11/20/2017
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         The third installment of the Thor franchise has hit theaters with an astounding thunderclap. Critics have called it the “best reviewed Marvel movie of all time.” The film, directed by Taika Waititi, made 121 million at the box office its opening weekend. 

         The film follows Thor as he is imprisoned on the other side of the universe, finding himself in a gladiator contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor's quest for survival leads him in a race to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying Asgard.

         The movie stars the one and only Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder, although this time, things are a bit different. His famous golden locks have been traded for something a bit shorter, his hammer is in pieces and his eyes occasionally glow. And the great thing about the third Thor film is that it is not the same as the other two that preceded it. It appears that Marvel decided to take everything from the character (his hammer, his father, Asgard itself) and toss him onto a gladiator planet with a Valkyrie and a Hulk as a journey of self-discovery. 

        Hemsworth really embraces that new journey, while also delivering the improvisational comedy that Marvel is known for. 

        "I was sick of me as this character and so was Taika,” Hemsworth said. “And we both got together and said ‘Let’s just wreck everything and redo it.'"
         Taking the idea of “Ragnarok”—the Norse concept of destroying the world and building it anew— rips apart everything we once knew about Hemsworth’s character in a good way.  

         One such way to start over is to bring in the first female villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Hela, the Goddess of Death. The character, played by Cate Blanchett, is a great addition to the MCU. She’s not quite the conventional villain that we’ve had so far, able to crush magical hammers and sprout antlers when she’s mad. And it’s not only that she wants to take over Asgard, it’s how she connects and draws on her past for strength. 

            The other approach that Marvel took for change was giving the Hulk a bit of a makeover. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has been a bit sidelined, as the Hulk takes more of the spotlight. On the gladiator planet Sakaar, the Hulk is a celebrity, beating every contender the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) pits against him. In “Thor: Ragnarok,” the Hulk also has more of a speaking role, bringing hilarious improv comedy to the table and well as great action scenes. 

            Overall, “Thor: Ragnarok” has redefined the Thor franchise for the better. It gives new light to Thor’s character as a whole and further develops others. 


11/20/2017
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“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green 

      Sixteen-year-old Aza never planned to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there is a hundred thousand-dollar reward at stake and her best and fearless friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance that separates them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

      Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

“Turtles All the Way Down” is a wrenching, heartfelt, honest story of love, resilience and long-lasting friendship. It proves and delivers the lesson that sometimes it is okay to not be okay.


“Renegades” by Marissa Meyer 

    The Renegades are prodigies -- human with extraordinary abilities -- who rose from the ruins of a crumbled society and established order and peace. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

    Nova has her reasons to hate the Renegades and she wants vengeance. Nearing her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice -- and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

    Secret identities. Extraordinary powers. “Renegades” comes with a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger and betrayal.


“All the Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater 

      Everyone desires a miracle. The only problem is that they fear what it takes to get one. Nevertheless, the best place to go looking is Bicho Raro, Colorado: a place of dark saints, miracle-hungry owls, a watchful desert landscape and strange pilgrims. The Soria family is at the center of the commotion, performing unusual miracles to anyone that comes wandering through.

      At the heart of the family are the Soria cousins: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station called Diablo Diablo.

      Miracles. Owls. Radio waves. Forbidden love. “All the Crooked Saints” is a beautiful, chaotic collection of lives and revelation. It brings gorgeous mystery and dark tones, hooking readers from the first sentence and on. 


“La Belle Sauvage” (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

     Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames is the Godstow Priory, where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua.

    “The Book of Dust” is centered 10 years before the events in “The Golden Compass” and centres on Lyra Belacqua, one of the protagonists of the original trilogy.

      Alethiometers, dæmons and the Magisterium return, alongside new characters, including a new hero, 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead.


“Autoboyography” by Christina Lauren

      Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah three years ago, a move that pushed the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now with his last semester of high school on the horizon, Tanner’s best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s rigorous Seminar -- where honor roll students endlessly toil to draft a book in a semester. Tanner agrees, if only to prove to Autumn how ridiculous the whole thing is.

     Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

      It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only a second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

    “Autoboyography” is a hopeful and moving love story, bound to make readers emotional and glad that they read it. 


“Dear Martin” by Nic Stone

      Justyce McAllister is at top of his class and is set for the Ivy League, but that doesn’t matter to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t break away from the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

      Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they even have merit anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

      Raw, captivating and undeniably real, Nic Stone boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut. 


“Warcross” by Marie Lu

      Warcross is not just a game - it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now covers the planet, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit.

      Teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a cutthroat one and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships, only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become a global sensation.

      Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem and he wants Emika for the job.

      Dubbed as a cross between Ready Player One and The Matrix, “Warcross” grabs readers almost instantly in this cyberpunk virtual reality thriller.


“A Line in the Dark” by Malinda Lo

       Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. That is the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. But being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to observe everyone else.

      When Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

      As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers that secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege.

      And when the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

    “A Line in the Dark” is a gorgeous and sinister story of love, loyalty and murder. 


“The Language of Thorns” by Leigh Bardugo 

     Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

     Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a love-struck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

      Inspired by myth, fairy tale and folklore this novel has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice and love.  


“Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart

        This is the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

         Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon and an athlete.

         An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder. Or maybe two. A bad romance or maybe three.

         Blunt objects, disguises, blood and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies and villains. “Genuine Fraud” has it all, wrapped up in a masterful thriller. 


“Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds

        You can call it a gun - that is what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Just revenge. That is where Will’s now heading, with that gun tucked in the back waistband of his jeans. The gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, thrilled. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?

        As the elevator stops on each floor, someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an end, if Will gets off that elevator.

        A haunting cautionary tale given in verse, “Long Way Down” is incredibly powerful and beautifully written.

11/17/2017
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     Video Games, much like other media, have evolved rapidly over the past decade. They now span over multiple genres, from adventure to horror. They’ve also found ways to become more personalized by shaping the game to the player’s preference. Through interactive storytelling,the game allows the player to choose their dialogue options, actions and even how the game will end. Some games go farther and require the player to step out of their comfort zone so they can assess their own values.

      Life is Strange, developed by Dontnod Entertainment, focuses around 18 year old photography student Max Caulfield who is suddenly granted the ability to rewind time. With a horrendous storm lurking on the edges of Arcadia bay and the even more dangerous people inside, Max has her hands full with trying to keep both her friends and herself alive. Life is Strange stands out among the crowd by giving the player the option to go back and change their decision unlike other games that make you face the consequences of the action you chose. Max’s rewinding power allows the player to change the outcome of relationships with the characters in Arcadia bay and, depending on what the player chooses, how the characters will meet their fate. This game wants the player to face how much they value holding grudges over forgiving the person who wronged them. From making new relationships to learning to cope with ones that have been lost, this game puts how the player values their relationships on the front lines. 


            The Walking Dead: The Game, created by TellTale Games, is an action filled interactive video game that centers around eight year old Clementine as she tries to survive through the zombie apocalypse. This game includes tough decisions that deal with survival, alliances and, in the end, who lives to see another installment of the game. The decisions vary in this game from how you greet other characters when you first meet to how you value others survival compared to your own. The Walking Dead Game mixes together quicktime event combat and timed decision making to test your survival skills and put your morals to the test. 


          Oxenfree, released in 2016 by Night School Studios, is about a group of teenagers who sneak off to Edward’s Island for an end of the school year party. But when the protagonist Alex and her step-brother Jonas tap into strange frequencies with the help of Alex’s radio, their night of fun is turned upside down as the island’s dark secrets awaken. This game is driven by dialogue and the relationship the player builds with characters. Each character is unique and bring different story elements that the player must choose between, while also forcing the player to choose between pre existing relationships and ones that have been formed on screen. This game makes the player think about whether they value friendship over family and how much they value Alex’s life over everyone trapped on Edward’s Island.

11/14/2017
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        Eliza Mirk prefers to spend her days slinking through the school halls, hiding herself behind the screen of her computer whenever she can. Her family wishes she would go back to being the average student athlete they all knew, but what they don’t know is that she is the author of the famous web comic Monstrous Seas. The comic has a fast growing fan base, with millions of readers bent on finding the mysterious author's true identity, but Mirk’s entire world would fall before her if they found out.

       When Eliza meets a boy who is obsessed with MonstrousSea, the walls she’s built around her begin to crumble. Suddenly, revealing of her identity becomes a rapid nightmare. The world she’s created and the real one she’s forced to live in are colliding.

       “Eliza and Her Monsters,” is unlike any other coming of age tale we have seen. It tells two different stories, but through a singular character. We first see the high school life of the awkward and defensive Eliza, but we also get glimpses of her internet personality and pen name, Lady Constellations, the author of Monstrous Sea.

        This story is easy to follow, the reader never loses the feeling of anticipation as they read on about Eliza and the ever growing obstacles she faces. With illustrations of the webcomic pages in the novel itself, the reality of the story is increased and makes it feel more real. Using her own illustrations with the actual text, Zappia perfectly combines two storytelling formats to emphasize a singular narrative path. All of it is fascinating, how Zappia manages to express so much through a singular fast paced, attention grabbing novel.

11/14/2017
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        Moxxie is an upcoming Alternative Rock band from Indianapolis. Although fairly new to the music business, having just formed three years ago, the group is making great headway in its career. The band has already announced that a second, full-length album is in the works and so is a 2018 tour. Recently, they’ve dropped their first EP album “Havoc.”

“Havoc,” in its entirety, is a very refreshing start. The melody ranges from a dreamy stargaze to a raw grunge, drawing inspiration from bands like Nirvana, Paramore, and Radiohead. The whole collection incites both indie rock and electronic, making for an interesting mixture of different tones. 

        First on the EP is “Havoc.” This song is fantastic because it has a very distinct rock vibe to it, with heavy strings and slow lyrics. It’s a stellar beat, with a great guitar riff and consistent drumming to move the song along. 

        Second is their song “Tidal Wave.” This one has less heavy rock stuff and more soulful, dreamy sound. Jessie Phelps, the band’s lead singer, sings with an almost bluesy vibe, which absolutely works in the aspect of the song. It owns a sort of steadiness, a solid and substantial timbre. 

        The band’s third song, “Oblivion,” is incredible. It begins with a strong intro, throwing you into the lyrics and keeping you engaged. The song has so much individuality to it, different parts working together to create one sound. The lyrics work well in that way, their uniqueness moving with the pulse of the song. 

         Lastly is their song “Muskrat.” Now this is their grungiest song, with dark undertones and an eerie tone to the lyrics. Grunge is one the best genres out there, and the way that Moxxie uses some of its elements is amazing. Phelps really keeps with the genre, her voice mirroring artists like Lorde, but also maintains an original accent that really draws you in. 

         Overall, fans should be excited to see what Moxxie has in store for their next album. If “Havoc” was any indication, this group has a great career and future ahead of them. 



11/14/2017
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Recap

       The first season of “Stranger Things” was very eventful. Specifically in the last episode, “The Upside Down.” 

       Having been caught by government agents at the Department of Energy, Hopper and Joyce negotiate entry into the Upside Down to rescue Will. Nancy and Jonathan revive their plan to kill the Demogorgon by arming themselves and setting a trap in the Byers’ house. That left Mike, Eleven, and the boys in the middle school, where they are trapped by Dr. Brenner and his goons until the monster shows up for a final confrontation.


What is Going on with Will and Hopper?

      Successfully retrieved from the Upside Down, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) seemed to be adjusting well after his dark encounter. That is, until fans saw him see a flash of the Upside Down and throw up a slug in the last episode of season one.

      The season two trailer confirms that Will is not the same as he was before. He was in an evil dimension for a week and a possibility is that he is suffering the effects of all that time.

