Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 (Wrap Up Post)

Phew! It’s been… a while. Back at the beginning of this year, I signed up for the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen of Books and Chocolate, and challenged myself to read 12 classics this year! Let’s take a look at how I actually did…

  • A 19th century classic: I had planned to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for the 19th century classic catagory. Well, I’ve only got about five hours hours left on the audiobook, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it before the end of the year. I’ll certainly give it a shot though!
  • A 20th century classic: I actually finished The Great Gatsby, which was pretty much guaranteed, as it was scheduled for school. It was… a weird, rather tragic experience. You can check out my Goodreads review by clicking the link above.
  • A classic by a woman author: Frankenstein was another school read, and I finished it earlier this year. Obviously, it’s so ingrained into our culture that we hear way more about people’s interpretations of this classic than about the actual classic itself. I was surprised at how different it was from the stereotypical ‘mad-scientist’ story, and there is definitely much more depth and pathos to this tale than popular culture would have you believe.
  • A classic in translation: I was so excited to reread one of my favorite books for this challenge! I really needed an excuse to read The Mysterious Island again, so this was a great opportunity to revisit the fascinating world of Jules Verne. I enjoyed it just as much as I did when I was a kid planning my own excursions to imaginary uninhabited islands.
  • A children’s classic: I had A Little Princess read to me for school a very long time ago, so I only remembered little bits and pieces of this sweet story. Sometimes it’s nice to come back to something you haven’t read in ages with fresh eyes, and that was definitely my experience here!
  • A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction: Last year I was really into Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Whimsy mystery stories, and earlier this year I read Strong Poison for this challenge. I definitely meant to continue on with this series, but somewhere along the way those intentions got sidetracked… :/
  • A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction: I was almost going to put down that I hadn’t read something in this category, as my plan to read The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain fell through, but then I remembered that I did read the very humorous and entertaining Three Men In A Boat while on my trip to England. It’s so hard to believe that happened this year! It feels like ages ago.
  • A classic with a single word title: I’d gotten almost half way through Christy and was really enjoying it… before I got sidetracked by other things. I definitely would like to finish it at some point, but I don’t think that will be before the end of the year, as there’s still a lot left.
  • A classic with a color in the title: I’d completely forgotten until now, but I did actually reread The Little White Horse earlier this year! As you might be able to tell, I was doing a lot better on this challenge earlier on in 2018, but as the year has gone on I’ve been swamped by work and procrastination and other books I’m reading, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to read all the books I wanted to.
  • A classic by an author that’s new to you: Until recently I never heard the title of Jane Eyre said aloud, and I always thought that her last name was pronounced  like ‘Eye-ree’ instead of ‘Air’. Oh well. Anyway, this was another classic I went into with some preconceived notions, and which on the whole turned out to be much deeper and more interesting than I expected. The character of Jane Eyre is also extremely well written, to the point that while reading the book I felt like I was reading a real person’s diary instead of a novel.
  • A classic that scares you: Frankenstien could have easily gone in this category, but it wasn’t actually that scary, so for this category I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which didn’t turn out to be that scary either. Just… weird.
  • Re-read a favorite classic: I got to reread a few favorite classics for this challenge, and this was a golden opportunity to revisit my favorite L. M. Montgomery series, Emily of New Moon! I ended up rereading the whole series because it’s just soooo good! Dean Priest is definitely way creepier than I remembered though… 😅

And… that’s about it! Out of twelve categories, I completed ten, which means I get two entries into the drawing (yes, there’s a drawing for a Book Depository gift card if you complete at least half of the challenge!) Honestly, that’s way more than I thought I’d completed, as I forgot about a bunch of the books I read earlier this year. Still… I wish I could have finished all the books I wanted to. Hopefully I’ll be able to complete them soon, even if it isn’t in time for the challenge.


Hey, thanks for reading my Back to the Classics wrap up post! I know, I know, it’s been a while since I posted on the old blog, or even thought about this challenge for that matter. But I’m trying to get better at finishing what I started (ironic as that may sound when I’ve been unable to finish several of the books I was supposed to read for this challenge!) Anyway, as I’ve said many times, I really want to post more on here, so hopefully I’ll see you again soon! Thanks for sticking around.

🙂


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Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Yet another animated sequel that fails to live up to the original.


Let me tell you a little secret: I’m really not a huge fan of sequels, especially for animated kids movies. Even Pixar sequels let me down. In my opinion, the only ones to get it completely right were the Toy Story sequels, which are even better than the original movie. But from the train wreck that was Cars 2 to the off-the-wall prequel Monster’s University to the honestly-kinda-boring-and-annoying Finding Dory, the best I’ve really been able to say about Pixar’s other sequels is that they’re not terrible. Maybe I’m nostalgic, or maybe I’m thinking to hard about films that are made and marketed for kids, but it really doesn’t seem like Pixar’s sequels have been living up to the quality of the original films.

I love The Incredibles. Even though it is now fourteen years old, it still holds up as a beautiful piece of animation, writing, and entertainment. It really didn’t need a sequel (and neither did Finding Nemo, for that matter. Or Cars. Or Monsters Inc.) It stood perfectly well on its own. It never felt forced to be funny or forced to be dramatic and intense. Even though it dealt with some dark ideas (there’s one particular scene where Elasta Girl tells her kids that these villains they’re dealing with aren’t like the ones on Saturday morning cartoons: they will shoot to kill) it’s still a kid’s movie, and a good kid’s movie. It never becomes goofy or dumbed down because ‘maybe the kids won’t get it’.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things the original Incredibles did right are done totally wrong by the sequel. I expected it to be set at least several years after the events of the first film, but it’s actually an immediate sequel that starts off about five minutes after the end of the first movie. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, but it seemed like a very odd choice. There are so many stories that could be told with these awesome characters. Honestly, we didn’t need to see the outcome of the battle with the Underminer. While it wasn’t stated explicitly at the end of the first movie, it was definitely implied that the Incredibles were up to the task of defeating him, and it was a kind of boring way to start off a kind of boring movie.

While there are definitely laugh out loud moments in The Incredibles 2, that’s pretty much all there is. There was none of the seriousness or heart of the first film, just joke after joke after joke, to the point that it felt more like a Dreamworks sequel than a Pixar film. A lot of the conflict between characters was formulaic, to the point that I could predict which characters were going to have some kind of falling out with each other. The big reveal of the main villain is also very heavily foreshadowed and easy to predict. Figuring out who the villain is isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case the fact that I’d figured it out seemed more due to lazy writing than to any intelligence on my part. The whole thing felt disjointed, and character growth, while present, was stunted and choppy at best, and lazily written at worst.

