On New Years Resolutions, and Writing Goals

I’m a sucker for new years resolutions. I usually make too many, and don’t always stick to them as well as I should, but I’ve always liked the fresh new start that comes with a new year. The idea that bad habits can be left behind, and better ones can be forged. And sure, I get the argument that New Years Resolutions can be viewed as useless, especially when you look at people who sign up for gym memberships, but never show up, but I think there’s a lot of value in setting goals, and taking time to refocus. You’re going to fall off the horse every now and then, but if you continue to make time to think about what you want, and plan how that can be achieved, you’re in a helluva better place then you were if you never paused to make the resolutions in the first place.

For example, if I had never sat down and said, “I’m going to make writing a daily habit” I probably wouldn’t have written anything at all. And instead, I’ve written and revised three whole novels that have taught me a lot about writing (even though they will never be published). And now, I find myself working on new projects, and new ideas that I hope to make strides on in 2017.

So, without further ado, here are my writing projects and resolutions for 2017!

Project #1- Red and Black
Red and Black is a superhero novel (the first in a planned series) that I put MANY hours into over the past year and a half. I’ve brought the book from a broken, partial rough draft (the result of a very strange, often disappointing/frustrating NaNoWriMo in 2014) to a full manuscript, workshopped it with my wonderful writing group, brought it through multiple rounds of revisions, and have now sent it off to no less than a half dozens first readers (two of whom have already gotten back to me with encouraging comments and helpful suggestions!). This year, I hope to bring Red and Black through its final revisions and begin sending it out to agents during the spring. From that point, its future will bet out of my hands, so I try not to stress about it too much (of course, I don’t always succeed).

Project #2- Black and Blue
Black and Blue is the sequel to Red and Black. I wrote it during a very successful NaNoWriMo this past November (not only did I manage to “win” NaNoWriMo, but I also finished the damn book before the month was up!). Since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve been working on my first round of revisions. And I must admit… it’s going surprisingly well. Normally this part of the revising process is hugely painful. Like, “Dear God! I’ve managed to regress as a writer without realizing it! Time to throw in the towel! Abort! Abort!” Of course, the book has flaws- in abundance- but I’ve been able to figure out how to fix most of them. Thinking back on the rough draft, I have a pretty good idea where this smooth sailing will start to get choppy, but I’m going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. I hope to spend most of my writing time in 2017 revising Black and Blue, then workshopping it with my oh-so-helpful writing group.

And if you’re thinking “gee, Nancy, isn’t working on a sequel to a book before it’s technically done, like, a really bad idea?” The answer is… probably, but right now this is the project I’m the most excited about, so I’m just going to embrace that. My books go through a lot of changes in my revision process. Maybe I’ll just have to make a few more then planned as a result of Red and Black’s final revisions.

I plan on accomplishing these goals through daily writing. I try to go for at least an hour every day, and that’s been going well so far. Some days, time gets away from me and I just can’t get that full hour, but I can get in a half hour, and make up the lost time down the line. To prevent burning out, I will be working on my writing in chunks of about 30k. Once I reach the end of a chunk, I’ll take a little time off from writing (maybe a few days, maybe a full week. It depends on how I’m feeling, and my other responsibilities). I’ve become a big believer in taking planned breaks (with set end dates, rather than just skipping days here and there) from writing, In fact, I’m thinking about writing a blog entry on it.

As for other writing-related goals, I do hope to get back to updating this much neglected blog more often, as well as continuing to contribute regularly to Speculative Chic. As a result, I’m going to try to update here about once a week. At Speculative Chic, I have my big monthly entry, but I also contribute to group posts. It may be tricky to find a balance between my writing, SpecChic, and this blog, but I suspect I’ll be able to figure it out with some trial and error.

Does anyone else have any writing-related resolutions? Are you a fan of New Year’s Resolutions too, or consider them to be a waste of time?

Top 10 of 2016: Random Favorites

Just when you thought I couldn’t drag this party out any further, here are my top 10 random favorites of 2016!

While I enjoy things like music, and podcasts, I just don’t have enough of them that I really loved from 2016 to make a proper 10 ten list. So, I figured I’d gather then all into a list of random favorites. Unlike the previous lists, this isn’t a countdown. Instead, the items are grouped by category.

So if you’d like to hear about the other things (besides movies, TV shows, books, and comics) taking up my headspace in 2016, then read on for more!

