{ARC Review} Devils and Thieves by Jennifer Rush

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I received an ARC of Devils and Thieves by Jennifer Rush from The NOVL in exchange for an honest review.

In Devils and Thieves, Jemmie Carmichael doesn’t do magic. It’s not that she can’t (although she doesn’t believe her locant powers are very strong); it’s that magic causes an almost synesthetic response in her. When she casts spells or when someone else does, she can see and smell the invisible magic. Unfortunately, that often causes a sensory overload that she chooses to self-medicate with alcohol. To keep her mother and her friend, Alex, from worrying, she’s always kept this ability secret, allowing everyone to believe she simply doesn’t perform magic because she’s not good at it.

Her reticence about her power becomes a liability when people begin disappearing at the annual kindled festival. When she discovers Alex is among the missing, Jemmie reluctantly teams with the leader of the biker gang, the Black Devils, to uncover what’s happening. This leader, Crowe, just so happens to be Alex’s brother and the boy who broke Jemmie’s heart a year earlier. Things won’t be easy for Jemmie as she’s forced to embrace her powers and make peace with Crowe if she’s to have any hope to track down the villain who’s keeping those she cares about for his own nefarious purposes.  

Devils and Thieves takes place in a world in which magical folk (or kindled) inherit specific powers through their bloodlines. Jemmie inherited her father’s locant power–which gives her the ability to create force fields and bind people’s magic. Her friend Alex’s family can use their venemon to heal or hurt those around them. There are approximately twelve types of magic in all, and although it’s difficult to keep them straight, the general setup of Jemmie’s magical world is a fascinating one. It’s interesting to see an urban fantasy setting tie together biker gangs, magic, and young adults. There’s no werewolves or otherwise mythical creatures here, but the world is brimming with magic all the same. The novel almost exclusively takes place within the kindled community so you get a strong sense of the magical system and hierarchy within that world. I’m happy that this is the first book in a series because I definitely want to find out more about magic which is just hinted here.

In many ways, Devils and Thieves reminds me of a mix between the Twilight series and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy. Thankfully, it shares enough strengths with Shadow and Bone to keep me interested in reading on. Like I said, I loved the world building and the plot was fast-paced and easy to get lost in. I blew through Devils and Thieves in two days–which is fairly impressive since I usually have to force myself through one hundred pages a day (and that’s only manageable on good days). Devils and Thieves, however, never had a boring moment. It was just what I needed to keep me entertained during two dreary, fall days.

My only negative about Devils and Thieves is the part that did make it similar to Twilight. I’m not a fan of overbearing leading men and Crowe was of the controlling type. I didn’t like how he lorded over Jemmie, forcing her to go home from parties when she didn’t want to and being otherwise physically imposing. Of course, sometimes Jemmie acted too stupid to live and I’m ashamed to admit I might have had the desire to shake her myself. I didn’t find Jemmie or Crowe particularly likeable, but from the ending of this book, I suspect I’ll be way more into her character, at least, in book two. Beyond that, thankfully I liked the rest of the book enough that the characters didn’t ruin things for me.

If you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy, magical systems, and looking for a quick, engaging read, I’d recommend picking up Devils and Thieves. It’s not perfect but it’s a fun ride all the same.

Three out of Five Stars.

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{Book Review} The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

IMG_1993.JPGOne of the worst book series I ever finished was The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The plot about an evil corporation using children to cure a disease is not awful in and of itself. The books individually were fast paced and the main character a bit dull but not hateful. The problem came when I continued to pick up book after book, hoping for a conclusion to a story that increasingly made less and less sense as it went on.

By the last book, I was ready to throw it across the room.

After finally finishing the first book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series, I realized with much chagrin what book The Knife of Never Letting Go reminded me of. It was The Maze Runner and now I’m awfully nervous to continue on with his series.

In The Knife of Never Letting Go, our hero Todd Hewitt lives in a town where men can hear each other’s thoughts. He’s been told that’s because an alien race called the Spackle released the Noise on the human settlers during “the war.” Now, Todd not only hears his adoptive fathers’ and the townsmen’s thoughts but also those of his dog and the sheep he cares for. As bad as all that Noise can be, sadly, way back when, it also came with the germ that killed off all the women on the planet, including Todd’s mother.

As the novel begins, Todd nears his thirteenth birthday. He’s edging toward that day when the village will celebrate him becoming a man when he discovers a Silence in the old Spackle village. This Silence moves and he soon discovers that this rip in the Noise is caused by a girl. In saving her life from the village holy man, Todd finds himself on the run from his own town with many questions about the world he thought he knew.