      One theory is that he is part monster now and has some sort of dark magic inside of him, potentially giving him a dangerous connection to the Upside Down and this new monster. Some fans have even taken this a step forward and expressed theories about Will being the villain of season two. This idea is backed up by season two paying homage to Ghostbusters, where possession is featured. Some have suggested that the Will they brought home is not even the real Will, he’s an imposter.

      “Stranger Things” producer Shawn Levy has said that Will is going to be a more prominent character in the second season. Schnapp told the Hollywood Reporter that he hopes to see the character take a darker turn.

        As for Hawkin’s Chief of Police, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) left a lot of mysterious ends in the last episode of season one. First it was the “deal” that he made with Dr. Brenner, the details of which still remain unknown to fans. Then it was when he got into the car with those government agents. It even got stranger when fans saw him leave Eggos in the woods. This presents a lot of questions. Is Hopper working for the government now? Is he the villain? Has he gone over to the dark side?

       The Duffer brothers and Harbour have confirmed that Hopper will be making a huge effort to hide the events of last season from the people in Hawkins. But still not much is known about his affiliation with those government people in suits, whether he is working with them on his own accord or under duress.


Eleven’s Return

      For those fans who thought their favorite waffle-lover was gone forever, think again. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is most certainly alive, thanks to the season two trailer of Stranger Things. But the real questions are: where has she been, how will she play a part in what is to come and is she the one eating those Eggos in the woods?

      To answer question one, there is no answer. Details of her return are nonexistent, fans can only speculate until they see it for themselves. However, as seen in the trailer, Eleven appears to be stuck in the Upside Down. Based on the ending of that trailer, where fans see Eleven stick her arm through that strange portal, it can be assumed that she finds a way out at some point.

      As for the second question, again, not much is known for definite. Matt Duffer, one of the creators of the Netflix series, addressed Eleven’s involvement in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

     “I want people to know she’s back and she’s a major part of the season and to not know how or why,” he said, “We do get into her story and backstory. We learn about where she came from and how she came into the world and the program that resulted in her.”

      As for those mysterious Eggos that Hopper dropped off in the woods, who knows what or who could be eating them.


New Characters

         In addition to Will returning from the Upside Down, there are some new characters and cast members arriving in Hawkins. Although details are kept under strict lock-and-key, fans do know this much: it was revealed at the 2017 San-Diego Comic Con that Dacre Montgomery, Sadie Sink, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Linnea Berthelsen and Brett Gelman will be added to the show for season two.

 Sink (“American Odyssey”) will be playing Max, a young tomboy who moved to Hawkins from California. Montgomery (“Power Rangers”) will be playing Billy, Max’s older brother. Astin (“The Goonies,” “Lord of the Rings”) will be playing Bob Newby, an old classmate of Joyce Byers and Chief Hopper. Reiser (“Aliens,” “Mad About You”) is playing Dr. Owens, a high ranking official in the Department of Energy who is brought in to “clean up” what happened in the previous season. Gelman (“The Other Guys”) is the most recent cast addition, playing Murray Bauman, a disgraced journalist turned conspiracy theorist investigating a cold case in Hawkins. Lastly, Berthelsen will be Roman, a troubled young woman who is somehow connected to the events that occurred in season one, even though she does not live in Hawkins.


A New Monster

        Drawing inspiration from the 1987 “Predator,” the Demogorgon was the monster of season one. Faceless but with plenty of teeth, the creature met its end in the last episode, in the form of a strange girl named Eleven. Now, fans are faced with a new challenge. What is this new monster?

        One mainstream theory is that this new creature is the Thessalhydra, a beast featured in the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The thing itself resembles a hydra for the most part, but instead of many heads emerging from a dragon-like body, they form a ring around a large, circular mouth rimmed with jagged teeth.

        The Thessalhydra theory is the one with the most merit right now, due to the glimpses fans have had of this new monster. Its many appendages hint at a “hydra-like” creature, which can only be the Thessalhydra.

        So if the Demogorgon was the monster facing the boys in that first D&D campaign and the Thessalhydra was what they faced in the last episode, could their game be affecting their reality?