2018: Winter Favorites

From January through March, I’ve been enjoying some incredible books, films, music, shows, and more. Here are some of my favorites:

Books:

  • Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
    The story of the third-eldest Kennedy child, Rosemary, is heartbreaking. If you don’t already know—it’s history, so there’s no “spoilers” here—she was intellectually disabled and struggled progressing passed a certain age in school. She frequently suffered from “fits” both of anger, frustration, and sometimes seizures. The family—or I should say, the father of the Kennedys, Joe Sr.—had her lobotomized at the age of 23. I don’t normally read non-fiction but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Kennedy family and couldn’t resist. Rosemary—and the thousands like her who suffered with similar issues and underwent the horrific procedure—deserved so much better.
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
    I bought Rooms because of the cover, I will admit. It’s incredible. And although I was initially intrigued when I first read the back cover, by the time I started reading it, I’d forgotten what it was about except for the fact that ghosts were involved. I wasn’t expecting to like the book as much as I did. It’s brilliantly written, expertly paced, and bounces between such interesting, unexpected perspectives that I was blown away by. It didn’t take me long to read—and as a slow reader, that’s a high compliment. The more I read, the more I didn’t want to put it down.
  • Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
    Again, I bought this book because of the cover more than the book. I’d picked it up while on vacation at a tiny little bookshop in a tiny little town. The idea of a young girl being told that the world and everyone around her was gone, dead, and that only her and her father were left only to discover that it had been a lie was such a great premise. This book is incredibly written and tough to read because you know that, somewhere out there, it’s happened to a young girl for real.
  • Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman
    I’ve recently been getting into comics/graphic novels. But superheroes haven’t really been on my radar—my favorites are The Walking Dead, Saga, and East of West—even though I love superheroes, and you’d think that I would’ve loved them as a kid. But I was more into the television shows/films about them rather than comics. I was given an e-book of Marvel 1602 for free with a purchase—I had my choice of any Marvel comic, and this one, written by Neil Gaiman and set in the Elizabethan era was a no-brainer. I wasn’t expecting to love it and I didn’t even know what it was about until I started reading. Imagine the Marvel heroes—the X-Men, Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, etc.—being born too soon. It’s great and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels.

Films:

  • Lady Macbeth
    I’ve been excited to see this film for almost an entire year after I watched the trailer—which I enjoyed almost as much as a I did the film itself, maybe more—and I bought it on DVD as soon as I could. It’s such a visually appealing film that anything else about it didn’t matter. Every shot looked impeccable, every frame like a painting. Florence Pugh delivers such an incredible performance. It’s dark, it’s brilliant. I loved every minute of it, even the parts I was horrified by.
  • Lady Bird
    Yeah, yeah—I get it. You know this is a great film. It was nominated for several Oscars. I just have to gush about it because writer/director Greta Gerwig is one of my favorites, one of my idols. She’s amazing and Frances Ha, which she starred in and co-wrote is one of my favorite films of all time. Saoirse Ronan is another favorite that gives one of my favorite performances of all time; same for Laurie Metcalf. This movie is a favorite for life. It’s nearly perfect.
  • Get Out
    I don’t think I’ve ever watched a thriller film that is quite as unique as this—not even as a horror film, just as a film in general. It’s brilliant. Jordan Peele deserved every accolade for it. The performances were great—like Daniel Kaluuya is top notch, Betty Gabriel gave one of the most memorable supporting performances ever and she should have been nominated for something, and Allison Williams killed it.
  • The Skeleton Twins
    I love Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. I never expected to see them in such a dramatic film, especially one as dark as this, and be so incredible. It does, of course, have very funny moments, but ultimately it’s a dark story about two suicidal twins coming together again after ten years of not speaking. It’s really great.

Music:

  • ‘Til It’s Over by Anderson Paak
    I’ve been obsessed with the iHome commercial directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA Twigs with this song in it. It’s the coolest commercial I’ve ever seen and the song is amazing.
  • Simply the Best by Noah Reid (from Schitt’s Creek)
    This cover of Tina Turner’s song by one of the characters on the show Schitt’s Creek is so so so good. The moment in the episode is so good. I just love it.
  • Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
    This song is my jam. It is my morning routine song. It is my afternoon pick-me-up. It is the moon, the sun, the stars. Janelle Monae is perfection. The video is bomb. I love it.
  • More by Photocomfort
    A long time ago, I found a band called Photocomfort and downloaded their free EP on Bandcamp. Those songs were super inspirational for me for a long time but I never could find any more about the band and sort of forgot about them—other than listening to the songs I’d already had—and recently, I found them again. The song More is such a different sound from their first EP but I love it.
  • Mystery of Love and Death with Dignity by Sufjan Stevens
    Thanks to Call Me By Your Name and Busy Philipps’ Instagram, I’m in love with Sufjan Stevens and I love these songs in particular. So soothing and beautiful and gentle. Absolutely in love.
  • Mockingbirds by Grant Lee Buffalo
    If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan like I, you’ve heard the town troubadour, played by the lead singer of the band. He plays this song during the Firelight Festival in one of my favorite scenes of the first season.
  • Sober by Lorde
    I’ve been listening to a lot of Lorde lately, her new album Melodrama (okay, not so new, but I’m late, as always) is fantastic. Sober is my favorite song on it.
  • Every Other Freckle by alt-j
    I had alt-j’s album This Is All Yours on my iTunes wishlist after it was recommended to for a long time without ever listening. I’m glad I eventually did. This song in particular is my favorite. It’s awesome.
  • Losing All Sense by Grizzly Bear
    The song is great and I especially love the lyrics here:

“Could I ask of you not to cut into me
Dividing all of my body for me
I was left here to go through all the pieces
Nothing more to spare.”

Television:

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
    This show is not perfect. I would’ve changed a million things about it—telling the story in reverse order was unnecessary; if you’re going to have Gianni Versace in the title, it should probably include him more in the story or at least just call it something else if they didn’t want Andrew Cunanan’s name glorified—but ultimately, it’s really great. Darren Criss is such an incredible actor and I think they told an incredible, if not flawed, story.
  • Queer Eye
    The reboot of Queer Eye is incredible and I cried every episode and I love the new crew and I just want more. There are so many touching moments, hilarious moments, important moments. It’s just such a great show.
  • The Good Place
    Let me tell you, I slept on this show like you wouldn’t believe. I was like “Oh that looks funny” then never checked it out. Never bothered. And then I heard just how good it was, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m almost glad that I never watched from the beginning, because binging it through both seasons was necessary. I almost wish I would’ve waited for the third to already be out because this! show! does! not! mess! around! It’s funny, it’s brilliant, it goes in directions that I never EVER would have thought. It’s wild. It’s fun. I love it.
  • Schitt’s Creek
    I casually watched this show for the first three seasons, seeing one or two episodes but never fully committing for no reason other than forgetting it was on. But now I’ve fully invested myself and have watched all of season four every night it airs. I can’t get enough of this show. It’s got such a subtle comedic timing and pacing that isn’t like other comedies. One of the best.
  • The End of the F***ing World
    This Netflix show is wild. It’s dark and messed up and funny. It’s a weird little show about two messed up teenagers who runaway from home. I loved it and I hope this isn’t just the mini-series it’s been planned to be. I’d love more of it.

Other:

  • Skillshare
    I was given a code to get two months of Skillshare classes for 99 cents. It was well worth the dollar. There are so many classes available for any kind of topic you could want. I’ve done some illustration and design classes, even a few that helped with my getting started with freelancing. It’s a great resource, though I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it once my two months are up. It’s a bit pricier than I would want to commit to. But it’s something I’ll definitely think about.
  • Diet Coke Feisty Cherry
    Y’all, I’ve been trying to cut down on sugar and I know Diet Coke has terrible things in it and I shouldn’t drink it. I used to hate Diet Coke and only drank regular Coke. I’m a big fan. But when I heard about the new Diet Cokes with new flavors, I was sold. There are four flavors and they are: Twisted Mango (not bad, my second favorite), Ginger Lime (tasted like regular Diet Coke to me, maybe a bit of something extra, but for the most part it was just fine), and Zesty Blood Orange (which is the worst and it tastes like orange Emergen-C). The best one is Feisty Cherry and I’ve been drinking it a lot. It has the sweet cherry flavor of Cherry Coke with a bite of peppery goodness in the after-taste. It’s quite nice.
  • Adam Rippon & the entire 2018 Winter Olympics
    I love the Olympics. Every Olympics since I was a kid, my mom and I would watch everything we could. I especially love the Summer Olympics, but this year, I got really into the Winter Olympics. Figure skating, curling, skiing, speed skating! It was such a fun time and honestly, the best thing to come out of it is Adam Rippon has emerged into the spotlight as America’s gay sweetheart and he’s the best. He’s hilarious and every interview with him is gold.

It’s been a long, cold, depressing winter and I’m ready for spring! I’m glad I had these favorites of mine to get me through. It’s snowing right now, in April, but I’m hoping for some sun soon. I need it.

✌🏼

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2017 Favorites: December

It’s the final month of 2017! December is always a busy month with the holidays but I still have a few favorite things to recommend. Here they are:

Ocean’s 8 trailer

So the trailer for the new Ocean’s 8 movie came out—it’s a sequel spin-off of the original trilogy with George Clooney (which I love) but now with an all female cast. I’m so excited for this movie because 1) the cast is insane and I love all of them and 2) it looks amazing. As soon as I heard about it, I was in, so after seeing the trailer, I’m all in. Have to see it. I’ve watched the trailer like ten times already.

Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense

Recently heard about the band Grizzly Bear (even though I’ve technically heard their stuff before and just never realized until later; I even had a song in my iTunes library that I loved but never got around to checking out the rest of their stuff) and fell in love with the song Losing All Sense. It’s just a great song. Trust. Listen to it.

Tsuro

For Christmas this year, I received a lot of great things, but my favorite has to be the board game Tsuro. I’ve been into games lately and I’m obsessed with this one already. It’s a game of tile with many winding, connecting paths that you lay down on your turn to get your game piece moving around without running off the edge of the board or running into another player’s piece (a dragon); the object of the game is to be the last one remaining. It’s real fun but oddly relaxing, like it’s such a calm and simple game that it’s really easy to just sit back and play a couple—though there can be a few intense moments during gameplay, like when you’re too close to the edge or another player uses a tile that effects your dragon and you have to go down a path that might lead you to the edge. It’s literally my favorite game right now.

Baron Fig

So I recently purchased a new notebook from Baron Fig and I love it. I got the Confidant, medium size, with the dot grid to use as my new bullet journal for 2018! It’s such a well-made notebook, it came in a fancy box, it’s the perfect notebook for me. It’s exactly what I was looking for to be my next bullet journal in the new year. I also bought the dot grid sticky notes that are so handy and so aesthetically pleasing on my desk rather than the brightly colored, blank ones I’m used to having.

So those are my favorites of December! And that’s the last monthly favorites post I’m going to make! I’ve decided that in the new year, I’m going to be posting a lot differently, so it’ll be a favorites/recommendation post every three months or so…that means nothing if you don’t follow this blog and read regularly, which is very few of you—HA! Anyway, that’s the plan.

2017 Favorites: October

October is my favorite month of the year and it even became my favorite month of this year! I’ve been feeling great, being productive, loving the weather, getting back to my exercise and diet routine, and most importantly for this post, have been finding awesome things to enjoy.

Fitbit bands

Speaking of being healthy again, my Fitbit Alta band broke and for a few weeks, I had just put it in my pocket to count my steps. Sometime at the beginning of October, I ordered a set of six bands from a random brand on Amazon, hoping they’d fit (it was either $30 for a replacement or $12 for six off-brand replacements in different colors, so I went with the better deal) and I wasn’t disappointed. They fit perfectly, they came in six different colors and I even prefer the watch-style buckle to it rather than a snap. They’re really great and such a good deal.

Tabletop

Now, I’ve watched an episode of Tabletop hosted by Wil Wheaton on the Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube before—just one, the Cards Against Humanity episode a year or so ago—but I haven’t seen anymore than that until this month. And now I’ve binge watched more than two dozen episodes, have become obsessed with games again, and have bought two—The Resistance (have yet to play, you need five people and I never have that many people around???) and Sushi Go! (which I’ve now played several times and am obsessed with)—and I’ve put like a dozen games on my Christmas list for family members. I love the show, love games, love it all.

Sushi Go!

And one of those games, as I said, is Sushi Go! It’s the most adorable card game ever. You play like a sushi bar with a conveyer belt, passing your hand off to the person on your right, taking a new card to collect for points. It’s addicting and cute and I can’t even handle how much I love to play it. My sister and I played it for an hour literally yesterday and she’s now hooked. We’re playing again this weekend.

The Resistance

So, can I have a game I never played as a favorite? Because I am. I love this game. I’ve yet to play it, but I own it and as soon as I can wrangle four other people to play with me, I will play it and love it and revel in it. Because I’ve watched so many videos of people playing this game (shoutout to Tabletop again and JKParty on YouTube) and have become obsessed with The Resistance. It’s a game in which the entire group are but two (or more depending on the amount of players) people were actually given spy cards. Through a series of missions with failures and successes indicated by secret voting, either the red spies win or the blue loyal Resistance members will win—no one but the spies knows who each other are, so by bluffing and discussing, the players try to out the spies and choose only Resistance members to go on the missions. I’ve seriously never been more excited to play a game than I am with the Resistance.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I’ve watched the Syfy show The Magicians since it aired last January and fell in love with it. It’s on my top ten favorite shows list, easily. It’s cool and fun and insane. But the book? Boy howdy, it’s ten times better. But in a different way. It’s Book Better where the show is TV Better. They are equal in goodness by their own category. Because really, they’re two different things and I’ve never seen an adaptation be so perfectly different that I enjoy both. It’s usually one or the other. (Possibly because I’ve seen the show before I read the books? Who knows?) Anyway, I wish I’d found this book while in high school (it had just been publish while I was there) because it would’ve become my favorite book. Easily, I know, this trilogy would’ve become what Fillory and Further is to Quentin in the books. I very much see myself in Quentin, which is a rarity for me. I’m not used to being able to so perfectly identify with a main character. I don’t just love this book, it’s my favorite book. It, for the first time in a long time, has taken the top spot on my list of favorite books. And it very well be one of the very few books that I reread over and over in my lifetime.

And those were my favorites of October!

2017 Favorites: September

September doesn’t seem like it should even be here let alone be over. But it is and though I love autumn and Halloween and everything that comes with this time of year, it’s strange to already be here. September had a lot of great things in it, though, and here are some of my favorites.

I recently purchased an iPad and have fallen in love. My MacBook’s battery has been iffy lately and I haven’t been able to unplug it from the charger without it shutting down immediately, and with my job, the convenience of an iPad would work well. So far, I love it, and most of my favorites have to do with it:

Procreate App

While working on my illustration skills, I downloaded the Procreate app for iPhone a long time ago, liking it but not loving it. Now with the iPad, I purchased the Procreate app for iPad and love it. It’s an incredible app for illustrating on – it has incredible features, layers, tools. It’s wonderful and easy to use. I’ve been playing around with it all month and can’t wait to work with it more.

Scrivener App

As a writer, I use Scrivener on my computer exclusively for any project I’m working on. With the convenience of the iPad, I’ve been able to sync my projects (through Dropbox) simply and easily to use the Scrivener app for iPad. It’s amazing. Once a week, I’m the passenger of a one hour drive, there and back, and have been able to (among other things) write while on the go and it’s been great. I don’t particularly love typing long form on an iPad, so I’m working on the right orientation and angle that is most comfortable, but the app itself is wonderful.

Photo Editing

Polarr and ColorStory are two digital photo editing apps I’ve been working with on the iPad. They’re not perfect and I know there’s better ones, but I found these to be great while wanting to edit a few pictures. Polarr has some good filters and lighting editing, and ColorStory has a few filters I like and some effects that are cool.

Makeba – Jain

I first heard this song on a Levi’s commercial a few weeks ago an fell in love. It’s such a cool, fun song that is literally the perfect example of my favorite type of music. Jain is a French artist and I’ve since fallen in love, but this song continues to be my favorite. I’ve been listening on repeat almost ever since buying it.

Z by Therese Anne Fowler

This novel is a fictionalized version of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, artist, writer, and wife of the famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story chronicles her life from meeting Scott and all their struggles and successes throughout their life. They lived through the Roaring Twenties, directly in the middle of the Gatsby-like parties and the rise of modern art. It’s a great read, completely hooking me in right away. I really couldn’t put it down—I had to force myself to go to bed. It’s fascinating, about a decade I love, and is paced so well that I was never once bored, and with the shorter chapter lengths, I just kept reading and reading and reading.

Audible

I’ve been hearing about Audible forever, and as someone who is subscribed to a lot of YouTube channels, I hear about it almost daily. But I never tried it because I didn’t think I liked audiobooks. But boy was I wrong. I love them. I listen to podcasts on my walk, but when I don’t have a new episode to listen to, I usually just listen to music. And then I started a free trial of Audible and got two free credits (TWO WHOLE AUDIOBOOKS FOR FREE) and now I’m hooked. I can get even MORE reading done this way. I was unsure of the $15 a month for a while, but hadn’t realized that you get a credit every month with that. So really, it’s just like buying one audiobook a month. I don’t know if I’ll continue, but I’ve been loving it so far. I’ve been listening to Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and preordered Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman.

And that’s my September! I’m very excited for October, as it’s my favorite month of the year, even if I’m upset that it’s already here.

2017 Favorites: August

August rushed by quicker than any month this year. Going on a vacation in the middle of the month always does that—the first week was planning and packing and getting ready for it, the week after spent catching up and recovering. Then, all of a sudden, August was almost over. Yikes. But in there somewhere, I was able to read a little after BookTube-A-Thon in July and enjoy some music and films. Here were my favorites of August:

Logan

Hands down, this has become my favorite X-Men film in one viewing. It’s violent and rough and raw. It’s heartbreaking. First of all, spoiler alert if you didn’t already know, this was the perfect end to Wolverine’s story arc. Hugh Jackman has played him perfectly for seventeen years and this was the most fitting, perfect end to his time in this cinematic universe. Same with Patrick Stewart’s Xavier, but I have a feeling that won’t be the end of his performances as Professor X. The films itself is beautifully done, the action sequences were incredible—especially with the character of Laura. The young actress playing her was brilliant. I loved every second she as on screen. Everything was just so so so good about this film—except for the end, though I thought was beautiful, just didn’t feel finished. We didn’t see the children Logan was helping reach their destination, only that they all survived and started on their journey again—but to where? They never showed if the place they’d been trying to get to is even real. It didn’t feel completely finished, but in a way, I kind of liked it that way. It lead us to think that the story isn’t completely finished, whether setting up potential sequels/connections for down the road with other films or simply stating that mutants will survive, they’ll continue to be. Either way, it didn’t feel complete. Even so, I loved it. It’s my favorite X-Men film ever.

