Love on Ice (2017) – Wintry Romance about Second Chances

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The first of 2017’s Winterfest premieres takes Hallmark movie enthusiasts onto the icy beauty of figure skating.

Eight years ago, Emily James (Julie Berman) was the one to watch in her sport. She had what it takes to be a champion in every sense of the word; even her fellow competitors were impressed with her. Then she disappeared. She now lives in her small Michigan hometown where she works at the local café and teaches beginner classes. Her former student, Nikki Lee (Ana Golja) is about to head off to regional's, but first she welcomes a new coach, Spencer Patterson (Andrew Walker).

Once upon a time, Spencer was one of Emily’s biggest fans, which is why, discovering her in the same skating rink as his new pupil feels surreal. As he gets to know Emily, and watch her skate, he convinces her she’s still got what it takes to compete. But with the reason she left the sport still lingering in her mind, as well as opposition elsewhere, Emily’s return won’t be paved with simplicity.

The litany of adjectives I use with frequency when reviewing Hallmark productions all apply to this film with equal merit. The romance of this story is sweet, and fortunately doesn’t portray its characters as being “in love” (nor are the three little words used), but rather at the beginning of their happy ending. This is something I appreciate and respect about the script because the timeline is always so compact.

One of my favorites, Walker is sure to look familiar as he’s played many a leading man in Hallmark films (not that I’m complaining, mind you). Julie Berman is convincing playing an athlete and Gail O’Grady co-stars as Nikki’s overbearing mother. Common to most TV films, there are other stories and threads playing parallel to that of Emily’s quest and each one is memorable.

The conclusion I reach for this film is exactly the same as every other film from this network. It’s an easy-going, enjoyable romantic film to watch. I watched it on a dreary, rainy day and it was the perfect antidote to turn the otherwise unpleasant day into a happy one. If you’re looking for something that makes you smile without asking us to overthink anything, this will do the trick.

Because of this, Love on Ice is the ideal way to spend a winter afternoon. It’s sweet, classy and best of all, full of lessons we too often underestimate.

Photos: Hallmark

Top Ten Tuesday | Underrated Bookish Gems (That you Should Totally Read)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sometimes the prompts the Broke and Bookish ladies ask us to put together beg to be broken. Not because they aren’t awesome inspiration, but because as a blogger, we cannot think of ten books to fit inside the parameter of the rules.

Broke and Bookish January 17 | Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I've Read In The Past Year Or So (up to you if you want it to be those published in the past year or so or just ANY underrated book you've read recently) – Broke and Bookish

You see, I don’t think I’ve read many underrated gems in the last year. But… WAIT. Before you read into this, don’t mistake me, I’ve read many a GEM in the last year (just have a look at my Best of 2016 reads if you don’t believe me or search my Book Review tag – where you are sure to find lots of gush-y reviews), I’m just not sure many are (technically?) underrated. Plus I’m trying to steer clear of the books I read in the last year due to an awards program I’m involved with. While one or two from the last year are sure to appear here, most are sure to be reads I enjoyed from years before.

Let’s get this party started.

1. Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton | Really enjoyed Brodi’s hot-off-the-press release. It was a kind of Veronica Mars meets Ally Carter story that was fun to experience. Average (Godreads) Rating: ★★★.35 Amazon | Goodreads

2. Split Ends by Kristen Billerbeck | Going way back into my reading history with this one! In fact, I don’t remember much about it save for the fact that I did enjoy its brand of happy. Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★.62 Amazon | Goodreads 

3. To Get to You by Joanne Bischof | Joanne is a talented author to say the least, but she broke a typical mold with this YA “road trip” novel. The main reason being the first-person POV is from the perspective of the male character. Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★★.61 Amazon | Goodreads 

4. All Fall Down by Ally Carter | Considering the popularity of her Gallagher series, this new series is overlooked a great deal. Or it seems to be. Perhaps it’s not fair since I haven’t read the famous GG books, but I thought this book was really quite good. Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★.81 Amazon | Goodreads 

5. Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck | Whether this is underrated or not, this is a wonderful gem of a novel (see? It totally fits because “gem!”). I adore the contemporary fairy tale, and overall think this is my favorite book in Rachel’s ‘Royal Weddings’ series. (Oh, and if you like Hallmark films like A Royal Winter, you'll love this story.) Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★.85 Amazon | Goodreads 

6. Remembrance by Michelle Madow | I think I just featured this one not long ago, but I’m using it again. For reasons. Here are a few. A.) Time travel, B.) Taylor Swift (inspired by), and C.) a swoony romance. What more does one need? Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★.75 Amazon | Goodreads 

7. Anomaly by Krista McGee | A unique dystopian, the details of this one are fuzzy (because I read it so long ago), but I can tell you with a clear mind, I enjoyed this novel. Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★.72 Amazon | Goodreads

8. Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith | Yep, I “been there, done that” in my gushing over this book. I’ll just go without saying anything else. (Except, you know, this is a good read!) Average (Gooreads) Rating: ★★★.65 Amazon | Goodreads 

9. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks | This is one of Sparks’ most “underrated” in terms of Goodreads reviews. It’s actually one of my favorites; I loved the all-encompassing way Travis loves Gabby, through the good times, and bad. Something novels/movies don't seem to portray nowadays. What’s your favorite by him? Average (Goodreads) Rating:★★★.99 Amazon | Goodreads 

10. Made to Last by Melissa Tagg | Super cute, super romantic and super adorable. (Do these things mean all the same thing!?) Plus, as a classic movie buff, Melissa wrote this as a kind of re-imagining of Christmas in Connecticut – sans all those babies. Which is a huge improvement on the original story. Bravo! Average (Goodreads) Rating:★★★.97 Amazon | Goodreads 
11. My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade | As this was Becky’s debut, this is also the first of her novels I ever read. What a lovely book it is. In fact, it’s the book that reinvigorated my reading of the contemporary romance genre and reminded me of its favored status in my reading life. Needless to say, I feel like a re-read is in store. Average (Goodreads) Rating: ★★★★.22 Amazon | Goodreads 

12. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West | I’ve no idea if this is legitimately an underrated novel, but I just read it, and aww! It’s so cute. I got Gilmore Girls feels, and enjoy it as its own story. Plus, it’s one of Kasie’s books I don’t see around much. Why this is shall (to me) remain a mystery. (Also significant is, guys, I've FINALLY read a novel by Kasie!) ★★★.95 Amazon | Goodreads


*Apologies for the lighting. This weather is NOT very friendly to a girl who needs to film some videos. Hopefully that pattern will shift later this week. *Fingers crossed*
That brings January 17th’s Top Ten Tuesday to a close. How do you define an underrated book? Which books do you consider underrated? Tell us all about your favorite bookish gems. I’d love to chat with you all. And, in addition to responding to your comments here, I would love to visit your Top Ten Tuesday posts and blogs. Feel free to leave your links. And as always…

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland.

Victoria Episode One Recap – Her Majesty, Queen Victoria (Plus there’s Rufus Sewell!)

Victoria, “Doll 123” Recap

When Masterpiece Theatre’s run of the beloved Downton Abbey came to an end, the replacement search was on. The network found this (or so they hoped) in the British drama, Victoria, an ITV period drama that chronicles the early days of Queen Victoria’s reign. 

Episode one packed in a great deal of content, so let’s take a look.

Victoria, Britain’s Young Queen Ascends

The series opens with a young 18-year-old Victoria given the news that her uncle, King William IV (her father’s brother) has died. This places her on the Throne of England as its Queen. Her German-born mother, the Duchess of Kent, wishes to control her daughter. All while under the sway and influence of her long-time companion, Sir. John Conroy. They believe Victoria’s age and sheltered life a disadvantage, which in turn makes them believe they might assume control through the monarch. It’s only her governess, Baroness Lehzen that Victoria trusts.

Mere days into her reign, Victoria begins to find her voice as a ruler. She contradicts Sir John, refusing his and her mother’s counsel most soundly. She isn’t about to be governed by anyone. And then Lord Melbourne walks into her life.

Victoria’s “Lord M”

It’s the custom of a new ruler to meet with their minister in private. This is something Victoria takes to heart. Ignoring her mother’s protests of impropriety, Victoria rejects her and proceeds on her own terms. This is how Victoria meets Lord Melbourne, Britain’s prime minister and a man with a scandalous past.
Their first meeting puts Victoria on the defense, and she doesn’t welcome Lord Melbourne’s advice. Before long, however, Victoria quickly takes a liking to the older, charming man. So much so that a bond forms between them like none other in Victoria’s young inexperienced life.


Along with the royals, the downstairs staff also figure into the story. This includes Mrs. Jenkins (senior dresser), a traditionalist; a new dresser named Miss Skerrett who has secrets; and the uptight butler, Penge.

Victoria’s coronation ball is held and instead of making the crown proud, she makes a fool of herself (we’ll lay blame on the champagne). Fortunately Lord M is there to help pick up the pieces, but not before her guests notice their young queen’s foolish behavior. She makes things worse by later bumbling through an attempt to sway Lord M to stay and dance with her.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s family champions the presence of a co-regency at the throne. Further inflaming Victoria’s inexperience and mistrust of her family is a question about her mother’s lady in waiting, Lady Flora. Lehzan believes Lady Flora is with child after she shared a carriage ride with Conroy. Of course, Victoria trusts her companion explicitly, and so, much to Flora’s distress, Victoria requests an examination.

There is little confidence placed in Victoria following this debacle. Since madness plagues her family history, Victoria’s mental state is called into question by, not only her subjects but her government.

 Melbourne’s Fall from Power

Defeated by a bill to end slavery in Jamaica, Melbourne accepts his time as Minister is up. He leaves the House with regret since it means leaving the Queen. But he also realizes that his appointment as her Minister is not in her best interest. He advises her to extend the invitation to Sir. Robert Peel. She refuses.

Doing so would mean dismissing her Tory party ladies and appointing new Ladies in Waiting. For Victoria, losing both Melbourne and her ladies is too great a burden. She ignores Melbourne’s distance and refusal to attend her and visits him. Upon her arrival, she finds him astonished to see her.

“Forgive my disarray,” he begins. “I was not expecting visitors.”

With sass coloring her voice, she remarks, “Evidently.”

With persistence and her refusal to accept “no” as an answer, eventually, Lord M is back where he belongs at Victoria’s side.

But does the young Queen have feelings deeper than that of a Queen and Minister for Lord Melbourne?

Concluding Thoughts:          

Victoria is off to a wonderful start. The cast (led by Doctor Who companion, Jenna Coleman as Victoria) is brilliant, and the series (as a looking glass into history) is scripted for an entirely new audience. Unlike two of the more recent Victoria biopics (A&E’s Victoria and AlbertThe Young Victoria), this one asks us to experience the story differently.

We’ve had some superb adaptations chronicling the life of this queen who is, to this day, considered one of England’s greatest. Though characters and places will be familiar to those of us who have a passing knowledge of this monarch, Victoria manages to be “new” beyond its new faces and pretty trappings. Though for some, this will be too similar to Downton Abbey, this is, without question, an enchanting television experience that lingers.♥

Tell me, what did you think of Masterpiece’s latest series? Comment down below with your impressions.

Photos: ITV. This first appeared on Silver Petticoat Review

A Royal Winter (2017) – A Cinderella Fairy Tale (Plus a European Castle)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Anytime a new romantic comedy captures my attention, my reaction is always to question, “When and how can I see this?” When it comes to the stories that premiere on favored television networks, my efforts to accomplish this goal might require a smidgen more creativity, but the end result is always worth it.

