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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Little Things {126-150}

reasons to love being alive 

~old TV shows
~the Canadian national anthem
~walking around the mall until your feet hurt
~movie trailers
~Augustus Waters
~long emails from friends
~receiving packages in the mail
~having a notebook with you, day and night
~good books
~the smell of fresh baked goods
~making fandom photo edits
~silly questions
~bloodhound puppies
~the jolt when your alarm clock goes off
~visiting the library three times a week
~chatting with my mom
~Dr Suess


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dystopian Movies {Mini Reviews}

{Each of these movies is an outstanding production in its own right, and while I would've loved to give each one a full movie review, time constraints won't allow it.  Instead, I'll be doing a short, quick review of each film, focusing on cast, accuracy to the book, and music, three of the main things I watch/listen for in a movie.  Hope you enjoy!}

~The Hunger Games (2012)

I'm team Peeta, but they would look so cute together

I've heard it said that the first Hunger Games movie is a terrible adaption of the book.  That it doesn't capture the spirit, the feel, the message of The Hunger Games.  I, for one, never saw that.  For me, it's a reasonably good adaption of the book (when I say 'reasonably good' I mean just as good as most book-to-film adaptions) that captures the mood and tone of the dystopian society well.  Sure, they had to change up some stuff, but what book-to-film adaption doesn't?  Nothing really stuck out to me as being blatantly different from the book.  My only complaint with the adaption part of it was that the ending was a bit too rushed for my taste.  A quick montage of Haymitch warning Katniss, Katniss and Peeta doing their interview, and then cut to President Snow.  BOOM.  End credits.  Overall, however, I have no complaints when it comes to book accuracy.

Casting is the same way.  By now, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth (just to name a few of the iconic characters' actors/actresses) have become household words, completely synonymous with the characters they play.  In my opinion, that fame is well-deserved.  One thing that I didn't like in this film was how the first few minutes of it (up until the Reaping) seemed more like a fan-made video of The Hunger Games than an actual, professional Hollywood production.  Part of it was the shaky camera, but some of it was also the acting.  Gale, especially, seems a bit forced in his first scenes.  After the film moved past the Reaping, however, it was all good.  Solid casting and great emotional performances are, I believe, a bit part about what makes this movie so good.  I especially enjoyed the Careers' part in this film.

Lastly, the music.  Beautiful.  Especially the Panem anthem which always, always gives me chills.  I practically have the soundtrack memorized, so I was surprised that a few of the pieces on the soundtrack weren't in the film.  Instead, they were replaced by new music.  A scene that particularly sticks out to me in this regard (don't mind me...I'm incredibly nerdy when it comes to music) is one of the first scenes when Katniss is out hunting.  There was a lovely, earthy piece of music on the soundtrack for that part, but they replaced it with a more haunting melody.  I'm not complaining, just saying that I think the soundtrack piece fit better with the scene.  I'm probably over-analyzing all of this, so let me just say that I think the music in this film is great.  The bit for the mutts scene is epic, actually.

~Catching Fire (2013)

The last time,we will see normal Peeta... PLEASE DON'T REMIND ME! :(

THIS. MOVIE.  Where do I begin?  In terms of book accuracy, it is amazing.  Easily one of the best book-to-film adaptions I've seen.  As usual, a few things are changed, but overall it follows the book so, so well (one of the things that was changed was the whole situation surrounding Gale's beating - I think it was actually a change for the better).  Catching Fire really is proof that if you stick to the book, the movie will do fantastically.  Nearly everyone loved it (including myself) which in some ways is surprising, because of all the heavy, depressing feels that this film packs in.  From the time Katniss had a flashback to shooting Marvel to the very end, I was either close to tears, or crying.  If you thought the first film was dark and depressing, Catching Fire brings the franchise to a whole other level.  It's still amazing, though.

