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Best of 2012: Books and Movies

So obviously it is way, WAY past 2012, but I already had this draft written and in the interest of doing a similar post for 2013, I’d like to go ahead and post this now.

Here it is, 2012 has passed and we are in the beginning of a new year: 2013. Can you believe it is 2013 already? (lol. It’s 2014 now and I STILL feel like I can’t believe it’s not 2012.)  As is customary, I wanted to look back on good old 2012 and give you the best of…- this edition, best of books and movies.

It’s funny, when I was remembering back on all the things that happened this year, it’s always the books and movies I read most recently that I remember being best. I think that’s a bit telling, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. And remember, that these are all my opinions and you’re welcome to your own. What were your favorite things of 2012? (If you can remember that far.)

Books:
I gotta start with books, because books are my thing. I love to read, and I read a lot of good books in 2012. I made a goal half way through the year to read 150 books in 2012, then I scrambled to remember what books I had already read. According to good reads I only read about 80 books. That is only counting books I read for the first time. I also re-read a lot of  books.  But in 2013 I plan to succeed in my goal of 150 new books. Here are my top ten books from 2012. It is really hard for me to put them in order, but I did my best.

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10- Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal.
These books are really awesome Jane Austen-esque novels. They are like Jane Austen with magic. Yes there is a plot and sometimes a mystery or something that needs to be solved, but they are mostly old-fashioned romance character novels. I loved the characters in these novels and the introduction of magic, Glamour, into the historical setting. It was a seamless new world where magic was one of the finishing polishes women had, like music or art. So it was a lot of fun.

9-Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I loved these books. They are YA novels set in a fantasy world. They all go together, but each features a different main female character. They were really fast reads in a really interesting world. I love YA fantasy books that have their own magical world and everything. I fell in love with Katsa in Graceling, but I think Bitterblue was my favorite of the novels. Although, what kind of name is Fire and what kind of name is Bitterblue? A lot of people think these books are all anti-marriage and stuff, and while it’s true that katsa was anti-marriage, I kind of respect these book for not following the conventions of the typical YA love triangle thing. (although there was some triangling going on.)

8- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
YA Fantasy novel based on Russian folklore in a Russian alt setting with mystery, romance and strong characters? yes please!!

7- The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
This is a five book series that I would have to classify as some sort of paranormal romance, but it is so much more. Part mystery, Part steampunk, part supernatural, part romance, all awesome. Yes there are werewolves and vampires and ghosts in a Victorian steampunk London where supernatural creatures are “out.” The main character has no soul and so is antithetic to supernatural creatures. This leads to crazy shenanigans with a werewolf Earl who is head of the Paranormal Investigation Bureau. It’s just such a fun read and a fully realized world. I love steampunk and romance and mystery. Oh and the romance was steamy, but not smutty. The Victorian language and propriety saved the day. I can’t wait to read this series again.

6- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Definitely one of the best Cinderella retellings I’ve ever read. I love fairy tale re-rellings. Not only is Cinder Asian, but she iss also a CYBORG! Yes Cyborg Cinderella; it’s a bit strange. There’s also a fun world with an evil Queen of the moon people. (It sounds weird when I say it like that, but it’s actually awesome.) I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I believe that each book is going to focus on a different fairy tale.

5- Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill
I love Mercedes Lackey. She is one of my favorite authors. However, lately her novels have really been going downhill. I think she is best at collaborations and this book definitely proves that to be true. This book is awesome. It’s about zombies in the Wild West. Instead of a hard edgy grim book this book is written in the completely readable, engaging prose that I love in Lackey’s books. There are also fun characters who ensemble well together and just a tiny smidgeon of romance. This book is kind of on the cusp of YA and adult, but I’d have to say it feels more YA and it’s totally worth reading.

4- Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
I may have had more fun reading this book than any other book this year. It’s a feudal Japanese dystopian steampunk novel. Yes. Japan. Steampunk. Dystopian. Awesome. A lot of fun characters, including a non-human one and an engaging plot that makes you feel things. It’s a tiny bit heavy, which makes thinking about rereading not as fun, but it was an amazing must-read right away kind of book.

3- Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
I read Divergent when it first came out back in 2011, but with the release of Insurgent, i decided to re-read Divergent. I’m so glad I did, because in my opinion it was even better the second time. I decided that Divergent is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s definitely the best Dystopian novel I’ve read. I think it belongs right up there with The Giver and Fahrenheit 451. Insurgent was not as good as Divergent, but just as exciting to read. I enjoyed the exploration of different aspects of the world and there was a big shocker at the end. This novel does suffer a little bit from being in the middle of a trilogy. One reason I didn’t like it as much is because there was a lot of angst and heavy things, but is definitely a strong installment and I can’t wait for the conclusion!

2- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I’m not quite sure what makes this book so high on the list. It’s definitely an amazingly well-written and awesomely enjoyable book. One reason  is that it absolutely has the sequel I am most anticipating from my 2012 reading. This book is set in contemporary Virginia with a fantastical and mythological twist. I love that it is not the normal vampire/werewolf/mythological creature love triangle typical ya book. It is new. It is different. It has a love story, but not the one you’d expect and it’s in the background. This story is fun. I absolutely love the characters. Although this book has a female main character, it’s kind of more of an ensemble book. Blue is the main character and she is not annoying. There were several male leads and they are all fun and interesting. They all feel real. Maggie is amazing at creating characters. I fell in love with the characters in this book, so that is why I rate it so high. I definitely recommend it to people who love ya, or are feeling burnt out/like ya has gone downhill. This book will restore your faith!

1- The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
This book was surprisingly refreshing and awesome. When I look back on 2012, I definitely think this book stands out as the best book I read that year.  It gets boosted higher on the list for being a stand-alone novel, although I would enjoy a sequel. The basic premise is MI-6 but for paranormal things/superpowers set in the near future. The main character suffered amnesia and has to figure out who is trying to kill her/sabotage the agency with the help of letters from her past self. This book didn’t feel like a super hero book or a paranormal book. It felt more like a thriller/mystery, but the characters just had extra powers. This book very easily could have been super cheesy. It wasn’t cheesy at all. It felt real. Daniel O’Malley is an amazing author. The main character Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) was actually two very different characters- Pre and Post-amnesia. I loved how the story was told with clues from the present and the past. The letters from Pre-amnesia Myfanwy were integrated so well with the present. Just read this book! It was awesome. It was just so well-written and fun. 

Honorable Mentions:  The Far West (A fabulous finish to the Frontier Magic trilogy, which I absolutely loved, by one of my all-time favorite authors), Daughter of Smoke and Blood (I loved the beginning of this book. It would have been rated higher, but I hated the ending and something happened that made the beginning not as good.),  Something Strange and Deadly,(my favorite this year of the ya historical zombie semi-steampunk novels), For Darkness Shows the Stars (a completely awesome sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion),  The Grand Sophy (My first ever Georgette Heyer Book. I loved it and  and she’s awesome.),  The Dragon’s Path (one of the only epic high fantasy books I read this year; it was a treasure. It turned fantasy tropes upside down and did some really new things for the genre imo.).

Movies:
On the one hand, I feel like I watched a lot of movies in 2012, but on the other hand, I kind of feel like these 5 are the only ones worth mentioning. These are the movies I absolutely had to see in the theater and that I recommend for everyone to see. My internal rating system for movies is kind of based on how much I want to see the movie again. There are some movies that I can acknowledge are good and well-made, but if I didn’t enjoy them, they don’t get a high rating from me. These are my five top movies of 2012 kind of in order.  (Once again, I must beware the most recently seen effect.)

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5- The Amazing Spiderman
I don’t really remember how much I like SPiderman 1 or 2, but I am probably one of the few people on the planet who really enjoyed Spiderman 3.  Venom was just such a great villain and I even enjoyed emo!Peter’s bad dancing. After that though, the series didn’t really have anywhere to go, so I am glad for this remake, even if it does seem super soon since the last movies. I hope that trend doesn’t carry on. But anyway, I’ve never read the comics, but I’ve heard this was more true to the comics. And it totally worked. (So what is the deal with Spiderman comics anyway. I feel like there are so many timelines and so much crazy stuff happens.) This movie was really awesome.  Andrew Garfield was a fun and sexy (for a geek) Peter Parker and the plot of searching for what happened to his parents added an extra layer of good. Emma Stone was amazing as always ( I love her!) and I really liked that she was smart scientist Gwen Stacey, not annoying fangirl or whiny actress. And it was good to see Peter making his own webbing. And also I think lizardman made a great first villain. I am very interested to see where these movies go!

4- Brave
I don’t know why Pixar insists on making sequels to movies no one cares about instead of making sequels to the awesome movies like The Incredibles, but for a new Pixar movie with a brand new plot, Brave was really a great movie. I thought it was going to have that cliched princess plot, but it wasn’t that at all. Ok, it was that a little bit, but that wasn’t the main thing. To me it was more of a family thing. Like Merida learning how to get along with her family and her mom especially. It’s also more of a be careful what you wish for and your actions have consequences kind of movie. It was just super fun and I loved the feelings and the music. A lot of people say that it was a good movie but mediocre for a Pixar movie. I don’t feel that way at all. I just super loved this movie and I think it’s a fun addition to the Disney/Pixar lexicon.

3- The Avengers
This movie. Was Awesome!!! I absolute loved this movie so much. I guess I just have a thing for ensemble casts. I loved all the Avenger characters and their interactions. I loved the plot, the humor, the touch of Joss. Oh my gosh! Joss Whedon is awesome and he brings so much to the table as a director and writer. mostly the humor, but also just lack of cliches and great ensemble work. It has a great storyline and fun rewatchability. I just didn’t know how much I liked it, until I saw it a second time. It totally ties all the previous movies together and I am so looking forward to more from the Marvel Movieverse.

2- The Hobbit
I really love this book and it so excited me that Martin Freeman plays Bilbo. He is just so cute and lovable. This movie is fun. It’s gorgeous. The elves are all done really well. And it sticks pretty closely to the book. The elements that were added were integrated really well. I loved Radagast. This was the first movie all year I wanted to rewatch in the theater. I didn’t, but I wanted to. It’s a great addition to Peter Jackson’s LotR world.

1- Les Miserables
So Nathan and I started geeking out about this movie about a year before it came out and when we were sitting in the theater to watch it on Christmas Day, we were like I can’t believe we’re actually watching it right now. And it did not disappoint. Some people might complain about some of  the singing, but seriously, who cares about that. It may not be studio quality, but it was still Really good and my goodness, the acting. Hugh Jackman was amazing. He was seriously the best part of this movie. Russel Crowe may not be the best singer but I was surprised by how good he was. And the acting he brought, really added to the movie. I thought the cuts and changes to the music were done well. It feels like a real movie despite all the singing. I seriously cried so much the first time I saw it. This was the only movie all year long I saw in the theater twice. It was just so worth it. Worth the wait, worth seeing it twice, worth buying the soundtrack and the movie on Blu-Ray. it was awesome!!

Worst Movie of the year  Ever!

I like action movies. I like comedies. I like movies that look so ridiculous they are going to be fun so I was looking forward to Space Jail the movie. (aka Lockout, aka Taken in Space lol.) But this movie was not fun. It was not so bad it was good. It was bad; just plain bad. The acting sucked. The dialogue was horrendous. The plot-what plot? It was confusing and weak. And it WAS NOT made up for by explosions. There was a distinct lack of explosions or really much action at all in this movie. It was like, trying to be intellectual or something. I don’t know. Dragon Wars is a better movie than this. I kid you not.

Biggest Let-Down Movie of the Year:

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Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Time Travel, An original story line? I thought this movie was going to be awesome. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, this movie didn’t make a lot of sense. At one point time loops and paradoxes are brushed off and said to be too complicated to deal with. Unfortunately this whole movie hinges on several paradoxes.  So when you really, REALLY think about it, things just start to fall apart. And it’s really unfortunate, because world wise and movie wise this was a pretty fun movie. It had so much potential, but just didn’t follow through. The ending was just…confusing. I don’t know. It had a lot of issues.  I need to watch it again to really go through them.

So that was my year, 2012 in books and movies. Sorry I didn’t post in my blog at all in 2013, but this year I’ll do better.

Spirit of the Holidays vs. Spirit of Capitalism

So Christmas is over and the holiday season is coming to a close.  I just wanted to post some thoughts on Christmas and giving and Capitalism. I came across an old essay I wrote for my History of Capitalism class and it got me thinking about some things. Yesterday I was shopping in the Christmas clearance aisle at Target and it just brought it all back to me about how commercialized Christmas is.

I love Christmas. It’s never been my favorite Holiday, but I really like it. However, as an adult who works, not a student with a Christmas break, it’s harder to get into the Christmas Spirit. One thing that has changed though, is that now I have money and I absolutely LOVE getting everyone in my family a gift. This year I was able to give gifts to a lot of people and choosing the gifts and seeing them opened and appreciated made Christmas a lot of fun. I started buying Nathan’s gifts in November, because I couldn’t wait any longer, I was so excited. I have always tried to give gifts, but in the past, I have given little homemade gifts. I am not saying anything against homemade gifts, but it is definitely more fun to get things people want but can’t get themselves for Christmas. Especially because I don’t make a lot of time for myself to make homemade gifts. I told Nathan that I wanted to crochet us a tree skirt for our tree next year. Good luck to me.

