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Velox's Blog



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Top Ten Books of 2014

Posted by Velox , in Literature, Other, Reviews Jan 09 2015 · 178 views

And now for my favorite top ten list—books! So this was a really great year for me, reading-wise, as I (somehow) managed to more than double the amount of books I read in 2013 for a total of 121 books. Granted, a lot of those were graphic novels or other short books, but still. And so picking a top ten was hard as I had about 40 books that I rated 5 stars. So I’ve grouped some together and also made separate lists for novels and graphic novels.

Note: These lists are for books I’ve read in 2014, and has nothing to do with release dates. Unfortunately I only read a couple 2014 releases or so (though I am currently reading The Martian, by Andy Weir, which came out in 2014 and is great so far)

Top Ten Novels of 2014

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book is long and dense, but definitely worth it.
  • The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was expecting to not like this as much, as it’s always been described as basically “a history book of the elves” and, well, I always hated reading history books for school (history is fascinating, but the textbooks on it less so). =P And yes, it is a history of the elves, but written exceedingly well (I mean, it is Tolkien) and not text-book-y. This book was just so interesting, and I really look forward to re-reading it someday.
  • Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and Fortunately, the Milk, all by Neil Gaiman. So sort of cheating here, but every single one of his books is absolutely fantastic, and I read all of these this year. My favorite is probably The Graveyard Book, but as I said, each was amazing. Gaiman is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. I’d heard so much about this, and it really lived up to all the hype. To put simply, it was really beautifully written, and simply reading each word was just as enjoyable as the plot and characters.
  • Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. Butcher is another favorite author of mine, and the Dresden Files is one of my all-time favorite series. They seem to just keep getting better and better, and Skin Game was no different.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. Can’t wait to read the prequel book, The Ring of Solomon, as this was one of the best series/trilogies I’ve read. The footnotes by Bartimaeus were hilarious.
  • A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. Well, of course. This series is fantastic, and I finally got around to reading the latest novel early last year. Can’t wait for Winds of Winter.
  • Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman. This was just an incredibly interesting read, focusing on the dreams of Einstein as he’s forming his theory of relativity. Really brilliant, not only being fascinating in itself, but also making you think and ponder about it.
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Hilarious and exceedingly fun. Highly recommended to any fan of the film.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite Sherlock Holmes “book” (counting each collection of short stories as well as the four novels as individual books), as it contains the most of my favorite stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia”, “The Red-Headed League”, and “The Speckled Band”, plus I enjoyed all the others.
Honorable Mentions: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle; Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card; and The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

~ :: ~


I’m really saddened it’s taken me so long to read a lot of these, but I really only got into graphic novels and comics fairly recently (basically at the beginning of 2014 when I read Hush and fell in love with them—I’d only read a few here and there before), unfortunately. Better late than never, I suppose.

Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2014

  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore. Without a doubt the best graphic novel I’ve read, and one of the best books I’ve read period.
  • The Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman. There’s a reason this series is so highly praised, and that’s because it’s fantastic. Tied for my two favorite books would be Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, and Vol. 4: Season of Mists, followed closely by Vol. 7: Brief Lives because of how hilarious and fun-to-read Delirium is. I've been buying the single issues of Overture (with the Dave McKean covers ^^), but haven't read them yet as I was hoping they'd get on a more regular release schedule first, but it looks like that may not happen...so I'll probably just start reading them soon.
  • The New 52 Batman, by Scott Snyder (this being The Court of Owls, The City of Owls, Death of the Family, Zero Year – Secret City, and Zero Year – Dark City, all of which I read this year). I’ve rated every one 5 stars, as Snyder really is an amazing writer and is doing such a great job with Batman. Can’t wait to see how Endgame plays out.
  • Batman: Hush, by Jeph Loeb. Just such a great stand-alone Batman story, and it's the one that got me really interested in comics in general. Can't wait to read The Long Halloween, also by Loeb.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison. First off, the art for this, by Dave McKean, is absolutely amazing, and fits the story perfectly. The story itself is fantastically dark and creepy.
  • Deadpool: The Complete Collection – Volume 1, by Daniel Way. Just a blast. I recently picked up the other three volumes of Daniel Way’s run, and can’t wait to read them. Deadpool really is a hilarious character (can’t wait for the film, especially if it’s anything like that leaked clip, as that’s very close to the Deadpool in Way’s comics).
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction. It's really fun to see Hawkeye in a non-Avengers setting, and just what his day-to-day life is like--great character.
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker. Captain America is my second favorite superhero (after Batman), and this run was a great read.
  • Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid. What was fascinating about this was how all the Justice League members were old, and it was great seeing them have to come back.
  • V for Vendetta and Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore. Moore really is the master of comics, and while not as good as Watchmen in my opinion, still two fantastic books.
Honorable Mentions: Batman: The Black Mirror, by Scott Snyder; Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller; and Green Arrow—Year One, by Andy Diggle.

Also shout-out to Wytches, by Scott Snyder, and Rocket Raccoon, by Scottie Young, both of which are currently in-progress but absolutely fantastic and would’ve made it on the top ten list otherwise.


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Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Posted by Velox , in Other Jan 03 2015 · 182 views

So after writing up my favorite films of 2014, I thought I'd make a list of the films I'm most excited for this year.

Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2015

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens. By far, the film I’m most excited for, no question. The trailer was fantastic, and I love how JJ Abrams captured the look of the original trilogy, while it’s still recognizably Abrams. Cannot wait.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron. Not much needs to be said. I loved the first Avengers (and most of Marvel’s films overall), it’s Joss Whedon again, and the trailer was one of the best trailers I’ve seen.
  • American Sniper. This just looks very emotionally powerful. I’ve loved the trailers I’ve seen, and it’s Clint Eastwood. I'm hoping it becomes the next Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down.
  • The Hateful Eight. Quentin Tarantino. Another Western. What more needs to be said?
  • The Martian. I can only be (cautiously) hopeful for this film. It’s got Ridley Scott (who, while maybe not directing as great of things recently, has directed masterpieces like Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Alien, etc.); Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matt Damon, and others as the cast; and Drew Goddard writing. Plus, the novel sounds amazing, and is the #1 most anticipated book for me to read in 2015—I ordered it from B&N a little while ago, and just can't wait (which will of course also affect my anticipation of the film, depending on how much I like it).
  • Untitled Cold War Thriller by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg and Hanks team up again for a Cold War spy thriller? Count me in.
  • Jurassic World. This could be amazing. Or it could be less so. But I'm hoping it's amazing, and I enjoyed the trailer (though I wish there was less CGI).
  • Crimson Peak. I mean, it’s Guillermo del Toro. And Tom Hiddleston/Jessica Chastain. Not a huge horror person, but this looks really good.
  • Ant-Man. It’s Marvel. They’ve proven themselves, and while this had a few missteps (losing Edgar Wright, etc.), I’m still excited for it.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road. Before the trailer, this wouldn’t’ve been on my list at all, even as an honorable mention. But that trailer blew me away, and this just looks epic. Plus, I love Tom Hardy.

Honorable Mentions (no particular order):
  • Silence, by Martin Scorsese (this would probably be much higher on the list if there were a trailer or anything, but since it’s Scorsese, it should be good);
  • Spectre, by Sam Mendes (honestly the thing that I'm most excited about for this is that it has Andrew Scott);
  • Tomorrowland, by Brad Bird (trailer was great, and I'm a fan of Bird);
  • Inside Out, by Pete Doctor (hey, it's Pixar, and the trailers look good--I'm also a little excited for their dinosaur film);
  • Kingsman: Secret Service, by Matthew Vaughn (the trailers have me sold on this, plus Vaughn is a good director);
  • The Walk, by Robert Zemeckis (trailer was pretty good, Zemeckis+Gordon-Levitt...);
  • Chappie, by Neill Blomkamp;
  • Pan, by Joe Wright (besides Hugh Jackman, probably the reason I want to see this most is apparently the screenwriter is also going to write the upcoming Wonder Woman film, and I haven't seen anything he's written yet);
  • Midnight Special, by Jeff Nichols (loved Mud);
  • Fantastic Four, by Josh Trank (kind of? I'm just hoping it's good);
  • Mission: Impossible 5, by Christopher McQuarrie;
  • Peanuts, by Steve Martino (just out of a small hope it'll live up to some of the original strips/films);
  • Mockingjay Part 2, by Francis Lawrence (I suppose. I need to see Part 1 first though);
  • Jupiter Ascending, by The Wachowskis (tbh I'm not that excited for it, but there's always the chance it could be just as good as the original Matrix);
  • Terminator: Genisys, by Alan Taylor.
And there's my top 25 picks. Anyone else excited for some of these?

(I think I'm actually more excited for 2016 haha…Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Civil War, Dr. Strange, Deadpool, probably a new Nolan film [as he’s been doing one every other year], a Star Wars standalone film, X-Men Apocalypse, A Monster Calls, Jungle Book: Origins, maybe the upcoming Sandman film…)


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Top Ten Films of 2014

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other Jan 02 2015 · 158 views

*blows dust off blog* This might be the first year I've seen over 10 films that came out this year... So here's my favorite picks.


Top Ten Films of 2014

  • Interstellar. This is by far my favorite film of 2014, and IMO the best-made this year, too (that I've seen). This was an incredibly long film that didn’t feel long to me, and that’s really the best thing. Matthew McConaughey was great, Jessica Chastain was great, Mackenzie Foy was amazing...actually I really enjoyed pretty much all of the actors/actresses. I loved the score. Loved all the practical effects/real locations/lack of CGI (obviously there was some, and the black hole/worm hole looked amazing, but yeah--glad it was only used when necessary, and no green screen). Seeing this in 70mm IMAX at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was amazing (I had seen it in just a regular theater before, and so glad I saw it again in IMAX). And for the first time it made me incredibly interested in reading a science book (The Science of Interstellar, by Kip Thorne), which I got for Christmas. It also just vitalized my interest in Science Fiction and astrophysics in general.
  • Captain America: the Winter Soldier. This is by far the most re-watchable film for me this year. It just never gets old or any less enjoyable, which is just really to the credit of the writers/directors—it holds up under multiple watches. And not only is it an absolutely fantastic comic book film, I just think it’s an amazing film in general (also Sebastian Stan is awesome).
  • Gone Girl. I mean, it’s David Fincher—I knew that at the very least, it couldn’t be too bad. =P But the end result was something that I thought was great, harkening back to some of his older films like Se7en or Zodiac. I was not the biggest fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and never saw Social Network or Benjamin Button (though House of Cards has been pretty great), but I really enjoyed this. I also really enjoyed Ben Affleck (for the first time as an actor, honestly--I really liked The Town, but I wans't a huge fan of Affleck in that film [never saw Argo]--makes me excited to see him as Batman). Great book, too.
  • Fury. This made me actually like Shia LeBeouf, which I never thought I would. And for that reason alone this was a great film. =P But overall I just really enjoyed it, and it makes me even more excited for Suicide Squad, since David Ayer is directing that too.
  • The Imitation Game. I was very pleasantly surprised with this. I mean, it had Benedict Cumberbatch, so I was expecting it to be pretty great, but I didn't think it would be quite as enjoyable as it was. Really well-done.
  • The LEGO Movie. The film itself says it the best: everything is awesome. Especially LEGO Batman.
  • Snowpiercer. This was awesome. I really had no idea what to expect, but with Chris Evans at the lead role I was interested, and certainly not disappointed. Wouldn't have watched it if it wasn't on Netflix, so I'm really glad it was.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy. Yeah, this was just a really, really fun film. I don’t at all think this is the “modern Star Wars” as some people are calling it, but it is a great film and very enjoyable.
  • Days of Future Past. This might be above GotG, but I haven’t seen it since it came out so I can’t quite remember. But that Quicksilver scene was amazing.
  • Maleficent. Another film I was pleasantly surprised about. I liked it. Not amazing, but it was enjoyable.
Runner-Up: Big Hero 6 (actually probably tied with Maleficent...I guess I'm thinking "which film do I want to see a second time more?" and that's Maleficent right now. But Big Hero 6 is probably the better film)