 

Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go is a 400+ page escape novel. Todd and the girl, Viola, run and run and run some more to get away from Todd’s town and its holy man, Aaron. While that’s exciting for the first three hundred pages or so, it gets monotonous once you realize there’s no resolution coming once they get to the duo destination. I completely understand that this is the first book in a series, but it ends more like it’s part one of a huge novel rather than a book in and of itself. I left the novel wondering if this is one of the many occasions when two books could have been edited into one. There’s no way I needed four hundred pages of two kids being on the run–particularly when action and horrible things happening trumped characterization and actual plot. This, in particular, reminded me of the Maze Runner books (and the latter Hunger Games novels) and that’s not confidence inspiring.

Perhaps, if the characters in The Knife of Never Letting Go had been more than caricatures or one dimensional stick figures, the running might have been less objectionable. Todd, in particular, never felt like a real human being. He struggled and cried and cared but had no personality to speak of. He was just on the page emoting and I found it so hard to empathize with that. Viola was slightly better. She had a life on her ship and actual opinions and thoughts. It wasn’t until her friendship truly started to bud with Todd that I found her a little eye-rolling as well. As for the villains, well, they were baddies of the unkillable, mustache-twirling type and I found them tedious at best. Aaron was particularly annoying. I don’t care much for straight up crazy villains and he was straight up crazy. He also should have died in the book about five times over. (I’m still not entirely sure he won’t show up in the next books as it is.) While teen books don’t always have complex villains, I expect them to have villains that at least make sense.  

I know it’s starting to sound like I hated this book. I didn’t. The novel had strong points–especially when it was dealing with ideas rather than character. I completely appreciated the way The Knife of Never Letting Go handled killing. I always loathe when books/movies/TV series make killing carry no weight within the story. The choice to murder and to kill continually plays a HUGE part in Patrick Ness’ novel, and it was such a relief to see that choice carry consequences and emotional turmoil with it. I also liked how the novel played with masculinity and I have a feeling that particular concept will be explored further as the series continues on.  

I’m not entirely certain, however, I will be continuing on with this series. I have heard it gets better, but I have been burned before (see The Maze Runner again). I just wish The Knife of Never Letting Go had offered me more substance from the start. I like stories with complex characters and engaging plots and that’s not what I was offered here. I feel like my time could be better spent on other series (and there are so many out there), but we’ll see how hard up I get for books in the future.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go unless you love action-oriented novels or are looking to complete your homework before the film comes out. Also, if dog deaths bother you, I beg you to stay far away!

Two and a Half out of Five Stars

If you could speak to animals, which would you try to make your new best friend?

On Loving Reading and Under the Dome

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Reading has always been a capricious hobby for me. When I was in high school, my habits shifted with my mood and I’d go weeks or sometimes a month without reading anything. In college that changed–both because I was an English Major and because I self imposed a 100 book reading goal on myself. Reading was still a joy in spite of that (I read many film scripts later in my college career to get me to that one hundred) and it didn’t stop being joyful until I became a substitute at a public library.

Working at a library makes reading a self-preserving necessity. If I’m not reading when there aren’t patrons at the desk, I’m usually on Twitter–which isn’t exactly good for my mental health nowadays. I always have to be reading a novel or some non-fiction then, but the trouble is that, deep down, I’m still the same reader I was as a teenager. I go in spurts of wanting to read everything and not wanting to read at all. 

That combination is a recipe for making reading a chore rather than a joy, and that’s exactly what it’s been for the past three years. There have been a few bright spots (A Song of Ice and Fire–at least, when I’m not ranting about it–and my reread of Harry Potter), but for the most part, the books I enjoyed have been like ports in a storm. They don’t remind me what I love about reading as much as they keep me sane for a brief period of time. It wasn’t until I picked up Under the Dome by Stephen King that I really remembered what made me love reading in the first place.

Under the Dome is a 1,000 page doorstopper about what happens when the small town of Chester’s Mill is enclosed within a mysterious dome. It’s a science fiction novel that’s not so much interested in science as it is in characters and the horrors that are inflicted on a small town by those in charge. Basically, it’s “soft” science fiction in the extreme, but it’s exactly the sort I can dive into.

Even with its 1,000 pages, Under the Dome flew by. For me, it wasn’t like reading A Song of Ice and Fire where I struggled through the boring bits to the chapters featuring Lannisters. All of Stephen King’s tome engaged me and I quickly learned not to read it right before bed or I’d be up far later than planned. With every passing page, I worried about the characters’ survival, knowing most of them would die before the end. I fretted when they acted as if their fishbowl had the same rules and protections as the America outside their bubble. I rooted on the good guys and crazy but not villainous guys to defeat Big Jim, Junior, and the thugs running the town. In other words, I grew invested–which is something that hasn’t happened in a long time.

