“The Purification Era” series: A Cleansing of Modern YA

“The Purification Era” series: A Cleansing of Modern YA

Hey, guys!

Yes, I meant it when I said I would start reviewing things more. To make it easier on myself (and probably on you), I’ll review series, or at least, chunks of series, a bit at a time, so less reading for you, less writing (but equal fangirling!) for me, overall, less time-consuming. Sound good? Good.

Lately, I’ve been reading a LOT of really, really good stuff. And when I say, “good stuff,” I don’t mean the popular, “on trend,” super publicized junk. *Some* (though certainly not all) of which gets a lot more attention than the story, world-building, crappy characters, etc, actually deserve.

Which breaks my heart, because I now know at LEAST three (maybe soon to be four!) either indie or self-pubbed authors. We’re not talking your average, run-of-the-mill, throw something, anything, onto CreateSpace and make a few bucks off Amazon. No. We’re talking writers whose word-smithing skills parallel the Suave Sabaa Tahir, the Brilliant Bardugo, the Amazing Amie Kaufman, the Magical Marie Lu. Easily.

Then why, might you be wondering, are these fantastical, equally talented authors often kept hidden in the dark? Simple: They are self- or indie-pubbed.

(Keep in mind, again, I do not do this for just any indie-or-self-pubbed. Only the ones who are very professional, and that I deem truly worthy. Not every self-or-indie-pubbed author I know will get advertised and recommended by me. That being said, I’ve extremely high standards, and am very, VERY picky!)

I view this as an incredibly unfair advantage to them, and think they deserve every bit as much love and attention as their more well-known counterparts. A few of these lovely authors include Janeen Ippolito (also head of Uncommon Universes Press), Sarah Delena White, and, more recently, Angie Grigaliunas. Janeen is more well-known in her territory for an interesting mix of supernatural, fantasy, steampunk, some snarky romance, and occasionally shifters (i.e., especially dragon-shifters, unicorn-shifters, and a cat-dragon, who will soon get a major say in another anthology 😉 ); Sarah, while incorporating fantasy and steampunk as well, seems to prefer traditional fae lore, along with traditional (and very chivalrous) romance; lastly, Angie’s style.

Angie’s is a nice, heady blend of fantasy, medieval dystopia, and some VERY snarky (but utterly adorable and fangirl-worthy) romance. Her writing is similar to that of Sabaa’s and even Veronica Roth’s, with drops of Bardugo here and there (especially when it comes to the MEN! *whistles*). I just wrapped up reading the first two books in her “Purification Era Series,” and the series was SO GOOD it mounted the top of my Fave YA List (Note: I need to make a post on fave YA series, and why)— beating the Shadow and Bone Trilogy by only a hair breadth. Which is HUGE, because not just ANY author can do that (although Marie Lu, Amie Kaufman, Janeen and Sarah all come dangerously close).

So, I am here to explain why.

And instead of giving a pros and cons like normal, I will just go on a mini-rant of things I liked, loved, and thought could be improved. Fair? Fair.

*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD– READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*

First off, will say this: I do not recommend any of the YA series I read to anyone younger than 15. Tops. The Illuminae Files and this in particular, I do not recommend to anyone younger than 16 (if they are VERY mentally and emotionally mature– I know, so many teens think they are, but not all are. Trust me. Been there not too long ago, myself.) to 17, bare MINIMUM. (But I’ll get into why in just a bit.) There are just some things I’d rather not have young minds witnessing/picturing, before they reach a state of maturity. (Just as you normally wouldn’t let a five to twelve year old watch a slasher horror flick. Common sense. You don’t want to scar the poor kids for life or anything, right?)

I’m told there are a total of six-eight books, roughly, in this series, and while so far only two have been published, they are. Utterly. And. Jaw-droppingly. Superb. As in, for the most part, I cannot gush over these books enough. Here’s why:

*cue monkey on steroid noises off in the distance*

*clears throat to sound more professional, because that’s what proper reviewers do* Annnnyyywwaaaayyysss, I meant to say that, the world-building skills and character relationship skills in these books are just AMAZING. A. Maz. Ing. You have a complex political system of apparent protectors/oppressors (depends on whose side you view the situation from!), a stirring rebellion, combining some aspects from AEITA, The Giver, and the Shadow and Bone Trilogy alllll rolled into one fabulous package. Here’s what I absolutely adored about the series:

The issues it dealt with. I give her kudos for tackling what she did. Most book series wouldn’t go too in-depth with topics like sisterly love and protection (think similar to Frozen), an abusive parent, or overcoming personal struggles in order to even have a healthy relationship (more on that in a moment). Angie is not interested, for the most part, in fulfilling the character stereotypes. She is not interested in love triangles, or typical “weak to strong female” characters, “100% bad boy characters,” etc. Everyone has depth and meaning, complexity. Layers and layers of COMPLEXITY. I cannot harp enough on allll the YA series I’ve read where certain characters fall short of realism in that department; they may be the average guy or girl next door, but that is legit it. You don’t learn much of their hobbies, habits, fears, dreams for the future, worldviews, what it means to them to truly be human and be ALIVE. Most YA barely scratches this surface, and ends up disappointing me a bit in this area (the main exceptions being The Illuminae Files and The Shadow and Bone Trilogy). I loved how the characters were layered in this series. Different characters saw different sides to each other, brought OUT different sides to each other, challenged one another with questions like that.

And it was utterly terrific. 

The personal romantic struggle and the MEN! PHEW!!! OK, granted, I was warned in advance that Hul men were all super-genius, witty hotties, with secret lil soft sides. And, as we ALL know, THOSE are the kind of guys I end up falling for (in fiction, anyways). Initially, it took me some time for the Huls to grow on me, but I eventually added a certain INTJ Hul to my “NT Type List” (more on that in a different post– MBTI thing), along with the rebel leader, Sorek, who could EASILY give Nikolai Lantsov a run for his money, and have a battle of wits, with all the snark he’s shown us. In fact, if you loved the Nikolai snark in the Grishaverse, you will ADORE Sorek (although, I will guarantee you will hate him at first. But give him PLENTY of time– he grows on you. Like Nik, he tends to persona-shift to suit the needs of the circumstance, and, also like Nik, is also an ENTP!). I was HOWLING at all his playful (and often very flirtatious!) banter with Rabreah 90% of the time. Just splitting at the SEAMS laughing. While the other, more popular YA reads may have given me the occasional fangirly smirk, giggle, or laugh, none have made me outright laugh for AGES on end like Sorek does. And this book’s genre isn’t even comedy! 🙂 The other guy, Masrekah (who ironically reminds me of the Darkling a LOT… read and see why!), isn’t as outright WITTY persay, but has a very dry and sarcastic sense of humor, nontheless. He’s very calm, intelligent, calculated, and SEEMS cold… but you find out, like ALL good INTJs, that underneath that exoskeleton, there’s some well-guarded soft mushiness. (Especially for a particular young lady, whose name I shan’t reveal) This made me squeal in delight as much as Sorek’s interactions with Rab did.