The Incredibles 2 definitely failed to live up to its predecessor. While it’s not a bad movie, and all of the animation, voice work, and music is extremely well done, it lacks heart and fails to deliver any kind of emotional punch; just a few empty laughs with our old favorite characters, and a whole lot of formulaic, unnecessary conflict.


Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“I’m kinda over sequels at this point.”


Thanks for reading my review of The Incredibles 2! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it, or did you think it was another unnecessary Pixar sequel? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: Avengers Infinity War

avengers-infinity-war-imax-poster

 

The biggest Marvel film ever is finally here…


With ten years of experience and 19 films under it’s belt, Marvel Studios seems too big to fail. And while you might expect the quality of these high-powered action flicks to go down as they pump out more and more of them each year (and rake in the cash with every new release), the superhero juggernaut  has yet to stumble. Each new film seems bigger and better than the last, and their quality (both of production and of story) has gone up, if anything.

We knew this was coming: the crossover to end all crossovers. All the heroes in one big movie, facing off against a single villain with the power to snuff out half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers.

Quite frankly, this movie could have been an enormous mess. There are about 40 speaking roles in this two-and-a-half-hour film, and if you don’t think that sounds like a lot, trust me, it is. Trying to work all these characters into a cohesive plot encompassing their motivations, past actions, and new revelations and plot twists is certainly a daunting task. Add in the fact that you’ve got rabid fans breathing down your neck, picking every trailer and press release to shreds and theorizing about everything, and it’s got to be quite a feat to formulate a unique and compelling film with plot twists to surprise even the most die-hard theorists.

Now, I’m not saying that Marvel was able to do that, at least not entirely. Just about everything has been done before in the comics at some point, so it would have been ridiculously difficult to come up with a totally new storyline for these characters. However, what the writers of Infinity War have done is to take a lot of storylines from the comics, weave them together, and then take the liberty to play fast and loose with fans’ expectations, the order of events, and with who they’ve killed off. I’m not going to totally spoil it here, but let’s just say that within the first five minutes of the film, two fan-favorite characters are already dead, and I actually really respect this choice. You want the stakes to be sky high in a film like this.

Thanos, the all-powerful main villain of the Marvel franchise, has been quite depowered from his godlike status in the comics. While he is more than a match for any one hero on their own, working together they are able to keep him at bay, at least for a little while. While Thanos grows more powerful throughout the course of the film, I don’t think that he is overpowered. There’s a really good give and take, a continual question of whether or not our heroes will be able to defeat him, and the stakes do feel very real. I didn’t think that anything in the film was played out just to make it longer, if that makes sense. Every fight happens for a reason. Every character dies for a reason. There are no superfluous moments bogging down what is already a massive storyline.

Another interesting thing about this film is that it’s Thanos who really steals the show. While you could try to pick a main character out of our legion of superheroes, Infinity War is really Thanos’s movie. I’ve heard people have called him a relateable character, but I don’t think that’s the correct term. He is sympathetic, even while he is terribly twisted and evil. He may be the most well-rounded villain Marvel has ever brought to the screen. It would have been very easy to make him a simple cardboard-cutout baddie for our heroes to battle against, but his depth of character and sympathetic nature are a huge factor in what made this film so good.

We never actually get all of the superheroes together in one big scene, which is fine, because that would have been completely overwhelming. Everyone gets kind of split into groups going after different objectives, and you’d think that might get confusing, but the each storyline balances very well with all the others, and it never feels like we’re getting too much of one group and not enough of the others. While most of the action scenes in Infinity War are absolutely cut the shreds (a complaint that I have with most Marvel films), the action, humor, and emotional moments of the film are perfectly balanced. It is neither overly humorous (like Thor: Ragnarok) nor overly dark and dismal.

I guess you could complain that in order to understand Infinity War you have to have seen all 18 of the previous films, but the story is so rich and so intricately and masterfully woven together throughout this franchise that, in my mind, it’s worth it. Unfortunately, at this point I haven’t seen either of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, so I did feel like I was missing out a bit on all the character dynamics and story from that group. But that’s totally on me, and not the film’s fault at all. If you are going to see Infinity War, I would definitely recommend watching (or re-watching) the other films first, just so you don’t miss out on any of the brilliance of the biggest (best?) Marvel film yet.

Now we’ve just got to wait for Part 2…


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

“To infinity, and beyond!”


Content note: As with most Marvel films, there is quite a bit of fantasy/sci-fi action violence in this film, as well as some bad language, and a bit of crude humor. I would definitely recommend caution for younger children.


I hope you enjoyed my review of Avengers: Infinity War! Have you gotten to see the movie yet? Did they kill off your favorite character? (The pain is real…) Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Netflix Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2)

Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2

Things are about to get much, much worse… In a good way???


Before I say anything else, I should probably tell you that Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events may be one of the most faithful (and well done) book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. The casting, the characters and costumes and settings… so much of this series seems to match perfectly with what I saw in my mind as I read the books. Netflix is doing an amazing job, and I really respect them for that.

Although it has been a while since I read the books, from what I remember the show seems to stick pretty close to them. I do like that the creators of this show decided to flesh out VFD a lot more than it was in the books. I am very intrigued to see how everything works out in the end, and especially how they handle the final installment of the series, which I personally thought was a bit of a let down.

However, the nature of the books which have been adapted means that this show continues to get darker and darker with each episode, as more and more terrible things happen to the Baudelaire orphans, more clueless or downright awful guardians take custody of them, and Count Olaf hatches yet more schemes to steal their fortune. The Baudilaires themselves are also faced with increasingly difficult moral choices as they descend further into the winding mystery around VFD and try to just keep themselves alive and safe… or as safe as they can be in vile villages, horrible hospitals, and carnivorous carnivals. The visual tone of the show gets darker and darker along with the story, with each episode’s color scheme a little drabber than the last, and each new, terrifying location a little more grimy and dingy.

This show seems to be a lot darker than the books, but maybe that’s just because the acting is so strong, the visuals so awful and compelling, the dark humor so on point, that it really just drives home the atmosphere that the books were originally getting at. While I did find it a little creepy, and slightly disturbing in parts, I was very impressed with this season, and I’m excited to see how Netflix will handle the third one, and finale of this series of unfortunate events.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Can things get even worse for the Baudilaires? Oh, yes the can.”


Content note: This show is rated PG. However, this season does introduce Esme Squalor, Count Olaf’s evil girlfriend, who wears ridiculous, supposedly fashionable —and often rather revealing— clothing, and also sometimes makes remarks which could be taken as innuendo, or not, depending on how you look at it. These off-color remarks were one rather annoying addition to the show that I noticed, as I don’t remember anything of the kind in the books. There were also references to same-sex couples included in the dialogue a few times (The Quagmire triplets refer to their guardian and ‘her wife’, at one point a character mentions his two moms, etc.), another thing I don’t remember seeing  in the books. This show, especially the current season, is also quite dark, and a little depressing, so I would recommend caution for younger children, even if they’ve already read the books.


