What Have I Been Up To? October

You know I love pumpkins!

October was too short, as usual, but I actually had a lot of fun watching movies and shows and reading.

Usually, I bog myself down with a lot of books and movies. This year, I went with the flow and tried to take unnecessary pressure off myself to read and watch a million things to fit my favorite season. I did have some surprising finds and am excited to share them with you!

Also, alas, i didn’t actually publish this at the beginning of November. I’ve been BUSY with school, callings, and other activities. Needless to say, I’m happy I finally have time to sit and leisurely write this out for the curious of heart.

Books

The Dark Wild, by Piers Torday

Twelve-year-old Kester thought he had discovered the last wild animals in the land. He thought his adventure was over. He was wrong.

Below the sparkling city of Premium, deep underground, a dark wild remains: animals who believe the time is right to rise up against their human enemies.

And soon Kester realises: he is the only one who can stop them.

Kester Jaynes saved the animals. Can he save the humans too?

Synopsis from Goodreads

So, if you follow me on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll recognize Piers Torday. Against the norm, I actually listened to this second book in his Middle Grade series The Last Wild.

First of all, bravo to Oliver J. Hembrough for doing an outstanding job narrating this story. Part of me wanted to hurry up and buy the book so I could know what happens. The other part of me couldn’t stomach ruining such a great listening experience.

If you haven’t checked out this dystopian middle grade series I highly recommend you do especially if you enjoy engaging stories bridging the gap between man and beast.

5/5 stars

Whichwood, by Tahereh Mafi

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.

Synopsis from Goodreads

Taherah Mafi has a way of creating whimsically creepy stories. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Furthermore, for that reason. I also really like how she talks to the audience. It almost feels like she is stroking your head through all the difficult parts.

Also, also Bronson Pinchot is such an engaing narrator! I loved listening to this audiobook and was so sad when it ended.

5/5 Stars

The Night Gardner, by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

Synopsis from Goodreads

I’ve read Auxier’s other book Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes and had this book on my to-read list a LOOOOOOOONG time. I love creepy children’s books so this seemed like a good fit for me.

Listening to this book, I thought a lot about choices and the scripture “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”. Coraline and The Thief of Always have a similar theme as well. So often we unwittingly invite the evil in this world into our minds and hearts in exchange for rather trivial things.

Anyway, I liked this book a lot. I wasn’t surprised. 🙂 Plus two of the characters were Irish which is definitely a plus!

4.5/5 Stars

Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne’s classic tale of a young Puritan’s meeting with the Devil.

Such an interesting short story. Given how much I like creepy stories with characters who outwit the Devil, it’s a wonder I never thought of reading this before!

Let me tell you, I sat for several days pondering the possible meanings behind this story. I won’t spoil it for those who have never read it, but let me say this. Sometimes in stories, you learn how to take the right path at a crossroads. The characters are triumphant over evil and grow.

However, some stories like this one make it very clear how carefully we must walk the path of life. Sometimes evil finds its way into our lives in unexpected ways and before we know it BAM we are traveling a road we never thought we would.

Movies

Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021)

The story of Barney, an awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally-connected device. Ron’s malfunctions set against the backdrop of the social media age launch them on a journey to learn about true friendship.

Synopsis from IMBD

I opted out of seeing Dune so I could watch this movie. I had never heard of it. (What!) Usually I am on top of new and upcoming animated films. Alas, I really have been busy.

That aside, this is such a cute film! I like the balance it shows between being connected to devices and creating meaningful relationships outside of our phones and computers.

What really stood out for me in this movie was how there weren’t really any villains besides the weird guy working at the company who for some reason wanted more money. . . Meh.

8/10 Stars

James Bond No Time to Die (2021)

James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Synopsis from IMBD

Here’s a fun fact about me. I don’t like James Bond movies. (GASP! NO!) It’s true. No matter what movie I watch with him I end up with the same feelings. Now, Daniel Craig makes a good James Bond. There is no doubt about that. The problem is, I don’t like womanizing stuck up characters.

Sigh. . . what I didn’t understand with this movie is why . . . it . . . had. . . to have. . . such a SAD ENDING. Why not give James Bond a stable, happy end to his life. Nope. Not happening. Instead, he lost everything and let himself get blown up. I think it would have taken more courage to continue living despite eerything.

