Wednesday, July 26, 2017

If You Like This, Try That: Children's Books Edition, Part Two

Previously, I recommended five children's books to read if you enjoy the more popular titles like A Wrinkle in Time, Little House on the Prairie, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. If, however, you like fantasy books, here are a few suggestions of good children's fantasy stories. After all, C.S. Lewis said, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."

If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, try The Door Within trilogy

If you grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and you're looking for something similar in terms of genre and taste, you should read The Door Within trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson. These books follow the adventures of Aidan Thomas as he travels to another world, fights a battle between good and evil, and learns deep truths about himself and life in general. Both series follow the same vein of fantasy and hold similar messages about life, friendship, and belief. Plus, there's a plethora of wonderful characters, magic, and excitement to discover.

If you like The Hobbit, try the DragonKeeper Chronicles

While the plot of The Hobbit and Dragonspell (book one in the DragonKeeper Chronicles) differ, they hold a lot of similarities. There are crazy wizards, exciting adventures, and colorful cultures and people, in addition to the dragons! Both stories follow unlikely heroes as they embark on a quest that will test their mind and heart. If you love The Hobbit, give Dragonspell and the other books in the DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul a try.

If you like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, try the Seven Wonders series

One of my favorite aspects of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is that it makes learning about mythology fun. The Seven Wonders series by Peter Lerangis does the same, only instead of mythology, you learn about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Both series include a ragtag group of special kids that essentially have to complete quests to save the world. Both series mix modern day with ancient history and myths. And both series are filled with hilarious moments, witty dialogue, and fun, exciting adventure! If you like Percy Jackson, check out the Seven Wonders and get ready for a wild ride!

If you like How to Train Your Dragon series, try the Wings of Fire series

Fans of the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell will also enjoy the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland. Both feature all types of dragons, excellent world-building, and loads of adventure. Just like there are several viking tribes in HTTYD, Wings of Fire features several dragon tribes and how they interact with one another. There are prophecies, dragon fights, and a wide range of characters discovering who they are. Basically, if you love dragons, you should read this series.

If you like Inkheart, try The Neverending Story

I haven't read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke yet, but everything I know about it reminds me of The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Both stories involve a connection to books, fictional characters, and the magic that is held within. While there are probably many differences between the two stories, I think that someone who likes Inkheart would enjoy reading The Neverending Story, and vice versa. All you have to do is pick up the book and turn the page.

What children's fantasy books would you recommend?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Take a Trip to Bitch Planet with Triple Features

Sometimes even the most avid of comic book readers or those who pick up favorites along the way need a break from mainstream comics. This often means setting aside Marvel and DC’s world-shattering events and sometimes even superheroes in general. This isn’t to say there’s not a time or place for the stories told within these narratives—there's a reason they’re popular and have resonated with hundreds of thousands of people—but when it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the subjective ‘canon’ and a variety of Batman movies available to watch for any palate, many turn to indie comics. Here, people can find any number of genres ranging from hilarious and fun stories about a cabin at an all girls camp (Boom Studio’s Lumberjanes) to heavy, dark, and extremely relevant stories about life (Image Comics’s Bitch Planet). Here, a summer read can be found no matter what you’re looking for, and it doesn’t have to be all fun in the sun either.

If you find yourself looking for something a little different for your summer comics reading, Bitch Planet is the way to go. It's an exploitation-film-inspired satire series published by Image Comics that takes place in a dystopian future. Women are deemed “non-compliant” by society for not following the rules of what a woman should be like—quiet, feminine, and making less money than her male counterparts. The women who deviate are sent to an all women’s prison planet that is colloquially known as “Bitch Planet.” Written by all-star author Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn by the talented Valentine DeLandro, the comic has been coming out since December of 2014. But don’t let the longevity fool you—irregular publishing schedules and busy creators have allowed only 10 issues to be published thus far.