I wish I could pinpoint exactly what made Under the Dome so perfect for me. I cared about the characters certainly, but our heroes Barbie, Julia, and Scarecrow Joe won’t stay with me the way Detective Miller from The Expanse or Jaime Lannister for ASoIaF have. Big Jim, on the other hand, is admittedly one of the most terrifying villains I’ve ever read in a book. While on the TV show adaptation of Under the Dome Big Jim is just a car salesman and straight up murderer, the Big Jim of the book is more nefarious. He manipulates the town into hysteria for his own gain. He creates conspiracies where none exists and is not afraid to murder people in public because he knows he can spin it to his advantage. It’s terrifying mostly because he’s the sort of villain who feels real. I’ve met people I could see becoming a Big Jim–which, obviously, just adds to the scary factor.

As for the story itself, I loved the progression of Chester’s Mill’s implosion. It takes less than a week for the Millers to self-destruct their happy, little town, and while I was unsettled by it all, it’s a ride to see our heroes struggle against the insurmountable odds of survival in this bubble. I should say now that I rewatched the television show as I was reading the book and what the television show is truly missing is the ticking clock of the novel. Things get FAR worse in the book than they do in the show, but the biggest difference in the book is that there’s an insane, drug-addled man with bombs waiting for Halloween and the ever present threat of bad air quality closing in. The people in the Dome series don’t have these fears because they’re worried about the trouble of the week instead of the overarching horror of what’s happening in the Dome. Under the Dome’s story works so much better when its threats loom over 1,000 pages rather than wrap up week by week.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t watch the show. You absolutely should if you, like me, are a fan of TV that’s of the so-bad-it’s-good variety.

The book (unlike the poor, bonkers show) is fantastic throughout. I never expected to love a Stephen King novel so thoroughly, but reading Under the Dome reminded me why I love stories and storytelling so much. There’s such joy in getting completely wrapped up in a novel and I hope it won’t be another three years until I experience that again.

I highly recommend picking up Under the Dome if you’re looking to lose yourself in a horrifying Sci-Fi this fall.

5 out of 5 stars.

 

What books have reminded you why you love reading?

Top Ten Spooky Flicks for Fall

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Every October, patrons come into the library and ask for horror movie recommendations. While I’m totally the person to talk to if you’re looking for Science Fiction, Animation, or TV Show recs, I am completely hopeless when it comes to horror.

I don’t watch proper horror movies. I’m totally a wimp.

Thankfully, we usually have a display full of movies like Friday the 13th, Chucky, and Saw. Otherwise, I’d just keep pointing patrons to films like The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night because I like to promote female directors when I can (even if I haven’t watched their movies myself).

While horror movies are mostly a no-go for me, I do like spooky flicks. Give me ghosts, not-totally gruesome zombies, and aliens and I’m good to go. I’ve decided to share a list of some of my favorite spooky films with you. . .just in case any of you lovely readers are a tad squeamish like myself.  

Top Ten Spooky Flicks for Fall

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  • Crimson Peak ~ I always try to sell people on Crimson Peak by telling them it’s like Jane Eyre but with more stabbing. I just love Guillermo del Toro’s gothic masterpiece and I wish more people would fall in love with it too. It’s one of those very few films that feel made for me personally. There’s ghosts, a lady writer heroine, gorgeous costuming, and a heroine saving herself. It’s perfection!   
  • What We Do In the Shadows ~ In a roundabout way, the TV show Legion led me to discover Taika Waititi and his mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. If you liked the idea behind Being Human (a werewolf, a ghost, and a vampire are roommates), What We Do in the Shadows will appeal to you. It’s a quirky and occasionally bloody tale about vampire roommates living in New Zealand. I recommend you watch it before Taika’s Thor: Ragnarok this November!
  • The Visit ~ I’m going to say something controversial: M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors. He’s had his rough periods, but he’s also made several of my favorite films (Split, The Village, and Signs–all appropriately spooky) and the wacky The Visit. I picked The Visit for this list in particular because it’s one of his creepier yet still funny films. Also, it has a naked, old lady pretending to be a cat–which is particularly unnerving, let me tell you.    
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane ~ I once overheard two middle-aged men talking about 10 Cloverfield Lane at the library. It was hilarious, mostly because it became obvious that neither of them had ever watched Cloverfield. Please, dear reader, watch the far lesser Cloverfield before 10 Cloverfield Lane. It makes the entire thing creepier. As for 10 Cloverfield Lane itself, John Goodman is so creepy in it and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as the trapped heroine. Sigh. I cannot wait for God Particle next year.