Music
Hamilton– 2016 was the year I bit the bullet and jumped on the Hamilton train.The reason I had held off for so long? I’m not really a hip-hop fan, and felt that I would judge the show based on musical preference, rather than the quality of the work itself. Fortunately, Hamilton is just one of those musicals that transcends genre. As someone who’s a fan of the American Revolution, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it: the characters, the songs, everything. Hamilton is proof that sometimes you’ll come across a work that truly is worth all of the hype it receives. The more I listen to it, the more I love it. I hope that one day, I’ll get to see it on stage.

Lindsey Stirling– Inspired by a post in Speculative Chic, in 2016 I really delved into the work of Lindsey Stirling, a crazy-talented violinist, composer, and dancer. Now, I own and love all three of her albums (my favorite one is constantly changing), have watched the DVD of her London concert, have seen most of her music videos (there are a lot of them!) and have read and enjoyed her memoir. Lindsey Stirling’s music is enjoyable on multiple levels. The more dance focused tracks can really get me energized, and because her songs are mostly instrumentals, I find them to be perfect background noise while reading. I know that she typically releases a new album every two years, but I really hopes that she breaks tradition and releases one next year. After gorging myself on all of her music at once, waiting for something new is just torturous! 

Utada Hikaru- Fantome Sometimes the best albums aren’t the one that grab you right off the bat, but the growers. This is the perfect description for Utada Hikaru’s long awaited 6th Japanese album. The songs themselves are deceptive. With the exception of the opening track, “Michi,” they’re not the catchy electronic-fueled tunes that Hikki has become known for. Instead, Fantome is an emotionally complex album, written in the wake of great tragedy (the suicide of a mother), and cause for celebration (the birth of a son). Fantome shows that despite her years away from the spotlight, Hikki continues to grow and develop as an artist. And the results are as high quality as always.

Podcasts
Writing Excuses– I’ve been a big fan of the Writing Excuses Podcast for years, but last year they brought things to a whole new level with their “Elements of Genre” series. This series did a fantastic job of breaking down genres to their basest elements and figuring out what made them tick. If you’re a fiction writer and haven’t listened to Writing Excuses yet, do yourself a favor and check out this series. You’ll have to go all the way back until January of 2016 to start, but from then you’ll have a year’s worth of helpful podcasts to dive right into.

Dear Hank and John- When it comes to the podcast I listen to, I ultimately want to laugh, be informed, and spend time listening to likable people. This is something that Dear Hank and John excels at on every level. This “comedy podcast about death” is put out by John and Hank Green, the masterminds behind vlogbrothers and oodles of other youtube channels. If you enjoy vlogbrothers, or any of those other channels, you are going to love this podcast. Highly recommend. 

Pokemon Go Radio– I’ll get more into the mobile ap that has consumed my heart and soul since August this year in a bit. Until then, let’s go into my favorite Pokemon Go podcast. Much Like Dear Hank and John, Pokemon Go Radio is put out by two brothers, and is incredibly funny. The podcast succeeds in both being a fun community show, a great place to learn about the latest updates to the ap, as well as a place to trade tips and tricks for gym battles. You can play Pokemon Go just fine without listening to this show, but if you want to play smart, then listen to Pokemon Go Radio

YouTubers
BlackNerdComedy- There’s a lot of great nerd-focused content on youtube. From SuperCarlinBrothers and their love for everything Disney/Pixar, to EmergencyAwesome‘s great coverage of comic book TV. But Andre from BlackNerdComedy has to be my favorite. He just brings this wonderful sense of genuine enthusiasm to the topic at hand. It doesn’t matter whether he’s talking about the latest big comic book movie trailer, or the so-bad-its-good movie Nine Lives (seriously, watch this video, it’s one of my favorites), but Andre’s nerdy/nostalgia fueled content is always a joy to watch. I look forward to see what he releases in 2017.

MyGreenCloset- I’m a bit of a sucker for beauty/fashion vloggers, but am not a fan of the excess that can come along with the genre. The perfect cure for this is Verena Erin’s MyGreenCloset. This minimalist shows that you can be excited about beauty without posting a single haul video, and care about fashion without sacrificing your ethics. Verena has recently upped the amount of videos that creates, and I enjoy watching every single one she posts. There’s just something so wonderfully calming about the way she speaks.