Still, 10 issues at $3.99 each can get pricey, especially since the earlier issues are extremely hard to find in store. The good news is that ComiXology and Image both sell digital versions if you want to read on your phone, tablet, or computer. The first five issues can easily be found in a bound volume for $9.99 at pretty much any store that sells graphic novels, but the volume is missing one of the things that make the comics so fantastic: the back matter. Each issue contains author’s notes, essays by guest writers, art, cosplay, and other relevant information. For those looking to give the comic a try, it’s most definitely daunting and might take a while to gather the pieces. But don't despair! Bitch Planet: Triple Feature is the best place to start for new readers.

This summer, the creative team decided to let others take the reins for a bit and commissioned a diverse group of writers and authors to create short comics. Image is releasing the triple features every month, giving DeConnick and DeLandro some time to catch up and get the main comic back on track. These four issues span from June to September, and each contains three comics set within the universe of the main comic. While the main comic focuses heavily on the activity on the planet, these shorter ones present more of what’s happening on Earth during the revolution in the prison. The glimpses into the world remind the audience of the bigger picture, and serve much like an appetizer. No need to feel like you’re leaving the story incomplete by only reading the first few issues because these tell complete stories on their own.

Each of the mini-comics contains new characters with their own lives, which makes it the best place for new readers to be acquainted with the universe and the storytelling. They deal with former employees of Bitch Planet, women in courtrooms, and women just hoping for a promotion but not getting it because they’re not well-endowed or blonde. It’s satire, but it hits close to home for many readers, even without the warnings some of the main story comics have contained. The triple features still contain the amazing back matter essays, so new readers will still get the full experience. If you enjoy them, be sure to check out the main story!

Release schedule:
  • Issue #1 was released on June 14 
  • Issue #2 was released on July 19
  • Issue #3 will be released on August 16
  • Issue #4 will be released on September 20
Digital versions of the Triple Features can be found here.

Have you read Bitch Planet?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nerdy Ambient Soundtracks for Your Day

If you’re anything like me, doing anything with complete silence is impossible. It’s too easy to get distracted by the lack of ambient noise, or, even worse, with the wrong type of ambient noise. It’s especially bad if I can’t stand the music playing or the sounds around me are not inspiring.

Though I don’t always need actual music, certain sounds can make a world of difference.

I fall asleep to the Solitudes albums because their natural sounds and calming music are wonderful and help coax me into a peaceful, meditative state to sleep.

But I’ve always thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the ambient noise, music, and sounds I listen to could be from the places that make my inner fangirl come to life? I mean, if I could write my articles sitting in the Gryffindor common room, or spend time reading while listening to the sounds of the Normandy’s ship buzzing around me, I’d be in heaven.

Sounds are a major part of my existence. It is those ambient sounds and extra noises within the shows, movies, and games I love that help transport me into their worlds. Those worlds light the fire of inspiration in my heart. They are my muses.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to a place that made all my dreams come true:

Not only does this website allow you to create your own ambient mixes, but it gives you access to a whole library of user-made ones, including hundreds to indulge your fangirl needs in.

Depending on what you are looking for, there are a range of options for each setting. Some include music, some are just ambient noise. Each mixer also contains sliders for the different ambient noises contributing to the atmosphere, allowing you to increase or decrease different aspects to suit your desires.

Although I’ve only been using it for a few weeks now, these are some of my favourites:

Gryffindor Common Room - Harry Potter

There are a number of options for the common room, but I like this one in particular because of the addition of the Harry Potter theme music in the background. Sometimes I’ll turn that portion up a bit, other times I’ll turn it down. When I really need to get my concentration focused, I will close my eyes for a moment and imagine that I am really there, hanging out in front of the fireplace, curled up with a good book, just listening and taking it all in.

Often, I will play this track while at work, drowning out the awful music and sounds of the dealership around me. It brings a bit of nerdiness into my every day life, making me feel a little less frustrated with living in the real world.

The King’s Throne Room - Disney’s Atlantis

This is one I find super inspiring. It’s kind of like a mix between a Solitudes track and sitting in an actual port. Not only is this one great when I need something incredibly calming, but it also doubles as a great mix for doing meditation, deep thoughts, or just doing breathing exercises. Plus, it’s not too difficult to imagine you’re about to chill in Atlantis when you let the sounds carry you away.

