A Podcast Recommendation: Doctor Whodlums

As a new Doctor Who fan, I'm at that stage where I both need to consume as much Whovian material as possible but also can't get too deep into the fandom because I'm several years behind. And I just happened to stumble upon a podcast that gives me my fix AND lets me control how much is spoiled (to a certain extent): Doctor Whodlums

Hosted by Chelsea Christer and Zen Zenith, these self-titled Whodlums tackle episodes from the rebooted series. Among their opinions on storylines and characters, the two also create an episode-based drink - like a banana daiquiri for "The Girl in the Fireplace", in honour of the Doctor accidentally inventing the drink in 18th century France - and things can get a little tipsy. 

I haven't listened to all of the episodes yet because I’m not caught up on the actual show, but it’s been fun hearing their takes on the episodes I have seen (especially the episodes I loved). They provide fun facts and tidbits, and try to stay away from anything too spoiler-y, while occasionally going off on random tangents. 

They haven’t posted a new episode since early 2016, but since I don’t think there was a new Doctor Who season last year, it makes sense...and it means I still have time to catch up on a few more seasons before they record anything new!

You can check out Doctor Whodlums on Twitter and Facebook!

Sing Street

I've heard a lot about Sing Street, so I finally got around to watching it on Netflix, and it did not disappoint.

Set in 1980's Dublin, it tells the story of Conor, a kid from a down-on-their-luck family who ends up being pulled out of his private school in favour of a (cheaper) state school. While there, he meets Raphina, the enigmatic aspiring model, and, in an attempt to impress her, he claims that he's in a band and needs a model for an upcoming video. One problem: Conor can barely play an instrument, never mind be in a band. 

Of course, that doesn't stop him, and hijinks ensue when he recruits a bunch of other students from Synge Street CBS to put together a band aptly called Sing Street. At first they play covers, but after a chat with his older brother, Conor starts writing original music, most of them with lyrics inspired by Raphina.

You can never do anything by half; do you understand that?
— Raphina

It's a cute movie, but it's not all sunshine and good vibes - the characters don't always have the easiest lives, but they channel those feelings into their music. While the plot mostly revolves around the band and Conor's relationship with Raphina, most of the characters have extensive backstories and side plots that add emotional depth At about 100 minutes long, they pack in a whole lot of information and detail - Conor's parents' failing marriage; the friction that causes with his older brother; the way he feels out of place at school; and, of course, the school bully.

It's also fun to see how different each boy in the band is, and how they all come together. And, of course, the soundtrack is amazing - a mix of classic songs that clearly influenced Sing Street's sound (Duran Duran, The Cure, and Hall & Oates all make appearances), and original songs that I can't stop listening to. I Please do yourself a favour and listen to "Drive It Like You Stole It", though, really, I'd recommend just watching the whole movie. 

The Funny Side of Instagram

A couple of weeks ago, Jane and I discussed some of our favourite instagram accounts. As I was scrolling through who I follow, I realized that I keep tabs on quite a few comic artists, so I put together a list of some of the ones I think are especially hilarious. 

adamtots

His topics are varied, from pop culture references to politics, and you may have seen some of his comics on Buzzfeed and similar sites, but oh my gosh, they crack me up. I laughed for about 48 hours after this particular image popped up. 

introvertdoodles

I'm probably not as introverted as Marzi is, mostly because I work in retail and am forced to interact with other humans, but she speaks a lot of truth - I too rarely want to leave the house because I'm in the middle of a good book.

poorlydrawnlines

There's a certain dry humour in these comics that make me laugh so hard, I can't even explain it. My favourite is whenever an animal gives someone the finger. HILARIOUS. 

chrishallbeck

For such simple drawings (they're literally stick figures), he manages to pack so much humour into a handful of lines. If you're into bookish humour, he also has a secondary account that depicts what it's like to work in a library (aptly named "library comic"). 

There are lots of others, including lunarbaboon, sarahandersencomics, and barelyfunctionaladult, but I'll leave you to chortle over these ones for now. 

Becoming a Whovian Fifty Years Late

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but every so often, I come across a new-to-me show that completely takes over my life. It happened with Adventure Time, and then again with Sherlock, and now it’s happening once more with Doctor Who (which, I realize, has been around for over fifty years, wow, sorry I’m behind on the times, I’m still working on building a TARDIS).

It would take me years to catch up on the classic Who episodes, so I started with the reboot, and I don't regret a single thing. I know my sister is probably reading this and thinking “You’re just in it for David Tennant”. And I’ll readily admit that she’s not wrong – Ten is a big reason why I wanted to watch the show in the first place, and is absolutely one of the reasons why I’m this obsessed. But David Tennant’s charming mannerisms and cute face (and great hair) aside, there are other reasons why this show speaks to me. 

As soon as I started watching it, I realized that Doctor Who is basically the live-action version of Adventure Time, except more time travell-y. Like Adventure Time (which, as I've mentioned, I LOVE), there are episodes that confuse me, but still leave me intrigued. And there are episodes that make no sense and bore me to regeneration. There are episodes that start to fill in the blanks left by those previous episodes so that I can “ooh” and “ahh” over all the foreshadowing. And there are episodes that reach into my chest and pull out my one still-beating heart and leave me completely devastated (graphic, I know, but I’ve been crying about the fourth season for WEEKS). 

Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.

Not to mention I, quite simply, love a good time travel story. Time travel was the one redeeming quality of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (even if the rest of the story was nonsensical garbage), and I find the concept fascinating, if a little confusing. So the fact that the Doctor can go as far forward or as far back in time as he wishes is pure magic in my eyes. I especially love any time he ends up cavorting with historical figures: fighting werewolves with Queen Victoria, witnessing Shakespeare’s lost play, solving a murder mystery with Agatha Christie, etc. I like aliens and space adventures as much as the next person, but there’s something special about watching the Doctor insert himself into actual human history. 

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... timey wimey... stuff.

Plot aside, I also enjoy the characters. You should all know by now how I feel about Ten, but Nine was also, in his own words, “fantastic” (I haven’t started watching Eleven’s seasons yet). Captain Jack Harkness makes any situation ten times as fun (and flirtatious), I need to know more about River Song, and Donna Noble...well, I’m dedicating a whole post to her next month, so you’ll just have to wait and see how I feel about her (spoiler alert: Donna is the flippin’ best). Even Rose and Martha, for all their faults, served a purpose; they may not have been my favourites, but they helped shape the Doctor – and the series – in ways only they could. 

I know at least three people who were shocked to find out that it took me this long to watch Doctor Who because it’s a show that combines a whole bunch of my favourite things into one neat (but expensive – great Gallifrey, the DVDs cost a fortune!!) blue box. As mad as I am that I waited this long to discover the Doctor, I’m so glad I finally took the leap.

The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life...You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say ‘no’. You have the guts to do what’s right, when everyone else just runs away.

NetGalley Review: The Bone Witch

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Release date: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcefire Books

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.
Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.
Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

I really wanted to like The Bone Witch. Like, really really wanted to love it. The cover is gorgeous and the synopsis is intriguing, but the actual book? The actual book bored me. 

I always hate giving books negative reviews because I know how much passion and work goes into the story writing process and I admire people who make a living out of it or who, at least, have the guts to share their words with so many people. But at the end of the day, I only read about 20% of The Bone Witch and skimmed the other 80%.

I will say this: Rin Chupeco put a lot of effort into building this world (world-building is not my forte). There are rules and customs and multiple kingdoms and that's really cool, but I couldn't bring myself to care. A vast majority of the book is description - of the world, as I mentioned, but also of Tea’s daily tasks and her clothes. OH GOSH her clothes!! I'm not 100% sure what a “hua” is, but they were described to death and I'm just not into it. 

If there is one thing people desire more than a good story...it is when they speak their own.

I unfortunately didn't love any of the characters (except maybe Tea’s brother/familiar Fox) and it made it hard for me to care what was going on since I couldn't get a good grasp on any of them (probably because I was skimming so much!). I also didn't like the dual perspectives - most of the book was from Tea’s POV, but every few chapters there was a “present-day” scene from a Bard’s POV who is listening to Tea retell her story. That secondary POV was basically used to add tension as Tea hinted at what was to come, but it just made the story drag (and I totally saw the twist with her “beloved” coming from a mile away). 

Everyone is a puzzle...made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

Overall, I was very disappointed with the way The Bone Witch turned out. It had such potential, the prose is decent, and I’m sure there are people raving about the inspiration drawn from Asian cultures, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t entertaining enough to keep me invested.

Woman Crush Wednesday: Olivia Moore

As per my post last Tuesday, I recently watched the first season of iZombie. For all the entertaining things about it, the highlight is our main zombie girl herself, Olivia Moore (Rose McIver). Here's why she's my WCW this month. 

Pre-Zombie

Before getting scratched and catching the zombie bug, Liv was a medical resident. She was smart and good at her job, and had ambitions - all admirable qualities, to be sure. And even if she wasn't exactly a party girl (apparently for good reason. Look what happened when she DID go to a party), she still had a social life: a former sorority girl engaged to a her college sweetheart. 

Zombie

All I want right now is to be able to rock white hair as well as Liv does. I just admire her fashion sense in general - girly, but edgy, her clothes are a more put-together version of my own closet. Plus who doesn't love (or need) a serviceable leather jacket?

Pre-zombie scratch Liv is a little harder to understand because she takes on traits from the brains she consumes, but whether she's eaten a sociopath or a new mother, she's curious, loyal, and bright, always willing to help her friends and family, even when she has to hide her true nature from them. Not to mention she's hella resourceful (see next point). 

"I wanted to do something with my life. I wanted to help people. Not necessarily as a zombie psychic who eats murder victim brains, but still I so nailed it today. I've spent five months bemoaning all that was taken from me. It never occurred to me that I'd have something to give. A way to contribute. A reason for being not alive. To sleep, perchance to not dream. All I needed was some hope that there's a future that I fit into somehow."

Zombie-Mode

At first, Live lets her new circumstances steer her life. Eventually, she comes to accept (or, at least, starts to accept) what being a zombie means, and she uses it to her advantage. She gets a job at the morgue to ensure that she has a steady supply of brains to eat; she uses her resulting visions/psychic powers to selflessly help cops (even when - especially when - she has to eat a former friend); and Liv is FIERCE when she goes full zombie. You gotta admire a girl who can fight for herself. 

