Month: December 2015

Best and Worst of 2015 of Everything

So we have almost reached the end of 2015 and what a crazy year it has been.  And is it just me or has this year felt incredibly long?  It feels like a million years ago I was recovering from my busted knee!

As I do every year I thought it would be fun to share with you my best and worst of the year in a bunch of categories.  I would love if you shared yours in the comment section.  Some of them I won’t have a worst because it doesn’t really qualify.

Best Book I Read

I loved The Martian but best book I read  was Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. 

Here is a hilarious novel about a girl who is overcoming a mental breakdown and has severe anxiety.  But it is also extremely funny with her family being much better written than any sitcom I’ve seen in a long time.  Particularly the battles between the Mother and Audrey’s brother Frank had me in stitches.  Kinsella has been a favorite author of mine for years but this was her first YA novel and she knocked it out of the park.  It was touching, sweet, handled the mental illness so well and yet was also made me laugh.  No easy task to balance but she did.

finding audreyWorst Book I Read

Me Before You is a book that really ticked me off.  It attempts to manipulate the viewer to agree with the selfish choices the character makes.  Even if I agreed with said choices I wouldn’t appreciate the way the author doesn’t give other viable emotional options and expects you to celebrate as empowering the taking of a life.  This is no Million Dollar Baby I will tell you that.  Plus, the dialogue is awful, the characters poorly developed and the situation not as deep and contemplative as it thinks it is.  I said in my review on goodreads ‘like a Nicholas Sparks book but not as competently written…’.  It’s very true.  It is definitely one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

me before youBest Movie

I already shared my best and worst videos, with you but I figured I needed to share it here.

My favorite movie of the year was Pixars Inside Out.  It blew me away to follow the journey of Joy and Riley as they try to accept all this change into their lives.  It’s moving, clever, funny, beautifully animated and just about perfect.

inside out5The worst movie I saw all year is called the Ridiculous 6, which is available on Netflix.  It is not only a stupid comedy but incredibly gross and offensive.  Plus it is 2 hours long!!  Kill me now.  You’ve been warned.

ridiculous 6-3Best New Restaurant

My favorite new place to eat is the Even Stevens sandwich shop that opened up in Draper.  I have had most of their menu and it is all delicious.  Plus, they donate ingredients for a sandwich to the hungry with each sandwich ordered.  My favorite is the Turkey Day but you can’t go wrong.  I’ve liked everything I have tried.  Great service there as well.

even stevens2

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Worst New Restaurant

It’s not new to the world but I’ve been to the new Dunkin Donuts 3 times and not been impressed.  The donuts are cold, dry and lacking in flavor.  I like my donuts light and fluffy in texture so I guess it is a personal preference thing but I don’t get the fuss.

dunkin donutsBest TV Show

It’s in its 2nd season but I started getting into Star Wars Rebels this year and have loved it.  I know it is designed for kids but the stories are good!  The characters are interesting and it’s fun to see a whole new non-Skywalker side of the Star Wars world.

rebels2Worst TV Show

I know people like it but I thought Blackish was awful.  I felt it took racial stereotypes and wallowed in them instead of doing anything interesting or funny.  Like why is it funny to have a Dad bother his son about playing field hockey? Thats not a black sport evidently but basketball is.  Come on?  The lead character father is so unlikable that I couldn’t get past it.

blackishBest Music

The best music of 2015 is definitely Adelle’s new album 25.  I’ve listened to it incessantly for the last month and find it haunting and beautiful.

adele2

My favorite song on the album is called When We Were Young:

I don’t have a worst song because I pretty much just listen to my downloads so it is all songs I like.

Best New Broadway Show-

I haven’t seen it but have loved listening to Hamilton just like everyone else.

I think that’s everything! What are your favorite books, movies, TV, music, food etc?  Share in the comment sections.  Thanks!

Teaser Tuesdays: Force Awakens Novelization

Yesterday I saw Star Wars Force Awakens for the 4th time, so you could say I liked it!  It’s the Star Wars movie we’ve all been waiting for.  It also didn’t explain everything that happened before the events of the movie; nor, did it hesitate to leave questions unanswered.  This weekend my friend Jeremy, Abby and I are going to be talking Force Awakens like we have the previous 6 films over on my youtube channel.  To prepare for that discussion I decided to read (or listen too) the novelization of the movie.  So far there isn’t a ton of new information but there are little details I’m getting out of it that I didn’t notice in the movie.  The book is written b Alan Dean Foster and if you liked Force Awakens I recommend reading it.  The audiobook is excellently done.

