Free Riffs with Rifftrax app!

Free Riffs with Rifftrax app!

I LOVE Rifftrax – I mean, I was a fan of MST3K back in the day, so it only makes sense that my love transferred over when these guys started to make fun of modern movies and more.

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Right now, they are giving away 4 free Riffs if you download their new and improved app. The Riffs are “just the jokes” but with the new app, you can turn on the movie and your device will hear the audio and sync up automatically! Can’t wait to test this out!

The free Riffs are for Iron Man, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Twilight: New Moon and Star Trek V. Once you’ve downloaded the app, just search for each title and hit “download” to make it yours. They say “free” in the corner.

I can tell you from experience these are perfect for gatherings with friends (especially if adult beverages are involved) or when you’re home sick and need to laugh between the coughing. Or when you just need a good laugh (and dont’ we all?)

Grab the app and the movie Riffs before they change their mind!

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video game thoughts: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

video game thoughts: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

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I cannot stop thinking about this game. I flew through the 8 hours of gameplay time (well, it took me more than that because I am a very cautious fighter LOL) and I miss Senua already.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the story of a warrior woman whose lover was murdered by invading Norsemen and she has decided to go into hell to free his soul.

But Senua is not a normal woman – she hears voices. Her mother heard them too. They whisper to her, constant companions since she was young. These voices have kept her separated from the rest of her tribe, which is why she wants so badly to find Dillion’s soul – he was the one person who truly cared for her. I know this sounds cliche, but I have to say that love is the one force out there that will make people challenge gods, even if those gods are not their own.

I love how the game just drops you into the story – no tutorial mode, not even a flash of instruction on the screen to coach you. You must figure it out (even if that simply means hitting “pause” to bring up the control menu) – the game designers have faith in your abilities to play from the start and they don’t want to pull you out of the narrative to go through some clunky “What does the A button do?” screen or cheesy flashback to find an excuse to learn how to make your character walk.

I really feel like this game is another great example of video games as art. I feel like to show how a thing is art, you must give examples of how it brings out emotions in us that no other format can; how it can tell a story that would not be nearly as powerful as just a printed page or even as a moving image.

I played Hellblade as the creator’s suggested: with headphones on. This let me experience the voices the way Senua did – hearing them immediately as our shared quest began and growing both frustrated and fond of their chatter. I don’t think the printed text of a novel could have done this for me and while I can be emotionally connected to a character in a movie or tv show, you can’t become them the way you can in a video game. And while I don’t think I was ever Senua, I felt like I was with her the whole way.

I know this game is already getting a lot of push back from people with mental illness. Ninja Theory, the game design company, did a lot of homework in trying to represent the different ways psychosis can feel. I’ve seen at least one reviewer who are not happy because they suffer from mental illness and didn’t think the game represented them, and I can understand that. The designers could only do so much and they reached out to professionals and got as much feedback as possible but they can’t know what it is like for someone and no game will really ever replicated that experience.

I am coming from a completely different place, and this game really made me think a lot about all of the voices in everyone’s head and how some of us can shrug them off and others are forced to hear them. The voices of self doubt, of fear, of resignation beside the voices that also push you on. I’ve never suffered from psychosis and I can’t even begin to understand what life would be like for someone living with it, but for those 8 hours, I had those voices in my ears and it made me think of how hard that can make everything – if I was struggling in a fictional world to run forward and stay focused, what must it be like for someone in modern society? No idea, I know I can never know.

While I didn’t love the ending (too soon, I wanted more), I loved the game as a whole. I really enjoyed that it was more than just a button mashing fighter game and that the (thankfully few) boss fights all had strategies to them. It reminded me of Legend of Zelda and how each “boss” was more than just a simple fight, you had to pay attention. There were just as many puzzles and hidden things to make me want to keep going, and bits of Norse legend peppered through-out which made me want to go find Neil Gaiman’s new book and see if there were more to those legends.

It was a beautiful game, I loved seeing it on my screen, watching Senua wander the mystical world. I really hope we have more adventures with her.

For more details about the game and how to buy a (digital only for PC and PS4), visit the official Ninja Theory site.

What to Watch: The Expanse (SyFy)

What to Watch: The Expanse (SyFy)

If you are like me, for the last 15 years (omg has it been that long?) you have had a sci-fi TV shaped hole in your viewing heart left there by the early cancellation of Firefly and (a few years later) the epic conclusion of Battlestar Galactica. I finally found a show to fill that spot in my heart and it is The Expanse.