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  • The Boy ~  You know what I’m scared of? Porcelain dolls. Seriously, they freak me out. As a kid, I used to go to Hartville Kitchen with my family and they had a doll nursery there. It was a thing of nightmares. The Boy, about a woman who plays nanny to a possibly possessed doll, is actually a pretty scary film for me. I saw it in the theater with my mom and I may have jumped. A lot.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ~ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seems like it would make a garbage movie, but I legitimately loved the zombified film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s book. It’s not scary per say, but there are zombie attacks and blood spatter. Halloween appropriate? I think so.
  • Alien ~ Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s the one proper horror movie that I absolutely adore–which probably has to do with it’s perfect combination of aliens chomping people, androids, and Ellen Ripley herself. I could definitely watch Alien and Prometheus on repeat all fall long.
  • Maggie ~ My Arnold Schwarzenegger love led me to watch Maggie, a relatively tame zombie movie about the relationship between a father and his zombified daughter. It’s a sweet, sad movie, but it still has the right atmosphere for spooky, Halloween viewing.
  • Practical Magic ~ I’m not including Hocus Pocus on this list because, let’s face it, that movie is awesome but not spooky. Practical Magic, however, has just enough spookiness to make the cut. It’s about sister witches and the troubles that occur after they accidentally kill Goran Visnjic. Good times.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts ~ One last zombie movie to round out the list! The Girl With All the Gifts is a dystopian film about a young girl who’s hungry for brains. It’s not a particularly scary or bloody film (although there is chomping) but it’ll definitely creep you out in a slow-burning kind of way.

What are your favorite spooky flicks?

{Book Review} Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

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There’s something about reading mysteries once the weather turns colder. Tea, blankets, and mystery novels simply go together–even if those mysteries are set in Australia in the 1920s. Murder on the Ballarat Train is Kerry Greenwood’s the third book in her Phryne Fisher Mystery series, and for once, the chilly weather in the novel reflected the mood of the almost fall day outside.  

In the novel, Phryne Fisher awakens on a train, only to discover her entire railway car has been pumped full of chloroform. Always prepared, Phryne shoots out a window and rescues the other passengers while combating the effects of the gas. It’s only when all the windows have been opened and the passengers awakened that Phryne realizes there’s an elderly passenger missing. Phryne, as usual, takes charge of the situation–both by caring for the elderly passenger’s daughter (who suffered the worst effects of the chloroform) and taking on the case. Along the way to solving what turns out to be a murder, Phryne accumulates a lost girl, a hunky college student, and new appreciation for glee club.

The Murder on the Ballarat Train is quintessentially a Phryne Fisher novel. There’s sumptuous descriptions of fashion, many cups of spiked tea and coffee, and a handsome new paramour for our heroine. Somewhat unlike the first two novels in the series, however, Ballarat Train relies more heavily on interpersonal relationships than on solving the mystery. The book is barely more than one hundred and fifty pages long but the majority of those pages feature Phryne caring for her charges and pursuing her newest loverboy. Phryne and her faithful companion Dot spend more chapters tending the victim’s daughter (plying her with tea, clothing, and tending to her burns) than investigating the murder. Phryne also spends a great deal of pages going gaga over the newest hunk who wanders into her life.

It’s surprisingly not the murder on the train which turns out to be the mystery in this mystery novel. The side plot where Phryne adopts a young girl named Jane who has no memory of her previous life is the proper puzzle. Questions surrounding where Jane came from and what caused her to lose her memory are truly curious–which makes her story the strongest in the novel. I almost wish her story had been the focus of an entire book rather than merely the subplot in this one.

As for the main murder plot, I was frustrated by the way it played out. While the murderer was obvious from the very beginning, the motivations and conclusion were a bit out of nowhere and ridiculous. Reading the last couple chapters, I had a definitely “Huh?” expression on my face. I felt like Kerry Greenwood wanted to make the ending a bit more shocking but it didn’t pan out. For the odd ending alone, this is probably my least favorite Phryne Fisher book yet.

Thankfully, the Phryne Fisher Mysteries are enjoyable to read whether you care about the whodunnit or not. Phryne Fisher and her companions wrap you up in their world and always take you on a fun yet dangerous adventure. I read Kerry Greenwood’s series mostly for the atmosphere and that made Murder on the Ballarat Train an enjoyable read regardless on how it stuck the ending.

If you have never read any Phryne Fisher’s Mysteries, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one, but it’s not exactly worth skipping either, particularly if you like cats, hunky yet ditsy athletes, and ladies helping ladies.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

My Fall Bucket List

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Fall is boot season, and boots are my second favorite type of shoe behind Converses. I’m very excited that it finally being Fall means I get to put away my flats and low-rise Chucks and break out my Peter Pan boots and high tops. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I have cozy blanket scarves and heavy cardigans just waiting in my closet for those chilly 50 degree days.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Fall.

