State of the Address: Homage to Aging

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"I'm feeling twenty-niiiiiine..." I'd croon on the way to work...once Taylor Swift turns twenty-nine that is. 

It's funny that when you're fifteen, eying your future like a statuesque beauty you hope to emulate one day, turning twenty one seems like the very best thing to happen to you since midnight walks under the stars with your true love. Once I turned 25, I watched desires shift to a ride on a time machine, doing everything you can to appear younger. It seems as if more women celebrate each birthday after quarter life with the shrug worthy undertone of discontent. One of my very best friends turned thirty this year, and instead of welcoming a new decade with excitement, she found herself weighed down with thoughts of all she had yet to accomplish, or what society says must occur before thirty. Telling a group of younger women my age resulted in a monotoned "Wow", as if I had revealed harrowing news about my future. Admittedly, I deal with many of the same concerns, my knees threatening to buckle beneath the weight of what I haven't achieved yet. 

Magazines showcase women over thirty with the subheading, "Why Thirty is the new Twenty". My pondering today: Why does Thirty have to be the new Twenty?

Our culture seems a well coiffed 'frenemy' that will ply you with gold embellished compliments and tips whilst pitying you behind your back. I've decided to shuck off the cultural 'frenemy' who reminds me tirelessly that I'm almost thirty and should have accomplished A, B, or C, or that I'm getting too old to A, B, or C, or that I've missed out on A, B, or C. God has made all of our journeys vast; filled with marvelous adventures and even better hopes than any of us have minds to conceive. Perhaps society has formed double negatives about aging, but I seek to defiantly prove them wrong.

My Twenty-Ninth year will be spent, God-Willing, cultivating a heart of thanksgiving to the Lord for being alive to even form my mouth to complain about new lines surfacing on my face. Learning to be content in my own skin and in who He has created me to be. Of course, there will be moments of discouragement,  but I'd like to age gracefully, shunning all limitations that this world, and magazines, and surgeons knives would like us to believe about ourselves. Every year comes a milky way galaxy's worth of blessings, romance for passion, strength to be faithful, challenges for wisdom, and thrilling new people to help us understand each other better. Thirty (or any other age) is the commencement of an all new adventure that you haven't experienced before. It comes with so many new events that there's no need to hope it's like being any other age than what it is. Maybe you'll experience motherhood for the first time, or start a new life with your love, or decide to backpack the Appalachian trail, or become the CEO of your own business, or are promoted in your job, or in my case, snatch the bandaid off and finally finish my novel/screenplay.

To all of you lovelies experiencing a transition regardless of your age, let the world believe what it wants, but defy them by making the impossible possible through God. 

The perks about getting older: More confidence because you know yourself, Less patience for Mean Girl mind games, Grace, Elegance and Strength because you've seen more of the world.

tabi no tame
for the journey.

"People disappear all the time."

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Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. - Amazon

About a month ago, I had no idea what Sassenach meant, and now it’s clearly defined as and outsider within the Scottish Highlands, or an English person... or a most knee weakening pet name when spoken by the devastating James (Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie) Fraser. I couldn’t have imagined how much Outlander would have turned my literary life upside down with over six hundred pages of Scottish enchantment.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the historical time travel adventure of a woman named Claire Beauchamp, who during a ‘second honeymoon’ with her husband Frank in Scotland, finds herself transported from 1945 to the 18th century. There she meets James Fraser and the lot of Clan Mackenzie in a world weighted beneath revolution and civil conflict with the English, and more specifically, Black Jack Randall, a treacherous English Captain consumed with eradicating traitors.

Diana Gabaldon is a wondrous writer. I read somewhere that she wrote Outlander as a study to learn to write novels, thus allowing her imagination to flood the pages that have multiplied countless times over. One of the things that I found truly compelling was Gabaldon’s extraordinary eye for detail in her development of Clan Mackenzie, it’s various people, and the Scottish cultural folklore that saturates the entire novel. The task of realistically depicting, not only a historical time period, but one involving gaelic and Scottish dialects of English seems daunting at best. But Gabaldon commands her  historical and cultural knowledge of Scotland so beautifully.

Claire Beauchamp is such a dream protagonist who devoted her time to nursing soldiers back to health during World War II, has a keen mind for botany, and refuses to take on the role of a demure woman. Her boldness is all the more stark once she is transported back to the 18th century, giving Jamie and the Clan Mackenzie a run for their money. It’s not often I’ve experienced a historical female protagonist who is celebrated for their intelligence and strength. What I found compelling was Claire’s process of adapting to an entirely different time that is both the antithesis of who she is, yet also compliments her a bit better than the 1940s.