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We’ve got our rag tag crew on the run, a grizzled cop looking for a mysterious woman, backstabbing politicians, and scientists playing god. And, bonus points, some kick-ass women in charge! Something for everyone!

Season 1 is currently streaming as part of Amazon Prime. I felt that Season 1 took awhile to find its footing, but do not give up. Think back to the first time reading/watching The Fellowship of the Ring and being introduced to so many new characters and realms and the rules that guide them – that is what slows down the first season. You have to learn about Earth and Mars and the Belters and their history. You have to understand the OPA and their agenda. And, of course, you must meet our would-be heroes and learn about their stories so you know it is okay to root for them.

But it is ALL worth it because when season 2 starts, there is nothing to hold the writers back. (Season 2 was just released on blu-ray/DVD; I managed to borrow a copy from my local library). The second season hits the ground running and never looks back so you better have paid attention during Season 1 (or be ready to rewatch it) because there is not time to stop and explain, the entire galaxy is on the line!

The show is based on a series of Science Fiction novels, tomes that same size as George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, so there are plenty of characters and stories to choose from. While I haven’t read the books yet, talking to fans who have it sounds like the show writers are doing a great job blending together multiple story lines and introducing characters in a way that works better for a television show but stays true to the books.

I am excited to watch Season 3 in real time when it returns in 2018 so I can react to episodes and discuss the show with other fans. Until then, do yourself a favor and get your sci-fi geek on over the next few months (though I would say PACE YOURSELF because that Season 2 finale will leave you wanting more).

http://www.syfy.com/theexpanseThe Expanse – SyFy Official Website (careful of spoilers!)- Season 3 episodes will be available to stream after they begin to air. Currently only has the last few episodes of Season 2 available.

https://www.amazon.com/The-Expanse-Season-1/dp/B018BZ3UWUThe Expanse on Amazon Video – Prime Members can stream the first season for FREE

Season 2 is available on Blu-Ray/DVD so you can pick that up on Amazon as well or stop by your local public library!

Happy Towel Day, you hoopy froods!

It’s not understatement when I say I owe my love of reading to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My (much loved) first copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In 7th grade, I was burnt out on assigned reading in school. Too many depressing stories with kids, parents and/or dogs dying or old language that I didn’t really enjoy reading. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but my Mom and I were downstairs working on the computer. We had a bookshelf of their old books behind the door and I assumed that since they were my parent’s books, they were boring. I had seen the book on the shelf and assumed it was some kind of astronomy guide.

But then my Mom made some crack about “42” and when I gave her a blank stare, she grabbed the book off the shelf and told me I should read it, that it was a really funny book. So while she clicked away at the computer (probably helping me type up a paper since, at 13, my typing was still painfully slow) I flipped through the first few pages and instantly fell in love.

The Guide became a huge part of my life from then on. I read the first book and was overjoyed to find out there were four more in the series. I got them all from the library and found myself crying as I finished up the last page of Mostly Harmless. I moved on to the ‘Dirk Gently’ series and listened to the audiobook of ‘Long Dark Teatime of the Soul’ on repeat all summer.

I found old creative writing papers from later on that year and Ford Prefect made several appearances (I’m guessing my English teacher wasn’t familiar with the book since they never called me out on what was essentially fanfic). The book became a litmus test for which friends really got me. When I began working at the library a few years later, any time someone donated a copy of a Douglas Adams book, I would take it home with me (somewhere in my parent’s house is a big box of Guides I need to reclaim and redistribute). By some weird twist of fate, PBS ran the miniseries that summer and I recorded it to VHS then, like the uberfan I was, I transferred the audio over to cassette so I could listen to it and memorize it all.

To top off the nerdiness of all of this, when I won a chance to meet Dave Matthews before a concert I bought a copy of the book and GAVE IT TO HIM as a gift. I mean, it is the best book and everyone should have a copy, so I was just looking out for him but still, what a dork!

Now the book is on the assigned reading list for schools in my area which kind of makes me sad. I liked it being a cult classic to be discovered. I liked giving it to kids who thought that reading for fun wasn’t a thing. I feel like making any book homework is the kiss of death for enjoyment. Plus, I know the humor isn’t for everyone, you have to have that very dry British wit.