Now that it’s officially Autumn (Yay September!), I get to share my “Fall Bucket List” with you. There’s nothing earth-shattering on it, but I’m looking forward to all the cozy, pumpkin-y activities all the same!    

My Fall Bucket List

  • Carve Pumpkins ~ I have a love/hate relationship with carving pumpkins. I hate the squishiness of pumpkin innards and the mess it leaves on your hands, but oh, do I love the look of finished Jack O’Lanterns and the feeling of accomplishment at having made a funky looking Halloween decoration all my own! I want to have another pumpkin carving night this Autumn, and hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with a nifty design (Spoiler Alert: It’ll probably be Star Wars-related).
  • Watch Four Horror Movies ~ I’m squeamish about horror. . .which is something you might not expect from a person who loves the TV show Hannibal very intensely. When it comes to films, though, I tend to avoid anything with too much blood, gore, and violence (I will never ever watch a Saw film, for example.). I would like to *try* to expand my horizons a little this year and watch a Halloween-type film that’s a bit more adventurous than Hocus Pocus or Practical Magic. Any recommendations for scary films that aren’t that gory?
  • Read a Stephen King Novel ~ Every year, I say I’ll read a Stephen King novel in the lead up to Halloween, and every year, I fail spectacularly. Not this year! I’ve already purchased my to-be-read book and I’m pleased to announce that it’ll be the total chunker Under the Dome. I’ve been rewatching the spectacularly awful TV show adaptation this Summer (I love it so much) so it’s about time I gave the source material a try.
  • Watch Northanger Abbey (1987) for Halloween ~ Watching Northanger Abbey on Halloween is a tradition I started about five years ago. If you’ve never watched the 1987 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, you are missing out. The adaptation is nowhere as good as the 2007 version with Felicity Jones and JJ Field, but it is bonkers and that’s all that truly matters.
  • Read One Classic Novel ~ Every year, I try to read one new-to-me Classic. I did read The Hound of the Baskervilles this year already, but I’d also like to tackle a novel either by George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, or one of the books I’ve missed by a Bronte sister. I’m not certain which book I’ll choose yet. Hopefully, it’ll be one from my shelves so I can check another purchased book off my TBR.
  • Knit Indy a Sweater ~ Indy has a lot of fur so he might not *technically* need a sweater, but I’m sure he could still use one when he goes on walks this (likely frigid) winter. I already have the yarn picked out (it’s a sea green color) and I’d like to get working on it before it’s too, too cold out. I’m also counting on his dog sweater giving me some much needed practice knitting clothes so I can FINALLY knit a Weasley sweater for myself before Winter is out.  
  • Drink Spiced Apple Cider ~ I love Spiced Apple Cider and I look forward to it showing up on the shelves every year. I can only drink it in moderation (thanks to all that sugar wreaking havoc on my anxiety levels), but I love savoring it when I give myself the chance.
  • Watch Stranger Things ~ Oh my gosh, so Stranger Things is back in October and I am hyped. I think I’m having withdraws from all my favorite spooky shows (seeing as they’re either cancelled or abandoned) because I am so glad this show is finally coming back. I really cannot wait to see more Hopper, Nancy, and Steve in particular. They are my faves!
  • Bake a Pumpkin Pie (or Anything Pumpkin) ~ I used to love eating pumpkin muffins and pumpkin roll every Autumn. Now, thanks to being on a gluten free diet, my store-bought pumpkin options are limited to Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and (gross) pumpkin-flavored yogurt. I baked a delicious pumpkin pie last year so I might try that again OR I might be braver and attempt a gluten free pumpkin roll or muffin. Only time will tell. . .
  • Start Recording a Podcast ~ Working at a library gives you ample time to listen to podcasts so I’ve become a tad addicted over the last two years (If you’d like recommendations for non-True Crime podcasts, let’s say I’ve got you covered). Lately, however, I’ve really been wanting to start my own. Unfortunately, thanks to me being horrible at decision making, I’ve been struggling to come up with a definitive focus. This Fall, I need to buckle down a pick a topic and name a just get going–which, for me, is MUCH easier said than done.

What’s on Your Fall Bucket List?

{30 Journaling Prompts} Fall Television

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It’s almost time for fall television! I, for one, am very excited to get back in the swing of watching TV week by week. My summer’s been filled with catching up on Sleepy Hollow and Arrow, but I love fall because that means having shiny new episodes to watch every week. I’m completely ready for new seasons of my favorite comedies and superhero shows to start and I especially cannot wait for The Gifted (I’m a sucker for anything X-Men related).

