30 November 2015

C. S. Lewis Reviews The Hobbit, 1937

Instead of an original review today, I'm linking you to a review by one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis
I know I've had some serious words about the new Hobbit movies, but I'm 100% invested and loyal to The Hobbit in book form. Lewis's review of his friend Tolkien's book is brilliant. It gives a glimpse into what Lewis thought was important in a book and what he thought a reader wanted to know about a book. I know they were friends and all, but even without knowing that, the review is a plain old rave about Tolkien's new book:

To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you of there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Lewis review if he didn't plug his mantra that reading "children's books" was something that could (and should) be done by readers of all ages. I also love that he is an advocate of reading a book many times over the course of your life, learning something new with each journey. (On a very nerdy level, did everyone realize that in this very short review, he cites The Hobbit TWICE and does so appropriately with footnotes? This makes me love him even more!) 

And of course, the last sentence is what really did it for me: 

Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic. 

I think you are safe in that prediction, friend. 

(Wow. As a side note, I was listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack while I was writing this...I eventually had to turn it off to focus. At first,I was just listening and then all of a sudden I was singing a long and NOT writing...) 

06 October 2015

Happy October!

My co-worker at the office has been listening to scary stories for the last few weeks. He keeps trying to get me to try them but I am firmly anti-scary. In any conversation about scary things, I usually bring up the fact that I was terrified of The Village for a few weeks after seeing it (often times leaving out that the color red was purged from my room for at least a month because I had trouble falling asleep...). 

I do not do scary. 

Well, not real scary. I do weird and strange, sure. But not scary. 

All of this is bringing us to my October recommendation: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. (Oh and if you are having trouble finding the book by this title, check out the US publication title: Midnight Riot) 

My friend Lisa has been recommending this book to me since February (probably even before that) and I've just now gotten my hands on a copy. 
As the title suggests, the story takes place in London. Our narrator is PC Peter Grant who has just finished his probationary period and has been given a job in the Case Progression Unit. Basically, this means he will be filling out and finishing paper work so that proper constables can get back on the beat to protect the Queen's peace. 

This is all a disappointment to Peter, especially since this means he won't be able to continue working the case of the headless corpse from the night before or follow up on the witness statement he took from the ghost Nicholas Wallpenny that same night. 

I started this book last night and almost halfway through. It's hilarious, magical, and full of all things London. Obviously, this book is right up my alley. 
It reminds me, slightly, of that fabulous book by Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere. London is magical enough on it's own (in my opinion); so much more so, though, when you are dealing with actual magic in London. 

Are you reading any spooky-type stories this month? What do you recommend? 

PS If you are looking for more spooky titles, I guarantee almost anything by Neil Gaimain is perfect for October. Coraline (the creepiest children's story I've ever read) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (full of magic) are two that I recommend. His short stories can also be delightfully creepy! 

24 September 2015

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

In my senior year of college, the very last thing I wanted to do was work. Senior semester was even worse. I didn't have a lot of classes and the only one I really paid attention to was my Research Seminar aka Senior Thesis. If I wanted to graduate on time (and oh boy, did I ever!) this was the one class I really had to pass. But the sun was out and I wanted to not worry about grades and classes. 

I picked up Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead and got lost in the re-imagined Arthurian Legend. I found it at a used book store and promised myself I would only buy one at a time. I made so many extra trips out of my way before and in-between classes that semester! No one spins a British legend the way Stephen Lawhead does. I mean, yes okay, Tolkien created a masterpiece that no one can touch. No one. Full stop. Sometimes, I think of Lawhead as the modern Tolkien, doing what he did on a slightly smaller scale, but just as good. You feel like you are reading a history when you read Lawhead's books. Thing is, his books are 400+ pages. They are worth it but it is an investment to finish a series. I think I got through the first three books before graduating. I bough the fifth but never picked it up. It is sitting on my shelf, all sad and lonely, because I know that if I want to understand the story, I'm going to have to start at the beginning again. 

The Pendragon Cycle is probably the last long series of books I started but never finished. After that, I kind of wrote off series. Who has the time to finish them? I was convinced that I was never going to finish all the books I wanted to read if I kept reading series with a bajillion books in them. 

Until Percy Jackson. 

I have been wanting to pick up The Lightening Thief for a while, but kept putting it off because of the series thing. The Pendragon Cycle isn't my only unfinished series and I was worried that I was starting a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them. Coffee, chocolate and books: if I start them, I must and will finish them. It's just what I do. 