Anyway, I am exciting to wear my towel today, to see how many hoopy froods come into the library and get it. Have a wonderful day and remember – don’t panic!

Books Read in March

Here’s what I read in March. Not as impressive as February but still some good stuff in the mix!

The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and GuestsThe Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests by Chris Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read half of this and then listened to the rest. I was a little disappointed the audiobook wasn’t narrated by anyone from the show but that would be pretty amazing to get that cast back together. That being said, the readers did a wonderful job mimicking the voices and tone where they could without it being too distracting.

I was watching the Daily Show with Craig Kilborn in high school and I remember when it changed hands to Jon Stewart. I have always been relatively progressive/liberal in my world view, so I wouldn’t say that Jon changed that, but The Daily Show did let me know that I was not alone in thinking that way, it made me want to stay up to date on the news, it made me understand how politics really work.

The show, Stewart’s version of the show, played a HUGE role in my young adult life and this book does an amazing job covering its evolution over the course of 12 years. If you are a fan of the show, if you remember watching it every night, if you attended the ‘Rally for Sanity’ — pick up this book or give it a listen. You will be impressed by how much hard work this entire cast and crew put into keeping us both informed and entertained all these years, and how that ended up changing the media as a whole.

MooseMoose by Max de Radiguès
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because we were discussing how it made it onto lots of top comic lists for teen readers but we cataloged it in adult. I understand the cataloging since our YA section is both a mix of middle and high school materials and this definitely is very mature content.

The story deals with bullying, and not just being picked on, but physical violence and a level of abuse that was disturbing.

I think it is a powerful story that will find its way into the hands of readers that need to find it, but I can understand why we opted to put it in the adult collection.

Me and Marvin GardensMe and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A.S. King is one of my favorite young adult authors so I was surprised to see this title cataloged as Children’s Fiction. It still has that trademark King bit of magical realism, but the characters and themes run a little bit younger, or maybe just things that work for a wider age range of readers.

While not my favorite King book, this has a great story to give to kids who have a passion about the environment and interest in humans finding that balance between nature and progress. Definitely for the more thinky middle school reader who has already realized that their parents are not perfect and that the world has shades of gray.

Paper Girls, Vol. 2Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even better than the first volume (I did not think that would be possible). This series is amazing.

Don’t read anything about it, don’t find spoilers, just find the books and read them.

Samanthasaurus RexSamanthasaurus Rex by B.B. Mandell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How could I not read this? Adorable dinosaur with my name. The trick with the diamond seemed like a stretch. If there is a Samantha in your life, this is a solid purchase.

I Am Jim HensonI Am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweet and simple book, this would be great for a read-aloud to older elementary kids. The author does not mention that Jim has passed away, though kids can see it if they look at the timeline included on the last couple pages.

One of my personal heroes and I’m always glad to see his story being told and shared.

They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice MovementThey Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Lowery does a good job of staying objective in his recounting of the tumult of the last few years. I knew about most of these events, but not all of them, and lumping them all together in this book, realizing that this is just a snapshot of two years in America, you can’t help but wonder what, if anything, has changed.

The saddest part is how optimistic the afterward sounds when it comes to continuing to deal with these issues as a country…I feel like this has all be pushed out of the spotlight since November and the national rhetoric is not one that encourages discussion of racial issues.

The Private EyeThe Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is becoming VERY DISTURBING that every book I pick up this year has some kind of “THE CLOUD WILL END US ALL!” message to it…and Private Eye wasn’t even a NEW book!

BKV does it again with a twisted story about a not-to-distant future where the world has gone to shit and, as usual, most people just deal with it. Loved the characters and their hints of backstory. I’m kind of glad this is a one-off, that the little teases are all we get and we have to make it up from there. The main story is enough to satisfy.

Sci-Fi Noir Action Thriller Graphic Novel.

Decelerate BlueDecelerate Blue by Adam Rapp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another commentary on our short-attention span world. I liked the ideas here but I wish it had a little more to it all. I never felt like I got to know Angela and Gladys as well as I could have.

Still, some cool themes and ideas to talk about.

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testing, testing, is this thing on?

I swear I have NOT forgotten about this blog. Actually, I spend a lot of time thinking of things I could post about, crafting the entries in my mind while doing other things at work or making dinner…but then I get free time and instead go and do the things I was going to write about – read a book, play a game, watch a tv show etc.