Jamie Fraser *cue cheesy grin* is one of the most adorable male protagonists I’ve read in a long while. He is incredibly courageous, moral, and stands strong with such integrity. Paired with his strength is his vulnerability that shines through in most of his interactions with Claire. They have such a wonderful relationship because it is forged from friendship and mutual respect. It’s really beautiful to watch them fall for each other over the course of the novel. Unlike her marriage to Frank Randall, which seems to have simmered to a routine, she and Jamie have this incredible push pull relationship capable of growth because they teach each other a plethora of lessons about themselves.

Although, Outlander is very romantic, it doesn't shy away from savage realities of the time period such as its treatment of women, or the brutality of one cultural view versus another. Frankly, I was pretty surprised at the boundaries Diana Gabaldon crosses, especially by the end. I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for Jamie's experiences, in particular, but it makes me admire Gabaldon all the more that she did not merely write a romance, but one telling a very grand human story.

Bare in mind: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon contains sexual content, profanity, violence, and disturbing scenarios.

So much can be said of this novel. That it is a beautiful romance, a homage to Scotland and the magic that grazes their scenic landscapes and waxes lyrical in spoken Gaelic, or that the waterhorse exists, or that it allows us to take in the possibility of what can happen when one woman is transported back in time to aid a man and his clan.  It is a monolith of a book that has its mundane moments, but not enough to overshadow its brilliance.

All I can really say now is that I totally understand why this saga has captured so many hearts.  I can't wait to have a Scottish Adventure all my own one day. Once again the United Kingdom calls.

"If you keep playing it safe, you'll never know who you are..."

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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last? 

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 
Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.
-Amazon

If you ever find yourself feeling a bit discouraged about dreams or falling in love, or any manner of Monday blues...just open up any Stephanie Perkins novel. When I went to Paris, I felt as if the air itself carried a sort of pheromone rendering everyone enchanted by la vie. Isla encapsulates those feelings.

In Isla and the Happily Every After, we finally meet the third and final (?) heroine in Stephanie Perkins' romantic travelogue. Isla is a shy and quirky romantic who gains a shot at a relationship with Josh, the guy she's been dreaming of since she started at SOAP. It's always delightful to learn more about characters we've met in previous novels. Especially when I learned that Josh carries the same affections towards Isla. For a time, Isla and Josh are thrust into a whirlwind of romance, art, and the beauty of taking chances, however, as these moments become slightly unbelievable to Isla, she wonders if it's even real at all.

Josh and Isla's romance is instant, dreamy, and passionate. I share in the opinions of others, to an extent, that it does feel a bit too instant, as opposed to Anna and Lola, which felt balanced over time. That being said, Isla is a genuine romantic, and I'm not sure it would have happened another way. Frankly, as a romantic myself, I cheered that Isla gets this breathtaking romance. I can understand why some would find this to be unrealistic, but I'm of the opinion that for some love is cultivated and steady, whilst for others it may just happen as quickly as an epiphany. I did, however, find them to be a little too angsty at times. Nevertheless, their story, by the end, is so heartwarming.

Isla is something special. I think of a lot of characters I've experienced in novels, she is one of the most like me that I've ever encountered. We both share a love for beauty in art work, and adventurous stories, and curiosities, and fairy lights. I even own my own compass necklace (because one of my own characters owns one in my novel). However, what is more unsettling to admit is that I'm often plagued with a lot of the insecurities that Isla is plagued with. I found myself very surprised and happy that Stephanie Perkins tackles self worth in the way that she does. There are moments where I wanted to shake Isla, but I was stunned because it allowed me to see how insecurity left unchecked can have you fleeing as quickly as your blessing comes for fear that they will leave first. It's awesome to see this in a young adult novel. From the very beginning of the novel, Isla is stuck on Josh JOSH Josh, therefore making it a bit hard to get to know her as a character. After a while it becomes clear that Isla's having issues seeing herself accurately, and I enjoyed the small journey that she goes on to discover herself. I wanted more scenes of self discovery for Isla.

It was wonderful to see Josh away from his fun loving, sidekick persona in Anna. I fell in love with every description of his graphic novel, the fact that he would tackle something so ambitious as to document his entire experience in boarding school. I also found myself inspired to check out a few graphic novels. By the end, I enjoyed Josh' journey towards becoming more dedicated, and seeing things through. Josh is vulnerable, sometimes wearing all of his emotions on his face, and I quite enjoyed this in a male character.

Of the supporting characters, Kurt became a quick favorite of mine, for his ability to be so starkly truthful, and Isla's little sister Hattie for shaking things up, and the wisdom of a short conversation with Isla's former best friend Sanjita.

Bare in mind: Isla and the Happily Ever After contains some sexual content and profanity.

I'm not sure if this is truly the last in Stephanie Perkins' beautiful series ***coughs, Meredith***but I'm a little emotional if it is. It seems I hardly come across series' that are genuine in their portrayals of what could be considered 'cheese' and defiantly hopeful. The moments where we see all of the characters converge in Isla is golden and beautiful...makes me cry! Novels like these remind me why I love reading in the first place, and how very possible it is for fictional characters to transcend the page.

"Hold your head up, Grace. Even when you're dying inside--especially then--hold it up."

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When Grace meets Ian, she's afraid. Afraid he'll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses Zac, the town golden boy, of rape, everyone turns against her. Ian wouldn't be the first to call her a slut and a liar.Except Ian doesn't reject her. He's the one person who looks past the taunts and the names and the tough-girl act to see the real Grace. He's the one who gives her the courage to fight back.He's also Zac's best friend.
-Amazon

I chanced upon Some Boys by Patty Blount one day during my lunch hour, drawn to its cover and excited at the prospect of watching a relationship blossom in the midst of tough odds. I love stories like that. What I got was a heartfelt story of a girl named Grace who is raped by the popular athlete in town, and his best friend named Ian who decides to go against the tide. 

Grace, aptly named, is a wonderful heroine. She endures horrible persecution, after being violated in the worst way possible, with such strength, even in the midst of her own anxiety. She forges forward in spite of friends who have turned against her to gain popularity, and pathetic adults who turn their sights away from a girl crying for help, in favor of who may become the next lacrosse champion. Ian, on the other hand, sits back and observes Grace's pain, until he can't help but unscramble the jumble of scenarios gossiped in hallways. After long, Ian cannot shake the nagging feeling that there's more going on than a girls' vengeful fight to tarnish his best friends' reputation, and he must choose either to side with his friends comfortably, or to stand up and be ridiculed.

Patty Blount has crafted a great story with strong arguments about the sad reality a woman faces when she opens up about rape. Within the first few chapters, I found myself livid, not merely by the lack of support from her peers, but more of her teachers and parents. Perhaps it's obvious, that the adults in her life would have minds just as fickle as her peers, but God help every young woman/man who's ever in this situation if these are the adults 'supporting' them. It's unforgivable that anyone could turn their attentions away from a girl who's obviously traumatized and allow her to be taunted in the hallways of her school. Blount also crafted a wonderful character in Ian, realistically showcasing his conflict over believing Grace, or siding with his friend.

I wished that Ian and his friendship with Grace were more well rounded. Aside from being an athlete, I wanted more of what makes Ian tick. I'm told that Ian and Grace are drawn to each other, and right then, I'm ready for the ride, but I wanted to know what draws them towards each other. It would have been awesome to experience more in depth conversations. It seemed that aside from a few short occasions, they only really talked of the situation at hand. I just needed that extra punch.

Bare in mind: Some Boys contains allusions to disturbing scenarios, rape, and profanity.

There's are only a few things that can stir me up, and 'rape culture' is one of them. It's unfathomable that a man can sit back, his arms crossed lazily over his chest, claim to be strong, powerful, and intelligent, and yet in the same breath claim that any woman, man, or child made him lose control. It is unfathomable that men who are raised to be warriors somehow lack the propensity to control themselves sexually. I'm scratching my head right now just thinking, this issue doesn't need an eloquent dissertation, it only needs men willing to stand up and take responsibility for their actions, and learn to cultivate respect for the people around them. It takes people unwilling to perpetuate this disregard for others. To support their sons and daughters when they vulnerably open up in confidence. It hurts to know that there are people everywhere opening up about their experiences, and being treated as if it's all in their imagination.

Perhaps we have a long way to go, but that's all it takes.

If you, or anyone you know, have been the victim of sexual assault (or would like more information on how to help) please contact the wonderful folks at RAINN (1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

You're all always in my thoughts and prayers.

"What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person."

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ND Tunes | D'arline by The Civil Wars
When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers. -Amazon

Dear Blue,

I finished it! I finally understand what Margo Roth Spiegelman means to everyone!

I spent all summer trying to finish this book (and believe me, this is in no way, evidence that Paper Towns is a boring novel). It's just been one of those summers of noncommittal reading. I also started a book club of sorts with a lovely girl when we both discovered our love for YA...she actually lives around the corner from me, believe it or not. I had recently started Paper Towns, and she had begun a reread of the same, and we both decided that it should be the first of many books in our makeshift club. But you know what happens when you have an obligation to read...it lays dormant at the bottom of my bag, ignored for other novels, left on my bed when I meant to pick it up... Either way, the important part is that I finally finished it during the past week.