I was innocently browsing in the public library and there it was, sitting in a summer reads book display, front and center. I'm not all about signs and things but after weeks of checking the shelves and not being able to find it (or forgetting to look for it...) I figured now was my chance. 

I finished it in two days and knew that I probably was going to need to read the whole series, even if it took me forever. But it didn't! Actually it took me less than two weeks to read all five...

Guys, I loved this series! It was like Harry Potter in reverse; instead of anxiously awaiting the school year to be with his friends, Percy Jackson attends Camp Half-Blood during the summer. And when I say "attends Camp Half-Blood" I mean he starts his summers there. He usually ends up, well, anywhere but camp by the end of the summer.

Rick Riordan does a fun take on classic mythology, bringing the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus to life in a hilarious way. I mean, when you have Poseidon in khaki shorts and flip-flops, it kind of changes the way you view the gods. I keep wanting to say that the gods are humanized, but I realize how that sounds. I think maybe a good way to explain it is that Riordan infuses them with color and vitality that we lack in some of the more traditional stories about them. 

Percy Jackson was my fun summer read and I am sad that I'm finished with the series. I know there are more Riordan books about the Olympians out there. Maybe I will save them for next summer! 

P.S. This post is SO LONG OVERDUE. I apologize. I'm hoping to have more posts up soon. Reading has been slow these days because it's knittin' season, ya'll!

27 July 2015

Movie Review Monday: An Unexpected Journey

I took one for the team this weekend, kind readers. I suffered through a movie that I never thought I would watch again just so I could bring you a new movie review. (Okay, honestly, I only half watched it because I put it on in the background while I was cleaning. Don't judge.) 

I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the third (and probably final) time. I realized I hadn't really talked about the new Hobbit movies on here so happy movie review Monday to all! 

When the announcement about the movies came out, I was thrilled. I've lost count of how many times I've seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy and figured if anyone could make The Hobbit great, it would be Peter Jackson. And when those cast announcements kept coming out, it was like Christmas every time: Martin Freeman! Richard Armitage! Lee Pace! Sylvester McCoy! Aidan Turner! Stephen Fry! Benedict Cumberbatch! Of course, it goes without saying that every time they confirmed an established character as coming back to production, you felt a little safer. Things couldn't be too bad if Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Ian McKellen were still guarding Middle Earth, right?

I saw all three films in theaters and I remember being excited every time. I tried to hold judgment until the very end, you know, just in case the last movie was so good that it retroactively saved the whole trilogy. But I think I knew that was never going to happen. The moment the White Orc came on screen in the first movie and I could tell he was 100% CGI, it was all over for me. I can hear you say, "Yeah, but Gollum was 100% CGI. What about him? Did that ruin the original trilogy for you?" And the answer quite simply is NO. He was perfect. They worked so hard on him that you forgot he was CGI most of the time. One look at the White Orc and man, you knew. From that moment, it felt like they were phoning it in. 

Don't get me wrong-- the costumes were astounding, like always. The shots through Bag End were perfect. Actually, the time they spent in the Shire is really the only part of the movie I loved. I love how Martin Freeman really captures the spirit of Bilbo, the hobbit who loves home, hearth, food and comfort above all else. This after dinner scene, in particular, gets me smiling every time. 

Singing is such an essential part of the book and I'm glad to have a few of those moments in the film. However, there just aren't enough! I think that was one of my biggest disappointments. Also I love the jolly dwarfs we are treated to in the beginning of the film, but hate that by the end, it's all doom and gloom and no one is happy. In the book, there is always this subtle witty banter in the way the dwarves talk to each other and about Bilbo. Even when they are being chased up the trees by the Wargs, Dori (hilariously) complains about having to carry Bilbo around all the time, "What do you think I am? A porter?"  Maybe that is my twisted sense of humor talking, but I love moments like this! In the movies, they end up creating a character from Lake Town to be comic relief at the end of the trilogy and he fails miserably. 