So if anyone even still reads this thing, I’ll try to get more than just “What I Read in March” posted by the end of this month.

Books read in February

Whoa, hey, I swear I did not forget about this blog…or maybe I did. I just always feel like I need to have something to say when I post here versus my usual ramblings about life, the universe, and everything over on my livejournal. I’ll try to get this blog back into the posting mix at some point.

But anyway, here are the books I read in February 2017:

In which I discover I like novels written in verse and then become a raving Neal Shusterman fangirl again:

Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine CollectionSkip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One too many Crocodile comics in this one for me as they tend to be my least favorite of the strips. Not sure why but this one didn’t have as many stand-out strips as the other two.

The 13 ClocksThe 13 Clocks by James Thurber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My uncle that worked in a bookstore gave me a copy of this quirky title back in 1990. I remembered loving it though I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. So when I found it in my parent’s garage, I decided to read it again to see if the magic was still there.

James Thurber’s humor is not for the uninitiated. He loves wordplay, rhyming and non-sequitur silliness. My Mom had copies of his short stories so I was familiar with his quirky sense of humor before starting this book, which reads like a blend of Dr. Seuss and Peter Beagle if they were both slightly tipsy.

It’s a children’s book but also not…you have to be old enough to get the nods and winks to how fairy tales work.

It’s an odd book, but I love it.

Princess Leia: Royal Rebel (Backstories)Princess Leia: Royal Rebel by Calliope Glass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written as though it was a real biography, this book doesn’t really have any new information about Leia, which was kind of disappointing. The book is a short 125 pages which I guess all that is canon now according to Disney. Though this could be used as a good teaching tool for what a biography should look like since it includes a chronology, timeline and even an index!

Catching a StoryfishCatching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know why I always shy away from books written in verse. I don’t consider myself a fan of poetry so I suppose the idea of reading a story in that format doesn’t appeal to me. Yet the few times I have taken a chance, I have been very impressed. This is one of those times.

The short lines of verse are more powerful than any prose paragraph, capturing Katharen’s emotions in a way that a normal sentence might not.

This is a beautiful story about a girl who moves from Alabama to a town further north, where she hides her talent for telling stories after the other kids mock her accent. She finds solace with her grandfather, hanging out with him and talking about fishing – well, she thinks he is talking about fishing, but he is giving her little life lessons.

Great story for middle grade readers (4th grade and up) and this actually might be a good pick for someone reading out loud to a classroom of students.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)Scythe by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, it’s my favorite kind of science fiction – taking something to an extreme and playing out the consequences. In this case, we have The Cloud becoming the all knowing Thunderhead and science conquering death.

What I really liked about this book was that there were so many plot lines that could have been dragged out but instead were wrapped up by the end, leaving us with new options for book 2. There were plenty of loose ends but nothing so frustrating as to make you feel like you are being strung along as a reader. So if you are sick of series, fear not, you can read ‘Scythe’ and enjoy it.

I’m surprised this is a series because I think this first book wraps things up relatively well – but I said the same thing about ‘Unwind’ and that turned into an amazing series. So I will definitely pick up the second book when it comes out.

This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great mystery thriller, definitely would be great for fans of shows like Riverdale or Veronica Mars.

I was a little annoyed by how often the author had characters roll their eyes or put their hands on someone else to “frame their face” – these were overused and I’m not sure why the editor didn’t flag them.

You’ll also need to suspend your disbelief for how much a high school student would be allowed to do in a criminal case, no matter how small the town.

But whatever, if you can overlook those things, the story was tight enough that I could not stop reading and I had to know what would happen next.

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights CaseLoving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t realize this was a novel in verse when I ordered it, but as I had just finished another fantastic book in verse, I decided to read it. I am so glad I did. The book and the illustrations weave a beautiful story about two people in love, just trying to live their lives while a racist world spins around them. The story is told alternating voices between Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter Loving. The focus is on their relationship and personal suffering more than the actual Civil Rights case.

Powell conducted interviews and did lots of research to make the story as real as possible. I was really impressed and highly recommend this title. Sadly, it is still relevant in 2017. As we struggle for equality for all, it is good to read a story like that, about the people behind the headlines and what they might think or feel. The Lovings did not set out to be the poster couple for interracial marriage, they just wanted to be able to live their lives, unafraid.

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