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. 🙂

 

Glass Sword

glass sword

Okay. Remember back when I was reading through the Delirium series? If you don’t, take a second and read how absolutely furious I became as the series went on:

Delirium

Pandemonium

Requiem

A challenge for YA writers, especially those writing series books, is keeping things interesting and continuing to make sense. That initial book of a series is usually stuffed to the gills with interesting characters, a neat plot and premise, and an enemy person or idea that we feel motivated to bring down. That first book hooks us in enough to be excited about the next book to see how all of this fantastic stuff advances towards a conclusion.

Since everyone wants to compare all dystopian YA series to the Hunger Games, I’ll make an example of it here. The first book of the Hunger Games series was amazing. It was terrifying. There were characters we cared about, and enemy that was real and difficult, and obstacles to overcome that were so huge that we were glued to the pages hoping for Katniss’ survival. Even the movie was good. I cry every time Rue is killed.

But then we get to the second novel and it was like Suzanne Collins said “well that first one worked out great. How can I replicate that success without changing too much?” and we got Catching Fire – book one with more romantic angst, a little revolution brewing, but essentially the same damn book as the first. I never read Mockingjay but I watched both movies and they were BOOOOOORRRINNNG so I’m glad I saved myself the reading time.

Same story with the Delirium trilogy, just with worse writing and no conflict resolution. And it appears we are treading into familiar waters with the Red Queen series.

At the end of the first book we are faced with a terrible betrayal, an escape, and a purpose: to find the “newbloods” like Mare Barrow who are a strange combination of Red and Silver – Red bloods with Silver abilities. A few thoughts about why I am struggling with this series:

  1. Victoria Aveyard is trying really hard to convince us that Mare is struggling with her feelings for both Kilorn and Cal, and I’m just not buying it. It’s a Peeta/Gale situation but without any of the emotional buildup. There was not enough work done in Red Queen to support this version of angst. Just write her falling in love with one or the other and get it over with.
  2. I get so bored with the “I’m responsible for all this death and suffering” bullshit. “Oh no all those people died because I exist, I’ve got the vapors!” Ugh. Anyone who has ever had to survive anything knows that you do what must be done and you deal with it later. Every other sentence is Mare reminding herself that she is the little lightning girl (an annoying, repeated nickname) and she doesn’t have the luxury of guilt or feelings or distractions or love or blah blah blah nonsense. YOU SPIT LIGHTNING FROM EVERY PORE LOVE WHO YOU WANT LIFE IS SHORT AND MADE OF SUFFERING THIS IS A REVOLUTION PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE WHY ARE YOU SO DEADPAN AND BORING.

    glass sword1
    Are you kidding me with this? VOMIT.
  3. The creepy new King Maven is stalking the daylights out of Mare. I’m not here for this. It’s fucking creepy and he’s popping out of the shadows and torturing her and wanting her for his very own and it’s so terrifying but not in a good way. More in a way that would keep women who regularly walk out after dark up at night.

So I am making a hard decision today: I am putting down the Red Queen series. I feel like it has potential, but I don’t want to get into the same situation that I did with Delirium, that by the time I force myself through this book and King’s Cage I’m just so mad I can’t deal.

Maybe I will come back to it. It’s at my local library so I can always pick it back up. I wouldn’t call this a full abandonment, more that I’m reading other things right now that are just better. The Throne of Glass series is simply knocking my socks off and I would rather spend time with Celeana and her Odyssey than watching Mare bounce around Norta in a stolen jet, suppressing her feelings and avoiding a stalker.

The moral of this rambling post is that it’s okay to put a book down when it’s just not doing it for you. Others might think it’s the bees’ knees but if you don’t like it you don’t have to keep reading it. There’s too little time and too many awesome things to read out there. Go and find them and devour them like the bad book bitches I know you are.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce

beyonce

I am not usually the biggest fan of poetry. I didn’t read carefully enough about this book and so when it arrived and my husband picked it up to see what it was and exclaimed “hey, it’s poetry!” my spirits fell. I am not nearly smart enough for poetry, or maybe it’s that I’m not patient enough for poetry. I’m definitely not something enough for poetry…most of the time.