With all the excitement of new and old shows starting, I decided to make a list of “Fall Television” themed journaling prompts. I love doing geeky journaling challenges and fall TV felt right for September and beyond. I’ve written 30 prompts and I hope you’ll join me in trying them out. If you don’t journal, you can always share your thought in other ways (on Twitter, in blog posts, through photographs, etc.)–it’s all about channeling your fandom and creativity!

{30 Journaling Prompts} Fall Television

  1. Favorite Spooky TV Show
  2. Top 5 Characters in Your Zombie Survival Team
  3. Top 5 Shows Returning This Fall
  4. Top 3 New Shows to Watch
  5. Favorite Comic Book Show
  6. A Character You’d Get a Pumpkin Spiced Latte With
  7. A Character Who Inspires My Fall Fashion
  8. TV Show You Wish Was Returning This Fall
  9. A Character You’d Bring Back From the Dead
  10. A Character You’d Bake Pumpkin Pie With
  11. Favorite Headcannon
  12. Top 5 Places You’d Visit in a TARDIS
  13. Top 5 Ships
  14. Write a Single Page Fall-Themed Fan-Fiction
  15. Draw Your Favorite Character
  16. Make a List of Reasons Why You Love Your Favorite Show
  17. Favorite Shows from Childhood
  18. What Character Would You Knit a Sweater For? What Would it Look Like?
  19. Top 5 Shows in My Netflix Queue
  20. Top 5 Shows to Binge Watch
  21. Draw a Character from an Animated Show You Love
  22. Top Five Shows as Cozy as a Hot Cup of Tea
  23. Best Show to Craft During
  24. I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Watched. . .
  25. Books that Should be TV Series
  26. Character Most Likely to Jump in a Leaf Pile
  27. I Wouldn’t Want to be Stuck in a Spooky House With. . .
  28. If I Could Recast Any Role, I’d Recast. . .
  29. One Page Coffee Shop AU
  30. The Next Show You’re Going to Start

I’m starting these prompts on September 22nd. If you’d like, you can join in then or start any time that works for you. Like I said, it’s about having fun and being creative–somethings I think we can always use more of!

Do you journal? What TV Series Have You Been Watching this Summer?

Top Ten New Books on My Fall TBR

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Joining in on The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday again. This week’s theme is Fall TBR!

Summer is my least favorite season for reading. I hate that it’s hot and sunny and I don’t feel like drinking tea when I curl up with a book. Fall, on the other hand, is so much more conducive to reading. I’ve already been spending cooler afternoons wrapped up in my fox blanket with a cup of tea and pillows. I only wish I could eat wheat so I could have a biscotti or a scone to keep me company.

*Searches Pinterest for Gluten Free Biscotti Recipes*

Now that the season’s are changing, my new seasonal TBR is remarkably vast (unlike my sad Summer one). I have more than a handful of books on my shelf that I’d like to get to before Autumn’s out and a whole host of books on hold for me at the library. Today, I’m only sharing the books on my library holds list as there are quite a few. Next week, I’ll have my “From My Shelves” TBR up too!   

Top Ten New Books on My Fall TBR

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1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (October 10) ~ I have read a grand total of one John Green book and it was the completely basic choice of The Fault in Our Stars. I actually loved it–which is surprising only because I’m not a huge consumer of Contemporary YA or sappy(ish) love stories. When I saw Turtles All the Way Down in my library catalog, I figured why not add it to my holds list (I’m the 6th of 16 holds), and now, as the release date gets closer, I’m actually excited to pick it up. I might want to read at least one more of John Green’s books before Turtles is released. If you have a recommendation as to which one, be sure to tell me!

2. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (September 26) ~ Of course, I’ve read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. There’s Someone Inside Your House sounds NOTHING like that. It appears to be a book version of a slasher film, and I figure that’ll be a perfect thing to read leading up to Halloween. Also, I have to admit that I’m downright curious how the author of Anna writes a horror novel. Should be interesting!

3. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente (September 5) ~ I love Catherynne M. Valente. She wrote The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland series and Deathless. She has a flair for fairy tales (not really surprising I’ve read a number of her books then), and I’m fascinated that her next novel is a Middle Grade fantasy novel about the Brontes. Obviously, it’s a must-read for me.

4. Artemis by Andy Weir (November 14) ~ I have mixed feelings about Andy Weir’s The Martian. It’s one of those unputdownable books that don’t particularly stick with you after you’ve finished the last page. Still, his second novel Artemis sounds exactly like my sort of thing. Lady smuggler heroine? Check. Powerful people hiding a conspiracy? Check. Takes place in space? Definite check.