The only time she's a questionable role model (apart from the whole "eating brains" thing) is the way she keeps pining after her ex-fiance (who really isn't that special). 

Jen Janet is Dangerous

Jen Janet is no stranger to making music. As the lead vocalist for alternative rock band Blind Revision, she’s used to belting out lyrics over heavy bass and percussion. But that doesn’t mean she’s stuck to one genre. 

As a solo artist, Janet is exploring the pop and EDM side of music. Her new EP, Dangerous (out today) is four tracks of her soaring vocals over pulsing beats. 

Check out the title track “Dangerous” below, as well as an interview with Jen Janet herself! 

When/how did you start making music?

I started singing in front of people when I was four years old. I’ve been singing pretty much as long as I can remember. It was something I always loved to do, but I started making music professionally about two or three years ago. 

How would you describe your sound?

This EP is very pop and EDM influenced. If you like Tove Lo, Lady Gaga or Marina and the Diamonds, you’ll probably get into it. I wanted to get people dancing with this project, and I hope I’ve done my job!

What are some of your favorite bands? Who (or what) else inspires/influences you?

I listen to a lot of different genres of music, so these will be all over the place. But my influences include Deadmau5, Nirvana, Pvris, Avril Lavigne, Florence and the Machine, The Pretty Reckless, Paramore, Lana Del Rey, New Year’s Day and many others. I’m inspired by anything I hear. 

Who in the music industry would you love to work with (other bands/musicians/producers, etc)?

I’d love to work with Obeson someday. He is a producer and musician based in Toronto, Canada, and he creates very atmospheric, strong electronic music. It’s some of the most unique electronic music out there now, in my opinion. 

Do you have any tour plans in the works? What would be your dream tour line-up?

Currently I do not have any confirmed tour dates for the Dangerous EP. However, I will be going on an east coast tour with my band Blind Revision in May. We will most likely be playing dates in New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. 

As for my dream tour line-up, I think it would be awesome to tour with Sevdaliza. I’ve been listening to her for a while now, and she’s a very artistic and creative electronic musician.

What kind of advice would you give someone who just started a musical career? What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

My advice would be to do as much networking as possible! Opportunities will come to you if you meet the right people. As with any industry, there’s always some people who have ill intentions, but you’ll be able to find people who genuinely enjoy the music you’re making. And of course, make sure you cut out the toxic people from your life. If someone is manipulating you or causing you problems, that will continuously stress you out and hold you back. 

My second piece of advice would be to try to become as self-aware as possible. If you are indecisive, it will take you a lot longer to do things in the industry. You need to set clear goals and stick to them. If you have a big work ethic and you can motivate yourself, you’ll be fine. But you definitely need to work hard, and be cognisant of who you are and what you want in the future. Get to a point where you can understand what you will or won’t sacrifice for success. 

Some of the best advice I have gotten was from Ash Costello of the band New Year’s Day. She told me to remember that music is a business, and you need to understand the business aspect of it in order to be successful. That is definitely true. I know a lot of talented musicians who deserve to be heard, but they can’t focus on the business aspect of their craft. They only want to focus on the art. I understand it’s difficult, but in order to be successful you need to know both. If you don’t know something, do your research or ask for advice. 

Who are some of your girl crushes (real or fictional)?

My girl crush growing up was always Natalie Portman. I think she’s gorgeous, and of course, very talented. 

I’m also obsessed with pretty much all the female characters from the Batman franchise: Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, etc. I’m a nerd!

Get to a point where you can understand what you will or won’t sacrifice for success. 

Music in My Head

Since February is finally over (for such a short month, it lasted AGES for me), I'm ringing in March with a playlist of all the songs I've been jamming recently. Some of them are new (counting down the days until I get my pre-orders of The Maine/All Time Low), some are throwbacks ("CHECK YES JULIET, ARE YOU WITH ME?"), one is from my new favourite pop-punk band ('sup, Waterparks?), and there's at least one cover, just to keep things interesting. 

Have a listen below and then let me know what songs are currently taking up residence in your head.

Zombies and Brains and Doctors, Oh My

Once again, I'm finally catching up on TV shows that Jane literally watched over a year ago. That's right, I watched the first season of iZombie, and, spoiler alert, I really enjoyed it. 

As Jane mentioned in her postiZombie is about Olivia Moore, a medical resident who becomes a zombie and uses her newfound powers to help the Seattle police solve crimes. It's a great concept, but, in my experience, great concepts mean nothing if the characters aren't well developed. Luckily, iZombie manages to provide us with both plot and character development.

Liv is a fantastic heroine, but - spoiler alert - since I've written a WCW post on her for next week, I won't spend too much time talking about her here. Let's talk about the rest of the characters instead.

My favourite character (apart from Liv) is her boss at the morgue, Ravi. When he finds out Liv is a zombie, he's utterly fascinated and immediately makes her undergo a series of tests - not just to satisfy his own curiosity but to see if he can somehow cure her. Talk about being a great friend! We should also commend him for being able to put up with Liv's mood swings/personality changes every time she eats a new brain, not to mention all the schemes she comes up with in between eating brains (like when she tricks him into moving in with Major). I like that he manages to hit it off with all her friends (not gonna lie, I ship him and Peyton) and maintains a good sense of humour, regardless of what kind of trouble he gets into when Liv's around (like the feral-zombie-in-a-hole thing that could have gotten him killed). 

tumblr_nnwq9l00Fv1r5dpsxo2_540.gif

I suppose Clive Babineaux - the detective who treats Liv as his personal psychic - is a good character too, but I'm sort of "meh" about him in general. He's smart and gets the job done and whatever, but he feels less developed than some of the others, even when he has complicated backstories about going undercover, etc. 

