Thursday, January 26, 2017

To Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Program

So I'm taking an unplanned hiatus. I talk about the reasons why here so please if you're curious check it out.

I may not be back until March. Until then I'll be around on twitter but that's about it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber
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Edition: ARC courtesy of Publisher
Buy Links: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Book Depository
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

I am among the majority when I say this was one of my most anticipated books of the new year. It sounded splendid- a carnival event that only takes place rarely and is a magical adventure and the quest of one sister to save the other. Paired with the positive early reviews and huge amount of buzz I thought, and found correct, that nothing could go wrong with this book.

Scarlett and Tella's father is abusive and Scarlett thinks the only way to get away from him and off the island he keeps them on is by marrying a complete, but seemingly kind, stranger. Every year, however, she wrote to Legend, the master of Caraval, in an attempt to see a performance. Only a few days before her marriage, she finally receives a reply, and three tickets that will get her into the performance which is on a neighboring island. It is her sister and the strange boy she found her sister hooking up with, though, that get her to that performance by kidnapping her and stealing her away in the night. It's not long before Scarlett realizes that Caraval is even more dangerous than it seems and that her sister is the game- whoever finds her wins.

It has been such a long time since I was so thoroughly sucked into a book that I didn't want to put it down. This book was like a drug. Every word propelled it into something grander and greater than I could have imagined going in. Not only was the world a whimsical, yet dark, and stunning dreamscape that leapt off the page and stole me away, but the characters were well thought out, three dimensional beings that made me laugh and cry and feel everything in between. The plot was incredible as well and while I was guessing the entire time I read, rarely did my guesses land their mark as things turned out to be better than I could conjure.

I already know that this is going to be in the top ten books of this year, and the year has only just started! I'm eagerly awaiting the next book and I don't think I could recommend this one any harder. Should I mention the slow to develop but heart swooning romance? Should I mention the endless magic at Caraval that will leave you looking for your own ticket? Should I mention the relationship between the sisters that was stronger than even the romance and showed another, more beautiful side, to the love normally common in YA novels? Or should I leave you here and beg you to pick this up and devour it?

I'll leave you here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mini Movie Reviews: Florence Foster Jenkins & Cafe Society

This was... not what I was expecting at all. Actually, I never really expected to watch this movie in the first place. The trailers didn't look super appealing and then it kinda floated off my radar anyways so I wasn't sure I cared. But then the awards buzz brought it back to the forefront and I took the opportunity to rent it.

Certainly, I wasn't disappointed. It was a pretty good movie, all in all, but it also wasn't the best it could be. It felt like, the whole time, it was missing something, though I could not say what that was. The actors were all pretty good in their roles, even though it was a pretty limited cast. The plot was funny, heartfelt, and sad, which makes a pretty good combination, too. It just felt lacking the entire time.

My favorite thing about this is that it's a true story. What a cool story! What a cool lady! Like, why don't we learn about her in the history books, if only it's just a line here or there. I know it's pretty trivial, but people like her should be celebrated. But now I'm going on a rant, so let me cool off.

This is a good movie to rent. It's a sold film that hits all the right notes, even if it does seem to be missing some spark. I'm glad I didn't see it in the theater but it was better than I thought it would be.

This was like watching a bad remake of a good Woody Allen movie. The acting was poor, the cinematography was standard, and the plot was dragging and pointless. I know I'm being harsh- and I know I'm not generally a huge fan of Woody Allen films, but I can tell a good movie from a bad movie. I have little to say beyond the fact that I really didn't like it and would recommend staying away from it for its mediocrity. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Movie Review: Eddie the Eagle

When I was flipping through google's selection of movie posters for this one there were a few that struggled to make this movie look "cool" which struck me as ridiculous. It's not a "cool" movie, even if it does star Eggsy Unwin and Wolverine... er Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, I mean. The poster I ended up settling with for this post pretty much sums up the mood of the film, absurdity and all.

The first thing you need to know is that this is based on a true story. I'm a sucker for sports movies like this, where the underdog rises up and faces his demons by showing off his talents. The second thing you need to know is that, while this is that sort of movie, it's not about the best of the best. It's about the worst of the best with the biggest heart.