Other films I’ve seen: Battle of the Five Armies (sigh. Best part of the film was Billy Boyd's "The Last Goodbye" at the end =P), The Amazing Spider-man 2 (sigh), Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition.

Films I really want to see: Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Nightcrawler, Birdman, In Your Eyes (it’s on Netflix so I’ll be watching it really soon, and written by Joss Whedon so that's exciting), The Babadook, Locke, John Wick, Into the Woods, Exodus: Gods and Kings (sort of? I mean, it is Ridley Scott and Christian Bale but…I haven’t heard great things about it), The Giver, The Equalizer, The Theory of Everything, and Mockingjay Part 1.

And because I don't think it warrants a separate blog entry... Favorite TV Shows this year:
  • Person of Interest
  • Sherlock
  • Arrow
  • True Detective
  • Justified
  • The Flash
  • 24: Live Another Day
  • House of Cards
  • Game of Thrones
  • Constantine
Shows I want to see: Fargo, The Walking Dead (only watched the first episode of season 4), The Strain, probably some others...


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Of Space, Wheels, and Watches

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other, Literature Aug 08 2014 · 157 views
GotG, Wheel of Time and 3 more...
There’s been a lot of great things in just this first week of August. First, of course, starting with August 1st: Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh man was it amazing.

Though, as much fun and as beautifully made as Guardians is, I do think The Winter Soldier is still the better film, overall. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d consider TWS to be the best-made film so far, above even The Avengers (I’d have to watch them again, but from what I can remember, at least, it really is amazingly written). That being said, Avengers is still my favorite film, as I think it was simultaneously the most fun and most well-made of the lot, but TWS is an amazing film, as is Guardians. And Guardians is certainly the most fun film so far of the franchise (the only other film coming close would be Avengers, which while I think is still the better film overall, is not quite as fun. Close, but not quite).

So basically, other than saying that Avengers is currently my favorite film, and the best-made film overall is TWS, and the most fun film is Guardians, it’s hard for me to rank the three besides to say that those three films are definitely the best films of the franchise so far, IMO (and my favorites—then again, if we’re talking favorites, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the first Iron Man, or The First Avenger. But I’d still put Avengers, Guardians, and TWS above those two, I think).

What that all boils down to is that Marvel Studios is amazing (particularly this year—two of the three best films so far in the same year), and I simply cannot wait for Age of Ultron. I’m less excited for Ant-Man, but I am still eager to see that too. Especially because I heard Kevin Feige say how it was “their heist movie” which sounds great, depending on how it’s done.

(and seriously, I need dancing Groot. Best part of the film. =P)


But again in the topic of Space, this week I had a Superman film marathon:

I recently picked up the Superman: 5-film Collection from Amazon, because . . . heck, it was only $10, and I had never seen any of the Christopher Reeve films, nor Superman Returns, and I’ve been meaning and wanting to for a long time. Plus, the included versions were the extended edition of the first film and the Richard Donner cut of the second, which are the versions I wanted to see first anyway (eventually I hope to go back and watch the theatrical versions of both, though).

Anyway, as expected, the first two Reeve films were good, while the second two were . . . not so good. =P And I really enjoyed Superman Returns, personally, but it really must be viewed as a sequel of sorts to the first two Reeve films, as many of its faults would be that it does not stand alone and tries so much to be like the Reeve films (and the first half is certainly better than the second, but still—overall, I really enjoyed it, probably as much as the first two Reeve films, and more at times). But it was simply great finally seeing these films, and the best-made films or not, they were still great superhero fun.

I finished the marathon out with re-watching Man of Steel, because I couldn’t resist since I had already watched so much Superman, I figured I may as well watch all the Superman films I had. It’s my personal favorite of the six films, but there are certainly places where the Reeve films (and Returns) are better. Plus, I don’t have any nostalgia toward the Reeve films, and I’m excited for the prospect of a DC Cinematic Universe, so those two things definitely weigh the balance in favor of MoS for. Still, overall some great films in all, and the marathon was quite fun.


On the subject of Wheels (though actually just one wheel, that being the Wheel of Time), I finally read The Eye of the World, the first book in the incredibly long series, by Robert Jordan. It took a little while, but overall was fairly enjoyable.

Comparing to LotR or ASoIaF, it’s certainly not nearly as good (not to say those two are equals either, though—IMO LotR is high above ASoIaF, but to each his own—I do absolutely love them both and oh my gosh I cannot wait for The Winds of Winter. I'm literally checking Google all the time to see if a release date has been announced, even though I know it probably hasn't), but I know it’s not completely fair to compare them. Then again, it did have a lot of similarities to LotR, which ended up hurting it rather than helping it.

But it still wasn’t bad by any means. In fact, it was pretty good overall, and I do look forward to reading the next book and, eventually, the whole series (assuming it keeps being at least fairly good).