All Imma say is: Quelling. Horseback riding scenes. That is all. xD 😀

And the romantic STRUGGLES. Again, we are not talking the stereotypical, often-used “romance triangle/rectangle/whatever shape is “in” ” nowadays. We’re talking a female MC, Rabreah, who has been sexually threatened, and who has an ardent fear of men (i.e., gets defensive when they get close or look at/touch her, thinks men are the dung of the earth, etc.). She has to physically, emotionally, and mentally JUMP OVER THAT HURDLE if she wants a relationship with So-and-So, a desire that comes into conflict frequently with said fear, so she’s constantly denying her attraction (but we ALL know otherwise 😉 😉 ). As for her little sister, Ariliah, well, Ari’s almost entangled in a deadly and dreaded romance triangle trope. Key word: Almost. Like many YA female protags, she’s a bit confused about who she wants, and initially, who would be best for her (and definitely vice versa). But unlike many, many, MANY female protags who heart-breakingly string guys along (looking at you, Katniss Everdeen, Bella Swan, Laia of Serra, etc…), playing both sides of the field, Ari doesn’t look at it that way for longer than maybe a few chapters, and makes her decision of who she wants to be with. I mean, I’ve read other whole books (and a half or more!) that take like half the series or longer to get that stuff all sorted out. It’s very tedious to me, unnecessary “soap opera drama”. Find a guy, a good guy, stick with him, move on. Ari, even as an INFP like Alina Starkov, knows what’s up and has a good bit of common sense with this whole situation. (Which is one of the many reasons I love my sweet lil cinnamon roll! T_T )

Grey “bad” guys. I remember once reading something Leigh Bardugo said, about not everyone being straight-up good and evil, one or the other– we’re all a mix of both. And for a while, as a Christian, I was unsure whether to agree or disagree (more in a future post!). But here, I would definitely say agree, and that it is portrayed in SEVERAL characters VERY realistically. Rab is kind-hearted, smart, and passionate, yet secretly seems to fear her passion for justice will turn her into something like her abusive mother. Sorek has to pretend to be one of his enemies in order to blend in and spy properly– even if that means doing questionable things. Masrekah reads, “grey and mysterious” ALL over, and even little Ari has her moments. This only adds a layer of complexity to Angie’s characters, a layer many characters in many YA novels would not touch.

The world-building. Angie excelled at this, and it was often the little things. The different, foreign lands, how the names and sounds of names were different, country to country. Different cultures. Itzalin and their story, their cultures. Fascinating.

Overall, if there was one or two things I would advise Angie to improve on, I’d say, add more detail and clarification, here and there. I had a tough time initially picturing the itzalin because of this (and for future readers, no, they do NOT resemble werewolves!). Some of the unclarified stuff tripped me up, a smidge. There was also one or two moments of convenience, where things *just happened* to be in play that way, but thankfully, those situations were relatively few and far between.

 

I give this series, so far, a 4.5 out of 5. 🙂 Way to go, Angie! Can’t wait to read the next installments!

Want to check out this fabulous series? Click here for more:

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Image Credit: https://www.amazon.com/Quelling-Young-Dystopian-Fantasy-Purification-ebook/dp/B07CVT9D6S

 

 

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Sparks Fly in “An Ember in the Ashes”

Sparks Fly in “An Ember in the Ashes”

(First off, I’ll say a big “Thank you” and “You’re welcome,” to Ms. Brittany from Instagram– loyal “Emberling” and Elias’s biggest devotee. I would not have read this without your avid persistence and dedication in trying to convince others and myself to do so. The “You’re welcome” is because I think you would greatly appreciate the topic of this post, if nothing else. 🙂 )

Ahem…. With that being said, I actually have some free time on hand tonight. *looks shocked* See, THIS is what happens when I actually get all my priorities straight and put work BEFORE pleasure!!! (LOL) Anyways, I thought I’d kick off the evening with maybe a couple of book reviews, including Marissa Meyer’s Renegades, Janeen Ippolito’s Lawless, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and, but of course, Ms. Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes (I mean, come on, you’ve seen how much fun this woman is on IG! She literally takes stories of talking veggies, various– but fortunately not inappropriate– articles of clothing, and stuffed animals!!! Yes, I actually started following her BEFORE I read her books, haha).

So, without further ado, I give to you all….

MY REVIEW OF AN EMBER IN THE ASHES!!!!

*WARNING! SPOILER ZONE! PROCEED WITH CAUTION AND AT YOUR OWN RISK IF YOU HAVE NOT READ*

Overall gist: Pretty good. Wouldn’t say it’s my absolute FAVORITE (the Shadow and Bone Trilogy is pretty high up there, though), but still pretty good. Lots of Roman-esque moments, even mentions of how brutal they were back then. So, while I am not at all a fan of the gruesome gore, I can appreciate how realistic she was with portraying this war-ridden, militia-obsessed world. (Then there’s people like Elias and Laia– pronounced Leia??– who want rid of the tyranny. Yah! VIVE LA REVOLUCCION!!!) Anywho….

As always, I’m going to start with the negatives to get them done and outta the way… (Britt, if you are reading this, you *might* wanna skip down to the positives. I’m saying this as your friend. Because when I critique ANY book, even if it’s a FAVE, I will go HARD on it. I’m a “tough grader,” in short, and WILL nit-pick, even pet peeves. That is all. 🙂 )

