Tale as Old as Time

I’m not using any pics on this because Disney would basically ruin me, so I apologize for the lack of visual involvement. I promise to be brief.

Since I’m not done with Empress of a Thousand Skies yet, mostly because work and school together are making my brain melt a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, I did want to come by and let you know that I went to see the live action Beauty and the Beast. “But Amanda, why weren’t you reading?” “I WAS, I BROUGHT SCARLET TO READ BEFORE THE PREVIEWS YOU JUDGMENTAL MONSTERS.” PS I love you keep coming back to judge me and go follow Angry Angel Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite movies when I was young. A lot of Disney movies came out while I was a kid in those puffy VHS covers. So of course I went to the Cinebistro prepared to tear shit up because HOW COULD THIS BE BETTER WHO IS FUCKING WITH MY CHILDHOOD?

It was okay. I still maintain that it is unnecessary, just re-release the cartoon on special edition DVD or something, but since it’s here let’s talk about it.

THE GOOD
1. It was really pretty. Thanks CGI!
2. Some story additions were nice – Beast has daddy/mommy issues, Belle’s mom died and she doesn’t know how. The part of the original B&B where dad steals a rose and gets locked up is there. Belle knowing that they are all under a curse really dealt with all the haters that are like SHE’S IN LOVE WITH A BUFFALO – no she’s not, she understands that there is a man under there.
3. The voices were well chosen – Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth was A++ and I have so much love for Emma Thompson; she rocked Mrs. Potts.
4. GASTON – WHO DID THIS CASTING IT WAS FUCKING PERFECT
5. LAFOU – JOSH GAD IS A GOD HOLY COW WHO DID THIS SEND THEM AN EDIBLE ARRANGEMENT

THE BAD
1. The CGI was so crazy that sometimes it was painfully obvious that Emma Watson was looking at an empty table trying to appear amused at nothing.
2. Emma Watson’s singing was totally fine – on pitch, etc – but it was not enough. It reminded me of how I felt when Russell Crowe played Javert in Les Mis – he sang fine but it just wasn’t enough for Javert. Belle has this longing for more, and most of the time Emma Watson was like I WILL SING THIS SONG RIGHT and all the acting kind of stopped.
3. The timeline: Go see this movie and see if you can tell me how long Belle is at the palace. In the cartoon there is ~passage of time~ and we understand that they are interacting for probably a month? This movie lines it up so that at most she’s there for 48 hours. I’m sorry, that’s not enough time for (a) the Beast to stop being a dick and (b) Belle to fall in love with his softer side.

I also have to say that the way they did the ending made me cry. Mostly because the dog footstool basically dies with all feet in the air. IT WAS THE DOG FOOTSTOOL, not any of the human knick knacks – THE DOG DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. But don’t worry everything is okay in the end. It’s Beauty and the Beast, so see it or don’t, whatever. I mainly saw it to judge and see if it was as good. It wasn’t, but it was enough to make it worth my while.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)

scarlet

Book 1: Cinder

When I saw the cover to this one I had my doubts. Cinder was such a new and different house built on a reliable foundation that my expectations were high for the next book. Scarlet has lost her grandmother to kidnappers and is frantically trying to find her when she meets up with Wolf (HUUUUUUUGE EYEROLL) who agrees to help her because his former gang had probably captured her for military secrets she may hold. It turns out that the army we heard about in Cinder was a bunch of altered Lunars with sharpened teeth and wolfish instincts.

Scarlet’s story is set in France, and we learn that her grandmother served in the air force. We alternate between Scarlet and Wolf’s journey and Cinder’s escape from prison. To be honest I endured the Scarlet parts because I was so invested in whether Cinder was going to make it (and given that there are like 2 or 3 more books in this series, I’m assuming she does), but then the Scarlet story suddenly gets interesting when we discover that her grandmother may have had a hand in Cinder’s past, and because of that she may have affected Scarlet’s future.

I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler to say that all the good guys find their way to each other in the end. We have Cinder, her android friend Iko, Captain Thorne (Sleeping Beauty foreshadowing?), Wolf (eyeroll), and Scarlet. I was skeptical about this again but it ended well and this fairy tale stone continues to gather moss as we move forward. I’m kind of digging the ragtag band fighting evil and experiencing self-discovery and transformation.