I hope you enjoyed my review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2! Have you read the books and/or seen the show? Do you prefer one over the other? What do you think about the show’s inclusion of more stuff about VFD? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman

A stunning musical spectacle that definitely lives up to the hype.


For the past several months, people all over the internet have been raving about this feel-good musical based on the story of P. T. Barnum and his creation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Even some of those who haven’t seen the film have been listening to (and loving) the soundtrack. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see this musical in theaters (I didn’t even know about it until it exploded online and a lot of my friends started talking about it) but I gave it a watch when it came out on Amazon, and I have a few thoughts to share.

There are so many things that The Greatest Showman gets absolutely right. The acting and singing are phenomenal, and the entire film is a feast for the eyes, with elaborate dance numbers, gorgeous costumes, and bright, saturated colors that feel so refreshing after the muted, grayish tones of the more ‘serious’ films I’ve seen so much of recently. The story is not completely historically accurate (and in fact I’ve read elsewhere that the film sort of glosses over the “darker side” of P. T. Barnum in order to tell a happier, more uplifting story). But the purpose of the film is not as a biography, but rather as a celebration of misfits and risk-takers, as proclaimed by the musical’s exultant anthem “This Is Me”.

This song is sung in the film by the so-called ‘freaks’ who preform in the circus shows, people shunned and despised by ‘regular’ society who have found a home for themselves in the circus. It’s a powerful song, and a powerful message, and it is well delivered by the movie.

Some people might be a little thrown off by the very modern-sounding music, especially in a musical set in the 1800s, but I actually really enjoyed the songs, and I think they worked well in the film. The music part of musicals are all about expressing character’s feelings through song and dance, and prim, proper classical-style music wouldn’t have allowed for the soaring choruses and thundering rhythms that just fit this film’s emotional beats so well.

Perhaps the one complaint I have about this film is that in a few places  the dialogue seems stilted, unnatural, perhaps it’s even a bit cheesy on some occasion. This problem doesn’t effect the entire film. It is mostly concentrated right at the beginning, and after those first ten minutes or so the writing evens out and becomes more natural.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed The Greatest Showman. The visuals and music are absolutely stunning, and the story has a warmth and heart to it that seems to be missing from many recent movies. I can totally see why all of Twitter’s been obsessed with this film for the past few months!


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“They don’t call it the Greatest Show on Earth for nothing!


Content note: I am glad to say that I didn’t notice any bad language in this film. There is an lightly implied romantic affair between Barnum and Jenny Lind (Lind kisses Barnum on stage  in front of reporters to start a rumor that they are having an affair, which is not actually true) and personally I think a few of the female performers’ costumes are a tad revealing, but, depending on your personal views, this could certainly be seen as a family-friendly film.


Thanks so much for reading my review of The Greatest Showman! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it? What’s your favorite song? (I’m torn between “The Greatest Show” and “The Other Side”, personally.) Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂

TV Review: Marvel’s ‘The Gifted’ (Season 1)

The Gifted

A fresh look at an old franchise, with family values in focus.


It seems like both Marvel and DC have been doing so many spin off TV shows recently. And many of them are set withing the same universe as famous characters like Batman or the X-Men and yet… don’t contain any of those well known characters. Maybe this seems like a rip off, but I find the concept to be very interesting, and refreshing after so many movies and reboots and whatnot. What about the lesser-known characters, the minor characters, or brand new characters set in these universes. What kind of lives do they lead?

That’s the sort of show that Marvel’s The Gifted is. Well it does contain a few established mutant characters, such as Polaris and Blink, it is centered around a seemingly normal suburban family with two teenage children, who —spoiler alert— just so happen to have mutant abilities. Set in a world where the X-Men have disappeared and most humans are totally hostile towards mutants, The Gifted follows the story of this family, the Struckers, as their lives are torn apart by the discovery of their children’s powers.

For the most part, the show is very well written, and features a large cast of diverse and interesting characters. While there are quite a few major characters to keep track of, I found them all to be distinct and well written, and didn’t mix any of them up or forget who they were. There weren’t any extraneous characters; everyone was there for a reason. If there is any problem I have with the characters and writing, it’s that in the first episode or so, some of the dialogue felt poorly written and some of the acting wasn’t that great. But the writers and actors quickly warmed up to their parts, and by the end of the show I didn’t have a complaint to make about the acting or dialogue.

The Gifted has a tightly knit plot, and most of the writing is very good. While the show sometimes goes off to follow various characters or character groups, we always come back to the story of the Struckers, and none of the subplots or extra storylines seemed to drag. Everything was woven very tightly together, and well contained within the season. While the ending leaves me wanting very much to know what happens next, it wrapped up this first chapter of the story nicely, which is more than I can say for many cliffhanger endings. Once again, I do have a few very minor complaints about the writing; sometimes I found the internal conflict between various characters to be kind of annoying and not well written. It was almost as if the writers were like, “Well, it’s coming up on another big moment! We need to have internal conflict between our main characters,” and then they picked a couple of characters at random and made up a conflict about whatever Big Decision or Big Event was happening. I understand having conflicts between your main characters to make things interesting, but it just became so formulaic by the end that I found it annoying. It felt like lazy writing, as quite a few of these inter-character conflicts didn’t seem to stem from the plot at all, and were just put in for drama. I’ve noticed this formula with other shows as well, and I just don’t like it.

The show is very well produced; well shot and fairly well edited, and I personally find the sound design to be very immersive. The music is good, although some tracks are reused in multiple episodes, as with most TV shows, and I don’t really think that’s an issue. An issue I do have is that some of the editing, mostly near the ends of episodes or scenes, can be a bit choppy. The visual effects aren’t as stellar as those you’d see onscreen at a big Marvel movie, but they serve their purpose and there wasn’t any glaringly bad CGI that I remember noticing.

One of the things I like best about this show is that it puts a strong emphasis on family and family values. Even though the Strucker family faces a lot of difficult situations, and often disagree between themselves about what to do, a focus is put on their relationship as a family. Family is portrayed as a good thing, a healthy thing, which is just so refreshing.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable show which, to my surprise and delight, was kept at a mostly PG level throughout. There were one or two off-color comments, and some foul language, but definitely less than in some shows I’ve seen (or Marvel movies, for that matter). I really enjoyed The Gifted, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next season.


Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Could have been a bit better, could have been worse, but honestly it was pretty awesome.”


Thank you so, so much for reading my review of Marvel’s The Gifted! Have you watched the show yourself? Did you enjoy it? What do you think about spin off shows that focus on original or lesser-known characters? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

ipsy’s Monthly ‘Glam Bag’: Is It Worth It?

