2016 Hallmark Movie of the Year (Holiday Edition)

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This was a surprisingly good crop of holiday-themed movies this year (I should say Christmas-themed since there isn’t any mention of Hanukkah or other holidays). Since I didn’t review any of the movies individually, I’ll use this post to do a quick catch up of all the movies after first announcing the Hallmark Holiday Movie of the Year.

Hallmark Movie of the Year (Holiday Edition):

My Christmas Love (6.84) – Hopeless romantic, egocentric serial dater thinks she gets all the gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas song. They aren’t even for her. The gifts were fun and the rest of the cast was hilarious.

Honorable Mention:

A Heavenly Christmas (6.81) – Workaholic actually seems happier in death than in life.

Mistletoe Promise (6.79) – Woman looks like she should be a White Walker from Game of Thrones, but is still charming as the fake girlfriend.

Dishonorable Mention: A Nutcracker Christmas (5.69) – An overly ambitious project for Hallmark falls flat on its face. The actors couldn’t dance and the dancers couldn’t act.

The Rest:

Christmas List (6.62) – Perfectionist tries to have the perfect Christmas because her mother never let her have it.

Broadcasting Christmas (6.61) – Woman competes against her ex-boyfriend for her dream job. Again.

Sleigh Bells Ring (6.56) – Woman tries to organize a Christmas parade in two weeks. Made more difficult since she tries to use Santa’s sleigh and it keeps disappearing.

A Wish for Christmas (6.55) – Woman wishes she had courage for Christmas. She turns into miss bossy-pants.

Love You Like Christmas (6.55) – Woman finds her Christmas spirit when she is trapped in a Christmas-obsessed town.

A Dream of Christmas (6.55) – Woman wishes she had never married. Not even a little bit like It’s a Wonderful Life.

My Christmas Dream (6.51) – Woman falls in love with an employee that she fired. Gives up her dream job for some reason.

Christmas Cookies (6.28) – Marketing executive goes to small town to shut down a Christmas cookie factory.

Every Christmas Has a Story (6.24) – Reporter says she hates Christmas so is forced to find her Christmas spirit in a small town.

A December Bride (6.18) – Woman is expected to forgive her cousin for stealing her fiancé because “she’s family”

Looks Like Christmas (6.18) – Single man tries to give his daughter a special Christmas, butts heads with local OCD woman.

Christmas in Homestead (6.13) – Movie star falls in love with small town mayor. Movie basically admits that it will never work.

Journey Back to Christmas (6.01) – Pfft, who actually think Hallmark can get time travel right?

2016 Hallmark Movie of the Year (Non-Holiday Edition)

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Hallmark is expanding their movie seasons. They start with Winterfest, then Valentine’s Day, followed by Spring Fling, then June Weddings, before a short break before Fall Harvest rolls into Christmas (a separate category). This year’s Hallmark Movie of the Year is…

Valentine Ever After – From my review: “While it is a pretty standard plot, what I liked about Valentine Ever After was that Julia fell in love with the area first, then she found something that she liked doing (planning a fundraiser for the hospital), and then (and only then) did she fall in love with the guy.  Too many times in Hallmark movies is it backwards (or even worse — they quit the job that they love or give up their gorgeous condo without consideration for how they will feel months or years down the road.)  You can also add another jilted fiancé to the Hallmark pile, and at least he had the decency to be upset rather than shrug his shoulders and move on with his life as if his fiancée didn’t just dump him for another man.”

Honorable Mention: Summer Love – A woman falls in love with her boss. Then sues the company for millions. Ha! No, everything turns out fine, because it’s Hallmark!

Dishonorable Mention: Love on a Limb – Petulant city employee fails to do her job and chains herself to a tree instead of trying to find a solution to the problem.

2016 Food Establishment of the Year

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Moving to a new city has opened up an entire new selection of restaurants this year. Of course, I really didn’t eat at all the restaurants in my last city, but now I have a new city to explore. With the abundance of casinos in Reno, there is no shortage of high-quality restaurants to try. This year’s winner is…

Bimini: The steakhouse located in the Peppermill casino is my top choice for the year. They had some small slip-ups in service and food prep, but the overall quality of the food was the best I had all year, especially in comparison to the Atlantis Steakhouse, which was also very good, but the food quality, while good, was noticeably lower than that of Bimini.

Honorable Mention: El Paisano’s. The pupuseria y taqueria exposed me to a new food (pupusa) and gave me the tacos I have been looking for since Chicago. Excellent street food at affordable prices, I have been back several times already this year.

Dishonorable Mention: Me. Despite the new city and an abundance of new options, I only reviewed eight restaurants. I hope I can get to a few more places next year – there are plenty more steakhouses to visit (a staple in any casino, but I’ll try to avoid the “$9.99 Prime Rib” variety). There are also plenty of brewhouses to visit as well.

2016 Book of the Year

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With less than two weeks in the year, it seems unlikely that I will finish another book in 2016, so with that in mind, it is time for my Book of the Year post. I read a healthy dose of Robin Hobb this year – the full Far Seer trilogy and starting the Live Ship Trilogy. Without further ado, the Book of the Year goes to…

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Here’s what I said about Elantris in my review:

Elantris is a fascinating war of science (or magic, since any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) and religion.  The only downside was that the ending was a bit too well foreshadowed (i.e. predictable), not entirely original, and unexplainable – no really, the characters didn’t have an explanation for what happened.  It was a bit disappointing for a book this good, otherwise.

Elantris is part of the Cosmere universe. My 2017 resolution list includes reading more of the Cosmere universe (the Mistborn series and the Stormlight series, which I have read are also part of Cosmere).

Honorable Mention: Frankenstein. A classic that wasn’t at all what I expected. Worth a read if you want to know the origin story of this tale, but be warned it is nothing like how it has been depicted in other media.

Dishonorable Mention: Howard’s End. The male lead in this “classic” is an elitist, sexist jerk, and the female protagonists are spoiled little rich girls that are unsympathetic.

Book Review: Frankenstein

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Published: 1831 (originally published in 1818, but updated in 1831 and this is the version I read)

Author: Mary Shelley

There are some things that are “common knowledge” that are just plain wrong. “Play it again, Sam” is never said in Casablanca, that we only use 10% of our brain was thoroughly disproved by Mythbusters, and the monster created in Mary Shelley’s famous novel is not called Frankenstein — it doesn’t have a name.

In fact, just about everything I thought about Frankenstein is wrong. I thought Frankenstein* was created by a mad scientist using lightning to reanimate a corpse. This monster was little more than a giant, lumbering zombie, who was killed when the local villagers rose up with their torches and pitchforks. Absolutely none of that is true.

Frankenstein is the name of the scientist (and frankly, he is a bit mad). The details of how Frankenstein brings his creature to life are rather thin, but from what I gathered, it was using chemistry, not electricity/lightning. The monster was huge, but anything but lumbering – he was described as having superhuman speed and quickness. Nor was the creature a zombie; he learns to speak fluently and read. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that there are no villagers with torches and pitchforks anywhere in the novel.

I think I liked Frankenstein better this way than my original preconceptions. It was a bit short on details—Shelley briefly mentions Frankenstein gathering the “materials” for his project (I mean these are body parts, right? Where is Frankenstein getting these?). And as already noted, there was no real detail on how the reanimation occurs. This is understandable since the science didn’t exist, nor does it particularly matter for the story, but my dorky side would have liked to have seen how the creature came about.

I found the creature far more pitiable than Frankenstein. The creature is immediately rejected by his father/creator, rejected by society on account of his hideousness. Yet, the creature learns love, history, and language through a peephole in a cottage. Unfortunately for the creature, he still isn’t accepted into society, so he becomes the monster that everyone assumes he is and becomes a murderer—at least as a “pay attention to me” to his father/creator. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is as guilty as anyone, not for creating him in the first place as Frankenstein believes, but because he didn’t nurture his creation from the beginning.

It is bizarre to read a story you think you know only to have it be absolutely nothing like you expect. In this case it was a good thing; the creature was more sympathetic than what I’d anticipated. On the other hand, it is always a bad thing (in my mind) when you are rooting against the protagonist – but it is at least partially intentional, if not fully so.

WWYT Rating 7.0

Goodreads: 3.74/5.00

*Technically, I did know that the scientist’s name was Frankenstein, not the monster’s.