Best of 2016 – My Favourite Movies, Books and T.V

Happy New Year!

2016 is over

And the consensus is that is a good thing.

Everyone can agree that a great many bad things happened in 2016. And then to top it off, only days from the end, George Michael and Carrie Fisher passed away. And her mother, Debbie Reynolds. But instead of dwelling on the negatives, I chose to look at the positives. Like all these good things that happened in 2016:

  • The manatee population is increasing! And there are more tigers. And more pandas
  • In California, 6 million homes are now powered by solar energy. And a solar-powered plane circled the world
  • India planted 50 million trees in one day
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge helped ALS researchers get one step closer to help find a cure for the disease
  • Leonardo Dicaprio won an Oscar!

A Few of My Favourite Things

Let’s start with a few lists of my favourite things from 2016.

Movies

Now, these aren’t the best movies of 2016, but the ones I was looking forward to seeing, and didn’t disappoint.

As you’ll see from my list, I go primarily for entertainment value when it comes to my movies – entertainment that often involves laughter, comic book heroes and things blowing up! What can I say – I go for mindless entertainment! I’m also a self-professed geek, and since 2 out of my 3 kids are headed that way as well, we go see a lot of ‘fun’ movies!

Favourite Movies of 2016

(in no particular order)

  • Captain America – Civil War
  • Rogue One
  • Bad Moms
  • Deadpool
  • Finding Dory
  • Dr. Strange
  • Batman vs Superman
  • Suicide Squad
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Favourite Television shows

  • Stranger Things – this Netflix show was amazing! Scarier than I expected (I ran from the room more than once, to my kids’ delight at seeing their mother scared!) Set in the 80s with a weird Lost/Stand By Me feel to it, I’m counting the days until the next season
  • Game of Thrones (season 6) – Oh, Jon Snow. And Tyrion. And Daenarys. And Arya Stark. How do I love thee?
  • The Crown – Another good one from Netflix. I’ve always been mildly interested in the royal family, but now I’m hooked!
  • Madam Secretary – Does anyone watch this? Because I never hear anything about it, but it’s terrific

Favourite Books I Read in 2016

  • Eligible (Curtis Sittenfeld) – best retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Ever.
  • Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)  – full of 80s references, this sci-fi thriller would appeal to anyone who likes action, not just the gamers. I’ve already passed it on to 2 guys I know will love it as much as I did
  • It Ends With Us (Colleen Hoover) -I read anything of hers
  • The Court of Mist and Fury (Sarah J. Maas) – the second in this YA fantasy series so much better than the first book! And I never like the second books in a series. Can’t wait for the next one
  • Kindred Spirits (Rainbow Rowell)  – Short and sweet, about two fans waiting in line for the new Star Wars movie
  • Mount (Jilly Cooper) – It’s been years since Jilly Cooper released a book and I’ve been (im)patiently waiting! This is smut, in it’s finest form
  • Nuts (Alice Clayton)
  • Dirty Rowdy Thing (Christina Lauren)  – Sexy and sweet from two of my favourite New Adult authors
  • Victoria (Daisy Goodwin) – I’m all about the royal families. Can’t wait for the series to come to Canada this month!
  • Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) – Wow. Just wow. This blew my mind. Some of the quantum physics stuff went right over my head, but wow. So good.

#weekendcoffeeshare – Home Again

IMG_3331#weekendcoffeeshare – Home Again

If we were meeting for coffee (tea for me) I’d have to apologize not giving you much time to get a word in! Here’s a bit of a recap of my summer.

Every year, hubby and I pack up the kids andIMG_3333 move to the cottage for four weeks. We’ve done this for the last ten years and it’s been wonderful to watch the kids grow and change from the countless pictures we have of our time there. I don’t call it a vacation, because for me, vacations include someone to do the cooking, cleaning and laundry for me! It is a great time to reconnect with visits from family and friends, days spent at the beach, reading and time with the kids. They are able to run free in ways that remind me of my childhood in the country, in ways that they aren’t able to do in the city. It’a a beautiful spot on the shores of Georgian Bay, close enough to all the amenities, but remote enough that a trip to town can take up a chunk of a rainy afternoon.

We’re home now, back in the city and while I’m sad to leave our little slice of heaven behind, I’m ready to get back to my routine. Because being at the cottage – as wonderful as it is – isn’t that relaxing. You know when you go on vacation and have a great time, but come back exhausted and ready for another one? That’s how it is with me. I’m in desperate need to recharge my batteries! Tuesday, the first day of school can’t come soon enough! I love my children with all my heart but they are exhausting.

I really hope school does start! Here in Toronto, we have had a teacher’s strike looming over us for months and while it seems like the First Day Back will go as planned, I have no idea what the year will bring to us. I’m not going to go into my thoughts about teachers going on strike because they are quite strong and somewhat resentful and I have several good friends who are teachers. Enough about that. I really hope things get worked out.

IMG_3433Back to time at the cottage. What did we do for a month, you ask? Not a lot! Time at the beach was the number one time-spender, with and without visitors. I did manage to complete this puzzle. The time I do puzzles is at the cottage and it’s becoming a bit of a tradition. This is a 1000 piece one – my biggest yet!!

We also watch lots of movies. I went to see the new Mission Impossible, and took the kids to the drive-in (or the drive-through as little S calls it!) to see Pixels. They enjoyed it; it was an okay for me. I don’t love many Adam Sandler movies these days, for a weird, personal reason! My eldest daughter has never watched the Harry Potter movies, so we went about trying to rectify that. We only have the last two to watch. Dumbledore’s death is still heartbreaking, and I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed re-watching Order of the Phoenix. It’s my least favourite of the series, so I tend to give it a pass, but it’s a really good movie!

I did some writing, which unfortunately didn’t include keeping up to date on blog posts. I have neglected my blog horribly and September will include getting it up to snuff. I have a website and blog to get the word out about my books and I need to get back to utilizing this. But like I said before, self-promoting is my least favourite thing to do. With a new book coming out soon, it has to be done, however!

Speaking of the new book, The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd is progressing in leaps and bounds! I’ve passed the mid-point and heading towards second plot twist and still loving it! I’m also loving working with critique partners. Having constant input has improved my writing immensely! But the end of September (my own deadline for Charlotte – wish me luck!) I’ll have a fully fleshed out draft ready for the editing process rather that a half-assed first draft full of plot holes and questions.

I also did quite a bit of reading, which is why I’ve jumped on board with WWW Wednesdays/ This Week in Books. Ever wonder what a writer reads? Here’s my picks.

I’ve also thought long and hard about a business plan, or at least a plan what I want to accomplish for the rest of the year and into 2016. I’ve had ideas for 2 new Holly books (including a sequel of sorts for Unexpecting, formerly Baby!) and the possibility of extending Charlotte into a series about my secret government spy organization. I know I have at least one other book in me about this. I’ve also had a brain wave about my Anna books and are looking forward to diving back into the world of my alter-ego, Anna Ellis. I also want to put together a newsletter for my readers, so I have some research to do about that. What I do know is that I’ll be doing a lot of writing this month, which makes me IMG_3552happy!

It’s been a fantastic summer and I’m hoping the fall will continue as such. Look for more of me!

 

#weekendcoffeeshare is brought to you by the lovely Diana and her awesome hair at Part Time Monster. Join in for the fun – just pretend your sitting down for a chat with us!!

Movies Movies Movies! Am I a Twi-hard or Do I Secretly Yearn to be a Bond Girl?

The Twilight Sage: Breaking Dawn Part Two vs. Skyfall

I love movies.  If you check out my About page on my website, it’s #25 of the 30 things about me.  I love movies. Last week I saw two in one week and of course, now I need to post about them!!

So what’s it going to be – am I a Twi-hard or do I want to be a Bond girl?  For some this is a no –brainer, but for me, it’s a little more difficult and I’m not sure if I’ve really made my decision.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part Two

Has it always been called that?  What a God-awful long name to keep typing!  So as of now, I’ll refer to any of the movies as Twilight #1-5 and everyone should know what I’m talking about.  And if you don’t, I’m guessing you’re not that into the Twilight movies and don’t really care about what I say about them!

I will freely admit to reading and rereading the books.  I’ve seen all four of the movies, all more than once and even bought the little book about that teenage vamp Bree.  I picked sides – Team Jacob all the way.  Why, you ask?  Have you seen him shirtless?  Plus, Edward’s a bit of a wuss and the whole need to dominate and control brings back too many bad high school memories.  But I’ve never really jumped totally on the bandwagon.  I may have run along beside it, maybe sat on it once or twice but never got on for the duration.  I doesn’t mean I don’t like the movies – I do.  Great entertainment, especially since I’m an adult and the movies are based on YA books.

I acknowledge and accept those who are die-hard, fervent fans and I admire (and envy) Stephenie Meyer for producing that sort of devotion for her writing.  I spent time with a Twi-hard (more than one!) when movie #3 came out and it was a lot of fun to take part in her worship of all things Edward.  (That’s when I was sitting on the bandwagon)  I went to see #3 with three other females and that was an experience to write home about.  There was quite a bit of cheering when shirtless Jacob made his appearances!

My main concern with the books/movies is Edward’s character.  He needs to man up, stop brooding and just suck some blood!  Stop making yourself miserable and stop with the obsessing about Bella’s safety!  She’s not going to break and if she does, it’s completely fixable.

Saying that, in this last movie, Bella is a vampire (it’s not a spoiler – everyone knew what was coming) and her transformation transforms the entire series!  Edward and Bella stop being pouty little high schoolers, moping about how they aren’t good for each other and start having fun.  They get to have sex!  They smile and laugh and fly through the air and have more sex!  Really, if I got to be a vampire, that’s all I would do.  Have awesome vampire sex, and fly through the air.

Right off the bat there’s a new vibe to the movie.  You can tell when Bella shoves her BFF Jacob into a tree for having the hots for her daughter.  Bella is having fun.  Edward is smiling.  Jacob isn’t morphing into a wolf all the time to go and pout/howl over his lost love.  It’s a good movie.

There’s absolutely no character development though.  Really, there are too many characters – some don’t even get any dialogue, let alone a proper introduction.  And there’s not enough Bily Burke, who I adore since Revolution brought him and his swash-buckling ways to my T.V. every Monday.  And my favourites Jasper, Esme, Alice and Seth Clearwater have nothing to do.

But what makes it great is THE TWIST!

Part of me doesn’t want to put anything about it in here in case I ruin it for others, but the other part of me suspects any true fan will have already seen the movie.  Plus, it’s been out for a while.

So I won’t give too many details and I will add SPOILER ALERT!

When Aro killed Carlisle – not just killed, but ripped off his freaking head – I gasped.  Really loudly.  And then when they killed Jasper I almost cried, watching the remainder of the scene with a combination of horror and delight.  Esme!  SETH!  Poor Leah!  How could they do this?  How could they change things?  This wasn’t what happened in the book!

Actually it was.  Alice showed Aro what could happen, only we never really got to read about.  Kudos to Stephenie Meyer, director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for changing it up like that.  I think the ending would have been a bit boring without it.

I’m not a movie reviewer but I think this one deserves 4 stars, just for the ending alone.

Skyfall

Bond.  James Bond.

I love action movies.  I love to be entertained by the movies.  I love when they take my brain and hotwire it to what’s happening on screen, making me think and wonder and learn and leave me talking about it when I’m walking out.  And I love movies that just let me switch off my brain for two hours, leave me commenting on what I’ve seen but giving me no real intellectual stimulation.  Most of the time, those are the movies that are the most fun.

Skyfall is one of those movies.  You know what you’re getting when you buy your ticket.  Non-stop action, sexy women, funny wittisms, and Judi Dench, who is great in anything she’s in.  My only criticism of the Harry Potter movies is that they didn’t find her a role, since every other worthwhile British actor was in those films.

I’ve never read any Bond books, nor have I seen all of the movies.  I started watching with Roger Moore’s last A View to a Kill in 1985 and backtracked with a few of the early Connery ones.  I suffered through Timothy Dalton and I fell in love with Pierce Bronson as Bond, even though Sean Connery was pretty freaking awesome.

But Daniel Craig…sigh.  (That was because of the mental image that popped up of him in his little baby-blue bathing suit.  Sorry, back to the movie)

Other than a slow moving chase in the London Tube, Skyfall is a rollicking good time.  I think it’s the best of Daniel Craig’s three outings as Bond.  There’s lots of delving into the past with a visit to Bond’s childhood home and a cameo from the original Aston Martin car.  Javier Bardem is great as a psychotic ex-agent and the new Q is adorably geeky.  They completely destroy a house.  Again, like Twilight  – four stars for the ending alone.

I can’t begin to compare these two movies, since the only thing they have in common are there dedicated fan bases and the impact they have had on pop culture.  They both do have good villains, however.  Michael Sheen and Jaview Bardem are both clearly having loads of fun playing the bad guys.  So, Twight #5 and the latest Bond have really nothing in common but both are immensely entertaining in their own specific ways and I enjoyed both.

So…

Am I a Twi-hard?  I must confess I am, especially after this last movie.  I wasn’t as excited to see #5 as I was #3 but that might have been because I missed being around Bodie’s infatuation with all things Edward, and didn’t have Trish, Ana and Kristina to see the movie with.   But this one pulled me right back in and I’m glad the series ended on such a high.

Would I really want to be a Bond girl?  If I could be one of those kick-ass types, like Halle Berry was – of course!  Let me have a turn!  But the ones where Bond has sex with them, then tries to rescue/save them from themselves, no thanks.  They always end up dead, and in not nice ways. Even a night with Daniel Craig isn’t worth that!  But the girl in Skyfall – the one who survives – would be great to play.  Even before we find out she’s Moneypenny, there’s great banter between her and Bond, which I’m sure led true fans to surmise she was Monneypenny even before the big reveal.  So, yes I would love to be a Bond girl if I could be like her.  But since no one is knocking on my door to give me that chance, I’ll settle for watching the movies.