Friday, December 30, 2016

Book to Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Image result for fantastic beasts


Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them
Screenplay by JK Rowling
Directed by David Yates

I am unable to find a satisfactory description that I can copy, so allow me to tell you about it myself.


Fantastic Beasts follows the story of the writer of the book by the same name that Harry studies in school in Care of Magical Creatures. Newt Scamander's studies bring him to America 1926, where the magical community is governed by MACUSA. There is a no-maj anti-wizard group active, a NY senator's brother slowly discovering the community, and a dark wizard trying to hunt down a magical force.


It is great fun.

Basically I declare this movie of the year. It was everything you hoped for as a Harry Potter fan but so different and new that you can start the magical world here, too. You can tell it's going to tie in but it's beautifully indirect- Fantastic Beasts is its own story.

First of all, Newt is just a pleasure to watch. Smart and passionate, kind and lovely, geeky and British. He is also extremely talented and powerful!! I love him, and I am so excited to dive deeper into his world- his years at Hogwarts and his friendship/love for the Lestrange girl, his passion for animals and his research and travels, his family, his expulsion... tell me everything!! I didn't know going in that the franchise will be five films, but boy, was elated to find out. Also, a Hufflepuff!! Soooo refreshing.

Tina and Queenie are fascinating ladies. Two very different and very talented New Yorkers who can also do magic. Their sisterly bond was wonderful to watch, but I wondered at it. They seemed to old to be living together, definitely in the 1920s, no? I wonder if in the next films we'll explore their history a bit more. While I certainly found them interesting, it took me a while to get to like them- Tina seemed a bit desperate to me all the time, not happy ever. While in real-life that doesn't make her any less great a person, she didn't draw me in. Queenie did- though I couldn't really wrap my head around how quick she fell for Jacob, or how quickly both sisters trusted Newt and Jacob enough to let them into their home. I mean, for all Tina knew Newt was a criminal she was trying to arrest!

The music and graphics of this film were truly astounding. It was familiar and nostalgic but new and unique at the same time. The setting is gorgeous- NY in 1920 isn't something I'm used to seeing or reading about, and the creators of FB make it something really magical, no pun intended.

The wizarding system raises many questions- if he was expelled, how can Newt have his wand? Is it just pure muggle prejudice that fuels the restriction on marrying no-majs? However, loved that the president is a woman! So unexpected!

Before watching the movie I honestly didn't think I'd like the plot- I was never previously interested in magical creatures, and I didn't know what else was supposed to happen in the movie. I'm DELIGHTED to say that the beasts were FANTASTIC. I loved them all so much, it was amazing how the movie really allowed us to see them as Newt does. And the other stuff- the obscurials are a totally new concept that took me a while to accept (at first I was suspicious- if this existed, why haven't we heard of it before? Hmph. They just made it up to sell us a new movie) but then after thinking about it it made perfect sense, and raised thoughts about Ariana Dumbledore.

Could I go on and on? Definitely. But I'll leave it here. Happy Holidays everyone!!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1)Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
Cassandra Clare
Fantasy

In a kingdom by the sea…
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Moment of truth- I had this book preordered back in March, ripped off the box and tweeted in excitement like everyone else. However, reality being reality I had to focus on exams at the time and only got to crack open this 668 tome of beauty in July before I left for to work in summer camp. In that case, why am I writing this review now in December? Alas, shame. 

To make up for this shame I actually reread it in the last few weeks so I could write my review with the book fresh in my memory. So with my notes from the summer and my thought from read #2, let's begin. 

Ah, Emma and Julian. I remember how before reading City of Heavenly Fire  (link to my review) I was debating reading on the Shadowhunter books but after the introduction of Emma and the Blackthornes I knew I was on the train already and would not get off. Julian is a truly exceptional character - choices like the kind he has to make are only usually found in Holocaust books. He got a lot of flack for being ruthless but I could never see him as anything but heroic, doing what needed to be done to save his family's lives. I wanted him to be with Emma because I wanted so badly for him to find solace with someone, for once have someone take care of him sometimes and take the burden off his shoulders a little bit. 

