Friday, September 28, 2012

Josh Radnor Interview


Josh Radnor is perhaps best known for his role as Ted, the central character on CBS's Emmy-nominated comedy How I Met Your Mother. He is the writer/director/star of the Sundance Audience Award winner Happythank youmoreplease. Liberal Arts is his second film to write/direct/star in.

Whatchamcallit Reviews:: Where did you get the idea for Liberal Arts?

Josh Radnor: Well about two years ago I went back to Kenyon College, my alma mater back in Ohio, and I was shocked by how much older I was than the other students. This was really strange to me as all my memories of college were so vivid, it was as if I was there yesterday, and yet, all of a sudden I was nearly twice as old as most of the students there. And so I just started thinking about time, aging, nostalgia, growing up and not growing up, and this story started coming to me about a guy who goes back to his old college at 35 and is kind of disillusioned, and is worried his best days are behind him, and he meets and is quite intrigued by this 19 year old sophomore, who’s played by Elizabeth Olson in the movie. 

WR: The film touches on what a grown-up is, what do you think it means to be grown up? Does this film represent your view of what growing up is?

JR: You know I don’t know. I feel like when I’m writing a film or even when I’ve just finished a film I start with some really big questions that I want to explore. Usually these questions have to be big enough and elusive enough for me not to lose interest, and that often means that they don’t have definitive answers. I’m not sure I know anymore about growing up now than I did before I started the movie, but there’s a great line in the movie where a character says he’s never not felt like a 19 year old, even though he’s in his 60s, and he says, “nobody feels like an adult, that’s the worlds dirty secret.” I believe that line to a certain degree, but I also believe where we get into trouble is when people dig there heels in and are resistant to change, and say no to something new. And on some level this is what both movies are about, people dissatisfied with where they are and what’s going on in their lives, and in Liberal Arts there are characters who want to skip forward, characters who want to rewind back, and the journey of the film, and what you might call growing up, is about these characters learning accept where they are and living with it, as opposed to trying to stop it.

WR: What is your writing strategy since you have to devote so much of your time to How I Met Your Mother?

JR: We have a 4 and half month break between seasons. So I do a lot of the writing between hiatuses. In fact I did the bulk of this writing for Liberal Arts and got the first draft done about 2 hiatuses ago. After that we got lucky and had the movie financed pretty quickly because the financiers of Happythankyoumoreplease wanted to join onto this project as well. So everything came together rather quickly, which you don’t see all that often. But the writing is just about finding free moments. I just find the time to do it.

WR: Which do you prefer more: acting, writing, or directing?

JR: The directing and the writing feel a lot like the same thing, yet at the same time different because they take place at different times. I write and then bring the road map of the script to the shooting, but I’m also the writer as I’m directing because I’m keeping the whole story in my head. Or I’m the director while I’m writing. I’m not sure how they all tie in together. Did you ask about acting too?

WR: I did.

JR: You know I’m really longing to do a movie where I just direct. I originally started writing to give myself some more acting opportunities. For Liberal Arts I was more thinking as a director, but I was also thinking of a role that was for me when I wrote it. But this next go-around I’m trying not to do that. You know I just did a movie where I just acted in the movie, this wonderful little film called, Afternoon Delight, with some fantastic people, and I just got re-inspired about acting, but mostly I’ve been thinking as a writer/director lately. And you know I’ve already done so much as an actor relatively speaking, and if you said I had to stop acting right now, and could only write/direct, I think I’d be ok with that, as writing and directing feels like more of the unexplored territory for me.

WR: You mentioned you write and direct in the same time, in sort of a continuous process, how much do you adapt your work to what your seeing in front of you?

JR: That’s a good question. I was given some great advise before directing HappyThankYouMorePlease, which was “don’t direct the movie that’s in your head, direct the movie in front of you that’s asking to be made.” It’s a delicate balance because you’ve got this idea in your head, but at the same time, if you surround yourself with talented people in every area, then they’re going to each have their own ideas that are going to make you tell your story in a better way. Especially with the actors, they’re going to surprise you, they’re going to maybe not do things how you first envisioned, but you have to allow yourself to be more fluid in allowing your story to take shape in a very organic way rather than bullying it into what you thought it was supposed to be.

WR: So how was it shooting the movie at Kenyon, your alma mater?

