review: i survived i kissed dating goodbye.


courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

“just because something sells doesn’t mean that it’s giving people what they really want or need.”

joshua harris, i survived i kissed dating goodbye.

My mom introduced me to I Kissed Dating Goodbye when I was around thirteen by jokingly telling me that she’d originally purchased the book when I was in kindergarten.  I’d recently started hanging out with a boy named Ryan, told my mom I was in love with him, and – by the encouragement of his and other moms – called him “my boyfriend.”  Even if it was a joke, she and my dad still read the book together, highlighting and paper-clipping and underlining, trying to figure out how to navigate dating and maybe even spare their children of the mistakes they’d made when they were younger.

Remember, I was six.

As I grew up, my family and I became entrenched in the purity culture movement.  I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book on purity, and I’ve done quite a few Bible studies and traveled for conferences, too.  (I’ve even written so many blog posts on it.)  This movement shaped my teenage years, and Josh Harris’s book was the face of it.  After hearing back in 2016 that he’d apologized to a woman who said the book was “used as a weapon” against her and would step back to learn about the impact his book had on the culture, I was fascinated.  I knew it was something I wanted to watch unfold, even before a documentary was announced.

My family and I watched I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye together when it first came out, making comments and even pausing it for several minutes while we discussed.  The documentary is relatively short, but it covers so much ground that I had to watch it twice.

Team_ Joshua Harris vergical

courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

In I Survived IKDG, Josh travels around the country to visit people who were directly or indirectly impacted by either his book or the purity movement, speaking with influencers, pastors, and others who all had unique stories to share.  Topics covered included purity culture, catchphrases such as “guarding your heart,” the oversimplification of the purity message, cookie-cutter and a + b = c theology, and courtship versus dating.  Josh listened as others told him their stories and what they’d learned since first reading the book so many years before, asking hard questions and being incredibly receptive to the equally hard answers.

I think one of the things that struck me the most about the documentary was Josh’s vulnerability and humility.  I can’t imagine how much strength and prayer it took to go through something like this and be so honest and accepting of something so huge.  He didn’t – and shouldn’t – take responsibility for the whole movement that stemmed from his book; just the book and its impact on the culture.  (In case you missed it, he’s decided to discontinue the book and not let it go to another printing.)

While watching the documentary, I realized that the problem doesn’t ultimately lie with Josh or even his book.  The problem lies with the people who let a 21-year-old be an authority on a subject, the people who took it too far, and the people who used it to withhold from their children.  (Hence, the key “I Survived” in the title.)  I feel like all of this anger directed towards Josh isn’t warranted – as if he’s to blame for young adults missing prom or never having been on a date by their early twenties or being worried about being friends with the opposite sex.  But, like Thomas Umstattd (of Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed fame) says in his interview with Josh, just because IKDG became the face of a movement doesn’t mean Josh is entirely at fault.  The movement literally provided the framework for almost half of my life and caused some issues with how I view the world, but I’m steadily working through them and learning how to operate without these blinders on.  But I don’t blame Josh for this.  I blame all of the books, Bible studies, conferences, and the entire movement as a whole – and also myself, for believing that courtship really was flawed but not saying anything for years out of fear that I’d be shunned by my conservative subculture.  (I was, but then I discovered grace and the fact that I couldn’t give a dang about what they thought.)

Team_On Location -Dale Kuehne, Josh Harris, Jessica Van Der Wyngaard

courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

Because my critical years were so heavily influenced by this book, watching as Josh learned about the impact his book had on the conservative Christian culture was… therapeutic.  I wasn’t as harmed by the book as others I know, but I would definitely recommend this documentary for anyone else who was affected by these ideas.  There’s an entire generation of conservative Christians that I personally know were shaped by it, and I know they would really benefit from watching it, just like I did.

Have you seen the documentary yet?  If you have, what are your thoughts?  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!  (Hint, hint – it’s free!)

(I received early access to the documentary in exchange for my honest review.)

the problem with purity books.


{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

As some of you may know, I started re-reading Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally last year. It’s taken me a long time to get through it, and I’d wanted to finish it before I wrote this post, but I have too many thoughts on it (and other purity books) to wait.

Plus, why SHOULDN’T I rant about why I always felt so alone on Valentine’s Day today?! These books are one of the main reasons I felt so single on this day of every year as far back as I can remember!

Buckle up, because these thoughts have been festering in my mind for years and I’ve just learned how to express them over the last several months (and they’re all over the place so bear with me).

If you grew up in a conservative bubble like I did, you grew up hearing about, reading, and being heavily influenced by these books. You looked up to the Botkins sisters, secretly wanted to be Jasmine Bauchum, wanted to marry a Harris brother, and maybe even traveled several hours to a Bright Lights conference. (Check off all of those for me.)

I grew up entrenched in this system. My parents had their legitimate and valid reasons for encouraging this mindset. I don’t regret anything I learned while in this phase of life because it shaped me into who I am today, but I do still have some scars and even struggle at times with the lasting consequences that I continually have to deal with as a result of this mindset.

The biggest thing that influenced this purity trend in conservative Christian circles were the books written, starting with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and lasting through newer additions such as It’s (Not That) Complicated and Joyfully At Home.

These books are written mostly by young women who had no personal experience with the real dating world. (And still, in their mid thirties, have no experience. Still unmarried, still living at home. Jasmine is the only one who has some semblance of a normal life. She’s my hero and my hope.) The only things they know about it come in the form of horror stories from older people who want to keep them away from it for one reason or another. Starting a book with only this knowledge is a major recipe for disaster. Well-intentioned, of course. But still a disaster.

These books started an “us against them” mentality – courtship versus dating, Christians versus non-Christians (or better Christians versus less enlightened Christians). They made it a fight, with strong feelings on each side. Anyone who thought differently than us was wrong, with no exceptions. Saving yourself was obviously the best way to go about this, and thus would yield the best results (right???), so why shouldn’t we be confident that we’re right and our everyone else down?

In reality… courtship is not the only way and it absolutely will not guarantee a perfect (or even great) marriage. You can’t make a blanket statement and say something like “all dating is evil” because you also can’t say that all courtship is good. And that’s the kind of mindset that these books encouraged.

I also think it’s such a tragedy that these books shamed girls into being afraid of their feelings – that, just because they have a crush on someone, they’ve given away bits of their heart. So not only are girls afraid to admit that they have crushes, but they feel like they’ve already lost.

I’m sick and tired of the notion that purity is something that can be irrevocably lost.  These analogies about sticky notes, chocolate cake, suckers, and roses – they’re all incredibly and horrifically wrong.  The whole point of the Gospel is that Jesus took what was dirty and made it clean.  Period.  He took the broken and made them whole, and all that remains is a beautiful, flawless testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness.  That testimony isn’t “ruined” by mistakes made.  Once repentance is reached and forgiveness is given, it’s done.  Over.  The mistakes we make are lessons to be learned, not something to be held over our heads for the rest of our lives.

I’m also sick of this thriftstore Jesus Who is somehow bound by what conservatives say about Him and about grace and about purity – that you’re damaged goods if you didn’t immediately jump towards and end up with the first thing that came towards you. That girls are supposed to sit around and wait for guys to come along so we can fulfill our ultimate purpose as a wife and mother. (Hooo, boy, better stop that train before it leaves the station. That’s another post for another time.)

Listen. It’s okay to have feelings. It’s fine to feel disappointed and even sad that you’re not in a relationship. More than that, it’s completely normal.

Just don’t stay there.

Being single is hard. I know. (I was there for twenty-two years before a guy showed interest in me.) There’s no way around that. But being married is hard, too. Every season of life has hard parts. But faking a smile, ignoring the feelings, and saying, “It’s okay! I’m single because I’m waiting for someone God has for me!” is neither productive nor honest. And it’s about dang time someone takes an honest look at relationships – dating or courting or whatever the crap you want to call it.

