"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Movie Review: A Week Away (2021)

 Hello, friends!

You must all think that I’m addicted to Netflix with how much I have been talking about movies and shows from it. I’m not, there is just a good reason for that! You will see later as you read on. Today I’m bringing you one of its original movies and talking about why it impacted me. It’s also the first movie that I’m reviewing that came out this year!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. This is spoiler free!

A Week Away (2021):
‘“This is weird.”
“It’s gonna be great!”’
While to Will Hawkins summer camp doesn’t sound like the blast they say it is it’s the last chance before he’s sent to juvenile hall. Having been in seven schools and twenty-two foster homes in the last six years, he doesn’t have much of a choice. But something happens that he didn’t expect: Aweegaway is a church camp. He decides to try to make this work by pretending to be someone completely different, someone who doesn’t have a record of stealing cars. His friend George knows everything about him and is able to be trusted. He decides to help George get over his shyness and talk to the girl he likes, Presley, while Will plans to get to know Presley’s friend Avery more. Everything seems to be great, but can this tangle of lies hold forever?
“Wait! You didn’t tell me this was church camp!”
: Musical, Romance, Drama.
Length: approx. 95 minutes.
Script: 10. No bad words that I detected!
“Wow. I feel like I should be offended but I’m actually just really impressed with your geographical skills. Like, did you just know that?”
Crew: Directed by: Roman White. Written by: Alan Powell, Kali Bailey, & Gabriel Vasquez.
Kevin Quinn as Will.
Bailee Madison as Avery.
Jahbril Cook as George.
Kat Conner Sterling as Presley.
Sherri Shepherd as Kristin.
David Koechner as David.
Iain Tucker as Sean.
‘“Wow. Is he for real?”
“Oh, he is very, very, real.”’
Adam Lower as Charlie.
Josh Rasile as Police Officer.
Amy Grant as Camp Counselor.
Steven Curtis Chapman as Lifeguard.
Costumes: 8. I see no problems with the outfits. It’s typical for what you see in the summer at a camp!
Cinematography: 8. It isn’t something wild and out there, but it fits and makes it seem realistic. The choreography is sometimes a little dramatic but very fun to watch! It’s a musical and what we all love to see, right?
Cinematography by:
James King.
Music: 9. I’m not screaming from the rooftops that this is my new favorite musical ever, but the music is fun! I like the blend of new songs with well known and loved ones. There is one scene that I can’t watch without crying because it mixes two songs and is so powerful. I wasn’t expecting it, but it uses one of my favorite songs and I was so happy because of it. I also really love “Good Enough” and “Place in This World”, which I’ll talk about more in a minute. Bailee Madison has a voice that seems like it would be absolutely perfect for country music, and I want to hear it, which is weird coming from me, someone who is known for disliking country music. It’s just so gentle and pretty! I like how "Best Thing Ever" wraps up all of the songs.
Music by:
New music written by Benjamin Backus, Cory Clark, Alan Powell, & Adam Watts. Featuring previously known songs written by Barry Blair, Steven Curtis Chapman, Andy Dodd, Amy Grant, Bob Herdman, Josh Kerr, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Will McGinniss, Geoff Moore, Richard Mullins, Jordan Reynolds, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Michael W. Smith, Mark Stuart, Brian Keith Thomas, & Tedd Tjornholm.
Notes: I love how loaded this is to movie references! George has a ton of posters that he has “defaced” with his name. In addition to that the Braveheart and Twilight comments made me laugh. Oh and “John Hughes me”. To me the best were the STAR WARS and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1989) connections!
: 8. I’ve only seen it twice, but the lines stuck around the second time for sure. There are a few times the lines are a little stiff, but for the most part it is natural! Not the most original but I can definitely picture people in real life saying it. How uncomfortable George is with telling lies is realistic and awkward, therefore hilarioius. It’s great!
“We’re a team! But, yes, as the leader I do appreciate the validation.”
Oscars won: N/A.
Content: 10. No content to report! It is a romance so there is a kiss but nothing wrong with that! There is nothing that I can think of that would go against any standards.
“Okay, we’re gonna have to work on this whole stalker vibe you’ve got going right now.”
Originality: 9. It’s very cute! I’ve seen a few films that are centered around summer camps, and while they have some things in common this definitely stands out from all of those. It is cute, refreshing, fun, and nostalgic all at the same time!
Good For:
Anyone who has been to a summer camp, anyone who doesn’t know where they belong, anyone who is struggling with faith.
Age Range: The main characters are all teenagers (and in the opening credits we see a student ID that says that Will is a freshman which is a stretch I think, but maybe that’s just because I know for sure that the actor is much older than that. Maybe more around the age of juniors) so that is relatable for people that age! At the same time it has music from the 90s so that could bring back memories for older viewers. Don’t discount younger viewers, too!
Overall Score: 8.5.
Worth watching?:
Based on how much I cried (I know, I’m surprised, too!), yes! I am glad that I gave it a go!
Will I watch again?: I will go more into the reasons in a minute, but I really dig it, so yes! I also want to make my older sister watch it even though she is dubious. Very dubious.

For the blogathon:
Stay with me as I explain, but this is my entry in Megan @ The Pen and the Cross and Sam @ Bookshire’s Catholic Blog Week!

I have been a Catholic my whole life (well...I guess there were those few months before I was Baptized, but other than that!) so I always enjoy getting a chance to talk about something related to that!

You must be wondering what is the reason that this, of all things, is my entry. It is all because it is set at a Christian summer camp and the church camp that I have gone to many years is my favorite place in the world. I want a chance to reminisce! While this movie isn’t specifically Catholic it doesn’t mention any specific denomination so I’m going to talk about what it meant to me as a Catholic.

Make sense? Awesome.

I could find some quibbles with this movie. Like how Will’s motivation wasn’t the strongest, and how it was weird that it was a romance set up because that’s just not what happens, or how Sean’s character was understandable but a little extreme...

But I’m not going to focus on that. I’m going to talk about the strange reasons why I like it so much.