I don't like Liv's ex, Major, at all, but since I didn't like Robert Buckley when he was on One Tree Hill, it's probably a case of "actor indifference" and has nothing to do with the character. 

Blaine, meanwhile, does a decent enough job as the villain of the piece, but since I currently can't remember his motives for zombie-fying everyone, I guess he doesn't leave that big of an impression. I also wish he had an English accent (like Liv's short-lived zombie boy-toy Lowell...or Ravi, for that matter) because I probably would have liked him more. 

The rest of the supporting cast - Liv's best friend Peyton, her mom, and her brother - are in so few episodes, it's hard to really get a feel for them, but I hope the second season will give them a chance to develop into fully-fleshed characters. 

The Raven Cycle (Books 1-3)

I honestly wasn't even sure what Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle was about, but after multiple people recommended it to me, I finally picked up The Raven Boys in January. And now this series is CONSUMING ME FROM THE INSIDE (in the best way). 

I'm terrible at describing what this book is about because there are so many details and side plots and characters, and I want to give them all (well, most of them) attention, but I can't. So let's talk instead about the things I REALLY love. 

The Characters

The "raven boys" are a group of boys who attend Aglionby Academy, in Henrietta, Virginia. They each have distinct personalities and multilayered story lines. While some of the books focus on one character more than the others, each one is given a chance to develop. The magical thing about Maggie Stiefvater's characters is that they jump off the page. 

Ronan has the biggest personality. He is often angry and can be (borderline) cruel, but he's more complicated than an average thug. My friend Emillie compared him to Jess Mariano, and I think that's perfect: he comes across as badass, but if you're lucky enough for him to like you, he'll do anything for you. Ronan is the main focus in The Dream Thieves, and his story is fascinating. 

I am being perfectly fucking civil.
— Ronan Lynch, The Dream Thieves

You could say that Adam is my least favourite, but that doesn't mean I don't like him. Unlike his friends, Adam doesn't come from money; he has to work three jobs to pay for his schooling, and, while it doesn't bother them, he feels like he's a step away from them. This feeling intensifies after the first book, but I can't really get into why without spoiling so many things.  

My favourite raven boy is Gansey. He's from old money, and can be pretentious (though more often than not, one of the others will call him out for it), but he's the unofficial leader of the gang. He's the most invested when it comes to their quest to find the grave of the mythical Welsh king Glendower (it's not as ridiculous as I'm making it sound), something he's been looking for his entire life. He's also the one whose death Blue had a vision of at the beginning of the first book. 

Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.
— Blue Lily, Lily Blue

And then there's Blue (well, also Noah, but I REALLY can't talk about Noah without spoiling things). Of all the characters, Blue is the hardest to get a read on. She's an amplifier in a family of psychics, always dreaming of "something more". She's known for years that her true love will die if she kisses him - something she was never really worried about until she meets her raven boys. 

The Ships

Halfway through The Raven Boys, I realized I was shipping everyone with everyone else. Eventually, I narrowed it down to Gansey with everyone. And then midway through The Dream Thieves, I was so on board the Gansey/Blue train, I wanted to cry. They're the best type of YA couple: adorable with a heavy dose of tragedy. 

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them.
Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness.
Her raven boys.
— The Dream Thieves

AND THEN, Ronan/[spoiler] became a ship I didn't know I wanted until Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Again, can't really go into major details without spoiling the whole experience for you, but MY HEART CAN BARELY HANDLE THESE RELATIONSHIPS. I don't know what's going to happen in The Raven King, but I might end up crying every tear imaginable. 

The Writing

I understand that not everyone will like her writing style, but right now, I'm in awe of Maggie Stiefvater. Her prose is lovely and effortless, her dialogue is witty, and her metaphors are outstanding. And all I've done for the past week is stand at work thinking "HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET THEMSELVES OUT OF THIS PICKLE?" because her plotting is A+. 

My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.
— Gansey, The Raven Boys

Long story short: I 100% recommend The Raven Cycle. As long as you're okay with suffering from a book hangover once you're done. 

A Social (Media) Experiment

Question

What happens if I delete social media from my phone and set myself a time limit (20 minutes a day) to catch up on my Twitter/Instagram/Facebook feeds?

Research

On my lunch breaks at work, I tend to waste most of my hour on social media. Since I’m not exactly popular, it's not like I have seven billion notifications, but I can’t seem to take my eyes off of any of my social media feeds. Which means I don’t get anything else done because I’m “busy” scrolling through Twitter. 

Similarly, when I’m on my computer, the second I lose steam or hit a mental block, I automatically open Twitter in a new tab and waste more time than I care to admit. And then I feel anxious over the amount of stuff I’m not getting done. And to combat the anxiety, I open Twitter again, which, surprisingly, doesn't help.