Etc.
Pokemon Go– I know this is showing up on a lot of “worst of the year” lists if because of how many people have jumped ship. But I’m still here! Despite the fact that it can get pretty buggy, I am OBSESSED with Pokemon Go. It’s gotten me out of my house, and forced me explore new parts of my community Hell, I even bought a new phone so I could play (RIP Nancy’s old iphone 4). Months later, I am still completely on board with this game, and have 125 Pokemon in my Pokedex. The question is now, will I be able to complete my North America Pokedex before gen 2 is launched? The race against time is on!

Speculative Chic– This one is a little self serving, but Speculative Chic isn’t a project that I would be committing too, week after week if I wasn’t really excited about it. Speculative Chis is a fanzine that I, and several other awesome geeky ladies contribute to. We review books, discuss the latest movies, as well as make posts about TV shows. comics, video games, music and more. This year, I wrote several columns about comic books and superheroes, edited a weekly column called “My Favorite Things,” and contributed to many great group posts. You can find an archive of all of my posts here. Going forward, I will be sharing my posts here on Picking up the Pen as well (I’m thinking about doing an “in review” type post at the end of each month), but there are plenty of great posts that I have 100% nothing to do with. So do yourself a favor and check out Speculative Chic in the meantime. Even if I wasn’t a columnist, I would still be a fan.

Honorable Mentions: instagram (ap), Garnier Miceller Cleansing Water (skin care), Sword and Laser (podcast)

And that’s it! I’m closing the door on 2016. Doing these were a lot of fun, and helped to motivate me to dig into this blog again. I promise not to abandon you for several months again. One of my 2017 goals is to blog here at least once a week, after all. As far as the rest of those goals, well that’s going to be a future post. See you then!

Top 10 of 2016: Comics and Graphic Novels

This is part four in a series of top ten lists. For movies, television shows, and books, check out their respective posts.

Out of all of the lists I made, this was the trickiest, because my comic book reading is pretty much all over the place. I read single issues, graphic novels, and the occasional manga series. Oftentimes, I read current releases, but I also dig into older runs. As a result, this list is kinda chaotic. I’ll try to be as honest about what I actually read without diving into information overload.

Without further ado, here are my top ten comics and graphic novels of 2016, leading up to my number one favorite.

10. Daredevil. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Chris Samnee– This year I finished off the longest run on Daredevil by reading the final two trades, and even those last few issues were pretty freakin’ fabulous. The Waid/Samnee run on Daredevil was exciting, and fun, but not afraid to get serious as well (they gave Foggy Nelson CANCER!). The artwork was dynamic and unique, and the characters were oh-so-lovable. I have yet to dive into the Charles Soule run, which follows this, but it has some sizable shoes to fill.

9. The Private Eye. Written by Brian K Vaughan. Illustrated by Marcos Martin– The Private Eye is a self published webcomic by Vaughan and Martin that has been collected into this ENORMOUS hardcover collection. And I don’t necessarily mean enormous page count. The panels here are some of the largest I’ve seen. The Private Eye has a singularly unique concept. In the future, The Cloud bursts, sending everyone’s private information out to the wild. To protect themselves, everyone takes on a secret identity, complete with costumes and masks. Take this cool worldbuilding and combine it with a noir-esque storyline and you have a comic that’s really worth your attention.

8. Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson– In this graphic novel, Jill Thompson re-imagines the Wonder Woman origin story in a rather surprising way. Sure, it involves amazons, and ends with Diana leaving Themyscira, but it also suggest that maybe growing up as a spoiled princess had some… adverse effects on Diana’s personality. As a result, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is less about Diana discovering her powers, as much as it’s about what inspired her to become a good person. What brings this to the next level is the fact that the hand-painted style artwork is so gorgeous, almost more like a storybook then a comic. Not all existing fans will appreciate this portrayal of Wonder Woman, but if you’re looking for a good place to start with the character, then this would be a great choice.

7. Monstress. Written by Marjorie Liu. Illustrated by Sana TakedaMonstress is a grimdark fantasy that takes place in a gorgeously illustrated matriarchal fantasy world, involving Lovecraftian level horrors, and chibi-style sidekicks. And if that description sounds like your type of book, seriously, why haven’t you read this yet? Writer Marjorie Liu has really hit her sweet spot with this one, and Sana Takeda is one of the best artists currently making comics. I’ve only read the first trade, but I am so ready for volume two.

6. Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Fiona Staples– This is one of the comics I read in single issue form- although I am a couple issues behind due to holiday shenanigans. It says a lot about the quality of Saga given that this year produced the storyline that I’ve been the least fond of (the prison storyline) yet it’s still this high on on my list. So instead of falling in love with every issue, I merely enjoyed the crap out if it. Saga remains the perfect place to go for a wonderfully weird sci-fi adventure that’s not afraid to step on your heart every now and then. I’m really looking forward to catching up on this one.

5. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Written by Kathe Leth. Illustrated by Brittney Williams– I’m also reading this one in single issue format, although it couldn’t be any more different than Saga if it tried. Patsy is a wonderfully relatable protagonist. She’s trying to help out people with superpowers who don’t necessarily want to become superheroes or villains, AND juggle her complicated past, while dealing with the crazy machinations of the Marvel universe. The fact that this comic feels so grounded while totally embracing the crazy-cakes backstory of the protagonists is a real testament to the writer, Kathe Leth. This is a great selection for those looking for a light, fun read, starring a female superhero.

4. Ms. Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Illustrated by Adrian Alphona. This year, I read the 4th and 5th trades for G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel and damn it’s still good. Kamala Khan is everything I want my superheroes to be. Admirable, yet flawed. Well intentioned, yet still learning about herself. This year, Kamala dealt with her newfound fame as Ms. Marvel as well as the massive crossover event, Civil War II. As someone who usually despises crossover events, I’d like to hold up the Ms. Marvel comics as an example for how to incorporate crossover events while still keeping the storyline personal. Too often, crossovers feel like useless filler that detract from the protagonist’s current journey, but that was not felt here. Civil War II brought some massive changes to Kamala’s life, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.

3. Attack on Titan. Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama. This year, I’ve been keeping up with the manga, Attack on Titan, reading volumes 17-19, as well as the spin off, No Regrets. Last year, the manga, while still good, was caught up in a political arc that didn’t always play to Isayama’s strengths. Now, the emphasis is on character drama and action, which is where Attack on Titan shines the most. Attack on Titan is one of those series that 100% worth all the hype it gets. The spin off, No Regrets, which focuses on Levi’s backstory, is also really great, despite the fact that it wasn’t written by Hajime Isayama. I am both excited (and dreading) to learn what will happen to our cast of characters next.

2. Wonder Woman. Written by Greg Rucka. Illustrated by various. Now this is going to be the most confusing item on my list, because while everyone else is reading Greg Rucka’s current run on Wonder Woman, I’m reading the one he wrote ten years back. And why am I doing that? Because it’s awesome. I still have a few more issues to go, but time and time again, I have been impressed at how well Rucka manages to capture Diana. Wonder Woman is a peacekeeper, but also a warrior. A diplomat, but also someone that will kill when necessary. A woman who isn’t bound by traditional women’s roles, despite being from an ancient society. It can be difficult to capture a character who wears so many hats, and is seemingly full of conflicts, but Rucka always portrays her with dignity and grace. I can see why they invited him back for a second run.

1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Written by Ryan North. Illustrated by Erica Henderson– Please. You know me. What else could I pick for my number one? I only wrote an entire column praising Squirrel Girl, and this run specifically. There’s just something so lovable, so perfect, about Doreen Green. She’s feisty, strong, smart, and compassionate. The artwork by Erica Henderson is just suits the story so well. And it’s so nice, that in a world where humor is so often devalued and looked upon as lesser, that you have a comic that’s not afraid to put the lighthearted first, and is pretty much universally praised for it. Squirrel Girl is my favorite superhero of 2016, and my favorite comic book (I’m reading it in trade paperback form). I can’t wait to see what she gets into next.

Honorable Mentions: Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Run- last two trades), Paper Girls (current issues), Lazarus (current issues), Black Widow (Mark Waid/Chis Samnee run- current issues)

Anything I miss? I’d love to hear what everyone else has been reading for comics this year.

Next, for my final top 10 list, I’ll be talking about my random favorites. Think music, podcasts and anything else that didn’t fit into the previous categories. Hope to get that up soon!

Top 10 of 2016: Books

With movies and television taken care of, it’s time to tackle the category that is probably the nearest and dearest to my heart- books!

This list includes my favorite books of 2016. To simplify things, I’m only including books I experienced for the first time in the past year (as much as I enjoyed rereading the Glamourist Histories). Not all of these books are 2016 releases, but some of them are. Interestingly, I couldn’t help but noticing that as I was compiling this list, I ended up picking quite a few nonfiction titles. And while I certainly read more nonfiction this year then I have in the past, it didn’t make up THAT much of my reading, proportionally. Perhaps I just ended up choosing really good nonfiction titles!