Any stiffness the actors/actresses might have felt with playing the characters of the Hunger Games universe in the first film seems to have disappeared.  The acting by the cast veterans is stellar (no complaints about Gale this time!) and the newcomers no less so.  Sam Claflin and Jena Malone as Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason respectively really stick out, and I can't wait to see what new depths Finnick is given in Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2.  Johanna is one of my favorite characters in the trilogy, so it was great to see her portrayed well (except for the elevator scene).  This is the last time we'll see Cinna, but he was as amazing as always.  Heartbreaking, too.

Catching Fire builds on a many musical themes taken from the first film, while adding in a few of its own.  The track for Rue's death is incorporated several times (always a tearjerker) as well as the anthem and the gorgeous Everlark love theme.  There's also a new theme for Katniss, as well as some ominous undertones for scenes with President Snow and/or the Gamemakers.  I particularly enjoy the action scene tracks for the monkey mutts, jabberjays, and the broken wire scene.  I think the soundtrack for Catching Fire is even stronger than The Hunger Games (which is saying something) and I can't wait to see what the two Mockingjay films bring us, when it comes to the soundtracks.

~Divergent (2014)

Divergent movie still... Whaaaaaat?!?!! Yee-aah, I am SO looking forward to this!!!! Glad I read the books before this came out! Makes me happy happy happy!!!!!

Ah, Divergent.  I'm so conflicted about this fandom.  On the one hand, I find the first book to be bland, sometimes even boring. (I haven't read the other two because of content issues and, frankly, I'm not interested)  On the other, I adore Four and the film is one of my favorite films I've seen in 2014. (yes, that did rhyme)  I think I'm more 'in' the Divergent fandom than 'out' of it, but it's definitely not a major obsession.  Now that we have that out of the way, on to the review!  First of all - accuracy to the book.  It's a good adaption with, again, some things changed.  Because I'm not a huge fan of the book, I'm probably more forgiving when it comes to stuff like Tris actually being kicked out of Dauntless.  Even if it doesn't follow the book as well as it probably could have, I don't mind.  I still love the movie.

Casting.  Oh my goodness, the casting is amazing.  Tris is played by Shailene Woodley, and I actually find movie-Tris a little more likable than book-Tris.  She's a strong female character (although not in an annoying way) and I think it's cool that Shailene did most of her own stunts.  Very Dauntless. (*wink*)  As for Four/Tobias.  I can't-I literally just can't even with the amazingness of Theo James as Tobias.  I know, I know, I probably sound like one of those silly fangirls, but at the moment, I am one.  I'd watch the movie over and over just for his portrayal of Tobias.  Four is probably the best thing about Divergent, and that translates perfectly on-screen.  The rest of the cast was really good, especially Tori, Will, and Christina (who interestingly enough, is played by the daughter of Lenny Kravtiz...who plays Cinna in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire).

I've already spoken at length about the soundtrack for Divergent, so I'll direct you to that post.

"I don't want to be just one thing. I can't be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest and kind. Well, I'm still working on kind." ~Tobias, Divergent


Monday, August 18, 2014

Half Baked {A Blog Release}

Hello, all!

My dear friend, Anne-girl, is celebrating the fast-approaching release of her new blog - Half Baked - and I'm here to help with the celebrations.  She's an awesome writer, and I'm sure that this new blog will be amazing.  Here's the 'backcover blurb', if you will, for the new site...

Half Baked is a blog dedicated to the art of writing and exploring what goes into a solid story. The blog operates on the principal that most stories are like cake, delicious and scrumptious and all the other cake words that are out there. But just like cake, a story can come out gooey and shaky in the middle, half baked. This blog is meant to help turn awesome ideas into solid, fully baked novels. Stop by on September first to join in the release party. There will be contests and a giveaway and of course virtual cake. 

Doesn't it sound great?  I'll definitely be stopping over there on September 1st - what about you?


Friday, August 15, 2014

Ehehehehehehe *Tom Hiddleston Laugh*

Hello, everyone!  As you may or may not have guessed already, this is not your usual lovely proprietor.  Instead, you get a special uninvited guest today in the form of her best friend, Miss Jane Bennet (that's me, by the way.  Hello.).