My sister and I had seen this come on Netflix and decided to watch it, but I literally had no idea what it was about. Needless to say I was more surprised than I’ve ever been watching a movie with what the whole basis for it was. If you watch Will’s face the whole time through the song “The Great Adventure”, that was me exactly.

What hits so deeply with this movie is the nostalgia. It reminds me so much of the camp that I have gone to! My sister was sad watching it because it reminded her how were weren’t able to go last year, but in hindsight she liked it. Intense dodgeball competitions, face paint, talent shows, chants for your team are all things we did a lot. In the midst of that fun are beautiful moments like the one around the campfire.

“It’s just been so long since I’ve felt so...connected. Like I was part of something bigger.”

It has been so long since I felt that and this movie brought it back to me. For me as a Catholic my favorite parts of the camp that I’ve gone to is Mass. It is such a vital part of our tradition and one that is gorgeous. It is the only time I’ve experienced daily Mass and I would totally do it if I lived in a place where that was offered.

I could type out all of the song lyrics, but I’ll just show a few that hit me deeply this time around. One of my favorite parts of the movie was when Will was saying that Avery was perfect and she was fighting against that because she felt inside that it wasn’t true. That dialogue and scene was so real and raw, perfectly accompanied by the song “Place in This World”.

“Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world”

The first time I watched it I thought that “Good Enough” was a little cringy, but that is far from my feelings now. I love it! It is a constant question in my mind if I am good enough for everything in my life, and this song is really comforting and encouraging.

What they say about you only being “a week away” from an experience that changes your life is so true! Every time I’ve gone to camp it has without a doubt transformed my life. A funny occurrence with both times I’ve watched this movie is that I have stayed up really late then gotten up really early, but without a problem (well, that’s catching up with me now). While it isn’t everything, it shows how spiritual media can refresh your mind and heart in addition to other things. I’m always intrigued by faith stories and this one didn’t let me down.

While this isn’t my favorite movie ever, and probably isn’t even in the top 200, it meant a lot to me and I’m blessed to have seen it. Being Catholic is definitely my place in this world.

It is the last day of Catholic Blog Week, so even thought this post is already really long, I’m going to quickly answer the tag that Sam created!

Tag questions:
Exposition or Benediction?


I feel bad about this, but I have no idea what this means. From Sam’s answer, I’m guessing Benediction is what I usually experience, so I’m going with that.

Catholic books or Catholic media?

This tag is making me realize that I should look into these kind of things deeper. I don’t think that I’ve read that many Catholic books? I know that the office in my church is filled with books and I’ve always wanted to read all of them. When I was little I’d just stare at them and even when I was teaching classes I would peruse the shelves while the kids were filling out worksheets.

I’ll say Catholic media just because I have watched more videos and listened to more music than read books. But, don’t count me out that it could happen in the future! Any recommendations?

Dominicans, Benedictines, or Franciscans?

What about them? Which is my favorite? Which am I the most used to? Which would I join? There are so many ways to answer this question, ack!

Because St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi were fantastic I’ll go with the Franciscans with whatever way this was supposed to be answered.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?

Easiest question here. Actually, this is one of my favorite questions to ask people! You get such a fun range of answers. Except Mark. Mark is nice but others are better. Anyway, while I was studying for my Confirmation I got hooked on one and he has been my favorite ever since.

Can I get a round of applause for....Luke! The bible that I have points out how Luke was a Genteel so his gospel highlights stories of how Our Lord came for ALL OF US, not just the Jewish people. I really, really love it. Especially because he focuses the most of all the gospel writers on one of my favorites saints (in fact, some say the first saint...), St. Dismas!

Confession or Anointing?

Confession is the greatest gift, so that of course!

Morning or Evening Prayer?

To me morning prayer is more structured and evening prayer is more personal. I’m so used to doing evening prayer so I always love when I do morning prayer. It improves my whole day so much!

Pope St. John Paul II, or Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI?

Guys, I hate to admit it but I don’t know a lot about popes. So often people tell me who their favorite pope is and I always have to say Pope Francis because he’s the only one I can remember off the top of my head. I know I had heard of both, so I decided to skim through their Wikipedia pages to refresh my memory. I nearly cried reading St. John Paul II’s because it was so sweet so I chose him.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Vigil?

Good Friday is so solemn, but I love it. I remember when I was younger every year in my parish the kids would ask the priest (and it was usually a different person each year) why on earth it was called “Good” Friday when it was the worst day ever. One year it finally clicked and it has been my favorite of those three days since.

Christmas or Easter?

HARDEST. QUESTION. EVER. I love the pure joy and community about Christmas while I love the quiet ecstasy of Easter. You can’t make me chose. Please tell me in the comments all your favorite things about both holidays!

Lent or Advent?

Both are excellent when done with purpose which hasn’t happened for me the last few years. Lent is so somber but meaningful where Advent is so often just a frenzy. I pick Lent!

Hot Cross Buns or Lamb Cake?

Wait, is Lamb Cake a thing outside of my parish? I’ve never seen it anywhere else! I’ve
tried hot cross buns and while they weren’t terrible I could take them or leave them. Lamb Cake!

Daily Mass or Daily Adoration?

Speaking of camps, I’ve only been able to have daily Mass during the camp that I have gone to! It is absolutely incredible. I’ve never tried daily Adoration, but it sounds wonderful, too.

Baptism or Confirmation? (To witness)

I’ve only witnessed two Confirmation ceremonies, whereas I’ve seen more Baptisms than I can count, so it isn’t really fair. I would love to see more Confirmations! But, I also love the happiness that accompanies witnessing (and helping out at) a Baptism! I’m giving a lot of null answers, sorry!

Tolkien or Chesterton?

Seeing how I’ve still never read any Chesterton the default answer is Tolkien. Sorry!

Well, this is a wrap for me! A huge thanks to Megan and Sam for hosting this! Make sure you check out all of the other entries HERE and HERE.

My blogging schedule got a little messed up so this is my last post for the month, but I’ve got a lot planned for next month including somethings involving karaoke...

Talk to me! Has anyone else seen this movie? What is a movie that you’re surprised that you like so much? What do you think of my tag answers? Is anyone else’s favorite gospel writer Luke? Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Hello, movie fans!