5. Warcross by Marie Lu (September 12) ~ Everyone seems to be talking about Warcross. I keep seeing that pretty cover on book blogs, booktube, and across social media. Its premise appears to be “What if Ready Player One wasn’t awful?” and I’m all for that. I’ve never read anything else by Marie Lu, but she’s writing Batman: Nightwalker as well as Warcross so that’ll be changing soon!

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6. Barbary Station by R. E. Stearns (October 31) ~ I have another book about space criminals on my list (not surprising at all). This time, they’re space pirates and they’re running from an evil AI. The only way this book could be more of a “Melissa Book” is if the AI could inhabit robots or if there are robots involved period. I await that reveal with bated breath.

7. Retrograde by Peter Cawdron (September 12) ~ There’s a surprising number of Sci-Fi books that appeal to me this Fall. I’d say I have very particular taste when it comes to Science Fiction (Robots! Criminals! Noir! Space Zombies!) but Peter Cawdron’s book about what happens to a Mars colony when disaster strikes Earth is loosely up my alley. I’m hoping it devolves into a horror story about survival–which is exactly up my alley.

8. An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard (September 26) ~ An Unkindness of Magicians is a Urban Fantasy, but it’s also a story about fading magic, a powerful magician, and a decaying system which reminds me a lot of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Sorcerer to the Crown–two books I absolutely loved. This novel, however, is set in New York and presumably modern day but I’m absolutely hoping that all that adds an interesting dynamic to this sort of Magic Society story.  

9. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (October 10) ~ A retelling of Snow White where the Evil Queen is the heroine? Oh my gosh, yes please! I’m also all for an East Asian inspired fantasy world. I have the tendency to read a lot of European and Indian inspired fantasy so it’ll be a nice change up to read something set in a different type of world all together.

10. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston (October 3) ~ By the title alone, I thought That Inevitable Victorian Thing was going to be a Steampunk novel. As it’s actually set in the future, I doubt it, but, who knows, there could still be airships. (Let there be automatons, at least!)  E. K. Johnston’s novel is actually about a descendant of Queen Victoria and seems to be a courtly, political drama. The description on Goodreads is confusing  yet interesting enough to get me picking up this novel. I want to see what it’s actually like!

So, What Books Are On Your Fall TBR?

Image Source: Goodreads

{Friday Flicks} Mistress America

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I love snappy dialogue. That’s part of the reason I both love and hate Aaron Sorkin and have rewatched Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls approximately five times each. I could blame this love on early exposure to screwball comedies–where dialogue is king and fast-talking the norm–and I’d probably be right. Between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn comedies and a steady dose of the Marx Brothers, I was cured of sappy, expositional dialogue before I’d even become a proper film lover.

Nowadays, I’m always on the hunt for prime dialogue, and let me tell you, Mistress America hits the spot. About twenty minutes into the film, the two main characters Tracy and Brooke are talking about themselves (as they do), and the speed of the dialogue mixed with the sheer gymnastics of the wording made me sigh with happiness. I felt like I was watching a screwball comedy from the 1940’s–only with less slapstick and more swearing.  

It was wonderful.   

Mistress America is the story of two almost sisters. It’s Tracy’s first semester at college and she’s already at a low point in her life. She’s struggling to get accepted into her school’s prestigious literary journal and the boy she thought might become her boyfriend is suddenly dating someone else. In a moment of absolute desperation, Tracy calls her soon-to-be step-sister, Brooke, and is whisked away into the magical and slightly sad life of this dabbler and dreamer. Unsurprisingly, Brooke’s life becomes fodder for Tracy’s fiction as the two become fast friends, and Tracy’s left to decide whether or not she’s a bad person as their relationship escalates and her maneuvering of Brooke increases.

Noah Baumbach directed and co-wrote Mistress America with its star Greta Gerwig. The duo last worked together in Frances Ha, and in many ways Frances Ha and Mistress America tell the same sort of story. Both films focus on female friendship–presenting the highs and lows of their characters’ relationships as Romantic Comedy (with a dose of tragedy thrown in). In Mistress America, Tracy and Brooke go through many of the beats of a romance. They meet-cute thanks to their parents’ impending marriage, and their relationship deepens as the women grow closer through the struggle to get Brooke’s restaurant off the ground. Of course, as always happens in Rom-Coms, there are secrets and lies and the women’s budding relationship falls apart when Brooke discovers Tracy’s been using her life to write unflattering stories for the literary journal. With these women at odds, will the two crazy kids get back together? Sure, but even with the predictability of a Romantic Comedy, Mistress America is completely engaging because its central and only romance is both platonic and between two women. It still is exceedingly rare to find a film about female friendship in which men and male/female romance don’t play an overarching part, but Mistress America is all about Tracy and Brooke–which is absurdly refreshing.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Mistress America. Noah Baumbach’s story of two unlikely friends swept me off my feet, and I’m already  scouring he and Greta Gerwig’s filmography for my next watch.