The one thing that cannot be said of Maggie Marks (Merritt Patterson) is that she’s spontaneous. She’s following the path she’s supposed to and there’s no room for anything else. A recent law school graduate (following in footsteps of her successful father), Maggie has to be persuaded of the merits a trip to Europe embraces. Instead of jumping at the chance to spend two weeks with her best friend, Sarah, Maggie is convinced she needs to sit by the phone and wait for a job offer to be confirmed. But with persistence, Sarah convinces her that’s not the way to look at life.

They take off for a small European country where Maggie is courted by a charming Brit she knows as Adrian (Jack Donnelly). Though she enjoys spending time with him, Maggie keeps a guard in place… but everything changes when a secret comes out that could change everything.
Stay. I don't want to lose you. - A Royal Winter 
A new year provides 365 days of new programming for the network that has, even in the past year, carved itself a niche that makes it a household name. One that isn’t so much the exception now as it is the norm of programming. Hallmark’s films, whether they are their happy romantic-comedies or “edgier” mysteries, each one is something of a treasure to discover. A Royal Winter is no different.

Stepping inside its world is a modern fairy tale that could rival my favorite, A Princess for Christmas, or come close. The reason for this being the unique markers that defines this story. The sweet meet cute (it involves a hat), and relationship (more an understanding of who the other person is striving to be rather than the dreaded insta-love) that blooms from that first eye lock is adorable.

The fact that there aren’t any promotional photos of these two together (which explains the screen capped photos in this review) makes me sad because their friendship is lovely. In particular I respected how Adrian respected Maggie. Furthermore, I applaud the writer's in their efforts to forgo a the drama that so often surrounds a "break up." Perhaps what I appreciate most is the fact that while yes this is a romance, the story is more about a happily ever after to come rather than a happily ever after being settled. 

The Prince and Me-esque fairy tale (complete with a Cinderella entrance) quality of this story is not to be missed. Between the cast (who all play their roles wonderfully – including Samantha Bond of Downton Abbey fame), setting and story, this is a production dripping in enchantment. Anyone who has like Hallmark’s previous contemporary fairy tales or any of their prior romances will find an unforgettable fable inside this wintry fairy land.❅

Photos: Hallmark  

Framed for Murder: a Fixer Upper Mystery (2017) – Hallmark Mysteries New Movie Series

Adding to their successful Aurora Teagarden, Garage Sale and Signed, Sealed, Delivered mysteries, Hallmark is ready to roll out their latest. 

This one stars country singer Jewel as Shannon Hughes, a “renovation expert” (of Victorian homes) who owns her own company. When her neighbor is found dead inside his home, Shannon teams up with the new-to-town mystery author, Mac Sullivan (Colin Ferguson) to prove the police wrong. She believes her friend was indeed murdered!

As with each year, the New Year provides new opportunities for new programs, characters and faces, and of course, the inevitable stories we’re sure to fall in love with. While Winterfest is inviting us to warm up over on Hallmark Channel, the first (new series) mystery of the season debuts on Hallmark Movie Channel. It’s introduces us to a puzzle of a formula that, as always, works well.

This new series features a host of familiar faces from Erin Karpluk (Mrs. Miracle) to leading man Ferguson (Every Christmas Has a Story, Cedar Cove). Only this time, stepping into the leading lady shoes to solve the puzzle, the face is a new one. The cast has a good rhythm together though I’ll admit to it being strange seeing Ferguson in this role since I had just previous to this seen him co-star with Lori Loughlin.

Based on the Fixer Upper novels by Kate Carlise, her website describes the series as such, “In the small resort town of Lighthouse Cove, California, everyone knows that the best man for the job is a woman.” This teaser does apply to this story, especially in consideration of Shannon’s character. From the perspective of the script, this is an entertaining story. As usual, I like the trail the crime leads the amateur mystery hunters on, and the interaction between the gang of crime fighters. From the small town charms to the characters themselves, this is a wonderful start to a new series.

Discover Hallmark Movie and Mysteries latest series tonight on Hallmark Movie channel.

Photos: Hallmark 

La La Land (2016) – A Contemporary Musical Dancing Through Hollywood

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Musicals are no longer a thing known only as classics from yesteryear. In recent years, they are a genre that could be coined as the “comeback kid.” Everywhere from the silver to the small screen, musicals are again giving audiences something with color to delight in. It would seem filmmakers have been re-inspired, and have set about introducing an entirely new generation to the art known as “the musical.” Here’s what La La Land is all about.

As an aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) has a big dream. Instead, her reality is one that consists of serving coffee to the stars on a movie lot. She’s laughed out of more auditions that she cares to remember and is without a backup plan. Life is sweeter for a while when she meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an aspiring jazz artist. Unfortunately for Sebastian, his art is dying.

But there is something exceptional about Mia. The more time they spend together, the more they fall head over heels for each other. But in pursuit of their relationship, they “settle” instead of pursuing dreams they no longer remember.

There is something captivating about this production that I cannot quite put my finger on. It’s more than the appeal of its musical pizzazz or story. It’s something entirely different. Perhaps this is, in part, because this is a film so very unique and unlike anything I’ve seen, maybe ever. The “special something” it boasts makes this film “pop,” even if it is in quieter ways.

From a production standpoint, this film is nearly perfect. (It has the record breaking number of Golden Globe wins to prove this!) The staging, choreography, and bright colors are eye catching, and the music, well, it’s gorgeous. However, for all its merit, I feel like the beginning is bumpy. While the opening number is impressive and sure to inspire smiles, the start of the actual film (the story) is less so. The setup or introduction to the story feels very irregular, which I think forbids us from becoming immersed in the story as quickly as we otherwise might have.

Once this passes, I think I can say this film is (nearly) flawless. Is it something that will appeal to everyone? No, but then that’s a rule that applies to everything. La La Land has a wonderful cast, though it’s really Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling who shine the brightest considering they get the most screen time. If we’re not with Stone’s Mia, then we’re with Gosling’s Sebastian, all in pursuit of playing catch up with their lives. They carry the songs well, and though simple, each of their dance numbers is entertaining (particularly the one in front of the park bench).

As I watched this 2-hour musical extravaganza, I had many thoughts. One being a realization that this is a quieter, mature and intelligent musical. This story arc isn’t prominently sound as some, nor is it chocked full of random-burst-into-song moments (which I appreciate). For most of the film the structure of the script follows the four seasons. Until we come to the five-year flash forward ending, which is perhaps where the greatest surprise lies. Some will see this ending as bittersweet, while others will leave enraged. Then there are those of us who will feel as if this is the best kind of happy ending. Yes, this is that ambiguous of a conclusion. It’s one I didn’t see coming, but with the final look that passes, I thought the film wasn’t so much closing to tears, but rather a future with happiness.

As the story draws to a close, we have to adjust our understanding of what kind of message it aims to convey, and the impact it is intended to have on the audience. I have a clear view of my vision for the story’s reality but this is the kind of dreamy story that allows each of us to envision our own specific interpretation. Overall, this is what makes La La Land, in my opinion, one of 2016’s best films.

Content: There is some profanity (including an F-word), and a couple lives together. La La Land is rated PG-13.

Have you seen La La Land? Did you like, dislike or walk away with mixed feelings? Comment down below. I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

Photos: WB This review first appeared on Silver Petticoat

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess – A Dazzling Debut and a Fierce Female Protagonist

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Publisher: Random House
Source: Blogging For Books (Publisher Provided)
Publication Date: 2016
Find the Review elsewhere: 
Amazon | Blogger | Goodreads | Wordpress
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Kingdom on Fire, 1
Rating: ★★★★

Making the best out of a bad situation is all that Henrietta Howel has ever known. She lives at a dark and dreadful school where the students are often mistreated, and even as a teacher, she is no immune from the terrible abuse. Her consolation is her best friend, Rook. A stable boy who’s scares label him one of the “unclear” that everyone fears and refuses to accept. Everything spins on its axis when Nettie learns she’s the “chosen one,” the first female sorcerer in an ancient line.

From the first moment I saw its fierce cover art, I knew this was going to be a must read. The space between cover reveal and release date passed, and I forgot about its siren call. Never fear though, for this one kept cropping up in my Amazon shopping sprees (I cannot decide if it’s a good or creepy thing my shopping outlet knows me so well – sometimes better than myself), which kept this one firmly affixed in my mind. When I finally had the time to read them this one, I jumped at the chance.

Primarily, this is a book about magic and the sorcerers wielding power. As I’ve not read much in the genre, and my sorcerer novel count stands at zero (or that’s all that springs to mind), I can only judge this novel on its own merits. Put another way, using A Shadow Bright and Burning as contrast and compare isn’t something you’ll find in this review. Instead, inside these pages, there's an entertaining world full of rebels, fierce protectors, epic descriptions and worlds, and plenty of historical fanciness. As a period drama aficionado, I was entranced by this world. Its Victorian London setting is magical with plenty of glimpses of the worlds sitting outside the safety of the glamorous London lifestyle.

The characters too are complex, and humanized. Sadly, I cannot say too much lest it give away key plot points, but in a nutshell, I will say this, Nettie is surrounded by men. Men who inspire her to be better, tease her, accept her, betray her, and another will inevitably break her heart. Which man goes with what action is up to you to discover inside the pages of this adventure. There is on point at which I feel is contradictory – or perhaps it’s meant to confuse? – but again, expanding would be all spoiler-y.

If you like magical (realism) realms, you’re sure to find adventure in A Shadow Bright and Burning

If you like strong emphasis on friendship, you’ll appreciate Nettie and Rook. 

If you like a host of cute guys, you’re going to swoon. 

If you like heroine’s with pluck, you’ll like Nettie. 

But enough with all the teasers, all that’s left is this. You're sure to become lost (in good ways) inside the dazzling world of fire, magic and romance. It’s worth reading, and furthermore, leaves us curious for its sequel, but not dangling off a cliff. That alone is an incentive. ♥

Synopsis: Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. 

Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one. 

As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare. – Amazon

Coming Next from Jessica Cluess, A Poison Dark and DrowningIn this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new
allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.- Goodreads, September 2017
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book. Review text is © Rissi JC and first appeared on Finding Wonderland (Dreaming Under the Same Moon), 

Suicide Squad (2016) – DC Comics Twisted Gang of Baddies

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Once upon a time, this was one of those films that I looked at with a quizzical eye. Because of this, I didn’t get to see it in the theater, but did buy the DVD when it released.

The story begins with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) putting together a team of “bad guys” (already imprisoned) who have the potential to do “good things.” Her goal is in pursuit of America’s safety, but in assembling this team, she risks more than Americans. Among the team is Deadshot (Will Smith), a marksman who never misses; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian thief; and Dr. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Once a respected physicist, Dr. Quinn is living proof of the adage love is crazy.

Assigned to Gotham’s insane asylum, it was here that Harley met The Joker (Jared Leto), the man for whom Harley willingly ascends into insanity. Under the directive of Captain Flag (Joel Kinnoman), Waller gives these criminals their freedom with a proviso, They must first have a tracking device placed inside them; a tracking device that will detonate at the press of a button. Flag’s participation is secured given the woman he loves, archaeologist June Moore (Cara Delevingne) is being inhabited by the evil Enchantress. A woman Waller once thought she too could control.

I don’t think it’s stretching it to say this is emotionally and mentally, the darkest superhero film I’ve seen to date. Because it’s a story about villains – and insane ones at that (literally), connecting to any of them is impossible. Where there is a lighter approach is in the knowledge that these characters do have a past. Often it’s one (or someone) that makes them want to BE someone who’s better.

The character, in this introductory film, with the most heartwarming back story is Deadshot. His story is sure to make you wish he were on the good side of things, and then there is Harley. Harley seems to be an interesting character study, or she could be if she weren’t so completely, well, insane. Everyone else is interesting, and I found myself pulled into the romance between Flag and June. Everyone brings their a-game to the film even those actors who I’m not a fan of, for no other reason than I don’t like them as actors, but recognize they’re talented.

Despite the fact that there is plenty of action, and interesting ideas addressed, I was surprised how compact this story is. It covers a very short space of time, and gives these baddies one mission. This is unlike so many of the other super hero flicks I’ve seen. The story moves fast through the darkened streets of Gotham as a result.

Marvel fans may not have a positive reaction to this film because it IS darker in comparison. But if you like Arrow, you’ll already “know” these characters since we’ve met them in Oliver Queen’s world even though new actors play the roles. It’s still entertaining to reenter this world I first knew from the small screen. Those who like Fox’s Gotham or Batman v Superman will also find much to like. (Plus, any DC Comics fan will love catching a glimpse of the “new” Barry Allen, and the continual race towards Justice League.) 

It’s not the best comic book flick among my collection, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed Suicide Squad. Crazy characters, shenanigans and all.

(Content: Violence is the primary reason for the rating in addiction to its dark thematic elements. Enchantress uses dark magic to get one she wants. There’s immodest dress throughout, and some profanity. The film is rated PG13.) 

Top Ten Tuesday | 2016 Books I Meant to Read and Didn’t (But Totally Plan To)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week one of 2017 is gone and with it more reminiscing of 2016 is asked of us.

Broke and Bookish January 10 | Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To (But TOTALLY plan to) – Broke and Bookish.

TOP TEN TUESDAY (January 10) | Dazzling Debuts of 2017 (Which Already Own Real Estate on My Bookshelf)

There is a crazy number of books that I had every (good) intention to read in 2016 and sadly, didn’t. Some of these include Rachel McMillan’s A Lesson in Love and Murder, or the classic Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, plus any number of books that I didn’t include below. I rationalize this by reminding myself that every intention I had about these books were all good ones.

This said, I’m hoping most of these will be 2017 reads. Perhaps even all of them. This is especially doable if I were to accomplish one of my blogging and/or reading goals which is to better manage my review requests and acceptances. With more good intentions documented, let’s have a look at the books I’d like to read in 2017!

1. The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Jennifer’s novels have been a curiosity of mine for a while now. When this novel released, the praise it received in the blogging scene (to say nothing of its jaw-dropping beauty of a cover) was the final lure. I needed to try one of her novels. I have a copy of this one, so reading it is a 2017 must! Amazon | Goodreads

2. My Lady Jane | I don’t think I’ve read or been told anything negative about this novel. Amazon | Goodreads

3. The One by Kiera Cass | Finishing this series has been a must on my bookish list for an age now. Sadly 2016 wasn’t the year I made it happen. In addition to The One, of course also on my TBR goal list are The Heir and The Crown. Amazon | Goodreads

4. The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings | Yet another author whose books I’ve intended to read for a long time now. Fortunately I own a copy of The Murder Complex so reading it in the first half of 2017 is doable, something I hope to do in time for Lindsay’s (and Sasha Alsberg’s) august release of Zenith. Amazon | Goodreads

5. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han | I actually did start to read this one in 2016, but had to put it aside in favor of review books. Fortunately my goal is to better manage my intake of review books (*she writes with wishful thinking*), which means the idea is to read more books on my shelves. One of those hopefuls will be this novel by Jenny Han. Amazon | Goodreads
6. The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo | I had every good intention to read Amy’s latest novel, but alas, time slipped away. 2017 will be THE year (surely!) I remedy this oversight. Amazon | Goodreads

