Archive for August, 2013

The Beginning of Everything Robyn SchneiderHere’s another short and sweet book recommendation for you guys!

This week I’m recommending The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. This is so, so good. It’s not my typical genre, as I usually stick with fantasy, but it feels very much like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I really enjoyed. (And that’s not to say it’s a knock off. Because it’s not.)

The Beginning of Everything is about the most popular boy in school that got into a car accident, which consequently changed his entire life. Now he sits with the “losers” and is on the debate team. It’s very much a coming of age story about a boy that discovers who he really is. It’s sad and beautiful and heartwarming and funny. It’s full of puns and pop-culture references. And I think you guys will love it.

If you want to see an extended review of it, check out my Hypable article.

I’m also going to be doing an interview with Robyn, so keep your eyes peeled for that on Hypable! I’ll probably come back here and update this part to include the link.

You can find Robyn Schneider on her website, on Twitter, on Tumblr, and on YouTubeThe Beginning of Everything is available to purchase now. Let me know what you guys think of it if you decide to pick it up!

I feel the need to preface this with the fact that this is not a sarcastic article. There were a few things I really loved during the VMAs, and I’m not going to mention that other stuff that happened because it’s been done to death over the past few days. Just go to Tumblr if you want to laugh at pictures like this.

1. Lady Gaga’s performance. I’ve liked Lady Gaga for a long time. I’ve liked most of her performances even though they’re over the top and sometimes actually quite frightening. Despite some crazy eyes in the beginning, I really enjoyed her performance at the 2013 VMAs. It was well done, with some seamless outfit changes. Plus it was just really nice to see her back in her “Poker Face” wig.


 

2. Macklemore performing “Same Love.” This song is just incredible. I love the message it carries, and I love everything that Macklemore did when he was on stage. He deserved to win that award for Best Video with a Social Message.

You can click here to watch the performance.

3. Lady Gaga gives a pep talk to One Direction. I don’t know a whole lot about 1D, but I’m getting to the point where a few of my friends just won’t let me ignore them anymore. Still, I feel horrible they were booed at when they accepted their award for Best Song of the Summer. But Gaga gave them an amazing pep talk afterwards. Love her.


 

4. NSync reunited on stage. I’m sad that it was about 10 minutes of Justin Timberlake and 30 seconds of NSync, but it was still nice to see the boys back together again. I hope the response they got for the reunion at the VMAs gets their attentions and makes them realize that tons of people would be invested if they did a reunion tour. Because I would be there in a heartbeat.

You can click here to watch the performance.

5. Eminem announces his new album. I AM ACTUALLY INCAPABLE OF TALKING ABOUT THIS WITHOUT USING CAPSLOCK, SO I’M JUST GOING TO SHOW YOU THE VIDEO NOW.


 

What were the highlights of the VMAs for you? (If you watched, that is. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.)

The Mortal Instruments PosterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Buy it.

Details:

[Some spoilers, but remember that the book has been out for six years…]

I saw They Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this past weekend and really enjoyed it. I’ll preface this by saying this series is good, but it won’t be cracking my top five list anytime soon. It might not ever break into my top ten. The premise is quite good, but the writing was nothing spectacular.

Still, I was really hyped to see the movie. It look amazing and exciting and action packed, and apparently I just can’t get enough of book-to-film adaptations. Which is good, considering they’re not going away anytime soon.

One of the first things I noticed with this film was that it was absolutely beautiful. All of the sets were spectacular, even the ones as simple as the apartment building or the cafe Clary and Simon like to visit. The Institute in particular was breathtaking, and it felt so full and lived-in. It definitely sucked you right into the movie.

I also thought the casting was fantastic. I was worried about Jaime Campbell Bower living up to my expectations as Jace. Although the look of the character wasn’t quite what I had envisioned, the actor definitely played the part. His serious demeanor, his mannerisms, and his sarcasm were right on par. Along with that I thought the actors that played Isabelle and Alec also knocked it out of the park, though Simon was by far my favorite.

The action in this movie was brilliant. It was frightening and exciting and realistic. It moved fast, it looked real, and it seemed like the characters really were fighting for their lives. Action is one of my favorite elements to any movie, and fight scenes are something I can be critical about. But I really, really enjoyed them in this movie.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but only if you haven’t read the books (and if you don’t want to know exact details about the movie). The possible incest plot in the books just about ruined the first novel for me. You’re meant to really root for Jace and Clary, only to get the rug pulled out from under you. It’s one thing to go down the “we can’t be together root”; it’s something else entirely to say, “we may be brother and sister.” In the movie, they pretty much spelled out to the audience that it was a lie. I’m glad they did this, because it made it far less uncomfortable to watch.

