* The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond edited by Alex J. Cavanaugh is a collection of essays on writing, publishing, and marketing by more than one hundred independent authors such as L. Diane Wolfe, Chrys Fey, S.A. Larsen, Crystal Collier, and Lexa Cain. The advice itself is basic, but the book excels in explaining how insecure most writers feel, and in the encouragement to keep on writing and improving.
* Horror 101: The Way Forward edited by Joe Mynhardt is similar in concept as The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide To Publishing And Beyond, except that the essays are by household names in the horror genre (Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Jack Ketchum, Harry Shannon, Edward Lee, etc). The essays are rarely focused on horror alone, though, and Horror 101 covers everything from character development to finding additional sources of income through screenwriting and ghostwriting. “I've seen authors lose their way, authors doubt themselves, when all they need is a push in the right direction,” the editor says in the beginning of this book. However, insecurities are hardly a topic here. Most authors of Horror 101 believe it's possible to make a living as a writer, even if you don't necessarily know what you're doing, and, even more importantly, they show us the way forward.
* How Not To Run a B&B: A Woman's True Memoir by Bobby Hutchinson. Romance author Bobby Hutchinson recounts her experiences of how she turned her Vancouver house into a B&B to supplement her writing income, and introduces us to all the weird people she met along the way. How Not To Run a B&B is a fast-paced and entertaining read; definitely recommended if you're looking for something light to pass the time. The only downside is the author's arrogance and lack of compassion towards people that are less fortunate.
* On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King. On Writing has a strange structure; it reads like two different books that have accidentally been thrown together. It starts as a memoir in which Stephen King attempts to show some of the incidents and life-situations which made him into the writer he turned out to be. Then he gives some straight-forward (and obvious) writing advice, and ends the book with another autobiographical part. But I did enjoy reading this book. King just knows how to keep the reader's attention. But, most importantly, On Writing awoke in me the desire to sit down and start writing a new book, not knowing where the story and characters will lead me. That in itself is an accomplishment.
* Baking Bad: A Parody In A Cookbook by Walter Wheat. Do you know any Breaking Bad fans? Then make sure you buy them this hilarious little cook book. Baking Bad is a collection of recipes inspired by the Breaking Bad TV series. What do you think of Ricin Krispie Squares, Blue Meth Crunch, pink bear bites, a jell-o representation of Jesse's acid tub, or hot dogs resembling Saul Goodman? Don't give the book to someone who hasn't finished the series yet, though, because there are spoilers. Otherwise, let's cook.
* Poussy: l'intégrale by Peyo. Poussy (Pussycat in English) was my favorite comic strip as a kid, and a major inspiration for my Avalon cartoons. I haven't been able to find them ever since, but now they just released in a complete edition containing ALL the comics (including the ones that have only appeared in newspapers), as well as preliminary sketches and background information on Peyo's career. Poussy may be Peyo's least known comic (he's the creator of The Smurfs), but it's doubtlessly his best.
* [REC] 4: Apocalypse. Right after her adventures in [REC] 2, Manuela Velasco's character wakes up on a ship and is soon chased by zombies. [REC] 4: Apocalypse was much better than [REC] 3, but only mediocre compared to the first two installments. Luckily, Jaume Balaguero brings enough visual flair to the project to lift it to a higher level.
* The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. It's still as beautiful to look at as the previous films, but our hobbit is way too passive for the story's good. He's an observer, and has hardly any control over what happens. That makes us as viewers passive as well; we don't really care about who'll vanquish or not. Still, having seen all the previous Ring and Hobbit movies in the cinema around Christmas time, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies gave me a feel-good vibe out of nostalgia.
* Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Kevin finds himself accidentally lost in New York City, just when the same criminals from Home Alone 1 are visiting as well. The first two Home Alone movies were among my grandfather's favorites, so I couldn't help but watch this one again with my grandmother on Christmas Eve. It's pretty funny, though. Almost as good as the first one.
* The Interview. The host of a celebrity TV show lands an interview with an unexpected fan - North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un - and the CIA wants to turn their trip into an assassination mission. I started watching The Interview half-heartedly to see what the buzz was about (Kim Jong-un prohibited the screening of the movie because he was made fun of), but I didn't expect too much of it as most people thought it was silly and too easy. However, I was sold after a few minutes. Actually, this was one of the most hilarious films I've seen in a long time. Seems like Seth Rogen and James Franco are the perfect combination to make me laugh.
* Penguins Of Madagascar. This one is almost embarrassing to have on here. I loved Madagascar and The Christmas Caper, so the least I could do was to give Penguins Of Madagascar a try as well. Big mistake. The first few scenes are cute, but as the movie trundles on, the more it gets silly and chaotic.
* Anthony Zimmer. American readers will probably be more familiar with its Hollywood remake: The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Anthony Zimmer is the original French version from 2005. The basis of the story is the same: the international police force and Russian mafia are chasing a man responsible for laundry of dirty money. His mistress (here played by Sophie Marceau) lures his pursuers into believing that a man she met on the train (Yvan Attal) is the one they're looking for. Despite a few slow moments, Anthony Zimmer works much better than The Tourist. Reason for that is its more natural approach, especially when it comes to the look of the actors and the portrayal of the action. Whereas Angelina Jolie made The Tourist look ridiculous, parading like a diva with too much make-up, Sophie Marceau uses her natural charm to create an image of a strong woman that lingers on long after the movie is over.
* Paddington. Holy cuteness. This must be the most magical feel-good movie I've seen in years. Based on Michael Bond's children's books about an unusual bear's life with the Brown family, Paddington is utterly charming, hilarious, produced to perfection, and written in a more original voice than other similar movies. To top it off, London never looked so good. Could this be my new favorite winter movie?
* Whiplash. A promising young drummer enrolls at a music conservatory where his willingness to stop at nothing to become the best in his profession is tested by an instructor who believes that mentally abusing his students is the only way to drive them to greatness. The basis of the story is something we've seen before, but Whiplash is done so much better than others in the genre. Every single element oozes intensity and brilliancy. What stands out, though, is the acting. J.K. Simmons may be nominated for best supporting actor at the Oscars, but it's headliner Miles Teller who makes your skin crawl with emotion.
* Forest Swords (trip hop with Japanese influences).
What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest?
You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag.