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Origins of an Agent: Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry

I started watching The X-Files in middle school, toward the end of the series. At the time, I was in love with everything on the Sci Fi channel (now Syfy). TV was doing an excellent job of fueling my obsession with the paranormal and unexplained, so when I saw reruns of The X-Files showing, I gave them a shot. I was hooked. It became one of the shows I would choose any time I saw it on the TV guide listing, even if an episode had already started, even if I was watching them out of order–which I was.

Fifteen years later, and it’s still one of my favorite TV series, so when I stumbled upon The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry in the teen section of our local library, I snatched it right up. I didn’t even read the synopsis until I got home; I couldn’t resist the bold, glaring X on the cover.

Devil’s Advocate is a story about fifteen-year-old Dana Scully and her life as she’s thrust into a murder mystery involving schoolmates, angels, and mysterious men in black. The story finds Dana beginning to question her own sanity as she searches for help and answers before anyone else can get hurt. With the guidance of the local new age shop owner and employees, along with her own sister, Dana faces the dangers that will only continue to follow her as she grows up: murder, mayhem, and that which she cannot explain.

What I loved about this book was the way it made reference to characters The X-Files fans already know, and it afforded us another opportunity to interact with them via young Dana Scully. The two most prominent relationships are those between Dana and her sister, Melissa, and Dana and her father. They’re portrayed in ways that we already know as fans of the series–Dana’s skepticism making an appearance opposite Melissa’s unwavering belief; her already strained relationship with her military father–but they do so without alienating newcomers at the same time. Particularly of note was the way the story showed the lead up to Dana and Melissa’s divergence of beliefs, giving that backstory to fans both old and new.

Maberry also manages to do a skillful job of keeping readers on their toes, trying to figure out who the killer of the story is. A mystery/thriller can be disappointing if readers figure out the answers too early on, but Maberry makes it possible for a number of people to be suspects, or at the very least untrustworthy in some way that readers suspect but can’t put a finger on. I found myself jumping around with suspicions as I read, even at times when I knew Dana might be wrong, or at the very least reacting quicker than she should in a situation (even if her instincts were right). I couldn’t help growing just as emotional as she was, even if I knew better. Maberry has an excellent way of making readers feel for Dana and feel with her as she seems to struggle against everyone around her.

Some of the novel’s opening came off rather clunky, most noticeably when Maberry is describing Dana and Melissa’s ages in relation to one another, but overall, Devil’s Advocate is a fun read that gives a new depth to a story that some already know and others haven’t had the pleasure of diving into yet. If you like fan fiction but are looking for something more believably linked to the source material, as we all know fan fiction can take some serious liberties at times, I would highly recommend giving this book a shot. I know I’ll be searching my library for Mulder’s story, by Kami Garcia, on my next trip.

February 17, 2017
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#RiverdaleStrong

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I’ve never been much into Archie comics. Aside from a few thick grocery store volumes acquired in the checkout lane when I was still single digits, my attention skimmed right past Archie and his pals to the Ducktales comics and, later, to some scarier, stranger volumes. (Hello, Locke & Key.)

Several months ago, articles came out across the web to announce the news: An Archie television series was coming to The CW, and to my surprise, my curiosity was piqued. I was already open to giving an Archie series a try, but the fact that it would be on The CW was what caught my interest. The CW is known to me for two things: Its long-running, over-the-top dramas and its collection of surprisingly successful DC comics series. And as expected, this wasn’t to be your typical Archie, the half-hour, antics-filled sitcom I would have guessed we’d get from any other channel. Despite the visual callbacks in the forms of Jughead’s hat and Archie’s garish orange hair (more on that later), this was going to be a gritty, dramatic look at Archie and the rest of the Riverdale community, so I was skeptical, because I couldn’t understand how or why you’d make this adaptation into something dark. It could be such a let down.

I am so glad to have been wrong.

My truest loves come in the forms of Our Lady of Personal Reformation, Veronica Lodge; Our Lady of Pining and Perfection, Betty Cooper; the cool-as-hell, suffer-no-fools Josie and the Pussycats; and the tortured, emo Jughead Jones, also our narrator to this beautiful bastardization of classic entertainment. These are whom I tune in for every week. Betty and Veronica (Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes) had me shouting my love for their friendship to my empty house in the middle of the afternoon as I watched the first episode, and I can’t help but cheer every time Ashleigh Murray as bandleader Josie comes on screen. She exudes a fierceness and dedication to her music that I can’t help but admire. Cole Sprouse’s narrative role as Jughead is the perfect level of broody to guide us through the drama and moral debasement of this little town.

The show isn’t perfect in the way you’d expect any show on The CW to just fall short. The first episode relied on the old trope of attention-grabbing girl-on-girl action without a real romantic relationship (while simultaneously calling it out through the vessel of Cheryl Blossom, so brownie points for that nonetheless). Additionally, our main protagonist is the least interesting to me so far–although even he has his moments that leave me shouting at the TV–and his albeit appropriately cartoonish red hair can be a bit of an eyesore. I’m not even sure if they match his eyebrows, honestly. But at only the third episode, I’m not going to hold that against everything else this show has going for it.

Riverdale is everything I was anticipating but in the best ways. Is it over the top? Absolutely. With murder, sex, and revenge all twisted together, how could it not be? But it never quite reaches the level of too much. The show knows when to reel it in and bring us back to something we can’t look away from (and often I don’t want to). One of the best parts of my week right now is live-tweeting the new episodes on Thursday nights, screaming into the internet void with other fans and talking through our feelings. If I believed in “guilty pleasures,” this might be one, but I feel no guilt for enjoying the lurid escapades of Riverdale and its inhabitants.

Have you watched the show yet? What are your thoughts? Who’s your favorite? Let’s talk!

February 13, 2017
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Boston Comic Con: Thoughts & A Haul

Posted in Personal, Pop Culture by

08.9.14

This is my, “I’m in a car for almost two hours one way,” face.

Saturday, Dan and I went to my (our) first Comic-Con ever. Ever ever. And boy, was it something. I think what I really liked about it was the size. The place wasn’t too small, but there was still so much to see and there were so many people. My favorite was definitely two girls dressed as Satsuki and Mei from “My Neighbor, Totoro,” with a sign that said, “We’re looking for our Totoro.” Somewhat disappointingly, I didn’t see a Totoro throughout the convention. At least not on the day we were there.
08.9.14 / comic con haul
I didn’t take a lot of pictures while we were inside because it was pretty crowded, and also I was too shy to ask if I could take anyone’s picture. But there were such great artists and cosplays. One was a full-size Dalek, which was already exciting, but it turned out that the person inside was a child, so I was even  more impressed and amused. I did pick up plenty of new stuff, though! I ended up doing about fifty thousand laps around the place, carefully considering every purchase I made.
08.9.14 / comic con haul
The one thing I feel badly about is that I didn’t get names of anyone whose art I purchased. I just completely spaced on it and forgot to make little mental notes. I can honestly say I love everything I got, though. I’m so into the styles and obviously I’m in love with the characters. I kind of can’t wait to hang everything up in my library. The only problem is I wish I had more wall space, but I think a gallery wall above my computer desk could work fine.
08.9.14 / comic con haul
Overall, despite the heat and the ton of people all in one room, it was such a fun time. I did have a few moments of mini panic because there were so many people, but it was worth it. I got some great stuff, talked to some really nice people (even though I hate small talk of any kind), and I definitely look forward to going again next year. I learned a few things from this experience (backpack, not tote bag!), and I think next year will go even smoother.

August 11, 2014
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Top 5 Anticipated Adaptations of 2014

Posted in Bookish, Pop Culture by

Anticipated Film Adaptations
There are plenty of posts out there about just what books-turned-films are coming out this year, so if you want to know what all of them are, a quick google search won’t hurt. What I want to talk about is the ones I’m personally looking forward to the most. Some of them I haven’t read the books yet, some I’ve read too many times to count; either way, I’m excited for what’s on the docket and hope they all satisfy–and of course the ones I haven’t read, I hope to before I see that movies at least.

I’ve already discussed my feelings on adaptations, but quick review: I support them, doing my best to believe in their potential, because you can’t really know if it’s going to fail until you actually see it. Plus, I think it can be really exciting to see something you love translated into another medium, so even though sometimes (maybe oftentimes depending on your feelings) the results are disappointing, it feels like an adventure either way.

The Fault in Our Stars–June 6, 2014 / I remember reading this book in less than twenty-four hours when I got it, and even though I haven’t read it since then (I’m still recuperating), I’m still pretty excited to see how it comes out on the big screen. At first I was skeptical of Shailene Woodley’s casting because I’d only seen her in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which didn’t give her a lot of great stuff to work with in my opinion. Now, though, I’m feeling much more receptive to the decision, to the point where her presence makes me excited for another adaptation coming out this year.

The Hobbit: There & Back Again–December 17, 2014 / I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last two installments of The Hobbit, despite the fact that it’s clearly its own “extended edition” of the original book. This is definitely not a complaint, though. I’m always interested in additional material, so long as it’s interesting, (mostly) relevant, and well-executed. I think it’ll be fun to see this story come to a close, especially with the cliffhanger of an ending we were left with in The Desolation of Smaug. Bonus: More Smaug! Who was a darn good romp, wouldn’t you say? Very sly and classy.

Divergent–March 21, 2014 / I honestly haven’t read this yet, though I do hope to before I see the movie, but the combination of Shailene Woodley and another dystopian plot has me interested. I’m at the point where I have pretty much zero interest in a love story within the plot, but I’m still interested in the overall dystopian concept dividing people by personality into “factions.” It just sounds like an interesting concept.  Plus, I’m interested in the change in chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as brother and sister, rather than their characters in The Fault in our Stars.

 The Maze Runner–September 18, 2014 / This is another I haven’t read yet but hope to before the film comes out (I certainly have time). And actually I know even less about this than Divergent. What I do know is that I am all about the casting for this. Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario? Yes please. However, I’ve heard good reviews of the book from friends, so I’m pretty confident that it’ll be worth both the read and the watch.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1–November 21, 2014 / How could this not be on the list? I’ve read all the books repeatedly and already seen the first two movies. I’m not exactly excited for the two parts of the finale, but I’m still excited to see the beginning of the end of this film series. I expect this film (and part two) will be pretty emotional–it was certainly the most heartbreaking book of the series for me–but I’m interested in how they transfer the various struggles and split it effectively into its first half.

January 20, 2014
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Girl Club: A Recent Playlist

Posted in Personal, Pop Culture by

I’ve been listening to some weird music lately, just an interesting variety, all with one thing in common–they’re female-fronted bands/singers. I started this playlist when I first started using Spotify, and once in a while I’ll add a new song to it or take one off based on what I feel like listening to and what I think will fit. And I say “fit” loosely because I have everything from Kreayshawn to Jack Off Jill on this playlist. If I’m not listening to podcasts, then this is what I’ll play while I’m doing any kind of work lately: writing, blogging, cleaning, cooking.

Basically, if I’m not listening to an entire album on repeat for hours (likely either Fall Out Boy’s “Save Rock & Roll” or RVIVR’s “The Beauty Between”), then this is what you can hear through the apartment.

Playlist: Girl Club

Listen on Spotify.

November 25, 2013
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In Defense of the Adaptation (and the Remake)

Posted in Horror, Personal, Pop Culture by

Carrie by Stephen King
Over the weekend, I saw the new “Carrie” film. When I first heard about it a year or so ago, my mind immediately began racing with all the ideas of how it might turn out, the pieces of the book it might incorporate compared to the original, and all the possibilities that would come with a remake. I made a note to reread the book before seeing it, as well as to watch the original again–neither of which was a challenge as they’ve both been in my collection for years.

In middle school, and part of high school, I would have reacted by throwing the magazine I’d read announcing the remake on the floor (likely an issue of People I’d have been reading before my mom brought it to work, since I spent far less time online then). I would have stomped around the house shouting, “WHY would they bother? The original was so good! What’s the point of doing something that’s already been done?” And I would have huffed and puffed and been annoyed, but I still would have seen it anyway, and I probably would have had the same reaction as I did this time, despite my change in perspective in the years since.

The “Carrie” remake was good; however, the “Carrie” remake did not live up to my hopes. When I left the theater with my friends, I almost immediately turned to them saying, “It made me feel like whoever wrote this version only saw the first movie, rather than also reading the book.” The original and the remake are almost too similar, and I do believe that a huge opportunity was missed to include some good details from the book. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad movie, and that’s where my defense comes in: It used to be that I would wholeheartedly deny the need for book to film adaptations. I would put my foot down and say that nothing could ever be as good as the book. Over time, though, my resolve has softened and I’ve changed my perspective a bit. Now, adaptations and remakes are just opportunities to me. They’re adventures. I allow myself to get excited not necessarily to see how true to the source the film is but how good it turns out overall. I try going into the theater to watch the movie as it is before comparing it to its source. In the case of “Carrie,” I made that a challenge for myself by watching the ’70s version and reading the book both the day before, so it was difficult at points to separate them all. But in general, I work to stay open minded for adaptations.

One example of straying from the source that always stands out to me is “Harry Potter + the Half-Blood Prince.” I think we all remember the scene at the Burrow in which we immediately thought (or shouted outright in the theater), “That doesn’t happen!” But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good scene. It’s quite a striking one in fact, and odds are while it made a lot of people, including myself, angry because it wasn’t in the book, it also made them sad because it was such a heartbreaking occurrence at the home of a family loved by so many. Sure, it deviated from the book, but I don’t think it made it a bad adaptation.

I think if you (the greater “you”) go into an adaptation or a remake with a firm belief that it’s going to be bad, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, not because it’ll surprise you by being good but because you’ll simply refuse to enjoy it. You’ll blind yourself to its positive points and miss out on a potentially good film in its own right solely because it isn’t a duplicate of the original. But if you think about it, you already have the book–why would you want the exact same thing in movie form? Variety is good, and if it doesn’t change the entire message or course of the story, then really, what’s the harm?

So admittedly, I think the “Carrie” remake missed a lot of opportunities to do some cool work with the book’s details. At the same time, the acting was overall positive (with a few snags, like Chris Hargensen’s speech during gym detention which felt forced and awkward to me), the effects were put to good use to do some cool and gross scenes, and I liked the modern details that were included, like filming peer abuse with a cell phone. As a movie, it does hold its own, and the more it sinks in now that it’s been a few days, the more it grows on me as its own piece. So I’ll be adding it to my collection when it’s released on DVD, even if it isn’t an exact visual portrayal of the book.

October 23, 2013
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Why You Should Be Listening to “Welcome to Night Vale”

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07.29.13 / night vale
Do you like weird, creepy stories? I do. Always have. In middle school, I would take books from the library on ghost hunting, bringing them home and taking notes before they had to be returned. (I don’t know why my middle school library had books on ghost hunting.) Then I’d imagine searching out my own ghosts (and still do), pretending there were some in my house. I watch every show on ghosts, the paranormal, and the general unknown as often as I can, my favorite topics being ghosts and aliens, though I do indulge in the occasional Bigfoot or Nessie search. Oh, and I also enjoy the “real Dracula” shows on History. And just last week we saw “The Conjuring,” and I of course couldn’t resist the “based on a true story” aspect, looking up information when we came home (as I huddled beneath the blankets instead of cooking my much desired chicken nuggets…in the kitchen…by myself–but I’m getting sidetracked).

If any of these are your kind of thing, you should be listening to “Welcome to Night Vale.”

“Welcome to Night Vale” is a bi-monthly podcast by Commonplace Books presented as “community updates on the desert town of Night Vale.” It includes talk of hooded figures, new rankings for boy scouts–including but not limited to dreadnought scout, fear scout, and eternal scout–and an outbreak of feral dogs. I mean plastic bags.

“Night Vale” is a fantastically told story, and what I really love about it–besides narrator Cecil’s adoration for the new scientist in town, Carlos–is the way it makes me think of old radio shows in the ’40s. I’ll listen to it while cleaning the apartment and imagine my grandmother doing something similar, though probably listening to a vastly different story. It’s cute to think of an updated version of something from that time period. And it requires imagination, far more than watching television does (not that I’m against watching television, as noted above).

The podcast is something I highly recommend to fans of even the slightly strange. It’s eerie, but provides a good laugh all the same. Some of the comments Cecil makes are so absurd that you can’t help but chuckle. I don’t think it’s meant to genuinely scare, but it can have its moments. For me, they usual come when creepy music starts up, and Cecil’s voice starts to get a little lower and a little slower.

You can subscribe via iTunes or on the “Welcome to Night Vale” web page.

July 29, 2013
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