No, this is not her birthday.  It IS a very special day, however.  One year ago today, I signed in to my email and discovered one from her entitled "hey!" and urging me to introduce myself--the very beginning of our correspondence.

Isn't it amazing how God brings the right people into your life at the right time? People who support, love and pray for you, regardless of your your circumstances.
Before I get into that, though, let me tell you a little story.  Some months before that, I had suddenly realized that I was lonely.  I had my amazing family, but I wanted a friend--a real friend, one I could have inside jokes with and show all the sides of me to.  Someone who loved me, despite not being related to me or having known me forever.

In hindsight, this was probably silly and selfish--just because I didn't have a close friend at that particular time didn't mean that I'd never had one, or that nobody had ever been friends with me before.  But for whatever reason, I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me--if I was just bad friend material or just unnoticeable.  I prayed over and over about it, asking for a friend or, in absence of that, the ability to find peace about it.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. --Flavia Weedn<--@Eva Schon I wonder if this partly inspired "For Good"...?

Then, I began to comment on Eva's blog, first to thank her for introducing me to Les Mis through her Barricade Boys Week, and then to share my thoughts on her posts.  I loved her blog (still do)--it was engaging and sweet and some of them said exactly what I thought but couldn't put into words.

Awhile after that, I shared a post I'd written on the subject of Les Mis, and she commented that she loved it and offered to help me with my blog design.  I eagerly accepted--and asked if perhaps we could correspond.  She, to my utter surprise, said yes.

"Here is the promised email that starts us on our grand adventure of getting to know each other :)  For starters, tell me everything about yourself - all of your major likes/dislikes, favorite books,
movies, tv shows; favorite colors; favorite food; do you do any writing?; do you have a Pinterest account (I'd love to follow you)?" --Our Crazy Correspondence {OCC}
@Eva Schon We know better...there IS something better than a friend with chocolate. ;)

I immediately started writing back, telling all about myself, asking questions, and making Bad Jokes.  At the back of my mind, I was wondering whether this was really such a good idea.  Would I annoy her?  Would we end up hating each other?  Was it really wise to start an internet friendship at all?

Then I got her reply to my email, and suddenly I was sure this would work.

EVER, IS CHOCOLATE MINT.  That's just...crazy or something, how alike we are.  I've discovered that all of my kindred spirits (I think I can count you as one now) are alike me in a scary amount of ways, although we're also different.  Does that make sense?" --OCC

We are. :D
 (That chocolate mint thing, by the way?  We still joke about it.)

Our emails continued to fly back and forth.  Every time I got one of her emails, I would feel a little bit happier; her emails were so much fun to read and reply to.  She was so much like me, and still managed to provoke thought and broaden my mind.

 "It's been amazing, really, getting to know you.  Every so often, someone just perfectly 'clicks' with me, and you've been one of those people." --OCC

 We started a new thread, which was originally just for sharing Cool Internet Things but eventually evolved into sharing things-that-couldn't-wait-another-minute-to-be-told, and then turned into our main thread.

Somewhere along the line, though, something shifted.  I'm still not sure quite what it was, and I doubt I'll ever be able to put it into words.  But all of a sudden we were exchanging two emails a day and we'd written two hundred emails in our main thread (to say nothing of our other, original thread and the sundry small emails we'd sent occasionally).  We did a Skype call, followed shortly by another and another.  We began to text-chat, both on Skype and Gmail.  We pinned pictures at each other.  Recently, we began to send letters as well.

Once in awhile, she'd tell me how glad she was that we were friends, and while my outward reaction was, "Aww, thanks!", inwardly I was thanking God with all my heart for putting such an amazingly special person in my life and allowing me to be her Bestie Dearest.

  "Because now we are Ze Pascals and show each other our Craziness and I tell you weird theories that you doubtless shake your head at. :D  AND IT'S SO MUCH FUN.  I just love having's something Very Special and I treasure it highly. :)" --OCC

Seriously, she's made this past year one of the best of my life so far.  She taught me how to fangirl and that it's totally okay to type complete nonsense in all-caps and use bad punctuation and make truly awful puns if you're with your best friend.  She introduced me to Jack Cavanaugh and BBC Robin Hood and Les Mis and the Tale of Two Cities musical and some other things that I won't list because it would take too long.  We discovered a mutual love for The Scarlet Pimpernel, anything by Marguerite Henry, Winnie-the-Pooh, Calvin and Hobbes, and Vivaldi.  Together, we became Mad Hatters and Frangled fans.  We're sisters twice over; sisters in Christ and sisters of the heart.

I don't know what's going to happen in the future.  Maybe in a few years we'll have drifted apart or split on a fundamental issue.  Then again, maybe in twenty years we'll both be married and be honorary aunts to each other's children.  Who knows?  But she's helped me to grow and mature so much, and made so many days brighter, that I think I'll always be thankful for her friendship no matter what happens.

And so, thank you so much, Eva.  Thanks for being my Frozen sister; the Lizzy to my Jane; the Hobbes to my Calvin; the Holmes to my Watson.  Thanks for having put up with my bad moods and my fangirling about things you're not interested in, and for helping me through my Jolyishness.  Thank you for the hours of companionship we've shared--and do please forgive me for hacking your blog unmercifully.  It was done with good intentions. :D
Best Friends

"But the nicest present she received was not the usual kind of present.  It  was the present of a friend."

--Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fictional Character Crushes: How Far Is Too Far?

Harry Thor Loki Luke Percy Leo Seamus garret fang...... I'm going to die alone book and movie characters have ruined everything for real guys
There's a subject that's been heavily weighing on my mind and heart these past few days, and since it's somewhat related to period dramas and other things that I post about on here, I figured I should write a blog post about it to clear my head, and maybe offer some help/encouragement to you, my lovely followers.  This evening, I'll be discussing crushes on fictional characters/celebrities and when to back off from a character/fandom.  I don't consider myself a mentor or expert on these subjects in any way - these are just my thoughts and observations.  If you disagree with any of my points, the comment box is open.  Just be polite.  I love a good debate, but not a flame war.  I'm writing this post mainly to other teenage girls like myself, so if you're not a fangirly teenage girl, this post probably won't really apply to you.  Just sayin'.

To begin...

love fictional characters even though others don't believe that they're real
they aren't real.
I think this issue first came to my mind when I was randomly browsing the Internet, and I decided to see what other people had to say about the whole 'crushes-on-fictional-characters' thing (I didn't find much) which led to a curious search on whether or not anyone had ever 'married' a fictional character.  And I found this website...and basically exploded.  Not on the outside, no (I'm not really the kind of person to rant out loud about stuff like this) but on the inside I was a mixture of shock, anger, and a feeling of disgust.  Marriage is an incredibly special institution, created by God, and that website completely cheapens the whole thing by letting people 'marry' their favorite fictional characters and celebrities online.  That's just sick (on a side note, I have no idea why Jack Sparrow of all people is the number one most 'married' person) and I think most of us will agree that it's completely wrong.  Right?

AKA I'm in love with my fictional characters...
yeah, well...
But what about normal fangirls, like me?  We pin oodles of pictures on Pinterest, of all different things, but some of our favorite pins are pictures of awesome fictional characters (almost always guys) or celebrities.  We gush over how handsome, cute, brave, funny, heroic, and epic a character is and read fan-fiction about said character.  We make gifs and watch videos of them on Youtube over and over again.  We think about them during the day, and dream about them at night.  We can't imagine our lives without all these amazing characters, the ones who bring colour and interest and awesomeness to our sitting-in-front-of-the-computer-with-no-adventures-happening-anywhere existence.

And you know what?  That's fine.  It's fine to pin pictures and watch videos and chat with friends about fictional characters.  I do it all the time, and I consider myself to be a well-adjusted teenage girl who has a healthy relationship with her family and friends (both real-life and online) and many interests outside of fictional worlds/characters.  But I'm still a fangirl.  I still lock my caps on and keysmash and send unintelligible gibberish through my chat bar when I'm too excited to type straight.  I even have a few crushes on fictional characters, up to the point where I think it would be totally awesome to meet some of my favorites.  Am I ashamed of that?  No.  Am I worried that I've lost my emotional purity?  No.  Then what problem do I have (besides the whole 'website where you can marry your favorite fictional character' thing) with crushes on fictional characters?

It's when things are different.  Much different.

The fate of loving fiction characters
this is meant to be funny, but it's EXACTLY my point.
And by different, I mean obsessive.

Suddenly, you're no longer content with pinning pictures and reading fan-fiction.  You start to fantasize about actually marrying such-and-such fictional character and living your life with them to the point that you begin to exclude everything (and everyone) else.  You spend endless hours on the computer, researching everything about that character and/or the celebrity who plays him.  Maybe even reading, um, the not-so-nice fan-fiction (or, even worse, writing some).  You become so obsessed with said character that you don't notice the real guys that could be in your life, maybe even one who's really meant to be with you.  And all because you're 'in love' with someone that doesn't even exist, has never existed, and will never exist.

{I'm using the pronoun 'you' just because it's simpler...I'm not trying to condemn my blog readers here}

Unless we're talking about celebrities, which opens up a whole new can of worms.

It’s okay to love fictional characters.
a little crush, yes.  'real' love, no.
Basically, my thoughts on celebrity crushes are as follows: every celebrity has a public image.  Doesn't matter how down-to-earth, funny, polite, or kind a celebrity is, it's almost always a public image.  They're real people, yes, but many of them aren't nice people.  And that's the simple, sad truth of it.  I definitely don't think any celebrity can be held up as a role model, and I don't believe we should be crushing/'falling in love' with them.  Girls with celeb crushes drive me crazy, actually, partly because of the reasons I just outlined, and partly because I hate the way they go on and on about how they're going to marry said celebrity someday.  I doubt many (or any) of those celebrities would give them the time of day, let alone date or marry them.  It's giving all your attention, obsession, whatever you want to call it, to someone who doesn't even know you exist.

It’s okay if you’re in love with a celebrity or fictional character.
no.  no it's not.
I think my final thoughts on this can be summed up pretty clearly.  Being interested in a fictional character is perfectly fine for a fangirl.  Even having a little crush on them (which I freely admit I have my share of) is fine, in my opinion.  It's when you cross the line from interested to completely obsessed that things get complicated.  And you know what?  You'll move on.  You will.  In a few years, you'll probably look back and think "Why on earth was I ever obsessed with that character?"  Especially if you're engaged/married/what-have-you.  So it's not worth getting tattooed with 'I Love Tobias Eaton' (I doubt anyone's ever done that, but it wouldn't surprise me).  Trust me.  Plus, in ten years, these celebrities won't look the same as they do today when you're in the middle of your fangirl stage (of course, people could take that to mean - 'enjoy it while you can').  They won't be as 'cute' or 'hot' and by that point you'll probably be disillusioned by some dumb thing they did.  Maybe you've already reached that point.

*heavy sigh*

Wow.  This blog post was definitely longer and rantier than I'd imagined it would be.  Please don't take anything I said here personally.  Even if your fangirl life fits every single one of the points I made.  I'm not accusing anyone individually, I just wanted to get these thoughts out of my brain and onto my blog so that they don't bug me 24/7.  What are your thoughts on this subject?  Despite all my thinking about this, I've probably missed some obvious points, so I'd love to hear what you guys have to say.  Honestly.

And since I always like to finish blog posts off with a picture, I'm going to share with you a photo of my current favorite fictional guy character. (no, it's not defeating the purpose of this post - it's perfectly alright to fangirl, as long as you don't overdo it)  Because I love this picture and I have a little crush on this character (fueled mostly by this book) and I think we could all use a little break, right?  Right.  So here it is...


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Book Review: His Watchful Eye

I have a gorgeous edition of this book, with a beautiful
cover, but I couldn't find a picture of it anywhere on the
Internet, so I had to go with this simpler, more generic copy.
Konrad Reichmann, an outstanding product of Hitler's youth movement, becomes disillusioned as the reality of the Russian front bears no resemblance to the ''glory'' of the Third Reich. Even lower than his unit's morale are supplies and fuel as Russia's winter is unleashed against them. When the slaughter of innocents opens his eyes to the true nature of the Reich, Konrad embarks upon a bold and dangerous plan to change the course of history. Can he avoid the trap set for him?

One thing I love about reading a book series is how invested I can become in the characters and the story if the writing it good.  The SitN (Songs in the Night) trilogy, of which His Watchful Eye is the second book, is one of those serieses.  (honestly, what is the plural of 'series'?)  I've probably read it four or five times, and during my last re-read of HWE, I felt happy while I read it, just because the entire thing was so comfortable and familiar, and the characters really do start to feel like family after awhile.  I've experienced similar things with other book serieses, but SitN is definitely one of the best in that regard.  I know all the ins and outs of each book (HWE is my favorite, and I read it the most recently, so that's why I'm reviewing right now instead of the first one) although they never bore me.  The entire saga has wrapped its way around my heart and I don't think it could ever be removed.  But I doubt any of you are really 'getting' what I'm saying, so I'll move on to the proper review.

The books in this trilogy are not stand-alones, so I highly recommend that you read book one, While Mortals Sleep, first and then follow up with the second and third books.  I'll try to keep from giving away spoilers for book one, although since this series is so little known, I doubt anything I said would make much sense.  But it was the same with my review of The Adversaries, and I still got a couple followers into reading it (and liking it) so hopefully this review will do the same.  I'm just going to say something right away.  It's basically the book review...the rest is just details.

I completely and totally recommend this book (and series) for any historical fiction bookworm.  You definitely won't regret reading it and I promise doing so won't be a waste of your time.  Pinky promise.

Moving on...

I knew little (as in, nothing) of Germany's side of WWII when I first picked up this series a couple years back, and I certainly had never given much thought to what German Christians went through during the war.  The SitN series was a real eye-opener for me (the third book especially, since that focused on the Cold War/Berlin Wall fiasco, of which I knew pretty much zip) and I'm pretty sure the series was what got me more interested in WWII books, movies, and the history of the war in general.  

All three books are rich in historical detail...the kind of detailing that makes it seem as though you're right there in bombed-out Berlin.  Or the Russian steppes as the German army retreated.  Or staring down a sniper rifle scope pointed directly at Adolf Hitler. (all three of those examples are really things that happen in HWE)  The plot is fast-paced, with lots of heart-pounding action and mind games.  Romantic moments are sprinkled throughout (perfectly clean romance, by the way) and I enjoy romance when it's written well and isn't the main focus of the book - like in all of Jack Cavanaugh's books. (with the possible exception of Dear Enemy)  I have no faults with the pacing or the emotional pull of the story. (um...far from it in that regard - even though I've read the thing several times, I still cry in certain places)  I can't think of a single place where the plot drags.

As in all Cavanaugh books (I'm starting to sound like a broken record, aren't I?) the characters are memorable, unique, and strong.  Konrad, the Wermacht sniper who sets off on his own personal vendetta against Hitler.  Lisette, the girl he loves (but who isn't just there to serve as a love interest) who rescues a blind child and helps care for four other handicapped orphans.  Josef and Mady, the pastor and his wife who hold everything together as they battle against the Nazi regime.  Ernst, a brilliant scientist who falls in love with a woman he can't have (Ernst and Konrad are pretty much tied for favorite character...Ernst might win by just a tiny margin).  And Rachelle, a French POW who is separated from her husband.  Of course, there's many other characters (I haven't even touched on the main villain, who's basically a demented murderer) but I touched the most important ones, and I don't want this blog post to go on for too much longer.  Long blog posts can be boring, especially when there's little or no pictures in them.  Anyway, I think I've hit on all the main points that a book review should.

As always, if there's any questions you might have, the comment box is ready and waiting.  And if you end up reading this book based on my recommendation, let me know what you think!  I love introducing people to my favorite books, so I'd be thrilled to hear what you had to say. (that goes for people who've read this book already...looking at you, Galannaley)

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