Magnus Bane Godfrey Gao

Flipping over to the things I didn’t like, I have to mention Godfrey Gao. Don’t get me wrong here, though. I love Godfrey Gao (mostly for superficial reasons). I think he makes an amazing Magnus. His makeup, clothes, and acting were spot on. His voice? That’s another story. He has a beautiful Eastern accent (he’s Taiwanese), but in the movie it’s American. Which would be fine…if it didn’t sound like they dubbed it. Now, I don’t know if they actually did do that, but there are definitely other people across the internet wondering the same thing. (Also, I could have used him on my screen more, thanks.)

The biggest problem I had with this movie was that it was too funny. The humor seemed out of place in a lot of spots, and it just fell flat. I blame the script rather than the actors. There are definitely jokes that landed well, but a few just died as soon as they came out of someone’s mouth. They seemed cheesy and forced, and a few were in spots that were full of action and suspense. It brought you out of the moment when all you wanted to do was be on the edge of your seat and find out what was going to happen next.

My last point is a minor one, especially since it might have more to do with the source material than anything else. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, so I’m just going to comment on what I got from the movie. The entire movie only really did one thing for us: It told us that Clary is a Shadowhunter and then showed us her abilities. Everything else was a setup. Her interactions with the cup, her father, her mother, Simon, and Jace (among other things I’m sure) were never resolved. There wasn’t a lot of closure at the end of the movie. It definitely left you wanting more, but in this case I just didn’t feel satisfied enough.

I really did like the movie, though, and will be looking forward to the sequel. I think if they just nip and tuck a few points, they will have a ever better movie on their hands the next time around. Here’s to hoping!

Have you seen City of Bones? Are you planning on it? Have you read the books?

I’m a sucker for a happy ending, just like the next happy-go-lucky, head-in-the-clouds gal. Nothing makes me more gleeful than turning that final page and releasing a sigh of pure contentedness that tells me I finished another book that I’ll be sad to let go.

But sometimes those books just aren’t realistic. Sometimes an important character needs to die, a couple needs to break up, and the ending needs to leave you crying instead of sighing. Some books I can think of off the top of my head that did this are The Fault in Our Stars, Skin, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

I like happy endings because I think books should reflect an ideal world whenever possible. They’re meant to help us escape, to allow us to believe in hope and love, to make us think that perhaps this world has the potential to be better than it is.

But not every story is meant to be that way. If you looked at stories like The Fault in Our Stars, which deals with a very realistic portrayal of cancer patients, what would it say if the book ended up with everyone happy and cured and living their dream lives? It would feel fake and undermine the whole point of the book.

Then again, to constantly beat up characters and not even allow them to come back triumphant would be tragic – not only to them, but to the reader as well. Who wants to be kicked down so far that they can’t even pick themselves back up?

It really is a balance in any story, and the ending should reflect a lot more than just the author’s whims. It should make sense according to the plot, the characters, and the setting and world. An ending that seems out of place could ruin an entire book.

I like a good mix of realistic endings and happy ones. But if I had to choose, I’d go with happy endings every time. Call me superficial, but I can be a mush sometimes.

If you HAD to choose, would you pick to only read books with happy endings, or realistic ones?

Lost Years of Merlin CoverThe Lost Years of Merlin book, and the accompanying series, is one of my favorites of all time. I mean, it’s up there with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson.

If you haven’t heard of it before, please do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s by T.A. Barron, and it deserves to be better known than it is. It’s the story of Merlin before he became the infamous wizard and mentor to Arthur, before he knew exactly what he was and who he could become.

I would call it YA, but it reads more like an epic. Something closer to A Song of Ice and Fire (from what I’ve heard, at least, I haven’t read it yet) than Harry Potter.

And they’re making it into a film. This both excites me beyond words (read: asdfghjk; !!!!!) and terrifies me.

I mean, what if they mess it up? What if everyone thinks it’s a dumb movie? What if it flops and they don’t get to make the second, third, fourth, and fifth films? I’ll be devastated. No, really. I’ll have to take off work for bereavement.

It has the potential to become huge. WB is pooling its resources and really hopes to make this The Next Big Thing. I don’t know if it will be, but it definitely has the potential.

Part of me doesn’t want them to make the movie. No movie would be better than a terrible one (see: many people’s feelings about Lightning Thief). And if the movie is terrible, maybe they won’t even give the books a try. That would be a travesty.

On the other hand, I really, truly, absolutely want them to make it into a film. I want it to be epic and wonderful and perfect. Great casting, great locations, great writing, and great CGI. I want the world to take notice of the movie and then subsequently take notice of the books. Because that’s where the true magic lies, and that’s where all the praise should go – back to the author.

