A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck – Book Review

I’ve finally got some free time, so today we’ll be diving into a new book review – A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck.

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Here’s the description of the book from Goodreads, which mind you is the ONLY description I read before actually reading the book:

The unrequited love of the girl next door is the centerpiece of this fiercely funny, yet heart-breaking debut novel.

Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

This review contains MAJOR spoilers under the cut, so if you want to read the book not knowing what happens, I suggest you bow out right about now.

Continue reading “A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck – Book Review”

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Mazie Meadows Morning Show Revisited – Podcast Re-review

Greetings, readers–

The first time we here at The Spork Review reviewed the Mazie Meadows Morning Show it was still a brand-new podcast with only 2 episodes having been released. Since episode 12 has just been freshly dropped as a special Veteran’s Day bonus, we’ll be making our way back to the Meadows for our very first re-review!

If you’re not familiar with the Mazie Meadows Morning Show, check out my initial thoughts HERE.

This is one active little town! Since we were last in Mazie, we’ve met more residents, stumbled across more dead bodies, (not all of which I believe are TOTALLY dead), had a golf tournament, went looking for Bigfoot in the woods, and as of episode 11, witnessed an amazingly epic talent show. In fact, once you’re done listening to the talent show episode give the 2 original songs featured in the episode a download here. I’ve caught myself humming “A Little While” on multiple occasions, and Uncle Rick’s Chicken Rap is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

The latest episode, a Veteran’s Day bonus, features the return of Frank Arlo, the founder of the Mazie Meadows Morning Show.

It’s a great bonus episode that has just enough humor sprinkled in with a whole lot of appreciation for all those who have served in our military.

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Wise words, Uncle Rick. Wise words.

I didn’t think it was possible, but the show has gotten funnier & funnier with each new release. The townsfolk are all enjoyable to listen to, even the ones you love to hate (I’m looking at you, Zac Verral). The co-hosting chemistry between Charlie and Nick is excellent and the jokes are on point. I’ve had several close calls with beverages almost getting accidentally inhaled or spit out from laughter while listening to a new episode.

The show has definitely managed to hold other listeners’ attention as well: now a top 40 podcast with over a million downloads, several podcast award nominations, and even a section on the MMMS website dedicated to fan art it looks like the MMMS will be on the air for a long time.

Updated rating: Still 5 Medowian Sporks

You can find the Mazie Meadows Morning Show online at https://www.maziemeadowsmorningshow.com/, follow the show, Charlie, & Uncle Rick on Twitter at @MazieMeadowsMS, @CharlieMMMS, & @UncleRickBerlyl and subscribe via either iTunes or Android. Look for new episodes on the 1st & 15th of every month.

Mazie Meadows Morning Show – Podcast Review

Do you hear that, readers? It’s the sound of our next review – the creator of which will seem familiar from hit audio drama The Others and podcast Cryptid Creatures. Jesse Haynes’ latest venture, the Mazie Meadows Morning Show, is a new podcast done in the form of a small-town radio show.

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This is no ordinary small town, however; Mazie Meadows is home to some very interesting denizens. There’s Charlie, the host of the Mazie Meadows Morning Show, his brand-new co-host Nick, Uncle Rick, owner of Uncle Rick’s House of Chub and frequent caller, and Leroy, owner of a goat farm known as the Triple G.  Of course, that’s just a few of the human inhabitants…

The first episode begins with Charlie’s former co-host, Frank Arlo, retiring.  This sets up the main storyline as well as revealing that Charlie is getting a new co-host named Nick, who is introduced in episode 2. I can’t talk about too much detail without giving away any spoilers, but I will say that while I love all of Jesse’s podcasts, I really think that Mazie Meadows will be my favorite.  The show, while being a paranormal mystery, is hilarious. It’s pretty family-friendly; there’s some jokes in episodes 1 & 2 that will go over the younger listeners’ heads while entertaining the adult listeners, but there’s nothing too risqué. The entire cast is funny, but Uncle Rick & Leroy especially crack me up with gems like this quote from episode 1:

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And this one from episode 2:

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The dynamic between Charlie & Nick is great; Charlie is adorably awkward when confronted with having to give up solo hosting duties and Nick just fits in so seamlessly despite being new to the area. The mystery gets set up nicely in the first episode and makes you eager to get to the next to find out more.  The show is well-written –  Jesse can write sci-fi, humor, drama, horror, and mystery & make them all so different yet so right. The voice actors all do a phenomenal job with their characters – their line delivery is perfect.  I sincerely hope that we’re able to continue going to Mazie Meadows for a long time.

Final rating: 5 Meadowian Sporks

You can find the Mazie Meadows Morning Show online at https://www.maziemeadowsmorningshow.com/, follow both the show & Charlie on Twitter at @MazieMeadowsMS & @CharlieMMMS, and subscribe via either iTunes or Android. The show is set up on a bi-monthly schedule – episodes will be released on the 1st & 15th of every month.  In between, however, there will be new blog posts, which can be found at https://www.maziemeadowsmorningshow.com/blog/ on the 8th & 24th of every month.

For more information on Jesse Haynes, check out his website at http://www.jessehaynesauthor.com.

Wonder Woman (2017) – Movie Review

Hello again, readers! Today I’ll actually be reviewing something current – Wonder Woman (2017)!

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot as the titular character, Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Amazonian princess/ Justice League member Diana of Themyscira, who leaves her home to go rescue humanity from Ares, the Greek god of war.

Aided by Captain Steve Trevor of British Intelligence (Chris Pine), Diana heads to the front lines of World War I.

While the movie is far from flawless, it’s the best DC comic-based film I’ve seen in a long time.  Gal Gadot was the best part of Batman vs Superman (for a film titled that there was very little versus going on) and continues to be the perfect Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  She portrays the badassedness of Wonder Woman combined with the naivete of someone who’s literally lived on an island full of women her entire life perfectly and Chris Pine is fantastic as Steve Trevor.

Like i said though, the film isn’t flawless. For a huge blockbuster film, the CGI is actually not that great, which honestly shocked me. There were a few plot points that kind of annoyed me, and I really felt that David Thewlis was miscast. While he’s a wonderful actor and I love him as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter series, I just wasn’t feeling him in this film.

Is it worth seeing on the big screen? Absolutely. It’s actually a very good film and made me excited for Justice League.

Final rating: 3 3/4 Sporks of Truth

Rent (2005) – Movie Review

Hello from a (way too) long hiatus, readers!

Life has been crazy, but hopefully we’ll get back to regular reviews soon – We’re gearing up for the Louisiana Book Festival here in October and have an amazing YA lineup so far, so I’ll be reading & reviewing like crazy in the upcoming months!

In the meantime, I just finished watching Rent (2005) and need to get some feels out – so here we go!

Rent, based off of the Broadway play of the same name by the late, great Jonathan Larson, is a 2005 film directed by Chris Columbus, written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the AMAZING The Perks of Being a Wallflower book and film screenplay, in addition to directing the film) and starring Anthony Rapp as Mark, Adam Pascal as Roger, Jesse L. Martin as Collins, Idina Menzel as Maureen, Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel, and Taye Diggs as Benny (all reprising their roles from the original Broadway play), along with Rent newcomers Rosario Dawson as Mimi and Tracie Thoms as Joanne (who went on to reprise her role in the final Broadway cast). The play (and subsequently, the movie), which is based on Puccini’s play La Boheme, centers around a Bohemian group of friends dealing with life, loss, love, and AIDS in the late 80’s/early 90’s East Village of New York City.

The only way I really can describe this movie is that it’s wonderful – the story is wonderful, the music is wonderful, the cast is wonderful – overall it’s a beautiful film. It’s emotional, powerful, gritty, raw… You can really feel what the characters are going through, especially throughout the musical numbers. I love the fact that most of the original cast reprised their roles, so I almost feel like I get to see the play in its original incarnation, although there’s obviously been some changes made for film. You can really tell that the actors love and understand their characters and therefore give their hearts and souls to their performances.

There’s so many great songs on the Rent movie soundtrack that it’s impossible to pick a favorite. Seasons of Love, Rent, Light My Candle, Out Tonight, La Vie Boheme, What You Own, No Day But Today… The soundtrack is so diverse with powerful rock anthems and softer ballads all blending seamlessly to create the perfect rock opera. It’s definitely worth buying the full 2-disc soundtrack as opposed to the 1-disc “selections from” album.

I’ve seen the film & listened to the soundtrack tons of times over the past 12 years, but both never cease to move me. I can’t help but sing along as I watch and the alternate ending to the film makes me cry every time I watch it in the deleted scenes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go watch the “What You Own” scene again. I can’t help but make “aww” noises when Mark & Roger reunite and bro-hug it out.

Thank you, Jonathan Larson.

FINAL RATING: 5 Bohemian Sporks

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground – Movie Review

It’s no secret to people that know me that I have a fierce love of Hallmark Channel original movies. This holds especially true for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ series Signed, Sealed, Delivered, written & produced by Martha Williamson (who also wrote & produced the CBS series Touched by an Angel).

Starting with a 2-hour pilot film and a 10-episode TV series before switching formats to a 2-hour film series, Signed, Sealed, Delivered is about 4 USPS employees who make up the team that work in the Dead Letter Office (DLO) department of the Denver, CO main branch. The team consists of section leader Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), technophile Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth), postal history buff Norman Dorman (Geoff Gustafson), and Eidetiker Rita Haywith (Crystal Lowe), collectively known as the POstables (which is also the name of the fandom).

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground is the 8th film following the pilot & television series, and since each film frequently calls back to prior films & series episodes I highly recommend that one go back & watch them all in order, which is as follows:

Signed, Sealed, Delivered (2013) – Pilot episode

Signed, Sealed, Delivered (2014) – Television series

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (2014) – 1st film on the then-newly rebranded Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love (2015)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told (2015)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream (2015)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From the Heart (2016)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: One in a Million (2016)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You (2016)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground (2017)

In Higher Ground the POstables find themselves in posession of a love letter written by a blues singer named Gabe, who was displaced from New Orleans during hurricane Katrina and relocated to Denver, to a woman named Hattie, the owner of a blues club in New Orleans.

Being from south Louisiana and actually having gone through Hurricane Katrina (although being an hour northwest of New Orleans I wasn’t involved in the levee breach & subsequent flooding there), I felt a personal attachment to Gabe’s story, both by actually being in New Orleans when evacuations started before Katrina hit and having gone through the Louisiana flooding in August of 2016.

Martha handles Gabe & Hattie’s story with such grace – showing what it truly was like for people who went through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans while still maintaining the humor and spirit that POstables around the world have come to expect from our favorite Hallmark series.

Of course, SSD is about way more than just the dead letter mysteries – while fun, the real beauty of the series is about the POstables themselves and the relationships between them. As of the beginning of Higher Ground Norman & Rita have been dating for a year (although they had carried torches for each other for a lot longer than that) and Shane & Oliver are on the verge of romance themselves. (Again, watch from the beginning to enjoy the progression of their relationships and the character growth!)

Without giving anything away (because you really do need to need to watch it for yourself), I will say that I was crying within the first 30 seconds and at various points throughout Higher Ground. The last 15 minutes were utter perfection and has been the culmination of years’ worth of work on part of Martha and the cast, and years’ worth of patience from POstables all over!

Luckily we get 3 more SSD films this year. I know this POstable is eagerly awaiting the next chapter!

Final rating for Higher Ground: 5 Sporks (that hopefully don’t get lost in the mail)

Follow Martha & the cast on Twitter @MarthaMoonwater@Eric_Mabius@kristintbooth@geoffgustafson, & @RealCrystalLowe, Tweet along using the hashtag #POstables, and for all things Signed, Sealed, Delivered check out the Alameda & Downing blog, which is run by Chandel Charles, the POstable fandom’s (un)official section leader!

Cryptid Creatures & The Others – Podcast Reviews

Holy buckets, 2 reviews in 2 days?!

Yep, looks like it!

While we’re on the subject of podcasts, I’d like to direct your attention to the Cryptid Creatures podcast, which is written, produced, and recorded by the multi-talented Jesse Haynes.

Cryptid Creatures is a 12-episode podcast (thus far) with each episode featuring a different American mythological (or ARE they mythological???) being.

Ranging from lesser-known creatures such as the Ozark Howler to the more widely famous Bigfoot, Haynes has definitely done his research on each creature, finding actual reports of sightings. My favorite of these reports comes from episode 11 – the Mothman. It literally gave me chills, although my favorite episode of all is episode 7 – there’s nothing more chilling than true tales of what one human being will do to another.

Season 2 promises to go international, so I’m looking forward to seeing which creatures are covered in future episodes. (I’m looking at you, chupacabra!)

Final rating on Cryptid Creatures: 4 Sporks

Next we have Haynes’ 2nd podcast, The Others

With the very first episode freshly dropped as of the time this review is being posted, The Others is an audio drama written and produced by Haynes and voiced by Ron Taylor.

When Aaron Winchell’s plane goes down and he is washed ashore on an uninhabited island, the quest for survival begins. The strange island offers challenges for a man on his own… and then even more challenges for a man who realizes he might not be alone, after all.

Sounds spooky, doesn’t it?

While I can’t judge the podcast on a whole based solely on 1 episode, I can say that episode 1 definitely left me awaiting episode 2. I hit the Subscribe button, and I think you should too.

Rating for The Others (thus far): 4 Sporks

You can find Cryptid Creatures online at http://www.cryptidcreaturespodcast.com, The Others online at http://www.theotherspodcast.com, or follow each podcast on Twitter at @cryptcreatures & @theotherspod, and subscribe via either iTunes or Android. For more information on Jesse Haynes, check out his website at http://www.jessehaynesauthor.com. (Yep, he’s a Young Adult author too, but that, dear readers, is a review for another day.)