Same as my last two lists, this is a countdown! So the number one book IS my number one book of the year.

10. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin– Clearly, the world agrees with my on The Fifth Season‘s awesomeness, as it won the Hugo Award this year! The Fifth Season works for me for three reasons. The characters are complex, the world building is fascinating, and the way the book is structured is fascinating for me as a writer. I have no excuse for having not read the sequel (The Obelisk Gate) yet. Don’t worry, I feel the shame.

9. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan– One of the things I tried to do this year is catch up on Rick Riordan’s Mythology books. And I did great, until The Hammer of Thor was published, and now I’m behind again (d’oh!). My favorite of them all was The House of Hades, which brought our characters into new and interesting directions, my favorite being Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus, where they must face their slain enemies. Really good stuff.

8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer– I actually read all four books in The Lunar Chronicles this year (plus the spin off novella Fairest. The short story collection, Stars Above, is still in my TBR). I felt like the strongest was the first book Cinder. It’s not that the later books were bad. I just prefer the smaller, more personal focus of the earlier books. Cinder does a fantastic job of retelling the Cinderella story in a sci-fi setting. I’m impressed at how well Meyer took a fairytale lead particularly lacking in agency and crafted a really satisfying protagonist out of her. The romance was also top notch.

7. The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard- The Story of Stuff is a fascinating look into the lifespan of the things we own, from how the raw materials are gathered, up until after it’s been thrown away. Throughout this process, The Story of Stuff takes a close look on its impact on the environment, and the people who live it. The Story of Stuff will dramatically change how you look at the stuff in you life, from the cotton t-shirt on your back, to the cellphone in your pocket, and it manages to deliver an immense amount of information in a way that both informative and highly entertaining. This book should be required reading in high schools.

6. Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold– I read a few of the Vorkosigan books during 2016 but my favorite- by far- was Borders of Infinity. This collection of three very different novellas tells three satisfying Miles Vorkosigan stories, tied together by unrelated framing story. This is a wonderful addition to an already wonderful series. I suspect it will be satisfying to both new and existing fans of the series. I fangirled about this one over at Speculative Chic this fall. 

5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– I’ve read my fair share of comedic memoirs, but Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime completely changed how I view the genre as a whole. On top of being funny, Born a Crime is also chock full of information about horrors of apartheid and its aftermath. The level of poverty the now cheerful host of The Daily Show experienced in his youth will be unfathomable to the vast majority of the book’s western audience. We talk a lot about checking your privilege nowadays, and that’s so important, especially when it comes to realizing what privilege really means in the context of the wider world. Born a Crime is a book that often left me in tears, which doesn’t happen all that often. I highly recommend reading this, even if you don’t watch The Daily Show.

4. The Supergirls by Mike Madrid- I write a lot about superheroes over at Speculative Chic. In preparation for that, I decided to brush up on my background reading. I started off with The Supergirls, by Mike Madrid, which is all about the history of female characters in comics. I had no idea that on top of being informative, that it would be such a page turner as well. Madrid clearly cares about the women he writes about here, and his enthusiasm comes through on every page. This is 100% recommended to anyone with any kind of interest in the role that female characters have played in comics from the Golden Age to the early 2000s.

3. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong– I’ve been a big fan of Kelley Armstrong since I first picked up Bitten when I was in college, so the fact that she continues to wow me with great material, ten years later, really says a lot. City of the Lost is a fantastic thriller/murder mystery that takes things the next level thanks to its unique setting (focusing on a small community of people who live off the grid), tough-as-nails lead (have I mentioned recently that I have a weakness for awesome lady cops in my fiction?), and steamy romance (I thought I was going to hate it, but I was so on board by the end). I am chomping at the bit for the second Casey Duncan book A Darkness Absolute, which is supposed to be released this February. 

2. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda– A behind the scenes look at Hamilton, this tome-sized book chronicles the evolution of the musical from its initial inception up and through its runaway Broadway success. To fans of Hamilton, I could not recommend this book more. It’s like someone has handed you all of the hidden secrets of the musical. The fact that it contains the entire script (with footnotes from LMM!), and gorgeous photos is a wonderful bonus. If you’re a Hamilton fan and haven’t read Hamilton: The Revolution, do yourself a favor and hit up your local library.

1. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron– And now we get to my favorite book of the year, the newest book in my favorite series, The Heartstrikers. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished continues the story of Julian Heartstriker, the one nice dragon of a clan of greedy dragons, trying to get by in a post apocalyptic world. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished has a distinctly political air, and the fact that I found is so enjoyable during a year when real-life politics thoroughly depressed me, says a lot about the quality of Rachel Aaron’s writing. I know that she’s currently hard at work at the fourth book, and I can’t wait to dig into it. 

Honorable Mentions: Imago by Octavia Butler, A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

So those were my favorite reads of 2016. I’d love to hear how everyone else’s reading year went.

Next up, comics and graphic novels!

Top 10 of 2016: Television

On Monday, I posted my top ten movies of 2016. Now, it’s television’s turn.

Admittedly, television is a trickier beast. You can’t really make a list of the best television seasons, as network TV shows follow the school year, instead of the calendar year. You also can’t do television episodes, because shows on netflix are so arc-heavy that they don’t always have one episode that stands out above the rest. So instead, I’m just going to completely open things up. Which basically means that anything goes! That includes my favorite stand out episodes, beloved characters, story arcs, etc. The end result may be a little messy, but it’s a far truer representation of my top 10 of television of the past year.

Just like my movie list, this list includes TV shows that I first experienced 2016. And while not all of them first aired in 2016, most of them did. Also, like the movie list, this IS a countdown. So the number one was my number one moment of television in 2016.

10. Agent Carter– “Smoke and Mirrors”– Poor Agent Carter. While it was chock full of lovable characters, great humor, and did a wonderful job expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include post WWII America, it didn’t always live up to its full potential. “Smoke and Mirrors” is an example of how good it could be when it did. This episode not only revealed the origin story of Peggy Carter herself, but season two’s villain Whitney Frost, expertly exhibiting the challenges facing women in the 1920s and 30s without feeling hamfisted. While it’s tragic that Agent Carter will never see another season, I’m so happy that we got a season two, if just for this episode.

9. Daredevil- The Punisher– While season two of Daredevil wasn’t quite as impressive as its first outing, it certainly had its strengths. The most obvious of those strengths was The Punisher, expertly played by Jon Bernthal, who added shades of gray to this already very gray section of the MCU. I’m so happy to see that The Punisher will be getting his own spin off series in 2017, and that Karen Page will be following him as well. Their complex relationship was one of my favorite parts of this season.

8. Luke Cage– Misty KnightLuke Cage proved to be another strong addition to the Netflix corner of the MCU, bringing in several new memorable characters. Perhaps it’s due to my weakness for tough lady cops, by my favorite of these new characters was Simone Missick’s Misty Knight, the intelligent and driven Harlam detective. I can only hope that, much like The Punisher, Misty will be given a spin off of her own. I’d happily watch a show all about her.

7. Noragami– The Lady Bishamon Arc– Season one of the anime Noragami was plenty of fun, filled with great humor, fascinating ghostly worldbuilding, and action sequences. But it was the Lady Bishamon storyline of season two that really pulled me in. This arc was filled with twists and turns that really changed how you viewed the main characters, and the final showdown between Yato and Bishonen was nail biting. Can we get a season three? Soon?

6. The Flash– Earth 2– While I certainly have my quibbles with season two of The Flash (not to mention season three), it doesn’t change the fact that it was just so fricken fun to visit Earth 2. I’m a sucker for alternate universe storylines, and had a ball getting to meet the different versions of The Flash’s all-too-likable cast of characters (the highlights clearly being the alternative versions of Caitlin and Cisco). The actual visit to Earth 2 was short, but meaningful, and its effects were felt across the entire season.

5. Supergirl– The new characters of season two- Sometimes when you see that a TV show is bringing in A LOT of new characters in for a new season, you get nervous that things will start to feel crowded. This is how I felt going into season two of Supergirl, but dammit, somehow they managed to pull it off. I love all of the new faces that we’ve gotten to meet in season two, from the tough but likable Detective Maggie Sawyer (there I go again with awesome lady cops!), the morally complex Lena Luther, the should-be-annoying-but-is-actually-quite-charming Daxamite Mon-El, the secretive Miss Martian/M’gann, and Tyler Hoechlin’s wonderful new version of Superman (who I fangirl over on Speculative Chic right here). It’s a virtual smorgasbord of fabulous, new characters and I enjoy digging in every week.