The main thing for me was that none of the characters were really interesting enough to stand on their own, which I didn’t realize until they got split up at one point. Lan and Moiraine are the two most interesting of the group (and Elyas, though he has a lot more potential that wasn't used, and he wasn’t in there enough), but they don’t really get all that much page-time, especially when the group is separated. Rand should be interesting, as he’s the main character, but . . . he’s not, really, or at least not until he’s with a large group.

But again, it was interesting enough and enjoyable enough to still be a good book, and I will be looking to pick up the next in the series (probably whenever I can find it at a used bookstore). And I'm extremely glad I finally read it, as I've had this book sitting around for so long while always saying "I'm definitely going to get to it soon!" . . . and then never doing so. But I promised myself I'd read it this summer, and while I was planning to read it in June, at least I still got to it. =P


And lastly, Watches. As with TEotW, I finally got around to reading Watchmen, by Alan Moore. I saw the movie for the first time a couple years ago or so, and a couple more times since then, but I hadn’t read the graphic novel until now, though I've really been meaning to. (I then re-watched the film last night after finishing the book as I wanted to compare/contrast/etc. As often with adaptations . . . the book is definitely better =P But I do enjoy the film)

It’s really one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve ever read, graphic novel or prose. For example, even just a (seemingly) simple question such as Who is the most "good" character? arouses many questions and thoughts. There are just so many questions and considerations for each character—is what they do right, or necessary, or both, or neither? Or is any character all that good?

Of course there’s many answers and points of view on all those questions, and I’m not really sure about my opinion on the answers, either. But that really is, to me, one of the greatest and most enjoyable aspects about this graphic novel—how much it really makes you think and question the characters and their actions. It’s incredibly dark, grim, and depressing, but it allows for a lot of reflection. I can’t say who’s the most moral character or even if there is one, and I don’t know the answer to a myriad other questions the graphic novel brought up either, but I do know one thing: I’ll certainly be thinking about this book for a long, long time. =P Which is really the greatest thing ever and something I love so much when books do that to you.

Favorite Quote: Ever since I first saw the film (heck, even the trailer), I’ve always loved this line:

“[. . .] will look up and shout, ‘save us!’ . . . And I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no’.”

But upon reading the graphic novel, one quote that particularly stood out to me that hadn’t in the several times I had seen the movie was:

“No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.”

It's weird saying it since it's just on paper, but really the "delivery" of that line (the surrounding events, the character, when/how it's said, etc.) is what made it stand out. But speaking of, can I just say how much I love Jackie Earle Haley in the film? He really does a fantastic job with Rorschach—another of my favorite performed-lines being “None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with me!” But honestly every single line of his is just delivered so well.

But there's really just so many thought-provoking lines throughout the whole novel, it's awesome. I have to say, definitely the best graphic novel I've read so far.


Anyway, that basically does it for my first week of August so far. =P I’ve read so many great books (a bunch of great graphic novels, a bunch of great childrens books, bunch of Neil Gaiman and Conan Doyle and others. . .) and seen so many great films this year so far (CA:TWS, GotG, LEGO movie, Frozen [didn’t see it until this past February or so], Maleficent, Days of Future Past, etc. . . .). Will maybe do another blog entry on those later, but it's been a great year so far.

Currently reading: The Princess Bride (again, as seems to be a trend with books I’m reading recently . . . finally!). My sister bought me the new beautifully-illustrated hardcover edition for my birthday recently, so this seemed as perfect time as any to finally get around to reading it. Great and hilarious so far, as expected (just finished chapter 4). And I just have to say: thank God shrieking tarantulas aren’t real. Spiders are scary enough as they are. =P


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Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

Posted by Velox , in Literature, Other, Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday Jan 11 2014 · 208 views
books, reading, top ten, 2013
This year is definitely the best year book-wise for me. I don’t rate many novels five stars on Goodreads—I try to save that rating for only books that are the best of the best, and as such, I end up rating most books only 4 stars, even if they may be more of 9/10 or 9.5/10, instead of 5. But this year, every single book on this list was a 5-star book, more than I’ve ever had before. But I can still rank them fairly easily (much more easily than the top ten film list), so here it goes.
 

Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

 
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m ashamed and saddened that I hadn’t read this until this past summer. Though, I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. I definitely started reading Fellowship a couple times, and I feel like I may have gotten farther than that once, but I simply can’t remember. I do know that I was read the trilogy as a young kid, but I don’t count that as reading either (nor do I remember it). So either way, since I don’t remember how much I read, I consider this my first read. And it was amazing—definitely a book I’ll be reading many times. The last two pages of “A Siege of Gondor” are honestly my two favorite pages I have ever read—so beautifully and chillingly written. Not that I expected any different from Tolkien, but still. I loved this book, and it’s definitely my favorite book I read this year.
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I really wish I could say this was my favorite book this year, because this book was so amazing to read, but then I read LotR over the summer. =P This book is so fascinating, though. If I had to describe it in one word, I’d probably say “magical”—because that’s really what it is. This book, more than any I have ever read, really takes me away from the real world to become immersed in the world she creates with the circus. This novel isn’t fast-paced by any means. It does have a lot of descriptions, but the descriptions are such a joy to read that, to me, it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t compare the writing style to Tolkien, but they are similar in that they both have a lot of description, and do so incredibly well (though differently). This book, more than most, made me want to ignore so many things in order to just stay absorbed in the world of the circus. Highly recommended.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. I read this book in a single day. It’s not long, so that’s not surprising, but still—I don’t think I even took a break, because of how engrossing this story was. To put it simply, this book is amazing. Gaiman has shown his brilliance time and again (and unfortunately I have not read nearly as much of him as I need to), but this book was particularly striking. From living in books (something I can definitely relate to), to nostalgia and reflection, all wrapped around an underlying fantasy setting, Gaiman portrays the hardship of life, remembering, relationships, discovery, vulnerability, and more in a truly wonderful short novel. Definitely recommended.
  • The Prestige, by Christopher Priest. After seeing the amazing film by Christopher Nolan, I knew I had to read the book. Sure, Nolan is my favorite director, but still—this film was simply amazing. And after reading The Night Circus, which also has magicians, I really knew I had to read this book, and began frantically looking for it at used bookstores. It’s definitely a lot different from the film, but that’s one of the things I loved—both were amazing, and neither spoiled the other, either. I honestly can’t decide which I like better, but the book was great, and one of my favorite books this year.
  • A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin. This whole series is fantastic, and each book is 5-star worthy. But this book in particular stands out, and for anyone who read it can probably relate. There were several different times where I practically ran to the computer to talk to GSR and/or Tolkien to talk to them over Skype about things that I had just read (in fact at one point Tolkien was just like “I’ll see you in 10 minutes” aaaand yeah. Intense stuff). There’s some content I don’t like, but overall Martin does an incredible job, and I cannot wait to read A Dance with Dragons.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Children’s books really can be the best sometimes. Harry Potter, Narnia, this, A Monster Calls, Holes, etc. There were so many clever phrases throughout, and a fun adventure with enjoyable characters. I may have read this a long time ago, too, but if so I don’t remember it, unfortunately. At least I finally read it this year, and it was fantastic.
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar. Yet another book I’m surprised I hadn’t read until this year (I must be one of the only people who didn’t read it in middle school, as my brother and sister did), but a very enjoyable one. I couldn't put it down, starting it one night and finishing it the next morning. Every character was round and unique, a hard thing to accomplish when you're dealing with so many, and the plot was fun and exciting. Overall, it was simply a very enjoyable, easy-to-read, and fun book. Highly recommended in case there's anyone else out there that hasn't read it. I'll definitely have to look into more of Sachar's work. Not a bad film, either.
  • S., by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst. This is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had reading a book. Reading the conversation between the two young people (like a play), reading each of the inserts, feeling like a part of the discovery—it really was just simply fun. Unfortunately, though, the book itself (“The Ship of Theseus”) was not as good as I had hoped. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t completely amazing, either. Perhaps I built it up too much, but in the end, I was left feeling slightly disappointed. That said, it was still a 5-star book for me, because of how fun it was to read, even if the novel itself may not have been 5-stars alone.
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. This was heartbreaking. Perhaps the best words for it would be from the New York Times Book Review: Powerful & haunting. Because it was definitely both of those. The Kite Runner made the reader care—left an impression in the reader. Haunted the reader with the reality depicted within. Horrible, heart-wrenching things happened, but they happened to characters you cared about. Characters you cared about did despicable things—but they realized they had done wrong. The Kite Runner opens your eyes to the world, the harshness of life, yet the beauty that remains even through that harshness. The good that still exists through the bad. The Kite Runner is a beautiful but haunting book. Not for the faint of heart, but an amazing book, worth reading, I think, at least once.
  • A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The first Sherlock Holmes novel I’ve read (I’ve read a lot of the short stories before), and it didn’t disappoint. I’m still planning to make my way through every single SH story, as I have a leather-bound Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, so I’m going to read them all in order, too. I had hoped to read the first set of short stories by now, but haven’t yet. Still, though, I look forward to doing so, as I loved this (and The Sign of Four so much).
 
Runner-Up: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Perhaps I liked this better than one of the last couple books (hard to decide…), but I already had a Gaiman book on here so I’ll just leave this as the runner-up. Still, it was really an amazing book, and even though I liked Ocean a lot more, I still loved this one, and would definitely read it again. I really look forward to reading more of Gaiman’s work.
 
 

Books I’m looking forward most to reading next year:

 
  • More Than This, by Patrick Ness (currently reading, actually—I started it and read over half of it yesterday).
  • A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. Been waiting for when I have some free time to read this—I’m hoping that’s this week.
  • 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, by various authors (including Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman, and Eoin Colfer). It’s Doctor Who and all these awesome authors. I’m hoping it lives up to all the hype I’m giving it.
  • Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. One of my favorite authors, and Harry Dresden is one of my all-time favorite characters.
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. My sister keeps saying how I have to read it, but more than that I just really want to, because of how much praise it’s gotten (and it sounds interesting). Plus, I need to read more great Sci-Fi. I’m also excited to read Hart’s Hope, because I love stand-alone fantasy books and I’ve heard this one is amazing.
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Just ordered this from Amazon, so I’ll probably be reading it soon.
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction. Thanks to the recommendation of Chocolate Frogs, I recently bought this from Amazon, too. I also hope to get Sandman, Vol. 1 soon, but I decided to get Hawkeye first because I really want to read a superhero graphic novel.
  • Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. I’m really excited to finally read some of her work, and I promised myself I’d read her first two before I read Gone Girl, which is the book I’m particularly excited to read, especially because David Fincher is directing the film based off of it.
  • The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly. I love Connelly’s work, and I haven’t read a thriller in a while. Plus, my hardback copy is signed, and somehow that makes me more excited to read the book.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling. I’m really excited to finally read this, as I love Rowling’s writing. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of The Casual Vacancy, I still really enjoyed the writing style, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she does with a mystery novel. Speaking of mystery novels, I’m also really looking forward to reading The Second Death, by Caleb Peiffer; and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Conan Doyle (the first set of short stories).
 


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Top Ten Films I Saw in 2013

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other Jan 08 2014 · 262 views

So, this list includes both 2013 releases and films that I saw for the first time in 2013, since I don’t think I’ve even seen 10 2013 films. Still, I saw a lot of new films that came out earlier, and I was really impressed with the films I did see that came out this year, so I decided to make just one list.
 