Introduction:

So, before everyone starts shouting at me in the comments, yes, I know this is not a beauty or style blog. But, as a youngish lady experimenting with style and all that good stuff, I’ve found that I really enjoy trying out makeup and different makeup looks every once in a while. Now, I’m not super knowledgeable about all the different products and techniques, and, let’s face it, makeup can be expensive, and even if something looks cool in the store, you probably don’t want to spend money on it if it might not work for you.

So in October or November of last year, I purchased three month’s worth of Glam Bags from a service called ipsy. ipsy is supposed to help people discover new makeup products by sending you five curated makeup and skincare samples or products every month for you to try out. Like I said, I’m not always confident in committing to different products, for fear of spending hard-earned money on something that will look horrible on me (which has happened before), so this seemed like the perfect solution. The bags are only ten dollars a month, so trying them out for three months seemed like a safe plan.

Now, the three months are over, and I’ve received all my ipsy products. There have been some I like, and some I don’t, and overall I have enjoyed the service, and might consider using it again sometime. But all this time, there’s been a little question nagging away at the back of my mind.

Is ipsy worth it?

How many of the individual items in each bag are, in fact, only sample sizes? How much would you pay for a full size item? When you break down the numbers and add everything up, factoring in what products you like and use, and what products you didn’t, are the ipsy Glam Bags really worth that $10 fee? I’ve had my suspicion from the beginning that ipsy might be just sending everyone cheap sample-size products. But is that really the case?

To find out, I’ve decided to do a little bit of sleuthing through online makeup retailers, Amazon, and ipsy itself in order to find out, so that I can definitively tell you whether or not ipsy is worth it…

Let’s dive right in!


December Glam Bag

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My December Glam Bag and its contents. Please excuse the low res photos; I’m hopefully going to get a new phone with an actually usable camera soon, but this is what I have to work with at the moment.

Products:

  • Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Daily Facial Scrub with Walnuts and Sugar: A cute little travel-sized exfoliating scrub. I already own a black sugar and activated charcoal scrub which I absolutely love, but this product is also very nice, if it does have a bit of a sticky consistency, and good for travel when you don’t want to lug a big bottle of scrub everywhere. I did find out that this is a sample size and contains 0.75 oz of product. The full size bottle contains 3 oz of product and retails for $9.99 at CVS.

  • Smashbox Cosmetics Be Legendary Lipstick in Legendary: I know Smashbox is a more expensive brand, and so it was neat to be able to try out one of their lipsticks without having to pay an arm and a leg. The lipstick is actually a rather bright, orange-red shade, which isn’t really my thing, but it lasted very well and didn’t fade when I wore it, even when I ate a couple of cookies, so it definitely stays put! Sample size, and the packaging does feel a little flimsy, but this weighs in at 2.4 grams, whereas the full size is 3 grams and retails for $21.00(!) on the Smashbox website.
  •  Pixie by Petra Mesmerizing  Mineral Duo in Orchid Ornament: Both these eyeshadows look gorgeous in the pan, but unfortunately the darker purply one doesn’t have very much pigment at all. I do love the champagne shade, however, and have been using it a lot. This is definitely my favorite product from this bag. Unfortunately, this little duo is an ipsy exclusive sample, so it was difficult to find the shadows on Pixi’s website in order to compare sizes and prices. I did find this Mesmerizing Mineral Palette in Plum Quartz, which appears to contain both these shades. The Mineral Duo is sample sized, and weighs in at 1.5 grams. The palette contains an additional four full-sized shadows, weighs in at 5.76 grams, and retails for  $12.00 on the Pixi website.
  • Luxie Beauty Precision Shader Onyx Brush 239: A simple, nice eyeshadow brush, meant for working shadow into the crease of the eyelid. Unfortunately, the ‘super soft’ synthetic bristles aren’t quite as soft as they seem, but the brush seems to work well with most of my shadows. The Onyx colored brush seems to be exclusive to ipsy, but the same 239 brush in Rose Gold retails for $14.00 on Luxie’s website.
  • Lottie London Lottie Lacquer in Riot: A gorgeous, slightly metallic blue nail polish. I love the color, love the finish, and next time I do my nails I’m definitely using this color. Unfortunately, this lovely shade appears to be an ipsy exclusive, but most of Lottie’s polishes retail for £5.99 on their website (or $8.33)

Was This Bag Worth It?

Just by looking at some of these prices, you can already see that I saved a bunch of money by paying the $10 for an ipsy bag instead of buy all of these products individually. In fact, paying for all these products individually would have cost me $65.32! (That’s factoring in the $12.00 for the whole Pixi palette.) Even cutting out the bright red lipstick and the scrub, which I probably wouldn’t buy of my own volition, I saved over $20.00 and got a couple of exclusive colors thrown in. With 3 out of 5 items that I enjoyed and would consider purchasing again, and several products from good quality, well known brands, it looks like ipsy is off to a good start…


January Glam Bag

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My January Glam Bag and all its contents.

Products:

  • Ciate London Fierce Flicks Liquid Eyeliner: The sad thing is that this is a super nice liquid felt tip liner, but… I just cannot for the life of me apply eyeliner properly. I’m probably going to be gifting this to one of my friends who loves experimenting with makeup, as she’ll get way more use out of it than I would. I was quite surprised to find that this full-sized liner retails for $19.00 on the Ciate London website.
  • Global Beauty Care Charcoal Wash Off Mask: love this mask. It’s a really nice, gentle cleansing mask for days when I just need that little skin pick-me-up, but don’t want to use a harsh scrub. I would definitely consider purchasing a full-size when I run out. This sample size sachet and contains a pretty generous 1 oz of product, which I have yet to run out of. The full 5 oz size retails for $9.99 on the Global Beauty Care website.
  •  Dirty Little Secret Cosmetics Eyeshadow in Sangria: This was probably one of my favorite items from this month’s bag. Sangria is  a super intense, shimmery pink shade, and while maybe not something I’d pick out for myself at the store, I’m glad I got to try it because I really like it! This full size eyeshadow single weighs in at 1.5 grams, and retails for $12.00 (!) on the DSL website.
  • Vasanti Cosmetics Professional Contour Eyeshadow Brush: A very nice, slim eyeshadow brush for blending and fluffing out color. All the brushes I received in my ipsy bags seem to be very good quality, and haven’t broken up or shed any hairs. This itty-bitty brush retails for a whopping $22.00 on the Vasanti website.
  • Hola Neon Velvet Liquid Lipstick in DF: This is the first liquid lipstick I’ve ever owned and… I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the color (it has odd brownish-purple undertones that just don’t look good on my face) and the lipstick itself goes on unpleasantly oily and dries down sticky. The formula also smells a bit like rubber or plastic, which gives me a headache, and the packaging feels super cheap. This is just a no-go for me. This product retails for $17.00 on the Hola Neon website.

Was This Bag Worth It?