I want the ability to see all the characters that have lived in my head for so long to become corporeal on screen. Is that too much to ask?

I’m sure I don’t need to ask this question, but has there ever been a movie adaptation of book that has meant so much to you that you’re unsure if you want to go see it or not? Which one was it? 

I’ve found a new favorite comedian/singer, and her name is Christina Bianco. She has the unique talent of having perfect comedic timing, and gorgeous voice, and a terrifyingly accurate ability to sing like some of the greats.

I’m talking Christina Aguilera, Bernadette Peters, and Kristen Chenowith, just to name a few. And it’s not just her voice. She’s got those mannerisms down pat.

My two favorite videos are below:

In the first one, she sings “O Holy Night.” It really shows off her vocal talents, and the crowd is quiet enough that you can actually hear every note.


 
This video really shows how easily she can jump back and forth between different voices. And that Kristen Chenowith, man. It’s so spot on.


 
My favorite voices are Beradette Peters, Kristen Chenowith, and Julie Andrews. Which are yours?

You can watch more videos of her on her YouTube channel.

I went to Rhode Island!

Posted: August 16, 2013 in Wandering Bard
Tags: ,

Granted, this was back in June. But saying I’ve been a little bit busy would be an understatement.

Still, I had a blast, and I wanted to share some pictures with you guys.

I got together with a couple of my friends, and we decided to go to the beach and tour Rhode Island. It has been – and still is, I guess – my favorite state. Don’t ask me why. I have no answer to this.

And this is the first time I’ve gotten to visit it. Hooray!

We visited a few shops, and one of them happened to be an antique store (swoon!). I spotted these beauties:

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They’re cranberry glass salt and pepper shakers with a hobnail pattern. The hobnails (those little bumps) are actually milkglass. Gorgeous!

Next, we ventured onto a mansion walk, where we traveled along a paved path between the cliffs that led to the ocean and a bunch of huge mansions. Below is Salve Regina University, which is just breathtaking.

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Then we saw a dog driving a car…

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It rained or was overcast every day, except the day we decided to spend at the beach. Luck!

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(Yes, it really bothers me that my thumb is in the corner of the picture, but I’m too lazy to crop it.)

My friend and I walked to this cool looking place that was alllll the way at the other end of the beach:

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And it was like the Secret Garden inside! (I’ve wanted my own secret garden since I was, like, 10, by the way.)

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And I found my new favorite thing to do on the beach:

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While we were in Rhode Island, we also went to the Brown University bookstore (because Emma Watson was probably in there at one point), I had dough boys for the first time (dough + sugar = dough boys = my new favorite food), and learned all sorts of Rhode Island-ian words (who calls their milkshakes ‘cabinets’? I mean really???).

Have you ever been to Rhode Island? What do you think of it? What’s your favorite state and why?

Think whatever you want, I don’t care. I totally judge a book by it’s cover.

I mean, why not? The cover should reflect the book as a whole. If you couldn’t take the time to create a nice image for the front of your story, how do we know that you took the time to craft a nice story for us to read? Something that’s been poorly photoshopped or doesn’t even really represent your book tells us a lot about you.

So, make sure you have a nice cover.

And hey, not every cover is going to speak to every person. And if your book gets enough good reviews, the cover isn’t even going to matter that much.

The cover for Divergent doesn’t really do anything for me, but I picked it up and read it because everyone was saying how amazing it was. (And it IS amazing, FYI.)

Divergent Cover

 

And everyone’s opinions are different. I love highly photoshopped or colorful book covers. They always grab my attention.

Clockwork Princess Cover

 

Incarnate Cover

 

That’s not to say that I won’t read a book with a cover I don’t like. It’s just that when I’m browsing for something new, something I’ve never heard of before, a cover like Incarnate is going to grab my attention and intrigue me more than, say, the cover for The Casual Vacancy.

Casual Vacancy Cover

(Which I read anyway because – duh – J.K. Rowling.)

What’s your opinion? Do you refuse to judge a book by its cover, or do you feel like it does (and should) represent a book? Do you ever just browse covers that grab your attention, or do you only go by recommendations from friends or family members?

 

Sea of Monsters PosterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Rent it.

Details:

[Possible minor spoilers, but not really. GO READ THE BOOK IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT SPOILERS.]

I’m among one of the few that actually enjoyed the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I think it was because I could separate the books from the movies. Because, yeah, the movie did a terrible job recreating all the magic in the book, but it was a good story. It wasn’t perfect, mind you, not by a long shot. But it was fun.

So, as someone who loves the book and enjoyed the first movie, I figured I’d walk into the theatres with a fairly open mind. It meant that I wasn’t going to be super disappointed because I’m such a fan of the series, but it also meant that I knew the source material well enough to be able to compare the film to the novel.

There are plenty of opinions out there that will tell you a whole range of answers to the question, “Well, how was it?” My answer is pretty simple. I thought it was great.

Not perfect, not out mind-blowing, not my favorite movie ever, but it was great.

The action was exciting and the humor that I loved in the first movie was still present. It felt a little more grown up to me, a little more everything-is-on-the-line, which I loved. It was cheesy in some places, but then again so are the books. But they’re supposed to be. They’re middle grade, and that is the film’s source material after all.

It stayed a lot more loyal to the book than the first film. It had some ground to make up in terms of getting back on track. It had to introduce some new characters and plot points that should’ve been in the first movie but weren’t. But once all of that was established, it found its groove and did what it was supposed to do: entertain us.

I had three favorite parts to the movie: Tyson, Annabeth and Percy’s relationship, and Clarisse.

Tyson was a little too childish, I thought, but that’s how he is in the books, so I tried to overlook that. The best part was his unwavering love for Percy, Percy’s hesitance, and then Percy’s final understanding of Tyson. There were some really beautiful moments between the two of them, and it was great seeing a flaw in Percy that was righted as he learned a lesson.

Annabeth and Percy’s relationship in the books is one of my favorite pairings ever. I think it’s because it started off slow and it isn’t by any means a focus of the books. That’s really refreshing considering I read a lot of YA paranormal romance. The movie did a great job of showing us how much they care for each other, but not going to that place.

Lastly, I loved Clarisse. I was really surprised because Leven Rambin was not how I imagined Clarisse at all. In the books, Clarisse has an ogre-like quality to her in more ways than one. Leven Rambin is a beautiful actress, and I wasn’t sure she was really going to be able to pull off Clarisse in all her complexity. But she did, and it was great. You hated her one moment, laughed with her the next, and before you knew it, you were actually caring about her.

I’m going to buy this movie when it comes out because I’m such a huge fan of the series (and because I can’t own the first one without the second one). The reason why I suggested you rent it in order to see it is because I know my opinion is an unpopular one.

So, tell me. Did you like the first Percy Jackson movie? Have you seen Sea of Monsters? What do you think?

I’ve recently finished Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s the first classic that I’ve fully enjoyed from start to finish. I’m not sure what was so different about it, other than the fact that I felt the narrative was much more straightforward than most of the other classics I’ve read recently. Less tangents, more action. My kind of book.

The story is, essentially, about Frankenstein. It’s about his life, his struggles, his creation of this being, and the subsequent hunt for the monster that has murdered on more than one occasion.

FrankensteinBut Frankenstein’s monster, that was what really drew me into the story. We don’t get much from him until later on in the book, when he tells his side of the events and why he killed various members of Frankenstein’s family.

It’s funny that society has interpreted Frankenstein’s monster as a villain. He is a villain in a way, of course. But he’s also not. I feel like he was a victim of modern retellings and circumstance.

In movies and TV shows, Frankenstein’s monster is the bad guy. He’s the blood thirsty creature that walks around scaring and killing people, grunting and moaning. And I’ve never questioned if that was the case or not.

My opinion changed rapidly when I read the book.

Don’t get me wrong; he’s definitely not a saint. He did kill people, some defenseless and incapable of escape from his strength and speed. But where the modern story shows him as just barely a living corpse, the book paints a much more friendly picture. His vocabulary and speech is astounding. I’d even describe him as erudite. He’s capable of reason and guilt and remorse. He is, believe it or not, just a person.

A person who is a victim of circumstance. He was created this way, not quite right and yet not wholly different from most people. All he wants to do is belong, but society will not allow it. He’s hideous and foreign and people are terrified of him. He’s quick to anger, and his incredible strength makes short work of those that mistreat him.

If Frankenstein was a little more understanding, if society was a little bit friendlier, if people were a little more patient, perhaps none of what happened in the book would’ve occurred.

What I  found perhaps most amazing was that Frankenstein’s monster was not born evil. He was shaped into the villain by what others thought of him. He perpetuated that image with his actions, but it didn’t start there. He just wanted to belong, but others wouldn’t let him.

I feel like this tells us a lot about ourselves. Amazing how a book that was written nearly two hundred years ago is still relevant to our society, isn’t it? Maybe that’s not such a good thing.

In the end, I think the moral of the story was to love those than want to be loved, no matter what they look like and no matter their history. Judging a book by their cover is fine, but we shouldn’t carry that idea over to people. You never know what your judgment of others might cause them to do.

Do you think Frankenstein’s monster is a villain or a victim (or maybe both)? What do you think Shelley was trying to say when she wrote this story?