Something that is reemphasized is the creation of a device that had been installed in Cinder. When it was removed in the first book she was able to use her Lunar gifts again. In this book we find that it had been surgically installed in Scarlet’s grandmother (a human) and it allowed her to resist the Lunar deceptions. Apparently these were both prototypes, but questions are starting to be asked about mass production to protect the humans of Earth against Queen Levana, who is basically declaring war on Earth, but it was a passing conversation with future implications. There is a lot going on in these books other than the reimagining of the fairy tales, and the political shenanigans are very interesting by themselves.

I’m not sure why every time I start one of these Lunar Chronicle books I have greased my eye sockets ready for intense eye rolling, but by the end I’m like WHAT HAPPENS NEXT but hey, it’s nice to have preconceived notions wiped away with pleasant surprises. This series is a set of pleasant, enjoyable surprises – go get it and start. I’ll be moving on to the next book: Cress.

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)

Avast, there be spoilers ahead that might hurt experience in the previous books if you haven’t read them. I will not spoil anything in this book though.

Book #1: Throne of Glass

Book #2: Crown of Midnight

heir of fire

This book seems to be the turning point in this series. We follow three different points of view throughout. First, Celaena (Aelin) in Mistward working with an immortal Fae Rowan to master her abilities to earn an audience with her aunt Maeve, one of the three Fae Queens, after Chaol gets her sent away on a King’s Champion errand for her own safety. Second, Aedion returns to the kingdom, assumedly under the control of one of the king’s black rings, but is quickly revealed as an ally and Aelin’s cousin. And third we witness Manon and the witch clans taking advantage of the breeding of wyverns – choosing their flying horrors and learning to ride them, preparing to fight for the king. Keep in mind that Celaena killed Baba Yellowlegs previously, and the Yellowlegs witch clan is seeking revenge. The other two clans are the Bluebloods and the Blackbeaks.

Okay, is that enough that is going on? I mean, reading this book was like watching 3 trains steaming towards a central location without understanding that they were playing a game of chicken. Then all of a sudden in the last 3 chapters I was like WOOOOOOAAAAHHH WOOOOOOAAAAHHH!!!!!! because a MILLION things happened all at once and my jaw was just hanging open until I was done.

The story in this series is told so well. I am invested in the characters and their relationships, I am angry with the antagonists, I am interested in the lore and the magic, I want to know what happens next. Heir of Fire reveals more about the past, about how Terrasen looked and felt when Aelin was a young girl before the tragedy. I am beginning to wonder what a new Terrasen  would look like and how it would rise against the king.

Other reviews of this book complain that it moves too slowly, but I think it feels like that because we’re looking at so many things happening, and Maas wants to lead to the turning point very carefully so we know where all the players are when everything goes down. The destination is really worth the journey – savor this book.

Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas are hands down my two favorite fantasty YA writers right now. Go and pick up their books and start reading: you will not be disappointed.

On to book #4: Queen of Shadows – It’s SOOOOOOO long but my body is ready. 🙂

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)

DSOM

In the spirit of starting all of the fantasy series that are out and hot right now, I decided to take a dip into the universe of the many Londons. I really appreciate V.E. Schwab’s ability to keep this book exciting while laying out all of the information, characters, and locations that we need to know about once this series really gets going. Sometimes first children of a book series can get too bogged down in details or burn out too early with too much action, but this book is a nice mix of the two.

A few things to keep in mind. First, there are 4 parallel universes, each with a different approach to magic. Pure magic, every day magic, controlled magic, and not really any magic. The main character Kell calls them Black, Red, White, and Grey Londons respectively. And London is the name of the city they all share, but that’s all they share. England as a country doesn’t exist in all of them, so London is our lynchpin.

Kell is a special kind of person that can move between the worlds, and he is one of only two of that kind of person left in all the universes. Something terrible happened in Black London and it has been locked away and inaccessible from the other Londons. So we travel with Kell to see what’s going on, and we see that there is some trouble brewing. All in all it’s a really slow burn but the fireworks at the end are amazing.

This is a very smart book. I was never bored, I never rolled my eyes. The rules of the universe(s) are clear and more are slowly coming into focus so you never have to take things for granted. The ending was grand and speaks of more adventure to come in a very subtle way. Come with me and discover A Darker Shade of Magic. You won’t be disappointed.

Bon Anniversaire

cake

Today is my birthday. It can’t go without saying that this past year has not been the best. My political and advocacy muscles are not well developed and so dealing with this election and its fallout has been very difficult. Knowing what I need to do/should do while understanding what I am capable of doing is a constant internal struggle for me.