  1. The high rape culture. I get that it’s big, and that this culture is (very sadly) built at least partly off of it (brothels everywhere… slaves being abused… 😥 ), but no need to show just how graphic it is. It’s sufficient to know that so-and-so was taken advantage of, or almost taken advantage of, and that we need to DO something about it. I’m not saying we should brush it aside/pretend it does not happen/doesn’t exist. I’m saying we do something about without being super-graphic and go into most detail of what said rapist does (to be fair, she does restrain some things, though).
  2. The wrong kind of “romantic vibes.” Granted, to be fair, Elias Veturius is no Marcus. He’s noble and willing to go the extra mile for someone who really needs it, and his first instinct, at the beginning, is to flee all the horror (can’t say I blame him for that, either… especially if MY Momma Dearest was like that…). It is actually because of this that he stays… Or, more specifically, he stays for LAIA. To help LAIA. (Among other reasons, of course, but that seems to be the main one.) But Laia… Honestly, I feel like there was SO much general confusion between love and lust, desire and genuine agape, that it was NOT OK. Lust, see, is only bodily oriented. While Elias at least respected Laia for her fierceness and determination to be free, as well as Helene for being his bestie, he still lusted after them both. Hard. Same goes for Laia; Augur Cain even says that while she longs after Kaanan with her heart, she longs after Elias with her body. Do you see what I’m saying here? It’s starting to become a lust infestation, which are a HUGE turn-off to me. (TBH, I see this with a LOT of secular YA books, and it saddens me deeply *cough* John Green and Twilight*cough*… So no, not just AEITA. But that doesn’t make AEITA a-OK.) However, this is not to say that the RIGHT kind of romantic vibes do not show up, ever; in fact, they are much more apparent towards the end of the book. I will get to that shortly, don’t worry, Britt. In fairness, I do respect the fact that while the characters DO lust, they actually exhibit great self-restraint, which I both admire and respect. It doesn’t make lusting alright, but it does show that boundaries and limits are good to have in place, in case you are tempted. Which leads me to…
  3. The whole love triangle/rectangle/etc. thingy. Yes, I know some people say this is not a thing. IT IS. Yes, the plot was  great, and I liked the whole rebellion conspiracy thing (more later), I just kept getting slammed with wave after wave of, “Oh, you didn’t know Helene liked you, Elias?” Elias: *inwardly* “Oh crap, she likes me?? What do I do, she’s my BESTIE, not my girlfriend, but, on the other hand, she IS hot, but, on the OTHER hand…. LAIA!!!” Laia is in a similar predicament; as mentioned before, she immediately “falls for” Elias, and gradually starts to fall for young and wise rebel Kaanan. And THEN we have the doubly evil creeper and pervert Marcus, who is both a murderer and rapist, who lusts after BOTH women. (See, people, this be WHY I have issues with… Well, never mind. Not about me. Back to the BOOK review.)Do you see my issue yet? It’s really mind jarring how easily jealousy stirs up between all these characters too, naturally, since all of this is going on. It’s almost too much. In all honesty, I would probably be content if Tahir just took Kaanan out of Laia’s “love” equation, because it’s already puh-ritty messy.But maybe that’s just me.
  4. The Augurs. Yes, I like how they are sage-like. Yes, I like how they are prophetic and hold people in line, if need be. No, I do not like how they read animal entrails; I find it obscene and deeply disturbing (for obvious reasons). No, I do not like how they are seemly omniscient, by little mind-read-y powers alone. I think there needs to be more to it than that. I want to know who’s side they’re on, etc. Of course, I am probably going to find that out as I continue to read the series, right, Tahir?

 

Annnndddd, onto the positives!

(If you disregarded my previous warning and read the top part first anyway, Britt, I give you leave to go and punch a punching bag before returning to read this.)

  1. The dialogue and character growth. For what she lacked in describing the setting, Tahir definitely made up for it with both of these. Laia and Elias kinda have parallel growths, side-by-side, actually. Laia is initially deemed cowardly, too afraid to stand up for herself or her brother, but she grows bolder. Bold enough to spy on Elias’s tyrant of a biological Mother for the Resistance. Bold enough to endure excruciating torture for the sake of springing her brother from prison, even if she knows, deep, deep down, they can never go back to living their old life the same way again. Elias, on the other hand, is tempted and tested and taunted. He is constantly warned that he will become a murderous monster if he does not follow through with the Augurs’ wishes. Granted, he still sheds plenty of blood (and, very sadly, some of it HAS to be his friends… #HungerGamesForTheWin), but he still, in a manner of speaking, hangs onto his soul. I think that was one romantic aspect I did like between Laia and Elias, is that they started to appreciate and love each other for their PERSONHOOD, not simply BODILY. Laia gives Elias a beautiful little moment when she talks about his soul being free, and he does likewise with his Mother, before he is led out to be executed. In fact, that was probably one of my favorite parts: The free-soul speech. The fact that he was ready, and even willing, to die. Not a lot of people can say that, and I applaud Tahir for it.
  2. The mythology. It is deep and well played out. For spiritual purposes alone, I love the fact that Tahir had the whole, “You didn’t believe in them, because you logically thought, “Nah, something that powerful/magical/spiritual couldn’t possibly exist because it defies XYZ…”… Well, guess what? YOU WERE WRONG, IN YOUR FAAACCCEEEE!!!” It was a very intriguing play, even if most of the spiritual being they’ve encountered so far are pretty much the evil ones. It makes me wonder if they are GOING to encounter any GOOD ones, too…
  3. The Resistance Conspiracy. One of the main reasons I kept page-turning… And what can I say? ALL THE HUNGER GAMES RELATED STUFF!!!! I mean, granted, it’s probably just me seeing connections. But between the friend-based bloodbath, both getting inspiration from Roman time periods (and the Colosseum, no less), AND the fact that the Resistance also has a leader that looks to be suspiciously like President Coin? Like a person who would make one heck of a dictatorial power-play the instance they were on the head honcho’s throne?

Incredibles1

*cough* Ahem… ANYWAYS….

Overall, again, I thought the story was good (negative lust and rape stuff aside). I liked the character growth, the backstories were interesting, and the whole conspiracy was enough to keep me reading. I also liked the perspective switching; Tahir pulled this off spectacularly. As in, “Oh no! Person A is alone with Person B, and Person C’s coming! He/she is gonna see Persons A and B together and think *********”

My rating, overall: 3.5.

My Rating Scale:

0= Horrible, don’t bother

1=Poor

1.5=So-so

2=Meh, not too bad

2.5=OK

3=Good, but not enough

3.5= Very good, but some stuff bothered me

4= Great, but could use some final tweaking

4.5=GREAT, pretty polished writing

5= AWESOME, I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN FOR DAYS

 

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Image Credits:

The Incredibles GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Ember_in_the_Ashes

 

“The Last Jedi”– And a Multitude of Fangirling

“The Last Jedi”– And a Multitude of Fangirling

OK, first off… apologies for the lack of posts. Between senior seminar, finals, other homework, then FINALLY being off on break for some SERIOUS, MUCH-NEEDED INTROVERSION— Well, you get the picture.

December, this year, for the most part, is my happy month, guys. For four reasons: 1., Christmas (the obvious), 2., I got yet another 3.8; 3., I AM GOING TO ISRAEL IN LESS THAN A WEEK!!!!! And 4., The Last Jedi. 

(Don’t worry; you guys will get pictures galore when I’m back– maybe even a post or two, seeing as how I’ll be chronicling my travels in a physical journal the whole time 😉  But anyways)

So, as you guys know, I am a MAJOR, major, major “Star Wars” geekette. I have a purple lightsaber in my closet as we speak (light-up, too– though, I STILL WANT MY INDIGO LIGHTSABER!!!! ARRRRGGGGHHH), glued to every single episode of Rebels that’s ever been out, as well as some “Rebels Recon” (and most of “Clone Wars”), am in possession of most of the Complete Star Wars Visual Dictionaries (I am planning on buying The Last Jedi one soon), and became so recently appalled at my youngest cousins (ages 10-15) NEVER HAVING SEEN STAR WARS BEFORE, I made SURE to give them the chance to have some mandatory viewings before Episode VIII.

Which brings me to….

The EPISODE VIII REVIEW. (dun dun dun duuuuuunnn…)

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE LAST JEDI, YOU SHOULD not READ ANY FURTHER! THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!!!

In brief, for the most part…

I. Loved. It.

OK, maybe “love” is a bit strong: I would say, “really, really liked” is probably more accurate. But in actuality, Episode VIII is probably one of my fave SW Eps.

Sure, there were some dumb things with Poe and the whole mutiny thing, but the Rey’s training, Rey and Kylo, and the awesome SW animal things totally made up for that. Those things made Episode VIII worthy of my love (yes, at the risk of me sounding like Lusamine 😛 ). And, all things considered, the number 8 IS one of my two fave numbers, so I gotta say, no pressure or anything, Johnson— putting up high expectations out there, but for the most part, they were met.

So, here we go! As always, we’ll go with the criticisms first, then add with positive closures:

CONS:

  1. The whole Poe Mutiny thing. It was just kinda stagnant for me, and made it more like an episode of “Rebels” than an actual legit SW movie. Didn’t really move for me. Same with Rose and Finn’s mission, it didn’t feel as genuine as the mission with operation Starkiller base shutdown (aka remake of Ep. IV) in The Force Awakens. Then I ended up being confused of who to root for when Leia became conscious and outright STUNNED Poe for his mutiny. Which side is the “good guy” side here?
  2.  Rey being too repetitive, when meeting Luke. She starts to sound like a broken record at times, continually relaying Leia’s message of hope and urging him to join the Resistance,  instead of just answering his own questions half the time. It made her sound less realistic, and more like one of MY “pamphlet-y” characters (*cough* Guy… *cough*). This isn’t good, because Rey is such a good, strong, sassy character. She’s more than a recording playback of hope, Johnson. You already had that throwback of Leia’s recording via Artoo to nail that one on the head.

Rey1

3. Why DID Luke Skywalker pull an Obi-Wan on us? Rather  than fully face something he believed he triggered, Luke doesn’t show up to confront his fears and face them himself; he sends only an apparition of himself. He owns up, but doesn’t show up. This cowardly behavior is reflected in his initial refusal to teach Rey anything about the Force: He’s afraid of creating or triggering another Kylo. It’s this reason that he says he’s seen that kind of power once before, and while it didn’t frighten him into sense then, it did now. However, this fear leads to him not really resolving his problems, only running away and hiding from them. He literally was so dejected about the whole stupid thing being his fault that he went off to end the Jedi Order by dying, alone, on secluded Ach-To. He didn’t even fully die– just vanished into the Force, like Obi. Why? The world may never know, but it seems slightly cowardly to me.

Luke2

PROS:

  1. The new critters. Oh. My. Gosh. This film is living proof that there are really cool and cute creatures in the SW universe, not just Hutts. Or Nexus. Or Acklays. Or… Well, you get the gist. In Episode VIII, we get the Vulptices (ice foxes). Those cool, beautiful creatures that Rose and Finn need to ride to get to safety, that look like they’re part horse, part kangaroo, part something else. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY….

PORGS!!!!!

porg

#Chewieapproves

We first spy these little penguin-like guys on Ach-To, and later, we learn (with much dismay), that Chewie has been ROASTING THEM OVER AN OPEN FIRE FOR SUSTENANCE. Three poor little porgs look up at him like, “What are you doing?” making him growl, and they scurry off; one brave lil porg remains, looks up at him with huge, watery, eyes, and gives a tiny, pitiful little cry like, “Budddddyyyy…. Why are you eating my buddy?” and Chewbacca ROARS a bit to scare that one off, and thus ease his conscience. We later see him having made amends with the adorable beings, however, by taking them on the Falcon to hitch a ride for kicks.

I want a plushie porg, and I want it now. And unfortunately, the cheapest I can find are on Amazon for no lower than $52. WIM. T_T Why me???

2. Rey’s Jedi Training. Rey finally starts on the path to what she is destined to be, and will be the ultimate tide-turner for the story as a whole. In fact, I feel like the whole story of the three new movies is a major telling of HER story. She, not Finn or Poe, is the true protagonist, or the major protag. Because, if you think on it– in The Force Awakens, the Force has literally been awakened in her; she learns that she’s Force-sensitive. In The Last Jedi, she is literally the last, singular, Jedi at the end of the film, as well as according to Luke. I feel like the film titles alone dictate her destiny, or at least what happens to her specifically in each film. I can hardly wait to see what happens to her in the final installment!

3. THE WHOLE DYNAMIC BETWEEN REY AND KYLO. I could literally go on for pages about this (seriously, someone shut me up if I start fangirling too much here). One major motif I noticed even in the trailers ( and thought about a LOT while watching the movie) and found thoroughly fascinating was the whole idea of them being a LITERAL balance of good and evil, light and dark. Kylo’s “dark” but struggles with resisting the light; Rey has the opposite problem: She’s fighting for “good,” but is somehow called by the “evil,” and finds it surprisingly difficult to resist. While I could write a little sermon-post on this interesting topic, on how it relates to human nature as a whole (and perhaps someday I will…), now is not ideal; however, this does affect their relationship a great deal. Thanks to a certain individual’s interference, the two interact a lot more and actually get to know each other better. While Rey initially thinks Kylo’s a monster (as implied in Ep. VII), she gradually warms to the fact that he’s only fallen, only twisted (“twisted” in this sense meaning that he is a warped version of initial good) because of a sad backstory, and eventually comes to believe he needs her help in returning to the light. However, we eventually see that Kylo has the mirror sentiment of her; he believes her own ideals are “twisted,” and senses her own inner conflict, and believes he can help her in turning to the dark side. There is returning familiarity with these scenes as they grow more and more comfortable with each other’s presence, that reminds me strongly of the Darkling coming to visit Alina numerous times, via corporeal visions, in Siege and Storm. And maybe it’s just me, but I think because he gets to know her, because he can relate to her inner struggle, that he might even be ATTRACTED to her. Sound far-fetched? Well, in one vision episode, he appears to her SHIRTLESS (obviously intentional) and she, somewhat embarrassed, asks him to put something on, clearly flustered (he doesn’t). Later, when in Snoke’s throne room, and on our way to Snoke’s room in the elevator, we see several direct parallels:

Kylo’s conversation with Rey mirrors a similar one Darth Vader had with Luke Skywalker, when Skywalker comes to redeem him– Vader also wished to turn his son to the Dark Side.

Kylo’s act of killing Snoke and sparing Rey mirrors Vader’s albeit more selfless act of killing Hideous– sorry, SIDEOUS– to spare Luke’s life.

Kylo literally offering Rey the chance to rule alongside him. Not beneath him, not just to JOIN him, but ALONGSIDE HIM. This parallels Vader TWICE: When Vader told Luke they could rule the galaxy side-by-side, as father and son, and when Vader made that same offer to Padme Amidala, albeit in a slightly more romance-oriented sense.

I believe that Kylo meant more of the latter here, even saying that while most saw Rey only as nothing, a lowly scavenger at best, he knew she was something special, and meant much more than that to him. Again, I get a very Darkling-and-Alina vibe here, which is probably why half my body and mind is screaming, “JOIN HIM, YOU FOOL” (because, what can I say, still suffering from a loss of Darklina shippings…), the rest saying, “Oh, you know she’ll only resist.” And yup, sure enough, she does. She tries once to get him to the Resistance’s side, major fail (don’t do that to a passionate guy; he’ll take that as dissing his passions). Even after she has rebuffed him, though, this doesn’t stop him from calling out to her one. Final. Time. At the very end, before she leaves with the Resistance. And it’s heart-wrenching, because of the look she gives him before the door shuts, severing their connection. It’s a look I imagine Alina giving the Darkling, but even she was more sympathetic.

joinme

4. The Yoda cameo. Because seeing old friends is always a pleasant surprise for nostalgic old geezer fans like myself (and even older).

Shipping-wise: Initially, I shipped Finn and Rey, but now I’m thinking of Rey and Kylo a LOT more (namely because sucker for sympathetic villains.). And now considering events in the new film, I gotta say I’m also leaning towards shipping Rose and Finn, too. Because reasons. 😉

Anyways, though this film had a few bugs to work out, and a couple unanswered questions, I do want a couple things to happen:

I want another animated series, similar to Clone Wars and Rebels, only this time, set RIGHT AFTER this film. So, similar to Rebels in some manner, but I want to see Finn and Rose’s, as well as Kylo and Rey’s, relationship bud and blossom. This stuff takes time, more time than could ever be conveyed super realistically in a single film (unless you count the whole, “time day skip” thingy, but we aren’t gonna count that). I want Rey to talk to Yoda’s, Luke’s and Obi-Wan’s ghosts. I want to see her training more. I want her training younglings, the future of the Jedi. I want more Kylo Ren temptations. (I don’t know if I would’ve resisted, if I were her, or not…) GOSH DANGIT GUYS, I WANT IT ALL!!!!!

I do want the final installment to have answers to my questions, including why Luke chickened out, is Rey going to cave (got a feeling that answer is “no,”), is Kylo going to slowly about face and start to turn to the Light Side, why did Chewie stop eating porgs (other than their unadulterated cuteness), and so much more.

My final rating: 4 outta 5 stars. Sooooo close, Johnson; just a BIT more!!!

 

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Image Credits:

http://www.insidethemagic.net/2017/10/top-5-jaw-dropping-moments-star-wars-last-jedi-trailer/

https://www.inverse.com/article/37276-star-wars-last-jedi-trailer-porgs-twitter

https://techcrunch.com/gallery/heres-the-new-star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer-as-scene-by-scene-gifs-to-tear-apart/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/14/star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer/

Exclusive Interview with “Halayda” author, Sarah Delena White!!!

Exclusive Interview with “Halayda” author, Sarah Delena White!!!

OK, first, again, apologies to you guys for not touching base as much as I should’ve… But then, I might not have been able to surprise you with something truly wonderful!

This summer, as I’ve previously mentioned, I read and got addicted to indie author Sarah Delena White’s first book of her Star Fae Trilogy, Halayda. (I will include a blurb at the bottom, for all those interested. I will say this, though: Fae meets alchemy meets steampunk. Meets the classic, “good vs. evil”. Hehehe.) I’ve actually had the pleasure to get to know Sarah personally via Facebook, and bonded a great deal, amidst several good-natured, and sometimes comical, conversations. She informed me that book 2 is coming out soon, this spring, in fact. I asked if, to help build hype and satisfy some of our curiosity, she’d be so kind as to agree to an interview– and she agreed!!!

I AM SO FREAKING PUMPED, GUYS!!!

Anyways… Ahem *clears throat* Let’s get this show on the road!

 

L4G: Thanks soooo much for joining us today, Sarah! It’s really quite the honor to be having this interview; it seems super surreal….I know a lot of readers and Bookstagrammers are rather unfamiliar with you and your writing, so we’ll start off there. First off, how did you get started in your writing business?

SDW: I never intended to be a writer, believe it or not. I’ve always enjoyed creating stories and worlds, but I didn’t prioritize writing until I was in my mid-twenties. I started writing while living and working overseas as a way of processing my experiences. I came to realize the profound power of storytelling and spent the next few years honing my craft and working on various projects. I always wrote fantasy, though. I love the power of speculative fiction to put the real world in a new perspective.

L4G: That’s awesome! I have to agree, I love how fantasy puts a novel (see what I did there?) spin on reality, and am a big fantasy reader and writer, myself. Speaking of which, I know a lot of people who are interested in writing, particularly fiction (and not just myself!). What pro tips can you give for future, aspiring authors?

SDW: 1. Always keep writing, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Before Halayda, I left a trail of half-finished stories in a range of genres. I had to keep trying different ideas and creating different worlds before I hit on something that deeply resonated with me and that I loved enough to commit to for the long run. 2. Don’t be boring! This piece of advice was given to me by one of my editors, Janeen Ippolito, and it changed my whole perspective on storytelling. I used to think I had to plow through the “boring parts” of a story so I could eventually get to the “interesting parts.” The result was some very uninteresting stories! When I started writing Halayda, I chose to make every scene an “interesting part,” realizing that if I wasn’t interested in writing something, people probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it.

L4G: Those are definitely words to live by… All you writers out there, take notes! 😉 I know I’m personally guilty of leaving stories half-finished, sometimes due to duller parts, until recently… But that’s another tale for another day. 🙂 Since, going by your Facebook and Instagram, we already know you love ballads and fae stuff, but… What SPECIFICALLY inspired you to create the world and characters of  Halayda and the Star-Fae Trilogy

SDW: Halayda was sparked by a dream in which I got dragonfly wings thanks to a crazy scientist’s experiment. The dream lingered in my mind after I woke up, and within a few hours Sylvie and Taylan came to life and started to tell me their story. I originally intended the book to be a superhero story, but I quickly realized that the concept wasn’t unique enough and needed other elements to make it sparkle. Since I love genre mashups, I combined fae mythology and steampunk with some of my favorite superhero tropes, and the world of Kyure was born.

L4G: What?! No way, I had a story world that was invented via a dream, too! OK, this is CRAZY *high-fives* OK, OK, Livia, stay focused… stay focused… In Halayda, there are a few things that are very symbolic, the Dragonfly wings and Dragonfly abilities being one of them. Maybe the Humanities and my English-y classes are getting to me with symbols and themes, but I need to ask: What made you choose the specific image of not just WINGS, but DRAGONFLY wings to symbolize and mark out Faerie’s Savior? 

SDW: While most of the symbolism in Halayda was deliberate, the dragonfly wings started as an unintentional symbol (or perhaps a subconscious one). I originally chose them because they were an element of the original dream and I liked the aesthetic. As I delved deeper into Sylvie’s significance and role while drafting the book, I realized that dragonfly wings were a perfect fit for many reasons. Dragonflies often symbolize renewal, as well as change leading to deeper maturity and self-realization, and this is perfect for Sylvie’s journey in Halayda.

L4G: Well, I guess that makes sense. I mean, sometimes dreams just have so much powerful imagery, you can’t help but include some of it… And the fact that it turned out to be something so much more… THAT’S what I call a “God-incidence”! Alright, since I promised my good friend Jarrett I’d ask a question or two regarding specific characters in your story, the Wild Hunt… (Sorry, Casimir– I PROMISE you’ll get a WHOLE interview to express your glorious self next time!!) He wants to know, how do the leaders of the Wild Hunt get chosen (by age, seniority, family/clan, descent, etc.)?

SDW: The leaders of the Wild Hunt claim their positions through a combination of seniority and fighting ability. The older, more powerful members of the Hunt will often fight to assert their dominance and try to claim a higher rank in the pack. Iberek became the chief hound shifter about two hundred years before Halayda takes place, winning a fight against multiple challengers. He is the oldest living member of the Wild Hunt, and very few Hunters are bold enough to question his authority.

L4G: I’m sure Jarrett’ll be pleased to know that fascinating tidbit about his fave character. He also wants to know, just how animal ARE the Wild Hunt– as in, are they mainly human/fae with animalistic traits, or is it vice versa?

SDW: Good question! It’s always interesting to see how authors handle this aspect of their Shifter characters. In this case, the hound and cat shifters of the Wild Hunt are primarily fae, but they prefer a more primitive life than the elemental faeries. While certain aspects of their culture resemble a wolf pack, they don’t view themselves as animals at all.

L4G: That’s very interesting! I thought that way myself, but Jarrett asks a lot of intriguing questions I never would’ve thought of, myself… I gotta hand it to him. Anyways, let’s wrap this up! 🙂 So happy we could get together to do this! Hopefully we can get together to do this again sometime in the future! Just one more question: Any clues as to what book 2’s going to have in store for us– a blurb, or even title-wise? Because there were noticeable changes on your Pinterest, hahaha….

SDW: I don’t have a blurb or a final title yet, but keep an eye out for that this winter, along with the official cover reveal! Here are a few clues about book 2, though:

-It is partly inspired by the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.
-You’ll get to see more of the mortal (steampunk) world).
-Everyone has a secret, and nothing is quite as it seems. 😉
 
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Olivia!

 

Thank YOU, Sarah!!! This was a lot of fun, and hopefully we can do it again in anticipation for book 3!!!

 

Interested in the Star Fae Trilogy? Here’s more!

Halayda blurb:

“Betrayed by a trusted mentor, Sylvie Imanthiya hides on the fringes of society, caring for half-fae orphans and trading her alchemical creations on the black market. She lives for the one night each season when she can see her dearest friend—a man whose destiny is far above hers.

King Taylan Ashkalabek knows better than to exchange halayda vows with a mortal. Even their friendship is a risk; love is an impossible dream. Then a brutal alchemical attack poisons his realm, unearthing a dark power within him—and leaving Sylvie with the ancient mark of Faerie’s savior.

Manifesting unpredictable abilities and aided by allies with their own secrets, Sylvie and Taylan journey into the wilds of Faerie to heal the damage and confront Casimir, an invincible star-fae determined to claim the realm as his own. But only their enemy knows Sylvie’s true capabilities—and Taylan’s weaknesses—and how to use them in his vicious schemes.

Her fate is life. His fate is death. With Faerie in the balance, Sylvie and Taylan must stand together before reality as they know it is destroyed.”

Find out more in this dramatic clash of fates and destinies in her first book of the trilogy, now!

https://uncommonuniverses.com/books/halayda/

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About the Author:

Sarah Delena White

Sarah is a vagabond on a never-ending quest for truth, beauty, and really good lattes. She has degrees in Intercultural Studies and Teaching English as a Second Language, and loves to explore the connections between fantastic stories – both modern and ancient – and the cultures that invent them. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found making jewelry, singing Irish ballads, and working a variety of odd jobs. She occasionally remembers to eat and sleep, because those things are apparently important. She also loves chickens.

SarahDWhite

Image Creds: Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram 

The Boss-y Baby

The Boss-y Baby

We think we know everything about babies, don’t we? Where they come from, how uneducated, messy and smelly they are…

Well, according to the movie, The Boss Baby, you should think again on that matter.

*WARNING: SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT*

Apparently, it says, babies come from a magical heavenly realm where they are either sorted into families with no knowledge or real memory of being in Babyland, OR be sorted into a administration with a much bigger goal: To always keep the babies’ cuteness factor as number one in society. All you-know-what breaks loose when it turns out that puppies are beating them in that race for numero uno, so the boss babies take matters into their own hands; one of their own infiltrates a seemingly ordinary home, with seemingly ordinary parents, and an only child, an older boy aged seven, Timothy Templeton. Tim gets a taste of all the negative things that come with being an older brother with the new baby, and instantly takes a disliking to him, but also grows suspicious at the baby’s fairly obvious intelligence, and initially tries to prove this to his parents. However, the boss baby catches him, and later on they form a reluctant truce: If Tim helps the boss baby with his top secret mission, then the boss baby will return to Babyland, and Tim will have his parents all to himself again. Of course, to do so, they have to pretend they’re loving siblings so that their parents will take them to Puppy Co., their workplace, on account of “Take your Kid to Work Day”, but in the process actually bond a little, becoming fonder of each other, despite the misgivings. They defeat the “evil” CEO, cutting the company short of some of its breeding profits, and save the day. The boss baby is transported back to Babyland and is heralded as a hero, and Tim’s parents get their memories wiped (Tim doesn’t), so he has them all to himself. However, when he keeps one of the baby’s toys as a memento, and the boss baby, while given a new office with a golden potty to boot, reminisces about the time where he and Tim played pirate together on the plane to save Tim’s parents. Eventually, Tim invites the boss baby to come back and live with them again, permanently this time, and the baby rejoices, runs to the sorting machine, fixes it so that he’s given to Tim’s family, and they happily re-accept him, naming him Theodore.