Top Ten Films I Saw for the First Time in 2013
 

  • Saving Mr. Banks, by John Lee Hancock. I’m really surprised this is #1 on my list, but I saw this right as 2013 closed and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s really one of the greater movies I’ve seen, and both hilarious and heartbreaking.
  • Following, by Christopher Nolan. Never saw this film until this year, unfortunately, but it really is an amazing movie. Especially considering the incredibly low budget. Will be talking more about why I loved it when I rank Nolan’s films soon.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, by Peter Jackson. I had some issues with this movie—more than An Unexpected Journey—but at the same time, the movie as a whole was fantastic, and I enjoyed it more than AUJ. I’ve had a review half-written for a while, so I’ll hopefully post that soon.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey—Extended Edition, by Peter Jackson. So I’m a sucker for Middle-Earth. But I did really enjoy this film.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness, by J.J. Abrams. I really enjoyed this, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Serenity, by Joss Whedon. I love this film, and it’s a great end to a great series that really shouldn’t’ve ended. If I were to rate the series as a whole, including this as a “final episode”, if you will, it’d be higher, but as a film on its own it was still pretty amazing. In fact, if I were to rate it completely separately from the series, it might be between 8-10 on this list, but because of the series and the characters that I had grown to love, it's hard for me to rate this film objectively and alone from the series. I do have to wonder how much less I would have enjoyed it if I had not seen the series first.
  • The Raven, by James McTeigue. This hasn’t gotten very high ratings, but I personally really, really enjoyed it. It’s a little hard for me to rank, so I’m just gonna leave it here before I change my mind again and put it under Catching Fire or Man of Steel (though it definitely wouldn’t be lower than Pacific Rim).
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, by Francis Lawrence. Quite impressed with this—makes me look forward to Mockingjay: Part 1. Not quite sure I agree with their decision to split it into two movies, though, but with the quality that Catching Fire gave, I’m hopeful.
  • Man of Steel, by Zack Snyder. So there’s definitely some issues with this film, but overall I really enjoyed it, and I’m not entirely sure it should be this low but eh. I am concerned about Batman vs. Superman, and I hope it can be better than MoS.
  • Pacific Rim, by Guillermo del Toro. Not a bad film, though not as good as I expected either. Still, it was definitely visually stunning, and giant robots fighting giant monsters? Count me in. I’ve had a half-written review of this done for a while now, too, so I’ll hopefully post that soon too. I may be forgetting some pre-2013 film I saw for the first time this year that was better than this, but I did enjoy this and it came out this year so eh.
Runner-Up: Olympus has Fallen. The only film that came out this year that’s not on this list, but it was close—this isn’t an amazing film by any means, but it gave me exactly what I expected and wanted from a film like this.
 
Worst film I saw this year: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
 
Films I haven’t seen that came out this year, but want to and would definitely have competed for a spot on this list: Iron Man 3, Thor 2, The Wolverine, The Great Gatsby, Frozen, Lone Survivor, Gravity, Ender’s Game, Escape Plan, The Book Thief…Yeah, I haven’t seen as many 2013 films as I would’ve liked, unfortunately (though then again, the only films I saw in theaters this year were Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit, Catching Fire, and Man of Steel, so I’ll see the rest of these eventually). I wonder how different this list would be if I just ranked the top ten 2013 films, including those. Anyway:
 

Top films I’m looking forward to next year (inspired by iBrow’s blog entry):

  • Interstellar, by Christopher Nolan. Nolan’s my favorite director, and as usual for his work, this film sounds amazing.
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier, by Anthony & Joe Russo. Captain America is probably my favorite superhero (tied with Batman), so I’m really looking forward to this.
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again, by Peter Jackson. Cannot wait to see the end of the trilogy.
  • Gone Girl, by David Fincher. Fincher is one of my favorite directors, and while I haven’t read the book yet (hopefully will soon), it sounds really good.
  • Mockingjay: Part 1, by Francis Lawrence. Catching Fire left me with high hopes.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past, by Bryan Singer.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, by James Gunn.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2, by Marc Webb. Wasn’t a huge fan of the first one, but the trailer for this one looks good.
  • Noah, by Darren Aronofsky. Looks like it may be really good, and it has some great actors in it (Watson, Crowe, Hopkins…).
  • Godzilla, by Gareth Edwards. Looks promising.
Next up: Books.


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Merry Christmas!

Posted by Velox , in BZPower, Other Dec 25 2013 · 227 views

Oops, guess I kinda forgot about posting here, plus I had finals and stuff...
 
Well anyway, just got home from Midnight Mass, and considering it's nearly 5AM, I just wanted to quickly wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. ^^ 
 
Hope everyone has an amazing day! :xmas: Christmas is most likely my favorite holiday--I just love this time of year!


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NaNoWriMo: Completed!

Posted by Velox , in Personal Writings, Other Nov 23 2013 · 172 views
Writing, NaNoWriMo, Doctor Who

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So I finished NaNoWriMo today. I got a little behind earlier this week, but then yesterday I wrote 5k, catching up and then some. And today, somehow, I managed to crank out over 9k (cue "it's over 9000!"), ending with 50,075 words a couple hours ago.
 
I'm still in a little bit of disbelief that I wrote that much today, and the fact that I finished NaNo at all. Last year I only got 22k, and this year I finished seven days before the end, so I'm definitely super excited about that. The story itself isn't quite finished, but almost. It's got about 72k words total now, and will probably be another 10k or so, which hopefully I can finish quickly--maybe even during November, continuing the spirit of NaNo.
 