Was everything terrible? No, not everything. The Riddles in the Dark scene was brilliantly imagined. Even if there were flaws with it, seeing it played out still brings me joy. For all the problems I had with the movie, seeing Bilbo's brass buttons get ripped off his vest as he escapes the goblin's lair was wonderful. It was in those moments when you thought that the writers, directors and production team maybe really did care about the story and getting things right. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the late great Christopher Lee in this post. It was difficult to watch his Saruman part this weekend. It was hard to watch when the movies first came out, but in a different way. In The Hobbit, Saruman the White is head of the order and a good leader. You get hints of that that in the way the scenes are written, but with the full knowledge where his characters ends up in The Lord of the Rings, it is hard to fully trust him. I think that could have been written better, but then, so could most of the film. 

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with what Peter "Money-grubbing" Jackson did with The Hobbit story. I wanted to love the movies but just couldn't. 

Did you see any of the installments of The Hobbit? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

I've been watching House of Cards again this weekend and I have one episode left. I have loved and hated this season, so you know, things are right on target.  I haven't been watching a lot of movies or really paying attention to movies that are coming out right now, so I am up for some recommendations! What should I be watching this weekend? 

(PS: I think this video interview with Smaug and Stephen Colbert was almost better than all three movies combined! Thoughts??)

09 June 2015

In every generation, there is a Chosen One.

I don't have a movie review for you this week, but oh boy, do I have an incredible TV show to talk about! 

I finally convinced Rachel to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer!! And of course, like any good friend, I started watching it with her. Again. For the third or fourth time? It's a wonderful show.

I think I told the story of how I got into Buffy. It was one of those wonderful Gettysburg finds, recommended by a co-worker destined to change my life forever. I was warned, as was Rachel, that the first season was a little rough but to stick with it. I was a few episodes in and I still wasn't sold, but true to the warnings, by the end of the season I was hooked. 

Rachel and I were discussing this universal warning about season one and now we both have issue with it. Yes, it is a little rough. But aren't the first seasons of shows a little rough? (Barring Firefly, of course. That show was perfection. All 14 episodes.) Honestly, it isn't all that rough. What it is is PURELY 90s fashion goodness with cheesy witticisms. What more could you ask for?

Okay okay. I'll admit. Some things are rough. I mean, we are talking graphics from the 90s. Not perfect, but still pretty good. (They do tend to get better with each season, so there is that.)
The thing that makes it worth it? The same thing that made me hate/dislike Daredevil: dialogue. 
The writers for this show are amazing. For at least two weeks, Rachel and I were trading witty lines via text. The writers seem to understand that a show is only as good as its dialogue. With the Gilmore Girls reunion that happened this weekend, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of story and writing. They aren't the same thing, but when writing supports the story, you have television gold: dynamic characters, interesting plot, character development. When the story drives the writing, your show continues in a linear fashion, but it doesn't progress. Over the course of seven seasons, we see Buffy grow up, learn to be a college student and successful adult, suffer heart break and lots of life grief, make good choices and bad choices. Gilmore Girls works the same way; we see our girls grown and change through the show. Daredevil fights crime and beats people up every episode…and basically that is it. Right? 

Anyway, that's my two cents…

I just finished my Gilmore Girls season 1-6 rewatch. I am so in love with the show that I might break my rule and watch season 7. Jury is still out on that one though. I also started the new season of House of Cards and oh my goodness. Dirty politicians and D.C. never looked so good! I love the first episode hook that they do this season (and by love I mean "find totally repulsive but fits in characters so much that I have to accept it") and so far, have no major problems with the show. I'm only a few episodes but I doubt that my opinion there will change. I love everything about this show, even if it makes me angry with the state of the world. 

I've promised a co-worker that I will start Death Note at some point…he promises that I'll like it. What do you think? Have you seen it? Have another anime to recommend? Let me know in the comments! 

11 May 2015

Movies, TV Shows, & Miniseries-- Oh my!

Over the past few years, I have watched fewer movies and more TV shows. I think it might have something to do with long form story telling. Maybe it is also that I can fit in "just one more episode!!" before bed and it doesn't feel like a big thing. However, the idea of watching a WHOLE movie before bed is terribly daunting and I usually fall asleep part way through. I also really hate having to stop half way through a movie to sleep; it messes up the whole movie watching experience. 

I told you a little about Battlestar Galactica in my last post. You probably won't catch me saying anything bad about this show. To save yourself the trouble, you should probably just head to your local library and borrow it or heck, head to Amazon and buy the whole series. Trust me. It's that good. 
In a nut shell, humans created Cylons, humanoid metal machines. The Cylons rebelled against their makers and war broke out. A truce was reached, the war ended and Cylons all but disappeared from the world. Until they unleash nuclear warheads on Caprica, killing most of the world's population. And as an FYI, we learn most of this in the first few episodes. Battlestar Galacitca is the story of what happens next. 