The ambient backing track is beautiful, soft yet sharp sounds encouraging peacefulness and clarity. The sounds of the chains clanging together in the port are just frequent enough to carry you away. Everything about this one screams calming and focus, and although it is a little less peppy than one might expect for something inspired by Disney, I feel like it fits quite beautifully with what I would imagine the actual sounds of their Atlantis world to be like.

Daenerys at War - Game of Thrones

Need something to put you in a more somber mood? Or maybe you just feel like taking yourself to a place of mystery, dragons, and epic battles? This mix is fantastic for that. Part of the reason this one appeals to me so much is that, as a writer and an author, sometimes I need something to take me to a darker place. If I’m in a particularly good mood, I can often forget just how dark a scene needs to be. This is the kind of ambient sound that is great to send me there.

The deep, soulful music carries a sadness to it--you just know something dark and devastating is going on. The sword-fighting keeps your mind active. You can’t just disappear into the sadness with battles going on around. It drives that deep feeling of the need to take action, to push forward with a relentless rage, channeling all your hurt and sorrow into the task at hand.

(©Tabitha Wells)
Walking Down Main Street USA - Disney

If you’re a fellow Disnerd, this particular track probably doesn’t require much explanation. I am one of those weird people who says that Disney World is my happy place. There are literally times I have become so overwhelmed with the desire to be in Disney that I have broken down in tears. It is the one place where I truly feel at home.

There are a number of places to listen to sounds and music from Disney World, with plenty of playlists that include tracks from the rides, clips from different areas of the parks, and more. What makes me love this ambient mix so much is that it’s a single, ongoing track putting you directly on Main Street USA. You can play it all day, soaking in the magic and joy those sounds give you when you’re truly there. It’s like sprinkling pixie dust on your day, no matter where you are.

What places would you love to listen to ambient mixes from to take you away from everyday life?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Simple Guide to 1980s Fantasy Movie and Beverage Pairings

I haven’t always been a coffee addict, but ever since I was a child, I've had a fondness for various teas. My childhood heavily included 1980s fantasy movies as well, and I noticed that each film had its own unique flavor, whether it be in overall tone, character development, or even storytelling style.

Not that you need a reason to drink coffee, but I thought it would be fun to offer coffee options that would heighten a 1980s movie marathon, all according to the flick and the beverage’s unique qualities.

The Black Cauldron

Flat White

Mmm, coffee
Hm, What’s That:

The Black Cauldron is a darker Disney film about a young pig farmer and friends taking on the terrifying Horned King.

The flat white is half espresso, half steamed milk. Some coffee shops do give you foam that's highly textured and has an almost velvety feel to it. The espresso is also much more concentrated and isn’t usually sweetened.

Surprisingly dark and (at times) complicated

Sell It, Barista:

Any true Disney fan should see this film at least once, so if you’re among those few who have, congratulations! Get yourself a coffee. A flat white, particularly. And here’s why.

Did you know that both the cappuccino and flat white aren’t typically sweetened? Since the flat white has a much more concentrated espresso, it’s a tad sweeter, which pairs well with the misconception that just because The Black Cauldron is a Disney movie, it must be cupcakes and kittens. But, like a great many Disney movies, it straddles the line on the creamy sweetness you may remember and the bitter notes of hard life lessons.

Oh, and Gurgi is the frothy foam on top!

Clash of the Titans 

Oolong Tea


Hm, What’s That:

Clash of the Titans is a movie adaptation of the Greek hero Perseus. (Think, the Medusa story.)

Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea that is part black tea, part green tea. Really, Oolong, depending on how it’s prepared, can taste fruity or even nutty.


A classic favorite with, depending on how you brew it, various flavors.

Sell It, Barista:

Clash of the Titans has that classic flair. Drinking Oolong with this flick is clever because, just like the tea, depending on how much you know of Greek mythology (depending on how you “brew it”), you may have a different take on the movie. It could either be fun and fruity or, if you are a mythological buff, it could be something much more refined and complicated.

If you’re a Percy Jackson fan, this movie is mentioned in the series! An entirely different flavor all together.


Caffe macchiato


Hm, What’s That:

Legend is about Jack and Princess Lily’s quest to stop the Lord of Darkness’ plan, which involves capturing a unicorn’s horn in order to free himself so that he can plunge the world into everlasting darkness.

The caffe macchiato is an espresso drink tinged with a spot of foamed milk.


Strongly bitter with a spot of cream. If you like a bit of darkness with your light or vice versa.

Sell it, Barista:

Truly, for the anti-hero in all of us.

The Lord of Darkness mentions that even though Jack might defeat him, there will always be sin and shadow to accompany the light. Just as the macchiato, this pairing could represent the melding of the pleasant cream of love and light to the bitter espresso of darkness and dread.


Pumpkin Chai Latte

Hmm, What’s That:

Sarah must venture into the Labyrinth to save her brother from Jareth, the Goblin King.

Pumpkin Spice Latte is an espresso and steamed milk drink with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Usually, the latte is then topped with whipped cream and spice.


Both are a mixture of well-blended, in-your-face flavors.

Sell It, Barista:

Since the movie is about a girl and her journey into the Goblin King’s kingdom, it would be a perfect movie to sip a spiced pumpkin treat. After all, there are goblins, interesting muppet-like creatures, and even a masquerade part way through the movie. The movie screams Halloween! Why not have a seasonally fall drink to go with it?

And the vast array of spices is almost a mirror to David Bowie’s dashing performance. Just his tight pants alone "spices" things up.

The Princess Bride

Hm, What’s That: 

The Princess Bride is a tale of romance, of daring, of pirates, princesses, and the power of true love. It holds tragedy and comedy and is one of the most quotable movies.

Hot chocolate is melted or powdered chocolate, milk, and most often sugar (sometimes, even whipped cream).


Overwhelmingly rich and sweet. A treat for everyone to enjoy and especially great to share with a loved one.

Sell It, Barista: 

The Princess Bride is a timeless classic, so it’s perfect to drink such a delightfully classic drink to accompany it. Just as Buttercup and Westley’s love is endearing and sentimental and just like the movie can be enjoyed by both young and old alike, so too can hot chocolate. Besides, there are so many ways to view this movie, and an endless amount of ways to drink hot cocoa (with cinnamon, with peppermint, with marshmallows, with Ghiradelli dark chocolate).

There also isn't ever a wrong time to watch The Princess Bride. Coincidentally, hot chocolate can be enjoyed all year round. Besides, chocolate is at least my true love, a theme that is prevalent throughout The Princess Bride.

The NeverEnding Story

Frappé with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream

Hm, What’s That:

The NeverEnding Story is about a boy named Bastian, an avid reader, who finds a book that centers on a valiant hero and his quest to stop a terrible storm called the Nothing from taking over the world.

A Frappé is a cold coffee drink covered with milk foam. Of course, one would have to add a dollop of ice cream... because, why not?


Refreshing and usually endlessly sweet.

Sell It, Barista:

The reason to quench your thirst with this particular drink is that, like The NeverEnding Story, the frappé ice cream mixture is both delightful and addicting, not to mention that the calories, if you aren’t careful, can be a tad terrifying... not unlike some adventures encountered in The NeverEnding Story. 

Plus, the ice cream floats on top of the coffee like Falcor glides on air.

So, there you have it. If you're in need of a 1980s fantasy movie marathon, you now have your ultimate guide to café beverages. Happy pairing!

Do you have any perfect pairings of your own? 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Album Spotlight: Hand Built by Robots

Sometimes bands you love just don't get enough recognition for how amazing they are. Whether they're an indie band with a bad publicist who never put out more than one album or a popular band whose best album goes unappreciated by the music industry or they just haven't gotten their songs in front of the right people yet, so much amazing music flies under the radar. This is to stop that from happening.

Image result for newton faulkner hand built by robots
Buy it here.