Anyway, now it's time to watch Day of the Doctor! I've been ignoring it all day in lieu of writing. Somehow I've managed to stay away from spoilers so far.


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Platonish

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other Nov 14 2013 · 278 views
HIMYM, characterization, sit-coms

“Platonish”

And Why It Was Such a Great Episode

(some spoilers to follow) 

 
“Platonish,” season nine, episode nine of How I Met Your Mother, is my favorite episode in HIMYM’s recent history. Without a doubt it’s my favorite episode so far this season (and apparently I’m not alone in thinking that, either, as it’s the highest rated episode so far this season on IMDb), and it’s one of my favorites from the past couple seasons.
 
There’s been a few disappointing episodes the last couple seasons of HIMYM. Not that they were horrible by any means, but they weren’t—in my opinion—quite up to the quality that so many episodes have been in the past (and I definitely am not as disappointed with recent seasons as I know some people are—I’ve always enjoyed every single episode, even if occasionally not as much as others).
 
That changed last Monday. “Platonish” is really the epitome of why HIMYM is the great show that it is. It brought me back to past HIMYM episodes and seasons, and the reason why HIMYM is so amazing.
 
It brought many laughs, and it also brought me close to tears. Which is the thing I have always loved about HIMYM—it’s not always just about the comedy, but it’s about the story—their story. The comedy isn’t the most important part, it’s the characters. Which leads me to the next thing that was so great about this episode: the characterization.
 
HIMYM does such a great job of characterization—especially in past episodes/seasons—and I was so relieved and overjoyed to see that again in this episode (not that it was completely absent in recent episodes, but I felt at times it wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past). For the first time, we really get a great look into the character of The Mother. We know some of her awesome interests, we know how she gets along with Ted, we know some of the things she likes and hobbies she has…but we’ve never really known her—not until now. This episode shows us what an amazing person she is.
 
She does an amazing thing for Barney, and you can just see the level of her care for other human beings—he’s a complete stranger, and she could just go “get away from me, creep” or something to that effect (which would be totally justified, especially since she heard him call her a “target”), but she doesn’t. She decided to help him.
 
Which really just speaks volumes about her character. It’s easy to push people away who you think are weird or acting wrongly. It’s easy to just ignore someone and later talk behind their back about how troubling their actions may be or something like that. And that’s exactly what she could have done. She could have gone home to her boyfriend, tell him how she met someone that troubled her today (or even not mention him at all), and just go on with her life.
 
But she doesn’t. She doesn’t judge him or condemn him—she helps him. She sees that he’s having troubles, that he’s hurting, and she tells him what he desperately needed to hear, and you can see where he is now, in a large way due to her.
 
This is really where HIMYM differs from other sit-coms. It’s not just about crude jokes and bringing in laughs from the audience. It’s about the characters and their stories. And, on top of that, it’s (overall) a lighthearted show (it is, after all, a comedy), which makes it just simply fun to watch like a comedy should be. But it’s so much more than that, too.
 
And if that wasn’t enough this episode, we got Hammond Druthers back again. It’s no secret that Brian Cranston is an amazing actor—if you’ve seen just a single episode of Breaking Bad you know this—and he definitely doesn’t disappoint here. His character is always a great addition to the story, and in this episode particularly.
 
Now, at the end, Ted’s character is still basically where we left off, but I didn’t have an issue with that—it was mostly one big flashback, and this time it was mostly about Barney and The Mother, and it gave us so much of them.
 
Overall, I thought this episode was amazing. It wasn’t perfect—not at all—but it had some great moments, and it had, essentially, everything that makes HIMYM such a great show: funny moments, heartbreaking moments, serious moments, amazing characterization, and great guest stars. 


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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other Nov 11 2013 · 485 views

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Gallery of images here.

 
So Friday evening the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey came. That night I skipped NaNoWriMo and watched the film. Saturday and Sunday I watched the Appendices, and Sunday night I re-watched the film again. (Also quick note: this is the DVD version, so number of disks may differ between this and Blu-Ray/3D/etc.)
 
Man, I love this movie (original review here--my opinion hasn't changed all that much, though overall I think I actually like the film better than I did when I first saw it). Unfortunately I haven't seen it in about a year, because I didn't want to purchase the DVD until the extended edition came out. But it was definitely worth the wait! 
 
The extended/new scenes are great bonuses, just as they were in LOTR (I actually hadn't seen the theatrical versions of LOTR until after I had seen the extended editions about a billion times, and I always felt like so much was missing). It's perfectly understandable why these were not included in the theatrical version, but I'm so glad they were put in for the extended editions.
 
Of course, similar to the movie, if one is expecting the book of The Hobbit exactly, you'll be disappointed. But what I love about Peter Jackson's Hobbit is that he explores many details of Tolkien's world and tries to bridge the gap between The Hobbit and LOTR. Is it necessary? Not at all, or else Tolkien would have done it that way. But I do think it's incredibly fun and interesting to see things fleshed out more. I know the story of the book well, so it's just great to be able to see Jackson's adaptation, including the addition of things created by Tolkien and things Jackson and his team created--again, it is, after all, an adaptation, and in my mind, a great one. 
 