I FINALLY finished Band of Brothers in April. It probably took me 6 months to watch, mostly because I don't like war stories. Look, I understand war is bloody and innocent lives are lost. I realize it is messy and painful and very hard to understand. I get all that. Those are all the reasons I don't like watching it in my entertainment; war isn't entertainment. War isn't a story device or construct of fiction. I struggle with watching war movies and realistically violent movies because to me, that isn't entertainment. 
Okay. I'm gonna try to stop the rant. 
Rant and all, I actually thought they did a wonderful job with the miniseries. At no point did they seem to glorify war; in fact, I think they did a remarkable job of portraying how hard it was to fight in World War II. Seeing it from the front lines changed my perspective and understanding of things. I don't regret seeing it, but I do wish some of the images wouldn't linger in my brain pan the way some of them are…
And hey, as Rachel said, "All of our boys are in it!" She isn't wrong! You've got Colin Hanks, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Damian Lewis, Andrew Scott, David Schwimmer, Jamie Bamber, Simon Pegg, and Jimmy Fallon. Wow. Just…wow. What a list. 
(There is no judgement if you decide not to watch this. Sometimes, I wish I had skipped it. On the flip side, it makes me respect our soldiers and war veterans a little more than I did. We see sacrifice as a beautiful thing when we view it from the home front; it means something totally different on the front lines.) 

Last month, I caught the ugly virus that was going around. It knocked me on my back and was a beast to recover from. I knew I wasn't going to die but part of me wished I would. The first day found me in bed; the second day on the couch, only because if I spent one more moment in bed I was going to scream. Recovering is a hard business. I watched two movies during the recovery process, so my perspective on them might be skewed. 

They were both kinda horrible. 

The first was My Old Lady. Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith. What could be better? 
Well, actually, quite a lot. 
Kevin Kline played a main character and honestly I hated him. I've only seen him in a few things before this role but probably couldn't pick him out of a line up. I'm trying to hold a good thought because he has been cast in the Beauty and the Beast re-make. I'm crossing fingers and toes that the re-make is as near to perfect as they can make it. 

The second movie was Magic in the Moonlight. Emma Stone & Colin Firth? Perfection. 
There is very little I have to say about this movie because I was really disappointed. I'm not even sure I had a favorite line or part. It was just a massive let down on all fronts. 

Okay-- now for some movies I loved!
What? I watch good movies as well as horrible ones!
A co-worker recommended The Artist. I don't know why it took me so long to see this gem! It was beautiful and bold to do in this day and age. (And boy do I feel old for using that phrase…) I found myself enjoying it immensely. If you love old film, new film, classic film and the occasional black and white, this is the movie for you. 

I also got to see Big Hero 6 which may have caused me to tear up. Look out, Despicable Me. There is a new animated super hero in town. Actually, six of them…
My parents are the real litmus test for good kids movies. If they actually giggle at it, you know you have a winner. I'm still waiting for their professional opinion on this one. When the research comes back, I'll update you. (Though don't take my word for it, really.) 

Ah and I promised didn't I? Hm. I too got caught up in the show that is taking Netflix by storm: Daredevil. I finished it against my better judgment and I'm very glad I did. The first 11 episodes have glaringly BAD dialogue. So bad I wondered if there was a scrip or if the actors were ad-libbing scenes. Bad. Our Big Baddie Wilson Fisk seemed so big, so bad, so larger than life that instead of being truly terrifying, he seemed to be a caricature of a big bad villain. Our superhero, Matt Murdock, lacked motivation and true direction. I think by the end of the show, these two things were still true; however, the last two episodes had such good story and drive that you almost could forget that the beginning of the show was horrible. Almost. 
Oh and the violence. Can we just pause for a second and talk about the violence? I do not love it. I don't mind any of the wars in movies like, say Lord of the Rings. In fact, 9 times out of 10 you will find me yelling things like, "Cut the head off that stupid orc! He is just going to..no! What are you doing? GET HIM!!" When I'm not yelling at Aragorn, I'm yelling at Legolas: "More arrows, you poncy blond elf! Come on!!" And blowing things up? I'm a huge fan. 
Violence that is hyper-realistic makes me sick. There were more times than I can count where I watched Daredevil through the gaps of my fingers covering the major violence on my laptop screen (and even a few where I closed my eyes completely). 
On the whole, I give the show a "meh." I was speaking to a friend and decided that I would happily take more episodes of Agent Carter (even though the 8 episode run was the intended length of the show) instead of a second season of Daredevil. I might try a few episodes of season 2, but at this moment, I'm not too worried about the future of Nelson & Murdock, Avocados at Law. 