Years later, we see the two boys, now adults (Theo has yet to shed the business suit), and Tim’s daughter complains to her dad and uncle how she wanted a pony, not a little sister. Amused, Theo hands her several bills, and tells her to go and buy one. The girl looks through the hospital window at the newest member of her family, when the small, blonde pig-tailed girl in a mini business suit looks up and winks mischievously at her bewildered older sister.

What was done well:

  1. The dynamic between the two “sibs”. Kept playful and yet believable. I like.
  2. Undercover mission… with babies. Their team even has an artist, henchmen, and a muscle man baby. Call me impressed.
  3. Story was fairly interesting. I found that Tim’s scheme to expose b.b. was more interesting than b.b.’s actual mission, though. Really? A simple contest of cuteness?

What needed work:

Much of the story was confusing, and sometimes contradictory. For instance, Tim’s mom is shown visibly pregnant at the beginning, and not when the boss baby first arrives. When boss baby takes Tim on a tour of Babyland, and inquires where Tim used to think babies came from, Tim whispers in his ear presumably what most parents tell their kids when they talk about reproduction; the boss baby looks revolted at this, and shakes his head dismissively.

Another contradiction I found to be odd was the Youth Formula the babies were given, keeping them forever, well, babies. The issue with this is, then they will never mature, never learn language, etc. The babies who were first created in the administration would be as immature and as little learned as the newbies coming in.Very contradictory, and a bit confusing.

 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Cute, but needs to clean up the contradictory stuff first.

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Image Credit:

https://www.movieinsider.com/m12763/boss-baby

 

 

“Ugly” and the Beast: A Snek’s “Tail”

“Ugly” and the Beast: A Snek’s “Tail”

See what I did there???

Also, yes, I misspelled “snake,” on purpose. But don’t worry, I’ll get to that later.

Lately, I’ve been doing a good bit of reading. And not just popular reads, either (Six of Crows and Heartless have been tempting me yet again… This time, I may have to give in to the latter.). I’ve seen some pretty good stuff from the indie author side of the spectrum lately, too– from Halayda to my latest finished read, the novella by H.L. Burke, Coiled. 

WARNING! YOU ARE ABOUT TO, YET AGAIN, PASS THROUGH INTO SPOILER CITY. PROCEED NO FURTHER IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN UNSPOILED. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Overall, a good read. A fairly short, and somewhat predictable read, but a good one nonetheless. While it was advertised as a take on the mythological Eros’s and Psyche’s tale, it personally reminded me of more of… Beauty and the Beast. Only, this version was more like UGLY and the Beast.

But then, perhaps not. You see, the main character, a girl called Princess Laidra, is outright hideous in every single way imaginable, but has a beautiful, caring, moral heart. She has the gift to heal others physically, whether it be animal or person, but at the cost of further damaging her appearance; she often does so anyways, but has to hide when she heals, because her mother, who in actuality does not care about her whatsoever, forbids her from growing uglier. Laidra must wear a hooded cloak, and sometimes a veil, to hide her appearance in public. In stark contrast, her vain, arrogant and cruel twin, Princess Ellea, is immensely outwardly stunning, a pure model, but has the heart and sympathy of a freaking boulder. Yeah, you heard me. A. Boulder. A stone-cold one, at that (yep, feeling punny today, hehehe…).

Welp, right across the ocean so blue, we have our lovely neighboring kingdom with their own troublesome royal twins, Kalen and Volen, who are likewise under a twin-curse- thingy, via a demi-god’s wrath. If Kalen is looked upon, he turns into a huge, vicious serpent, and his mind instantly becomes bestial, inhuman. So naturally, not wanting to harm anyone, he lives out in a cave that interconnects to a special castle just for him, where he can be alone (but he is very lonely. Trust me on that.), save for his demi-goddess mother’s occasional visits (she visits him blindfolded). On the opposite end of the spectrum, Volen, who is more callous, cannot at all be left alone, lest HE be serpentine, as well. Their father obviously favors Volen for the throne, so, to break the curse on Volen but to seal Calen as a serpent forever, he plans to ally with previous said kingdom, marry Volen to Ellea, thus breaking both of their curses, and forcefully change Calen into a serpent and feed Laidra to him. But things go awry when Laidra ends up escaping, and she and Calen meet (it’s dark enough that she can’t see him, and thus his curse is not activated). What happens next through a series of events is epic, beautiful, and powerful. Here’s my take on the story:

What was done well:

  1. The character building. The characters were realistic and easy to empathize with, if somewhat predictable. I mean, you easily knew that the two sets of twins were going to end up with each other. Still, kudos for character growth. Especially for Laidra’s character growth. And I love Calen’s character! Very sensitive, strong guy, for all his weakness.
  2. The overall plot. Even if somewhat predictable, it was still enjoyable. I mean, for starters, it didn’t take me long to figure out that Calen was a gigantic serpent, and Laidra was supposedly going to be fed to a monstrosity (I mean, two and two, really…)… so… But the overall plot was good. I like the theme of looking past outward appearances to the heart and soul’s beauty– classic Beauty and the Beast stuff.
  3. How Laidra’s gift showed her true character and inner beauty. Each time she heals, she gets uglier. She continues to heal despite this, despite being unwanted and shunned due to her appearance, and her mother’s threats. That not only takes guts, but compassion and selflessness. She obviously thinks little of herself in this sense, and more of others, which I deeply admire.

Mixed Feels on:

  1. The whole “gods” vs God thing. While there are pagan gods, these are portrayed as the “lesser” gods at one point, and God is shown as the only One True Divine Being. However, this was not always shown to be the case, until the second half of the book, save for Laidra hoping for and hopefully praying to that God of love. This was a bit confusing, because I didn’t know which direction the author was really taking the story, with this idea– mythology, or GENUINE theology? If you’re going to blend the two, at least be careful in being theologically sound.
  2. Volen’s transformation. I thought it a cool and ironic idea… But it was confusingly executed. If he alone transforms when he’s ALONE, with no one watching, wouldn’t he turn back into a human upon his brother– and Laidra– seeing him, when he attacked them on the beach? It’s slightly contradictory, just slightly.

Things that needed work:

  1. I felt like things sometimes progressed a little bit quickly. Granted, not always the case, and I really appreciated how she spread out the days so Laidra and Calen got one-on-one quality time with each other, BUT something about most other things felt a little… rushed, every now and then. I don’t know why, maybe that’s just me. It wasn’t all the time though, and just occasionally.
  2. Slightly lacking in scenery description. Great at describing people, but then, I think that that’s what the story was about, that and love. But needs work in describing a *little* more of the scenery. Not too much more, but a little. Teleport us there!
  3. The disembodied voice of Calen’s invisible servant pal. Honestly, I want to know more. More, I tell you! I feel like we don’t know enough about him (?). Who is he? How did he end up working for Calen? Why is he invisible to begin with? Is he human or mythological?Sooooo many questions!