One year, my family was low on money, so we made a big deal about everyone doing homemade gifts for everyone else. It was a lot of fun and very moving. Taking the money and the neediness and the commercial hunger out of Christmas was really great. It was one of the best Christmases. The next year, we tried to do the same thing, but it didn’t really work out the same way. Not everyone was able to give gifts and there was no Christmas cereal, so it was a sad Christmas. Was it sad because there weren’t enough gifts? I don’t know.

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A Letter to the Late David Eddings

Re: The Dreamers Series

Dear David Eddings,

I have some things to say to you. I know you are dead, which is kind of sad, but at least it prevents you from adding anything else to your Body of Works, which did seem to go downhill as the years passed. Perhaps you will read this from beyond, who knows?

I would first like to say that I love you. I have loved your books since the moment I first read Pawn of Prophecy. I completely absorbed everything Belgariad and Mallorean and loved it. And let’s just take a moment to talk about Silk. Can we say first fictional character crush?! Although, this is one of those times where reading comes in handy, because Silk in (psuedo) reality is a middle-aged man with a face like a Rat. He’s so wonderful though. (I still love him.) And then I discovered that my journey wasn’t over. I read the Elenium and the Tamuli. I loved them even better than the first two series. I even fell in love with a new snarky thief and Talen was even closer to my age (although Silk will always reign supreme.) And Oh Kurik, dear Kurik. I cry every time. it’s one of the saddest moments in fiction.

And although book snobs who favor intellectual books with unhappy endings and adult themes because that is  ‘Oh So Vogue’  deride your books as childish and make fun of those who read them, You are easily one of my favorite authors. You have been since I was 14 years old and you will always hold a place in my heart. And with my favorite authors, I am something of a completionist collector of books. I must have every single book written by said author. (Some of my favorite authors make it very difficult, like Mercedes Lackey, who is quite proliferous, but I collected all of Patrick Rothfuss’ books just fine .)

So I have faithfully collected every single one of your published works even High Hunt and The Losers (I didn’t really like The Losers- too dark and I’ve yet to read High Hunt) but I must say- Your Later Works make it very hard to be a completionist collector. I am of course specifically referring to  your last “great” work The Dreamers series. You see, I recently moved and was trying to down-size my book collection somewhat. I was packing away all my David Eddings books and I fondly put away all the books in the Belgariad and the Mallorean, remembering which ones were my favorite (I’ve always liked King of the Murgos. Two Silks? How could it get any better?!) And then I came to The Dreamers books: Elder Gods, Treasured One, Crystal Gorge and the Younger Gods. I thought to myself ‘Why am I keeping these books?’ Is there any way I would EVER read these again?’

David Eddings, I think if you’re honest with yourself, you know the answer to that question.

The first two aren’t as bad, but the last two are really awful. I suffered through reading all four once. I just wanted to say I had read them and I was planning on giving a really in-depth review. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes and I never got around to writing that review. It’s been years since I read them, so you’ll have to accept my half-remembered thoughts.

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Farewell LiveJournal

I used to blog on LiveJournal. When I graduated high school in 2004, there was no such thing as facebook. Ok, you caught me. Facebook existed, just not as we know it today. Only people with a verified college email address or special invitation could join facebook. No one I knew was using facebook. This was back in the day when MySpace was still a big thing and everyone who was anyone chatted on AIM. Yahoo Messenger existed. Xanga was a hip blogging site. (I don’t even know what Xanga is.) And when you wanted to communicate with someone long distance, you sent them an email, not a facebook message.

In the fall of 2004, I started community college and missed my high school friends. I somehow stumbled upon a neat little site called LiveJournal. I don’t know if I really understood the concept of a blog. Blogging today is a tool for social media marketing gurus, stay at home mom savants and people who want to get rich/famous quick. LiveJournal doesn’t really allow you to do those things; it is mostly a tool for people who want to write a journal, post it online, and share it with their friends without their parents seeing what they wrote. Stereotypically, it is a place where teenage girls rant about how horrible their lives are, then get together with all their friends and write fanfiction. (I was introduced to fanfiction through LJ, so maybe there’s some truth to that.)

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