It should be no surprise that I woke up on my 34th birthday and thought “omg I’m not even halfway to being naturally done.” The world is a giant dumpster fire and it is very difficult to see how things happening right now will be affecting my life into old age. Just as I seem to be making strides towards overcoming financial difficulty, the horizon taunts me with cat food and homelessness. It is tough to find things to look forward to when celebrating another trip around the sun in 2017.

So I try to have things in my day to day life that I can turn away from the world to smile at and take comfort in. This blog brings be a lot of joy. I love reading as much as I do and sharing it with the world. Jeff Zentner (of The Serpent King) retweeted my review and replied to me about it and it absolutely made my heart smile. It was a great birthday eve present.

Screenshot 2017-03-13 at 2.34.26 PM

These books take me to other lands, allow me to experience different points of view and journeys I may never take. When the world I live in seems too heavy I can pick up a book and go someplace else for a little while. For me, reading is very different from watching TV or movies; when I read I feel transported, I feel like a part of the story.

So until the summer comes and makes the pool usable, reading is my coping mechanism. A quiet spot, something to drink, and a good book. I feel grateful for another year to share my passion with all of you. Here’s to 34. Cheers.

The Serpent King

The Serpent King

Three characters: the girl from the rich/educated family, the fantasy nerd from a self-employed/abusive father family, the poor kid from a religious family with a parent in the penitentiary, all living in a very rural town in Tennessee. Zentner creates these three characters as strands of fabric from which to set up a loom to weave all of the complex intricacies of rural America, and he does so artfully and with care.

I have thought long and often about how I might write a book about growing up poor in a rural area. In this world where people seem to want to participate in the Poor Olympics or, alternatively, the Poor Shaming Olympics (held in odd years), the market is saturated with stories about how people’s lives were or are difficult. We all love a bootstraps story and hope the laces are strong enough to lift us when we decide to have a go.

The Serpent King hit very close to home for me. Growing up rural comes with its own challenges, which Jeff Zentner skillfully touches on throughout the book. There is the overarching theme being too well off to belong in a small town, you might be considered a “fag” or a “hippy” for owning a Prius or bothering to go to therapy or learn about technology or go to college. You might say you want to make a life for yourself and be met with “Is right here not good enough for you?!” which is actually a combo of a guilt trip of “please don’t leave” mixed in with a little “I don’t understand what is happening.”

The moment when Lydia’s dad takes her aside and tells her not to look down on her roots is a very important inclusion and Zentner should be applauded for it. It’s all too easy to fall prey to the “I escaped!” trope while burning everything in your wake. It is possible to be from somewhere while simultaneously wanting more. Wanting different. And yes, wanting something better. It is not okay to look back over your shoulder and scoff at the people that couldn’t choose to leave, that might not have the opportunity or the ability to seek out better pastures. It is also not okay to shun and ridicule those who do, treating them as outcasts who don’t deserve to return “home.” (Ironic finger quotes intended.)

Please read The Serpent King. Please. For me and for all children who did not choose their place and situation of birth and had to decide to be brave for themselves, even when it felt like they were turning their back on home.

Encouraging Erudition

I am almost certain that most readers of this blog will remember the famous Pizza Hut Book It! Program. When I was in school there was a pin I had to keep, and once the pin had been filled with stickers I received from the teacher after finishing a book, we could bring it to the local Pizza Hut for a free personal pan pizza.

Pin1

The current program can be explored here:

http://www.bookitprogram.com/About/ourprogram.asp

All materials are free to educators, and I’m sure that there are several analyses at Pizza Hut that show the additional revenue produced by the occasional free pizza, so it’s essentially a win-win scenario. I did not expect to see the vitriol out on the interwebs about it because CORPORATIONS MAKING KIDS FAT AND HATE READING and guys I have to be honest I have too many other things to worry about, I do not have any fucks to give about whether the absolutely free to schools Book It program is bad because SPONSORSHIP. Ugh.

coupon

I love pizza and I love reading – I’m a fat woman who will willingly read for pizza. I say anything that encourages kids to read that is free to all involved gives kids the chance to “eat your vegetables” and maybe learn to love them along the way is fine with me. Sure the kid might be doing it for the pizza, but I guess what I’m saying is that the pizza is worth the gamble that a kid might actually read a book they enjoy and then ask “is there another book like this?”

pizza

What incentive programs have you seen out there for encouraging reading? What ones would you recommend? Share your thoughts, I’m truly interested in what’s out there encouraging little hands to pick up books. 🙂