4. Arrow‘s 100th episode– Perhaps the most impressive thing about Arrow‘s epic 100th episode is that it really shouldn’t have worked. Not only did it have to reflect on the legacy that Arrow has built over four and a half seasons, but it was also the third part of an ambitious four night crossover event. Under a lesser writing team, Arrow may have worked in one area or the other, but the Arrow team clearly knew what they were doing. Arrow‘s 100th episode was moving, exciting, and grand. I can see myself rewatching this one over and over again. If you’d like to see my further thoughts on the crossover event as a whole, check out this joint review I did with JL Gribble over at Speculative Chic.

3. Psycho-Pass– Season 1, part 2– I didn’t know what to think about Psycho-Pass at first. While the tech and worldbuilding were interesting (it’s kind of like Minority Report, only instead of killing all the future murderers, they turn them into captive hit men for the police force), it took several episodes before I was fully invested in the characters. By the time I got to part two of season one (which basically means season two), I was 100% on board, excited to learn more about this world and desperate for the pure-minded Akane and the latent criminal Kogami to just make out already. If you’re a dystopia fan, do yourself a favor and watch Psycho-Pass. You don’t need to be an otaku to find it as addicting as I did.

2. Game of Thrones– “The Battle of the Bastards”– And now for the most cliche item on the list! Having completely broken free of the incomplete book series, Game of Thrones reached new heights in season six, and no height was higher than the penultimate episode “Battle of the Bastards,” which managed to capture the horrors of war, finish off a long-running arc in a thoroughly satisfying way. I am crazy excited to see how the show will develop in season seven.

1. Agents of SHIELD– Fallen Agent– One of the best and worst things about network television is how long it takes to tell a story. Twenty-two episodes a season, with storylines that can go on for years. In its infancy, Agents of SHIELD showed the drawbacks of having such a long season (it took quite a while to get off the ground) but by the end of season three, it showed the strengths as we witnessed the final showdown between Skye/Daisy and Ward/Hive, a moment that we’ve been building up to for years. This was only a small part of what was an incredibly strong two part finale (topping off what I feel was SHIELD‘s best season yet). SHIELD‘s season three finale was everything a finale should be, filled with show stopping set pieces, dramatic emotional beats, and plot developments that will change the show and its characters forever. Last spring, I must admit, many of the finales left me feeling underwhelmed, but Agents of SHIELD made up for it all on its own.

Honorable Mentions– Master of None– “Parents”, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt– “Kimmie Meets a Drunk Lady”, Doctor Who– “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, Legends of Tomorrow– Captain Cold

And that’s it for me! I’d love to hear what shows/episodes/characters everyone else fell in love with during 2016.

Top 10 of 2016: Movies

With the end of the year just around the corner, I’ve been seeing a lot of Top 10-style lists, such as top 10 movies, top 10 books, or top ten TV shows, showing up on the internet. Since I really enjoying reading these lists (or watching them, if they’re on youtube), I figured I would share my personal top 10s for 2016. And since I don’t think I’ll be going to the movies again before the new year, it seemed safest to start with film.

Before I get to the list, I just want to give a few caveats. First off, there are plenty of great looking 2016 movies that I haven’t seen yet (looking at you Arrival!), so if your personal favorite is not on this list, that’s why. Also, this list is drawn from all of the movies I saw for the fist time in 2016. So while most of the items here are 2016 releases, a some are not. And thirdly, this is a countdown list! So the number one movie is the movie I personally enjoyed the most in 2016.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 movies of 2016.

10. JourneyQuest 3: The Pale Lady– The little movie that almost wasn’t. The third installment in the JourneyQuest franchise was funded on kickstarter by the skin of its teeth back at the beginning of 2016, and was released to backers just this past month. While JourneyQuest: The Pale Lady has production values far below any of the other entries on this list, the passion and energy the cast and creators bring to the screen is infectious. I love the sword and sorcery-esque world it take place in, and getting to follow our hapless cast of characters for another round. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long to see how that cliffhanger is resolved! For those new to JourneyQuest, start here.

9. Doctor Strange– Admittedly, this isn’t going to go down as my favorite Marvel movie (if your curious, it ranks directly in the middle), but I still felt like Doctor Strange did a great job of bringing magic to the MCU. Doctor Strange hosts an impressive cast, and even more impressive visuals. Overall, it was tons of fun to experience in the theaters. Perfect popcorn fare. For more of a review (including my thoughts on the whitewashing controversy) check out this post that I contributed to on Speculative Chic.