If you like unlikeable women, female friendship, and snappy, definitely check out Mistress America!

If You Like Mistress America, Also Try:

Image Source: Joe’s Movie Stuff

{Friday Flicks} Singin’ In the Rain

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I love musicals. As a kid, I grew up on films like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Newsies, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I also devoured the soundtracks for The Phantom of the Opera, Annie Get Your Gun, and Starlight Express (I know). With that sort of enthusiasm for you might think I’d have come across something starring Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, or Gene Kelly before I was in my twenties. You’d be very wrong. While I’ve always loved what I considered “Proper Musicals,” films that focused more on dance were to be avoided like the plague.

Still, it was only a matter of time until I finally broke down and watched one of the most famous musicals of all: Singin’ in the Rain. With Debbie Reynold’s death a not-so-distant memory, I wanted to watch what was probably her most iconic role. I’d seen her in Tammy and the Bachelor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but my memory of her in those roles is foggy–replaced on Tammy’s end with an image of Sandra Dee and in Molly Brown, the image of Harve Presnell in tight pants on a cliff. I wanted to hold a proper image of her in my mind again, and Singin’ in the Rain has definitely given me that.

Singin’ in the Rain focuses on a series of actors struggling to make the transition between silent films and the talkies. For star Don Lockwood, the trouble is that his constant costar has a voice like a honking goose and is convinced he’s in love with her. Fortunately and unfortunately for production company, he’s actually in love with young ingenue, Kathy Seldon–who longs to be an actress herself. When Kathy gets cast in Don’s latest picture, she and Don’s friend Cosmo come up with the perfect idea to save the less-than-stellar film. Of course, their plan entirely depends on Don’s costar remaining ignorant of their scheme.

Singin’ in the Rain is a film which genuinely sparkles during its first act. We’re first introduced to Don as an actor who’s entirely full of himself yet forced to play a part for his production company even off-screen. His lofty opinion of himself is subsequently shattered when he meets Kathy–a girl who’s not impressed with his suave ways and wants to take him down a peg. The duo eventually fall in love, but it’s their early quick-fire banter that shines so much more than their doe-eyed love songs later in the film. It was a blast to see Debbie Reynolds as Kathy hold her own against the charms of Gene Kelly. For most of the film, it’s her sweet, film star looks and fast footwork that carry her role, but in the beginning, she’s given the chance to prove she has personality to spare.

After the film moves past this initial setup phase, Singin’ in the Rain becomes much more about Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dancing their hearts out and less about characterization and plot. While film musicals based on Broadway plays tend to have song and dance numbers that either advance the story or tell us something about the characters, most of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain do no such thing. They’re more about the spectacle of it all–which I found frustrating after a while. Pretty much the sole exception to this rule were the songs “You Were Meant for Me” and “Singin’ in the Rain” itself. “Singin’ in the Rain” comes fairly late in the film and was so refreshing by that point because it actually tells us how Don feels after realising he’s properly in love with Kathy. “Singin’ in the Rain” was probably my favorite song in the film for that reason alone.  

My favorite parts of the film, on the other hand, were the scene where Kathy comes bounding out of the cake (not long after having a discussion about serious acting with Don) and the diction coaching scene with Lina Lamont. The diction scene was particularly hilarious because it reminded me so much of the “Would That It Were So Simple” scene from Hail, Caesar–which you might have noticed has been gaining popularity again with the whole Han Solo getting an acting coach news.

As for the acting in this film, Gene Kelly obviously stole the show. He was an absolute powerhouse as Don Lockwood and that’s why it was so impressive that Debbie Reynolds was able to keep up with him. She was only nineteen when she filmed Singin’ In the Rain, and she did an amazing job acting her part and singing. I’d love to see more of her early roles (which is a definite excuse to watch Tammy and the Bachelor again). Donald O’Connor was also great in his role. He reminded me strongly of the Marx Brothers as Cosmo. His acting was slapstick and VERY physical, and as the comedic relief in Singin’ In the Rain, he definitely carried his part in the film.

On the whole, Singin’ in the Rain is an entertaining film–even if it felt a bit long (regardless of its 103 minute runtime). It’s not a musical I’ll be watching again anytime soon since I’m still of the opinion there’s such a thing as too much dancing in a musical, but I’m not sorry I sat through it in the first place. If you like dance numbers (a lot of dance numbers) and looking at Gene Kelly, this is a film you’ll enjoy watching too.

What are your favorite movie musicals?

Image Source: Movie-Screencaps