Are any of you in the mood to talk about superhero movies? I always am, so today I am continuing my goal of reviewing as many Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films as I can in 2021!

Time sure moves quickly. While I wasn’t part of the fandom for the MCU yet, I remember when this movie came out. Now that was 6 years ago!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. This review is completely spoiler free for this film and for all others in the franchise. Because it is such a complicated “universe” of films and so much happens, I will be more vague with each coming review. I want you to experience all the twists and turns for yourself without worry that I’m telling you too much!

I’m here to help you get the best experience, so do as I say and not as I do. With so many movies there has to be a way to organize them, right? Well, there is! There are two ways in fact of watching. They are:
In the order which they were made:
Iron Man (2008)The Incredible Hulk (2008)Iron Man 2 (2010)Thor (2011)Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)The Avengers (2012)Iron Man 3 (2013)Thor: Dark World (2013)Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014)Avengers: The Age of Ultron (2015)Ant-Man (2015)Captain America: Civil War (2016)Dr. Strange (2016)Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)Thor: Ragnarok (2017)Black Panther (2018)Avengers: Infinity War (2018)Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)Captain Marvel (2019)Avengers: Endgame (2019), & Spider-man: Far From Home (2019).
Or chronological order:
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)Captain Marvel (2019), Iron Man (2008)Iron Man 2 (2010)Thor (2011)The Incredible Hulk (2008)The Avengers (2012)Iron Man 3 (2013)Thor: Dark World (2013)Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)Avengers: The Age of Ultron (2015)Ant-Man (2015)Captain America: Civil War (2016)Black Panther (2018)Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)Dr. Strange (2016)Thor: Ragnorok (2017)Avengers: Infinity War (2018)Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)Avengers: Endgame (2019), & Spider-man: Far From Home (2019).

If you have never seen a Marvel movie, then this one probably isn’t the best to start with. At the very least it is best to see The Avengers (2012) first, as this is the second on in that series. It isn’t vital, but nice addition to that to know some backstory from characters that I listed above. Enjoy!

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):
Based on: The Avengers comics - by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
“No matter who wins or loses, trouble always comes around.”
The Avengers have stepped into a rhythm of keeping the earth save. On one mission they run into a strange duo: a boy breaking the possibilities of speed and a girl who’s strange power puts foreboding thoughts into ones mind. Or are they visions of the future? Scared, one of the Avengers decides to build peace keeping technology that would work as a shield around the entire world, named Ultron. With something of that big a magnitude, something is likely to go wrong. This protector revolts, becoming a weapon with a mind of its own. The Avengers face a never before seen threat: a robot that can replicate itself, move around the globe in seconds, and wants to destroy the world instead of saving it. Ultron joins up with the super siblings and each Avenger has nightmares put in their heads from the girl and are now afraid of losing everything. How will they beat this trio in addition to the hundreds of new robots Ultron created? Will making a new piece of technology strengthen their chances or only weaken them?
‘“No way we all get through this...”
“I got no plans tomorrow night.”’
Superhero, Action, Science-Fiction.
Length: approx. 141 minutes.
Script: 7. There is an amount of swearing and name calling. But, I am a lot like Captain America who is always telling everyone not to swear. It backfires a few times which is funny. I appreciate the effort of course!
“Whoa ho ho! You kiss your mother with that mouth?”
Crew: Directed by: Josh Whedon. Written by: Josh Whedon.
I’m not going to tell you everyone who is starring in this movie because there are so many spoilers. I’ll only name a few and you’ll have to guess the rest by pictures and be surprised by others.
James Spader as Ultron. “It is fortunate because I am mighty.”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff.
Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S..
Linda Cardellini as Laura.
Claudia Kim as Helen Cho.
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue.
Idris Elba as Heimdall.
Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig.
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.
Costumes: 8. Average, I would say. Nothing bad and people have really cool costumes/suits that go with their capabilities as superheroes.
Cinematography: 8. I get a little annoyed with how much CGI there is, but that is a minor quibble when there are so many neat things! I especially like how the scenes with the Maximoffs are done.
Cinematography by: Ben Davis.
Music: 8. It has the classic Avengers theme, of course, which makes me very happy whenever I hear it. The rest seems more dramatic than dynamic, but that’s no a bad thing.
Music by: Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman.
Notes: A fun fact is that this is the second most expensive film ever made! The production cost clocked in around 365 million dollars.
9. No one can deny Marvel’s knack for amazing lines! There is so much I quote from this movie especially that I could write a whole post about everything that Clint ever says.
“You didn’t see that coming?”
Content: 7. There is violent fighting, with people getting hurt and killed. In addition to that there is one or two fairly suggestive lines. I didn’t appreciate one comment about “multiplying faster that a Catholic rabbit”, but that’s just me. Ultron feels like he is a “god” so there is a lot of discussion around that. It really depends on the day how I feel about that. Sometimes I feel that it’s well done when with others I think it’s overdone. It has great messages, I just want you guys to be aware of that stuff.
“You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed... walk it off.”
10. Fighting robots is classic sci-fi, but this took it up a level! I love the introduction of new characters as well as the simple camaraderie between the avengers. This movie is an excellent example of character driven stories! Everything is fueled by the characters. They make mistakes then try to fix them. It’s the human condition and it’s what I love to see!
Good For:
Anyone who loves characters with fantastic arcs, anyone who likes superhero movies, anyone who likes found families, anyone who loves stories where characters sacrifice a lot.
Age Range: This is PG-13 and I agree with that. It is very intense with the fighting, but I would actually say it isn’t as extreme as others because it is fighting against robots and not humans. This could be fine for kids younger than that because of how it’s all handled, though the machines themselves are terrifying. It all depends on the tolerability of the person watching.
Overall Score:
Worth watching?: Yes! These characters mean so much to me and this is a fabulous step in all of their arcs. It gives such a dark view of humanity from Ultron’s perspective but our brave heroes fight against it showing how much people matter. I love it! The first time I watched it I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth pulled and it was perfect to captivate me.
Will I watch again?: Yes, yes, yes! Watching Marvel movies is a big commitment because once you see one you want to watch all other 22, but regardless of knowing that I want to see this again soon. I always get something new out of it.
Bonus thoughts:
“Already tried the mind-control thing. Not a fan.”
This movie somehow takes something seemingly ridiculous and makes it a complex problem to solve. This is said to be one of the least liked films in the franchise, yet the majority of people I talk to about it love it. Why? Because you are so attached to the characters. Each has morals, goals, while fighting fears--even about themselves--and you want them to win so badly. Do they? You’ll have to find out for yourself. Granted, it took a twist with a character that no one was prepared for. Some people don't like it, and I don't blame them as I was surprised, but it's my favorite character so I can't bring myself to have any problems with it. In hindsight it was a brilliant addition!
I am a sucker for sacrifice for the sake of a cause or person, so this film has some of my favorite moments in the universe. It’s obviously not for everyone, but I would say it’s well worth a chance.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Tell me where you are on the spectrum of liking this movie? Let’s talk about all things Marvel! I have a lot of posts planned for the end of this month, participating in several blog parties, so stay tuned for that!