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Unashamed to say that I’m a Taylor Swift fan. She’s a problematic fave and I love this new persona of hers, even if it’s petty. I’m here for the drama. I’m here for this new sound. I love it all. The video rocked, the song is cool. That chorus is such a dramatic reverse to anything she’s ever done before, unexpected and rad. The song’s not perfect by any means but it sounds good. It’s fun. It’s crazy. I love it.

Malibu – Miley Cyrus

Completely different from the previous favorite, this is a song that came out a long time ago but I haven’t heard yet. Miley Cyrus has swung back around to a more calm, mellow persona (which was so obviously her genius plan to follow the footsteps of other pop stars to make a bigger name for herself) with a new album. The song has a mellow, Sheryl Crow vibe that I love. It’s a perfect summer song (I’m angry I hadn’t heard it ’til late August) that has a beautiful vintage-sounding guitar riff in the chorus that I love.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite young adult authors. Her Grishaverse books (starting with the Shadow & Bone trilogy and then with the Six of Crows duology) are an imaginative world of magic that reminds me of the books I’m writing. I obviously fell in love. And although I really liked the first trilogy set in this world, the duology Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom have hands down been her best work yet. Six of Crows is one of my favorite books of all time and Crooked Kingdom follows close behind. It’s a great book, and because it’s the second, I’m not going to go into too many spoiler details about it, but the story wraps up perfectly in this book and kept me surprised the entire time about the plot. All the characters are so well crafted, the story could’ve gone in any direction, and I probably still would’ve enjoyed it just to spend more time with the characters. It’s so good.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

Switching over to an adult book, Vermilion by Molly Tanzer is not a book at first glance that I would’ve chosen. Well, technically it was because I bought it solely for the cover—but if it had had a less beautiful cover, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Not from knowing the surface material: it’s a western. But not just a western, it’s a paranormal, steampunk-esque book about a young woman who dresses as a man and deals with sending ghosts off to the afterlife. Then? I’m totally in. But if I’d known it would’ve been a much more fantasy, queer-heavy, mystery novel, I would’ve read it immediately after purchasing. It’s so so good. I’ve heard word of a sequel and I’m all in. Especially if the covers match and the second is just as beautiful as the first. Then I’m doubly in.

And that’s what I’ve enjoyed in the month of August!

2017 Favorites: July

July simultaneously felt really long and felt like it flew by — I don’t know how, but it did. My monthly focus for July was reading, and I did a fair amount of it, so most of my favorites this month are book related.

BookTube-A-Thon

My favorite read-a-thon to participate in (and really the only one I do participate in, though I plan on doing more in the future) is BookTube-A-Thon, hosted by Ariel Bissett. You don’t have to be a BookTuber to participate and I do it every year – it’s so much fun and a little stressful. It’s a week long, with many challenges, but the main challenge is to read seven books. I did not. I plan on writing a wrap up post soon.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

One of the books I read during BookTube-A-Thon was by my favorite author Victoria Schwab titled This Savage Song. It’s set in an alternate future of the United States, telling the story of two teens from opposite sides of a divided city, crossing paths long after “the phenomenon,” an event where monsters are created from acts of violence. It’s such an imaginative, cool world and the story was engaging from start to finish. It’s just a really awesome book and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Another book I read for BookTube-A-Thon was the novella Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s a sci-fi story about a girl named Binti, chosen to go to the best university in the galaxy, having to survive an attack by an alien race on the ship taking her there. It’s one of the most interesting, imaginative stories I’ve ever read, from an incredible perspective of a black woman that doesn’t often get the attention from the mainstream as it should, especially in this genre — it’s the only one I’ve ever really heard of, but I know there is more out there. I’m excited to find more stories similar and I’ll be starting with the sequels to Binti.

Call Me By Your Name (Trailer)

Technically, the trailer came out in August and I’m writing this in August, but I don’t want to wait to talk about this film. I’m incredibly excited to watch Call Me By Your Name, a gay-themed drama starring Armie Hammer (one of my favorite actors). I’ve been waiting for this trailer for so long, ever since hearing about the film — I’ve watched it a dozen times already. And, it’s an adaptation of a book, so I’ll be hunting for that to read in time before the film is released.

In A Heart Beat 

This entire list is either something book related or something gay. I’m not mad about it. In A Heartbeat is the most adorable gay-themed animated short about a school kid who has a crush on his classmate and his heart becomes anthropomorphic, chasing down his crush, risking the boy being outed. It’s adorable, the music is perfect, and it’s an instant classic up there with some of my favorite animated shorts like Paperman, which has a similar vibe.

So that’s all my favorite books/films/etc. things from July!

2017 Favorites: May

May was SO FULL of favorites, y’all, I can’t even believe I discovered all these things this month. I actually cut two out because it has to stop somewhere, otherwise I’ll be just listing things I’ve done or used all month. There’s basically two categories to this month’s favorites: apps and podcasts, with a TV show thrown in accidentally. Here are my May favorites:

Trial & Error

This show was supposed to be one of my April favorites, but I completely forgot to add it. The mockumentary comedy stars John Lithgow as an eccentric and oblivious man accused of killing his wife in a small, Southern town, accompanied by a ridiculous set of characters. It’s hilariously written and outrageously, ridiculously silly. It’s a fun time.

MyFitnessPal

Eating healthy is hard. Losing weight is hard. Keeping track of calories and protein and fat and blah blah blah, you lost me, get me another burger—it’s hard. I’ve struggled with my weight and staying healthy a long time. And thanks to starting to use MyFitnessPal app on my phone, I’ve been able to keep track of what I’m eating, the calories, fat, sugar—not just trying to keep it under a certain number (which has been a struggle in the past) but keep in a healthy “zone.” I want to post about my new dietary changes in another post, but since using the app, I’ve lost 13 pounds. The app makes it easy to enter what I’ve eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and it breaks everything down for me, so I know if I’m getting enough protein, having too much sugar, everything. It’s one of the coolest apps ever, and the best part for me, it syncs with my Fitbit, so it accounts for the steps I’m getting and automatically logs my calories into my Fitbit app, so it’s all together and organized to help me stay on target.

Scapple

I’ve had this on my computer for a while as a 30 day free trial, losing a day every time I open it. After a year or so of wanting to use it more, I finally paid for it, and have loved it even more than I thought I would. It’s a program (by the same company who created Scrivener, my favorite writing program) that makes it easy to brainstorm digitally. You can write notes, connect them to each other with lines, use arrows, pin images. It’s amazing. I’ve been using it for writing books, creating family trees and diagrams and outlines. It’s such a great tool that now allows me to be free of wasting pages and pages and pages of paper in a notebook. Let’s be real, I’ll still do that anyway, but Scapple makes it easy to save to Scrivener, so I have everything I need right in my file for referencing. It’s awesome.

Evernote

And, the nerdiest thing on this favorites list goes to…Evernote. The best app I’ve ever found (sorry, Scapple, you work for one thing, this works for another) that I can use on my phone, as a Google Chrome extension, and as a program on my computer, all syncing perfectly together in harmony. Evernote is basically for note taking, but it can be used for anything. You can have folders with references, images, and notes at the ready. The Chrome extension is awesome for saving sites as simplified versions, which is great for articles you want to read later (though I also use Pocket for this) and recipes you find online (I do this a lot), quickly clipping the site from online and saving it to your notes in a folder you choose that can be accessed from your phone. The app for iPhone can take a picture of a document and essentially scan it, making an image you can save and reference back to. It would be great for receipts and important documents. You can make to do lists. Everything syncs perfectly, so you can work while on the go, at your desk, whatever. It’s incredible and I’ve been using it everyday for at least one thing since I downloaded it, and I haven’t even begun to start really diving in.

Recently, I’ve been getting into podcasts a lot. I’ve been listening to one every day while on my morning walk. Here are the few I’ve been listening to and loving this month:

Portrait of a Freelancer

One of my favorite YouTubers, Ariel Bissett, recently started a podcast about becoming a freelancer, documenting the journey and talking about the struggles and successes starting something new. The podcast is really great, especially because I’m also getting started with freelancing, so it came at the perfect time for me to be inspired and listen to someone else’s perspective on a similar path.

Spirits

I don’t remember if I’ve ever talked about Spirits before, but it’s honestly my favorite podcast right now. I absolutely love mythology and legends, and hosts Amanda and Julia are hilarious, making the drunken storytelling podcast both highly entertaining and informative in my favorite area of history.

Story Not Story

Hosted by YouTuber Craig (WheezyWaiter) and his wife Chyna, the two tell bedtime stories, off the top of their heads while in bed, and record it for the podcast. They’re both funny and the stories vary, from the planets reacting to Pluto’s demotion to a story about the first water slide, ridden by micro-organisms, all ridiculous and hilarious.

Top Ten Favorites Books

Though I haven’t read as many books as I’d like to have by this time in my life, I’ve read a lot compared to most people I know. Compared to most readers, I’ve read close to nothing. But the point is, since I posted my Top Five Favorite Films, I thought I’d do the same for my favorite books…except it’s actually my Top Ten because I couldn’t decide on only five and some of them are series…so it’s more like a lot. Anyway, here they are in no particular order:

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
The Shades of Magic trilogy is my favorite book series of all time, by my favorite author, Victoria VE Schwab. It’s an adult fantasy series about four connected Londons in parallel worlds with varying degrees of magic. A one-of-a-kind magician who can travel between them from one London and a pickpocket from another meet, travel through worlds together, and general chaos ensues. Schwab’s writing is incredible, the best I’ve ever read and these books are dark, fun, and exciting.

Vicious by VE Schwab
Another book by my favorite author, Vicious is about two college students who deduce that superhuman abilities can derive from near-death experiences and do it to themselves in order to gain such powers. Jumping back and forth in time, the book explores the dynamics of superheroism and villainry from an interesting perspective.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Yet another Victoria Schwab book—I swear there’s more than just hers on this list. The Archived is the first in a series of two YA books about a girl who is a Keeper for the Archive, an otherworldly library where the dead are shelved like books, and must keep those dangerous dead, called Histories, from entering back into our world. It’s like a light fantasy and murder mystery book all in one. The sequel, The Unbound, is also a favorite—and I’m still holding out for a third book, no matter how long it takes.

Saga by Brian K Vaughan
This series is actually not technically books, but comics. I’ve never been a huge fan of comic books, only recently getting into them—thanks, in part, to this series. I’ve been reading the six-issue bound volumes as they come out, reading mostly in the summer—which is my favorite time to read graphic novels and comics. Saga is about two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war falling in love, having a child, and going on the run from the war and those that want them, and their half-breed child, killed. It’s like a full-on adult Star Wars space odyssey with some of the most incredible artwork, which creates a vivid landscape for an awesome, kick-ass story about a blended alien family.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I fell in love with The Name of the Star and its two sequels (I believe, as of writing this, a fourth is on the way) a few years ago. It’s the story of a teen girl from the South of the US going to London to start her new life at a boarding school at the same time as the city relives the horrifying events of the Jack the Ripper murders as someone begins to mimic them. The book somehow balances being funny and creepy perfectly—the main character is relatable, Maureen Johnson’s writing is both dark and hilarious, and the book’s plot is often-times creepy and fully intriguing, with twists and surprises I didn’t expect.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book surprised me—I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did and I hadn’t expected to finish it so quickly. I read it in only two days; I couldn’t put it down. The story goes back and forth through time, before and after the night a famous actor dies on stage from a heart attack at the same time the world begins to fall from a deadly virus. All the characters have some connection to the actor, the main character having been in the same play as a young child actress, later growing up to travel through the desolate land of the northern midwest with a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony, who plays for the small communities having survived the pandemic. It’s a beautifully written, poignant novel about the little things we’d lose just as much as the large things during such an event.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart
First: This book has a terrible title. I mean, a fine title that just doesn’t fit the book. That’s the my only complaint about it. This book is my favorite summer read I’ve ever read—and that’s what it is. A summer read. Read it in the summer only, trust me it makes for a better experience. Also, don’t read into the book at all, don’t look it up, don’t spoil yourself. Don’t even read this paragraph, just skip it. This is all I’ll say: The book’s about a family who have summer homes on a private island and it’s suspenseful and beautifully written. That’s it. If you love YA and suspense and beautiful writing, READ IT.

The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
This is a book that I read a long time ago, in high school, and have sort of forgotten all about it—time for a reread, I guess. However, I do know that I loved it and everything about it. It’s a very unique spin on the zombie genre, with a similar vibe to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village crossed with The Walking Dead. It’s been on my favorites list since then, so even though I remember so little, I still have it on my top ten because I do remember that it was great and I loved it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’m a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo and her work. The Grisha Trilogy she wrote is one of my favorites YA series and Six of Crows is part of the same world. I thought that the Grisha Trilogy was so fantastic and then I read Six of Crows and was blown away. It’s even better than the trilogy and is so unique. It’s set in the same “Grishaverse” so several people within the world have special powers, but in this book, the focus is more on a different set of skills: thievery and conning. A gang of young criminals work together on an impossible heist and it’s a blast. It’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever read. It’s just a straight up cool Ocean’s Eleven-esque fantasy book.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
And finally, though this list is not in a particular order, The Raven Cycle is my favorite YA series of all time. It’s just the greatest series ever. I love the characters, the world Maggie Stiefvater has created, and the entire series itself. The Raven Boys and its sequels tells the story of a group of private school teenage boys and a girl named Blue, obsessively searching for the legendary Raven King, who is likely buried nearby, in hopes to be granted a wish—all with the help of the psychic family of women Blue’s grown up with and set in a town situated on a “ley line” of magical energy. It’s a book series I wish had come out while I was in high school, because I would’ve been all over it obsessed—I mean, I still was while in college, but still.