Hypothesis

If I forcibly reduce my time on social media, will I get more work done and therefore feel less stressed out?

Experiment

  • I deleted the Facebook app from my phone (which was actually not that hard because I hate Facebook). 
  • I then logged out of my two Twitter accounts (three, if you include the Mind the Gap account), and my Instagram account. I have, however, kept the two apps on my phone, as they are both logged into the Geek Girl Riot accounts (though so far, I’ve only posted a couple of times on each).
  • I’ve also made use of the Chrome extension “StayFocusd”, (which I’ve actually been using for several years as a way to limit my time on sites that manage to reel me in with clickbait-y headlines and then make me feel stupid when I spiral down a rabbit hole that leads me to taking a quiz called “Which Emo Anthem Are You” after forty-five minutes...I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed). I’ve set a daily limit of twenty minutes for all three major social media sites (twenty minutes total), after which the sites are blocked and won’t be available to me again until the next day.

Procedure

  • During my break, instead of scrolling through my phone, I’ve been reading (ARCs that I requested from NetGalley and then forgot about) or writing (either posts for Mind the Gap or a variety of reviews for idobi). 
  • On my laptop, I tend to use my twenty allotted minutes up in one shot because apparently I have no self-control and don’t understand the concept of spacing it out over the course of a day. But then that means I don't have any distractions later!

Analysis

Since putting this experiment in place on February 5th, I have:

  • read two ebooks
  • written a review for one of those books
  • started an album review (while listening to the album)
  • edited both the book review and the album review
  • edited a post about 8123 Fest
  • wrote a very rough first draft of this post
  • plotted out a post on iZombie
  • and saved numerous Doctor Who gifs, but that's not really productive so much as entertaining

ALL ON MY PHONE WHILE SITTING IN THE LUNCH ROOM!

Conclusion

While I do feel like I “miss out” on every day events (I’ve come to rely on my sister for music news), I get A LOT of stuff done. It’s often hard to make myself focus, especially when surrounded by other people who are using their phones for “fun”, but it means that I have less to do during my “free” time and therefore I can actually read before bed instead of hunching over my laptop!

Oh, and I’ve saved SO MUCH data on my phone, it’s not even funny.

La La Land

I know La La Land came out two months ago, but, seeing as the Oscars are this weekend, it seemed an appropriate time to talk about it. 

The other day, I realized that I rarely see movies (in theatres, I mean) that aren't somehow adapted from books or comics. But - since I have a girl crush on Emma Stone and, like every other person, love Ryan Gosling - I've wanted to see this whimsical musical as soon as I saw the first trailer. 

I liked everything about it: the sets, and the timeless vibe, and how it was split into seasons, and, of course, the music. I liked how Mia (Emma Stone) had to work so hard to achieve her dreams (#sorelatable) and how it all paid off in the end (still waiting for that to happen to me). I liked how she doubted herself when she couldn't catch a break because it hit me in the heart (I feel you, Mia).

Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish as they may seem. / Here’s to the hearts that ache. / Here’s to the mess we make.

I liked that Seb (Ryan Gosling) was so passionate about music (even if I don't love jazz) and I like how he made an effort to spread that passion. 

I also, admittedly, liked how he looked in a suit (who didn't?).

I liked how Seb supported Mia, especially when he tracked her down to give her the good news about her callback. I liked their whirlwind relationship in general. 

I did not, however, like that they - SPOILER ALERT - did not stay together. 

Sure, it was more emotional and probably more realistic, but that doesn't mean I was happy when she went home to another man, five years later (even if it was Tom Everett Scott).

And when they did the flashback scene to what could have been if Seb had't been so dismissive the first time they met, I'm not ashamed to say I teared up a little (my sister actually cried, which made then made me cry). 

Yes, it was super white, but it was a visually and sonically pleasing escapist experience and for that, I'm glad it's getting so much recognition. 

Sam Finally Watched Stranger Things and is Now Obsessed

Because I’m 2390702 years behind on TV shows, I only just watched Stranger Things in January for the first time (in my defense, I’ve only had Netflix for two months). I was really worried because there was so much hype built around it, and I was afraid I’d hate it. But guess what? I loved it. 

Jane talked about the music of the show back in August and I agree that the soundtrack was pretty great. The other thing that was great, though? THE ACTING. 

First of all, I’m pretty sure this was the performance of Winona Ryder’s life (except maybe that time she played Goth teen Lydia in Beetlejuice) because her portrayal of a grieving mother punched people in the feels. 

But most importantly: why are all the kids so dang talented??? The boys were totally believable as a gang of friends who’ve been together for years, and Eleven...oh Eleven. My heart weeps for Eleven, she’s the most precious thing, and I’m not saying I cried when she - SPOILER - disappeared at the end, but I was definitely devastated (I’m 100% certain she’ll be back, they’d be really stupid to get rid of their best character). 

Speaking of Eleven, I ship her and Mike more than is probably healthy, considering how young they are. They don’t have to be a couple, but I want them to be best friends for the rest of their lives. Every time she repeated a word that he taught her, I wanted to cry. 

My only issue with the show is the Nancy/Steve/Jonathan storyline. They ended up having a stronger role by the last couple of episodes, but up until then, I felt like they were just pulling our attention away from the boys and Eleven. Most of the time, I just felt frustrated that we were spending so much time with Steve (even though he gets redeemed at the end, he’s still a douche) when I’d rather watch the boys fight over Dungeons & Dragons

While the show wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be, it was pretty creepy, and surprisingly emotional, and I, like everyone else in the world, am now eagerly waiting for the second season. 

You shouldn’t like things just because people tell you you’re supposed to.
— Jonathan Byers

Ten Reasons I Love Ten

Happy Valentine's Day! While 90% of the people I know are celebrating this romantic day with a significant other, I'm spending a couple of hours swooning over the Tenth Doctor (because I recently started watching Doctor Who and am OBSESSED). Here, in no particular order, are ten reasons why:

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1) His pop culture references are A+

The first time he has to save the world (post-regeneration), he quotes The Lion King. And then he only went and made not one, but TWO Harry Potter references in one episode and my fangirl heart exploded.

2) His glasses

As someone who's worn glasses for over twenty years, I love when actors (and musicians) slap on a pair (just cuz I have poor eyesight, doesn't mean I can't be as cool as everyone with 20/20 vision). I always know that the Doctor is close to solving his problem-of-the-week as soon as he whips out those tortoiseshell frames. 

3) His fashion sense in general

I live for Converse, pinstripes are one of my favourite patterns, and I love a good trench coat. All that to say I very much enjoy the way Ten dresses. 

4) "Allons-y"

I know it's only one word, but dudes speaking French = heart eyes emoji. Enough said.

5) So passionate

Nine was enthusiastic, but Ten dials it up to passionate. I mean, sometimes he seems unnecessarily angry/aggressive, but I chalk it up to him being an impassioned individual prone to emotional outbursts.

6) Six impossible things before breakfast

Speaking of passion: more often than not, the Doctor will exclaim that something is impossible, but it doesn't stop him from digging into it for more details so he can understand it better. If he had to write a resume, he could list "problem-solving", "thinking outside the (TARDIS) box", and "eager to learn" under his special skills.

7) That raised eyebrow (and also all facial expressions)

I'm not saying I swooned when he winked at Martha in season three's "Smith and Jones", but I definitely did. He's also the best at making surprised faces. Or shocked faces. Or just any expression in general, really.

8) #MyEmotions

Similarly, when Ten feels an emotion, he expresses it so well that I too feel that same emotion. When he's sad, I'm sad - I was, for example, unreasonably devastated when he was too late to see Mme de Pompadour one last time. And while I haven't come across the "crying in the rain" scene yet, I've seen the gif and it's enough to bring a tear to my eye. 

9) I ship Ten/everyone he ever meets

Ten is absurdly charismatic - literally everyone loves him (and I don't blame them). My sister isn't into the Doctor/companion relationships, but I kinda am: when he and Rose are separated at the end of season two, I was pretty emotional (and I know at least two other people who were traumatized by this scene). See also my feelings re: Mme de Pompadour. 

10) David Tennant is a ten (out of ten)

I considered starting my list with this fact, but then I wouldn't have needed to come up with nine other reasons (and then I wouldn't have had to look up corresponding gifs!). I became mildly enamoured of David Tennant after watching Broadchurch, but at this point, it's a full-blown obsession. All I'm saying is that it's gonna be weird when I start rooting for Barty Crouch Jr. the next time I watch Goblet of Fire with my niece.

The only thing that could have made Ten even more magnificent would have been if David Tennant got to keep his Scottish accent...but at least we have season two's "Tooth and Claw"

Sam's Picture Book Club: House Held Up By Trees

As I was sitting around thinking “I hope someone buys me Jon Klassen’s Hat trilogy for my birthday” (hint hint), I remembered that I actually own a book illustrated by Jon Klassen. 

Written by Ted Kooser, House Held Up By Trees tells the story of an abandoned house, that is, well, eventually overrun with trees. 

At first, the house is inhabited by a father and his two children. The father takes care of the lawn, and the children play in the nearby forest. Eventually, the children grow up and move away, and the father, no longer able to care for his garden, gives up the house and moves away. Because there is no longer anyone there to mow down the sprouts that tried to take root, the trees are able to grow freely, cracking the foundation of the house. 

Ted Kooser’s words are closer to a poem than prose, and there’s a certain emotion to it. You almost feel sad for the house, now abandoned, and the father who may not see his children as often as he’d like (there’s an unwritten sadness in the fact that the children live with their father and there’s no mention of their mother). But there’s also hope in the end, as the trees grow around the house, holding it up so it’s no longer alone. 

...a house held together by the strength of trees, and the wind blowing, perfumed by little green flowers.

Klassen’s illustrations have a subtle palette – greens and browns and reds – but they suit the lyrical words. His people are vague – we never see their faces – but the trees growing near the house exude strength with their solid trunks and distinctive leaves. 

Although there are a lot of words on each page, it’s not a long story. It’s wistful and sweet, and any book that manages to get me to empathize with an inanimate object (like a house) should be considered a success.

Not far from here, I have seen a house held up by the hands of trees. This is its story.

Woman Crush Wednesday: Violet Baudelaire

This month’s WCW post is dedicated to a fictional girl who was, nonetheless, a heroine in my childhood: Violet Baudelaire. 