Anyway, I don’t like James Bond movies anyway. So I haven’t lost too much sleep over this. 🙂

7/10 (I did like the action scenes and screenplay.)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1991)

Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion.

Synopsis from IMBD

Oh yes. I watch this movie EVERY YEAR on Halloween. I like to do this alone because I hate commentary from other people. (I do the same with my favorite silent films. It’s exhausting trying to explain to everyone why I love them and what actually makes them interesting).

What struck me this last time was how magnetic the staging and backgrounds are. Oftentimes, I sit and reflect on how hard it must be to create such realistic and artistic scenes. I also geeked out on how similar Halloweentown is to one of my favorite movies The Cabinet of Dr. Calighari (1920).

In fact, I’ve resolved to have a month-long classic film marathon. It should be fun!

Anyway, I love this movie and so far my high opinion of it hasn’t changed.

10/10 Stars (Of course. 🙂 )

Dune (2021)

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

Synopsis from IMBD

Wow. Just wow. I usually don’t get into sci-fi or fantasy stories. They are too long and drawn out for me to stay focused on them. I always know they are great! I just get distracted too fast.

That aside, that doesn’t apply to this movie at all. I really wanted to see it in theaters and got my wish finally after it was out for several weeks.

Everything about this story impressed me.

  1. The cast was fantastic! None of them tried to overact or had hidden agendas. They simply played their parts and wove themselves into the story.
  2. Hans Zimmer’s score floored me! He gets better and better at creating a beautiful, captivating atmosphere through unique instrumentation.
  3. The backgrounds and special effects brough this world ALIVE! Granted I didn’t want to go there because it is the desert (I already live in one. 🙂 ) but I appreciated the world.
  4. The story isn’t one you go to see to see things explode. It held me spellbound because I felt in my bones there was an important message for me to learn.
  5. The fact they are taking the time to bring this story to life through more than one movie is impressive. For the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the sequel!

Honestly, I should just do a review for this movie so I can effectively talk about my full experience and insights. All in all, if you haven’t seen this in theaters I highly recommend you get over there! This is a movie you need to see on the big screen.

10/10 Stars

TV Shows/Anime

Jujutsu Kaisen (2020-?)

Idly indulging in baseless paranormal activities with the Occult Club, high schooler Yuuji Itadori spends his days at either the clubroom or the hospital, where he visits his bedridden grandfather. However, this leisurely lifestyle soon takes a turn for the strange when he unknowingly encounters a cursed item. Triggering a chain of supernatural occurrences, Yuuji finds himself suddenly thrust into the world of Curses—dreadful beings formed from human malice and negativity—after swallowing the said item, revealed to be a finger belonging to the demon Sukuna Ryoumen, the “King of Curses.”

Yuuji experiences first-hand the threat these Curses pose to society as he discovers his own newfound powers. Introduced to the Tokyo Metropolitan Jujutsu Technical High School, he begins to walk down a path from which he cannot return—the path of a Jujutsu sorcerer.

Myanimelist Synopsis

I know a lot of anime fans are split into two parties with this show. One side thinks it’s a rip-off of every shounen anime ever. The other thinks it’s perfect.

Hmm, nothing is perfect however this show subverted every preconception I have for this genre. After a while, I stopped trying to make guesses on what would happen. It kept me on my toes and had a genuinely interesting and developed plot and character arc.

I wouldn’t watch this show if you are sensitive to violence. The actions scenes can be quite gruesome.

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming movie and seasons. Hopefully, this show won’t run on forever like so many of its predecessors.

9/10 Stars (For now.)

Over the Garden Wall (2014)

The series centers on two half-brothers who travel across a mysterious forest to find their way home, encountering a variety of strange and fantastical things on their journey. 

Fun fact, I showed this to all my middle school classes so they wouldn’t go insane learning Russian. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially because so many of them are interested in adult shows.

Needless to say, they loved it! It is always enjoyable watching this show with those who have never seen it before. It’s like seeing it all over again!

What I really learned to appreciate about this show was its characterization and setup. If you have seen this show before, you understand me when I say both of these are near perfect.

10/10 Stars Forever and Always!