My rating: 3.5 stars. (Hey, like I said, I’m a tough rater, so this is actually pretty good.) Needs a bit of tweaking, but definitely LOADS of potential. Idea is very intriguing, but mostly needs to be made less obvious in some areas. Let the reader do some detective work, except when it comes to Mr. Disembodied Floating Voice. That, we need the beans spilled on!!

Oh, and P.S. ….. The author likes affectionately referring to them as, “sneks”. Because reasons. 😉

 

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Image Credit:

http://www.hlburkeblog.com/2016/12/

 

The Beastliness and the Beautiful

The Beastliness and the Beautiful

(Yeah, you knew. You knew I was going to watch it and review. Eventually.)

Sooooo…. Between all the majorly controversial hype about this movie, and the fact that I love Disney for going and making classic films into live actions, I finally decided to cave and rent the live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” from my local Family Video store.

*SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!*

I had mixed feelings about it, some serious misgivings, and some not as serious, while watching. I do want to say that some controversial things are more subtle than others, but, if you were told ahead of time it was there, you definitely would’ve been on the lookout for/noticed a few things. But, ALLLLLL that aside…

It was pretty good. Hate to give that to Mr. Condon, who is known to be a rabidly leftist agenda advocate, but controversial stuff aside, he did well. Here are some of those things:

  1. Belle’s mom. Disney is pretty notorious for leaving more than one official Disney princess either entirely orphaned (Snow White, Cinderella) or one-parent-less (Tiana, Ariel, Jasmine, Belle). I did like how they, as of late, are just now including more explanations of why that is. (It’s usually a mysterious, unexplained illness) I do wish they would get a little more creative, though, instead of just relying on illness. It’s a too easy thing to fall back on.
  2. The return to French roots. Loved, loved, loved this. It’s originally a French tale, so it only makes sense to include more French references, including more detail of the selfish, spoiled little Prince’s party at the beginning.B&B2
  3. The casting choices. I think they did fabulously on the casting choices, they really did. The CGI was also great, and THAT CASTLE!!! O.O My only problem was, as one of my former roommates and major B&B fan said, Emma didn’t portray Belle as kindly as she had been in the original movie. But, I like how she portrayed Belle’s intellect, her bravery. Belle is a TRUE Divergent!
  4. Ethnically diverse. I did not mind this in the least, and thought it a good edition to the movie.
  5. They changed the bookstore into a CHURCH. Yes, this is from the SAME director who wants to rush headlong into hotels that he’s staying in to rip out the pages of Bibles placed on bedside tables in each room, because they don’t condone homosexuality (God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? So far, Mr. Condon hasn’t been able to find ANY Bibles to rip pages out of!). The reasoning? Apparently, it doesn’t make much sense for a town that for some unknown reason hates reading (or at least, WOMEN reading) to have a bookstore in it. The clergyman in it is portrayed in a more positive light, surprisingly; he talks kindly to Belle as she borrows a book, but she kind of just brushes him off with a, “Thanks, bye,” kind of attitude, which did irritate me a bit… Said clergyman was also one of the few who looked genuinely bewildered and perplexed when Gaston wanted to rush in headlong and kill the Beast with all the villagers in tow, like he was reluctant to take any sort of violent action against someone he didn’t even know. For someone who hates Christianity and Christians as much as Condon does, that pleasantly surprised me, even if it was pretty brief.

Mixed feels about:

  1. LeFou. Good casting choice on one hand, but acting… subtly “sensual” towards Gaston… ehhhh, no thanks. Also, fun fact: The original character himself was NOT “gay,” as he was making ga-ga eyes over the Bimbettes, those three triplets who’re constantly fawning over Gaston (while in this movie, he meanly says to them, “Not a chance, ladies.”about their odds with Gaston). But, my small consolation in this is, that, if this version really is a so-called “gay” character, then it will perfectly suit his character, since his name is literally, “The fool” in French!
  2. The Story. I didn’t know what to make of it; there were TONS, and I mean TONS of alterations from the originals. Gaston did not set up an actual wedding; he played along with Maurice, then his temper gets the best of him, and he leaves the man out in the wilderness to die, and when Maurice confronts him, Gaston then claims the man’s lunacy; the enchantress disguises herself as a beggar townsperson in Belle’s town; the baker’s wife is evidently Mrs. Potts (in the original, he calls for his wife, Maria; in the live action, he confesses he seems to be missing something, but can’t recall what… or who); Beast and Belle use a magical book to travel to Paris to discover the truth behind Belle’s mother; Belle holds a deeper fascination about her mother; she actually does get to say good bye to Maurice in the live action and deceives him so she can take his place; Belle actually attempts to escape the castle more than once; lastly, the story returned to the original roots of Maurice’s trespass on the Beast’s property to stealing a rose (it wasn’t THE rose, don’t worry). Some I liked, some I felt iffy towards, like it was too… I don’t know… strained. I think the magical book thing was more of a fan thing, and a bit unnecessary to the major plot, as interesting as it was.

What I didn’t care for:

  1. The over-dramaticness, and politically correctness, of Madame Guard de Robe–Yes, she was a BIT dramatic in the original, but did not have that over-silliness, dress Belle strangely, or imply political correctness in the sense of cross-dressing/transgenderism. Mind, in the original, she DID attack ONE man by dressing him foolishly in women’s clothing, but it was to freak him out and scare him off, which worked marvelously– it was mere silliness. This has gone from silly to strange and bizarre: She dresses up three intimidating men, two of which running off screaming in horror, while the third gets a funny, delighted little grin on his mug, and prances off in his new outfit, while the human turned wardrobe shrilly sings out, “Be FREE!” A subtle, yet disturbing, message. I found it, at the very least, unnerving and very weird. I can hardly imagine WHAT Disney is going to be doing to their rendition of the live-action Mulan….audra_mcdonald_as_garderobe_in_beauty_and_the_beast_9kgc640
  2. The lack of Chip’s role. In the original, Chip had an important role to play– accidentally smuggled in by Belle, he helps Belle and Maurice escaped being locked up and sent to the loony bin via one of Maurice’s inventions. In this version, it’s Belle’s own individualistic spirit and wit that saves the day. Nope, no room for bumbling– or, in this case, humbling– sidekicks.
  3. And, of course, the pervasiveness of homosexuality. Even if you don’t really look for it, you’re sure to notice some things askew, and this kept me from truly enjoying the movie. Even though Gad himself said that Le Fou being “gay” wasn’t actually IN the script, that does not mean he couldn’t have been told to do certain things a certain way, or to ACT “gay.”

My rating: 3 out of 5. Sorry, Condon, but stick to your other films. Hands off Disney.

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Image Credits:

https://www.moviefone.com/movie/beauty-and-the-beast/20065886/trailers/

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/BeautyAndTheBeast2017

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-highs-and-lows-beauty-and-the-beast