JR: Well, in my mind Kenyon is where the movie had to be shot. I have such fond memories there. My dad went to Kenyon, my sister went to Kenyon, even Allison Janney, who is in the movie went to Kenyon. Really, it just feels the same no matter when you went there. You have these buildings that were built in 1824, people live in the same dorm rooms, take the same classes in the same buildings. So everything just feels like you just stepped back in time to when you were last there.

WR: I’m sure you get this all the time, but how do you want How I Met Your Mother to end?

JR: You know, the people who created the show and who write the show are much more creative than I am. What I mean to say is I think they’re going to have a lot better idea how to end the show than I would. You know I was thinking about it recently and I think on some levels How I Met Your Mother is about a guy who loses and loses until he eventually wins. And I think that’s what’s endearing about the character. While the inside of this journey can be kind of frustrating and demoralizing, you know this guys been through a lot, you just end up believing in him and the his optimism, and the great story we’re telling of him. And I think it’s a great underdog tale, but something that’s fantastic about the premise is that no matter how many times he falls down, no matter how many times it looks like he’s not going to get it together, he does get it together, and we know this from the start. And this is kind of comforting to know that he does get the wife and the kids and the life he dreamed of. And so the end of the show is about sticking the landing in the most eloquent and truthful way possible, and I have no doubt that the creators will do just that.

WR: Will you miss the character once the show is over?

JR: I think I’ll miss the experience of filming the show, because it’s been so informative and it’s been a constant for so long, but no I don’t think I’ll miss the character. It’s been a long time to be someone, and whether we end this season or next season, I feel like most stones will have been turned over when it comes to that character.

Liberal Arts opens in Austin, Dallas, and Houston on September 28th.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

After (Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia): Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling



If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe's wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.

New York Times bestselling authors Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are among the many popular and award-winning storytellers lending their talents to this original and spellbinding anthology. 


I am not usually a fan of anthologies. I prefer full sized books. I want my characters flushed out, full of action, and usually if I’m going to commit to something then I want it to just be longer in general.

So the real question the becomes why should you buy this anthology?

The answer is simple, because of the authors.

Anthologies offer readers a chance to enter the worlds and writing styles of readers they’ve never tried before, giving them a sample of the authors works without feeling the obligation to finish or buy a new book by a new author.

And this anthology has taken some pretty incredible authors and put them together here. Garth Nix, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are some of the biggest names in the field of dystopian YA. There stories are fantastic and great reads for fans of their work.

My personal favorite short story in this anthology is Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan. It didn’t feel like a short story, instead it felt like the first few chapters of a fantastic new novel. A novel that I really hope she finishes. The premise of the story is that the world was thrown into chaos for years, and the light that brought civilization back out of the darkness was the creation of the perfect woman. Every 25 years all of the single male population is rounded up and forced to compete against one another in a series of challenges that leaves only 1 man alive. This winner receives the hand of his perfect queen and the power to rule over all. This has been going on for years and seems  to work relatively well. The cast of characters includes, a poor thief who hates the queen and everything she stands for, a career competitor (who has trained all his life to win the queen’s hand) but doesn’t have the heart to kill others in the maze, and the queen herself, who doesn’t plan to be bought without her say so. All in all, the characters were well written, there was plenty of action, and I personally hope she writes more on this story at a later point in time.

As mentioned before, reading anthologies offers readers the chance to sample authors you haven’t heard of, alongside some of your favorite authors. This anthology is well put together, has a great cast of authors, and is perfect for fans of dystopian YA.


Publisher: Hyperion Book CH

Published: October 9, 2012

Price: $16.99

Link to Buy:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Taken: By Benedict Jacka



Alex Verus’s insights into the future used to be the best-kept secret in London. Now, with the aid of his apprentice, Luna, his unique investigative talents are all the rage. He just has to be careful about picking his employers, because everyone—even the beautiful woman who practically begs him to run security for a prestigious tournament—has motives that can be hard to predict. And Alex doesn’t do unpredictable.

But his latest gig just might be impossible. Apprentices have been vanishing without a trace—and someone on the Council could be involved. Alex has no evidence, no witnesses, and no suspects. All he knows is that someone is keeping tabs on him. And after assassins target Luna’s classmate, Alex sees that he doesn’t know the half of it—and that he could be the next to disappear.


With my reading of Taken, Benedict Jacka’s third book in his Alex Versus series, I can say with utmost confidence that this series rocks.

Jacka does a fantastic job creating a grey character that readers are able to root for. He does not want to be involved in the world of wizarding affairs, he does not want to save the day, but he does want to not die tragically, and he’s unable to sit ideally by while his apprentice, or even other wizards’ apprentices are put in harms way.

