The American Girl by Kate Horsley … Quinn Perkins is a 17-year-old American girl living in France with the Blavette family (minus the father) as an exchange student. It is far from a peachy living arrangement. The Blavettes have issues, which are revealed in a blog, and later in video journals, made by Quinn before and after she’s found in a comatose state after being hit by a car. She’s been taken to a nearby hospital where her situation remains a mystery until Molly Swift, a journalist posing as Quinn’s aunt, tries to solve the mystery. Molly finds a friend in a local inspector, Valentin, just in time for the Blavette family disappearance.
What is going on in the small town of St. Roch?
The novel is told in short journal-like chapters that go back and forth in time and intertwine the dual protagonists, Quinn and Molly. While Quinn supplies a video blog, something suggested by the doctor treating her amnesia, Molly pursues the story like a good journalist, lying about being Quinn’s aunt and setting herself up for public condemnation. Quinn provides us screen shots of what’s going on in the hospital as she slowly recovers and remembers the bits and pieces of what happened to her and the Blavette family. Early on we know it involves the woods she felt she was being chased through, and some very weird messages and pictures sent to her iPhone just prior to the accident. There’s also the caves at Les Yeux. There are also men in her life: Freddie, the seemingly sadistic French boy and a close friend of the Blavette family, and Raphael Blavette, the stud-son home from college. The women are more complex, it seems. There’s Noémie Blavette (Ralphael’s sister) and Émilie (the mother) who appears to be much more than a woman scored by an ex-husband. (Poppa Blavette disappeared a few years back, leaving a once wealthy family in ruins—which is why the Blavettes take in exchange students, for the extra coin.) There’s a Blavette benefactor of sorts, a wealthy woman named Stella, who’s maybe had an affair or two with the Blavatte men. There’s also something strange about the police situation and some former exchange students, the Dutch Girl, the German Girl, the Russian Girl … leading to The American Girl.
It’s a terrific read, start to finish. Horsley is at the top of her game. A British author with an incredible ear for American dialogue and knowledge of our sometimes stunted culture. This is a truly professional and gifted author, with expert insight into a world beneath all the coziness we see and want to believe is real. Horsley takes us under the skin of postcard family life and behind the picturesque postcard towns. The American Girl reminded me of my all-time favorite movie, which also exposed the underbelly of a postcard life—David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Horsley’s novel, The American Girl, is simply that good.
Alfheim by Gary Nilsen … Timothy Brennan is an usual child, but not because he’s awkward or may suffer autistic tics at school, where he’s often the victim of bullies and their crude comments. He’s different because he’s the 7th son of a 7th son in a parallel world (I guess it might be called) where elf and fairy and the like exist, except they look just like you or I (but have lives as long as those in the Bible).
Normally mystical novels aren’t my preference, but this one had so many twists and turns and well-developed characters, it was a pleasure to read. Early on, Timothy is struggling to deal with the nasty uncle he lives with since his mother died, as well as his being bullied at school. He has a best friend who tries to steer him away from approaching a girl Tim has been secretly in love with for a few years. She’s one of the untouchables to boys like Tim, however, and a lot more style than substance. When things go terribly wrong, the first in a series of both interesting and dynamic plot twists occurs. Tim tries to kill himself but is saved by a special girl, Aenya, who had appeared to him just a few days earlier when he somehow healed a bird that had fallen to the ground apparently sick and about to die.
Lots more plot twists ensue, with Timothy having a Jason Bourne moment at an airport before leaving for Ireland, where a mystical clan lives in a constant state of near-war with the evil Cadwaladr (there’s a pronunciation index at the back of the novel). You’ll catch a major plot twist every few chapters and those will keep you focused and turning pages.
The treachery and war going on beneath the human world turns the politics of everyday life asunder as Timothy learns to grapple with his familial genetics. Like humans, the elves can be good or bad, and genetics aren’t always a predetermining factor.
Over time, and a few attempts on his life, Timothy learns about the Sword of Connleodh and how, in order to save his brethren elves, he must defeat the evil elf Cadwaladr. He’ll need the sword, but he must choose wisely or die. No spoilers here. Alfheim will keep you glued to the pages and anxious for the sequel.
A fun read start to finish, Alfheim will leave you wanting more.
Movie Review by JR Jarrod … SUICIDE SQUAD. As much as I differed with critics’ opinions on Batman v Superman, I just came from a screening of Suicide Squad, and I have to say it’s as bad as they say it is. But that’s mostly because the script never takes the time to develop the characters. To be fair, director David Ayer does manage to get some great visuals. And I do think the actors have managed to capture the essence of their comic book characters (Croc, Deadshot and Harley especially), but there’s just no ‘there’ there.
The first 15 minutes introduced a bit of style and visual flair, and I was hopeful for a neo-noir featuring metahumans, but it went downhill fast. The only bright spot was the Batman stuff. SPOILER: For those Batfans hoping for a mano a mano and a “Death in the Family” flashback -- save your money. It’s not here.
Jared Leto’s Joker amounted to high end cosplay. Will Smith made the most of what he had to work with and served as the film’s “spark of redemption.” Margot Robbie pretty much ripped Harley Quinn straight out of Batman TAS, and was a sole high point, but one dimensional nonetheless. Unfortunately this film can’t even get nihilism right. Plotwise there is also a lot of supernatural darkness that hasn’t been advertised.
And please save yourself the headache of 3D. A good hour of this film’s action takes place at night and would probably be intolerably incoherent and ultra-muddled in 3D.
Another miss for DC unfortunately. It’s NOT because DC is trying to emulate Marvel, it’s because DC doesn’t yet seem to know what makes DC work. There is a mid-credits scene that’s decent. But that’s all folks. If you were hoping for some meaty drama to be unpacked between those iconic moments you see in the trailer, unfortunately the film plays like an extended trailer -- wall to wall music, flashbacks instead of dramatic tension, etc. etc. Sigh. Once again story is key... and it ain’t here. Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times said it best: “Suicide Squad is a concept in search of a story worth telling.”
TK’s Final Verdict on Bernie Sanders … With enough time and reflection on the 2016 sabotaged Democrat presidential primaries behind us, TK has come to a decision regarding Bernie Sanders. Fair warning, some Bernie loyalists aren’t going to like and/or agree.
Sanders sucker-punched us … When push comes to shove, no matter his intentions and/or his aspirations, Sanders sucker-punched his supporters. For one thing, his attempt to play a clean game of politics against arguably the all-time dirtiest politicians of our lifetime was either naivety on steroids, which his 36-year involvement in politics precludes, or it was intentional. Sanders never went after Hillary Clinton on her judgment regarding her emails, something she may well be impeached over after she wins the presidency. TK feels Sanders was clearly protecting both the Democrat brand and the person he knew the DNC would never permit him to eclipse, thereby sucker punching us into forking over money to a cause he never intended to pursue to possible fruition.
Our guess is that Sanders began his campaign with ZERO expectation he’d win and was quickly surprised by the response of so many who had either had enough of the Clinton brand or who opted for the more progressive policies Sanders was championing. For a while, we think Sanders started to believe he might pull an upset, but that’s something we’ll never know might’ve happened, because as WikiLeaks proved, he never had a chance. The game was rigged from the get-go and the sabotage was ongoing. Voter obstruction and fraud was rampant, and the elimination of exit polls prove the DNC feared an actual accounting of their primary results. Even before WikiLeaks exposed the DNC’s corruption, most Sanders supporters either hoped or expected he’d walk away from the dirty politics he claimed to have been fighting.
He didn’t. Instead, when the WikiLeaks emails proved there was collusion, corruption and sabotage, Sanders remained loyal to the DNC and its corruption. Sorry, Mr. Sanders, but no revolutionary leader capitulates as fully as you did. Frankly, it was a disgrace, and although you’ll have sycophantic supporters going forward, TK won’t be one of them. Endorsing the DNC-rigged nomination choice, Hillary Clinton, was nothing less than shitting the bed.
There was a brief moment of forgiveness when Sanders left the Democrat party immediately after the fiasco (the Gestapo-like) convention in Philadelphia. Some of us thought it was a gesture for his more militant supporters (i.e., Bernie or Busters, etc.). I know I felt a little better for a day or two, and then when Jill Stein and the Green Party again extended an invitation to join their ranks, Sanders ignored the gesture, and all forgiveness for him evaporated.
The fear of an ass-clown like Donald Trump will never satisfy progressives. At this point in the game, it is too weak an argument. Elections based on fear of the other party have allowed the Democrat Party to not only become fully corporatized, they have also become fully militarized and totally unaccountable to their electorate (or why do they have to cheat?). They have destroyed the middle class and ignored the poor no less than their counterparts in the pay-to-play world of American politics. Our government has become a bidder’s paradise: the Republicans have the Koch Brothers, et al, and the Democrats have Wall Street, et al. Having Democrats hiding behind social issues with lip service platitudes does nothing for those without and/or those struggling to survive.
How do public servants become so wealthy so fast? Ask the Clintons … they claim to have left the White House “dead broke” and are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Does anyone really need to research why?
The facts of this 2016 election cycle are these: American Exceptionalism requires a makeover, and it can no longer come from either major political party.
The bottom line is this: Bernie Sanders could’ve either run as an independent after the WikiLeaks dump and/or joined the Green Party, something they’d been calling for him to do since 2011. Jill Stein went so far as to tell her supporters in California to vote for Sanders during that state’s primary. She then extended the invitation to take the top spot on the Green Party ticket, but Sanders not only didn’t accept, he ignored the offer. Sanders joining the Greens would’ve provided instant viability, a guaranteed spot on the presidential debate stage, and a progressive third party. He opted to endorse the party that sabotaged his election, and thus flushed many, if not most, of his supporters’ hard-earned contributions down the toilet.
In the end, Bernie Sanders proved he’s just another “good Democrat” and no longer deserves the undying loyalty and support we here at TK gave him both in passion and coin. We only wish the coin we gave up for his aborted revolution could be transferred to Jill Stein and the Green Party, because when all was said and done, Ms. Stein proved to be the one with the stones a political revolution requires.
So, sorry, Bernie, we won’t be voting for your congressional supporters come November, not if they’re part of the Democratic Party. If we want to vote for fascists in the future, then we’ll return to the Democratic or Republican Party, but don’t hold your breath. You’re a footnote to a year of exposed corruption in politics, and within that footnote cite it’ll read: In the end, even after the DNC was exposed sabotaging his campaign, Bernie Sanders capitulated and endorsed corruption.
The Greener pastures Sanders ignored … the Greener pastures we’ve move to … JILL STEIN FOR PRESIDENT. Notice how Progressives now have to turn to FOX News for coverage due to the DNC controlled media like CNN, MSNBC and the network channels (as proved in the WikiLeaks emails).