In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet, as the eldest Baudelaire, feels responsible for her younger siblings. No matter where they’re sent or what kind of guardian awaits them, she does her best to protect them because she can’t stand seeing them in unhappy. Her loyalty to her family is one of her most defining characteristics

Violet is known to be a keen inventor. Over the course of the Baudelaire’s adventures, she invents many things that help them out of scrapes: a grappling hook when she was trying to rescue Sunny or noisy shoes to keep away the crabs in the Orphan Shack or a fake intercom system. She’s resourceful, using the bits and pieces around her for her inventions, like making a rope out of extension cords, curtains, and neckties. 

She’s not a traditional “girly-girl” (she hates, for example, the colour pink), but she wears dresses and is never without a ribbon to pull back her hair when she’s thinking hard. So she does care about her appearance to a certain extent...she just cares about using her intelligence more.

To those who hadn’t been around Violet long, nothing would have seemed unusual, but those who knew her well knew that when she tied her hair up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes, it meant that the gears and levers of her inventing brain were whirring at top speed.

Violet is also strong in the face of adversity, a word which here means “Count Olaf”. She all but marries the man, in an attempt to save Sunny’s life, but she’s also physically capable of a great many things: there are multiple times where she climbs up or down challenging spaces (a mountain and an elevator shaft, respectively). She’s also brave and, though not as book-smart as her brother, she’s clever. If you need a STEM role model in children’s lit, Violet is your girl.

8123 Means Everything to Me

8123 is a management team/independent label that supports bands like The Maine, Beach Weather, The Technicolors and more. But, as I've recently learned, it's more than that. 

8123 is convincing your sister to take a trip miles away to Arizona in the middle of January to see one of your favourite bands celebrate their ten year anniversary (even though your managers give you grief about missing inventory. #sorrynotsorry). 

8123 is losing your mind when that same band premieres a new song on the radio the day you land in their hometown (technically next door to their hometown) and then listening to it non-stop for two weeks.

8123 is having heart palpitations when your number one girl crush walks past you while you're waiting for food.

8123 is silently weeping when a beloved band reunites for the first time in four years to play a forty minute set packed with their best songs. 

8123 is standing in a parking lot in Phoenix (where, by the way, it was not nearly as hot as I hoped it would be) with almost 3000 other people, all of you screaming the same lyrics. 

8123 is losing your voice two songs into the headlining set and walking around with a scratchy throat for the next two days.

8123 is humming the closing song to yourself for a week after the show is over.

8123 is lining up for three hours to meet a band you've already met three times before. 

8123 is hugging every member of that band while both of you genuinely thank the other for existing. 

8123 is planning your next tattoo as a memento to this experience, and this band, and this company.

In short, 8123 is everything to me.  

It’s about a number you can’t really explain but you don’t really have to, because the people you love already feel it too.
— John O'Callaghan

Very British Problems

I’ve been following the Very British Problems Twitter account for a few years now (and own the books), and once I heard that it was being made into a show, I lamented (not for the first time) that I didn’t live in the UK to watch it. Then a couple of months ago, I found it on Netflix, and here we are!

The show – like the Twitter account – talks about some of the flights and foibles of the British peoples. Narrated by Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley!!), and featuring a host of British (including Irish) personalities, there are seven episodes split across two seasons (one of the episodes is technically a “Christmas special” – how very British), each one built around a certain situation during which the British have their own particular ways of reacting. 

For example: there’s social interaction and making “friends” (S2  Ep2), feelings (S1 Ep3), going on holiday (S2 Ep3), and more. With so many people sharing their experiences, I’m sure you’ll find someone you recognize, including James Cordon and – my personal favourite – David Tennant. 

I’m not sure what the best part of the show is (apart from David Tennant, obvs): the fact that it’s 45 minutes of delightful accents (barring the one American guy who offers hilarious insights into what it’s like living in the UK as a “foreigner”), or the fact that it’s SO RELATABLE. I’m fairly certain I’m British on the inside, because they talk about a lot of things that ring true in my own life. Mostly having to do with the anxiety of interacting with other humans when I’d rather not leave the house ever. Or having issues with other people handling my tea (I’ll just do it myself, thanks for offering). Or panicking about possibly missing a flight even though it’s not for another week (that’s actually my sister more than me).

I suppose a lot of these problems are universal, but clearly the British are more introspective and self-effacing than the rest of the world, since they all seem to feel these emotions on a higher level. But darn if I don’t love and appreciate every awkward thing they mention because I feel the same way. 

GIVEAWAY

Since I accidentally bought two copies of the second book, Very British Problems Abroad (renamed to More Very British Problems in paperback, which is why I got confused), I'm hosting Mind the Gap Zine's first giveaway! Enter below, and you could win a hardcover copy of Very British Problems (US/CAN only, ends Feb 28, 2017). 

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Apart from Harry PotterA Series of Unfortunate Events was one of my constant childhood companions. I can’t count the number of times I’ve reread them, the hours I spent trying to work out what VFD stood for, and the frustration I felt when the series ended with so many unanswered questions. I actually enjoyed the 2004 movie, even though it wasn’t an entirely faithful adaptation (I tend to think of them as two separate entities), so I was intrigued when Netflix announced the TV show. 