Taken is filled to the brim with action, and readers will be absolutely delighted to see Luna enter the action. Not only is there the normal level of kill or be killed action that Alex always seems to find himself in (at least in books 1-3), but the apprentices and Luna get to enter the foray with duels.

All in all I am a huge fan of Jacka’s Alex Versus series. I think the characters are well crafted, the story well written, and each book filled to the brim with non-stop action. I must read for anyone claiming to be a fan of urban fantasy.


Publisher: Ace

Published: August 28, 2012

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy:

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Drowned Vault: By N.D. Wilson



It's been almost a year since Cyrus and Antigone Smith earned their places as Journeymen at Ashtown, home of an ancient order of explorers that has long guarded the world's secrets and treasures. While their studies go well, Cy and Tigs are not well liked since losing the Dragon's Tooth to the nefarious Dr. Phoenix. The Tooth is the only object in the world capable of killing the long-lived transmortals, and Phoenix has been tracking them down one-by-one, and murdering them.

The surviving transmortals, led by legendary warrior Gilgamesh of Uruk, descend on Ashtown in force, demanding justice. Cy and Tigs find themselves on the run in a desperate search to locate Phoenix and regain the Tooth. In the process, they uncover an evil even more dangerous than Phoenix, one that has been waiting for centuries to emerge.


While I liked the first book in the Ashtown Burials series, The Dragon’s Tooth, at the time I felt like it was a tad young for my taste. It started out with a bang but then seemed to slope towards a younger audience. Entirely understandable, but just not my cup of tea.

But The Drowned Vault left me with a completely different feeling. This book started out with a bang and just kept going. It didn’t spend eons catching readers up like I expected, instead it went straight to the action and kept running. Readers will love the increased interactions with transmortals (god like creatures who aren’t limited by silly things such as death), watching them use their powers, fight, and really charge up the story. These transmortals change the entire shape of the story, instead of just fighting a war on just one front, with Phoenix, now with the transmortals free, the O and B in shambles, and the Smiths on the run from everyone, lets just say readers will not be easily bored.

Of course, besides constant action, N.D. Wilson really stepped up his writing game this book, building on his characters and letting them grow and become fuller. This allows for both captivating reading as well as a deeper involvement with the book and characters overall, making a much more enjoyable read.

Really that sums up The Drowned Vault pretty succinctly. It is fun, exciting, full of action and good characters, and I absolutely can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book in the captivating series. 


Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Published: September 11, 2012

Price: $16.99

Link to Buy:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Necromancing the Stone: By Lish McBride



With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?
Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.
But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?


Necromancing the Stone is the sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and to put it succinctly, it is absolutely amazing.

Not only are the characters likeable and relatable (well as relatable as being able to relate to someone who is dating a werewolf/farie, who’s best friends are a were-bear and a ghost, and who is himself a necromancer, is), they are also just plain well crafted. McBride came out with a novella titled Necromancer last year showcasing Ashley, a minor character with a whole lot of spunk. And it was fantastic. That’s how good each of these characters are. I would love it if McBride not only kept writing full books that continue the series, but also if she published novellas on all the other characters in the Necromancing the Stone, everyone from Brooke, to Ramon, to Sam’s mother, to any of Brid’s brothers.

Of course, not only are the characters entertaining and fantastic, the plot itself is fantastic. Necromancing the Stone is filled with mystery, action, as well as enormous reveals about a number of the characters, including a real heart to heart from Douglas’s past.

All I can say is that Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was a finalist for the Morris, a huge honor for a debut author, and in my opinion she’s outdone herself with Necromancing the Stone, making an already great book, an even better series. 


Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. 

Published: September 18, 2012 

Price: $16.99

Link to Buy:

Call The Shots: By Don Calame



Coop is cooking up another sure-misfire scheme (big surprise), and this time the comedy plays out from Sean’s point of view. What’s the new master plan? Making a cheapo horror movie guaranteed to make Coop, Sean, and Matt filthy rich! It’s a terrible idea, and Sean knows it. But he actually is desperate for cash — and for a way to wipe that big fat off his girlfriend-less forehead. But when he agrees to write a script about the attack of zombie-vampire humanzees, he has no idea just how powerful a chick magnet this movie will be. Suddenly Sean is juggling not one but three interested ladies. There’s his accidental-girlfriend-turned-psychotic-stalker, Evelyn. There’s the wicked hot actress from drama class, Leyna, who seems willing to do anything to land the starring role. And even his twin sister’s gothed-out best friend, Nessa, is looking at Sean in a whole new way. Will any of them wind up as Sean’s true leading lady? Will Sean stop being a doormat and finally start calling the shots?


Call the Shots is fun, full of great characters, and is just a great light hearted read. Calame has done a fantastic job maintaining the perfect balance of awkward teenager and relatable/likable character. Of course readers of the previous two books in the series, Swim the Fly and Beat the Band, will rejoice in seeing their favorite rag-tag group of teens back again in this seemingly final book in the trilogy.

Of course, while I recommend to read the books in the order they were released, Calame has created a series where if necessary each book could stand on its own, perfect for readers to jump in at any moment.

Of course, besides fun characters, readers will crack up with Coop’s insane plans, which in past books has included everything from going to a nude beach (and seeing things they all wish they could forget), joining battle of the bands when none of them know how to play an instrument, and now in Call the Shots, shooting a horror movie on a $1000 budget to win at terror fest, a horror film festival in New York.

Really this book is fantastic for anyone looking for a light engaging read, where you’ll relate to the characters, have fun following in their insane plans, and be glued until the last page. All in all a great read that I’d easily recommend. 


Publisher: Candlewick

Published: September 11, 2012

Price: $16.99

Link to Buy:

Josie Griffin Is Not a Vampire: By Heather Swain



When former good girl turned rebel Josie Griffin gets busted for what was in her mind perfectly acceptable revenge on her cheating dog of a boyfriend, she lands herself in anger management therapy. It could be worse: it could be juvvie, or she could be a zombie cheerleader like the rest of her former friends. But there's something strange about therapy--these are not normal kids. There's the wannabe ladies man with a weird accent, Johann; the blindingly gorgeous Helios; Avis with his wild dreads; and Tarren, the sprite of a girl with a wicked temper. And all of them keep talking about "powers." Josie knows that has to be impossible, but strange things start happening, and nothing weird ever happens in Indiana. After all, there're no such things as vampires, werewolves, Greek gods, or fairies . . . right?


Josie Griffin is Not a Vampire started out interesting. Swain does a good job establishing a fun rag-tag group of misfit paranormals. Including everything from a misguided teen vampire with a speech impediment to the son of a Greek god, who just seems a bit too polished. Swain then established an interesting problem, girls seem to be disappearing from a run-away home and it will take the entire rag-tag group to find out what’s really happening.

See it sounds pretty interesting right?

Unfortunately, this is where the train falls off the tracks. Josie causes the predictable amount of trouble, there is teen romance, and then …. Nothing. The story just falls off. I wanted to find out more about the paranormals, the relationships, any one of the issues Swain brings up, from Helios’s family problems, to ramifications at the end of the book, to any one of the characters backgrounds. It was like there was an attempt to make these characters more than two-dimensional, and then no follow through.

I feel bad, but I would not recommend this book. Sorry.


Publisher: September 13, 2012

Published: Speak

Price: $8.99

Link to Buy:

Full Blooded: By Amanda Carlson



It's not easy being a girl. It's even harder when you're the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it's next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race... Meet Jessica McClain -- she just became part of the pack.


I have mixed feelings about Full Blooded. I read the novella Blooded, and really liked it. I thought it showed real promise and I wanted to see what happened next in Jessica’s world.

Then in Full Blooded it started off pretty interesting, it’s now eight years later, and Jessica is working as a private investigator with her friend and fox shape shifter, Nick, after having left the police force because of being hounded by a senior officer who kept putting his nose where it didn’t belong, namely, Jessica’s life. This will come as no surprise to anyone who is interested in this book, but Jessica changes into a wolf. But unlike all the other wolves in her family, her change fits with a prophecy that spells out the doom of the werewolf community, since Jessica now has done something no one else in the world has done, become the first female werewolf.

Dealing with the different fractions of the werewolf community was interesting also. The only thing that put me off a little was the fact that this seemed to be very heavy on the romance side. That said, if this was billed as a paranormal romance more in line with Jennifer Estep or Christina Henry than with Patricia Biggs, than I would completely understand and say it was exactly as billed.

As I write this review I decided I liked Full Blooded. It stated out more like an urban fantasy then paranormal romance and I think that threw off my expectations, but overall it was a fun book. Overall, perfect for someone looking for a bit of romance with a side of werewolves and action. 


Publisher: Orbit

Published: September 11, 2012

Price: $12.99

Link to Buy: