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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas & An Announcement

Quick post to say Merry Christmas to all of my followers, and to direct them over to this blog's new home - Coffee, Classics, and Craziness.  I've been thinking about transferring over to Wordpress and/or changing my blog title, and with the new year just around the corner, I figured now was as good a time as any.

See you there!


P.S. I will be leaving this blog up, since I only transferred a select few of my posts onto the new one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Very Best Time Of The Year

Don't you just love this time of year?

Sometime around November 15th and right on into the New Year, there a certain feeling in the air.  Something atmospheric, hard to describe, and very, very special.  There's an energy in the year fed, I suppose, by brightly coloured lights, a unique type of music called 'Christmas songs', the cold and snow (or slight chill in the air, depending on where you live), the smell of all sorts of delicious baked goods, and a million and one other things that all combine to create what we call 'the Christmas season'.

Christmas Cookies.

My family doesn't really do a Christmas tree or decorations, mistletoe or the Yule log, lots of presents on Christmas Eve/Day or Christmas songs blasting through the house non-stop.  But I still fully appreciate Christmas and everything it means and stands for - to the point of driving my siblings crazy by saying at least three times a day "I just love this time of year!" or "There's such a great atmosphere in the air around Christmas time."  In some ways, I wish this little sliver of the year would never end, even though it wouldn't be the same if every day was Christmas.  Anyway, I just wanted to share a little bit about what this time of year means for me, what it is specifically for me.

Christmas is...
  • Jesus' birth.  Now, I don't believe that Jesus was born on December 25th, but that doesn't mean I can't remember and celebrate His birth at this time of year.  There are so many beautiful Christmas carols that commemorate the miraculous occasion and I love listening to them or singing them in church.  Because without God giving His son to us, there wouldn't be any point to any of this, would there?
  • Christmas songs.  The old ones.  As in, 40's and 50's.  Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller...especially Glenn Miller.  I started listening to his music a few days ago because he's mentioned in a Jack Cavanaugh book I like, as well as a Combat! episode (go figure), so I was curious.  And then I watched 'The Glenn Miller Story' yesterday and, well, I've had the songs running through my head day and night.  I love old music so. much.  40's swing?  Doesn't get much better than that.
  • Cold air and snow.  Just take a good, deep breath.  I love tramping through the snow and breathing in that clean, winter air - so cold it hurts your lungs (in a good way).  There's nothing like crisp, invigorating air on a snowy, winter day.  Am I right?
  • Trees and trimmings and lights.  I go to the mall, and there's huge green ornaments strung from the ceilings, Christmas trees around every corner, pine branches above the warm yellow lights, sparkly red and green giant reindeers on different levels...all of it contributes to the Christmas atmosphere.  The neighbours have their lights out, and it's all so pretty - the reflection of the coloured, sparkly LEDs on the snow.  One of my favorite memories of my family's three year stay on a small farm that was close to one of those nosy, cozy country towns was the enormous display of Christmas lights in the town park.  Every time you drove through the town, you'd see the glowing spectacle in all its glory and it was really something.
  • Christmas spirit.  Everyone's so much more cheerful, friendly, and generous.  It's beautiful.

So, if you want me, I'll be snuggled in a comfy chair with my favorite sweater on, a cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream in my hands, watching 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Becoming Nikki Blog Tour: Author Interview

Remember when I blogged a cover reveal for Ashley Elliott's debut novel, Becoming Nikki?  Well, it's really, actually here.  Right here.  Or here.  Check it out, guys (girls?).  It's a great novel and I know ya'll will LOVE it.  You can also enter to win a signed copy here, through Rafflecopter, or here, through Goodreads.  But I highly recommend you purchase it too.  Support a budding author and all that. (*winks*)  Anywho, the real purpose of this post is part of Ze Fabulous Blog Party that Ashley has going right now. (well, actually, it's pretty much over - I'm at the very end of it...not that I mind)

I knew I wanted to do an interview with Ashley, but I also knew that I wanted it to be unique.  And so did she.  We put our two minds together (scary thought!) and came up with the idea (well, it was mostly her doing) of conducting the interview via Skype chat.  So, that's what we did.  It was lots of fun, made the interview more interesting (in my humble opinion), and you'll be able to see a bit of our mutual craziness and fangirlyness (that's not a word, right?) because of the format.  Without further ado...the interview!
So, Ashley, tell me and my blog readers a little bit about yourself!
Whhhhheeeell, my name is Ashley, I'm 20 years old - SO OLD! - and I'm a writer.  (Duh.)  I'm also a reader, a musician, a singer, a fangirl, and a movie-and-tv-show-binger.  I'm the second oldest of six and I'm currently pursuing a degree in Humanities through CollegePlus.
And could you tell us a little bit about your new book, Becoming Nikki?
Becoming Nikki is about a girl named Nikki and her brother, Alec.  They ice dance together - which is kinda like ice skating - except it's the only thing they have in common anymore because their relationship is falling apart.  Then, as the result of a swimming accident, Alec loses his memory and Nikki is given the chance to rebuild their relationship from the foundations.  However, she struggles with how much she should help him, and if she should hide anything from him...  Either way, she knows her life will never be the same.  DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.
Wow.  That sounds...dramatic.
I know, right?  Especially when you add in the DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
With all that drama, you must've had some pretty interesting sources of inspiration.  Care to share what they were?
Indeedy.  Well, I first started loving ice dancing after watching the 2010 Winter Olympics and I've been obsessed with Meryl Davis and Charlie White ever since.  Pretty sure they're what keep me inspired with Nikki.  As I wrote Nikki, whenever I needed inspiration, I'd either take a break and eat some chocolate or I'd watch a video of Meryl & Charlie ice dancing.  :)
I haven't watched much ice dancing, but I loved reading your descriptions of it in Nikki.  I think the only time I've watched any ice dancing was one woman dancer during the Olympics who danced to some music from Les Miserables.  That's about it.
Oh, it was SO hard to write those!  I am not an ice skater by ANY means - whenever I do it, I always hold on to the railing - but I love it, and I'm kinda-sorta-okay-TOTALLY obsessed with it, so I watch the videos over and over and over until I feel like I've got it just right.  Oh, and I'm also a perfectionist, SO.  : P  Oh, cool!  Meryl and Charlie did a Phantom dance that was just fantastic.  I love it when they do their dances set to music I know!
Well, if the ice dancing scenes were some of the hardest scenes for you to write, what was one of the easiest?
All of the scenes that were only with Nikki and Natalie, her best friend.  I feel like I'm some kind of weird combination of Nikki, who is very introverted and shy, and Natalie, who is absolutely hilarious and makes friends with everyone.  Those scenes were the easiest to write because it was like writing out of the different sides of me.
I love Natalie!  She's one of my favorite characters.
Me, toooo!  People keep asking who my favorite character is and I honestly can't decide!!!  I always say Bennett, though, because he has a special place in my heart.  ;)
Okay, what about top THREE favorite?
Okay, I can do top three.  ;)  Nikki, Dylan, and Natalie are my top three.  Then comes Bennett and Alec.
Wait a sec.  It's been so long since I've read the book that I've completely forgotten who Bennett is. *sigh*  So...who is he exactly?
Hahaha, it's okay.  Bennett is Natalie's ice dancing partner.  I'm pretty sure Natalie and Nikki met through ice dancing.  Bennett and Natalie aren't quite as good as Nikki and Alec, but they're better than most.
Ohhhhh, that's right.  Now I remember.
He’s awesome.
He is.  Anywho...moving on with all the interview questions (*wink*) what is it you'd like people to take away from Nikki?
I think of Nikki as a relationship book.  It's about how to mend relationships that are falling apart and how to heal broken relationships.  But it's great because it's not one of those boring, non-fiction books that talks about relationships and how to fix them and is just totally yawn-worthy.  It's told in a story format.  I read this great quote once about stories... let me see if I can find it....  Ahh, yes.  Here it is.  "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten." - Rudyard Kipling.  I could go on and on about this because stories are something I'm really passionate about.  But I won't.  ;)
I love that.  Both your answer and the quote.  It's so true!  I remember more from reading a good historical fiction novel than ten non-fiction books.
I know, right?  I think I've learned more about history through stories I've read - like Les Mis and The Scarlet Pimpernel and Dickens and Austen....
Except when it comes to Unbroken.
I'm so glad I recommended that to you, so we can fangirl over it together.  ;)  Guys, if you haven't read Unbroken, DO SO.  As soon as possible.
Definitely.  So, hey, I just thought I'd ask you about your newest writing project - The Art Of Letting Go.  Do you think another self-publishing is in your future?  Or TRADITIONAL publishing?
Ooh, yes.  Good old TAoLG.  *rubs hands together*  Part of me wants to take the easier route and just self-publish it myself, but part of me - the Natalie/adventurous part - wants to try and do - DUN DUNNNN - the traditional route.
That would be awesome!
I know!  It's just incredibly daunting and scary....
Lastly, just for fun, what's your favorite book?  Movie?  TV show?
Ahhhhh, Evaaaaaa.  You KNOW I can't pick a favorite book, movie, or TV show.  No, wait, you know what my favorite TV show is.  ;)  But let's go from the beginning.  One of my favorite books - because I can never narrow it down to an exact Number One Favoritest Book Ever - is Unbroken.  Which we've already glossed over.  It's an amazing story of survival, redemption, and forgiveness.  And I love it.  My favorite movie is....  Oh, gracious, I don't know!!!  Let's go with /Captain America: The First Avenger/ because I LOVE IT SO MUCH.  Because Steve is one of the greatest guys on the silver screen and his story is just... *sigh*  Amazing.
Yes.  I love him so much.  Definitely my favorite superhero.
Duh.  Absolutely.  He blows everybody else out of the water... except maybe Peter Parker.  But that's another blog post topic for another time.  AND MY FAVORITE TV SHOW IS BOY MEETS WORLD AND I DON'T EVEN NEED ANY TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT.  It's one of the most feelsy, powerful, and funniest TV shows I've ever seen.  Bar none.  The end.  Amen and amen.
Ah, YES.  I've got to watch more episodes with you.  SOON.
ABSOLUTELY, YES.  THE SHAWN DRAMA, EVA.  SHAWN DRAMA.  I just found out that Eric's going to be on Girl Meets World, and I did a blog post on it, and I'M SO EXCITEDDDDDD.  The episode of GMW that Shawn is in is premiering tonight, but I can't watch it because (1) I don't have the channel and (2) Even if I did, I can't watch it because I have a concert tonight.  : (((((((  I'll find it on YouTube tomorrow.  ;)
Well, I know you could talk about BMW all day, but time's running out, so we should probably wrap up this interview ;)
Hahahahaha, yeahhhh, I could.  ;)  Well, thank you so much for interviewing me!  This was fun!  :)
It was!  Surprisingly. (I'M KIDDING)  I can't wait to read BN in all its revised glory :)
Haha, it's much better than the version you had to read.  ;)
But that was still awesome.
Well, I'm glad you thought so!
Yep.  That's us.  Two crazy peas in a pod of feels and fandoms and friendship. (*grins*)

Again, the link to buy Nikki is here.  Go do it.  You know you want to.


Ashley Elliott is a writer, reader, musician, photographer, tree-climber, and Leaguette. She speaks fluently in movie quotes and spends most of her time fangirling over her latest obsession. In her free time, she enjoys laughing with her friends, laughing over Christian indie films (but secretly loving them), and laughing with her five crazy siblings. Ashley is a homeschool graduate and is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Humanities through CollegePlus. She lives in Georgia with her parents and siblings, and doesn't have any pets.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Movie Review: Saints and Soldiers

Saints and Soldiers - Christian Movie/Film on DVD/Blu-ray.

Based on actual events, Saints and Soldiers tells the gripping story of a small band of Allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines with information that could save thousands of American lives. Outgunned and ill-equipped, they battle a frigid wilderness and roving German troops in order to smuggle the critical intelligence back to Allied territory.

I blame my brothers.

They were the ones who got me to watch this film in the first place.  They'd seen it before and detailed all the funny parts in such a way that I wanted to see it too.  I wasn't really interested in WWII at the time (that would come later), but I had an empty night that needed to be filled and since there was nothing better to do, I decided to give Saints and Soldiers a go.  I thought it would be a typical, somewhat boring war movie that was peppered with funny moments.  No.  No, no, no.

For the first hour or so, things were fine. (except for the initial massacre scene which was cry-worthy)  A band of soldiers trying to get important information behind enemy lines.  There was excitement and danger and few moments that made me choke up a little.  There was characterization.  There was plot.  There was, I'll admit, humour.  And none of it was boring.  All good, right?  Then came the last half hour of the film and, honestly, it's like act two of Les Miserables.  People started dying, lots of people, all the characters I'd come to care about, and it was awful.  As in 'staring at the screen and ugly crying' awful.  Oh...I just remembered that I actually knew about one character's death, because my brothers told me, but I totally forgot about it until it actually happened.  That was horrible.

I never asked for any of it!  I thought it was just going to be a regular war movie, like the ones from 'the olden days', where none of the main characters died, the mission was a total success, and everyone went on their merry way by the end. (actually, I take that back about characters never dying in old movies - have you seen The Devil's Brigade?)  Nope.  Not happening.  And then I re-watched it a few days ago, thinking that maybe it wasn't so bad as I remembered.  It was.  It was actually worse, because whenever I laughed during the funny scenes, I felt guilty because the screenwriters take all the funny moments and turn them into something absolutely heartbreaking right near the end. (trying to stay away from spoilers mainly for you, Ashley)  Whyyyyyy???

There will be never be a day I don't feel emotional about Deacon.

Okay, okay.  I guess I should try to write this like a proper review.  So I'll talk about the characters.

If I can manage to do that without bursting into tears.

Seriously.  I have so. many. feelings. about each and every character.  There's Deacon, the shell-shocked anti-hero who never misses a shot (except once...), who read his Bible and prays, who never kissed his wife until their wedding day (UGGGGGH.  My heart.  Melted.), who just found out his wife's expecting a baby, who's tortured by memories of a mission gone wrong.  Deacon is my favorite character and I doubt I'll ever be able to pass a day without having feels about him.  He's one of my favorite fictional characters, period.

Then there's all the other characters.  Gunderson, the sergeant who I didn't expect to like all that much but ended up liking nearly as much as Deacon.  Kendrick, a Southern private who lends comic relief to the film.  Gould, the more-than-a-little obnoxious medic who has the biggest character changes of anyone.  And Winley, the British flight sergeant who carries important information in a handwritten code only he can read (so they kind of have to get him back in one piece).

Filmed in a month, on a budget of less than a million, Saints and Soldiers is still one of the finer war movies I've ever seen.  The story, perhaps, isn't the most original - a small band of soldiers have to get important information back to their lines - but it's presented well and the acting is phenomenal.  A lot of indie films have less than stellar actors and actresses, but the casting director for Saints and Soldiers pulled together an amazing cast.  There isn't one moment, in my opinion, where the acting faltered.  Especially not the death scenes, which are kind of hard to pull off without being cheesy.

All in all, Saints and Soldiers is an excellent war movie, an emotionally satisfying story, and a triumph for independent films everywhere.  I can't recommend it highly enough.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

I'm Baaaaack!

My new favorite thing.  TOTALLY.
Well.  I really don't know how to begin this post.  There are tons of things I want to write about, but where to start?  I guess I could share the fact that I won NaNoWriMo.  Again. (second time in a row!)  I've also written two blog posts in the past month (here and here), wrote some fan-fiction along with my NaNo novel, watched some new movies, read some new books, and just generally have had an amazing month.  Oh, and I also changed the blog design because I was bored, but it's not doing anything for me, so I'm going to change it again.  Probably something Frozen-ish, because it's that time of year.

I've read a lot of books during this past month.  The entire Great Awakenings series, While We're Far Apart, the Legend trilogy, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Giver, the YA adaption of Unbroken, Insurgent, and Allegiant.  DON'T EVER READ ALLEGIANT.  And I'm not saying that as a weepy, distraught fangirl who adores the series and is completely heartbroken over Tris' death but still thinks it was the right thing for her to do.  No.  I didn't cry, I found Tris' death incredibly selfish, and the entire book was one long, angsty bore-fest.  And then I hear that they're splitting it into two movies.  What-?  Why-?  Why would you do that?

On the up side, most of the other books I read last month were great.  To Kill A Mockingbird (ahhhh, I keep typing 'mockingjay') especially.  As soon as I read the book, I watched movie, and I now love both the book and the movie.  And Atticus.  And Gregory Peck.  I also read The Giver in preparation for the movie (which was great) and I think this last read-through really cemented my liking and admiration for TG.  It took about four re-reads for me to really get it, but I'm glad that I finally have now.  Anyway, the movie was good.  Not one of my top favorites, but it was a much better adaption of the book than the trailers showed.  And TG hasn't been rooted in my life since childhood, so I probably don't feel as strongly about the changes as most other fans.

Exclusive: All New ‘The Giver’ Challenge Starts Now! Find out the next phase!

I've also watched a slew of animated films recently.  Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 2, Madagascar 3, How To Train Your Dragon, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2...a bunch of movies like that.  The only one I really liked and thought rose above the typical animated movie cliches was HTTYD (hence the blog design).  Oh, and Cloudy 2 was pretty good as well.  Not as much as the first movie, but when are sequels ever better?  I miiiiight review both Cloudy movies some time, along with HTTYD and Kung Fu Panda - maybe another one of those 'favorite animated movies' posts. (KFP was okay.  I enjoyed certain elements of it, but it's not an overall favorite.)


Oh, and I watched Saints & Soldiers last night. (second time)  ACK.  I love it and hate it at the same time.  My next post will probably be a review, so there'll be more details there about why I have such a big love/hate relationship and what it's all about.  But let me just say that for an indie film with a budget of less than a million, the creators of S&S did an outstanding job.  Absolutely outstanding.  Annnnnd speaking of WWII movies, I've also been watching Combat! a lot.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned the show on this blog before or not, but you'll probably be hearing about it semi-frequently, as it's my current fandom.  I wrote some fan-fiction surrounding it for NaNo, and for me, that's a big sign of how obsessed I am.  If I write fan-fiction for a show or a book or a movie, I'm pretty 'into' it.

And that's about it for now.  Just a little update post that I hope to follow-up quite soon with a regular blogging schedule.



Monday, November 03, 2014

'Becoming Nikki' Cover Reveal

randomly nice picture so the cover doesn't show up in your dashboard :)
It's finally here!  The cover reveal for Becoming Nikki, the amazing novel written by one of my best friends Ashley (or, as you probably still know her, Eowyn).  I had the privilege of beta-reading BN about a year ago (goodness, has it been a year already O.o) and it. is. awesome.  Funny and poignant and thrilling all at once.  Also peppered with fandom references. (well, at least the draft I read was...PLEASE DON'T HAVE CHANGED THAT, ASHLEY)  Interested in the official synopsis?  Of course you are. (*winks*)

What would you do if you were given the opportunity to rebuild a broken relationship? 

Alec and Nikki Scott are the perfect ice dancing duo, executing flawless technique and brilliant performance abilities each time they compete. No one doubts their camaraderie, not even their closest friends.
But looks can be deceiving. Off the ice, their relationship is in shambles. Ice dancing is the only thing they have in common anymore... and Alec wants to quit.
Just as Nikki feels like their relationship can't get any worse, an unexpected tragedy crashes into her life. She's left struggling with a difficult choice as her opinion of her brother slowly starts to change.
Whatever she decides, she knows her life will never be the same.

Annnnnnnd...the cover!

Isn't it gorgeous?  I love the soft lighting and the warm white colour.


P.S. Check out Becoming Nikki's Goodreads page!

P.P.S. Becoming Nikki will be released on Amazon and CreateSpace December 8th, 2014.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Books That Have Touched Me

Some time ago, a tag went around Facebook where you were supposed to list ten books that had influenced you, touched you, and/or made a difference in your life.  I duly did so, and then I thought that the subject would make an excellent blog post.  So, I switched around some titles on my life (yes, it changes a lot), gave some thought to what I would say for each book, assembled some honourable mentions, and now I'm here to share my list with you. (Note: the order in which the books are listed has no bearing on how important they are to me - it's all random) (Note #2 - This list naturally excludes the Bible...there's no question it's been the greatest influence on my life)
  • Glimpses of Truth - Okay, yes, this one does deserve to be at the very top of the list.  Great Christian fiction, my favorite modern novel, and very inspiring.
  • Songs in the Night (series) - God and faith are an integral part of each book, and if you're looking for an exciting, emotional read, I can't recommend these books highly enough.
  • Through Gates of Splendour - One of the first non-fiction books I ever read, and it's remained one of my favorites through the years.  I've also watched a documentary based on this book, and read another book, Jungle Pilot, that was an autobiography of Nate Saint's life.  It's a great read as well.
  • Unbroken - Definitely my favorite book of 2014, and probably my favorite book for a lot of years. Unbroken is one of the few books I've bought after getting it from the library, and I've actually bought TWO copies - hardcover and softcover.  I just-I can't really explain how much I love the story.  Take my word for it, though, and read it.  Right now.
  • The Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall (series) - At times unnecessarily depressing and/or long-winded, this series is still one of my favorites.  Just...I think of the deaths and heartbreak is extraneous, which isn't all that great.
  • The Book Thief - This book.  It's phenomenal.  I've read it about six times and I'm feeling the itch to re-read it again.  A beautiful, poignant story about books, WWII, and death.
  • Les Miserables - One of the greatest classics (if not THE greatest), and probably my favorite classic book.  There's so much richness and depth in both the plot and characters, not to mention all the philosophizing that goes on.  Sure, it's a long slog at times, but definitely worth a read.  Or several.
  • The Giver - One of those dystopian books that isn't cliched (probably because it came out before the whole Hunger Games craze), if depressing. (but, hey, I like depressing books)  I haven't read the other three books in the series, but I'm sure they'll be good as well.
  • The Secret of Mission T-3 - You've proooobably never heard of this book, since it was self-published, I believe, and I've never met anyone who's read it, so...yeah.  It's amazing and touching, so if you have read, please let me know!
  • A Tale of Two Cities - I recently listened to the musical version of this book, and fell in love with the story all over again.  It was one my mom refused to let me read, so she'd have something to teach me for English Literature, but once I was able to, I read it about three times in a row.  Beautiful, beautiful story.
{Honourable Mentions}
What are some books that have touched or influenced you?


{P.S. This was supposed to be one of those cliched 'NaNoWriMo's just around the river bend, so I won't be posting as frequently, and then I realized that I'm not posting frequently anyway, so I'll just say goodbye till the next post}

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Top Seven 'Little Known Things' Recommendations

random picture because I honestly couldn't find a good one to begin this post.
I'm in a multitude of fandoms.  Big, medium, and small.  There's The Hunger Games, Divergent, Les Miserables...there's BBC Robin Hood, The Book Thief, and Emma Approved...and then there's all the little fandoms I have.  Not called so because I have a lesser affection for those certain books, movies, and TV shows, but because only a very few people know about said media.  

On the one hand, it's really fun to have small, private fandoms.  They're your own special thing.  You can imagine whatever you want about the story world and no one will call you out on it.  The fandom object is personal to you, instead of being shared by hundreds or thousands of fans.  But on the other hand, a private fandom can be hard to reconcile to.  Since hardly anyone has heard about said book/movie/TV show, you're all alone with your feels and squee and general fangirling.  And I can't even begin to describe the feeling of excitement when you 1) discover a friend of yours loves the exact same thing you thought no one else knew about, or 2) introduce a friend to your little fandom and have them love it.  I want to share some of my private fandoms with you today, and hopefully you'll discover a gem or two.  Here we go...

(in alphabetical order because I can't think of any other way to rank these)

Calvin & Hobbes is one of the few things that can actually make me laugh out loud.  I'm...amused by a lot of things, but if I actually, literally laugh out loud over something, you know it's pretty funny. (the only five things that can consistently make me laugh out loud are C&H, Despicable Me, Hogan's Heroes, The Lego Movie, and my brother, Noah...though he's not a 'thing')  Basically, it's a comic strip about a bratty boy and his stuffed tiger, only in Calvin's world, Hobbes is real.  The jokes are hilarious (no, really, they are...not like most comic strips), the artwork is quirky and actually kind of beautiful at times, and Hobbes is pure gold.

By atarial.     Maan, Disney should jump on this! Can you imagine if BBC and them teamed up and made an animated show? Ha haaa... This would be all kinds of awesomeness.

Ah, I love this movie.  Many of my favorite movies are animated, but TGMD is one of my favorite animated movies out of the many I like, if not my top favorite.  Basil is arrogant, more than a little self-serving, as well as being an egomaniac, and yet I still like him.  Really like him.  Ratigan is a fantastic villain, one of the best Disney villains in my opinion.  Actually, when I take a look at this movie as a whole - great story, dialogue, characters, animation, humour, songs, etc. (believe me, the list could go on) - I can't believe that TGMD isn't more popular.  But, from what I've seen, there are only a few fans.  For someone who doesn't particularly like Disney princess movies and loves classic books, TGMD is a perfect watch.

hogan heroes | Hogan's heroes - Hogan's heroes Photo (31293044) - Fanpop fanclubs

This was a recent addition to my list of private fandoms.  As in 'four or five days ago' recent.  I watched the whole series (which is about Allied POWs in a German prison camp, in case you didn't know) when I was a lot younger, then decided I didn't like the show, and it was only a few days ago, when I watched a few episodes on a whim that I fell in like with the whole thing again.  It's amazing and funny and sometimes deep and funny and exciting and funny...and did I mention funny?  When my siblings and I watch episodes in the evening, sometimes we're laughing so hard that we get all teary-eyed.  There are six seasons, and I don't remember most of the episodes, so I suspect we'll be enjoying this show for quite awhile.

"An American Family Portrait" series by Jack Cavanaugh - My dad read these to me growing up. A great historical fiction Christian series.

See.  I couldn't even get a good picture to represent this fandom, because pretty much no one knows about Jack Cavanaugh's books.  And I know, I know, I probably sound like a broken record since I talk about these books ('these books' as in the ones in the picture above and every other one he's written) whenever I can.  I can't promise that I won't discuss Jack Cavanaugh's amazing writing, and how his characters are all unique (he's written tens of books, and each character is unique - do you know how hard that is to maintain?), and how each of his books always makes me cry at least a little.  But I figure that if I talk about it a little right now, that should tide me over for some time. *looks back through the paragraph*  Well, it seems like I've touched on a few of the major points, so I guess I'll be moving on.  I want to get this post done before I have to go to bed.  But I will be reviewing more of his books.

~Rat Patrol

This...this show.  Currently my main fandom, and I suspect it'll stay that way for a loooong time.  Basically, The Rat Patrol is a TV show about four guys in North Africa during WWII who go around blowing German stuff up.  Like convoys and ammo dumps, things like that.  I'll admit that it doesn't sound all that interesting, not something that would have a lot of material to fangirl over, but, believe me, it does.  The characters, for one thing, are awesome and well-rounded even if no one gets very much personal screen time between blowing stuff up.  The action sequences are pretty neat, I must say, and the episode plots are interesting enough.  Still doesn't sound all that great?  Then you've got to watch it for yourself.  Each episode is less than half an hour, and well worth your time.  If you want more information about RP, EMAIL ME.  I could go on for hours... (and I would write a review of this show, only I don't think anyone would understand what I was talking about because there are so few fans)

Seussical the Musical - saw in Columbus & saw Seussical Jr. by a local high school this year.  They did a wonderful job!

Yes, I know.  I'm weird.  I would never have dreamed of listening to this musical - I didn't even really know it existed - if I hadn't watched an interview of Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and he mentioned that he'd been in Seussical, really loved the show, and he even sang a little of it.  So I found the Original Broadway Cast Recording on Youtube (gotta love the OBCs!) and tentatively played it.  And, BAM, new favorite musical.  Sure, it's pretty wacky and crazy, had an abysmal Broadway run, and some of the songs are just plain weird, but there's enough good in it to counteract all of that.  Now, unlike most little-known musicals I love, I can see why this one did so terribly on Broadway.  The songs are terrific, but when you watch clips of the show, it just doesn't seem as good, and I think it's because when you're listening to the songs without visuals, you can imagine that it really is an elephant, and monkeys, and birds singing...but then when you actually SEE it...  Still, I highly recommend the OBC.

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles 1) | Vivienne To

Did you know that Suzanne Collins (yes, she of Hunger Games fame) wrote another series?  This one is targeted to tweens, instead of young adults, but it's still one of my favorite serieses ever.  The basic premise is that a boy named Gregor falls through a hole and comes out in the Underland, a place where people ride bats, converse with rats, and associate with several different insects.  Sounds kind of creepy, right?  Well, it's not.  I mean, by the end of the series, I'd cried over a cockroach, a rat, and a bat.  So you really do get used to it.  There are five books in all, and I really can't pick a favorite.  They're all amazing.  I'd go as far as to say that I love the Underland Chronicles just as much as The Hunger Games.  If you're looking for a good magicless fantasy series, these are definitely the books for you.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America {The Winter Soldier}

6 Minimalist Posters Inspired by Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Halloween Costumes BlogCaptain America Winter Soldier Poster

“After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrugue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off assailants sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy – the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).”

I'm a huge Captain America fan.  I've watched Captain America: The First Avenger more times than I can count, I have a Cap poster on my bedroom wall, and a Cap mug that I keep on my desk which holds a Lego mini-figure of Steve, along with his motorcycle and shield.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been on my to-watch list ever since I joined the fandom (I watched TFA just a couple of days after the first TWS trailer came out) and I was finally able to get my hands on it last Tuesday when it came out on DVD.  

And it was so good.

I was expecting to love it, but seeing the whole thing up close, from start to finish was even more amazing than I'd thought.  There were so many twists and turns, intense fight/chase scenes, plenty of humour to keep things from being too dark, and all those little heartbreaking touches. (Peggy, of course, and then pretty much anything to do with the Winter Soldier himself)  At the moment, I'm really coming up blank for all the right ways to talk about this film (maybe because I'm feeling sick right now) so if this review is a little disjointed...I'm sorry, but that's just how it turned out.  But I think that once I get to reviewing specific things, instead of rambling all over the place, it'll get better.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This was such a good movie

Steve Rogers/Captain America has always been, and will always be, my favorite superhero.  Sure, Iron Man is flashier, Thor is more powerful, Batman is dark and mysterious, and I'll admit I have a soft spot for Hawkeye, but Steve is my favorite.  While he has a lot of new and improved fighting techniques in The Winter Soldier, inside he's still the same person.  The same guy who threw himself on the grenade, who charged into enemy territory to rescue his best friend, who crashed the plane he was in to save the lives of thousands of people.  You can see these same traits manifested several times throughout the film, especially in his interactions with Peggy, Natasha, and Bucky. He's the same Cap that I loved in The First Avenger, and I couldn't be happier about that.

I think I'm crying….the feels!!!! AHHH!!!! Why don't you just rip out my heart and crush it! IT WOULD BE FASTER!

Bucky.  The Winter Soldier.  So. Many. Feels.  On my second viewing of TWS, I looked at my brother and said "This movie has such amazing acting" (I forget at exactly what point I said it) and he agreed.  There's no greater evidence of this then Sebastian Stan's portrayal of the Winter Soldier/Bucky.  Marvel's given us a sympathetic villain to rival Loki (personally, I think he's a million times better than Loki) and everyone is obsessed.  I could write reams about Bucky and his backstory and the brainwashing scene (Ugh.  That scene was honestly one of the worst movie scenes I've ever seen) and pretty much everything about the character, but I want to keep this review down to as manageable a length as possible, so I'll be moving on shortly. (however, I'll probably be writing a lot about all those things on this blog in the nearish future)  Just let me say that he only had about thirty-three words in the entire movie.  And he still crushed everyone's heart and eclipsed Loki, at least partially.  Now that's what I call great acting.

Steve looks more angry than Nat. She just looks shocked, a little. UGH INFORMATION, MARVEL, I NEED INFORMATION.
The Winter Soldier was the first Marvel movie where I saw Natasha/Black Widow in action and I was very impressed.  From the few clips I'd seen of Natasha in both The Avengers and Iron Man 3, I don't think I was expecting much more from her than some cool action sequences, but there was so much more.  Sure, she had about three big fight scenes, but there was a lot of characterization and depth to her as well.  As all Marvel fans know, Black Widow has a dark, mysterious past and TWS, while not revealing any specific details, definitely showed that she has a lot of secrets to hide.  The way she worked with Steve through the whole film was great to see, and I think that he helped her soften a little and become more than just an agent-assassin.  It was also interesting to see her relationship with Nick Fury.  I didn't understood just how deeply she felt about him until watching TWS, and it's definitely deepened both her character and his in my mind.

Speaking of Nick Fury: I liked him much more than I thought I would.  He isn't my favorite character, but again, there was great characterization.  Now, I don't want to spend too much time on the characters, but there's still so many left to talk about.  Sam/Falcon, for one.  The fighting trio that he, Steve, and Natasha made was great and I liked him as a character in his own right.  He can understand, to some extent, what Steve's going through with Bucky because he lost his best friend to a war as well.  He runs a support group, he's funny, kind...and those wings of his are seriously cool.  A couple other more minor characters that I liked were Sharon/Agent 13 and Maria Hill.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I ship Sharon and Steve (she's Peggy's niece, which could get a little weird) but I really liked her character.  Maria Hill was one Marvel character I was the most interested in seeing, and she was great, even if we didn't get to see much of her.

[Oh, and just so you know.  Pierce is the worst.  Evil, manipulative, cold.  My siblings and I all agree that he's the worst Marvel villain ever.]

One of my friends got to see The Winter Soldier long before I did, and she warned me about how intense the film was.  It was crazily intense and heart pounding.  Lemurian Star, Nick Fury being chased through the streets, the Winter Soldier tearing out the steering wheel, the council room, locking the helicarriers...from start to finish, TWS was gripping and just very, very exciting.  I read somewhere that it almost received an R for violence and after watching the whole thing, I can believe it.  There's not a lot of blood and gore, but still.  One reason for the intensity of the fight scenes is, of course, the music.  When I first listened to the soundtrack, separate from the movie, I was really surprised.  It was cold, harsh, and metallic, with not a lot of personality.  I was used to the full, rich, warm soundtrack of The First Avenger, but after hearing the soundtrack paired with all the action scenes, I think it's perfect.  Definitely adds a lot to the mood.

Wow, this is just so beautiful. And painful. And amazing. And heartbreaking. I'M SO DONE.

If you asked me to chose between The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier, I honestly don't know which film I would pick.  Both of them are superhero epics, in their own way, and while not many people - including Marvel fans - would agree with me, I still think TFA is amazing.  Both films have such different atmospheres to them, that it's almost unfair to compare the two.  But TWS is a great film, one of the best I've seen this year, and I'm so glad that Captain America wasn't changed just because he's in the modern world now.

Let me know your thoughts on this movie!  I'm always glad to discuss things like this with fellow fans.


Friday, September 05, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.

Nonfiction isn't really my thing.  My Mom loves biographies and other works of nonfiction, but I've never really been all that interested, for one reason or another.  Unbroken was the book that changed my mind.  

For the past few months, I'd been looking for a five-star book (on Goodreads, books can be rated from one to five stars) and I hadn't found it.  Everything had been either two, three, or, at the best, four-star.  Then one day I was chatting with Eowyn, and she mentioned that she'd watched the trailer for a movie called Unbroken, read the book, cried buckets over it, and I needed to read it ASAP.  I didn't know anything about the book besides the title, and when I found out it was nonfiction, it wasn't at the top of my to-read list.  Still, I put a hold on it at the library, and when it came in, my Mom read it first, to make sure I could.  She loved it, and after putting it off for a couple of days while I finished up another book, I finally cracked the cover open and started reading.

'Obsessed' doesn't even begin to describe how I felt about this book (and still do feel).  From the very first page, I was sucked straight into the story (one I thing I like about Unbroken is that it isn't written as some dry historical biography - every sentence, every word is full of life and colour) and read as much as possible every chance I got.  Unbroken is a large book, but I finished it in two days.  When I read the epilogue, I was crying so hard I could barely see the words.  This book is joyful, intense, depressing, heartwrenching, inspiring...everything rolled into one.  And I finally had a five-star book that made every other five-star book on my Goodreads' shelves seem three-star by comparison.  I don't usually read a book that I can say "This is my favorite book of the year" without hesitation, but Unbroken was/is that for me.

There are so many things I could say about this book.  The characters, for one.  It is impossible to feel neutral toward any of these characters.  Louis, of course, is the one your root for the most.  I really, really don't want to give anything away because reading spoilers for this book would be a tragedy.  I'm serious.  All you need to do is buy it, open to the first page, and start reading until you have to come up for air.  But, suffice to say, things happen to him, changes both good and bad shape him, and, honestly, you couldn't ask for a better hero.  

Then, there's Eowyn's favorite character - Phil.  Louis' friend and the pilot of the plane that went down, leaving them floating in the ocean for forty-seven days before finally get picked up by the Japanese.  Phil is probably my favorite character as well.  He's kind and weird and funny and awesome - all rolled into one.  For instance, he always wore one pant leg slightly shorter than the other.  DON'T ASK ME WHY.  HE JUST DID. (Eowyn and I have laughed several times over that)  One thing that really breaks me heart when it comes to Phil is that he felt so guilty over the plane crash and resolved never to fly again. (he eventually went on a plane, just once, when his daughter got into an accident...or something similar)

A multitude of other characters fill the pages of Unbroken.  Pete, Louis' brother, who's another one of my favorite characters.  Louise, their mom, who always believed that Louis was alive and would eventually come home.  Mac, the one other man who survived the near fatal plane crash. (very mixed feelings about him - mainly because of The Chocolate Incident)  Harris, Fitzgerald, Tinker, and a host of other POWs that Louis met as he was shuffled from prison camp to prison camp.  And, of course, Mutsuhiro Watanabe - 'the Bird' - the man who was determined to break Louis' spirit. (honestly, my opinion of him changed just as Louis' opinion did - first, I was wondering exactly what the guy's deal was, then I really started to hate him, and by the end I just felt sorry for him)  And Cynthia, Louis' wife.  All in all, every single character is unforgettable in one way or another, and while some reviewers have complained about the large 'cast', I was never confused.  They are all unique and vivid.

I cannot explain the level of emotion I had (and still have) invested in this book, this story.  The only way you can understand is if you read it for yourself - something I highly recommend for everyone.  There's language sprinkled throughout the text, along with a lot of violence/descriptions of torture, so I'd recommend this book for ages fifteen or sixteen and up.  But, honestly, the good far outweighs the bad.  Unbroken is an amazingly moving, inspiring piece of nonfiction, a slice of WWII, and a fascinating story of one man's journey from delinquent to athlete to pilot to prisoner and beyond.  If I could recommend any book to you, it would be this one.  Sure, it'll rip your heart out and play games with your emotional state of well-being, but the experience is worth it.  So worth it.

(I still don't feel I've done justice to the book in this review, despite its length.  I might do a follow-up review, talking about my favorite moments in the book, since I mainly just talked about my reaction/the characters.  Let me know if any of you would be interested in that.)

(Oh, and go watch the trailer.  It's amazing.)

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