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Book Reviews Featuring World War II King Arthur Legends, A Boy Named Jinx, and a Skilled Dressmaker

Hello, there!

It is that time of the month for me to review books for your enjoyment! It is my goal to do this each month this year, and so far I have done well with reviews in January, FebruaryMarch, and April.

This month is special as May is one of my favorite times of the year, despite the lack of snow. While some of the other months had reviews for books that I wasn’t too fond of, today I’ll be reviewing some of my favorites from last year! Each and every one of these books is a masterpiece, giving me a full range of emotion and suspense with the brilliant characters and dynamic setting. I hope that these reviews encourage you to read this fabulous works!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. I promise you that all three of these reviews are spoiler free! The endings or any surprises won’t be spoiled on my watch.

Review #1:

The Metropolitans - by Carol Goodman:
In 1941 four kids come together when there is an attempted robbery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What was almost stolen was a page from the Kelmsbury Manuscript, a book of the legends of King Arthur. These kids are united in a common quest, each linked to a character from this strange book. But, not the whole book is there and with the help of the curator they need to find the rest of the pages which are hidden in the museum. When Pearl Harbor is bombed, people of the city turn against Kiku and all other Japanese people and things. Will Madge, Walt, and Joe stand with her? Each have their doubts as connection to this book draws them closer to their biggest fears. Can New York be saved with their help?
‘The one thing she did know was that if the great wide world could come busting into HER life, then she could darn well bust into the world.’
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction. Middle Grade Fiction. Young Adult. Is there a genre for the best books ever? If there is, then this would be in it.
Characters: 10!! These characters were the most magnificent thing that I have read in a long time. They are all so distinct, and DIVERSE, and from the moment I met each one of them I knew their hopes and dreams. It was because of them that I could barely stand to put this book down!
My favorites: (in no specific order other than alphabetical because how can I pick favorites from our four heroes?)
Joe: A Native American boy on the run from the law and who can't remember his language. His insecurities are so well drawn. He has seen people hurt in the past so he knows anger, but he also is ashamed of hurting others. How his story rotated around language was amazing.
Kiku: A Japanese girl who has always been made fun of and wishes that people trusted her. She wants to earn the respect of her father, but he is so strict nothing she does is right. She is so happy to have found a home in her passion for art and doesn’t want that to go away because of her heritage.
Madge: A bossy Irish girl who has been stuck with responsibility her whole life. Madge is incredible. If you want a fantastic female character, look no further! I love how she takes charge because no one else is going to! Regret is a big word in her vocabulary based on her temper, and she wishes she could change things.
Walt: A German Jewish boy who wants to stand up to tyrants but is scared that the ones he loves will be hurt. My sweet precious scared boy. His fight with cowardice makes my heart ache for him because I have been there. He just wants to keep his friends and family safe!
You can see from my descriptions how this is such a hard time for all of them. But, what I’ve said is just the tip of the iceberg for each of them. They are phenomenal and you need them all in your life this instant.
‘When people treated you like vermin, you began to feel like vermin.’
Words/Writing style: 10! No bad words and on top of that the writing is jaw-dropping. I feel like I always use that word to describe prose, but I can’t find anything that fits better! With third person past tense you are so seamlessly put into the minds and hearts of each of the characters. I love how we get to see what is happening from each of their point of views. The prologue is a little confusing and disconnected, but it is important and will make sense very soon.
World building/Setting: 10! I’ve never been to New York (or 1941 because I don’t have a time machine readily available), but this book put me in the midst of everything perfectly. I felt like I was breathing the same air as all of them. In the museum, in train stations, in their homes, in the park, all of it was natural. I read this around Peal Harbor day without knowing that was a factor and I FELT all of turmoil happening in New York City. From the mentions of the clothing they wore to the candy and tea they ate and drank. The tea was Barry’s for anyone interested. Good choice as I’ve been drinking that my whole life.
The magic is so beautifully woven in! I could talk about it for ages, but I’m going to make you read the book to discover how it works.
Quotability: 10. The lines in this book are to die for! I wanted to write everything down. This category is a little trippy when it comes to books because the fact of the matter is that I don’t usually quote books. I loved it so much I’m giving it 10 anyway.
‘“Why, you’re children!” he said, ruffing the top of his head as if trying to activate the brain cells inside.’
Content: 9. There are some deep subjects here, but they are handled so well! Early on we have descriptions of someone committing suicide, but it is horrible and not saying it is a good thing by any means. There are racist comments against Kiku and her father, but that is shown to be bad! Mentions of abuse, fighting, injury, and death. There is one suggestive comment, mentions of body parts on statues, and talk about underclothing.
‘He clenched his hands, remembering the impact of knuckles on flesh. It had felt good---and then it had felt bad. And the bad feeling had lasted longer than the good.’
Originality: 10! This might be the most original plot in any book I’ve read! But that might just be me obsessing over it. I love how much Ms. Goodman used the King Arthur legends! It is stunning and keeps you on your toes. I guessed one element, but that wasn’t a bad thing, just good foreshadowing.
Good For: families, friends, anyone who loves historical fantasy, anyone struggling with “fitting in” or having courage or trying not to forget ones past.
Age Range: The characters are all 13, I believe, but you don’t have to be that age to read this. I think this is categorized as Middle Grade Fiction. It might be a little intense for super young readers, but it is so clean. It has no trouble captivating an older audience (like myself) as well!
Overall Score: 10!!!!
Worth reading?: Don’t doubt it! Of course it was. These characters and their struggles have stuck with me months after finishing it.
Will I read again?: Yes! I want to so badly! I have a bunch of required reading that I have to read, but I want to visit again. My younger sister introduced this to me and now I’m trying to get my older sister to give it a go. All of this is making me want to read it again!
Bonus thoughts:
“...How can we vanquish evil if we don’t help each other?”
The Metropolitans is really awesome and gripping from the start. A good book! Nay, a grand book. Nay, a great book! Nay, the best book! It is amazing X a million. I am struggling to convey the excellence of this book in the right words. The characters have amazing backgrounds that are never left out. They all of strengths and weaknesses and we see them used so well. They’re broken little babies trying to save New York!
If you can’t tell, I love it and recommend it 100%!