2017 Favorites: April

Alien: Covenant

Alien is one of my favorite horror/space movies of all time. There’s a special place for it in my heart. Though I’m not such a fan of its sequels, I am a huge fan of the recent connected series that began with 2012’s Prometheus and the sequel to it, the upcoming Alien: Covenant. I don’t know where I’ve been, but the trailer for Alien: Covenant has been released for quite a while, but I just found it online. It looks amazing. I can’t wait to find the connections to Prometheus—I know Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace may be reprising their roles, and that there will be a second sequel, set between the first two films with them in it—and a prologue was just released online with them in it. The film looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

Peak

Peak is an app I saw advertised on Instagram. I usually never click on the ads, but it looks interesting, and I’m all for these kinds of games. The app sets up a brain game schedule for you (I chose to do it every day) where you play four games (or if you go Pro, six, which I think is a little too expensive for what it is, but whatever) that help sharpen your mind a little each day. So far, I’ve been gradually making progress with some of the games, and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s basically just really fun puzzles and number and words games that you play, then it tells you how your improving with different skills, like memory, problem solving, and focus, and compares you with others in your age group to see how your doing. It’s mostly just fun.

So Says I – the Shins

I’d heard this song on an episode of Gilmore Girls a long time ago, and with every rewatch of that episode, I like the song more. The band plays it live in a bar in the show and with my recent rewatch of the episode, I just had to find it and buy it. I’m glad I did, because it’s been on repeat the last few weeks—a new favorite that I’d had all along and didn’t know it.

Beowulf

The epic poem taught in high school is boring—but only boring because it’s in your high school english class, which makes everything, no matter what the topic, boring. But reading it for pleasure is a whole other experience. We only read passages during school, and though I did enjoy it at the time, it’s something completely different reading it all together. Seamus Heaney did a brilliant job translating it to modern english for us to enjoy today.

Top 5 Favorite Films

Since I was a kid, watching movies has been a large part of my life. I’ve wanted to act and direct and write ever since first understanding that it was someone’s job to make films. I watch films of any genre, independently made or major wide-releases, animated or live-action, comedy or drama—I don’t have a “type” of movie I like watching, I love everything. And because of that, my Top Five Favorite Films are just as varied:

Another Earth

A few years ago, I heard of the film Another Earth and later watched the trailer, falling in love before even watching the entire thing. It’s the film I give as an answer to the question “What’s your favorite movie?” Another Earth is a thought-provoking independent science fiction film co-written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling (who also both directed and starred, respectively) about a woman in her twenties who is released from prison after a drunk driving accident when she was seventeen, which happened on the same night a discovery of a twin Earth was revealed. I instantly became a fan of Brit Marling (she’s seriously awesome) and, as an aspiring filmmaker, Another Earth inspired me more than anything I’d seen before.

Frances Ha

This film is actually a recent find—like, this past month. I’d heard of Frances Ha many times, especially when Greta Gerwig had been nominated for a Golden Globe for it, and always planned to eventually see it. I’m glad I waited. Had I seen this film at any other time, I don’t think it would have spoken to me as it did, I don’t think I would’ve related to Frances as I did at this point in my life. I’m not a dancer and I’m not currently in an apartment hopping phase, but the feel of the film, the arc of France’s character, her maturing, her living her dream, her life during a time of change, is exactly what I feel right now. And because of that, watching at the right time, it will be a favorite for life.

Atonement

Atonement has been my favorite film since high school. Before I saw Another Earth, this is what I’d say is my favorite when asked. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliantly acted—it’s where my love of the young actress Saoirse Ronan first began. I also saw a lot of myself in her character, Briony, as we’re both writers and the worlds of reality and fantasy often blurred—though I have never sent anyone away to prison, I had certainly lied frequently and made up stories as a kid in a similar way. The musical score is still one of my favorite aspects of the film, one of my favorite scores of all time, and I still often listen to some of the tracks, especially when writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark, thriller, mystery film with an incredible performance by Rooney Mara. I love the aesthetic of the film, the direction by David Fincher, the score (my actual favorite score) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, everything. The whole film is just cool, it’s dark and intense—there’s a certain scene, however, that I’ve only watched once, the first time I saw the film, and can’t watch again as it’s just too difficult to sit through. I could watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo again and again, despite knowing all the twists, and not get bored.

The Incredibles

To be honest, if you don’t have an animated film as one of your top favorite movies, I don’t trust you as a person. Because not only is The Incredibles my favorite animated film, it’s one of my favorite films of all time. Ever since I was young, I wanted to have special powers—which often pops up in my own writing—and so I love most superhero and fantasy and magical fiction. The style of the film has a 60s vibe and the background story to the characters, how superheroes have to go into hiding, and the whole family with each unique power—it’s all just so good. The Incredibles is funny, brilliantly written, so unique, and I can’t wait to see the announced sequel.