Best Shows of 2013: New Shows Edition

Overall, 2013 produced some of the most exciting shows I’ve seen in years. Therefore, the difficulty narrowing down my favorites reached a new level of indecisiveness. Eventually, I decided to pick a favorite show for each of the four seasons. These are the shows that really grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go. I even wished they didn’t have to end. Usually, by the finale, I’m begging shows to go off already. Some of these shows I loved so much that I watched their entire seasons three or four times right after the season ended. That’s a new degree of love for me.

Winter 2013: My Mad Fat Diary

In my many years of watching television–many of them teen dramas–I can honestly say My Mad Fat Diary is the most honest look at being a teen girl out there.  My Fat Diary follows Rae, an overweight teen who  was just released for a mental institution for a suicide attempt. This may seem like the most depressing plot around, but I assure you that the show is hilarious.

It is at times heart breaking, but it’s true. It doesn’t 90210up the trials and tribulations of growing up. It reveals all the awkwardness that comes with it. The most revolutionary thing about My Mad Fat Diary is that the main character is not stick figure thin. This helps teenagers, who may be struggling with their body image or self-love, find a new type of girl to idolize. Shows like My Mad Fat Diary often struggle to really find an audience, but due to really smart writing and acting, the show is a hit with a huge cult following. It’s hard to tell if the show would work on American network television. But someone should give it a try and put it on Hulu or BBC America. More people need to see this show.

Spring 2013: Bates Motel

When I read about them doing a Bates Motel show based on Norman Bates as a teen, I laughed. It just seemed like a horrible idea. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. The biggest strength of Bates Motel is the amazing acting from the cast. Vera Farmiga deserves every award possible for her take on Norma Bates.

Bates Motel is twisted in the best possible way. It’s also smart writing. Combining the plot revolving around Norman’s declining sanity AND the secrets of the town, was a very inspired choice.

Summer 2013: The Fosters

It usually takes me at least five episodes to fall in love with a show. The Fosters had me at hello.  It combines teen angst with family drama to create a family way more interesting than the Camdens ever were. Of all the shows on this list, The Fosters is the one I praise the most to people. Mainly because I want the show to get a bigger audience. It creates the type of honest, refreshing look at love and family that more shows need. I hope one day, shows like The Fosters becomes the standard for family dramas.

In January, I will be doing deep analysis of each episode, because the show has so many layers that deserves more exploring. Those reviews will be available on this blog starting January 15.

Fall 2013: The Originals


The introduction of Klaus, Rebekah, Finn, Kol and Elijah gave The Vampire Diaries a new life that was intriguing, sexy and fun. However, like all good things, the Originals started to overstay their welcome. Klaus increasingly became pointless. I just wanted them to kill him off already. But the show became an endless, will they/won’t they kill Klaus. However, they added a twist that basically ensured Klaus would never die. I sighed. They officially announced their plans for a The Originals spinoff early this year.

Despite my being tired of these characters, I was still excited about it. Then I saw the pilot and there was no excitement left. However, The Vampire Diaries is a show I write about for Gossip and Gab.  So the site’s editor and chief asked me if I wanted to cover The Originals too this fall.  I secretly regretted my decision to cover both of them.

Then the first episode of The Originals begun, and my mouth was on the floor. It was so much better than the pilot, even though it was the same storyline, just a different viewpoint. The show just grew from there. Right now, it’s way better than The Vampire Diaries.  So it definitely became my favorite new show this fall for being the most improved.

Honorable Mention:

Orphan Black, Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black also deserve some recognition. I didn’t include any of them because they haven’t quite hit obsession level, but I do love them all. Hemlock Grove isn’t the best show but there is something addictive about it. Orphan Black is my favorite of these three but I feel like it’ll be better during season 2.  Almost Human just premiered but it’s quickly gaining a place in my heart. It may appear on a list of favorite new shows sometime in the near future.

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Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and History Truths

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is the craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their affects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

2. Noughts and Crosses by Marlorie Blackman

noughts_and_crosses_by_malorie_blackman

I go back and forth on which of the final two books I love more. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or Noughts and Crosses by Malorie BlackmanBy an inch, Speak wins the battle today. But Noughts and Crosses could win tomorrow.  They really are my top two favorites, it just depends on the mood of the day.

Blackman not only creates a universe that’s destructive and lonely but one more terrifying than other dark universes, because it’s our world in reverse.

Noughts and Crosses is about Callum and Sephy growing up in a world where they’re taught to be enemies. This society basically suppresses whites and gives black people all the power. Callum is white and Sephy is black.

The most haunting scene is after Sephy and Callum have sex for the first (and only) time. Sephy cries after it, not because Callum hurt her but because in that moment she gets it. The entire book she has been the most hopeful of the two. The one fighting for change. But in that moment, Sephy realizes they’ll never be together.

The scene is made even more tragic when Callum’s brother enters and figures out what happened; he freaks out. He tells Callum that what he did was stupid. They’ll claim he raped Sephy and he’ll die. What makes this scene more tragic is it’s in that moment that you know Callum’s fate.

The final scene is even more heartbreaking. As sad as the book is, it’s one of the most realistic portrayals, in a modern YA book, of the struggles of being a minority growing up in a racist society.

Unlike the other books mentioned, Noughts and Crosses was so perfect in its solitude that I didn’t want a sequel. Later, I found out there were many sequels. I’m scared to read them because I loved the original so much that I don’t want the story to be corrupted by the sequels (which often is the case). But I also have faith in Blackwell’s storytelling abilities to know  that one day I will journey back into the world of Noughts and Crosses. 

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

speak-laurie-halse-anderson

Why I put Speak as my number 1 is because it contains all the elements that made me love the previous nine books. It’s dark. It balances comedy and tragedy.  It has 3-Dimensional characters. It discusses a serious teen issue. Finally, it made me view the world differently.

Speak was the first book that made me want to become a YA writer. I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade. However, reading this novel made me realize how important YA books can be in helping lost teens.

Sometimes teens need books to heal them. For me, Speak  allowed me to see the importance of finding one’s voice, of speaking up through the pain.

I related to Melinda in I feared being noticed and heard. I feared being judged but also being ignored.  And not loved for speaking my truth. Thankfully, I never went through something as painful as Melinda. But like all teens, I had my own demons.

The powerful thing about all good young adult novels is it teaches teens and young people  how to cope with their own personal struggles. Even if they don’t relate to the ones exactly expressed in the novel, they see a universe truth in it.

I love YA novels because they helped shaped my identity. For that, I owe them great admiration and respect.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3: The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novel

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite Young Adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

4.  The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey

The Torn Skirt

The Torn Skirt, in many ways, is a tribute to Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. I read these books right after one another. So the similarities glared at me. However, Sara’s journey to find out more about Justine created a grittier story. It almost becomes a crime drama by the end of it. This makes The Torn Skirt the most unusual young adult novel I’ve read, but also more memorable than many other ones.

Many social, emotional and global issues were addressed in this short book. Everything from date rape to drug addiction to parental neglect.  So much was in it that it really needs multiple readings to unpack all of it.

The Torn Skirt has an “interesting” ending. After my first reading of it,  I was disappointed.  However, the ending is one of those things you appreciate more with age.

The novel remains one of the few books that I think could have been better with a couple sequels. So many things were left open ended.  The Torn Skirt could have even developed into a whole series on street life.

Sometimes being a young adult means dealing with dark, soul-crushing situations. And sometimes people need to read them to truly understand broken souls. The Torn Skirt gets that.

3. Crooked by Laura Mcneal and Tom Mcneal

crooked'

Amos and Clara probably rank really high on a list of my ultimate favorite fictional couples.  They were so cute! They also represented teen insecurities at their most meditative. Neither character signified the ideal teenager. Amos was dumb at times, typical young boy . And Clara was just weird.

Like 13 Reasons Why and The Torn Skirt, this is a darker teen novel. By the end of Crooked, it almost becomes a horror/suspense story.  You’re scared for Amos and Clara. But you also have faith in these characters growth to save themselves.   

Also, once again like The Torn Skirt,  Crooked is one of the few books I would love a sequel. I don’t know how a sequel would work, but I want more Clara and Amos stories.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2: The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best Young Adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young Adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

7. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

ThirteenReasonsWhy

13 Reasons Why is one of the few books on this list that I’ve read in the last couple years.

What made me admire this book was how it captures the hopelessness that many teens experience. So much so that they take their own lives.

Besides that, what really drew me in was how different it was from most Young Adult novels. The novel creates this mystery surrounding the death of  Hannah Baker. And with every new tape, you anxiously wait to see how and why it all happened. What you come to realize is that what’s most tragic about this story is how easily it could happen. The novel makes readers question how they treat themselves and others. It makes them see how any little incident can have a bigger effect on someone’s life. 13 Reasons Why haunts readers long after they are done.

For that, it creates an unforgettable experience uncommon in many YA books.

6.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perksofbeingwallflower1

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the second book on this list that has been read in the last couple years. My enjoyment of this book both ranks with nostalgia and technique.

Perks reminded me a lot of my teen years. Not exactly the events but more like the emotions I felt being somewhat of an outsider, a wallflower.  Charlie is me as a freshman. A bit lost, hurt and hopeful about the possibilities of this new beginning.

The technical aspects of The Perks of Being a Wallflower that impressed me most were the creation of interesting minor characters. Most YA novels focus solely on the main character and the minor ones feel like an after-thought. If anything, Wallflower’s minor characters were almost more interesting than the main one. This really helped establish the idea of being a wallflower. Charlie’s storyline revolves around how he sees the world and the people in it. Therefore, they are more the stars of his story than him.

You also grow attached to Sam and Patrick as much as Charlie.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower creates characters you want to know, and grow to love.

5. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

RatsSaw9781442459762

Rats Saw God is the last book on the list that I read very recently. It quickly zoomed up to one of my favorites.  Personally, this book reminded me most of Looking for Alaska by John Green. But I enjoyed it a lot moreMainly because the problem with LFA, for me, was the characters. They didn’t quite feel real. Rats Saw God created situations and characters that were believable.

Another way it differed and improved on the concepts in Looking for Alaska is the issue of depression. Rats Saw God captures how depressing high school life can become. The novel also manages to remain hopeful by showing that slow recovery of depression is possible.

This theme came across with subtle cleverness.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 1: Ghosts, Sloppy Firsts and Traveling Pants

When  Entertainment Weekly  made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to  which fandom is craziest.  They are less about the actual best of anything.

This almost guarantees a Twilight  or John Green book victory. 

Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres.  Their effects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However,  a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.  

After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best. 

After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.  

Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.) 

10. Haunted (Mediator #6) by Meg Cabot

Haunted by Meg Cabot

As a preteen and teen, Meg Cabot was my queen. Any and every book she published, I needed to own. Despite my worshipping of Cabot, I  discovered later in life that she wrote in various pseudonyms, and wrote more book series than I could ever read.

Possibly my discovering of Cabot’s literary history came after I read Haunted. Upon beginning Haunted, I realized this was one in a book series. When I bought the book I thought it was a stand alone one.

Though I remain curious about the rest of the books in the series, Haunted is the only one I read. Why? Not quite sure. Possibly because she hasn’t written one after this book yet. It could also be because Haunted was so perfect that I don’t need to know more. JK. The real reason is because I outgrew Cabot’s YA series even before I left my teens.

So I have never felt the need to read the entire series. However, recently Cabot announced she was working on the next book in it. I cannot deny a spark of curiosity grew.  It developed because of all the Meg Cabot books I’ve read as a teen, Haunted created the most fascinating characters.

In particularly, Paul grabbed me and made me want to know more about him. He was a darker character than I was used to with Cabot, but also a lot more intriguing one than previous male figures. He walked the fence of hero and villain. Haunted became the first book where I rooted for the ‘bad guy.’

Now as a writer and fiction fan, I’m more drawn to characters like Paul. Part of me believes this character helped shaped that perspective. So for that, Paul and Haunted always has a special place in my heart.

9. The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (Book 1) by Ann Brashares

Sisterhood1Book

I own every Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants  book in the series, but the first one. This is the one I want to own the most. I own every hardcover 1st-print edition. Therefore, I refuse to buy the first book until I find that copy.  A task not easy to accomplish.

As you can tell, after I read the first one, I became addicted to these books. I pre-ordered each of them and read them within a couple days. However, none of them matched the first Sisterhood book. The first one worked so well because it created varying degrees of woman.

None of them were better than the other. They were just different. Every girl could find one they related to. It was also rare for me to find a YA book more about the bonds of these girls than anything else. They underwent their own adventures but in the end, it was about how their friendship kept them whole.  A strong message that more books need to teach, to empower the bonds of sisterhood.

8. Sloppy First and Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

51z43pKFiILSecond-Helpings

Freshman year of high school, I read Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings right after one another. What sold me on this book was Jessica Darling and Marcus Flute.  Their love story just captivated me. It felt genuine and honest. What made their love story work better than other young adult novel ones is that readers read them falling in love.

Many YA novels start with one of the people already madly in love. Then the other one later revealing that they felt the same. With this one, both Marcus and Jessica grew to love one another. It was a complicated, selfless love.  Truly a love story better than Twilight.

The book series went on to include three other books. I have yet to read the other three. Not because I want to preserve the magic of the first two. But more so, I want to relive it. I refuse to read the other books until I am able to read the first two again. Then I will continue the Marcus and Jessica journey.

A challenging journey of first love.

Other Parts

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 2:  The Perks of the 13 Reasons Why Rats Saw God

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 3:  The Dark-Times of Young Adult Novels

Top Ten Favorite Young Adult Books Part 4: Silent Pains and Rewritten History

Movie Review: 5 Reasons Pacific Rim Is Cooler Than You Think, And 3 Reasons It’s Not

Warning this post may contain spoilers on Pacific Rim. Please do not read this until you see the movie.

When Pacific Rim was released, I had no interest in seeing it. Big budget, action, robot films rarely excite me. Additionally, the marketing for the film lacked momentum.  Not until the week of release did I hear about  Pacific Rim. However, through the power of social media,  my curiosity became piqued.  People reblogged gifs of it on Tumblr all the time.  Twitter chirped with articles about Pacific Rim. Therefore,  I took to a trusted friend for more information about this movie:  IMDB.  I discovered that Pacific Rim was highly rated by IMDB users, and directed by Guillermo del Toro. Because Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all-time, I am naturally inclined to see any movie directed by del Toro. Another selling point was  Robert Kazinsky. Kazinsky made this season of  True Blood  enjoyable. Therefore, all the social media buzz about the film, the cast and the director made its DVD release date an important time for me.

PACIFIC RIM

Tonight I watched Pacific Rim.  I now understand the cult behind it. However, some glaring problems with the film kept me from drinking the cult Kool-Aid.

So here are five reasons why Pacific Rim is cooler than you think, and three reasons why it’s not.

Cooler Than You Think

1. Movie Genre-Hybrid-Baby Film 

My movie genre expertise does not correlate with the ones that  influenced Pacific Rim . However, even non-experts, like me, easily can understand how certain film genres inspired elements of this movie.  Pacific Rim partially sources monster movies, hero origin tales and even a few  buddy cop/romance ones.

The film draws heavily from  Japanese monster movies. Some of the best moments of Pacific Rim involves the mimicking of Godzilla or King Kong movies. Pacific Rim clearly loves, knows and appreciates all the genres referenced, and because of that, it’s an admirable production.

2.  How Casting Should Be Done

It unsettles me when casting directors go for big Hollywood names instead of acting abilities. With that being said, the majority of the cast of Pacific Rim has little name recognition to an American audience.  Nevertheless, everyone in the cast radiates acting talent. Along with Kazinsky, I am a fan of Idris Elba and Charlie Day. Additionally, Rinko Kikuchi‘s performance on Babel is unforgettable. The only actor I was unfamiliar with, going into this film, was Charlie Hunnam. However, upon further research, I discovered how crafted he is at creating characters.

Overall, the Pacific Rim’s cast is what dreams are made of.

3. Diversity, Yeah! 

The film needs a bit more racial diversity.  Nonetheless, the multi-racial casting represents what the future of film casting should look-like.  Besides being racial diverse, the Pacific Rim cast is globally diverse.  Americans are the minority in this movie.

Pacific Rim‘s casting choices helps convey the idea that films need more diversity with leading roles.

4.  Pretty Colours 

Despite the sea monsters destroying it, Pacific Rim‘s version of Hong Kong looks breathtaking. A major reason for this involves the films consistent use of contrasting red and blue. A whole analytical piece for the film could really dive into the interesting patterns with the red and blue scenes in Pacific Rim.  For example, I’m sure some film student could do a whole reading on the scene when Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) carries her  little red shoes while being chased by a huge robot monster. They could argue that the red shoes in this totally demolished place symbolizes hope. Then they could say something about how red often shows hope in the film, and also tie that in with the important of red to Hong Kong.

The red burns bright while the city turns grey and dark.  It’s just such a beautiful visual.

5. Sign Me Up For This World

While watching Pacific Rim,  I started wondering about evolution. I wondered if  these creatures could actually happen one day. Then I started wondered if we should prepare now. I also wondered where would I get a cool robot suit.

I respect and admire how effortlessly del Toro created a world I fully believe.

Why It’s Not

1. You Can Fight Him, But You Can’t Stand Up For Yourself! 

A major problem in Pacific Rim is the characterization of Mako. She gives in too much to her emotions and is almost entirely submissive.  Essentially, Mako, as the only female character, classifies on the same hero level as the men. However, her fragile mentality makes her weaker than them.  The most disturbing display of Mako’s fragile nature shows when she cannot control her memories and almost kills everyone at the lab.  If the film had any other character behaving this way, it wouldn’t have felt like a jab against women. Because Mako as the only woman seems so emotional, it feels like the film is saying, “women: too emotional for heroics.” No other character in Pacific Rim displays lack of emotional control in this way. Becket (Charlie Hunnam) faces similar distress but he remains calm.

Another point of concern is Mako’s relationship with Pentecost (Idris Elba). Until his death, he controlled her completely, and she submitted to him easily.  Just because he was her father figure does not excuse their concerning relationship. Even daughters rebel against  controlling fathers. I do not believe Pacific Rim intended to express sexist ideologies, but  sometimes the intent does not match the reality.

People can argue it is an Asian culture thing. However, I will prove those stereotypes incorrect.

2. I’ll Take That Without All The Cheese

As a robot film, I expected robot film dialogue. Therefore, I did not expect Shakespeare in the park. Nevertheless, sometimes the writing became so cheesy that I cringed. Other times, the film felt so formulaic that I could predict the lines and storylines.

One moment that almost made me want to turn away, because it was too painful (in a laughable way) to watch, is the tearful goodbyes between Chuck (Robert Kazinsky) and Herc (Max Martini). That scene’s writing ranks  on the same level as soap opera cheesy.  Aside: No offense is intended to soap opera fans or writers. Soap operas, despite their bad reputation, can have very captivating storylines and scenes. However, when soap opera writers fail to write something believable, they really fail.   End Aside.

Like soap operas, when Pacific Rim‘s writing lacks believability, it really does.

3. Know The Rules of Textbook Characters, Then Break Them

Despite the talent of the cast, at times the characters are one-dimensional and unrealistic. Pentecost’s angry screaming almost discredited Elba as an actor.   It just didn’t feel natural. Both Kazinsky and Hunnam fall into character stereotypes. Kazinsky embodies the jerk, with a daddy issues,  cliche, just as much as Hunnam represents the All-American hero one.

Their acting was fine, but neither actor attempted to take these characters to another level. A textbook character can still have dimensions to make it more than that(See: Joss Whedon characters as reference).

Dr. Geiszler (Charlie Day)  and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are the most fascinating characters in Pacific Rim. Both of them are reinterpretations of very classic character stereotypes. They took weird scientists characters to new levels.  Dr. Geiszler’s quest storyline is so interesting that it easily could have been its own film.

Pacific Rim definitely has a lot of inspiring qualities: the homage to monster films, the perfect casting and the subtle usage of colors. However, there is a lot of room for improvements.  So if there is a sequel someday, work on the problems. Therefore, it can truly become a monster of a film.

Grade: 6.9/10