When I read books of poetry it feels like I am speed dating, looking for one that speaks to me. I’m looking to be inspired, to find understanding or be understood. While books take me on journeys, I expect poetry to reflect myself back to me but in more pretentious and inspirational form. I expect poetry to tell me what I’ve been so I can say “hey, I can relate to that.” I expect poetry to tell me what I could be so I can say “omg I feel so connected and motivated, my brain is ready to grow and be more intelligent.”

When I read books of poetry, I imagine that I feel a lot like people who don’t “get” jazz. It’s all good if it’s Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong but sometimes jazz gets tough. Sometimes jazz gets weird. Sometimes it’s because we just don’t understand and sometimes it’s just that the jazz is bad and is hiding behind the idea that people just don’t understand.

So when I read Morgan Parker’s collection I knew that my personal experience was not black enough to understand all of what she was saying. My experience was also not urban enough, and I mean that not as alluding to black but to literally mean cities. I have never been to Los Angeles or New York, and while I’ve been to Chicago a few times I am intelligent enough to know that living there is drastically different from visiting or observing from afar. In addition to race and location, I felt that a majority of my life experiences kept the soul of this collection just out of my reach.

I understood the messages though. I understood what she was saying. If I had spent more time with each poem, pouring over them like a fan of modern art might at a museum, I am sure my appreciation would grow, like how you might have to listen to John Coltrane over and over until something clicks. I think Parker’s writing is the jazz that I may not understand, but it not so new age that understanding could not be achieved.

I appreciated how the scattered Beyonce poems humanized the artist. How amazing it is to be denied the right to say “I’m tired” simply because if you did you would no longer be considered to be a god. The poems about Beyonce were very good, and I think they are an excellent companion to Lemonade; the idea that black women are human and not just pieces on a game board for our amusement or general use is one that must be shouted loudly and to the heavens.

Give this book a try. I am glad that I sat down and listened.

Cruel Crown

cruel-crown

Red Queen Book #1

Cruel Crown in a novella containing two short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the first queen that we know has died in Red Queen; her history and how she became queen are two bits of information that served to fuel my anger against Elara and how the first book ended. It definitely added some logs to the fire.

The second story I had to force myself to finish. I didn’t care much for Farley in Red Queen, and Shade Barrow’s storyline came back into focus at the end of the book proper, so this second story revealed very little that I didn’t already know and feel comfortable with.

I would suggest finding these digitally if you can, especially if they are on sale or part of some kind of deal. They are not necessary, but if you are enjoying the series they add a little more spice to the universe that would otherwise make the actual books a little too long.

Queen Song

This short story shows us the history of the first queen of Tiberius the Sixth, Corianne. she is Cal’s mother and from the Singer family of House Jacos. When a silver has the singing ability it’s like they can hypnotize people into doing what they want them to do. I am a little confused about how singers differ from whispers, who are silvers that can get into your mind and make you think things or see your memories and thoughts.

Corianne wins Tibe’s heart without a Queenstrial quite by accident, and while this is not the first time it has happened in the history of Norta, it enrages the other young ladies who had been preparing to win their place on the throne. One such lady, Elara, whom we know from Red Queen to be Tibe’s second wife, takes out her rage on Corianne and uses her whisper power to make Corianne increasingly paranoid and eventually suicidal.

Steel Scars

The second short story in this collection follows Farley of the Scarlet Guard through her missions that ultimately lead her to Shade Barrow (Mare’s brother, also of mixed blood with abilities) and contact with Mare Barrow. This story was very boring and revealed nothing to me that I felt necessary, especially since the suspense of Shade’s whereabouts is brought to a conclusion at the end of Red Queen. Farley herself wasn’t that important of a character in Red Queen, so her inclusion here is strange, but I suppose it gives us an overall sense of how the Scarlet Guard operates behind the scenes, where in Red Queen we just saw them poking in from time to time and being destructive.

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