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Review of The Christmas Train

Last night I finally realized why I dislike Hallmark movies. It's because I've seen commercials with more artistic merit than a two-hour Hallmark film. No seriously, I have. Watch this one. Really, watch it. This is a commercial. 

Or this one. This will do something to your stone-cold heart. 

Or for that matter, the commercials they show during each Olympics. They tell a whole story in such a short amount of time. 

But nevertheless, I am nothing if not open-minded. There is a handful of Hallmark movies I have genuinely enjoyed. So last night, I sat down to watch The Christmas Train, wondering if this would be added to the prestigious handful. 
We start off with a generic white male, our main character. A moment later we see a generic white female. The two are not together yet, but it is already obvious to the viewers (in this case, me) that they will be married before the credits roll. This ain't my first Hallmark rodeo. Anyway, Main Guy is a journalist and wants to write …
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Thanksgiving Special: Childhood Horror

Digging Old Stories Out of the Vault: 1st Edition Greetings everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! For a long time I've wanted to have some fun at my own expense by writing an entire post making fun of an old story of mine, and I've finally decided there's no time like the present. Ready your brain because I feel sorry for what it's about to endure.
First of all, there needs to be a tiny bit of explanation. When I was little I had a fantasy world consisting of four major regions. The capital of this weird world was Car City, which was modern and vastly wealthy and full of technology (mid-2000's technology, that is). Car City was ruled by the snobby nobility of the Leida Estate, who also dominated the world's currency system and owned money-printing machines. Then there was Roseland, which I described as an "in between" place. The lifestyle there was roughly like the 1940s or 50s. The main adventures in Roseland came from an evil orphanage worker who kidnapp…

The Five Actual Rules of Writing a Female Character

Today I’m discussing a phrase you see absolutely everywhere in the world of reading and writing: “strong female character.” When it really boils down to it, what the heck does that even mean? I’ve never in my life heard the phrase “strong male character.” So why is crafting a woman so different from crafting a man? Well, countless people have attempted to interpret this debacle. You know what I’m talking about it. Particularly in the movie world, we ended up with a slew black-haired, gun slinging females wearing tight leather clothing--even in Big Hero 6, for crying out loud. Or, on a much, much larger scale, all those countless female characters who throw out sassy one-liners, possess enviable fighting skills, and punch men in the face. Those three traits alone are supposed to qualify them as “strong.” Like, “Oh, look, we can beat up a man! Who needs men?” Okay, but tell me something else about them. That’s just the thing—there is nothing else about these characters. They exist to f…

Review of Wonder (book)

In light of the upcoming movie, today I’m presenting my thoughts on the novel Wonder. I’ve read it twice, but it’s been awhile, so these are my thoughts very long after reading. The author of this book is a graphic designer from Manhattan with two sons. She had never written a book in her life, but her sons had an encounter with a little girl with major physical problems and she couldn’t get it out of her head. She wondered what it would be like to be that little girl and never be viewed as “normal,” even when you feel normal. And Wonder was born. Instead of me telling you why this is truly one of the few real “books for all ages,” or telling you why every kid should read Wonder, or telling you about any of the other claims I have centered around this book, I’m going to follow the first rule of writing and show you.
We start with this 10-year-old boy named August, or Auggie, explaining to us why he’s a perfectly normal kid. He likes to eat ice cream, he likes to play outside, etc. H…

Forcing Myself to Read Teenage Fiction!

--My real-time thoughts while reading Christy Miller Volume 1-- Could this be the smirking face of my new best friend? Only one way to find out. 
--The book opens, literally, with this teenage girl named Christy crying because she doesn’t like her appearance. You can’t begin a book with a character crying. You just can’t. How are we supposed to care about the fact that she’s crying when we know absolutely nothing about her? And come to find out she’s all upset over the fact that she’s skinny. Okay, would you rather be fat? The only thing this scene did for me was establish that I was about to spend 400-something pages with a whiny, image-obsessed teenage girl. Unfortunately, it is a trend that continues. Throughout the book, she has eleven major breakdowns (yes, I counted). I didn’t even bother counting the minor ones but trust me, it’s even more. There comes a time when enough is enough.
--So anyway, this book could learn a thing or two about first impressions. When this ordeal fina…

Review of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic

This was the very first book written by Jennifer Trafton, an illustrator and elementary school writing teacher. She was unmarried at the time, but has since married A.S. Peterson, as in, the military man who wrote the miracle that is Fiddler’s Green. I came into The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic with no expectations whatsoever. I didn’t even know what it was about. The only reason I got it was because I had become such a huge fan of Jennifer Trafton’s husband. However, the title is one of the best I’ve encountered lately. It has a rhythm if you say it to yourself. And like only the best titles, it immediately had me asking questions. What is Mount Majestic and how does it rise and how does it fall?

The answer to that question is so clever, so utterly and fantastically unexpected, I’m not even going to mention it here. You’ll have to discover it for yourself. The story centers around a 10-year-old named Persimonny who finds herself lost in the woods and ends up overhearing a plot t…

Review of A Monster Calls

Today I'll be mixing things up and reviewing a movie. And not just a movie, but a movie I watched before reading the book. It happens. A Monster Calls was released in theaters Christmas 2016, and while critics loved it and raved about it, audiences paid little attention. At the box office, it barely broke even. I knew about it only because I regularly read Roger Ebert reviews, and after seeing that author Patrick Ness wrote the screenplay and Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona (of The Impossible) directed it, I knew it held promise. But I didn't know the story. I didn't pay much attention.
Then, a few months later, I shelved this movie at the library the second it came in on DVD. But the cover stopped me.
Everything about it drew me in. The colors somehow soft and vibrant at the same time. The sleeping little boy. The hand of the tree. Why was the boy asleep under this tree? What was the monster, and why did it call? I was struck so deeply, I knew I would not be able to die hap…