Review #2:

Moon Over Manifest - by Clare Vanderpool:
Abilene is sent to live in her father’s hometown for the summer. A rundown old place, it is murmuring with memories of the past. Ever since Abilene hurt herself, her father has been distant from her. Feeling like she is losing him, she is determined to find out what his childhood was like. While staying in the same place her father lived in she finds a box of letters, from someone named Ned to someone named Jinx. Through them and the stories the diviner, Miss Sadie, tells her, she begins to see what the town was like in its former glory. It is disappointing though, because no one will talk about her father no matter how she prompts them. She wants to spend more time in the past, but maybe some secrets are carried into the present. Most importantly, is there still a spy lurking in the shadows?
‘Memories were like sunshine. They warmed you up and left a pleasant glow, but you couldn’t hold them.’
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Mystery.
Characters: 10. More amazing characters! We have a big cast here, but they all of quirks that make them unique and recognizable. This town is full of a colorful crowd if I've ever read one.
My favorites:
Abilene: This girl. I love her so much. She’s always lived on the road and been ready to move on, so she doesn’t trust people easily. She’s figured out the world and the people in it: all except her father. She’s so sure that she knows what a person will be like based on her types that she’s established. Also, her name, Abilene Tucker, is gorgeous. Probably one of my new favorite fictional names.
‘Mind you, I don’t really say y’all, but it’s usually best to try to sound a bit like the folks whose town you’re moving into.’
Jinx: His conflict was spot on. He was afraid of being not needed or wanted and just being nothing but trouble. The hijinks that he and Ned get into are so great!
Ned: Ned was just an utter sweetheart! He made me smile anytime he was mentioned. He was brave, kind, and gracious. He doesn’t know his past in a town chockfull of everyone who has a distinct tradition to follow.
Lettie and Ruthanne: These cousins were great. They were so gracious and easygoing, down for anything that Abilene was up to. Their spooky stories heightened the mystery as they had an inside scoop on the town already.
The Preacher: I can’t for the life of me remember his name and it’s driving me crazy. I am very ashamed. If anyone can help me with this, please do! Anyway. His quiet presence is so mysterious and comforting and the same time. I love how the town looks to him for answers and he usually has a good one.
Words/Writing style: 10. The first person tense from Abilene was so great. In addition to that, the way things were told from Jinx and Ned’s perspectives through letters and Miss Sadie added touches that set everything off so nicely. Sometimes in stories with dual timelines I want to read more about one than the other. 1917 on the verge of war was just as fascinating as a dusty and boring (according to Abilene) 1936.
‘But as anyone worth his salt knows, it’s best to get a look at a place before it gets a look at you.’
Setting: 10. The setting of a sleepy little town in Kansas fits the story to a bill. The descriptions unfold so well that you can just see the town! It was vivid in my mind. The town itself is almost a character and you can distinctly feel the differences through the years. It is so rich in culture, too! Manifest is home to people from all over the world and it is striking to read about.
Quotability: 10. Why do I even have this when it is impossible to rate?? I don’t have anyone to understand the quotes! I’m giving it a 10 all the same. The lines were so carefree yet had a hidden wisdom to them. I adored the writing so much!
‘A typewriter sat on a cluttered desk, its keys splayed open with some scattered on the desk like it tried to spell explosion and the explosion happened.’
Awards: 4: Newbery Medal (2011), Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction (2011), Society of Midland Authors Award Nominee for Children's Fiction (2011), Premio El Templo de las Mil Puertas for Mejor novela extranjera independiente (2011).
Content: 9. The Ku Klux Klan is in some parts but it is shown as being a terrible organization and nothing about it is justified. Nothing really happens with them, but I still appreciated that we didn’t shy away from it being a real thing. With World War I creeping up we have some descriptions of the fighting and losses it held, but it isn’t gory. There was quite a bit about the making and selling of alcohol illegally. Usually that would’ve bothered me, but since I am not interested in it at all and it fit what was happening in the story, I didn’t mind so much.
Originality: 10! Like the rest of the book, it was stellar in the creativity. I was getting a slight To Kill a Mockingbird vibe, but that was maybe just because Abilene calls her dad by his first name, Gideon, like Scout does for Atticus. Talk about respect and dignity for nations might also be a contributing factor for why my brain is making that correlation. (Wow, my vocabulary is going crazy on me today, haha!)
Good For: historical fiction fans, families, anyone who has moved to a new place, people interested in the time periods.
Age Range: Abilene is in some kind of middle school, I think, so she is relatable to that age. Don’t be fooled into thinking it can only be read for kids! This is an excellent book for all ages.
Overall Score: 10!
Worth reading?: Without a doubt the answer is yes. The mysteries in the town of Manifest are bewitching and capture your attention. I grew to love all of the characters more than I can say in a short period of time.
Will I read again?: Again, without a doubt! I had to read this really quickly for a challenge which wasn’t a problem because it was so fascinating, but I am looking forward to reading it again slowly and absorbing all of the details thoroughly.
Bonus thoughts:
This is an absolutely gorgeous book. It is about discovering the past and through that oneself. The foreshadowing was some of the best I’ve read, because you could see where something were going yet still utterly destroyed when they actually happened. I sat in my room sobbing for this book. Which I’m not sorry to admit, I just was surprised because I wasn’t expecting it at all.
Do you get the gist yet? (Shout out to Sam for convincing me to read it!)