Hand Built by Robots 
Newton Faulkner

Newton Faulkner is an English singer-songwriter with an indie-pop-folk style and some amazing percussive guitar playing. His upbeat style pushes the album forward, and you'll be nodding your head and dancing before you know it. All of his songs, even the slower, sadder ones, will leave you feeling just a little bit better about life. With lyrics like,

I'm gonna master all kinds of kung-fu. // I'm gonna live inside a tiny zoo. // I'm gonna grow myself a giant Afro, // when the alarm goes off I just won't know.
It was late one night a little while ago, // I had nothing to drink, I don't think, // okay, well maybe a glass of wine // but nothing that would loosen my mind // to the point of seeing what I'm seeing in the sky. // Woah an alien being!
Feel like a muppet with a drunken puppeteer // But I'll survive.
and song titles like "U.F.O." and "People Should Smile More" and "Sitar-y Thing — Interlude," you know you're in for a fun and unexpected ride. Faulkner's lyrics have a clarity to them that I haven't found in many other musicians. He presents the realities of life with perfect metaphors, capturing the moments that we all experience and putting them to music.

"Gone in the Morning" was featured in the film Morning Glory, if you're wondering where you know it from.

Bonus: Check out his single, "Write It On Your Skin," which is one of my favorites.

If you have an album you want to spotlight for the world to see, send your guest post to

Have you heard of Newton Faulkner?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fandom Friday: Best Film or Television Adaptations

Welcome to Fandom Friday, a weekly blog meme hosted by yours truly. We can't wait to hear what you have to say!

What is Fandom Friday?

Fandom Friday is where you, our awesome readers, get involved with The Fangirl Initiative community! Every Friday, we'll post a question or topic that spans all fandoms—books, movies, music, anything—because we want to see what you love!

How do I join?

Easy! Head on over to your blog, answer the question however you want to, and then add your link. Once you've done that, check out some of the other links, maybe leave a comment or two, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being a part of a fandom.

Make sure to give us a link back, whether through a traditional link or this nifty button:

In honor of the recent Emmy nominations, this week's Fandom Friday covers what you think is the very best film or television adaptation. This can be an adaptation of a book, a comic book, even another film or television show. Or, if you can't decide, separate them. What's the best film adaptation? The best television adaptation? Here are some questions to get you started:

Is it faithful to the original?
Is it well-made?
What do you love most about it?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jimmy Fallon, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Archer: A Look into Community

Last year, the NBA Finals saw one of the greatest victories in recent history. The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by the one and only LeBron James, pulled out of a 3-1 deficit to pull off an almost impossible victory. I can still vividly see James rocket-propelling himself, seemingly from half-court, to block a lay-up, which was easily the play of the game. It was like that moment in Space Jam when Michael Jordan used cartoon powers to stretch his arm and complete an impossible slam dunk.

When victory finally came and Cleveland could call themselves champions once more (after a dearth of any major sports championship victory in Cleveland for over fifty years), I turned to my right in the bar my friend and I had watched the game in to behold an old man weeping. Behind him, his daughter, trying to calm him, repeated, “Dad, it’s alright. It’s alright.” It was the sort of crying one would expect at a wedding.

And it wasn’t until that moment that I realized the gravity that sports has in people’s lives.

Compare that moment to the words of one of my coworkers. “I’m on the team. I’m one of the Cavs,” he said. He wasn’t even in the US when the victory was won, but, out in Greece with his travel companions, he wore his Cavs jersey as he listened to the victory over the radio. And the victory, despite happening hundreds of miles away, felt just as much like his victory as it did his team’s victory.

Look! There he is! Just down there, to the left. Source.
Now, sports are one thing; FX adult cartoons are another. My favorite happens to be Archer. For those of you not in the know (I've found at least three people in the last few weeks that have never heard of the show, something that strikes me as odd, but hey, whatever), Archer follows the exploits of Sterling Archer, the spoiled, immature, playboy spy from ISIS (the International Secret Intelligence Service, not the Islamic State ISIS). The agency is run by his utterly stuck-up mother Malory, and also employs a rogue's gallery of people who are all terrible in their own ways. From sex addiction to alcoholism to a fetish for physical and emotional abuse, the characters of Archer could each give a psychologist a run for his money. However, after all the missions they embark on (for good or for ill)--which are usually a combination of dangerous espionage, petty drama, and crackpot motivations--the team finds themselves on top. They're not wiser or even particularly benefited from their "victories," but Archer and the gang do manage to keep surviving, episode after episode, to run the gauntlet again the next time, with more jokes and more displays of deplorable human behavior.

The series’ use of comedy is a mix of running jokes, clashing personalities, and spoofs of the more serious depictions of spy stories, such as the Bond movies or the Mission Impossible series. And at certain points, the jokes can almost become predictable. But they aren’t unenjoyable for that reason. Much like a character-driven drama, the point of the show isn’t seeing Archer or any of his cohorts help complete a mission, it’s seeing these people act the way they do. Even if you can guess how a character might respond to a particular development, the joy is in seeing them act in the way you know they will. There are pleasant surprises, and the show manages to keep itself fresh each season (I’ve just started into season five myself, the Archer Vice season), but the point of the show, one realizes, is in appreciating the characters.

And appreciate them I do.
And, like a good show (or any sort of fandom) does, Archer can quickly become a weird sort of ritual. Consider this Huffpost article by Zach J. Hoag about his sacramental watching of Jimmy Fallon. He uses the late night comedy talk show as a form of catharsis, of letting himself feel happy. Jimmy Fallon’s demeanor, his approach to comedy--these create a sense of inclusivity. Jimmy Fallon makes you feel like you belong. Kate Shellnutt, in an article for Christianity Today, puts it like this:

Fallon is a different kind of comedian from Jay Leno, David Letterman, or the host who started it all, Johnny Carson. Instead of insults, we get impressions. Instead of sexual innuendo, we get slapstick silliness. Instead of condescension, we get music parodies. Television critics have noticed that while other late-night comedians try to make fun of people, Fallon simply tries to have fun.
The point for Fallon is to draw his audience into his comedy without doing so at the expense of anyone else. And it works.

Now, Archer is not that sort of comedy. A lot of the jokes come at the expense of a lot of people on the show. Every other joke (which may not be an exaggeration) is a dig at another character. However . . . I can’t help but feel, at the end of each episode, that I’m part of the crew. It's no longer that I’m just watching characters interact with each other and the episode’s plot; I’m watching people I’ve come to know. My ritual of watching the show (although it’s hardly ritualistic in that I very irregularly watch it, sometimes three nights a week, sometimes one night every two weeks) becomes not just about entertainment but about, dare I say, identity.

Unlike my coworker’s connection to the Cavs, Archer does not offer any real-world connections. I will never find Sterling Archer no matter how bad I want to watch him down a bottle of vodka just before storming a foreign embassy. But similar to my coworker’s insistence that he is a part of the Cavs, I feel a part of the show. I’m not, obviously, but the subconscious sense of community is still there.

See? Community!
Like Jimmy Fallon, there’s a sense of belonging, even if the characters are fictional, even if I have zero participation in the show’s events. Psychologically, humans are prone to joining communities that provide certain psychological needs. This article from The Community Manager, by David Spinks, outlines what those psychological needs are.

Now, while a real human community is much better at providing these things (and can actually be interacted with), the subconscious isn’t always aware of what the conscious is aware of. My conscious mind, when watching Archer, knows that I’m just watching a TV show. The characters aren’t even real people. They’re not even physically real people, save for the voice actors that provide their lines. But my subconscious mind and those of literally millions of other people don’t always register those facts. What they do register are those psychological needs to be met by community outlined in the article: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection.

All of these (yes, including membership) can be pseudo-gained by watching a TV show. And of course this extends beyond Archer. Lost, Supernatural, Orange Is the New Black, The New Girl--I mean, name a show that features recurring characters with even mildly complex emotions, and you’ve got yourself a pseudo-community. It’s why people call themselves Whovians or are registered members of Starfleet: they feel connected. They feel pulled into something bigger than themselves.

And oftentimes weirder. Source
So next time you find yourself watching one of your favorite shows, be it an innocent cartoon, a raunchy comedy, or a police drama, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I feel like I’m a part of the "team"?


2. Do I draw a sense of identity from some of the shows I watch?

You might surprise yourself with the answers. It's only human to want to belong, and television has made that easier than ever.