Eddie Edwards has all his life wanted to be an Olympic Athlete. He just isn't much of an athlete until he discovers he's not so bad on the slopes. Push comes to shove, and when they won't let him in for the downhill ski he road trips to the mountains where he's determined to qualify and be the one and only member of the British ski jumping team. There he meets ex-American Olympian Bronson Peary, who agrees to help him if only to prevent Eddie from hurting himself.

I was taken in immediately with the movie. The cinematography was clear and the director didn't waste any time drawing you into the setting for the film which is clear within the first five minutes. The characters, too, aren't left open ended for two long and all the relationships are clearly defined, and though they may be a little to black and white rather than dynamic gray, they fit the casting well.

Speaking of the cast- it was interesting to see Egerton in this since the only other films I've seen him in are Sing (where he's only a voice) and Kingsmen, where his character is basically the opposite of what you get here. I thought he did a great job and oftentimes forgot I was seeing the same actor who had portrayed a secret agent. Personally, I think he'll go far in his career since every movie of his I've seen I've liked. The other main player is Hugh Jackman and, let's be honest, can you really go wrong with him? I mean, sure, you probably can, but I've never really seen a bad movie (we're ignoring the first two Wolverine movies because those were just for studio cash and he wasn't the problem with either of them) he's been in. It did take a while for his character to appear on screen and I was impatiently waiting for that moment, but otherwise I thought he was pretty fantastic.

Overall, this is a must watch movie, if you ask me.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke is part of my DC Read-through, an ongoing series of posts inspired by a free eGalley I received. The eGalley was a magazine of the books DC claimed were the best places to start with their comics and I took this as a challenge. I handpicked about two dozen, and I try to read one or two a month. If you're interested in the rest of this series check out the tab above. My last post was a review of the first volume of Sandman and my next one is going to be V for Vendetta. Because this isn't a typical review I don't focus on the typical things, I stick mostly to looking at whether this is a good place to start with DC comics or not in lieu of plot details and my personal enjoyment.

This one is up there with Watchmen as one of the darkest comics I've ever read. Seeing as they're both written by Alan Moore I really shouldn't be surprised. I would argue, however, that this is darker, and perhaps, because it is shorter, it packs a very different, but still powerful, kind of punch to the gut than Watchmen did. Which is why I'm going to say that this is a poor place to start for any comic reader.

If you're looking to get into Batman comics this isn't the place. Sure, you're probably well versed in who the characters are, but if you want the full impact of the emotions that this is meant to convey I think you need to spend more time getting to know exactly who it is within these pages. I've read Batman comics before, but I still didn't get all the emotion that I think this is meant to convey. It's also not meant to be a set up for anyone really, but the Joker, as it does reveal a "version" of his backstory. While he may be one of the best character's ever written I don't think his is the head you want to enter into this series with.

If you're looking to get into superhero comics this also isn't the best place. The only hero to really appear is Batman and it's in a limited capacity. He's there, and his morals are certainly fleshed out nicely and quickly, but he himself isn't the most interesting part nor is he meant to be. It's not a comic about a hero as about the human condition, which it portrays beautifully.

Finally, if you're looking to get into comics in general I would say it's so-so. For a one-shot it's a really solid story, and if you're a connoisseur of fine things, particularly fine art, this is definitely a piece you need to add to your collection. However, if you're just generally looking to get into comics this will either be a turn on or a turn off. There's not really a middle ground with this one, so I would recommend starting somewhere else. If you're pretty sure this is the kind of things you want to read regularly, than by all means go for it, but if you're just kinda curious and not sure, try something else first to get a taste for the medium.

I do want to add a word on whether I liked it or not: I did but not really because of the plot (which I find a tad too disturbing for even my tastes) or the art (though it is very nice art that matches the story well) but because of how much of a statement piece it is as art and what it contributes to the genre. I like being able to see it on my shelf and I think it will be a nice piece for my collection for many years to come.

TL;DR? Perhaps not the best place to start with comics or graphic novels but definitely a must read if you think you can stomach it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

College Journey: Find Your Own Music

College Journey is a twice-monthly posting series (the last two Thursdays of every month) where I talk about both my experience and advice I've collected along the way. I go to a small liberal arts college in the middle of Nowhere, IL, and while I enjoy the campus and the company the wider community is much different than what I'm use to. If you ever have a question, check out my college journey tab, where I've collected all past posts, or shoot me an email (tsundokublog(at)gmail(dot).com) and I'll respond as soon as I can.

This post is two pronged. I mean a lot with the title. I mean it, first, in a literal manner, and, more importantly, in a figurative way. Music is a super big help in my life- it keeps me going, motivates me, connects with me, inspires me, and picks me up when I'm down and nothing else can do it. It takes no energy to listen to music and I'll often fall asleep and wake up to it stuck in my head. It's a soundtrack for your soul, and it's important you find some you like to keep you going through life, if it does have that sort of effect on you.

More importantly: you need to find your own internal rhythm. You can't base your days off of what everyone around you is doing because you can't sacrifice your goals and your time to someone else's, at least not all the time. There are always exceptions, but it's a bad idea to try and spend every waking minute following someone else's schedule when it doesn't work for you. Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm guessing you do. In it's essence, what I'm saying is don't bend over backwards for someone or something when you can't straighten up afterwards.

Recently I've had stress issues and I think those stem, at least in some part, from trying to fit the things I need to do into other people's schedules and them trying to fit what they need to do into mine, making everything stressful in the end and tempers and emotions run high. So I took a step back and recollected my thoughts and what I needed to do to help calm things down and here's what I've come back with:

Classes come first. That's it. That's the reason you're in college isn't? It's so you can learn and use that knowledge in your life in some way, whether it's career-wise or not, you have an end goal in mind and classes are probably what gets you there. Don't let someone else get in the way of them and make sure to take time before and after each class so that you're not rushing around from one to another.

Do homework alone, or at least part of it. I like doing homework in an environment conductive to getting stuff done, and sometimes that means with a bunch of my friends in the library as we all work diligently and sometimes that means secluding myself in my room. Even when they're all out in the common room having fun and doing things. This tags onto the mantra that classes come first- because homework and studying are the key to your classes.

Eat on your time. Meals are one of the few social times I always have assured but they've also been problematic lately. I try to make sure I have my homework done at specific times so I can eat with specific people but that's been getting in the way of, you guessed it, homework. And homework is the key to classes. And classes come first! See where this is going?

Actually know when you're going to hang out with people. By this I mean, you know you're going to want to have fun Friday nights through Sunday evening, and while that won't really work out, you do know the times of the day and the week when you're going to be willing and more wanting to hang out with friends. You're going to want to go on adventures and play board games and just exist in the same space in a non-toxic way. Which means you have to be able to schedule your homework and other priorities around this time so that you don't feel like you're missing out on something important.

Take the time for yourself and don't feel guilty. Pretty self-explanatory.

That's my best advice, and I'm going to try my own darnedest to keep up on it as well. Good luck to us all!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mini Movie Reviews: The Jungle Book & Sing

This movie has gotten only praises as far as I can tell, and I can see why. The animation was stunning, and paired with the voice acting, I would say they nailed all the characters. Bill Murray in particular was fantastic and his version of Baloo really blew me out of the water. He was easily my favorite character in this film (which I'll touch back on in a moment). Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli, was also very good. I'm always worried about children actors, because you either have a  hit or a miss regarding their abilities, but I'd say Sethi definitely falls into the hit category and I hope he has a bright future in acting ahead of him.

The plot was slow for a long part of the film and it felt indeed like several chapters taken from a book. I must admit, I've never read the original story, I'm only familiar with Disney's previous animated version, so I don't know if the book is meant to feel like this on purpose. However, once Baloo showed up I was thoroughly involved and thought the stakes were appropriately high and the tension appropriately dangerous. His part in the plot also moved things forward and he served as a good connection between Mowgli's past and present without being the omniscient force that Bagheera was.

Overall this is definitely a film worth watching, though I am glad I didn't see it in theaters. For me, this is a sit-at-home covered in blankets film. While it would look absolutely stunning on the large screen I preferred the intimacy of watching it on my computer. Which, yes, it is on Netflix right now so there's little excuse not to see it (unless, of course, you don't have Netflix).

Since the first trailer jumped into my lap I have been anticipating this movie. It just looked adorable! And the cast is fantastic! And the music is fantastic! Really there's not much bad I can say about this film, so I won't.

I will say it a fun movie, but it's definitely a kids film. Don't take this to mean anything bad about it though! I certainly enjoyed it and I would see it again, but if this isn't your genre you already know that and you plan to stay away. 

I don't think it's destined to become a classic (not up there with How to Train Your Dragon or Shrek, is what I mean), though I am glad it was a good watch and I'm glad the general public agrees.