8. Finding DoryFinding Nemo is one of Pixar’s best movies, and probably impossible to top. But even though Finding Dory will not be a classic for the ages, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a genuinely funny and moving film, with a top-talent voice acting, and beautiful story about parents and children. The short film, Piper, that accompanied it, was also too cute for words.

7. Psycho-Pass: The Movie The anime Psycho-Pass was one of my top discoveries of 2016, but I was a little nervous about checking out the accompanying movie, as tie in movies to anime series can often feel like useless filler. But Psycho-Pass: The Movie doesn’t fall into this trap at all. Bringing our heroine, Akane, out of Japan, wonderfully widens the scope of the franchise, showing the audience just how dystopian this future can get. On top of that, the film provides some great character moments between the show’s two leads. I’ll even forgive the movie its crazy, awkward engrish! Highly recommended for fans of season one of the anime.

6. Sing Street– It can be argued that since Once, John Carney is basically making the same movie over and over again. And nothing could make me happier. His films about musicians creating art and finding love never fail to sweep me up and take me away. Sing Street, which is a fantastic coming of age story on top of being a great movie about music, is filled with catchy tunes, and a likable and talented young cast. I can see why this little film got nominated for a Golden Globe.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story While not as enjoyable as The Force Awakens (one of my favorite movie of 2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story remains a movie I can see myself revisiting again and again. Thanks to the dedication of its talented cast and director, Rogue One really changes how you look at the original Star Wars. That and this tense, more adult Star War movie, proves that not all prequels need to be a let down. For more of my thoughts, check out this post on Speculative Chic.

4. Moana– While I never had a “Disney Princess” phase, Disney movies (especially those involving princesses) will always remain near and dear to my heart. Much like Frozen, Moana takes everything I loved about Disney movies as a child, and updates them for a new era. The voice work is fantastic, the music is wonderful, and the CGI shows that the animation industry is continuing to develop and improve its technique, decades after Toy Story. I share more thoughts on Moana here– I’m the second review down.

3. Captain America: Civil War– This is the movie that I’m sure will be at the tip-top of many top 10 lists, and I can see why. Captain America: Civil War effectively builds on the personalities and tensions that have formed over several years worth of Marvel movies, delivering a nuanced character-focused piece with all of the big, explosion-filled action set pieces you’d expect from a summer tent pole movie. Captain America: Civil War manages to both kick off phase 3 of the MCU, and finish of the Captain America movies in a way that is an absolute joy to watch.

2. Deadpool– There are some movies that get better the more than you think about them, and that’s 100% true for Deadpool (as well as my number 1!). Many people like to look at Deadpool and see it as a victory for R-rated superhero movies, but I feel like only doing that really undercuts the film. Deadpool isn’t just a good R-rated superhero movie. Deadpool is a movie that is firing on all cylinders. Its a successful comedy movie, AND a successful action movie, AND a successful love story, AND a successful horror film (during the Weapon X scenes). Deadpool is a movie that slides from genre to genre with unbelievable skill, but you barely notice it because you’re too busy laughing at Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool 2 is one of those movies that I am looking forward, but also fearing. I honestly have no idea how they can pull off this tricky balancing act again.

1. Zootopia– Speaking of movies that can easily navigates between multiple genres, let’s talk about Zootopia, my favorite movie of 2016. Zootopia was the first movie I saw in theaters in 2016, and boy did it start things off on a great note. Zootopia manages to succeed on everything it attempts to do, which is pretty impressive, because it attempts to do a lot. Zootopia is a masterfully made animated tale, filled with rich worldbuildng and gorgeous animation. Zootopia also succeeds as a detective story, chock full of real world commentary. But the reason why I loved Zootopia the most is because of the strength of it’s characters, and just how much you care for them by the end. I dearly hope that Disney ends up putting out a Zootopia 2, because I so desperately want to spend more time in this wonderful world with these amazing characters.

Honorable Mentions: Bad Moms, Naruto: The Last

So, those are my top ten! I’m curious to see how they line up with everyone else’s!

Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

Hey there! I have a new entry up on Speculative Chic! This one’s all about Supergirl, and adventures during The New 52. I break down both the good and bad (and trust me, there are both!)

Back when Greg Berlanti first announced that he was making a Supergirl TV show, I realized something very important. I knew embarrassingly little about Supergirl herself. Sure, I knew that she was a Kryptonian, and Clark Kent’s cousin, but beyond that? Yeah… not so much. To rectify this, I found myself hitting up my library,…

via Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic