Pengboom Society

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything about web comics. (Here are part 1 and part 2 of a series I wrote a few years ago.)  But I, for some strange reason, logged on to tumblr the other day, scrolled through a few posts and found a recommendation from the amazing Kate Beaton. I checked out the site and now want to share it here!

All of the comics I mention can be found at the main site for the Pengboom Society. A word of warning: only 1 of the comics is finished (and it’s a very short wordless one) and the other two only have a little more than 30 pages each (which is not that much once you start reading!). Anyways. They’ve managed to hook me already so here’s to weekly updates!

A House Divided

Orphan Henrietta Achilles has just inherited her uncle’s mansion, an uncle she has never met and didn’t even know she had.

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There are all kinds of suspicious circumstances in town when she arrives and once she gets to the house, she is met by quiche stealing brigands.

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Yes, quiche.

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There are hints about a fortune and a hidden vault and I’m looking forward to the weekly Thursday updates.

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Kletschmore

It’s a bit harder to see where this one is going but here’s the official description: When man’s greed threatens their existence, the fey leave our world and take refuge in the realm of their ancestors. As the fairies rediscover the birthplace of their race, unspeakable tragedy disrupts the newfound peace: Murder. The first among fey.

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So far there’s a cute enthusiastic mouse, creepily beautiful walking fungi, and a sinister, mysterious hunting party.

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Beautiful art and updates every Monday!

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Eberhart & the Phoenix Chicken

Short, with no words, it tells the story of a anthropomorphic boar (I think?) and the chicken he discovers that also happens to be a phoenix.

Enjoy!

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The Anti-Romantic List

Despite a longtime love for Disney princesses and Jane Austen, I’ve never been a fan of romantic stories. I know there are plenty of other people who share my indifference (or outright distaste) for overly sappy love stories so I’ve decided to compile a list of books where women are the main characters and the main plot line has nothing to do with a romantic relationship (and maybe a few movies/TV shows if I feel that they are outstanding examples). If you’ve read some or all of these examples you will know that some of these stories do have a romantic side plot- that’s fine for me, I’m really just looking for books where the main focus is elsewhere. Since I would like to continue adding to this list (for myself and for anyone else that is interested), I will also be creating a new page and updating it as I come across other examples. (Links to previous reviews if I’ve written them.)

Please send me suggestions for other books if you can think of any; there are certain areas/authors where my knowledge is woefully short!

THE LIST

1) The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen. I have a feeling this will skew towards romance between two characters at some point in the trilogy, but in the first book at least there is very little.

2) The Old Kingdom books (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Clariel) by Garth Nix. There’s a smidge of romance in Sabriel and Abhorsen but these books are all mainly about girls saving the world.

3) The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. One of my favorite books. Even better- a sequel, Stilletto, is coming out in just months!

4) Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Even though this is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, the main story is about the love of Orual for her sister Psyche.

5) Chalice by Robin McKinley. This was the first book I read by Robin McKinley and I loved it enough to keep reading more of her work.

6) Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. Another of my favorites. There is a love interest, but it’s a side story. It could easily stand without it.

7) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. This changes drastically in the second and third books, but Lyra is one heck of a (non-romantic) heroine in this book.

8) A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket. I’m fudging a bit on this one, but 2 of the three orphans are female so I’m including it.

9) The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Can we count this? It’s my list so I say yes. I love these books and I love the female characters in this series (mostly) but I would tremble to see what Martin would ever write as “romantic”.

10) The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi. Beautiful art, cool female characters.

11) Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell. I didn’t particularly like this book but it is a fantasy and the book deals mainly with the mystery behind the girls’ behavior.

12) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne Valente. Another book I didn’t particularly like but, again, a girl character is kicking butt.

13) Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler. Heavily inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tales, Lily goes on a journey to save her best friend, a kraken, who has been captured. This book was unsettling and I ultimately decided not to review it here once I finished it. It was good, but not something I would ever want to read again.

And to finish, some movies that really need no description:

14) Brave.

15) Pacific Rim. (Technically, Mako Mori is a co-main character I guess, but I love this movie and she’s not just there as a prize to be won.)

16) Hanna.

17) Alien.

So I notice that a lot of these books have young girls as the protagonist but hopefully, now that I’ve started this list, I (or you!) will start noticing/reading more books where the main female does something besides fall in love. And again, suggestions are always welcome!

The Queen of The Tearling

I should have known better than to start a series that isn’t finished yet. Because, naturally, I loved this book. And, naturally, it’s only the first book of a planned trilogy. So who knows when I’ll get to finish it. (*sigh*)

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Written by Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling tells the story of 19 year old Kelsea who has lived her life in hiding as she is trained to be the new Queen. Her mother, the former queen, was beautiful, vain, and silly, and Kelsea’s guardians are adamant that Kelsea will be a completely different kind of ruler. Kelsea herself is actually quite plain (and not in the standard female protagonist way of “I’m tall and thin with striking features and there are 2 or more men desperately in love with me but I’m sooo ugly”). She’s a weird mixture of self conscious girl and selfless ruler and it makes her seem like a regular person. She’s always known that she would be queen but she’s lived a secluded life that’s made her a bit naive and fiercely idealistic (which causes trouble once she arrives at the capital).

The setting of this book is also a bit strange: we never got a cohesive explanation of the history but at some point in the past (in our future though), a group of people made a Crossing (to where or from where has not been satisfactorily answered yet) led by William Tear, a socialist that dreamed of creating a machine and technology free utopia. It failed and Queen of the Tearling takes place several centuries after the Crossing. So the world is a strange mixture of medieval like practices (horse riding, sword fighting, feudal society, etc.) and present day knowledge (genetics, mentions of Rowling and Tolkien, birth control, etc.).

Since this is the first book, there are a lot of unanswered questions and open plot lines when the book finishes, like who is Kelsea’s father, who is the mysterious Fetch, what is the story behind the villainous Red Queen, and where are these people?!? (I really hope the Crossing history gets explained in more detail.) But I still loved it. It is a slow moving book but I think (hope!) that the rest of the series will be just as good as this one.

A Bit of Horror

Despite the fact that I am an absolute coward, I still love a good horror movie. And no, I don’t mean movies like Saw or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the fear factor comes from crazed maniacs wielding sharp objects and blood splashes across everything. I’m talking the sort of movies that unsettle you and make you wish you weren’t alone. I recently watched two movies that have been highly praised although one turned out to be very disappointing. (Spoilers to follow)

I’ll start with the movie I liked least. Oculus, directed by Mike Flanagan, came out in 2013. This seemed like the type of horror movie I like best- scary, not gory, with an actual plot. Kaylie and Tim are siblings in their early 20’s. Eleven years before, both parents went insane, their father shot their mother and then Tim shot their father. Tim was charged for their father’s death and has spent the time in a mental institution while Kaylie went through the foster system and spends her life to tracking down the mirror that she believes is responsible for the horrors they went through. In present day, Kaylie is working in an auction house where the mirror is now being kept and Tim has just been released from the mental institution after finally accepting that he was responsible for the death of his father. So far so good. But while it’s generally well-reviewed, it just seemed to lack something to me. Not scares, that’s for sure, as there were plenty of times where I was looking anywhere but the screen. But some of them were expected, some were hard to believe, and some were downright stupid. For example, please watch this clip:

Right after that clip ends, Kaylie goes to investigate the cloth covered statues. All three are still there, including the taller one in the middle that mysteriously appeared in the mirror. But instead of pulling the cloth off that one- the one in the middle that first appeared while she was looking in the mirror- she pulls the cloth off the side statues first! I realize that those statues seem to have moved as well but any thinking person truly investigating that would have looked at the middle statue first! Right? I mean, does that not seem weird to anyone else? It’s a dumb decision that seems created only to lead to a cheap scare. There’s also an issue of deciphering what’s real and what is simply happening in the characters’ heads. I had several smaller problems with the story but these were the major ones. And while it was well acted, this did not turn out to be a movie that I could really recommend.

And now moving on to the movie I did like: Willow Creek. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Willow Creek is a found footage movie about Bigfoot. Kelly and Jim have traveled to the real life Willow Creek in Northern California to film a documentary. Jim, an avid Bigfoot believer, has always wanted to travel to Willow Creek, which is the real life location of the Patterson-Gimlin film to try and get his own footage (technically the 1967 footage was filmed in Bluff Creek, but Willow Creek is considered the gateway to Bluff Creek and other claimed Bigfoot sighting locations). It’s a slow build kind of creepy and doesn’t get truly terrifying until the last 5 or 10 minutes but it’s an incredible film that I fell in love with instantly. Highly recommended if you can get your hands on it.

Jupiter Ascending

Am I the only one who liked this movie? Granted, it had plenty of problems but overall I enjoyed it. (Disclaimer: I wanted to like this movie. And generally when I want to like something, I do.)

Jupiter (played by Mila Kunis) is an illegal immigrant from Russia, spending her days as a house cleaner with her mother and aunt. But it turns out she’s actually a genetic copy of a Queen (sort of) and she gets thrown into a dynastic struggle between the heirs of that queen that takes her throughout space with, naturally, nothing less than the Earth itself at stake. It’s got Channing Tatum as a love interest, Sean Bean as a helper/protector/guide (who DOES NOT die – astounding!) and Eddie Redmayne as the villain.

It’s silly and a bit overblown and sometimes feels like it might be taking itself a bit too serious but I found it to be a fun movie. Done by the same people that made the Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. There are flaws (including a penchant for Jupiter to rarely travel beyond the damsel in distress) but if you’re looking for a fun movie to spend a few hours, you could do worse than this one.

CHAPPiE

Happy New Year!

There’s a lot of great stuff in the fantasy/sci-fi realm coming out in 2015 but the one I’m most excited about is CHAPPiE. I’ve been seeing the previews a lot recently in front of movies that are out already and while I realize that previews are meant to make movies look as appealing as possible, CHAPPiE‘s got a lot going for it.

CHAPPiE‘s written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the same guy behind District 9 (excellent) and Elysium (not as excellent). It looks weird, but also uplifting, which is nice because how often do we see that in movies about advanced AI? CHAPPiE started out as a short video called Tetra Vaal that you can see here.

It comes out on March 6th.

Another movie this year that looks pretty exciting is Ex Machina. A bad AI movie (maybe?), it stars Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac and is directed by Alex Garland (who also directed Sunshine, 28 Days Later and Dredd).

What are y’all excited about this year?

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And so it ends.

I went to see The Battle of The Five Armies this past Saturday in 3D, a format I still feel unnecessary and gimmicky although I will admit to some pretty cool effects because of it (that snow!!). There’s no denying that The Hobbit trilogy has been inferior to The Lord of the Rings but it’s still been an entertaining film series and The Battle of the Five Armies was a solid finish, if a bit unsatisfying at times.

Spoiler Alert! I will be talking about what happens in this movie so if you haven’t seen it and/or haven’t read the book, you might want to hold off reading this until you have done one or both. Unless you just don’t care, in which case keep reading!

Here’s some of the good:

  • Smaug. Smaug Smaug Smaug. Is it too late to make a movie solely about him? A prequel or a movie from his perspective, something like that? Because that character is excellent. His design, his voice, just his absolutely magnificent self. And when he dies, well, I might have teared up a bit.
  • Defeating the Necromancer. Not actually in the book, this is part of the White Council storyline added from the appendices. It’s fantastic to see how powerful Galadriel is. And while I’ve seen some criticism (since the first Desolation of Smaug trailer actually) about how flirty Gandalf and Galadriel are, I disagree with that strongly. They are two of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth and are also good friends. I see no reason to think that their deep affection for each other has anything slightly romantic about it.
  • Bard and Thranduil. Luke Evans and Lee Pace were perfect choices. It’s no wonder that Bard became the leader of Laketown and it was nice to see the beginnings of those leadership qualities in Bain as well. And Thranduil was still his weirdly fabulous self but we got to see the Elvenking in action here rather than just the cautious recluse.
  • Bilbo. This probably should go without saying but Martin Freeman as Bilbo was an inspired choice.

There were several things about this movie that bothered me, like how little we saw of Bilbo, the confused battle scenes, and the open ending of most of the story lines.  By the end of the film there’s a lot left unexplained and I don’t know if this is because of bad storytelling, or perhaps that Peter Jackson didn’t want to make the same mistake he was accused of with Return of the King where there were about 10 endings (all good and necessary in my opinion though). I’m hoping we get the closure I’m wanting in the extended edition. For example, what happens to Tauriel? Does she go to the North with Legolas to look for the Dunedain? Is she still banished? Why did we only see Beorn and Radagast for just long enough to register that they were at the battle? Granted, Beorn’s change was pretty cool but then…we never see him again. Could Fili and Kili not have had a better ending? I don’t mean the manner in which they were killed, but the last we see of them is just laying where they fell. At least Thorin was given the respect of a show of grief when found by the other dwarves. And what of Bard and the other survivors of Laketown? At the end of the battle, they are just looking at the front gate of the Lonely Mountain. I’m really (really, really) hoping that these questions are answered with the material added to the extended edition but even then- the theatrical version shouldn’t be just a first draft for the “real” movie we see with the extended version.

For a better and more in-depth review, you can’t do better than Sorina Higgins’ for Christianity Today. And be sure to read her follow up post on what exactly is missing from the movie, some of which I’ve mentioned above.

What did y’all think?