What Have I Been Up To? June

As a teacher, one of the hardest things to do during the summer is writing for fun. I thought it would be different, but my writing time is all but taken up by lesson planning.

Such are the sorrows of a prolific writer. My blog is basically where I work through all my thoughts and feelings. (They are MANY).

Luckily, I’ve had a little more relaxed writing time because I’ve done a large chunk of my lesson planning already.

For this month, I did a lot of reading. I wish I had had time for shows and more movies but. . . I get tired of screens really quickly.

This is what I base my ratings on.

  1. No redeeming qualities whatsoever visually, aesthetically, or as a story. 
  2. So boring I could barely pay attention. 
  3. I had a headache but somehow made it through. 
  4. I could make fun of it. . . because of how bad it is. 
  5. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just blah. 
  6. There were various interesting aspects but nothing to really gush about.
  7. A solid story. Good characters, plot, and visuals. However, not amazing. 
  8. I genuinely enjoyed watching/reading it. I could see it again with friends.
  9. A great experience! AS a film it is visually stunning and has an incredible story I could go back to multiple times. As a book, I could do the same. 
  10. Near Perfect (nothing is perfect. ) It has become one of my favorites. I could also write entire articles on it.

Let’s get started!

Books

Furthermore (2016) by Tahereh Mafi 10/10

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

As it’s narrated by Bronson Pinchot, this children’s book is definitely my type of story. It’s witty, and the narrative style was emotive and very powerful at times.

It is very lighthearted but can bring up some terrifying ideas at times, including cannibalism. (Those who know me will not be able to fathom how I can stand it then.)

I’ve also read Mafi’s book Whichwood, based in the same world. If you are looking for worldbuilding and storytelling outside the box, this story is definitely for you!

A Little Japanese Book of Contentments (2018) by Erin Niimi Longhurst 8/10

With the longest healthy life spans in the world, Japanese people understand the art of living well. This beautiful book distills traditional Japanese philosophies intrinsic to wellbeing, providing easy-to-follow exercises to inspire those who want to live a happier, more balanced life. With sections on kokoro (heart and mind) and karada (body), plus a guide on how to form and nurture good habits, the book includes entries on ikigai (living with purpose), wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection and impermanence), shinrinyoku (forest bathing), ikebana (the art of flower arranging), and much more. Richly illustrated, A Little Book of Japanese Contentments is a warm invitation to cultivate contentment in everyday life.

I went on a Japanese-style Spa trip at the beginning of June and forgot to bring any reading material. Thinking I should make the most of my downtime (regrettably I think this way even while relaxing), I picked up this book in the gift shop and started reading.

I loved it. I got a lot of good ideas on how I can meditate outside better, begin learning new recipes and tidy up my space. More than anything, I enjoyed learning more about Japanese culture.

If you are a fan of Marie Kondo, you might enjoy pursuing the ideals and philosophies illustrated in this book.

Persuasively Ruby: The Pursuit of Joy by Ben Behunin 8/10

Just as Pops had promised, once the campers had learned to let go of fear and truly connect with each other, time began passing much faster. Ruby’s offer to Genevieve proves to be heavy as she considers all she would have to give up, but discovering the secret ingredient of the joy on Harmony Hill leaves her uncharacteristically open to possibilities. Thanks to the blunt and chatty, Hildegard, Genevieve and the others may not have to not lose any more time, but will the old woman’s wisdom be enough to convince Genevieve that she needs more than five months on Harmony Hill? 

Ben Behunin has some beautiful ideas and thoughts spelled out in this novel. He definitely is not the greatest writer I’ve encountered but. . . I don’t really care. Every time he releases a new book I am one of the first to buy it.

Sometimes I just need a gentle reminder of which direction in life I need to be heading, especially with important life decisions I need to make every now and again.

Since God is such an integral part of my life, this book, and others Behunin has written, are perfect for me.

The Last Wild (2014) by Piers Torday 10/10

In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he’s told there’s something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he’s finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester’s help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Narrated by Oliver Hembrough, this little treasure of a book is absolutely wonderful to read or listen to. When I first picked it up a year or so ago I thought it would be mediocre at best.

I’m not really a fan of dystopian novels but this one opened up to me in an impactful way. Kester is a flawed, yet determined main character thrust onto his hero’s journey, and the animals who accompany him have a special place in my heart.

I think I like this story so much because it’s not so much about saving animals but about learning to communicate and overcome trauma.

The Library of Lost Things (2019) by Laura Taylor Namey 8/10

From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.

While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.

Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.

Young Adult Romances are a mixed bag for me. I love a lot of them like Lisa Mangum’s Hourglass Door Trilogy but normally I hate them. This is not because I’m an adult. When I was a teenager I still had a hard time with them because the characters’ decisions were normally toxic and shallow to me.

I didn’t care about love triangles or whether or not the male lead had a stunning six-pack. So, I would read them, replace them, or in rare instances tear them up because of how mad they made me. (Sorry to book lovers out there. I am smarter about it now and normally do not condone book burning or shredding.)

Long monologue aside, I actually like this story because it’s not really about the romance. The pivotal relationship the main character needs to fix is with her mom. Both of them carry trauma. In Darcy’s case, it’s because of her mother’s hoarding addiction.

That said, I did like the male lead Asher. He was raw, real, and had a healthy outlook on relationships and building trust within those relationships.

All in all, this was a good read for me, especially because I like to do people studies. But, I’m also a bit of a romantic so . . . it was a nice escape.

Also, I relate to Darcy’s love/ addiction to reading books. I used to use reading as a means of escape as well.

Manga/Webtoons

The Maid and the Vampire (2019-2020) by Yi Dolce, 7/10

Areum has fallen into a strange world called ‘Soltera’ after a car accident. She is mistaken for a vampire because of her hair color, and she is sold to a Duke’s house by a slave trader. The identity of Millard Travis the master of the Duke’s house that bought her is the one and only vampire in the world! Desperate to survive in any way, Areum becomes Millard’s direct servant, vowing to serve him as her master. Areum tries to belly up on Millard day by day and his attitude starts to change.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this Webtoon. On the one hand I appreciated how many times Areum points out the Male Leads bad behavior. He actually apoligizes on multiple occasions and reforms.

On the other hand I still didn’t understand why she decided to marry him. Really. But I read the story to the end because I was interested to see where there relationship could go.

I can recommend this story because, like I said, it speaks out against aggressive behavior and toxic “love” situations. But I don’t think I’ll read it again any time soon.

100 Days Left!! (2015-2017) by Nata, Kokone 7.5/10

With his parents going on a business trip, Shuuto Sakaguchi prepares himself to live in complete freedom for the following three months. However, upon returning home from school, he is greeted by a young girl he has never met before. As it turns out, she is Chiho Norita, the daughter of Shuuto’s parents’ colleague.

Without a say in this matter, Shuuto is suddenly entrusted with taking care of Chiho. However, he has no idea how to take care of children! Having to spend one hundred days together, Shuuto slowly develops a strong bond with Chiho as she becomes an integral part of his daily life.

This is a cute story. I’m a big fan of Yotsuba to! so on occasion I actively seek out manga with children and family dynamics.

As far as this manga goes, it is sweet and I enjoyed the relationship between Shuuto and Chiho. It was like seeing long separated siblings come together.

I just wish it was LONGER. It’s hard to become fully invested in stories like this when they’re cut off too quickly.

Nicola Traveling Around the Demon’s World (2017-2021 by Miyanaga, Asaya, 8/10

Despite the law that forbids human entry, one young witch seeks refuge in the world of demons. Upon arrival, the witch Nicola meets the traveling merchant Simon, who decides to bring her along on his journeys, despite her being a human and him being a demon.

With their newfound friendship blooming, the duo take off on numerous adventures throughout the demon world—many of which are exciting, charming, or even somewhat perilous! But no matter what happens, Nicola always finds joy in learning more about this fantastical realm; be it by visiting fascinating places, making friends, or uncovering her own magical potential.

This is such a chill manga! I enjoyed watching Nicola travel around the Demon World in search for clues about her mother. I also think Simon is a nicely done character.

I can’t give it a higher rating really because there aren’t that many chapters released yet in the United States or online. I’ll probably redo my review once the final volume comes out.

Movies

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018), 7/10

Thomas leads some escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.

If you’ve been following the last few months of my life (if you are, I’m impressed), you’ll notice no mention of the first two movies in this story. That’s because I didn’t watch them. Oops. But to be fair, I was able to guess basically what was going on without help from the other films.

As a movie, I think it did well in creating a grim setting and making me root for the main characters. But, it didn’t present anything new fo rme.

I think the books will probably be more interesting than the movies. . . but that is how it usually is.

Lilo and Stitch (2002), 7/10

A tale of a young girl’s close encounter with the galaxy’s most wanted extraterrestrial. Lilo is a lonely Hawaiian girl who adopts a small ugly “dog,” whom she names Stitch. Stitch would be the perfect pet if he weren’t in reality a genetic experiment who has escaped from an alien planet and crash-landed on Earth. Through her love, faith and unwavering belief in ohana, the Hawaiian concept of family, Lilo helps unlock Stitch’s heart and gives him the ability to care for someone else.

I wanted to have a great epiphany and realize this is one of Disney’s greatest movies. But I didn’t. I like the humor between Lilo, Stitch, and Nani but the story as a whole fell flat for me.

When I was in Middle School ALL my friends did the Stitch voice. I thought it was wierd. Maybe that is why I don’t particuarly care about it? Perhaps I’ll never know.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), 8/10

Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives at Port Royal in the Caribbean without a ship or crew. His timing is inopportune, however, because later that evening the town is besieged by a pirate ship. The pirates kidnap the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), who’s in possession of a valuable coin that is linked to a curse that has transformed the pirates into the undead. A gallant blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) in love with Elizabeth allies with Sparrow in pursuit of the pirates.

Ahh beautiful memories. Clear as day I remember going to see this in the 7th grade. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days! I might have even written some unitentional fan fiction. Never to be seen of course because I never took care of anything I wrote.

Rewatching it, I am astonished how well this movie did with such a small budget. Since I’ve been watching and studying films a LITTLE much lately I could tell where the creators had to cut corners.

The acting and screenplay is what truly shines in this movie. Johnney Depp in particular was fantastic. I know that may seem obvious now, but I had never really pondered it before. I like Orlando Bloom more in my adelesance.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen this movie in a while give it a go!

Thanks for reading! Thankfully I was able to get this post out faster than the others.

2 Comments

  1. I’m not really a fan of YA dystopian films, but The Maze Runner series is the only ones that I actually enjoy!

    Also a big fan of POTC! And I’m like you, that I’ve never been in love with Lilo & Stitch before.

    1. aubreym3 says:

      My brother said he liked the Maze Runner series so I’ll eventually get to it on my list.

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