A brief breakdown of the extended scenes:
  • More of Erebor. You get to see a little more of Erebor and its wealth, as well as more tension between the Dwarves and the Elves--an offering of gems is made to King Thranduil, but taken away once he tries to take it. 
  • Slightly more of Smaug. Not much at all, and I didn't even notice this edition until I read it on another site, but you do see an extremely quick flash of his silhouetted body. Which, on that note, this is one thing that I never minded when seeing the movie--a lot of people wanted to see more of Smaug, but I actually liked this choice better. I definitely wanted to see more of Smaug because of how excited I was to see him, but in this scene, the unseen Smaug works better, in my opinion. But to each his own.
  • More of Hobbiton. This was one of my favorite additions--we get to see quite a bit more of Hobbiton (which is now permanently built into the hills in New Zealand--I definitely need to visit that before I die). We see a party much like Bilbo's birthday party in Fellowship but this time Bilbo is a child, and at one point hits Gandalf with a wooden sword, which is completely adorable. Later, you see Biblo walking through the marketplace in Hobbiton as he's shopping and trying to avoid Gandalf. I love Hobbiton, and having these scenes was great.
  • Probably more of the Dwarves in Bilbo's house. I couldn't tell you what they were, but the scene did feel slightly longer--perhaps just my imagination. 
  • A lot more of Rivendell. All very short scenes, but there's quite a few of them. There's more of the Dwarves eating, including one of my now-favorite scenes where Bofur stands up on the table (quite rudely) and starts singing a pub song (which is actually a song from The Fellowship of the Ring that Frodo sings, who says he learned it from Bilbo. I believe it's Jackson who explains in the Appendices that it's up to the viewer to decide if Bilbo learned it after Bofur sung it, or if Bilbo had taught it to Bofur before--I like both ideas, really). I just love songs like this, and hope to see more in the next two movies. You also see more of Bilbo exploring Rivendell (including looking at the image of Sauron fighting Isuldur behind the shards of Narsil that you see in Fellowship). You also hear Elrond and Gandalf discuss the quest, and the White Council scene is extended as well.
  • The Goblin King. This is quite possibly my favorite new scene, because the Great Goblin sings a song based on the text in the book. It really adds a bit to his (and the goblins as a whole) character, and on top of that it's just a really fun song. It's out of tune and very goblin-y and torture-filled, but I still loved it. "Down in the Deep of Goblin Town." There's various other small bits added to the goblin scenes, too. 
  • There may have been a little more of the pale orc, but I can't remember anything specifically. Probably a few other small scenes I missed. 
I'm really only disappointed with two things:
 
1. That the "Riddles in the Dark" were not extended. There's more in the book, and I completely understand only having the ones they did in the theatrical version, but I just wish more had been added in the extended edition. This was my single favorite scene of the whole movie (I mean seriously, Andy Serkis just did such a supurbly amazing and fantastic job--Martin Freeman, too), and I would love to have seen a longer version. Ah, well; and
 
2. I wish that the "Misty Mountains" song was extended. The song in the book is much longer, and I just absolutely love the melody in the movie. I wish they could have made it longer. 
 
 
One thing that I thought was a little funny was how the extended edition is kind of similar to the Fellowship extended editions. Both mark their half-way points (Disk 2) in Rivendell, both have the cast running from goblins in the second half of the film, both start with Hobbiton. . . . Not a bad thing at all, IMO, but yeah. 
 
Overall, I love the extended scenes in An Unexpected Journey, and I still love the movie as a whole. I still couldn't help to feel that some of the time the digital effects were a little much. I'm not sure exactly how to explain it, but LOTR just felt so real to me, and in The Hobbit, some things seem more obviously digital. Maybe it's just nostalgia or something, but yeah. 
 
The movie also seems to have a constant struggle between being a kid's movie and not. The movie is by far much darker than the book, which I didn't mind, but there's also moments that it seems so close to the feel of the book that it feels much more kid-ish. LOTR seemed to have a much more consistent tone throughout the movie. It had light-hearted (Hobbiton, for example) and comedic moments, yet those scenes didn't seem to change the overall tone at all as it sometimes did in The Hobbit
 
I also would have loved to have more focus on the dwarves individually. Viewing the Appendices, you can see just how much detail and depth they went into creating individual personalities for every dwarf, but I didn't feel like enough of that went into the film. Yeah, they're still more fleshed out than they were in the book overall, but just knowing how much work they put in to making each dwarf a singular character, it made me want even more for them to be more individualized. However, considering the sheer numbers, I do have to commend them for the job that they did, because that's an extremely hard thing to do. Doesn't mean I don't wish they could've been fleshed out slightly more, though, especially in the extended edition (which they were, but I wanted even more =P). 
 
I still wish the dwarves could've had their colored hoods and instruments, I still wish the troll scene could have been a little closer to the book (though I do like some of the changes they made), I still wish the stone giants were just in the distance (though this doesn't bother me too much at all), I still wish the tree scene at the end would've been different . . . but overall I do love the film, especially the extended edition. 
 
I have yet to watch the film commentaries, but I suspect I will soon enough--the Appendices, as I've said, were really great to watch, though.
 
Part 7 (which is actually two disks, instead of the usual one--parts 1-6 were covered in LOTR) is titled "A Long-Expected Journey" and covers a lot of pre-production; includes a great introduction where Jackson explains how the film came to be and how he came to be director once again; the actors' boot camp and various other training; the shooting of the film and the various sets; pick-up shooting; and more. 
 
Part 8, "Return to Middle-Earth" further details the development, design, and production of The Hobbit, and explores in-depth the background of the main characters and the casting for said characters. There's a section on creating the dwarves as a whole, and how Jackson wanted to do for the dwarves what Tolkien did for the elves, and really go in-depth to their past and history and life. It also shows the concepts, creation, and design of the various sets (both physical and digital), and lastly, there's a look at the songs of The Hobbit. 
 
The first disk of the movie also has "New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth" which is a cool look into the various places in NZ that were used for the film. 
 
I always loved watching the Appendices to LOTR, and The Hobbit was no different. I would definitely recommend this five-disk set--the extended edition of the film is amazing, and all the special features/appendices are just really great and interesting, too.
 
And now, back to NaNo. . . .
 
~ Velox






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