And Emma. At first I loved her, but at second reading I find myself a little more critical of her. I wondered why she hadn't taken a more active role with raising the children, and was a little shocked at her treatment of Cameron Ashdown. I admired her talent and determination to hone it, and also how she never gave up- not in her belief that her parents' death was something else, despite what the Clave told her, not in saving Julian's life even when the iratzes weren't working, not in chasing Sterling or training herself. I think that she'll become ever more complex and fascinating in Lord of Shadows now that her parents' murder has been solved, and she has (temporarily if we know Cassie Clare๐Ÿ˜ ) the presence of mind to do and be other things. 

As for the kids- I loved how in the center of a mainstream book was a family with a lot of kids, and I really related to that. However, unlike the Weasleys for example, I found that the author lacked the ability to give each of the kids depth and complexity. It was almost as if she made the mistake real people make about real big families- see them as a pile of loud little people instead of each one being a world unto themselves. Each kid was given their thing - Ty his autism, Dru with weight issues, Tavvy being little and Livvy protective of Ty - and nothing more. Dreams for the future, awareness of their situation, rebelliousness, friends or crushes... I especially felt that we got little of Dru. Weight issues and liking of emo things is really all we know of her. I'm really hoping for more in the next book. Ty and Livvy are the same age as Jace and Clary in City of Bones!

Other things I found relatable were the driving through LA (suddenly you find yourself wondering just how the characters of TMI got around in NY), ordering pizza, and overall more description on the people's day-to-day lives. Sometimes I find that missing in YA fantasy so it was beautiful and refreshing to read it here. 

Notable comments, especially spoilery:

Whipping scene was super intense and at the same time kinda pointless. If you gave away Gwyn's secret weakness, wouldn't the punishment be death? How is it helpful to whip people? And if you're already insisting on temporary punishment, why allow someone to take their place? And hello it's probably more sensible to let Mark take the whip anyway, he heals faster than you all. 

So many almost kissing!!

OMG KIT LOST HERONDALE WTF DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING

Annabel Lee theme - brilliantly done and so gorgeous. 

AHAHA FLYING MOTORCYCLE 

Perfect Diego jokes got me. every. time. 

Jem and Tessa- whyyyy don't you realize Jemma are in love and help them

BIRTH CONTROL RUNE AHAHAHA GENIUS CAN'T BELIEVE CLARY GREW UP TO DO THAT

Diana who are you?!?!

Did anybody else totally not predict Malcolm's betrayal? 

ending NO OMG WHY EMMA THAT IS THE WORST IDEA EVER

Lots of well-placed childhood flashbacks

How did Julian not break and tell Helen things?? She could have been a lot of help even from afar. 

Blackthorn motto be like we are too cool for you Clave 



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dream Conference Panel !























Hi there! Recently I've been asked what my dream panel at a book conference would look like. I thought it was a great idea for a post and it got me thinking! So behold, the panels I'd sooo fly across the world to be part of.

Survival Skills in Unnatural Circumstances

Featuring:

Haymitch Abernathy and Sirius Black







Need I explain this one? Both Haymitch and Sirius have been through hell and back in their lives and still find the strength within to be sassy and lovable, and in their own ways, good parental figures to Katniss, Peeta, and Harry. I'd love to hear some practical advice about how to stay alive and (somewhat) sane in the arena and in Azkaban, and also about rehabilitating themselves (or not) in their lives afterwords.


Fantasy World-building 
Featuring:

JK Rowling and Rick Riordan

                                                                                     




















These two quite literally wrote my childhood. I'd spend hours dreaming I'm a witch and demigod, living out my days in Hogwarts and Camp Half-Blood (yes, I said AND not OR. It's all possible when you're 10) .

As an adult still reading their books, I'm astounded as to how well-rounded the worlds they built are. Clues about characters' pasts or futures were always subtly present, all questions answered in wondrous ways we never expected but made perfect sense. The characters were full and complex, the worlds with clear rules and ways in which they worked. 

If these two ever did a panel you can bet I'd break the bank to be there. After crying and possibly just being in awed silence for a while, I'd ask for world-building tips in writing fantasy. 


So those are mine! I'd love to hear from you what panels (imaginary or not) you'd like to attend. Make your own post, or just comment below. Then check out Eventbrite and see what's actually happening near you! (You never know, you may get lucky ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) or use their conference management tools to create and host your own amazing conference panel. Have a great week!! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book to Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
book by Ransom Riggs
Directed by Tim Burton

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
So. Moment of truth. Despite having reread Miss Peregrine in the last year looking forward to this movie, I totally forgot lots of it. Also, I came in late to the movie and was a bit distracted. THEREFORE, I will just tell you in short what I liked and didn't like.

The good: 

LOVED the character of Miss P. SUPERB acting. There was emotion, spunk, badassness, ladylike and queenlike and momlike. AWESOME.

The kids were cute, wished I could have seen more of them- more interactions, playing, anything really.

The scenery - views of Cairnholm were breathtaking, as was the home.

The end- awwwwwww. I doubt they'll make a second movie and truthfully this conclusion made little sense, but it warmed my heart.

The less good:

The character of Barren- I have so far NEVER liked Samuel L. Jackson's acting. Sorry.

The whole scene at the amusement park- like what??? Was that in the book???

 Emma's character and the whole Emma-Abe-Jacob mess of feelings. It wasn't really there, and I wanted it. It's important. On the whole, a story is beautiful to me if it's about people and their feelings and complexities (i.e. why I still read Cassandra Clare) and a lot of those were omitted from the big screen (like Victor and Bronwyn) , albeit understandably.

On Jacob's character I was pretty neutral. I also feel like there was too much buildup for the scene of the reset. I wasn't as wowed as other reviewers. Overall?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Six of Crows

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy 

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first. 

If you have never heard of her, please read Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy RIGHT NOW. Truly a piece of the best fiction out there.

That said, Six of Crows is a very different type of read. It's set in the same world, making it the same genre, but it's more of heist drama than a fantasy-world adventure. It's told from the different POVs of the six, making each chapter unique and fresh. Also, each of the narrators have a backstory that most of the others don't know about- it's fascinating  and never repetitive, also allowing you a window into tensions and dramas within the group. 

Kaz Brekker is your deliciously complicated, tormented and brooding, talented scheming bad boy. In another story he'd also be the sexy hearthrob, but in this novel the romance takes a backseat. What was amazing was that the plot alone was so thrilling that I did not find myself searching for more steam in the romances at all. 

As for the rest of them- they were diverse, dynamic, funny and intriguing. You'll love them. 

Setting:  Ketterdam was cool - the gangs, the entertainment houses, the ports, the fights... oodles of awesome. Surprisingly, in Fjerda where all the action happens, I wasn't all that enthralled. Hoping that in the next book (releasing soon!) we'll get to go back to our beloved and magical Ravka *insert heart-eyes emoji here*. 

Two more points of praise:

These days, successful authors will almost always write some spinoff of our favorite stories in their worlds. They'll make it about new characters and if we're lucky they'll up the stakes, but in the end they'll always  have our old friends come in and make a cameo. Leigh Bardugo, however, really gave us a new story, and didn't even have to force the Grisha characters from before into the book to make us excited. Color me impressed.

And one last thing- I read Six of Crows from a paperback edition, BUT DID YOU SEE THOSE BEAUTIFUL HARDCOVERS?? WITH THE BLACK ON THE PAGES?? I WANNNNTT

Rating:


Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Troublemaker

Troublemaker
Andrew Clements
middle grade contemporary


Clayton Hensley is accustomed to trouble: There’s a folder of incident reports in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and growing daily. Most recently, Clay’s art teacher told the class to spend the period drawing anything they wanted, and Clay decided to be extra “creative” by drawing a spot-on portrait of Principal Kelling…as a donkey.
It’s a pretty funny joke, but Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief-making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker.

In elementary school, I loved Andrew Clements. An advanced kid and reader, I often felt books meant for my age were stupid. So like all academically strong and frustrated kids, I started reading YA early. Clements was never like that- he doesn't write down to children, and he recognizes them for how smart they really are. His characters are always dynamic and interesting, talented and full of life. They are fully capable of manipulating the adults around them. 

Troublemaker was satisfying in all those ways. Despite how smart and witty and independent Clay is, he openly worships his older brother and aims to be like him. I found that realistic and adorable.  He makes you laugh and you can't help but love him. 

I found his willingness to transform his ways entirely not exactly likely, and also the quickness in which he succeeds. In addition, the example the author used for his message was an exaggeration. Just because he was a troublemaker in 6th grade does NOT mean he's on the path to crime.  However, I thought the ideas behind it -that there are consequences to your actions, and that you can have fun without hurting anybody or breaking the rules, and that if you don't take responsibility for your life you can end up in places you don't want to be - were brought forward well and in a way that was light and enjoyable for a middle grade reader. 



Happy weekend!
Love,
Esty