Paper Towns by John Green is about Quentin Jacobsen and his unparalleled fascination with the adventurous and enigmatic girl next door, Margo Roth Spiegelman. More importantly, it's a story about a journey towards truly knowing someone.

Everyone has a Margo Roth Spiegelman in their lives. That one person that almost seems mythic in their conception. Floating just above the mundane nuances of everyday life. Any time I surrender to a fevered crush, I look at each guy as if he's the single most fascinating person on the planet, and everything from the velvety tone of his voice, to the sound of his dress shoes on the carpet carries some form of poetry. And then one day, I walk into the communal area on my job, and watch as he nervously sops up steaming coffee frothing over the edge of his styrophone cup, and I realize he wakes up just as disgruntled on Mondays as everyone else does.

One of the most eye opening facets about this novel is how it reveals the ideas we have about people. Fantasies that we often choose over the real thing because it can be more fun to piece a person together like a paper doll, than to deal with someone of flesh and bone with feelings, emotions, and a host of flaws. This is the thing I think I love about John Green the most. He has the ability to make human again the person once untouchable. It's a lot of fun to read novels where the main character attracts that seemingly unattainable character, but it's gold to observe an author turn fantastical ideas on their heads, and make real life that magical thing we all should seek after.

I'll say that I wasn't as moved by this novel as I was by The Fault In Our Stars, but that doesn't diminish the truth it holds, and I recommend that you read this novel at least once.

Also, if you've read Paper Towns, you know how strongly Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass pulses through it. I've never read any of Whitman's work, but John Green has inspired me to jump in. Who knows. Maybe I'll highlight passages and leave it for someone special to find.

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 Hugs and Love, 
 Britta

TWINING NECKLACES | Casting On: My Knitting Journey

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Dear Blue,

I never imagined that I would become an actual, full-fledged knitter. Someone who luxuriated in the feeling of soft mohair between my fingers. Or found air tinged with chestnut wood and fibers calming (Lionbrand's Eau de Parfum). I always thought it would feel like math (or sewing, which seems to me like a florid algebraic equation with an apparatus that could possibly hurt you). But every year, I try to challenge myself to do at least one thing that scares me or seems a bit daunting. Last year it was a Photo a Day project (which, give and take a few days, I actually accomplished). But around the time Catching Fire released (because I can't pass up another moment to be annoyingly enthusiastic about anything Hunger Games. Is there a patch or something...?) I discovered a gorgeous woven cowl shawl that Katniss wears to brave the District 12 winter, and I knew then that this was going to be the thing that got me knitting. I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't happened to me so many times, but sometimes you never know that you want to do something until the sum of all its parts smacks you right in the face.
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From there, I decided to take a trip to Lionbrand Studio, a boutique that's small enough to feel suburban . yet large enough  for me to lose myself in songs on my iPod as I oooh and ahh all the various colors of yarn. There are fibers dyed so vibrantly that it's quite possible that to recreate Celeste blue, for instance, they simply held a skein up to the sky to let the rain do all the dying.  After seeking help from the lovely knitting community on Tumblr, I picked up a pair of sized 10 needles and a buttery yellow skein of worsted weight yarn from Michaels to knit my first stitches. To prime myself, I knit a Starbucks Cozy complete with cables(Though I still have yet to make one for myself what with everyone I know wanting one). I made a hat for my Dad's birthday thanks to a beautiful Knit Kit by Wool and the Gang, and after that, I finally practiced the beautiful Herringbone Stitch so that I could begin the cowl.  photo photo1_zps7d7ee0a8.jpg  photo 374ad74a-fb18-44d3-8fb7-dfb087bdce5a_zpscc48795b.jpg
I assumed that it would take me quite a while to wrap my mind around the intricate steps of knitting this cowl. This was my first fairly large project. Cozies and headbands were one thing, but something to wrap around the human form is quite another dirigible to navigate. That being said, it only took me around two to three weeks to complete! Two to three weeks! You can't imagine how thrilled, stupefied, and fangirly I was to have actually succeeded in this project a mere few months after my initial pondering of whether it was even feasible. Once the leaves start changing, I'll have a better, more up to date, photo of it!

Since then I've contemplated a collection of scarves inspired by books and bookish people I adore (they are a labor of love). I've knitted adorable hexipuffs stuffed with dried lavender with hopes to have a Beekeeper's Quilt sometime next year, God willing, and I aim to start knitting a comfy vest by Emma Robertson as my next human sized challenge.

Knitting carries miniature profundities for me. Katniss aside, I wanted to wean myself off of instant gratification. I wanted to learn patience, perseverance, and experience something full on. What better way to learn than to take on something that requires time and effort?  Knitting has also become a true showing that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. Every time I become down on myself about what I think can't do, God always proves me wrong (You'd think my UK adventure would be enough, right?). I'm enjoying creating these comfy-as-oatmeal-in-Autumn pieces with my own hands.

What about you?

Are you starting something daunting? Please jump in! It's impossible to regret it.

If that something you're contemplating induces enough emotion to challenge you, then that means you've met your soul-project. So jump in!

I can't wait to hear all about it!

If you'd like to follow my more daily knitting loves, projects, and reblogs, please visit Twining Necklaces!

Tabi no Tame (or 'For the Journey' in Japanese),

Britta

District Heroes

Dear Blue,

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{X}


Imagine it. You've heard whispers of rebellion in the districts. Murmurs of lowly citizens committing the unthinkable crime of fighting Peacekeepers. You, your family, and friends have already scraped past with the bare minimum, and now President Snow's out for more. More work. More dedication. More blood. Suddenly your "Holo-screens" gleam white, and the images of various 'heroes' who have won the favor of the Capitol are praised as model citizens for their hard work and dedication. What did the Capitol promise them if they played their hand right? They've certainly done a job of swathing their suffering in artifice, but the things they can't mask are the harsh cold nights on the shoreline in 4, electrified fences lining 9 for the 'wrongdoings' of your forefathers, or the weight of coal and concrete as it collapses all around you in the mines... All to cloak Capitol citizens in comforts they never earned. Or maybe it isn't like you think. Maybe citizens in the Capitol can feel the weight of betrayal and injustice on their shoulders as well. Maybe they're tense in the silence of their elaborately designed homes waiting for the Mockingjay to burn Snow's rose garden to the ground.
...
I've had a full night to take in these beautiful propaganda posters that 'the Capitol' released yesterday and it makes me a bit emotional to be honest. Over the past say, ten years or so, I've watched YA adaptation after YA adaptation release, gross millions of dollars, and yet still lack a certain sincerity that comes when it's producers care more about making a dollar than treating the narrative that means so much to the fans with care. This is not to say that Lionsgate hasn't scored hugely with the massive success of The Hunger Games franchise. But from FADE IN of the first film I saw something that I haven't seen in a lot of other epic young adult adaptations: rawness. It didn't feel like a numbing adventure meant to entertain us with huge action sequences for action's sake, or beefed up love triangles, or overly dramatized dialogue. It felt like they were introducing us to a young girl who made an unfathomable decision to save her sister in an environment as lavish as a palace, yet as macabre as a mausoleum. Literally our world as seen through Suzanne Collins, with all of its depth, deception, love, and hope. All of this said, I digress.
The release of these propaganda posters show me that the wonder team behind this franchise truly understands the meat of the story. They understand that as much as we all adore the beautiful love that is Katniss and Peeta (had to go there, cough), it is a story about injustice, and more, choosing to stand against it. The films could never stand true if the producers and actors didn't fully grasp it's profundity. A really great article points out that the producers didn't even showcase the main characters during the week of their first major leak, but instead chose to make a portion of promotion about the citizens who are oppressed. The citizens who are preparing to war against their slave driven Capitol and a desperate president trying every last ditch effort to unite the districts because he knows his days are numbered.
Like everyone else, I wanted a trailer (and thankfully they've promised to end our agony sometime next week...hopefully), but these beautiful WW II reminiscent posters show that the producers care as much for the integrity of the story as we do. That they won't sacrifice quality for superfluous gimmicks. We wanted a great series, and they've decided to throw us right smack dab in the center of Panem.
I hadn't planned on writing this next bit now, but with the last scene of the entire series now wrapped I have to join in with fellow fans all over the world and three-finger-salute Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross, Francis Lawrence, Nina Jacobson, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Willow Shields (the entire team), for believing in great storytelling, and working so hard to give us a truly phenomenal series. (Harry Potter aside--we all know that's a masterpiece!) The Hunger Games series is pretty much my favorite series at this point, and with all of the subpar adaptations out there, I'm not sure I had high hopes for this one. But thanks to these wonderful people, they have renewed my hope that my favorite books can be captured in an elegant and profound way. Words really cannot express how beyond pleased I've been with this series, and I know the next two films will leave me stunned and breathless in the theater (all six times I see it :-).

Love,
Britta


P.S. Did you guys see our fab four huddled together?