There were several products in this bag that I love, and several that I just don’t like. However, it is interesting to note just how much this $10 bag was worth: it would have cost me $79.99 to purchase all these products myself. Some of these individual products do seem over priced, however, and there are only two that I would consider buying again; namely the DSL Eyeshadow in Sangria and the Charcoal Wash Off Mask from Global Beauty Care, meaning that I only saved about $12 (and probably more like $9, as the Charcoal Mask is only a sample size). Even though I enjoyed three of these products, and would consider purchasing two of them again, this definitely wasn’t my favorite bag.


February Glam Bag

photo-1-2.jpg

My February Glam Bag and all its contents.

Products:

  • Clinique Moisture Surge 72 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator: I was pretty excited about this product, but when it came I saw that it was a teeny-tiny little sample size tube, and felt a little disappointed. This product’s claims also seem kind of gimmicky; there was no way I could tell if it was still moisturizing my skin after 72 hours. The product is okay; it feels nice on the skin and sinks in quickly, but there’s no way it can replace my Nature’s Aid Skin Gel, which I use all the time and would highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice, natural moisturizer. The Clinique Hydrator is a 7 ml sample size. There are 4 different full-sized products, ranging from a 15 ml jar for $12.00 to a 75 ml jar for $52.50.
  • F. A. R. A. H. Brushes Large Angled Contour Brush 30F: A very cute, high quality brush with nice soft bristles. I don’t do a lot of contouring, and I’m not very good at it, but this brush honestly seems a little too round and fluffy to really lay down a precise line of contour. I think it might work a little better as a powder or blending brush. The bristles just aren’t packed tight enough to do a good job at contouring the face. This brush retails for $12.00 on the F. A. R. A. H. Brushes website.
  • Sand and Sky Brilliant Skin Pink Clay Mask: I’d actually been seeing this mask all over Instagram, and I was very excited to try it. Unfortunately, the little sample-size bottle arrived only half full of product. I’m not sure if this is intentional, or if it just wasn’t filled up quite enough by accident? Either way, I didn’t want to use the whole thing up by trying it out on my entire face, so I just used a bit on my nose, and actually saw immediate results. The mask dries quickly and washes off very easily, and left my nose smooth and brightened, and also got rid of a bunch of pesky little blackheads, which was very nice. I’m not sure if I’ll be purchasing a full size of this mask, as unfortunately it is quite expensive, but it was very nice to be able to try it out, even though I didn’t get a full tube. This sample size Pink Clay Mask contains 0.45 oz, while the full size jar contains 1.96 oz of product and retails for $49.00(!)
  • Beaute Basics Eyeshadow in Sweet Taffy: I was really excited about this eyeshadow, as it looks absolutely gorgeous in the pan. But it was somehow very difficult to get any color on the eyelid. I had to use a damp brush to get any results at all, and even then it doesn’t show up very much. I’m wondering if it would be better to pat this shadow on with your fingertips in order to get more color out of it? The formula is very smooth and buttery to the touch, but it just doesn’t have enough pigment on the eye when used with a brush. This eyeshadow single retails for $14.99 on Beaute Basics’ website.
  • Pink Pewter Lash But Not Least Dual Sided Mascara in Black: It’s honestly kind of hard for me to figure out what to say about this mascara, because there are things about it that I love, but also things that I really don’t like. Let’s start with the dual sided thing: I honestly think it’s a gimmick. Yes, the ‘curling mascara’ side does give my lashes a bit of a curl and a nice coat of color, but the ‘voluminous mascara’ side doesn’t really seem to do anything. The wands you use to apply the mascara are also really fat and kind of unwieldy, especially on the voluminous side, and I get little flakes of mascara on my eyelid near the lashline, which is kind of annoying. The mascara doesn’t transfer to my lower eyelids, though, which is a problem I have with my other mascara, but the formula on Pink Pewter’s product is just… inconsistent. Sometimes it’ll apply really nice on one eye, and terribly on the other. I think there are better products out there, and I wouldn’t repurchase this mascara, but it does okay, and the formula, when you can get it to work properly, is quite nice. This Lash But Not Least Mascara retails for $20.00 on the Pink Pewter website.

Was This Bag Worth It?

To get full-sizes of all the products in the bag, it would cost at least $107.99, and even more if you got a larger jar of the Clinique Hydrator. But, honestly, some of these products just seem very overpriced considering their quality, and the only thing I would even consider repurchasing would be the Pink Clay Mask, which is the most expensive thing on this list (and probably rightly so, because it does actually work). So while I do kind of like some of the things from this bag, I don’t like most of them enough to buy them again, which is… kind of disappointing. I did notice that ipsy listened to my feedback with this bag, and didn’t send me any lipstick or eyeliner, so it looks like they do listen to your reviews and ratings. However, the quality of some of the products, and the amount that ended up in the samples, leaves something to be desired.


Conclusion: Is ipsy Worth It?

From a purely monetary standpoint, ipsy’s $10 a month fee is absolutely worth it. I paid $30 for three months of Glam Bags, and received 15 product worth well over $200. In all honestly, I really expected ipsy to send cheap little samples from low-quality brands I’ve never heard of. I didn’t expect full-size products or anything from well-known brands like Smashbox or Sand and Sky. But ipsy really lives up to their promises. Nothing I received was worth less than $8, (except maybe for that tiny Clinique sample) and much of what I received I enjoyed and will continue using, even if I don’t end up repurchasing the item later on. While researching the costs of these items, I kept getting sticker-shock from just how much this makeup costs. You really have to wonder just where and how ipsy makes their money. Paying $10 for bags consistently worth over $50 just seems too good to be true, even if it isn’t.

But how much did I enjoy these bags? Was it worth it for me?

I don’t really know. The excitement and anticipation of receiving five new products every month is, of course, enjoyable, but there’s always that let down if what you get doesn’t work well for you. And I don’t think I would get ipsy all year round. If you want to treat yourself for a few months, or if you’re kind of new to makeup and want to try out a bunch of different things without having to spend tons of money on stuff you might not like, I would definitely recommend ipsy as an inexpensive way to do that. I may treat myself to one or two more bags sometime in a future, but I think it’s more of a ‘treat yourself’ thing than an ‘every month, all year round’ kind of thing.


Thanks for reading my little review of the ipsy monthly Glam Bags! Have you ever tried ipsy? Are you considering trying it in the future? Are you as shocked as I am at those crazy makeup prices??? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you all again soon!

🙂

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther

A groundbreaking superhero romp with all the action, humor, and heart you’d expect from a Marvel film.


SPOILER WARNING: There are a few major spoilers ahead in this review, as I wanted to talk about some character arcs and plot points as in depth as possible. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want spoilers, please go watch it before reading this review! 


I have to admit, I had my doubts about this film. When something gets this much hype, when people are calling it the best Marvel film ever made (or maybe even the best film ever made) and when it carried a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, if only for a little while, that’s an awful lot to live up to. But I understood the hype, and I hoped that this film would live up to most of it, because here’s the thing: Besides Angie Thomas’s fabulous novel, The Hate U Give, I cannot remember the last book I read or movie I watched that had a black protagonist, much less an almost entirely black cast. And I’m certainly not saying that it’s bad to have a white protagonist; not at all. But there are so many awesome white protagonists and not nearly enough awesome black protagonists, especially not in more mainstream media, and so I totally understand the hype for this movie, and I was hoping against hope that people weren’t exaggerating, and that Black Panther would be a genuinely good film.

Marvel took a risk with this film, because many big studios in Hollywood won’t make films with POC or female leads, as they think those films won’t make enough money at the box office. But, obviously, that risk paid off: as of this writing, Black Panther has earned over $404 million dollars worldwide, breaking multiple box office records, including becoming the highest grossing film with a predominantly black cast ever.

The numbers don’t lie. But what about the reviews? I personally try not to judge films off of popularity, or how much money they make, or other peoples opinions. And so I was very eager to see this film for myself and find out whether or not all the hype was warranted.

So let’s dive into the review.

First of all, Black Panther is visually stunning. Much of the film takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, and the landscapes shown in the film are gorgeous and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen onscreen. We all know the standard fantasy/sci-fi locations, which have all been done and done to death: the forest, the fields, the mountains, the futuristic city. But Black Panther‘s African-inspired fantasy/sci-fi world breaths new life into these tired settings, by transporting us straight into Africa itself. I’ve seen so much sci-fi and fantasy set in America or Europe, or American-like and Europe-like worlds, and it is so refreshing to see what a high-tech, futuristic African city would look like, or to watch T’Challa, the Black Panther himself, fight his rival for the right to the throne on a sheer rock ledge beneath a waterfall, while his people cheer him on.

It was endlessly cool to see an entire fictional culture inspired by Africa on the big screen. From the colors and cut of the clothes to the design of the city and the flying ships that transport T’Challa and his friends, to the technology created by T’Challa’s genius sister Shuri, everything just felt so fresh and new and exciting and, yes, groundbreaking.

In another reversal of what you so often see in mainstream media, the only white characters in the film are villainous Ulysses Klaw (played by Andy Serkis) and the bumbling General Ross (played by Martin Freeman), who acts as a foil to the main characters. I found myself laughing right along with T’Challa and co. at Ross’s total confusion in the face of this highly advanced but hidden African society.

But the film itself, the story, the characters, the ideas; are they any good? This film has been touted as such a huge leap towards diversity in storytelling, and especially in big budget films, and that is certainly the case. But does Black Panther also stand on its own merits?

I would have to say yes. Well it may not be the best film ever made, Black Panther gets a lot of things right when it comes to storytelling, plot, action, and character development. It is actually one of the few Marvel films to have a well developed villain: Erik Killmonger, an exile and heir to the Wakandan throne who returns to his country to claim his rights and remove T’Challa from power. Erik’s father had left Wakanda to live in America with his son, but when he turned out to be a traitor, he was killed, leaving Erik all alone with only the tales his father had told him of his native country. When Erik returns to claim the throne, he brings with him an agenda: he resents how Wakanda has hidden their strength for so long, and wants the country to use its wealth and military might to stop the oppression of black people all over the world, by force.

While Killmonger brings up valid points about oppression and the need for action, I appreciate that the filmmakers do show his viewpoint —that violence can and should be used to end oppression— to be wrong, and that T’Challa decides in the end to use the wealth and strength of his country to help others peacefully. Sometimes, I almost found myself cheering for Killmonger, because the filmmakers do such a good job of developing him into a well rounded, flawed-but-nevertheless-admirable human being. He’s such a well developed character, and it’s almost a shame that T’Challa isn’t quite as well developed in the film. He is still a good hero, but I wish the filmmakers had spent just a little more time on developing a better story arc for him.

The other major characters in this film —namely Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, and Okoye, the general of an all-female group of Wakandan warriors— are all brilliantly played and fantastically developed characters. I love Shuri and T’Challa’s sibling relationship; it’s super authentic and very funny, as Shuri teases and makes fun of her brother even as she’s helping him catch the thieving Klaw. Nakia also gets tons of moments in the spotlight, not just as T’Challa’s love interest (although they are adorable and very, very shipable ❤ ) but also as a magnificent warrior, and a kindhearted, caring woman who’s greatest wish is to help those less fortunate than herself.

The story itself is very coherent and well plotted, and could pretty much stand on its own even if you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, which is nice after such a long line of sequels and sequels of sequels. The visual effects and action scenes are well done, as is all of the acting, and I just really enjoyed this film. It ranks very high on my personal list of ‘best Marvel films’. It just seemed to have a bit more heart than some more recent Marvel flicks, specifically Thor: Ragnarok, which was a very funny and well made film, but somehow seemed to lack any real emotional depth. Is Black Panther somehow going to fix every racial or social problem ever, as some people seem to think? Probably not, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Wakanda forever!”


Heyo! I hope you enjoyed my review of Black Panther. Have you seen the film yet? Did you enjoy it? What do you think of T’Challa’s character development (or lack thereof?) I’m curious! Let me know in the comments.

See you again soon!

🙂

The Best of 2017 (2017 Wrap Up Post)

Introduction:

2017 has finally wound to an end. It’s been a crazy year, but there have also been some pretty awesome moments, and I’ve discovered a few amazing things I’d like to share with you today, including books, movies, music, YouTube shows, and more! Scroll down to check out my ‘best of’ list and recommendations, as well as my end of the year wrap up!

DISCLAIMER: Just so you know, all opinions I express in this post are entirely my own. Nobody has bribed me, sent me free stuff, blackmailed me, kidnapped me, or hacked my blog to get me to say this stuff. I just love all these things, and I love sharing cool stuff with all my friends. I hope you enjoy the list!  😄


Best of 2017


Best Of:

Movies, TV, & YouTube

I have a difficult time making any real decisions, so for some of these categories there are multiple picks.

Best Film(s)

  • There honestly weren’t a ton of really awesome films that I got to see this year, so the selection I have to choose from for this category is relatively small. It’s honestly a bit of a tie between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Thor: RagnarokWhile I did like Spiderman: Homecoming, I enjoyed Ragnarok a little bit more, maybe because I’ve been looking forward to it for at least a year now. It certainly did not disappoint. And The Last Jedi far exceeded any expectations I’d had for a Star Wars film, so they’re honestly about equal, in my opinion. You can read my review for Thor or read my review for The Last Jedi, if you want to hear my more detailed thoughts about the films.

Best TV Show

  • Maybe this is a little too obvious, but my pick for best TV show of 2017 is Netflix’s Stranger Things. There is so much internet hype about this show, that if you have been anywhere online you can’t help but here about it. And the show certainly lives up to the hype! Thrills, chills, adventure, as well as fabulous acting and writing abound, and I am very excited to see where the show goes next! You can read my full review of both seasons here. Another Netflix original, their new adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, also gets an honorable mention. It was very well done, and I would love if we got another season, as I would like to see the story continue! You can read my review of that here.

Best YouTuber/YouTube Series

  • This award goes to The Game Theorists (and Film Theorists) for their exceptional year of theories! I just discovered the Theorist Crew late last year, and they have become my all time favorite YouTubers. While I love MatPat and his hilarious, well researched (if sometimes far fetched) theories about video games, movies and TV shows, I also want to give a shout out to Austin, the creator of The SCIENCE! which is another video game themed show that can be found on the Game Theorists’ channel. His more recent episodes, especially the ones about Halo and Hello Neighbor, are chock full of cool facts, equations, and all around awesome science stuff. If you love video games (or movies) and like far-fetched theories and science-y weirdness, I would highly recommend checking out these two channels.

Best YouTube Red Original

  • I got a free trial of YouTube Red this year, mostly to watch the Game Theorists’ YouTube Red original show. While I highly enjoyed MatPat’s Game Lab, which is a real-life continuation of Game Theory, where they tested stuff from games in real life (such as playing soccer with cars, as shown in Rocket League, or trying to survive Five Nights at Freddie’s IRL) I would have to say that my favorite YouTube Red series was actually Mind Field, which is hosted by Micheal Stevens of Vsauce. Mind Field explores the science of psychology, particularly looking at the reasons why human beings behave the way they do, while also exploring a few other fascinating psychological concepts, such as isolation and its effect on the brain, or how people would respond in real life to the infamous Trolley Problem. While as a Christian I don’t agree with everything Stevens says, Mind Field is still a fascinating exploration of some of the science behind our behavior, and I would highly recommend that you check out the first episode of the show, which is available for free on the Vsauce channel.

Music

Once again, there are multiple categories here, and once again, I am an indecisive bean who had multiple picks for one of them…

Best Song

  • There is literally no contest here. The best song of 2017 is Machine by MisterWives. I was originally introduced to this indie pop/alternative band through Twenty One Pilots. MisterWives opened for them during the Quiet is Violent tour, and during the TØP hiatus I’ve been trying to find new music to listen to, often by looking up bands that have toured with them. I only like a few songs by the band, but Machine is a definite standout. Rebellious, rollicking, with lyrics that offer a candid take on the modern music industry (my personal interpretation of the song), it’s just an awesome piece of music, and you should probably have it somewhere on your  playlist. Give it a listen right here:

 

Best Album(s)

Two albums released in 2017 really stood out to me, one of them from an old favorite, and one from an artist totally new to me.

  • Canadian singer/songwriter Lights’ new album Skin & Earth is by far one of her best albums to date, and I have no hesitation in naming it as one of the best albums of the year. Savage, which is one of my favorite songs off the album, is totally unlike anything Lights has done before. Her vocals and lyrics are always on point, but there is a very raw and real anger coming through in this song that I really love. Savage also features Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots on drums, which is pretty awesome, as it’s basically a collaboration between two of my favorite artists ever.
  • The second album is After Laughter by alternative rock/pop punk band Paramore. I just discovered the band this year, and I am loving their awesome, kind of retro-style rock music. After Laughter has a good mix of slower, quieter songs, and fast, exciting songs that just make you want to get up and dance. Probably my favorite song off the album is Pool, although Hard Times and Fake Happy are also fantastic.

Books

There were several books I read this year that really got my attention, and they all deserve mentions in this post.

  • The first was Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. It was a heartbreaking, very real story inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement about a girl who witnesses her best friend get shot by a policeman when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. The book has some strong language and innuendo, but the raw, honest story, told through the eyes of a girl who lives with discrimination and fear of police violence every day, more than makes up for any of that. It is a very important book, especially for this moment in time, and I am very glad that I got the chance to read it.
  • Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt is an intense thriller that delivers all the feels. Brianna’s writing kept me right at the edge of my seat throughout the entire book, and I can hardly wait for the sequel, which should be arriving sometime next year. The story follows Quinn Rogers, a fearless assassin whose past is starting to catch up with her. The book is fairly dark and violent, but there are Christian themes of redemption, as well as a bit of hilarious humor to lighten the mood, and all in all it was just a fantastic read. (I need to read it again soon!) You can check out my full review over on Goodreads.
  • Finally, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia more than deserves an honorable mention. This was a bittersweet exploration of fandom, online friendships, and anonymity. I was very excited about this book, and it did not disappoint. You can read my review over on Goodreads if you’re interested in my thoughts.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few things that didn’t really fit into any of the other categories, but which I thought really deserved to be mentioned in this post.

Secret Midnight Press

  • Secret Midnight Press is an independent publishing company and curiosity brand created by authors Ashley Dun and Jesse Cale, and based in Columbus, Ohio. They publish emotional poetry books, go on book tours with artists like Tessa Violet and GiveMeMotion, and create special seasonal boxes full of books and goodies. I just got Ashley’s book Smoke Signals (burn this) for Christmas (you can check out my review on Goodreads, if you like), and I have tickets to their January show in Columbus, which is also very exciting. They strive to create a safe space for people to express their feelings, and to provide hope to others who are struggling with mental illnesses like depression, or with difficult emotions and circumstances. Above all, they try to stay creative and curious about life. Ashley’s poetry is gorgeous, and I hope to be getting some of their other books soon. I also think that Secret Midnight Press will be a project that I continue to support for years to come, so I thought they deserved a mention on this list
  • Visit the Secret Midnight Press Website.

goodDYEyoung

  • goodDYEyoung is another independent company I’m happy to be able to support. They create vegan, cruelty-free, safe hair dye products in bright , beautiful colors, as well as providing temporary hair color products as well. If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I dyed a bit of my hair using their purple color. I used it straight on my hair, without any bleach, and while it colored my natural hair pretty well, I’m planning to get some of my hair bleached sometime in January, and dye it again. Their semi-permanent colors are PPD free, meaning no nasty chemicals all over your head, and easily mixable so you can get exactly the shade you want. The dye also had natural conditioning agents, leaving your hair silky-smooth and brightly colored. I would highly recommend you check out goodDYEyoung if you’re thinking about dying your hair!
  • Visit the goodDYEyoung website.

The Bright Eyes Project

  • Created by Aimee Meester, the Bright Eyes Project Podcast is a creepy sci-fi adventure taking you to fantastical spaceships, strange purple planets, the depths of space, and more! Complete with enough aliens, conspiracy, mysterious disappearances  and cliffhangers to drive anyone crazy (*cough, cough* we need the next episode, Aimee *cough, cough*), Bright Eyes is perfect for any sci-fi lover, whether you’re completely new to the fiction podcast format (like me!) or are a long time listener.
  • Check out the Bright Eyes Project.

Personal Highlights

  • I completed the first draft of Book 1 of my super secret sci-fi project, and wrote over 30,000 words of Book 2… and then promptly got stuck. I’m still trying to figure out where to go next. I’m really excited about this project, but I’m just a bit stuck on it right now.
  • I wrote over 30 poems, which is very exciting. I used to hate poetry, but then I took most of a poetry course (I never actually finished it… :/) which made me super excited to try writing my own poems! I write in mostly rhyming verse, but I’ve experimented a lot with free verse as well. I basically have a whole book of poems now, but I don’t know if I will actually publish it. We’ll see!
  • I published my second book this year! The Tangle was released in both paperback and ebook formats on November 4th this year, after being run as a serial novel on Channillo.com. It’s a paranormal suspense novel, which has absolutely nothing to do with my first book, Behind Her Mask was Death (several people have been confused about this) and you can pick up a copy over on Amazon, if you’re interested. 🙂
  • My blog is officially more than a year old! I totally missed my blogaversary, which happened back in April or May, I believe, but I have now been blogging for over a year. I wrote a total of 70 posts this year, and I hope to write even more in 2018!

Looking Forward

I may have mentioned at some point or other that I was planning to release a novellette set in the world of Behind Her Mask was Death this December. Well, obviously, that didn’t actually happen. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish working on the book and getting feedback on it until a couple of days ago, so I will probably publish it sometime in early 2018.

Other than that, I actually don’t have a ton of plans for 2018. I’ll keep working on all my in-progress projects (of which there are a great deal…) and perhaps we’ll see another book at some point, but I don’t know. I’m still struggling with my super secret sci-fi project, so I’m not sure what will happen with that. We’ll just have to wait and see!


Thanks so much for reading my end of the year recommendations and wrap up! I hope you’ll check out a couple of the things on this list, and that your 2017 was a blessed and lovely year. See you in 2018!

🙂

Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi

A dramatic, tragic, exciting film taking all of Star Wars in a new direction.


If you’ve been anywhere on the internet during the past few days, you’ve probably realized that a lot of people really liked The Last Jedi, the most recent installment of the new Star Wars films, and some people really, really hated it. I went to see the film on Tuesday, expecting to be at least mildly entertained, and to probably not have any of the nostalgia-induced anger issues that a lot of older fans have been experiencing due to this movie. The Star Wars films were never a huge part of my childhood. In fact, Star Wars itself was only involved in my life through the Lego Star Wars video game that we had on our Wii. I never even saw any of the films until I was over the age of ten. I’m not super attached to the franchise, even now. Some of you may want to kill me when I say this, but I am honestly not a huge fan of the original trilogy. I went to see The Force Awakens simply because the rest of my family was going to see it, and I ended up actually really liking it, way more than I liked any of the previous films. It seemed more serious to me, more believable, deeper, more thought out, better made.

So maybe when I say that I really loved The Last Jedi, and its subversion of tropes and expected twists, the risky moves taken by the filmmakers and the new direction it seems to be taking the Star Wars franchise as a whole, its because I’m not looking at the film the same way as all the angry people.

I never grew up with Luke and Leia and Han. I don’t have any kind of nostalgia for the original films, or even for the unmentionable prequels (shudder). It doesn’t hurt me to see new filmmakers giving us new takes on old characters, or even destroying old characters to make way for the new. I loved having my expectations subverted, loved every twist and turn the film took. It didn’t make me long for the ‘good old days’ of Star Wars. It made me excited for what is to come.

If you’re upset about the film, I can understand where you’re coming from. I’ve had a few childhood favorites ruined for me as well by newer takes. But maybe we could just stop judging one another for how we feel about the film? It is a movie, after all.

But enough of that. This is supposed to be a review, so I should probably be talking about the actual movie.

If there’s one criticism I have about The Last Jedi, it’s that it feels very long. It is, in fact, just over two and a half hours, and at several points in the final act, I actually thought that the film was about to end on a cliffhanger or something. But it does a good job of telling a complete, if quite long story. Often, I find that long movies aren’t necessarily better; in fact they’re often not edited well and need to be cut down. The Last Jedi didn’t strike me that way, though. I didn’t think that there was any way it could have been cut down, unless you had moved the entire third act into the next movie and left the film on a terrible cliffhanger. The pacing feels slightly off, with the first two acts feeling like a complete film, and the final act also feeling like a complete, if much shorter, film, or even the beginning of a new movie. But the pacing within each act is very well done, especially considering the amount of characters who each have to have their screen time and story. At no point did I feel like getting up and walking out because I was bored. I wanted to find out what happened. It just sort of felt like I’d walked into one film and had an extra half of another movie tacked on to the end. Not in a bad way, if that makes sense, but it was still a bit of an odd feeling.

Another thing that felt a bit tacked on was the little political messages about weapons and war. In part of the story we encounter a bunch of rich weapons dealers, who have been selling to both sides in the war and getting wealthy off of the conflict. I don’t have a problem with the message or the issue that this seemed to be trying to expose, it was just presented in a kind of bizarre way in the film, and felt a little off for some reason. Maybe a little too political?

The story of the film, however, was quite well written and enjoyable, while also being slightly darker than most Star Wars films and material I’ve seen. The entire tone of the film seems to have shifted down a few notches, with dark or drab color palates, war worn clothing and environments, and a lot of heavy moments which honestly reminded me of the more recent Marvel films. There was, however, a fair amount of humor to lighten the mood, and while some of the jokes fell flat, it was a nice break from the seriousness of the rest of the movie. The acting was also phenomenal, especially that of John Boyega (who plays Finn) and Adam Driver (who plays Kylo Ren). Rose, a new character played by Kelly Marie Tran, was also very well played and written, and I loved her bright, chipper attitude. She seemed to be having fun in every scene she was in.

A lot of the angry fans seem to be mad about the fact that the film subverts a lot of the tropes we expect in a Star Wars film. While a large part of nostalgia is wanting new things to be mostly the same as the old, so that we can relive that old excitement and experience with a few attention holding changes, viewing the film as I do without that nostalgia, I was very excited about the subversion of tropes and unexpected twists. This film made me excited about Star Wars, something I haven’t really been, well, ever… It’s a new take for a new generation of fans and, personally, I really loved it.


Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“I have never been a Star Wars fan. But I think I just became a Star Wars fan!”


Thank you for reading my review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi! I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen the film? What do you think? Are you excited to see what happens next in the Star Wars universe? Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