Review #3:

Prairie Lotus - by Linda Sue Park:
While Hanna is sad about leaving her home in California, she is bravely ready for live in the frontier. Her father is opening a dress shop and Hanna’s dream is to make clothing for the store, but her father doesn’t think she is responsible enough. It is her passion as her mother taught her to sew and she loves it. Things could be good here. That is except for a problem that shouldn’t be one: Hanna is half-Asian. People out here are just as judgmental on how she looks as they were at home. Will that be a problem when she wants to go to school? How will she convince her father that she is ready?
‘A brand-new town, equal measures of promise and uncertainty, like the thin April sunshine in which it stood.’
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction.
Characters: 9. There aren't that many, but all the more time for our star to shine!
My favorites:
Hanna: While some were understandably one-dimensional, Hanna was far from that! I related to her in so many ways. Our personalities are quite similar. I have never dealt with how people treat her, but Hanna faces it with so much courage! All in all, I want to be Hanna when I grow up. I’ve never been fond of sewing, but her enthusiasm for it made me want to make something!
‘You stop thinking about yourself. That’s where the sadness is, inside you. You look outside instead. At other people. You do things for other people, it fills you with good feelings, less room for the bad ones.'
I can’t for the life of me remember anyone else’s name, but there were a plethora of interesting characters. Fear for the unknown rules a lot of their lives which is scary, but realistic. My additional favorites were a man who was helping Hanna and her father, as well as a boy Hanna’s age and his little sister. They were precious!
Words/Writing style: 10. If I were to describe this writing in one word it would be graceful. You are pulled so gently through the story it is very relaxing.
Setting: 10. Life on the prairie with Asian elements intricately mixed in as well as respect for Native Americans? *chef’s kiss*
Quotability: 9. Hanna has some great lines of encouragement and motivation for when she gets down. They should be my motto, too!
‘It seemed to Hanna that there were always a hundred reasons for disliking people and not nearly as many for liking them.’
Awards: So far nominated for: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Children's Literature (2021)
Content: 10. There is a lot of bias against Hanna but that is shown in a negative light. Someone bumps into and grabs someone harshly causing some harm, but again it is shown as undesirable behavior.
‘Cruelty was painful. Thoughtlessness was merely exhausting.’
Originality: 10. This book is not fast paced. It is slow and steady which, to me, is one of its endearing qualities. It took a setting that so many of us are familiar with in books and movies, and somehow made it REAL. Everything that happens feels like it could’ve actually happened. Not too much happens, but what does is so realistic. I totally dug something so relaxing yet thought provoking.
Good For: Families, fans of the setting and historical fiction, anyone who has had to move, EVERYONE.
Age Range: If my memory serves me correctly, Hanna is about 14. I think it would be excellent for younger kids with the way it handles everything so well. And, it is something that adults need right now, too. Maybe even for a whole family!
Overall Score: 10!
Worth reading?: It is a new favorite, so the answer is yes.
Will I read again?: Of all these reviews today, this was the one that I read the longest time ago so I definitely want to read it again. Maybe someday with a friend to discuss the simple wonder of this artwork.
Bonus thoughts:
This is an ideal book for anytime, but especially now when hate is flying. The message of this book is KINDNESS. Hanna has such a pure heart and soul doing the best for people even though they are prejudiced against her. This is a message that needs to live forever and Linda Sue Park beautifully did that.
“For the person who is sour, do something sweet.”

It wasn’t until I finished it just now that I realized that all of these books are historical fiction. I guess you guys know what I read a lot of in 2020! These books were, respectively, my 2nd, 4th, and 5th favorites that I read in 2020. I’m thrilled that I got to review them for you today!

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these? If not, you are missing out and need to fix this immediately! What are some of your favorite historical fiction books? Any with a magical twist? Tell me one that incorporates a legend of some kind. What about some books that promote kindness above everything? Or a book that takes place in two different time periods? I truly hope that you all enjoy these books as much as I did!


Sunday, May 16, 2021

TV Series Review: Julie and the Phantoms: Season 1

 Hello, hello, hello!

Today is the 16th of the month, so you know what that means: time to talk about Julie and the Phantoms! You might be saying, “But wait, MC, you’ve reviewed all of the episodes. Why are you still talking about it?”

Well, you might’ve thought I would be done with this show by now. You assumed incorrectly. Since this is my favorite show and I am patiently waiting for a season two I’m just going to keep talking about it here on my blog. Soon you will all be convinced to watch this Netflix show!

Today is just a short post to wrap up season 1 in a spoiler free review. If you’ve already read my reviews for all of the episodes of season 1 then this is saying the same thing: Go watch it! If you are looking for specifics on anything then go to the individual reviews.


My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. This season wrap up won’t give anyway any surprises that happen in this season. You get to discover them yourself!

Julie and the Phantoms: Season 1 (2020):
Based on: the Brazilian show, Julie e os Fantasmas (2011-2012).
Julie is still dealing with the loss of her mom when she meets three ghosts. They used to be in a band together and Julie is the only one who can see them. Can they all become part of each other’s lives connected through music?
Favorite episode: 7: “Edge of Great”!
Genres: Family, Drama, Musical, and touches of Fantasy.
Crew: Directed by: Kenny Ortega, Paul Becker, Kristin Hanggi, & Kabir Akhtar. Written by: Dan Cross, David Hoge, Nora Sullivan, & Leilani Downer, based on the series by Paula Knudsen. With Tiago Mello, Fabio Danesi, Leah Keith, Sean W. Cunningham, & Marc Dworkin.
Madison Reyes as Julie.
Charlie Gillespie as Luke.
Owen Patrick Joyner as Alex.
Jeremy Shada as Reggie.
Jadah Marie as Flynn.
Savannah Lee May as Carrie Wilson.
Booboo Stewart as Willie.
Sonny Bustamante as Carlos Molina.
Carlos Ponce as Ray Molina.
Cheyenne Jackson as Caleb Covington.
Sacha Carlson as Nick.
And others!
Cinematography by: Jon Joffin.
Music by: David Lawrence, Vincent Alfieri, Jillian Allen, David Amber, Joleen Belle, Erin Bowman, Doug Davis, Ali Dee, Alana DeFonseca, Charlie Gillespie, Kay Hanley, Hanna Jones, Jack Kugell, Michelle Lewis, Tova Litvin, Andy Love, Anthony Mirabella, Susan Paroff, Dan Petty, James K. Petrie, Anne Preven, Madison Reyes, Doug Rockwell, Jodie Shihadeh, Nikki Sorrentino, Joachim Svare, Jakub Vanyo, & Matt Wong.
Script: 9.5. A few times a name in vain is used, but muttered.
Costumes: 9. They are so unique!
Cinematography: 9.
Music: 10!!!!! I will never get tired of bopping out to the soundtrack! Once you’ve seen the show I recommend listening to the songs as much as possible.
Favorite song: “Edge of Great”.
Quotability: 9. A brilliant script that has great lines to say over and over again!
Content: 9.5. They deal with serious topics here, like grief and death, and handle it so well! Characters go through physical pain. A character is homosexual and everything is super clean and well done concerning him. There are ghosts (which is to be expected based on the title) and everything about them is well explained. Can we talk about high quality? Because you can’t get much better than this!
Originality: 10! It isn’t like anything else and every episode is important and gripping.
Overall Score: 9.5!
Good For: Anyone who loves music, anyone who has lost someone, families, friends, anyone looking for a good show.
Age Range: It is rated TV-G but that is not because it is just for kids! It is not boring in any way, shape, or form! It is perfect for all ages being outstanding in every aspect.
Worth watching?: 100%. This show is now such a part of my life that I can’t imagine not being utterly enthralled with it. My life of stories would be real low, zero, without it.
Will I watch again?: I actually currently am for the fourth time. It just gets better and better!
Bonus thoughts:
Guys, I have poured out my heart in these posts telling you how much I adore this show. Is it going to stop anytime soon? Nope, not a chance. These characters are so HUMAN and real and going through problems of their own yet find strength in each other. This show takes you on a journey with all of them and I love being there every step of the way. There is motivation and inspiration more than anything else I’ve seen. The music performances are fantastic with the cast playing their own instruments. It is fun and lively while being serious and suspenseful. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to everyone for reading! Does any of this just sound like I’m rehashing things I’ve already said? It all feels new to me anyway. When do you think I’ll convince you, dear readers, to watch? Those of you who have already seen it, tell me all of your favorites and anything else! Hopes for season 2?


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Movie Review: 17 Again (2009)

 Hi, everyone!

What would happen if you could go back in your life and change something that happened? We’ve all wondered that and today I am reviewing a movie that discusses just that. The first time I saw this was on the eve of a friend’s 18th birthday so it was fun to reminisce about 17 while thinking about moving on to new things.

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. This is spoiler free!

17 Again (2009):
Mike O’Donnell’s life as he knew it came to a halt when he gave up everything to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Now years later they are separating. His kids hate him, work isn’t going well, and he just wishes that he had made a different decision: to keep playing basketball. He gets his wish, magically becoming 17 again. Now he is the same age as his kids and has to go to the same school as them to play basketball, with his friend Ned posing as his dad. He learns that while he has been fighting with their mom, his kids, Maggie and Alex, have been going through a lot. Can he help them avoid the bullies and pressure of peers while fulfilling his dream?
“Seems to me you guys want to live in the past.”
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy.
Length: approx. 101 minutes.
Script: 6. There are some times when names are used in vain as well as a lot of name calling. There are many inappropriate comments, but I’ll cover that more in the content section.
“Just don’t try to be funny.”
Crew: Directed by: Burr Steers. Written by: Jason Filardi.
Zac Efron as young Mike O'Donnell. 
“Okay, maybe it’s about me.”
Matthew Perry as adult Mike O'Donnell.
Leslie Mann as adult Scarlet.
Allison Miller as young Scarlet.
Thomas Lennon as adult Ned Gold.
Tyler Steelman as young Ned Gold.
Michelle Trachtenberg as Maggie.
Sterling Knight as Alex.
Hunter Parrish as Stan.
Adam Gregory as Dom.
Mario Cassem as Samir.
Katerina Graham as Jamie.
Tiya Sircar as Samantha.
Melissa Ordway as Lauren.
Melora Hardin as Principal Jane Masterson.
Brian Doyle-Murray as Janitor.
Josie Loren as Nicole.
Jim Gaffigan as Coach Murphy.
Collette Wolfe as Wendy.
Tommy Dewey as Roger.
Diana Maria Riva as Judge.
7. People aren’t wearing shirts a few times. They talk about the trends of clothing which is quite amusing.
Cinematography: 7. It was interesting how they made the switch from old to young, but other than that it is the same as most movies.
Cinematography by: Tim Suhrstedt.
: 6. It doesn’t really have a score to speak of, but there are lots of songs in the background that make up the soundtrack. They were okay, but not something I would listen to everyday. While writing this post I was listening to it and kept skipping songs.
Music by: Rolfe Kent.
Notes: There are lots of references to STAR WARS. In addition to that there are comments containing spoilers about The Lord of the Rings, so just be careful. My little sister hasn’t read those books but I don’t think she noticed.
While I was watching it I sensed that there was something off. It turned out to be a plot hole! I am good at spotting them. It says that Mike is 37 when everything starts happening. That means that 20 years have passed since he stepped out of basketball to be a father to his baby. That would mean that his daughter should be 19 or 20. WRONG. She is 17 or 18! Plot hole, ta da! He should be 34 when the story starts and have 17 years taken away to make him 17. Scarlet said 18 years, so despite everything is he only 34 or 35? Anyway, there is confusion.
: 6. The lines weren’t bad, but I just haven’t ever had the need to quote it. I know, this is such a subjective category!
“Welcome to the bottom of the food chain.”
Content: 6. Guys, I’m really conflicted on how to rate it here. It deals with some heavy stuff, but done really well. Bullying, divorce, and waiting until marriage for things, all excellently handled. It shows why it is so important to wait until you are ready to have a family because the love that you feel for your children is so special and unlike anything else. Loved that! At the same time, it contradicts it. Quite a few times. Usually with older characters *cough*NED*cough*. I didn’t approve of that because it gave the whole movie a gritty feeling that took away from the important messages. I am not amused by this kind of humor. It has really suggestive comments and some circumstances. Some inappropriate comments are called out, but others are let slide. It has lots of unnecessary mentions of body parts and gross things. “Teenager” things like partying with some drinking. Can you see my dilemma here with rating it? I’m going to stick with a 6.
9. This gets a high score because of the different messages! The concept is a well known one, which they pulled off well. It reminds me (and this isn’t a bad thing!) of What Lola Wants (1958) (more commonly known by a different name involving Yankees) which by default reminds me of Slam Dunk Ernest (1995). Also It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) in some weird ways? Oh, and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), but maybe only because it is a teen movie.
Good For: Anyone wishing to redo the past.
Age Range: This is rated PG-13 and for good reason because of all the things that I just told you about it. I agree with that. It depends on person, though, as I would probably no have been down for it until at least 15. But, it is good for high schoolers who might be going through the same thing. It is still applicable for anyone older than that, though!
Overall Score: 6.5.
Worth watching?: Yeah, it was! I highly enjoy the messages and resolutions.
Will I watch again?: You know what, I think I will. Talking about it here has made me want to check it out again!
Bonus thoughts:
I think I mostly wrapped up my thoughts throughout, but there are a few things I want to mention. I really like Zac Efron’s acting here! He is so believable as a 37 year old guy just in a younger body. He had so much wisdom to impart and matured a lot, too. If you’re looking to expand your collection on movies about teens then this isn’t a bad place to start.

