls, bad girls living in a bad world, bad world" and my personal favorite: "We all have big rock n roll dreams and nothing's ever as it seems"), "LA Nights," "Love & War," "Summer of Hate," "Cryin' Wolf," and "I'm Not the One."

Lastly, I just have to give additional props to Liza for her comments on the Ben Weasel incident at SXSW and what it's like to be a woman in rock in general in this AP article, which is really a must-read for any lover of punk rock or feminist.

Okay, off to listen to Love & War for the 50 thousandth time while I clean my house.

Let me know about the music, books and TV you've been loving lately!


marina said...

Ya know, I hate that Ben Weasel punched a girl but I'm so mad at the rest of the band for quitting not even midway through their tour! They were coming to my boring town of Greensboro, North Carolina to a club that typically gets terrible traffic and I was so amped to see them. Luckily though, I hadn't bought my ticket yet. I'll live though. I still have my darling local band The Leeves playing a show that weekend and they're good friends. You might like them. I don't think anyone out there could not like them. I send a link anyways:
They are fantastic.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks for sharing The Leeves with me, Bean! I love discovering new music. I'm listening now!

marina said...

Tell me what you think! They're all really nice guys too.