I’ve toyed around with writing a purity book, but I wouldn’t even seriously consider it for a while because, even with a lot of guy friends and my current dating experience, I don’t think I have enough knowledge – even though it’s a lot more than these girls can say. (For that, go to Leslie Ludy. She has the experience to back it up – and the marriage to prove that it can work and last!)

If I were to write a purity book, though, I’d say this – stop. being. so. serious.  Yes, this is one of the most important decisions of your life and yes, it should be seriously thought about.  But you don’t have to stress over every single facet of your relationship the entire time.  It’ll only bring added stress. Bringing this full circle to what I started to rant about, as the writer of one of a new favorite blog says, “The average neurotic [conservative, quiverfull/courtship] adherent … has been taught that everything is a sin and that they are corrupting every male simply by being alive.”

Don’t be so intent on “finding the one” or “staying in God’s will” that you miss out on actually living. Because there’s so much more to life than someone’s hand to hold.

Precious girl, you’re worth more than that.

{Bonus thoughts: Someone who views everyone as a potential spouse is someone to be wary of. We should look to see everyone as a potential friend. If a guy only saw me as Wife Material and didn’t want to be friends with me first, I’d run. FAST.}

review | rear window {1954}

Rear Window.png“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms.  What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.” – Stella

My good friend Eva over at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness is having an Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon in honor of the birthday of man himself!  (Happy birthday, Mr. Hitchcock!)  I’m a little late, but I wanted to review Rear Window, my favorite Hitchcock film, for the occasion.

So why review Rear Window?  It stars my favorite actor, one of my favorite actresses, and includes two of my favorite elements of story – fiction and suspense.  Thus, it lands a place on my Favorite Movies of All Time list.  I saw it for the first time a few years ago and knew I wanted to review it when Eva made her announcement.  I’ve been crazy busy, so I’ve had to watch it in multiple sittings, but watching it again reminded me of how absolutely brilliant it is.

The Story

RW“Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.” (from IMDb)

The film opens with shades rising on Jeff’s titular rear window, accompanied by the opening music, literally the only sound used in the film that isn’t diegetic – that is, not in-world.  A quick pan of the camera on the courtyard outside introduces us to all we need to know about the backdrop of the story before Hitchcock drops us in.  From there, he spends thirty minutes establishing the characters, something he can do because the film itself is two hours long.  Although the beginning (especially the first thirty minutes of world/storybuilding) is a bit long, it’s crucial to the story.  And, as always with Hitchcock, everything introduced in that initial thirty minutes is essential to the plot.

(Here, I usually put a trailer for whatever movie I’m reviewing.  Since older movies have stupidly long trailers that give up literally the entire plot – even more so than trailers do nowadays – here’s a fan-made “modern” trailer.  The music doesn’t work because there’s no soundtrack in the film {see my above comment about diegetic sound), but I love how this trailer was edited.)

The Cast and Characters

RW2L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a very interesting protagonist because the audience is drawn into what he’s doing without fully agreeing with it.  He’s stuck in his apartment all day due to a broken leg, so he’s obviously bored after five weeks of it.  When he starts spying on his neighbors, both Lisa and Stella question his motives until he convinces them that something suspicious is going on.  He can’t convince his detective friend, though, who thinks he’s insane.  Jeff is gruff, yet sweet underneath.  A little snoopy, but genuinely cares for his neighbors.  When a sad single lady in the apartment across from his puts out wine for herself and an imaginary suitor, he toasts her back, wordlessly conveying his compassion for her in a way that makes us completely fall in love with him.  Jeff’s also a very good freelance photographer, which adds to the tension between him and Lisa.  He thinks she, with all her society-seducing ways, won’t be able to handle his life on the road.  “You’re not meant for that kind of life,” he tells her.  She, on the other hand, completely disagrees.  She asks him if he doesn’t think people can change, adding, “I’m in love with you.  I don’t care what you do for a living, I’d just like to be part of it somehow.”  The strain between these characters adds to the overall stress in the plot.

And Jimmy Stewart… what can I say?  He’s perfect.  Once, when I was in eighth grade, I did a research paper on him.  I’ve been in love with him ever since.  He’ll always be one of my favorite actors of all time (and I don’t say that lightly).

RW3“You’ve got this whole town in the palm of your hand,” Jeff tells Lisa Fremont, assuring her that she can get any man she chooses.  “Not quite, it seems,” she quietly replies before leaving him alone.  She’s a society girl down to her last hairpin, with everything and everyone at her fingertips… except the only man she really wants.  She also defies the stereotype of “pretty girl,” climbing walls and digging in the dirt and literally risking her life to get down to the bottom of the mystery – and to prove to Jeff that she can handle anything, most of all his life as a photographer.

Jeff describes Lisa as “perfect, as always.”  This can also describe Grace Kelly, who is a flawless goddess.  I’ve seen her in a dozen movies, and loved every single one.  She embodies this timelessly classic persona that very few actresses have, the few including Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn, and Scarlett Johansson.

RW4As far as the more minor characters go, Thelma Ritter as Stella, Jeff’s insurance nurse, adds the matronly “Do you really know what you’re getting into and what the consequences are???” advice, Wendell Corey as Detective Lieutenant Thomas Doyle is hilariously sarcastic, Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald is just… *shivers* SO GOOD, and the actors who play the other neighbors – Miss Lonelyhearts, the pianist, the dancer, the couple on the fire escape who own the dog, the old lady sculptor, the newlywed couple, Miss Torso – all play their parts exceptionally well, conveying through their actions what they can’t do through words (because they basically don’t have any lines).

Plus, all of the costumes are just fabulous.  Edith Head is a legend, and everything she designed for this movie (especially Lisa’s green suit and sleeveless shirt which I need NOW) is stunning.

Objectionable Content

RW5This entire movie circulates around a very dark subject, a murder that Jeff doesn’t witness but is heavily implied.  Because of that, it’s very intense – one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen, actually.  (Definitely the most stressful out of the four-ish Hitchcock movies I’ve seen.)  When we first watched it, my then-12-year-old sister literally vaulted over our couch as she was running out of the room during the most stressful part.  There isn’t any language, but there’s a slightly sensual kissing scene (and it’s implied that Lisa spends the night at Jeff’s apartment).  All in all, though, it’s a very light PG-13.

Bottom Line

RW1This is an amazing movie, period.  It was nominated for four Oscars, and is #40 on IMDb’s Top Rated Movies list.  Plus, it’s just a classic.  If you haven’t seen it, grab a pillow and some popcorn (and then a vacuum for when the popcorn flies in the air as you vault over the couch like my sister did), and watch it.

my favorite stanley tucci roles.

If you know anything about me, you probably know that, just like literally every other fangirl on the planet, I have a thing for older actors.  Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Chris Pine (and all the other Chrises), Zachary Levi, Benadryl Cucumberpatch… basically every guy who’s like ten years older than me.  Which totally isn’t weird at all.

(DISCLAIMER: I don’t want to have their babies or anything, I just admire the work the good Lord has done and move on.)

One of my favorite actors is Stanley Tucci.  I have no idea how long I’ve loved him but it’s been a while.  (Now that I think about it, he was in a few of my favorite childhood movies, namely Kit Kittredge, Beethoven, and Robots.  Well, that explains it – my love for him was cemented before I really knew who he was.)

I love his versatility as an actor, the roles he chooses, and just him.  I love the fact that he seems to make every movie better just by being in it, no matter how small his part is.  I love the fact that he can play every part with the same amount of skill, regardless of how sweet or twisted the character is.  And I love that he has other talents than just acting, such as cooking.  My sister actually gave me his cookbook for my birthday and I fangirled. A lot.  (I also have another friend who knows how much I love him – one of the things we initially bonded over was our mutual weirdly passionate love for Stanley – and sometimes sends me random Stanley gifs and pictures via text.  You know who you are and I. Love. You.)

I love every movie I’ve seen him in, but I’d like to highlight my absolute favorites.  In no order, as usual, because I sat here for twenty minutes trying to figure it out and I. just. can’t.  I love the man too much.

All of these movies come with the usual disclaimer, though.  They’re all PG-13 and have the kind of content that’s in a PG-13 movie.  If you’re interested in watching one of these but are hesitant about the content, don’t hesitate to ask me!  (Or look on each specific title’s Parents Guide on IMDb.  SO HELPFUL.)

The Terminal | Frank Dixon

“Okay, so let’s say this bag of potato chips is Krakozhia and this apple is the Liberty Rebels. Okay?  *smashes the bag with the apple, spraying chips all over Viktor*  No more Krakozhia!”

This one’s kind of different for Stanley.  Usually he plays very likeable characters.  This one, not so much.  The Terminal is about a foreign guy (Tom Hanks) whose country falls literally while he’s on the plane.  He’s stuck in JFK until they can get his passport figured out, and Stanley plays the guy who keeps him there.  Essentially, he’s the antagonist.  This is the only movie I’ve ever seen where he’s a bad guy (minus the Kit movie, which, come on, does that even count?), and he’s absolutely riveting.  You understand why he’s so against Tom’s character – he’s just doing his job, after all – but you still dislike him because of other things he does.  So. Good.


Mr. Monk and the Actor | David Ruskin

“And then he said he was tired and asked me to leave.”
“So you left?”
“He has to get up at 6:00.”
“Mr. Monk, that’s your house!”
“Boy, he’s a good actor.”

My siblings and I were on a Monk kick for about two years, and when I saw that Stanley co-starred in an episode, I couldn’t wait to see it!  Turns out, it was absolutely fantastic.  Definitely one of my favorite episodes of the show.  In this episode, a director wants to make a movie about a case Adrian worked on, and Stanley plays the actor hired to play Adrian.  He’s a method actor, and he captures Monk perfectly.  It’s scary how similar they look!  Also, Stanley won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.”  (No surprise there – he was phenomenal.)

Julie and Julia | Paul Child

“Anyway, so there we were in China, just friends having dinner.  And… and it turned out to be Julia.  It turned out to be Julia all along.  Julia, you are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life.  I love you, darling girl.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”

This is one of my favorite movies, mainly because it involves three of my favorite things – writing, food, and romance.  It’s one of my go-to chick flicks, and it has some of my favorite actors in it, including Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Chris Messina, and, of course, Stanley Tucci.  In this one, Stanley plays Julia Child’s husband, ever the encourager as she learns to cook.  His character is just the most precious man, and it’s blatantly apparent that he loves his wife, which Stanley plays to perfection (and makes me love him even more).

Easy A  | Dill Penderghast

“I’d take a bullet for you, you know that. Right between the eyes. I would slit my throat rather than say something to someone that you didn’t want me to say.  That’s how I am.  That’s how I roll.  That’s how I do.”

OKAY.  This is definitely my favorite movie on this list.  As I said in my “movies i don’t like” post,  my favorite genre is probably rom-com, my favorite actor is Stanley Tucci, and my favorite actress is Emma Stone, which obviously means this is one of my favorite movies of all time because it combines all. three. things.  Plus it’s just good.  The cast is phenomenal, the story is so good, and the humor is fantastic.  Anyway, in this one, Stanley plays the main character’s dad who stands by her as she goes through all of this mess at school.  And he’s just so funny.  The above quote is from one of my favorite scenes, one which I personally find funny because I have adopted black siblings like Olive.  In addition to all that, Dill and Rosemary are just the kind of parents I aspire my husband and I to be.  #LiteralParentGoals. (Gosh, this movie’s so good.  I may have to review it sometime.)

Captain America: The First Avenger | Dr. Abraham Erskine

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Let’s be honest – who didn’t completely fall in love with Dr. Erskine the second he walked on the screen???  He was obviously typecast as The Death That Would Inspire The Hero, but Stanley brought so much more to the role than most other characters like that – and I’d argue that he’s the best.  He inspires Steve to be more than he thinks he’s capable of, and encourages him to accept the super-soldier serum.  And that speech.  GAH.  Plus, he calls Steve “Steven.”  HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE HIM?!

The Hunger Games | Caesar Flickerman

“But you know what?  [Bleep] that! And [bleep] everybody that had anything to do with it!”
“All right, then. One woman’s opinion.”

My favorite part about Stanley-as-Caesar is just how likeable he is.  It’s apparent that Stanley read the books because that’s, like, the crux of the character in the book.  There are literally paragraphs describing how Caesar brings out the best in all of the tributes, even the incredibly shy ones who have close to nothing to say.  Stanley obviously did his research because that’s exactly how he plays him – a nuanced, larger-than-life TV host who is hungry for the adulation for the crowd and whose effervescence masks his true vulnerability.  Also, I’ve heard that Caesar is one of Stanley’s favorite roles.  Which is just amazing.

The Devil Wears Prada | Nigel Kippling

“You think this is just a magazine, hmm? This is not just a magazine. This is a shining beacon of hope for… oh, I don’t know… let’s say a young boy growing up in Rhode Island with six brothers pretending to go to soccer practice when he was really going to sewing class and reading Runway under the covers at night with a flashlight. You have no idea how many legends have walked these halls. And what’s worse, you don’t care. Because this place, where so many people would die to work you only deign to work. And you want to know why she doesn’t kiss you on the forehead and give you a gold star on your homework at the end of the day. Wake up, sweetheart.”

This movie is about the oftentimes twisted inner workings of the fashion industry and how it changes an intern named Andy Sachs.  Stanley plays Nigel, the somewhat gay editor of Runway Magazine who works with the definition of rhymes-with-witch, Miranda Priestly.  I love Stanley’s role in this movie because he’s just adorable.  He has Andy’s best interests at heart, often giving her that final push when she needs it.  (See the quote above.)  He has so many great scenes – most of which were ad-libbed, if you watch the bloopers, which just attests to Stanley’s absolute genius.  One of my favorite scenes isn’t in the movie.  (Katelyn knows which one I’m talking about.  THE GIRLS, KATELYN.  THE GIRLS.)  Also, this is his second movie with Meryl Streep, and they’re both completely different people in this one, which totally displays their versatility as actors.  Gah, I can’t.)

I’m slooooowly working my way through Stanley’s entire filmography, and some of the movies at the top of my To Watch list are The Pelican Brief, Shall We Dance (because hE DANCES!), The Company You Keep (which my parents watched without me and sent the Netflix DVD back before I could see it and I have no bitterness towards them WHATSOEVER), Spotlight (which also stars Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams), Big Night (Stanley and Tony Shalhoub’s first shared screen), and, of course, Beauty and the Beast (!!!!!!!).

So what do you think of my list?  Have you seen any of these movies?  What are your thoughts about them?  Anything to say just about Stanley in general?  (Just letting you know, if you bash him at all, I’ll bash you right back because he is perfection.)

the genius of ‘the rest of us just live here.’


my copy had the cover on the left, but i can’t decide which one i like better, so here’s both of them.  : )

A few days ago, I finished reading a book by Patrick Ness called The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  (Before recommending it, I’d mention that there is some language and some sensual scenes, making it a light PG-13, although it isn’t as bad as some of the other {more popular} books I’ve read recently.  See my Goodreads review here.)

However, that didn’t stop me from really enjoying it.  I couldn’t put it down.  After three or four “meh” books, I needed a five-star.  And this was that five star.

What’s so special about it?  It’s original, and pokes fun at tropes and stereotypes with incredibly snarky and witty undertones while successfully maintaining a good story.

A new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

At the beginning of each chapter is a summary of what happens in the corresponding chapter of what this book would look like if it were a typical NY Times Bestselling book – with eye-roll-inducing accuracy.  “He tells her she’s beautiful in her own special way and that’s when she knows she can trust him.”  “She saves Finn (through only her own cunning and bravery) and as they flee, she steals a glimpse at the Immortal Crux … it is full of charms and jewels, with an empty space in exactly the shape of her amulet.”  “Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad give her loving space to just feel what she needs to.”  (I really feel like I’d have put that book down at the beginning of the first chapter.)

The main characters are the “extras” in a typical story – or, as the title says, “the rest of us.”  They live in the midst of all the crazy stuff going on in their town, but they’re almost ignoring what the “indie kids” get mixed up in.  (“Indie kids,” meaning the main participants in the alternate story, all with weird hipster names.  “Which Finn?” my sister says. “Aren’t all the indie kids called Finn?”  “I think there are a couple of Dylans,” Henna says, “and a Nash.”  “There are two Satchels, I know that,” I say. “A boy Satchel and a girl Satchel.”)  They’re just trying to make it ’til they can get out of their crazy town.  (“We’re just going to stick together and tough it out and try to live long enough to graduate. The usual.”)

All of the main characters are fully fleshed-out, and some of the most compelling I’ve ever read.  I loved the fact that they had real issues and struggles – things that the indie kids never seem to have.  For instance, Mike’s anxiety was so bad that he got stuck in loops, such as washing his hands so many times that they cracked.  (And don’t even get me started on Mike’s therapist’s reaction to Mike’s aversion to medicine.  Literal tears ran down my cheeks.)  Mel struggled with anorexia (and had a few relapses) and Henna couldn’t figure out how to tell her parents that she didn’t want to be a missionary in the war-ravaged Central African Republic.  (BY THE WAY.  Henna and her parents were Christians – missionaries, even!  But they weren’t preachy or stupid.  THANK YOU MERCIFUL HEAVENS, AND THANK YOU PATRICK NESS.)

Some of the stereotypes Patrick bashed were vampires (Henna’s older brother got mixed up with them a few years before and was never seen again), the new kid in school (“What kind of guy transfers to a new school five weeks before the end of his senior year?”), clueless adults (What happens to you when you get older? Do you just forget everything from before you turned eighteen? … Honestly. Adults. How do they live in the world? (Or maybe that is how they live in the world.)), and random overdone scenarios (“Now you’re sure we are not going to be murdered?” Call Me Steve says, actually looking a bit nervous.  “Prom night.  Group of diverse teens.  Remote cabin…”)

The main thing I loved about this story is that Patrick just Knows What’s Up. He knows all about the tropes and what’s been done too many times… and what hasn’t been done. And it all just works.  And it’s so neat because the entire book demonstrates the truth that every life is important.  Whether you’re battling Immortals or just trying to figure out how to tell a girl you like her, your story is important and unique and worth telling.

“Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.”

And that’s basically why I loved it so much.  Patrick had this pretty decent story going about this girl who had this amulet that had something to do with Immortals, but he decided to delve into the characters in the background of that story – and I, for one, found that far more interesting.

In fact, the whole story can be summed up in one quote:

“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One.  Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world.  Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly.  All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”

This book just works.  And it proves that the world needs more books like this – compelling, intriguing, original books that teach universal truths.

review | captain america: civil war

{So since my ‘thoughts i had during civil war’ post would literally just be “WHERE IS BUCKY” “BHAHAHA” “WHAT OH MY GOSH” “AHHHHHH”  “AHHHHHHHHH” “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” “WAIT WHAT?!”… yeah.  Here’s my slightly-more coherent review.  I’ve kept it spoiler-free for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  But go see it asap.  Because it’s awesome.}

Civil War1“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move’.” – Peggy Carter (ish)

I’ve been a huge fan of Captain America for a while now, and it’s no surprise that I was really looking forward to this movie.  After all, I’ve been waiting for it for two years.  I had no idea how the Russo brothers were going to pull off everything they were attempting, but I knew I had to join along for the ride.

AND BOY WAS IT AMAZING.  (Shocker, right?  A Marvel movie, amazing? *sarcastic gasp*)

The Story

“With many people fearing the actions of super heroes, the government decides to push for the Anti-Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a heroes actions. This results in a division in The Avengers. Iron Man stands with this Act, claiming that their actions must be kept in check otherwise cities will continue to be destroyed, but Captain America feels that saving the world is daring enough and that they cannot rely on the government to protect the world. This escalates into an all-out war between Team Iron Man (Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, and Spiderman) and Team Captain America (Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter, Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant Man) while a new villain emerges.” (from IMDb)

Basically, yes.

Civil War2Because of their values, Steve and Tony are at odds.  Tony has seen first-hand what destruction his weapons (and the Avengers’ actions) have caused, and wants them to be put in check.  (“If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.”)  Steve sees it, too, but he’s always disliked the thought of a government being able to tell them what to do and what not to do.  (“I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”)

(I went into it siding with neither of them, but on Team Cap because my loyalties will forever lie with him.  During one of the big debates between Tony and Steve, where they were both laying out their opinions, I leaned into my friend and said, “I literally don’t know whose side I’m on!”  And she replied, “Me neither!”  Both sides were given equal screentime and shown with complete objectivity, and both were incredibly valid.  I still don’t know what side I’d be on if this were a real issue. … OH WAIT.  IT IS.)

As the plot furthers and things come to light, the different members of the Avengers (plus a few extras) join sides.  Then it gets real.

The Cast and Characters

Team Cap

Civil War3Obviously, we should start with Captain America himself, aka Steve Rogers.  He’s always been my favorite Marvel hero (and one of my favorite heroes of all time), and this was certainly no exception.  Steve fights bravely for his rights in this addition to his series (the finale of his trilogy, I think), and I love him more than ever.  He really can do it all day.

As always, Chris Evans blew it out of the park and I love him way too much.  Every single emotion was acted perfectly, and even the little moments where Steve was thinking or looking at someone (hello, that scene when Steve noticed Wanda reeling from the footage in Sokovia and told the Secretary of State that it was enough) – absolute perfection.

Civil War6BUCKY BARNES AKA JAMES BUCHANAN BARNES AKA MY LOVE.  OH MY GOSH.  As always, there wasn’t enough Bucky in this film.  (But is there ever, really?  I would’ve gladly paid $15 just to sit through three hours of Bucky hiding out, buying produce, eating granola bars, and working on his little notebook.  Srsly.)  He’s amazing, though, as always.  Dry-witted and angsty and THE MURDER STRUT.  AWW YISS.  I won’t talk about the Winter Soldier parts because spoilers and because it’s just TOO MUCH.’

Sebastian Stan is a national treasure.  He just is.  He was flawless in his, what, nine minutes of screentime in Winter Soldier, and doubly so in this one (and he was basically in the whole thing!!!).  The contrast between his on-screen personality as Bucky and his off-screen interviews and whatnot as himself is just the DEFINITION of amazing acting.  He’s my stupidly perfect Romanian jerkface.  And that is all.

Civil War7The rest of the team is pretty amazing, too.  Scarlet Witch’s guilt over the innocent lives she took at Sokovia (and the scene in the beginning of the film) is apparent, Falcon’s loyalty to Steve is key, the addition of Scott Lang as Ant-Man was the comic relief the film needed, Clint (Hawkeye) is just FABULOUS (as always, duh), and I guess you could say Sharon Carter was on his team, too.  (WINKKKKK.)  (And, by the way, she speaks at The Funeral, confirming everything we already knew.  YESSSSS.)

Team Iron Man

Civil War 9.jpgTony Stark… gosh, I have such a love-hate relationship with him.  He’s so funny and smart and the Avengers would be nothing without him… but he’s also very prideful and has this HUGE ego and never thinks he’s in the wrong.  (He guessed it in Age of Ultron, though, and he admits it in this one, too.  So yay.)  I can see where he’s coming from, having had all of this emotional trauma in his early life to frame his worldview and the personal stories he’s heard of how his weapons have destroyed lives, blah blah blah… but I just have very little sympathy for him.  THAT SAID, when the teams got together for The Big Fight – the one in the trailer, so no spoilers here – I literally didn’t know which team to root for.  WHICH IS WEIRD?!  But partially because Team Iron Man has so many great characters in it, as you’ll see below.

Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark.  He just is.  He knows all of his quirks, flaws, weaknesses, strengths, etc, and every aspect of his character is completely lifelike.

Civil War8Skimming a little to get to one of my favorite characters in the entire movie…  Natasha’s character wasn’t quite as deep as I would’ve liked it – especially the tension between her and Clint, who were on DIFFERENT SIDES WHAT THE EVEN HECK – but I still liked how she pleaded (in vain) with Steve to “stay outta this one.”  Iron Patriot was good (he added a camaraderie to Tony’s character because they’re bros) and Vision was okay (and the paprika scene was hilarious and made me ship the thing a little harder *wink*).  Black Panther (Prince T’Challa) was really great, except I didn’t like his motive, which was to kill Bucky.  So I didn’t like him ’til the end.  BECAUSE WHO COULD LIKE SOMEONE WHO WAS AGAINST MY PRECIOUS CHILD?!  Anyway.  He had a pretty valid motive, though.  (And that’s all I’ll say because spoilers.)

Civil War4OKAY SO SPIDERMAN.  GUYS.  OH MY GOSH.  Okay, so I have quite a few favorite Marvel superheroes, but Spidey’s way up there (probably like #3).  I was first introduced to Peter Parker with Tobey McGuire (just the first one, though – I didn’t watch the second and third ’til after the two reboots), but I liked Andrew Garfield’s take on the character a little more.  ALL THAT SAID, I’m pretty sure Tom Holland’s version is my favorite.  When he first came onscreen, I knew he’d be my favorite.  He looked, acted, and talked like the quintessential Peter Parker – awkward, angsty, witty teenage kid (and Tom is actually a teenager – IMAGINE THAT) who stumbles upon powers that he uses to make the world a better place.  Without going into it too much, they introduced his character without rehashing anything we already know.  Which was perfect.  And that just set up his entire character.  His voice cracks constantly, he’s a REALISTIC KID, he’s hilarious, and he’s still kind of in awe of all the people around him.  And did I mention he’s HILARIOUS?!  (“Hey, guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back???”  I laughed so hard.)

And Tom Holland.  Man.  That kid’s gonna go places.

As for the other characters, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross was great (but unexpectedly AMERICAN – so it didn’t sound like John/Bilbo at all – and I loved his abnormally un-timid character), and Daniel Bruhl as Zemo… gosh, I loved him.  No more, though – spoilers.

ALSO, THE VILLAIN ISN’T WHO YOU THINK IT IS.  Partially because he isn’t in any of the trailers, partially because I don’t know which comic he’s in.

Objectionable Content

Civil War10.gifThis one had a little more language than the Marvel movies I’ve seen (okay, maybe except Ant-Man).  Some profanities and obscenities were muffled by other sounds, but most were there.  Lots of blood, as is expected in a movie with a few big battle scenes.  It was pretty intense, but most of the violence was shown with a shaky-cam.  There was one pretty intense water torture scene that I didn’t like.  And there was nothing by way of sexual scenes – just one kiss.  See IMDb’s Parents Guide for specifics.

The Bottom Line

Basically, it was one of my favorite Avengers movies ever, but it’s hard to compare it to others because it deals with different things than the other Marvel movies.  It’s about friends fighting friends, which always has issues.  As Dumbledore said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

I loved the way Kevin of Say Goodnight Kevin explained it, so if you want a more clear review (sans fangirling), watch his initial review!

As with all other Marvel movies, it’s the perfect blend of action and intensity, with enough depth to make you think but enough comic relief to make you laugh.  And just a dash of romance, which I always love.  Recipe for a perfect superhero film.


Civil War5

ten short movie reviews.

While cleaning out my purse (lolz, what a joke) I looked through all of the ticket stubs from the movies I went to see last year.  I keep them because (in case you didn’t know) I’m a huge bit of a movie geek.  And because I’m a movie geek, I decided to do a short review of all of the movies I saw last year.  Enjoy.

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Unbroken | 12/26/14

I didn’t “technically” see this one in 2015, but it was close enough.  I loved this movie so much.  It had a zillion of my favorite actors in it, and it introduced me to a few new actors (including Domhnall Gleeson, my current film crush, who is gracing the forefront of the gif above the title of this movie – yes, you’re welcome).  In fact, I loved it so much that I wrote a review of it.  And if you haven’t seen it yet, seriously, what are you waiting for?!


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies | 1/31/15

This movie was just a big meh for me.  I know people who loved it, but most of my friends came back from it very disappointed (as we all were with the second one – minus Ben *wink*).  I didn’t even go see it ’til more than a month after it came out because I was so afraid of being disappointed.  The movie was okay.  I mean, it wrapped everything up, but it just felt like a mess.  And the CGI for all of the action scenes?  No.  The only thing that redeemed it was because it had some of my favorite actors in it (and the fact that Martin Freeman is just the perfect Bilbo) and it was decent enough to watch.  I don’t know how many times I’ll be watching it in the future, though.  IMHO, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was MUCH better, and I’ll be watching that over the Hobbit trilogy in the future.  (Extended, of course.)


The Drop Box | 3/3/15

This was probably the only documentary I watched in 2015.  (That just goes to show how much interest I have in them.  #whoops)  It was still fantastic.  If you don’t know about it, click here to go to the website.  Watch the trailer.  It’ll make you cry.  I watched the film with some friends (including friends who were adopted), and it made all of us cry because we had such a connection with unwanted children.  It was beautiful.


The Avengers: Age of Ultron | 5/7/15

YEAHHHH, BABY.  Even though I loved this movie, there were some things in it that I’m still mad about.  For instance (and spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it yet), the fact that Joss shot Clintasha out of the water was just unforgiveable.  Now Natasha’s with Banner, who totally freaked her out in the first film?  Nope.  It’s canon, yeah, but I’m not accepting it.  Let’s hope the Russo brothers dismiss the whole Brutasha thing in Civil War.  (“That was just a phase, Steve.  How stupid do you think I am?!”)  Also, did Pietro have to die???  He can zip around super fast but not fast enough to evade a series of bullets?  SERIOUSLY?!  *sigh*  I still loved the movie, though.


Tomorrowland | 5/23/15

This one got a bad rap by the critics – but, honestly, never listen to them.  They’re the ones who decided that Star Wars was too mainstream to give it many Academy Award Nominations.  (Speaking of, who else is mildly perturbed about the all-white Oscar Nominations?)  Anyway, I actually really liked this movie.  It started out explaining that everyone thinks the world is destined for destruction.  And then the bad guy has a super-unsettling speech about how everyone embraces all of the dystopia-craze because they feel like it’s unavoidable.  (“You resign yourself to a terrible future because that future doesn’t ask anything of you today.”  Gosh, it just gets better.  Watch it.)  All in all, it’s a little “green,” but it’s definitely worth watching, if only once.  (I’ve seen it twice since I saw it in the theater and it impacted me all three times.)


Paper Towns | 7/23/15

Katie and I saw this the night before it officially came out at the special Night on the Towns event (which included a preview of a trailer for another movie, and then a Q&A session with a lot of the actors, cast, and John Green).  I really enjoyed that one, probably because it was so close to the book (which I really loved).  It was one of those young adult movies you can watch with your girlfriends and feel all warm and fuzzy inside afterwards.  (Also, it was totally fun to see it with a bunch of other fangirls.  When Ansel Elgort made a cameo appearance, everyone screamed.  Including me.)


Ant-Man | 9/7/15

This is another one that I loved, despite what the critics said.  I thought it was going to be totally stupid, but it ended up being one of my favorite Marvel movies!  So hilarious and so all-around fantastic.  Plus, hello, it’s (a slightly older) Paul Rudd from Clueless!!!  The girl character (played by Evangeline Lilly, aka Tauriel) was kind of one-dimensional (my pet peeve in movies – girls who are only there because there has to be a girl for the guy protagonist to fall in love with), but she was fine.  My favorite character, though (besides Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang), was Luis, played to comedic perfection by Michael Peña.  For months afterwards, my siblings and I would refer to something as being “crazy stupid fine.”  And it worked.  For everything.  (Here’s the link to his scenes.)  (Fun fact: I still haven’t seen War Room yet because my parents saw that while we watched Ant-Man.  Guess that makes me a bad Christian, huh?  XD)


The Peanuts Movie | 11/7/15

Oh my gosh, this movieeeee.  It was like nostalgia from my childhood coming back and slamming me in the chest.  Yes, I cried because, yes, it was beautiful.  The movie spanned an entire year, so that gave the filmmakers plenty of time to do nods to the old movies – skating on the lake, Christmas, Schroeder and his piano, Thanksgiving, the Red Baron (IN WWII!), Valentine’s Day.  And there was a dance and I was shipping characters all over the place, and it was literally one of the cutest things I watched last year.  I saw it with my younger brother and sister, so it was kind of weird that two teenagers and one young adult were sitting in an animated kids’ movie, bawling our eyes out… but we loved it.  (And the gif is of Pigpen because he literally cannot be cuter.)

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 | 11/20/15

Saw this the day it came out because of obvious reasons and bawled my eyes out.  I was also pretty freaked out by the (many) jumpscares and kept accidentally flinging my arms into the empty seat beside me.  (When I saw it again this past Sunday with some friends, I almost jumped into my bff’s brother’s lap.  It was embarrassing.)  This movie was everything I thought it’d be, and I loved it.  Katie came with me, though, and hated it.  So that wasn’t fun.  : P  It wrapped up the series perfectly and I was a very content fangirl.  (Now I need to read the books again.)


Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens | 12/21/15

SWEET BUTTERED CRUMPETS, THIS MOVIE WAS SO FANTASTIC.  I’ve already written a blog post kinda fangirling about, but I’ll do some more here.  I was totally blown away by how great it was.  I guess my standards were low enough for that to happen, but I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy it enough once – let alone want to go see it again (which I’m doing later today *party emoji*).  It just… gah.  It had its faults, yes (like the fact that you lost all fear of Kylo Ren after he took off his helmet and the fact that it seemed like all of the good parts of the original trilogy and barely anything more), but it was still fantastic.  I’m really interested in seeing how the whole Kylo/Ren/Finn/Poe thing works out, especially since half the fandom insists that Finn/Poe is a thing.  (I ship Reylo, but I think they might end up being cousins… sigh.)  We saw this with my cousins, aunt, uncle, grandparents, dad, and my little brother (his first Star Wars movie), and that definitely added to my experience.

I also saw God’s Not Dead 2 last night (my dad got tickets through a pastor thing).  I can’t figure out how to share my thoughts on it without spoiling anything (HA), so I’ll wait to post my review (if you guys want it) ’til the day it comes out.

Thoughts?  Did you guys see any of these movies?  Do you agree or disagree with me?  (I typically only go see movies that I know I’m gonna like, which is why it seems like I like every movie I saw in the theater this year…  So, yeah.)

PS: My next post is (I think) going to be my big answers post, so make sure your questions are sent in before Sunday and I’ll post my answers sometime next week!

book review: the martian.

18007564I never do book reviews on my blog because I have a Goodreads account (except for my Favorite and Least Favorite Books of 2015 posts).  However, I thought this one warranted a review.  There’s been so much buzz about it – which I completely understood after reading it.  (Be advised: I can’t recommend this without some disclaimers – which I mention below – but it is a very worthwhile read if you can get a censored copy or if language doesn’t bother you.)  Onward.

It really says a lot about a book when you literally can’t let it out of your sight, no matter how long it takes you to read it. This weekend, I went to a relative’s house, a recital, participated in an orchestra concert, and had the usual school load. No matter where I went, this book went with me. (Yay for big purses!) I started it on Friday and would’ve finished it two days ago (Sunday) if sleep hadn’t gotten in the way. (Stupid sleep.)

I have so much to say about this book. The main thing is that I absolutely loved it.

Here’s the synopsis if you don’t know what it’s about:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive – and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills – and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit – he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

I loved the simplicity of the story. So often, books I’ve read have complicated plots. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with intricate storylines. But how much time do you have when someone asks you, “So what’re you reading?” (Especially if they see the book in your purse two days in a row.) This story was simple: A guy gets left on Mars and has to figure out how to survive on basically nothing while trying to figure out how to get back home. And that’s it. The execution, however, is the beautifully complicated part. And a third of the way through, you get all of these different perspectives on what’s going on – including NASA’s struggle to get him safely home and the reaction of the crew who left him behind. Mark’s a botanist and a super-nerd, so there’s a lot of math involved. Let me repeat that: There is a LOT. OF. MATH. INVOLVED.  My mind was spinning when he was explaining how he was going to make water.  (Yes, I said “make.”)

This leads to the second thing I loved about it – the fact that it made me really think about how much I take for granted. Mark has to make water, guys. By burning chemicals together. How often do I dump out a water bottle that I’ve found in my car because it’s open and I don’t know who drank out of it? (Because heaven forbid I drink out of one of my siblings’ water bottles!) He has to survive almost solely on potatoes that he grows. And even after so. many. bad. things. happen (seriously, EVERYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG WENT WRONG), he still keeps moving forward – with an optimistic, cheerful spirit! Half of the book had me either smiling or straight-up laughing because of something witty that he said. It was insane. I would’ve given up as soon as I discovered that my crew had left me. It also made me think about how often I give up easily, and how begrudgingly I do things sometimes.

I didn’t love the language (so many f-bombs and s-words; I would’ve given this a five-star rating if they weren’t there), but I loved every other thing about it – especially the emphasis on the value of life. In the story, the entire world rallied around NASA in order to bring Mark back home. One of my favorite quotes is towards the end of the book. Mark’s thinking about all that everyone has done to get him back home, and he realizes that it’s because of the following.

“Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are a**holes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side. Pretty cool, eh?”

When I finished this book yesterday, I closed it and just started crying. (I won’t tell you if it’s from grief that he died or relief that he didn’t. Because spoilers.)  All I could think was ‘Dang it, Mark Watney. You’ve taught me so much.’ So thank you, Mark and Andy. Thanks for making me think.

Four stars.  Recommended: 18+

(Important Note: Sebastian Stan is in this movie.)

review – the lord of the rings: the musical (repost)

I’ve been listening to this music again and it reminded me of how great – and underrated! – this musical is. The new tour will be huge, guys. Trust me. 🙂 (I haven’t had too much time to write posts lately, so this is a repost. Never fear, I’ve got posts in my head, so they’re coming.)


“There’s a road calling you to stray.” – ‘The Road Goes On,’ The Lord of the Rings: The Musical

When I tell my friends that there’s a LotR musical, nine times out of ten, they say, “Wait, WHAT?! How can you even have a LotR musical?! It’s impossible!”

Actually, no, it’s quite possible. It’s been done. And it’s amazing.

(Note: I’ve only listened to the soundtrack, which is the foundation of this review.)

The Story

Act I

news-graphics-2007-_638437aThe half-Elven maiden Arwen sings the prologue, urging those to whom she sings to trust their instincts (“Prologue” (‘Lasto i lamath’)). In the region of Middle-earth known as the Shire, Bilbo Baggins, an eccentric and wealthy Hobbit, celebrates his one hundred eleventh birthday by vanishing from his birthday party, leaving his greatest treasure, a mysterious magic Ring, to his young relative Frodo Baggins (“Springle Ring”) . The Ring is greatly desired by the Dark Lord Sauron, who could use it to conquer the world, and must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in Sauron’s country of Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took set out along the road that leads out of the Shire (“The Road Goes On”). Meanwhile, the corrupt wizard Saruman also desires the Ring (“Saruman”).
At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree, Frodo and his friends sing and dance for their fellow guests (“The Cat and the Moon”). With the assistance of the Ranger Strider, the four Hobbits escape pursuit by the Black Riders, servants of Sauron, and safely reach the Ford of Bruinen (“Flight to the Ford”). Awaiting them at the Elven settlement of Rivendell is Arwen, the beloved of Strider, whose true name is Aragorn, heir to the kingship of the Lands of Men (“The Song of Hope”). Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, calls a Council of Elves, Men and Dwarves at which it is decided that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring sets out from Rivendell: Frodo and his three fellow Hobbits, Aragorn, the human warrior Boromir, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, and the great wizard Gandalf the Grey. Arwen and the people of Rivendell invoke the holy power of the star Eärendil to protect and guide the Fellowship on its journey (“Star of Eärendil”). In the ancient, ruined Dwarf-mines of Moria, Gandalf confronts a Balrog, a monstrous creature of evil, and falls into the darkness.

Act II

inside-lord-of-rings_t614The Fellowship takes refuge in Lothlórien, the mystical realm of Galadriel, an Elven lady of great power and wisdom (“The Golden Wood”, “Lothlórien”). As their journey south continues, Boromir attempts to take the Ring from Frodo; Frodo and Sam flee from the rest of the Fellowship, and Boromir falls in battle. Gandalf returns in time to intervene at the Siege of the City of Kings, where the Lands of Men are under attack by the forces of Saruman and the Orcs of Mordor (“The Siege of the City of Kings”). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are joined on their journey by Gollum, a twisted creature who long possessed the Ring and desires to have it for his own again. As they approach Mordor, Frodo and Sam sing to each other about the power of stories (“Now and for Always”). Gollum is moved by their song, but the evil side of his personality asserts itself and he plans to betray the Hobbits (“Gollum/Sméagol”).


elvesIf Aragorn can defeat the forces of evil and reclaim the kingship of Men, he will receive Arwen’s hand in marriage (“The Song of Hope” (Duet)). Galadriel casts spells to protect the forces of good in the final battle (“Wonder”, “The Final Battle”). Frodo, Sam and Gollum reach Mount Doom, where the Ring is destroyed when Gollum takes it from Frodo and falls into the fire with it. Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen (“City of Kings”), but Frodo, wearied by his quest, and the great Elves must leave Middle-earth forever and sail to the lands of the West (“Epilogue (Farewells)”). Bidding farewell to their friend, Sam, Merry and Pippin resume their lives in the Shire (“Finale”).  (from Wikipedia)

503817976_1904edc655As you can see, LotRM follows the book and, in some cases, is more true to it than the movie trilogy. In some ways, however, it’s a little different. For instance, there is no Eowyn character (or Faramir – and all the Faramir Fans say, “Nooooooo!”), and the roles of Theoden and Denathor have been combined. (I know, right?) However, other than that, the story is the same. It’s really amazing how they pulled it off on stage, in front of a live audience, for 492 performances.

Unfortunately, the musical tanked due to money and budgeting issues and a few minor accidents on set. As one reviewer put it, “Stripping away the beautiful sets, lavish staging, seventeen lifts and three revolves, LotRM was at its base level a confused, plodding, dull selection of scenes from the books – with the occasional moment of brilliance, just as a reminder of how good the show could have been. The challenge of adapting all three books (over nine hours worth of film) into one three hour long stage show (incorporating songs and circus style staging) was simply too great – and the result was plain for all to see.” It was a huge job to undertake, and I think everyone involved should be commended for their efforts.

The Music

I discovered LotRM in early 2008, bought the soundtrack soon afterward, and have been hooked on it ever since. The tunes get stuck in my head – which is delightful – and I’ve been trying to master the many fiddle solos in ‘The Cat and the Moon’ ever since. My sister and I bought several highlights from the album, which I will review below. If you only have a short amount of time to “try out” this musical, I’d recommend these songs.

‘The Road Goes On’ is one of the first songs in the musical. It starts out with Frodo and Sam, then Merry and Pippin join in, then the Elves and Rangers join in, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

‘The Cat and the Moon’ is the song that Frodo and the other hobbits sing at The Prancing Pony, and it’s one of the most toe-tapping songs I’ve ever heard. My siblings and I have done many a jig to this song, and my brother and I have even played it and danced around a fire once. It’s that kind of song.

‘Lothlorien’ is another favorite. Legolas starts it, then he is joined by the other elves. Galadriel (wonderfully played by Laura Michelle Kelly, of Mary Poppins: The Musical fame) comes in for a solo in the beginning of the second verse. (The first day I was able to hit all of her high notes, I nearly jumped for joy!)

‘Now and For Always’ is arguably my favorite song in the entire soundtrack. It depicts the friendship between Frodo and Sam to perfection.

‘Star of Earendil’ is one of my new favorites. It wasn’t among the “highlights” that my sister and I bought, but it definitely should have been. It’s Arwen’s solo and quite beautiful.

‘Wonder’ is the last of my favorites. It’s one of Galadriel’s solos and such a pretty song. (It’s one of my go-to songs when I feel like I need to sing something big and powerful.) ‘Shine forever, beacon of light! Blaze in the air, vanquishing night!’

In Conclusion

LordOfTheRingsMusi_1774259cAlthough the musical didn’t do very well, I commend everyone’s efforts. Ever since I first heard about the musical, I’ve wanted to see it. When it officially closed in 2008, I was heartbroken. However, now that it’s being revived for a world tour, I’m looking forward to seeing it! (WOOT!!)

This musical is highly, highly recommended and I think every true Tolkiendil should see it – or, at the very least, listen to the music.

least favorite books of 2015… so far!

Here’s the follow-up to the post where I listed my top five favorite books of 2015.  This post is basically a warning – a warning that if you’re interested in any of these books, I’ve read them and, unfortunately, they’re not as great as everyone thinks they are.  (You’re entitled to your own opinion, though.)  It’ll be a little more ranty than the last post, so heads up.  ; )

I feel like I get let down by books a lot.  I usually get books on recommendation, but I also love to browse my library or the Goodreads library and pick out a random book based on the premise.  Sometimes I’ll find a gem (like The Little Women Letters or Wonder or The Nanny Diaries), but, more often than not, the books I get because of the synopsis are a total disaster.  The authors either don’t flesh out the plot as much as they could have, or they add in unnecessary language or inappropriate guy-girl stuff, or it’s too cliche.  The following books are my least favorite books of 2015 (so far… cuz I’ll probably keep on picking books based on their premise, regardless of the outcome of that method).

5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – I got this one because it had sooooo much hype.  It seemed like the entire Goodreads community couldn’t stop raving about this book.  So trust. me. when I say that it wasn’t as great as everyone painted it to be.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten it if I’d known the true genre, but since the true genre is a secret… I didn’t know.  Spoiler-free, it’s a story about how the upper 5% live – and the secrets they keep – from the perspective of 17-year-old Cadence.  I read it in two sittings because the story gripped me and I needed to know how it ended.  But when the big plot twist/reveal came in the end… I was totally caught off guard.  Oh, I thought.  It’s one of those books. ……… Meh.  It was okay.  (Read my Goodreads review here.)

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Again, I got this one because of the hype.  Because I listened to the hype – and because I read the premise – I knew it’d be a fluffy book.  However, I wanted a fluffy book for vacation, so it all worked out.  But… I couldn’t lose myself in the fluff.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten more critical of writing as of late, but I think it’s because I just couldn’t relate to any of the characters.  The story follows Anna, who gets the amazing opportunity to travel to Paris – PARIS, FRANCE – and spend her entire senior year of high school at a boarding school there.  Pretty great, huh?  Well, Anna doesn’t think so.  She’s too wrapped up in her (completely mediocre) life back in Atlanta (hey!) to even give Paris – PARIS, FRANCE – a chance.  Untillllllllll… she meets a handsome boy named Etienne St. Clair.  Thus begins their tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship (which Anna keeps telling herself is purely platonic even though he’s the only thing she ever thinks about.  Seriously.  The ratio of scenes involving actual school and classes to scenes involving Etienne and Paris and movies and kissing and talking about boys and being with boys and judging boys and judging girls is pretty lacking).  But Etienne has a girlfriend, so nothing can really work out between them, right?  But they still spend more time together than Etienne spends with his girlfriend.  (Cue the Say Movienight Kevin “Howwww daaaare youuuuuu?”)  Meanwhile, Anna keeps obsessing over this guy that she knew back in Atlanta, who kissed her the night before she left.  She’s pretty sure he’s in love with her – she’s in love with him, so the feelings must be mutual, riiiiight? – but he takes forever to reply to her emails or answer her phone calls.  (And then comes the shocking reveal that her best friend has been dating him since she left.  Wow.  Shocker.)  It’s pretty messed up.  I only liked a handful of scenes and Etienne’s accent.  And that’s saying a lot.  (Read my Goodreads review here.)

3. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy – Once again, the premise intrigued me, but the book itself didn’t.  The main character, Alice, gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and has her “friend,” Harvey, help her dole out revenge on everyone she hates (basically everyone at school).  Plot twist: She ends up suddenly going into remission and has to deal with the consequences of her actions.  Sounds interesting, right?  It felt like Julie wanted to mash up Paper Towns with The Fault in Our Stars.  But it just doesn’t work.  Alice was a spoiled brat who didn’t really know what she wanted until she’d messed everything up past the point of no return (and there’s no redemption because that’s where the story ends), and Harvey was a love-sick puppy who was willing to do anything she wanted him to, regardless of any moral standards that he had.  Everything felt random and obscure – especially the beach house scene when Harvey’s new girlfriend came and Alice made out (*cough*) with this random guy she literally found.  It felt like the plot – typical on-again, off-again will they or won’t they – kept going around in circles (if you’ve read the book, you’ll get it).  Not to mention that there was some Content. (Seriously?  Seriously???  *FACE.PALM*)  The entire thing just felt so blehhhhhhh.  I finished it in about two days because I wanted to see if the characters changed at all.  They didn’t.  Thus, I was disappointed.  (Read my Goodreads review here.)

2. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Series) by Ann Brashares – I started reading this series because I’ve heard of it for a long time and I wondered if it was any good.  I think I’m a little older than the audience of the first four (the last one taking place ten years later, when the characters are in their late twenties), but, in my opinion, the content was right at my level.  I didn’t let my younger sister read the books because some of the Content was a little mature for her (including descriptions of kisses and other guy-girl scenes and obsessing over boys), but I let her watch the movies with me (which are a lot better than the books).  I loved the characters, but I didn’t agree with some of the things they did, and I think that’s why it was such a let-down for me.  I actually enjoyed this series a lot (and bought the movies because they were so good), but it was more of a guilty pleasure because I didn’t condone their actions and there was some language that I didn’t like.  The reason this series is number two on my list, though, is completely and entirely because of the last book, Sisterhood Everlasting.  I don’t think the book was supposed to be a part of the series because it’s geared towards a different audience, but it’s a sequel to the series and, since I loved the series so much, I read it.  BIIIIGGGG MISTAKE.  Listen, Ann Brashares.  YOU DO NOT MESS WITH MY TIBBY.  NOPE.  NOT ALLOWED.  I still haven’t told my sister what happens in the last book… because, apparently, a film adaption is being made.  (Of course I’ll go see it, but I’ll cry buckets and buckets.)  I almost consider the last book to be nonexistent, or poorly-written fanfiction, but I can’t completely allow myself to think that because, duh, it’s written by the same author, and is, therefore, canon.  (*shakes fist*)  (Read my Goodreads review of the last book here.)

1. The Last Song by Nicolas Sparks – Yes, I read a Nicolas Sparks book.  (I’ve read two, actually, and I liked this one better than The Best of Me… which isn’t saying much.)  One of my good friends really likes Nicolas Sparks books, so my excuse is that I’ve read them for her.  And I think it’s safe to say that I’m done.  The Last Song felt so… cliche.  I was so mad the entire time I was reading it that I couldn’t even write a good review when I was done.  (My goal in writing is to make my reader feel emotions… but not anger.)  The story follows teenaged Ronnie and her younger brother who visit their dad over the summer.  And that’s basically it.  There was nothing glaringly wrong with the plot or characters… it just felt like Mr. Sparks didn’t attempt to make the characters any deeper than the cliche, stock characters that they are.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this annoyed about a book.  (HA!)  Ronnie, the main character, was stuck-up and annoying and didn’t change at ALL, and her dad felt like the male version of Elsie Dinsmore.  (Really?  You’re going to reply to your bratty daughter’s whiny accusation that you’re playing the piano to annoy her by building a wall around it?  Really.)  The love interest, Will, was the only character I really liked, but he was so wrapped up in hiding something (that isn’t even that big of a deal) that he can’t get over himself enough to be anything more than a stereotypical teenager.  He seemed a little too perfect, too.  The dialogue seemed a little stilted, too – it felt like what Mr. Sparks thinks the typical “rebellious teenager” and “overprotective and perfect father” and “runaway girl” and “teenage anti-hero” talks like.  Half the time, I was rolling my eyes.  The other half of the time, I was trying to resist the urge to get a pen and start marking up the book as if I’m beta-reading it for Mr. Sparks.  (Thankfully, it was a library book, so that’s straight where it went when I was done with it.)  I seriously have never read a book that annoyed me so much.  It all felt so much worse than mediocre.  You know what?  It felt like a poorly-written self-published novel by a prepubescent tween.  Sorry to be so negative of a New York Times Bestselling author, but… it’s the truth.  The most annoying thing about it all is that there’s a movie and it’s stars Liam Hemsworth (who I kind of already hate because he’s Gale) and Greg Kinnear (“You don’t love me?  But we’re so perfect for one another!!!”) and I’ll probably watch it because I’m such a movie junkie.  XD  (Read my Goodreads review here.)

I’ve never been this negative about books before.  Maybe it’s because I actually have high standards of good writing because I’m a writer.  Anyway, it’s safe to say that these books were not worth the paper they were written on (except the Sisterhood series – minus the last book).  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read Harold and the Purple Crayon – because that’s a million times better than these.

Aaaaaand in case you’re wondering how books like these get on the New York Times Bestseller list (which several of these claim), well… here you go.

(Edit: Why is it that most of these books are romance books?  It’s not because I don’t like romance – I do – I just don’t like stupid romance. I wonder whyyyyyy…)