Assasination Classroom (2015)

When a mysterious creature chops the moon down to a permanent crescent, the students of class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Middle School find themselves confronted with an enormous task: assassinate the creature responsible for the disaster before Earth suffers a similar fate. However, the monster, dubbed Koro-sensei (the indestructible teacher), is able to fly at speeds of up to Mach 20, which he demonstrates freely, leaving any attempt to subdue him in his extraterrestrial dust. Furthermore, the misfits of 3-E soon find that the strange, tentacled beast is more than just indomitable—he is the best teacher they have ever had!

Myanimelist Synopsis

…….. I don’t know why I’ve been watching this. I’m not particularly interested in how these students will kill the yellow octopus. I think I’m mostly intrigued by the character animation. They have such intersting designs.

That said, I’m sad there is so much dirty humor in it, especially with their Russian teacher. (Not all Russian women are sexy seductresses.)

7/10

Saiki K (2016)

To the average person, psychic abilities might seem a blessing; for Kusuo Saiki, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Gifted with a wide assortment of supernatural abilities ranging from telepathy to x-ray vision, he finds this so-called blessing to be nothing but a curse. As all the inconveniences his powers cause constantly pile up, all Kusuo aims for is an ordinary, hassle-free life—a life where ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, the life of a psychic is far from quiet. Though Kusuo tries to stay out of the spotlight by keeping his powers a secret from his classmates, he ends up inadvertently attracting the attention of many odd characters, such as the empty-headed Riki Nendou and the delusional Shun Kaidou. Forced to deal with the craziness of the people around him, Kusuo comes to learn that the ordinary life he has been striving for is a lot more difficult to achieve than expected.

Myanimelist Synopsis

When I find myself emotionally and mentally exhausted I watch this show. I don’t know why. The only character I truly love is Saiki. Well, and Kaido is funny. I can’t honestly say this is the funniest show or it’s well animated. All I can say is I relate to Saiki’s desire to be left alone to introvert at home.

8/10

Hyouka (2012)

Energy-conservative high school student Houtarou Oreki ends up with more than he bargained for when he signs up for the Classics Club at his sister’s behest—especially when he realizes how deep-rooted the club’s history really is. Begrudgingly, Oreki is dragged into an investigation concerning the 45-year-old mystery that surrounds the club room.

Accompanied by his fellow club members, the knowledgeable Satoshi Fukube, the stern but benign Mayaka Ibara, and the ever-curious Eru Chitanda, Oreki must combat deadlines and lack of information with resourcefulness and hidden talent, in order to not only find the truth buried beneath the dust of works created years before them, but of other small side cases as well.

Myanimelist Synopsis

I watch this show when I’m feeling introspective. I wish all the light novels for Hyouka were animated. That way, I could enjoy more of this story. Since I saw it nine years ago, this has remained one of my favorites.

It’s like it evolves with me even as I move farther from my high school self. If there is any feeling that is universal it is the feeling and desire to be special and needed. I think there is also a deeper part of ourselves that hopes we are special.

If you are into slice-of-life comedies, this is definitely the show for you! The animation is top-notch, the camera work is spectacular and the story is truly fascinating to watch unfold. It makes everyday life seem fantastic.

10/10 Stars

The Twilight Zone (1959)

Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinarily astounding situations, which they each try to solve in a remarkable manner.

IMBD Synopsis

I don’t watch The Twilight Zone to get creeped out. I watch it to open my mind to different ways of thinking. So many of its episodes question the morally ambiguous situations we could/do find ourselves in.

So often we forget what’s really important until we see the dire consequences which will come.

But not all the episodes bring into question these life-altering decisions. It is a show that ultimately asks us “What if. . . ” and explores what so many of us don’t have time to think over.

Anyway, I love this show too much. 🙂 Watch it to open your world to a universe of possibilities!

10/10 Stars

Thanks as always for taking the time to read this! I hope you all don’t mind too much how late I published this. Until next time!

3 Comments

  1. Nice to end your list with The Twilight Zone. It’s a classic for so many reasons and the very best episodes will continue to shine and stand the test of time.

    1. aubreym3 says:

      I like to watch it every once in Awhile. As I grow older my perspective shifts.

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