 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

force awakens novelizationAnyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Here’s my teaser from  of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 1 hr 10 min:

She tried to think of something else.  Something that had changed.  Something that seemed different- if only to keep her mind from atrophying.  But there was nothing. Nothing was different.  Nothing was new. On Jakku things never changed

I actually love that quote because I think it is a side of Rey we don’t get to see in the movie.  She’s restless and bored, and I got more tired in the movie.  That’s why reading these types of books are fun.  You get to relive a favorite movie while adding on new details only in the book.

My brother and I talk all about Force Awakens if you are curious for our review. I would love if you checked it out and gave it a thumbs up.  Share what you thought of the movie.

What are you reading right now? Anything you are anticipating in 2016?

I’d love to convince other readers to do the Tuesday Teasers because I am always looking for good book recommendations.  Give it a try!

Here is the link to our discussion video for Sunday if you want to join us.  If you have questions you’d like answered email them to me at smilingldsgirl@yahoo.com

https://plus.google.com/events/ca41hpkbo69ir9um8re68rmuv24

Most Anticipated Films of 2016

Here’s what I am most anticipating in the world of movies in 2016. What are you excited to see?

Rachel's Reviews

Hey guys!  2015 is quickly winding down for all of us and it has been a decent year for movies. There have been some great highs, which I talked about it in my best of the year post and some lows which I will be sharing in my worst of list on Tuesday.   I will also be posting my ranking of 2015 in animation this week after I have my google hangout video with Art from AtoZ Reviews on Wednesday.  If you guys want to participate in that discussion here is the link.  I’d love to have your feedback and insight. https://plus.google.com/events/cjaokemaobi5t77snk1rpgr1sg4

Moving on, 2016 looks like it could be a promising year for movies and while I don’t think we will get something on the level of Inside Out you never know.

I have compiled my 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2016.  I am sure some of these will…

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I Have a Wonderful Life

wonderful life2

Merry Christmas friends!  I’ve had a wonderful Christmas Eve.  I worked out with my trainer, did some boxing and then went to Cinemark Draper to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen- one of my all time favorite movies.  In the movie, George Bailey makes sacrifices for his friends over and over again. Life in return gives him many great moments but it also asks him to keep sacrificing  He finally reaches a breaking point where he can’t give another inch and is about to give up on life. It’s then that God intervenes, sends down Clarence and shows him what all that sacrificing meant to people.

Granted the life without George Bailey may be a little stark.  I for one have not saved anyone’s life or stopped someone from poisoning another person, so my ‘life without  me’ might not be a hell hole of debauchery and despair!  However, we have to also remember that they were dealing with a man about to kill himself so subtlety might not have worked.  I mean if they had shown him life being relatively the same that would be even more of a reason to jump off a bridge!

The thing that struck me today as I rewatched the film on Christmas Eve is how George was missing all the goodness given to him and focusing on the sacrifices. It was only when he stepped out of himself and saw things from another’s point of view he realized how precious not only his friends were but his life was as well. How easy is it to focus on the things you do not have, the trips you wish you could take, the spouse you wish you could have, the friends you wish you hung out with etc. Instead we should focus on the many things we do have in our life and the important role we all play to each other- even if it is not as dramatic as George Bailey and the citizens of Bedford Falls!

I guess I was thinking about this because I am alone on Christmas again.   I did spend Christmas Eve with my Grandma and other relatives and some of my family come to town on the 27th, but Christmas Day I am alone.  While it certainly wouldn’t be my choice, I am going to try and focus on the many people I have in my life and how good God has been to me this year.

In that spirit, I want to say thanks to all of you. I admit this year I have been a bit more divided between the two blogs and the youtube channel, but hopefully I’ve still provided good content to this blog.  I have certainly loved writing the more personal, eclectic entries here.  You all add so much to my life.  That’s not just lip service but true.  Thank you! I hope I add some small something to yours.

I hope you feel love this Christmas Day and know that ‘no man is a failure who has friends’- even online friends!

Merry Christmas and God bless you

no-man-is-a-failure

My Top 10 Christmas Carol Films

Merry Christmas! You all know I love Christmas Carol. On my movie blog and youtube channel I gave my top 10 Christmas Carol movies. Just thought I would share it with you.

Rachel's Reviews

Merry Christmas Eve you guys! I thought I would share with you all my top 10 favorite versions of Christmas Carol.

Of course if you followed Scrooge Month last year you know I love Christmas Carol.  It’s one of my favorite books and it’s hard to make a version I dislike (although not impossible.  I’m talking to you Ghost of Girlfriends Past).

What I love about Christmas Carol is the message of redemption, which is the true message of Christmas.  There are no lost causes and that is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  That is the lesson which Scrooge learns and I find it very moving.  In the end it is a message about hope and that’s what I want to see around the holidays. I write more of my thoughts of Christmas Carol in this blog post:

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2010/12/21/christmas-carol/

Anyway, my top 10 Christmas Carol Adaptations

a_christmas_carol_the_musical_advertisement10.

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Teaser Tuesdays: Christmas Carol

Friends of the blog know I have a bit of a Christmas Carol obsession.  Last year on my movie blog I did an entire month of watching 35 different versions of Christmas Carol. 54disneyreviews.com/scrooge-month/

Every year I make sure to go to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater Orem.  It makes the season for me and it is one of my favorite books, and I read it every year during the Christmas season.   Here’s another post I wrote all about Christmas Carol.

Why do I love it so much?  I guess I love stories of redemption and that nobody is a lost cause. It reminds me of what happens when we forget about Christ (or Christmas) and how we can find him again through the sacrifice of our friends.  It’s about looking at our past, present and future to change and grow.  It’s one of those stories that is almost impossible for me to not like- even Tori Spelling version I like! (But there are a few versions I don’t like.  I’m talking to you Ghost of Girlfriends Past!)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

christmas carol bookAnyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Here’s my teaser from  of Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens page 33:

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh.

I love that quote! What imagery and it is a small moment where Scrooge starts to notice things like laughter where he had missed it before (it is Fred’s laughter which he shunned earlier in the day). Reading this book again makes me want to finally tackle some of the more challenging Dickens like David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby. Have you read any of those?  What Dickens have you read?  I have read Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver, and Tale of Two Cities and I love them all with Christmas Carol and Great Expectations being my favorite.  I would also love to read Little Dorrit one of these days.

Do you read Christmas Carol during the holidays?  Do you watch a version of the movie?  Why does the story ring true for you? Why do you think it still remains a classic all these years later?

Let’s talk about it and what are you reading right now? If any of you do the Teaser Tuesdays please let me know!

Here are my top 10 versions of Christmas Carol

Star Wars: Force Awakens Review

My review of Star Wars: Force Awakens. I would love your feedback if you have seen it.

Rachel's Reviews

I feel like I am the only one of my blogging friends to not post their Force Awakens review.  Well, I wanted to see the movie twice to make sure I wasn’t just gushing over the experience more than the film itself.  It was definitely one of the most memorable movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. I even dressed up

star wars rachelFortunately I’m happy to tell all of you that the movie lived up to the experience.  Star Wars is back and the great world Lucas gave us in 1977 will continue on in good form for a whole new generation.  I couldn’t be happier!

force awakenss7I’ll give you a few plot points that are basically available on the trailer (I tried to keep it spoiler free but if you are very sensitive stay away).

The focus on Force Awakens is on a young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who is a scavenger…

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Why We Love Star Wars

star wars rachelAs everyone knows yesterday was the official premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise.  I have now seen it twice and will be posting my review both on youtube and at my movie blog by the end of the day tomorrow (I’m so behind nearly everyone else I know!).  Recently I also did a series on my channel with my friends Abby and Jeremy looking at all 6 Star Wars films proceeding Force Awakens, so it has been on my mind for some time. 

Without giving anything away on my review I will say the new film made me very happy.  I’ve seen it twice now and left with a huge smile on my face each time.  That said, I have read a few reviews from people mystified at the whole Star Wars thing.  To them it was just a generic space movie and the series has always been a bunch of generic space movies.

To a certain extent they are right.  At its core the plot for any Star Wars movie is generic serials going back to the 50s and earlier.  Why then does it matter and connect with so many people?  Why when many of us saw the trailers did we cry?  Why did people buy their tickets to the premiere months before?  Even with the near universal displeasure with the prequel trilogy, why do so many still love Star Wars?

I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think it comes down to world building.  While the plot structure of a Star Wars movie may be generic, the world Lucas created is not.  Other iconic characters such as Indiana Jones or Superman may be great but the world they inhabit isn’t very different from our own.  It is a rare film that not only gives you a story but also creates a whole new world.  So while we may have seen sword fighting before we hadn’t seen light saber battles.  We have seen the battle of good vs evil before but never a force of light and darkness and a spiritual leadership known as the jedi. The original Star Wars gave us new planets, characters, armor, and even the most humorous robots we’d seen in movies. All of that combined to take a somewhat generic story into something that inspires imagination, creativity and discussion.

It’s this immersive world that allowed Star Wars to still matter despite the prequels because the love of Star Wars was never really about the story to begin with.  The world is still there however tarnished.  We just had to work through it waiting for the movie that would do something right with that world. 

And the other thing to consider is while the prequels disappointed there was other product in books and animation that did not, and there was always the stories we told each other while playing in that world as kids. And of course the original trilogy was still there to watch on vhs.

Look at Wizard of Oz in contrast which has to take off of the novels and a movie owned by Warner Brothers. As a result, when a studio tries to give us that world back they can’t really do it.  This leaves us with a ton of bad films, none of which are set in the Oz of the original movie (there is little to no similarities to between the Oz of Return to Oz, The Wiz, Oz the Great and Powerful and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.)  Even when Star Wars made a bad movie it was always in the world we loved and so we could find things to hang our hopes on and talk about.

Lord of the Rings is probably the closest counter- example as we got mythic world building but even that followed novels, which in a way limits creativity a little bit.  It’s harder to tell our own stories in our play and conversation in a world where the stories have already been laid out so meticulously.  Star Wars never had that.  The world always had great potential for stories instead of the stories dictating the world.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense but I’ve just heard people exclaim ‘why does everyone care about Star Wars?  Isn’t it a movie made for children?’.  Well the answer is yes it is but it’s the world that we love and the stories we saw on screen and the one’s we played out by ourselves or with our friends.

The other reason Star Wars is important to people is because it laid out a decisive right and wrong, light and darkness in the force.  We live in a PC era where nobody wants to say anything is bad or good.  It’s refreshing to find a source material where it is clearly delineated.  Especially kids need to see that kind of dichotomy.   They need a way to order their life and know how to make the right choices.  If it is just because ‘Mom says no’ than they aren’t likely to follow but if they know about good vs evil and have a reason to follow the light than they will. 

So, while you may or may not be a Star Wars fan, I think it is important to remember it is not about a mere movie.  It is about a world that was introduced to many of us when we were little, a world that changed movies, pop culture and that we told our own stories within.  That’s a powerful thing.

Teaser Tuesday: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe

This week is all about Star Wars in my life including my reading (or audiobook listening). I’ve always been someone that has enjoyed non-fiction, particularly books that analyze trends and the odd behavior of groups.  The Big Sort, The Great Good Place and Bowling Alone are 3 of my favorites.  And as my last post said– nothing is a bigger trend or has more hype than Star Wars!

That’s why I decided to read Chris Taylor’s book ‘How Star Wars Conquered the Universe’.  I just started it but am finding it very interesting.  He starts  trying to find someone who has never heard of Star Wars before.   Follow me on Goodreads to find out what I thought of the book in the end.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Taylor-How Star PBAnyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

For mine I am listening to it in audiobook so I don’t have the page number but have the timecode.

Here’s my teaser from 2hr:34m of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor

“Space soldiers in their Tommy Tomorrow and Flash Gordon guises were far from the only obsession in young Lucas’ life.  Soon they weren’t even the central one. In his teens Lucas’ attention shifted from drawing and comics to cameras and cars.  An auto accident, the most important turning point in Lucas’ entire creative history led him to rethink his approach to school. He discovered the study of humanity and became fascinated by photography.  Only then belatedly did he fall into film”

So far I am really enjoying the book.  It’s more about Lucas and his history making Star Wars than I thought it would.  As a fan of Star Wars and movies in general it is fascinating to learn about.

What non-fiction do you like?