EXPeriencing ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman

Cover image via, which is a helluva way to open a book.

Thank you, airport bookstores.

Not much is worse than having a long layover or delay and running out of things to read. Last month, I had a several-hour layover in O’Hare before heading home to Indy. I’d finished the book I brought with me on the previous flight (Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie), so I was stuck without anything to read. (And O’Hare’s wifi is terrible, so sitting on Facebook for three hours wasn’t appealing.)

I wandered into a bookstore and navigated my suitcase through the cramped stacks. After wandering the perimeter of the stores, I headed for the sci-fi/fantasy section because I knew I’d find something interesting. I checked to see if Neil Gaiman had signed any copies of his newest book, Norse Mythology—he hadn’t—then picked up The Graveyard Book. I’d read the title a few times on Twitter, but didn’t know anything about it.

The blurb on the back starts, “In this reimagining of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book—

Whaaaaat?!

If I have any literary weakness, it’s retellings and reimaginings of classic stories. I’m pretty sure I’ve read 10 different versions of Cinderella in my life, and I devoured them all. But a reimagined Jungle Book? Where the wolves are ghosts and Mowgli is a living boy named Nobody being raised in a graveyard because an assassin—the Shere Khan of the story—failed to kill Nobody as a baby? Sign me up!

I enjoyed connecting the characters I knew from the Disney movie with Gaiman’s more macabre versions. Beyond that, though, the novel doesn’t need to be compared to Disney or Kipling. It stands on its own with compelling characters, a plot that draws you six feet deep, and a setting that’s as lovely as it is spooky.

If you haven’t read a lot of Gaiman’s work, I would highly suggest giving The Graveyard Book a read. It’s quick, fun, and will give you a healthy dose of childhood nostalgia in the process.

“But this does not define you…”

Cover image from Moana. Screen cap via. An approximation of how I’ve felt the past few weeks.

I’ve had a rough few weeks. Personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally, physically… you name it. It’s been difficult to fire on all cylinders. After a particularly trying week, I gave myself permission this weekend to just be.

Terry and I had a productive Saturday and spent time with friends, but I knew I needed today for and to myself. Based on my activities, here are some tips for a rejuvenating Sunday from someone who allowed herself to have one:

  • Sleep in.
  • Drink coffee.
  • Sink into something methodical—preferably with a goal or something easy to achieve—for a few hours. For me, this was crafting gear in Guild Wars 2 and listening to a podcast. I was playing an open-world MMO, but doing tasks with clearly defined crafting guidelines and a numerical goal to reach. This is not fun for everyone. I don’t even like it a lot of times. But it was perfect for today.
  • Eat lunch. Or a snack. Drink water. Just don’t forget to nourish yourself.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Spend time with your person. Or a person or creature who doesn’t make you make an effort to spend time with them. I’m fortunate to have a husband I can cohabitate with and not have to do anything. Most of the day we were within sight of one another, but we weren’t doing things together. We could just do our thing and have a good day.
  • Eat ice cream.
  • Watch Moana. I suppose you could theoretically watch any Disney movie, or any movie that makes you happy. But I highly suggest Moana for empowerment, good music, tears, and happiness.
  • Do Yoga with Adriene’sYoga for Depression.” Again, you could do any workout or yoga you like, I suppose. But Adriene just posted this today, and it was exactly what I needed. More so than I could have thought.
  • Bathe and pamper yourself. Take a bath, take a hot shower, put on a face mask, shave your legs, pluck your eyebrows. Whatever gets you clean and makes you feel a little special.
  • Dance and sing to the Moana soundtrack while you write a blog post. Okay, maybe that’s just for me.

Take a deep breath and get out there and kill it this week.

EXPeriencing Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (Season 2)

Cover image via Hypable. Caution, contains some spoilery things.

I have previously noted my fangirl love of the Marvel cinematic universe, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was a little iffy about it when the first season premiered on ABC, so I didn’t watch it as it aired. I waited until it was on Netflix, which was both an excellent and poorly timed decision. It was an excellent decision because it reeled me in immediately and I was hooked from the first episode so I could watch them all in basically one sitting. (In fact, I liked it so much, my husband, Terry, bought me a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy Alumni phone case for Christmas. It’s awesome.) It was poorly timed because by the time I was done binge-watching it, Season 2 was already several episodes in on ABC, and I couldn’t find the first episodes streaming online anywhere. Rather than steal/buy them, I waited.

Finally, a few weeks ago Season 2 went up on Netflix, and Terry and I got to bingeing. I really enjoyed Season 2. It plays off of the end of Season 1 and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. well as Coulson and his team work to rebuild the organization. It also incorporates the smaller story arcs–particularly the character-driven ones–nicely: Fitz/Simmons, Skye and the search for her parents, Coulson and the fallout from the TAHITI project, new characters who have joined the team (like mercenary Lance Hunter, played by Nick Blood. I’m a fan.), etc. Together with the overarching enemy of Hydra, these story and character arcs really make the season.

NickBlood

Hey, Nick. How are ya? (Source)

As Terry and I were getting to the last few episodes of the season, I realized one of my favorite things about the show, particularly Season 2, is how well-crafted the antagonist(s) are. I say “antagonist(s)” specifically because there’s not just one. Far from it. Yes, Hydra is the “main” enemy and will be until all its heads are cut off. But throughout the season, other enemies rise and fall, become allies, or go from ally to enemy. From Ward, to Skye’s father, to the “enhanced individuals,” to S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, Coulson and his team’s antagonists are ever-shifting–and that’s a good thing. If they were just going after Hydra for 22 episodes, it’d get kind of boring. With several different people and organizations squaring off against S.H.I.E.L.D., though, the show always stays interesting, and you never know what ride is in store for you each episode.

As my husband put it, it’s very much like The Walking Dead in that regard. The walkers are always there, and they’re always the overarching enemy (like Hydra). But there are other bands of people, individuals within the group, cannibalistic towns, and so much more that creates a threat to Rick and the group. You never know who to trust, and when you add the threat of zombies on top of it, it makes for an incredibly compelling show.

At this point, if you like the Marvel cinematic universe movies but you’re not watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., time to get with the program. In fact, if you’re not watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you’re likely going to start missing out on important details in the movies (for instance, if you didn’t know that S.H.I.E.L.D. had fallen when Age of Ultron came out, that was probably a bit of a shocker for you). So, if you like Captain America and Thor, all the action those movies provide, and a sprawling interconnected world, I would highly recommend you check out Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Also, let me remind you that this is a Joss and Jed Whedon show. Picture Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with established superheroes and all the force of ABC/Disney behind it. There are strong female characters all over the place, great action scenes that almost always further the plot, and intricacies and mysteries that can only be etched out over 22 hours, rather than 2. So if you were feeling a little underwhelmed by Age of Ultron, I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will help you feel like your action can be smarter.

If I haven’t made it clear enough, I really like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. When Terry and I finished watching the last episode Thursday night, we both wanted more, and not just because the cliffhangers were intense. The show and characters really captivated us, and when the season ended, we didn’t want to let go yet. All weekend we’ve been lamenting that we finished the season and now we don’t have anything else to watch that even comes close to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So in the meantime before Season 3 premieres, I guess we’ll just keep re-watching Daredevil, and I’m going to search for a gym that trains you to work out and fight like a spy…