I binged the show in a day, and I must admit I’m disappointed. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be favourable, but I felt like it left a lot to be desired. 

Let’s start off with the characters. I wasn’t completely sold on Neil Patrick Harris when he was originally cast as the dastardly Count Olaf, and I’m still not 100% behind his portrayal. I think it’s because I can’t separate NPH from Barney Stinson after watching him in the same role for a decade, but also Jim Carrey cracked me up in the movie. The children, meanwhile, were okay, but I didn’t love them. I felt like they were very wooden; in the books, they felt so much more real than they did here. Violet also came across as younger than 14 whereas the book-Violet is much more mature. Having recently watched Stranger Things, I know that there are superbly talented child actors out there, but these guys...I don’t believe they are who they claim they are. 

I also wasn’t into Patrick Warbuton’s on-screen presence as Lemony Snicket. I don’t mind the narration, but most of the time, it sounded like he was phoning it in. Jude Law did a better job narrating the movie from the shadows (I liked that we never knew what Lemony Snicket looked like), but perhaps it was the English accent that I appreciated?

One good thing they did with the casting was the amount of diversity. From Count Olaf’s henchmen to the children’s other guardians, they made the effort to cast non-white actors, and I appreciate the effort - it doesn’t change the story to make Aunt Josephine black (plus Alfre Woodard was a delight).

Aesthetically, the show is gorgeous. The bright colours of Justice Strauss’ home compared to the Gothic feels of Olaf’s house; the reptilian hedges and steampunk-y door at Uncle Monty’s; Damocles Dock and Aunt Josephine’s wide window; and burned down Paltryville outside of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill. I loved that the books never specified a time/place for these unfortunate events and the sets did a good job at continuing that timeless feeling (are they in the past or in the future?). 

My favourite part was all the allusions to the rest of the books: confirming what VFD stood for (and all the different meanings); talking about Lemony Snicket; the SUGAR BOWL; even a vague reference to the All the Wrong Questions series (“when did you see her last?”); and, of course, the dedications to Beatrice at the start of each “book” (two-episode arc). I like that all those elements were included, but it doesn’t make up for all the random characters that were introduced.

I thought the way the Quagmires were introduced was interesting, but there was a part of their story line that was frustrating because it was so confusing and misleading. The Quagmires are one of my favourite parts of the later books, so I hope they're given a decent amount of screen time. 

Overall, I was left feeling unsatisfied, a word which here means “disappointed by how different the show was, compared to my beloved books”, but I’m interested to see how they do a second (and third?) season, since they have another nine books full of characters and content to cover. 

A Study in Charlotte

Despite a deep love for BBC’s Sherlock and Ellie Marney’s astonishingly good Every series, I can’t pretend that I’m a fan of the original Sherlock Holmes. I’ve only read “A Scandal in Bohemia” and that was several years ago, so I’ve just barely dipped my toes in the pool when it comes to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Nevertheless, I was excited to try Brittany Cavallaro’s Sherlock-flavoured YA novel, A Study in Charlotte

Rather than a straightforward retelling, the story revolves around descendants of the original Holmes and Watson: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson. According to multiple sources, their personalities are quite similar to their illustrious ancestors: Charlotte is often cold, full of clever deductions and a general disdain for people who aren’t as bright as her; Jamie is warmer, but has a red-hot temper that can get him in trouble. They meet at a boarding school (Sherringford!), and within the first twenty pages, they’re being framed for the murder of a fellow student. 

It’s a mostly enjoyable mystery: the plot is good, the clues are laid out nicely, and there’s a ton of references to Conan Doyle’s series (those are actually part of the murder investigation). It made me want to read the original stories so that I could appreciate the allusions more, but they were all explained enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. 

Truth be told, I liked that blurriness. That line where reality and fiction jutted up against each other.

I did, however, feel like I was missing something when it came the characters. When they first meet, Charlotte seems reluctant to be the Holmes to Jamie’s Watson. But as soon as someone is murdered, they’re best friends, and it felt too abrupt – there was no visible (to me, at least) shift in their relationship, no gradual development, nor a scene that explained why Charlotte was suddenly so content to have a new “sidekick”. Jamie had a bit of an obsession with Charlotte before they even met, so of course he starts to fall for her (not quite insta-love, but since I seem to have missed the part where they became BFFs, it felt quick), and it will be interesting to see where their relationship goes since Charlotte has several trust issues. 

I was also unsure about Charlotte’s drug habit. While it was true to the original Sherlock’s character, it’s a bit perplexing to have a heroine with an oxycodone addiction and to NOT have any of the other characters try to talk her out of it. I’m not naive enough to think that no teenagers have drug problems, but you’d think Jamie would try to wean her off of it (there’s a note in the last chapter where she claims to be clean, but by that point, she’s already been abusing drugs for at least five years because no one did anything about it). 

We weren’t Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn’t, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.

The sequel, The Last of August, comes out this year (though since I bought the first one in paperback, I’ll have to wait another year at least for my set to match), and I know that the Moriarty family plays a bigger role, so she’s got my curiosity piqued. I’m just not sure if I ship Holmes/Watson yet (probably because I’m still not over Mycroft/Watts in Every Breath. You want chemistry in a Sherlock-inspired book, go read those and thank me later).