7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | The first of my book-to-movie 2016 adaptations I intended to read and didn’t. I still haven’t watched this movie because of this. Amazon | Goodreads

8. Geek Girl by Holly Smale | I actually did read this one in 2016! But since I made this list in advance (alright, so I only got the video made in advance) of this publication date, I left it on the list. I figured perhaps it’d be an encouragement to see that I have read at least one of these books. Amazon | Goodreads

9. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith | I adored Jennifer’s Hello, Goodbye and Everything In-Between last year, so reading more of her novels is a must. Amazon | Goodreads

10. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman | The second (or third if you could ‘Miss Peregrine’) book to be adapted to film this year means this is yet another book I really wanted to read in advance of the film. Now I only have a couple more weeks before the DVD hits store shelves. Amazon | Goodreads

FINDING WONDERLAND ON BOOKTUBE (Publishes Tomorrow on YouTube)

That brings an end to another Finding Wonderland Top Ten Tuesday. Have you read any of these books? Which do you recommend I read first? What books did you intend to read in 2016 and missed out on? Comment down below with all of your book nerd or #BookWormProblems goals. Feel free to leave your Top Ten Tuesday links; it may take me the week, but I love to come by and visit new bookish havens!

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland

Designated Survivor, Pilot (2016) – Kiefer Sutherland (aka Jack Bauer) Serves as President

For TV addicts, when worlds collide (even if only as an “ideal” situation), we’re bound to be curious. Such is the case with ABCs latest political drama hopeful. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, who is best known for his super agent character, Jack Bauer.

As a low-level Secretary (of Housing and Development) in the President’s cabinet, Tom Kirkland (Sutherland) isn't always in a position to have his policies taken seriously. Today is one of those days. In fact, today Tom is being asked to resign and is offered an ambassador position as an alternative. His wife (Natasha Mc) argues against this change. Their kids are settled, and they’re settled. A move from D.C. wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest. All of this seems important and life altering until a horrific attack on the Capitol changes everything.

The worst attack on U.S. soil kills hundreds, including the President of the United States and his entire cabinet. This leaves only the Designated Survivor to succeed him. That man is Tom Kirkland.

As the FBI, including Agent Hannah West (Maggie Q), and military rush to discover who is behind the attack, Tom must decide what his first act as President will say. And more importantly what he will do with his presidency.

From the moment I read Sutherland was going to star in a new series, I knew it’d be one I’d have to check out. As the kick-butt Jack Bauer, Sutherland established himself as TV royalty. But the repetitive hand Jack was dealt time and again was disingenuous ingratitude. No matter the times he took a bullet. No matter how many times he “died.” No matter who he lost, there was always someone (sometimes several “someones”) who doubted, questioned or disavowed him. His loyalty to America and its safety knew no bounds and yet despite this, he was hung out to dry time and again. This is why seeing Sutherland star as the president is a kind of sweet full circle and fitting homage – even though, yes, I realize he is not playing the same character.

Beyond my obvious fangirling over Jack Bauer, I absolutely loved everyone in this cast. I felt like no one really “stood out” as being a breakout because this one, largely, center on Sutherland’s Tom. The emotions he experiences, the fear, the questions, everything is touched on in this mere hour. The set up for Tom’s (presumably) troubled teenage son could be interesting and I thought Maggie Q’s character has the potential to become a major player in this new show. Although I can admit to being biased since the two shows I’ve seen her on, I’ve loved.

Those who enjoy political thrillers may find in Designated Survivor an interesting study in character, and politics, both. For me, I cannot say that this works on every level. It's vastly different than the mindset of 24 and because of this, the message isn't the same. While I suspect this might not be something I keep current with (it already isn’t), I may binge watch it when I’m looking for something to watch. I don’t see this becoming my favorite new show of the seasonal offerings, but I can honestly say, its pilot was good.

(Content: there is some commonplace profanity, and thematic elements that may trouble some viewers. The show is rated TV14.)
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