What are you watching these days? Let me know in the comments! 

06 May 2015

Happy May!

And welcome to the new year…five months late. 

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. It doesn't mean I haven't been reading (I have, but not a ton) or that I haven't been watching good TV and movies (I have, including a few too many bad movies…). It just means I've been lazy with my posts and have had a few problems with bad internet. 

Let's do a quick recap of the end of 2014:

  • I actually finished my goal of 50 books for the year! It got kinda dicey there at the end. I confess, I tacked on a Harry Potter book to make the count because I knew I liked it and could finish it. All in all, only 6 re-reads on the list, so I'm counting it a win. 
  • I never did finish the book Alias, Hook. It was horrible writing and I finally gave myself permission to not suffer. So, I'm sorry if any of you were lead astray by my attempts to read it. 
  • I discovered Liane Moriarty and fell in love. I've read three of her books, but recommend you start with her most recent, Big Little Lies. Follow that with The Husband's Secret. I'll keep you posted on her others; I have "What Alice Forgot" coming into the library soon. 
  • Sarah Addison Allen and Emily Giffin will ALWAYS write the kind of chic-lit I want to read. They are romantic with a little bit of magic (and a lot of food), the kind of magic the dreamer in me wants to believe actually exists in the world. 
  • I think I found a new genre: Biblical historical fiction. Ted DekKer is out with a new book, AD 30, about the beginning of Jesus' ministry and it completely made me change the way I think about things. Tosca Lee has a book out called Sheba that made me excited to read Song of Solomon. (And if that doesn't have all my Christian school friends clamoring for a bible, I don't know what will! But really guys, calm down. I'm reading it for the historical connections. Duh.)
I read more than just these books, but that hits a lot of the high points for the end of the year. If you want details on any of the books I read, feel free to check out my list on Goodreads or ask me in the comments. 

This year as been kind of slow in the book department. I've only read about 14 so far and 3 of them are re-reads. I feel like I'm cheating. I've had trouble finding that sweet spot, the place where you don't have to work for the story and where you find the characters enticing. Any and all book suggestions are welcome! 

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been watching Battlestar Galactica. Well…that is still true! I just finished the series a second time with Rachel! It is as good as I remembered it and THEN some. The thing that was different this time around was, well I guess it was my perspective. Ever since Sheba, I wanted to read more Tosca Lee. The second book of hers I picked up was called Demon. 
This book was incredible. It's the story of Clayton, a washed up writer, who works in a publishing house. He meets a man who claims to 1) be a demon and 2) that this author/publisher will write and publish his memoirs. The memoirs of a demon? Who is going to touch that? The demon's story is so captivating that it soon consumes Clayton (and of course, the reader) that his personal life starts to fall apart as he writes the story and waits for the next chapter. I will say this: it made me re-examine my perspective on demons. It made me look at life with a different perspective. It made me exceedingly thankful for God's gift of salvation. 
How does this connect to Battlestar Galactica? 
Call me and we will discuss the finer points over coffee, but in a nut shell it helped me understand the Cylon's thought process and their view on the world and humans. I maybe even felt sorry for them…? Probably? Anyway. I recommend the book. I HIGHLY recommend the show. (As a warning? Battlestar Galactica will probably make you cry, though. Not so much the book.) 

I'm trying to find some good books to read. I am reading Fiona & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. It is almost too juvenile for me, but I'm going to stick with it. A squirrel that can use a type-writer? I'm intrigued, to say the least. 
I also recently started The Intellectual World of C.S.Lewis by Alister McGrath. It is probably the first scholarly book I've picked up on Lewis in a while and I love it. It is incredibly hard to read at night when I come home from work, though, so it's been hard going. 

It's not thorough but I hope this recap catches you up with what I've been reading. Next I'll try to catch you up with some of the movies and TV shows I've been watching. I'll leave you with this teaser: Netflix and Marvel.