May the 4th 2021 – Revisited

Last month, I wrote a post about my Star Wars plan for May the 4th. Every May, I spend almost the entire month devoting myself to all things Star Wars. I do it every year and I find I look forward to it. I wanted to reflect on my month and what I accomplished.

Books and Comics

The main book I wanted to read was Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed. I didn’t finish the book. To be honest, I thought the book felt a bit bloated with too many characters introduced. It was hard to keep track of which characters were driving the story and which characters were supposed to be in the background. I’m disappointed because I have felt this way about quite a few of the new Star Wars novelizations. I put this one down and I don’t think I will try re-reading it.

Skipping Alphabet Squadron, I did finish Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. This lived up to my expectations for Padme and her story before Attack of the Clones. The end of Queen’s Shadow seems to set up further stories for Padme’s handmaidens, so I’m excited to see if more books will be written. I would highly recommend this if you’re a fan of the prequels.

Besides the books, I read every graphic novel I had set about reading except Lando Double or Nothing. It didn’t grip my attention and I ended up putting it down. I will highlight my rating for the other graphic novels down below:

Rise of Kylo Ren – four stars

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – three stars

Star Wars Adventures Vol. #1 – three stars.

Movies & TV

My goal was to continue in The Clone Wars. I ended up finishing season #1 and I’m halfway through season #2. I do think the seasons get better as I continue. I found watching Clone Wars helped when I was reading Queen’s Shadow because of references to the show popping into the book.

Gaming

I started with Star Wars The Old Republic. My laptop surprisingly ran the game without any forced restarts or glitches. However, I found the game to be repetitive and quite boring. I only finished one mission before uninstalling this from my computer. I can see why everyone raves about the game, but it wasn’t for me.

I switched over to Lego Star Wars and had a blast. I ended up getting through all the prequel levels and I’m now onto the A New Hope levels. I do need to take a break from this as I spent all of May playing through it. I do intend to return to it and finish it sometime this year.

I would say that this was a successful Star Wars month. Aside from not liking Alphabet Squadron, I set out to do exactly what I intended. I hope you all had a lovely May the 4th Be With You!

Designing my Island with My Nintendo Switch

Last year, Animal Crossing New Horizons was all the rage. I was envious as I adored Animal Crossing New Leaf on my 3DS. One of the highlights of my sophomore year of college was playing New Leaf on campus in between classes. As such, I had my eye on purchasing a Switch, but I never ended up committing to the purchase. Recently, my work had a contest with a prize of accruing Amazon gift cards. Now felt like the perfect time to purchase the Nintendo Switch with my remaining Amazon gift cards.

I purchased the Animal Crossing New Horizons Switch. I could have gotten the regular Switch for a better price, however, part of the reason I was buying the Switch in the first place was to play Animal Crossing New Horizons, so I felt like it was fitting to pay the extra for this version. My Switch arrived on Thursday, but I didn’t want to play it until the weekend. I named my island MaplePeaks because I wanted a generic name, so I could change the theme as I see fit. I’m still new to the game, so I don’t want to show off my island just yet.

Besides Animal Crossing, my fiance wants to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Don’t hate me, but I’m not a big fan of the Zelda franchise, so I’m glad my fiance will play for the both of us. Purchasing the Switch ended up being a great idea for both me and my fiance to play games we don’t have any other way to play.

While I may be late to the Animal Crossing New Horizons party, please leave your friend code down below, so I can visit your island!

From Muggle to Mrs. – Harry Potter Bridal Shower

I took a bit of a break from writing weekly posts. Writing new posts every Sunday felt like a chore, so I knew it was time to take a step back. I figured a nice way to dive back into weekly posts would be to talk about the Harry Potter bridal- themed shower I went to a couple of weeks ago.

Me and my friend met in college and were roommates for a year. We bonded over our shared love of Harry Potter and other nerdy interests. She has always stayed in my life no matter the distance as we are a couple of states away. It was such a blast to attend.

I’m excited to get back into writing for Bizarre Brunette! I knew this break was needed, but I’m happy to be back.

Magic Casting in Black Mage

I’m looking for magic school-type content to fill the void of Harry Potter. I’m trying to distance myself from the fandom for now. I follow comic writer Daniel Barnes on Twitter and he was posting about a graphic novel he wrote called The Black Mage. Barnes describes The Black Mage as a Harry Potter meets The Boondocks. The Black Mage is the diverse magical school world I wanted to read about.

Tom Token is invited to attend St. Ivory Academy, a Wizarding school floating above the land. Tom is the first Black student in the school as St. Ivory wants to be more inclusive. As Tom attends school, he is met with racism right away from various students and teachers. As Tom explores the school, he finds evidence that he may not have been the first Black mage as he once believed. If that’s the case, what happened to the other Black mages who attended the school?

The Black Mage touches on racism in a way that many fantasy stories don’t. It begins with Tom hearing about various unrealistic stereotypes applied to Black mages. The racism increases steadily leading to a violent vendetta. I find it hard to believe that a Wizarding society wouldn’t have racism and The Black Mage writes about what this could look like. In addition to writing about racism in this wizarding society, St. Ivory has ties back to the Civil War and how various Civil War heroes were mages. I liked seeing Harriet Tubman casting spells.

I liked the art in The Black Mage. It seemed to draw inspiration from manga in the way the characters were drawn. It also reminded me of fighting games because when Tom would release a spell, there would be a “Boom” or a “Miss” above the panel.

The Black Mage was an adventurous and fun magic story. It’s nice to see other magical Wizard-type stories with more diversity than Harry Potter ever had. I rated The Black Mage four stars on Goodreads.

Favorite Female Animated Heroines

As I was coming up with my list for my Favorite Female Heroines Growing Up post, I realized a couple of characters I had come up with were animated. This caused me to create a separate list of cartoon, female characters from my childhood that I looked up to.

Powerpuff Girls

I loved the Powerpuff girls growing up. Me and my friend would play pretend in her backyard and run around saving the world. I would always be Blossom while my friend was always Bubbles. Poor Buttercup would be left unchosen. I think neither of us wanted to be Buttercup because we thought she was mean when really Buttercup stood up for herself.

Kim Possible

I don’t think there is a need to explain Kim Possible and why she’s on this list.

Sandy Cheeks

I had asked my fiance if I was missing anyone while creating this list. He suggested Sandy Cheeks. His reasoning was Sandy’s intelligent, inventive, and helps Spongebob on various occasions. I thought it was an interesting choice and one I probably would have picked myself.

Charlotte Pickles – Rugrats

I had a Rugrats VHS with some of the episodes from one of the seasons. My dad would have to constantly re-wind it because me and my brother would watch it all the time. I remember being disgusted at the episode where Tommy’s grandpa falls asleep and bugs crawl into his mouth. Anyway, Charlotte Pickles is Angelica’s mom and is a boss. This clip should give you extra context as to why she is on this list.

Fiona

Shrek came out twenty years ago which makes me feel my age. Fiona is a great pick for this list. She’s spunky, brave, and she wants better for herself.

Cartoons and animation were a big part of my childhood. I was surprised when brainstorming this list how many female animated characters existed. Let me know who your favorite animated heroes are down in the comments.

Science Fiction Board Games I Adore

I decided to participate in another Seriously Geeky Sunday theme. If you missed my previous Seriously Geeky Sunday post, this is created by Heather at Just Geeking By. Every Sunday, Heather comes up with a theme. If you aren’t following Heather (why not???) bookmark her site, follow her on Twitter or Instagram which are both linked. The first theme I participated in was centered around comic books, today’s theme is Science Fiction. This prompt had no questions, instead, it allowed for freedom in what to write. I decided to create a list of science fiction themed board games that I adore.

Cultists & Cthulhu

Cultists & Cthulhu is an easy game to learn and to teach back to other players. Cultists & Cthulhu is a game that would be perfect for any brewery trip because it doesn’t have a lot of pieces to take up space. I like this game because of my love for all things Cthulhu and the dice rolling it puts players on the same level. Some board or card games give an advantage to those who have played the game before due to knowing the game’s overall strategy. Cultists & Cthulhu with the added dice component makes for a different game every time.

Star Trek Ascendancy

Playing Star Trek Ascendancy makes me want to become a Star Trek fan. This game is a bit more complex as there’s a lot more to keep track of. I liked being able to develop my faction and travel around space attacking other players. I thought this game offered a challenge but rewarding especially winning a space fight. Since this game takes up a lot more time, I would recommend devoting a whole day to learning the rules and seeing who wins in intergalactic domination.

Doctor Who Time of the Daleks

Doctor Who Time of the Daleks is cooperative, meaning all the players are trying to work together to meet a common goal. Cooperative board games are some of my favorite types of games to play especially if I’m not in the mood for a competitive game. This game is extremely challenging with relying on dice to pass certain challenges. I always play as the tenth or eleventh doctor, however, expansions have come out which feature other doctors. This is always a blast to play.

Pandemic

I haven’t been able to play Pandemic because it felt a bit too real. I like Pandemic because it’s also cooperative. It’s easy to learn and there are ways to make the game more difficult depending on how many players there are or whether players are looking for a tough challenge. I like how Pandemic is somewhat educational with learning geography on major global cities to various roles of individuals who are trying to stop a pandemic. This may not be considered science fiction because it’s not fiction? However, it’s too late, I have already included this game in my list.

City of Remnants

City of Remnants is a strategy-based game where players pick gangs to take over a space planet. There are black markets, gunfights, gambling, and practically anything else you would think of on a corrupt space planet. I have only played this once, so I would need to play it a couple more times before I’m able to pick up on the rules.

This turned into a longer post than I had expected! Let me know what science fiction board games you are playing in the comments as I’m always looking for recommendations! Another shout out to Heather for putting on Seriously Geeky Sundays. It’s nice to have a prompt, so I don’t have to brainstorm what to write.

I,Tonya (2017)

I started figure skating when I was six. My aunt was a competitive skater who became an instructor. Figure skating became a big part of my childhood and while competition appealed to me, I wasn’t devoted enough to make it my whole life. The biggest scandal to hit figure skating was the attack against Nancy Kerrigan and how much Tonya Harding knew about the attack beforehand. I had I, Tonya on my watchlist for a while and last weekend I decided to finally watch it. I, Tonya is an intriguing biopic about Tonya Harding’s life while also bringing up various themes such as classism in skating.

Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) was thrown into lessons at a young age by her mother, LaVona Golden (played by Allison Janney). LaVona is shown early on to be both physically and mentally abusive on multiple occasions while LaVona only admits to hitting Tonya once. Tonya’s father moves out, and Tonya is struggling to live under her mother’s roof. She meets Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan) who provides enough charm and wit to bloom Tonya’s self-confidence. As Tonya moves out with Jeff, she soon finds that he is also abusive. Tonya, still trying to skate, is suffering from poor scores due to the judges thinking of her as “white trash” and not the best representative for competitive figure skating. As Tonya’s relationship with Jeff is explored, it’s shown how a simple death threat idea somehow escalated into the infamous knee blow with Nancy screaming “why why why”.

The acting in this was phenomenal. Allison Janney won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance in this. Each actor was invested in the role they were portraying. I became enthralled in the story as there was a lot I didn’t know about Tonya’s life before watching this film.

While this film does offer a lens of sympathy for Tonya, it exposes Tonya’s flaws as well. Tonya states several times, “it’s not my fault”. While Tonya grew up poor in an abusive environment, it also seems she blames everyone for her problems. It’s the judge’s fault she scores the way she does and it’s Jeff’s fault for planning the death threat, however, Tonya seemed on-board with the death threat if it meant succeeding in skating. This film easily could have been on Tonya’s side for everything, but I like the way this film provided a sense of balance. It lets the viewer know how rough Tonya’s upbringing was, but also reflects on how this upbringing made Tonya a flawed human being.

Another interesting aspect of the film was the idea of classism. Tonya was poor and her mother had to sew her costumes for her competitions. Figure skating and hockey are two of the most expensive sports to play. There’s the figure skates, costumes, ice shows, the lessons, the accessories for skating, etc. I did research Nancy Kerrigan before writing this, and while Nancy’s father struggled to pay for lessons, she also had private lessons at a young age. Additionally, once a figure skater becomes competitive, it’s all about the marketing deals. I remember Michelle Kwan was advertised on everything! She became this sweet, young, woman who was someone to look up to. Tonya was looked at as an outsider with a rough family background. I wonder if Tonya grew up rich, would her story be different?

I, Tonya was everything I wanted from a biopic. It discusses Tonya’s life, makes an interesting commentary on various societal themes, and had incredible acting from start to finish.

Learning how to Throw an Axe

I took a week off from writing to catch up on my comic backlog, plan my wedding, and learning to throw an axe. It was my fiance’s birthday last weekend and he requested we book a reservation for axe throwing. Victoria Burrow is where we booked our reservation. Besides axe throwing, they have a full indoor mini-golf course and an arcade. There’s also a restaurant and a bar with various beers on tap. I was surprised that they let us order beers while we threw axes. Throwing an axe was an intimidating, yet rewarding experience.

There are four axe throwing lanes, with one lane being able to accommodate a group of 6+ people. The instructor was friendly and gave us a quick rundown on how to throw an axe correctly. There’s way more involved than you would think. It’s your abdominals holding you in a good posture, the upper body being able to hold the axe and power as you have to throw the axe with enough force to hit the wooden board.

My fiance picked up on axe throwing quickly. The instructor starting telling my fiance about axe throwing leagues they have during the summer. It took me way longer to figure out how to throw an axe. I was extremely nervous when I first started. I have seen numerous axe throwing videos where someone would throw an axe and it would re-bound backward. The instructor started going in to their safety measures and how they built their lanes which made it a safe experience. Once I felt comfortable, I started sticking the axe into the board. I got one bullseye!

I would happily make another reservation at Victoria Burrow. Me and my fiance had a thirty-minute reservation which I thought was plenty of time for two people. For a group of four or more, I would say an hour would be needed, so everyone would have the time to throw. For those not in Minnesota, I would recommend researching axe throwing places and their safety measures. Throwing an axe was a fun date night for both me and my fiance.

Favorite Heroines Growing Up

For my brother’s birthday, I went over to my mom’s house. We had steak, had family dinner debates, and played a board game. During our dinner discussion, we were talking about movies we would always watch growing up. This led to a discussion about strong female characters in the early ’00s. I wanted to create a list of my favorite heroines / kickass women in various forms of media.

Elektra

Elektra is a widely critcized movie and was considered a box office bomb. It’s not comic book accurate by any means, however, I loved this movie. I always requested watching Elektra. It features a female protagonist who kicks ass in a memorable red outfit. I liked her katana’s and I would play pretend in our backyard pretending to be Elektra. This is a movie I will always be fond of despite its flaws.

Hermione

While I have been trying to distance myself from Harry Potter, I can’t make a list like this and leave out Hermione.

Padme

This was when I learned female characters could be written so poorly. She was such a strong powerhouse in Star Wars politics. She helped Anakin see reason when he was acting out. I cannot believe George Lucas wrote in a script that she “lost the will to live” Give me a fucking break. I still believe the fan theory where Palpatine drew upon her life force to save Anakin. I know it’s not canon, but it gives her death way more clarity.

Evelyn (Evy) Carnahan

I cannot believe I didn’t list Evy higher on this list. Evy is first featured in The Mummy as a librarian who’s a bit clumsy. She is intelligent, capable and helps Rick (played by Brendan Fraiser) escape from the tomb. In The Mummy Returns, Evy is still the same except it’s clear Rick has taught her how to defend herself. She’s featured in more action sequences in the second film which I was a huge fan of. Both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are movies I would credit as a reason why action movies are often my favorite genre of movies to watch.

Martha Jones

I’m cheating with this pick since I started watching Doctor Who as an adult. Although, I think I would have liked Martha still even if I saw Doctor Who when I was a kid. Martha Jones is the most underrated companion. I find a lot of people don’t like Martha because of her obvious crush on the Doctor. This isn’t the fault of Martha, but the writers on Doctor Who during her era. Martha calls out racism in one particular episode where she lists off the bones of the hand when a woman doesn’t believe she’s capable of being a medical doctor. In the GIF above, she calls out a Harry Potter spell because why not? Martha is easily the best companion of Tennant’s Who era.

Let me know which female heroines you loved growing up in the comments below!

Then She Was Gone – Thriller

CW: Abuse / Specifically Abuse of a Young Girl

**I won’t discuss this in my recap of the book, but if you choose to read this book, the content warning is needed**

Last month, I was reading mainly mysteries and thrillers. I found a used copy of Then She Was Gone at my local bookstore. I have heard raving reviews for Lisa Jewell’s books, so I figured I’d give this a shot. This was such a fast-paced, dark thriller to read.

Laurel Mack has been without her daughter, Ellie since her disappearance almost a decade ago. The grief of losing her daughter and not knowing what has happened to her has kept Laurel from moving on. As Laurel is going about her routine, she meets a man in a cafe with whom she begins a relationship with. She meets his daughter, Poppy, who is identical to Ellie. This leads Laurel into a harrowing investigation of Ellie and what happened to her all those years ago.

I loved Laurel as a character. She starts to see the cracks in her relationship early on. Instead of being consumed by this new romance, she continues to investigate Ellie’s disappearance and if someone Ellie knew could have played a role into her vanishing. Laurel is intelligent, kind, imperfect, and was a character I enjoyed reading about. The way she handled her grief seemed realistic especially with putting her other daughter, Hanna on a pedestal to replace Ellie. Laurel has her flaws, but she’s also a genuinely good person.

This isn’t the type of thriller where there’s a plot twist towards the end of the book. It’s revealed early on what happened to Ellie through flashbacks. The reason Then She Was Gone was so engaging was the slow-burn of seeing the full story and how Laurel was going to uncover what happened to Ellie. I tend to prefer thrillers where there is a plot twist at the end, however, the way Jewell wrote the book felt more like a countdown to when Laurel would figure out the truth.

Then She Was Gone was a well-written thriller about a mother who is desperate for answers and how Ellie’s disappearance has put a dark cloud over the Mack family. This was one of the darkest thrillers I have ever read. With the content warning, I can fully understand why some readers would avoid this book. However, Then She Was Gone is well worth the read.