Thanks for reading everyone! What was it like for you to be 17? If you’re not that old then what are you looking forward to about that age? What is your favorite movie about teens? What about a good movie about changing the past?

Have a good evening, friends!


Sunday, May 9, 2021

An EPIC High Stakes and Daring Deeds Would You Rather Tag!

 Hello, everyone, and happy mother’s day!

In case you didn’t know it, I’m here to tell you that Heidi at Along the Brandywine has been hosting an Epic Story Month which started April 5th and is still going until May 14th. How awesome is that? I already reviewed my favorite epic movie Willow (1988), but I’m here now to fill out the tag that Heidi put together!

Would you rather...:

1) …fight a dragon or a giant?

Dragons are friends, not foes. Look at how cute they are!
It’s better to just befriend the dragon than even try to fight because this could happen which would be extremely unpleasant.
I’m rather tall so I could hoist my own against a giant. All that really matters is leverage. I could go with so many different tactics...Yeah, I’ll be fine. I choose the giant.

2) …time travel back to ancient Egypt or go to Mars?

I already know more about ancient Egypt than I would ever want to know. You guys don’t understand, I know almost everything about it. My sisters and I got very tired of that. It is on this planet, but space sounds fun. Let’s go with Mars!

3) …explore a deep dark cave or a long lost, underwater city?

Caves have snakes and all kinds of other weird creatures, so no.
I love water, so count me in for the trek into the depths! Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) was a favorite movie that my sisters and I watched over and over again so I am totally down for that.

4) …be a court jester or lead a wagon train?

Court jesters kind of live in fear of their lives because any wrong move and they could be killed off. All the same, I’d rather do that than have the pressure of leading people to a destination through the wilds. If Danny Kaye can fake it then so can I.

5) …eat a meal with hobbits or Master Tumnus?

Is there even any question?
I just spent a whole post telling you why I love Narnia so much, so that is the obvious answer.

6) …walk through an enchanted mirror or jump into a pool leading into another world?

Guys, you don’t know how hard a decision this is. I LOVE mirrors and going through one for any reason is an awesome concept, but a pool leading into another world? Both sound awesome. I want them both.

I guess it is more common to have a mirror that might be enchanted, so I wouldn’t want to pass that up. Final choice, the mirror.

7) …live in a castle or a house in the treetops?

Castles are fine and dandy, but I’ve wanted to live in the Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse since I first saw that film many a year back. They have so many inventions that are just epic. So I’ll stay in my house in the treetops and wish you luck on trying to get a palace of some kind.

8) …go over a waterfall in a barrel or climb Mt. Everest?

Walking isn’t really my think as much as being near the water. I will definitely choose the waterfall!

9) …ride a buffalo or be a cannoneer in a sea battle?

I am an expert on buffalo. I’ve had them wander down the street. Trust me, you don’t want to get anywhere near them. While being near a battle sounds less than inviting, I can at least do it with some hope of success. I’ll lose my hearing being so close to those big booms but at least I’ll not have all of my bones smashed.

10) Bonus question: you’re caught by the Bad Guys and tied up to a chair when a fire erupts at your feet (long story ;)). Do you break the ropes and tumble out the window, yell for help, or hop your chair across the room to take refuge in the cold fireplace/chimney corner?

I’m the one who started the fire so of course I have an escape plan. I have a knife or gizmo in the heel of my boot that I can pop off and aid me and Artie in our escape. Because you can bet that I’m filling in for Jim West on this mission.

Bet you that Jim just shot a grappling hook from that gun. That's his favorite thing to do with it.

Thanks to Heidi for hosting! Check out the other entries HERE. There is still ample time to join in the fun if you want to!

Readers, thanks for making it to the end! What do you think of my answers? How would you escape from being tied in a chair when there is fire? Anyone else have trouble on whether to choose a mirror or magic pool? Did you get any of my references? Are there any you didn’t get?

Again, happy mother’s day!

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles