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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.)


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

"That's the funny thing about birthdays - they're kind of an annual thing."

random nice picture because it's pretty and I couldn't find a good, birthday-related thingy.
"It's my BIRTHDAY!" *squeeze-hugs everyone*

Yes, yes, I'm quoting Rapunzel.  Tangled is the only thing I could think of off the top of my head that's fandom and birthday-related all at once, so I'm going with it for right now. (I mean, come on.  The entire movie is pretty much centered around her birthday and her birthday wish and the fact that she's turning eighteen)  If you can think of any other book/movie/TV show instances where a character celebrates a birthday, please comment and let me know.  I can always use new material.

Now, last year, I wrote a birthday post, listed some stuff I'd done that year, and jotted down a bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish in the months to come.  If I recall correctly, I wrote that bucket list down on the spur of the moment, not really thinking much about it.  So, when I was gathering together a list of things I'd done/read/watched/experienced this past year, I was surprised to find that quite I'd actually accomplished a few things on the previous year's bucket list.  Not a lot, but probably more than if I'd printed it out and made the whole thing official.  Anyway, I thought I'd share the list with you - it's rather long, so I'll try to keep explanations down to a sentence or two.

Okay?  Okay.

{books, movies, and more}


~saw Les Miserables live - this. was. amazing.  My very first live musical, which just happened to be my favorite musical, and it was fantastic.  Every moment of it was awesome (with the exception of 'Lovely Ladies' and 'Master Of The House') even if I cried a ton.

~discovered Rat Patrol - Yes, this totally deserves a mention.  Not only did I make a new friend through this TV show, it's just generally awesome.  Great guy friendships, lots of subtext, ample room for headcanons and alternate universes, etc.  Plus, the fandom is the best.

~watched Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved - EA came first, and then during one of its long, horrible haituses, I decided to check out LBD.  I'd watched the first episode awhile ago, but it hadn't really captured my interest.  As it happened, second time's the charm and I peeled through all 100 episodes in two or three days.  I loved it, and EA is even better.  Highly recommended for any Janeite.

~read The Hunger Games trilogy - I've read and loved several books this year that I never thought I'd be able to read, and THG tops the list.  I read the entire series in three days straight, quickly became obsessed, and I haven't looked back since.  Really excited for Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2!

~became obsessed with five new musicals - Cinderella, Newsies, Suessical, Daddy Long Legs, and Jane Eyre.  My bucket list thingy was to find just one new musical, and I found five.  All of them are amazing and I love listening to their songs over and over again.  Admittedly, Suessical is a little weird and wacky, but it's still great - just maybe not everyone's cup of tea.

~cried over Unbroken - I'm forever thankful to Eowyn for recommending this book to me.  At the moment, I'm doing a re-read in prep for a book review, and it's even better the second time around.  I'm not really a non-fiction person, but this's gorgeous and heartwrenching and amazing.  My favorite book of 2014, thus far.


~won NaNoWriMo - Decided to participate in this challenge one day before it started, scrambled together a battle plan (I still have said plan in one of my notebooks), and won the thing.  Totally awesome feeling.

~wrote a trilogy - I wrote the first book of the Vengeance Is Mine trilogy during NaNo and quickly followed up with the next two.  I'm not exactly sure how many words it is put together, but it's definitely several tens of thousands.  The whole thing needs a massive overhaul, but at least I've got the first drafts down.

~started a writing blog - Which you can check out here.

~won a short story contest - This particular achievement was immensely satisfying.  I usually write terrible short stories, but I got a bit of inspiration for a library contest, tried my hand at it, and won first prize.  Oh, and what exactly I won was a ten dollar gift certificate to a bookstore, a notebook, and some cool mechanical pencils.

~wrote a book-length fanfiction - Around 50,000 words, actually.  Hunger Games/Rat Patrol crossover.  Really weird, right?

{real life}

Little Reasons to Smile

~left notes in library books - This has been on my bucket list for forever, mainly because it's a really fun idea, as well as being easy.  But it was only a couple of days ago that I actually started doing it.  The first book I left a note in was The Hunger Games, and I've done Emma as well.  Every time I go to the library, I leave a note in a different book, saying why it's one of my favorites and sharing a little bit about what other genres I like.

~was a bridesmaid - As was my sister.  It was an amazing experience except for...

~fainted - In the wedding.  Right during the exchange of vows.  An interesting turn of events, but not one I want to repeat.

~wrote letters to online friends - SO. AWESOME.

~participated in the Walk With Israel - This has become something of an annual tradition in my family (although this year was only the second time we went) and it's fun, if grueling.  7 kilometers of varied terrain.  Of course, we brought snacks and water and there were rest stops, but by the end of the day, we were all exhausted.  I still can't wait to do it again next year, though.

~pulled two all-nighters - One right after the other.  It was insane.  My brothers and I ate junk food and watched a bunch of movies and just generally did awesome stuff.  I now have so much more sympathy for people (fictional characters or people in real life) who are deprived of sleep for one reason or another.

So, yeah, that's basically my crazy-awesome, intense, packed year.  I feel like I've really grown, emotionally, physically, and mentally, and I can't wait to see what this coming year holds for me.  Some of it will be good, some of it will be bad, but I feel prepared. (at least today)  Here's to another year of writing, blogging, singing, dreaming, reading, and just LIVING.

Carpe Diem and DFTBA!

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