Teaser Tuesday: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Six Of Crows was easily the best YA book I had ever read, and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is even topping it for me.

 

Teasers:

 

“There’s a wound in you, and the tables, the dice, the cards – they feel like medicine. They soothe you, put you right for a time. But they’re poison, Jesper. Every time you play, take another sip. You have to find some other way to heal that part of yourself. Stop treating your pain like it’s something you imagined. If you see the wound is real, then you can heal it.” – Inej

This hits so hard. How many of us fall into self-soothing behavioral patterns because we are trying to tranquilize our inner wounds that we can’t even face?

 

“I don’t hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges.” – Kaz

Classic Kaz!

 

“The thought felt like cool water cascading over the hot, shameful feeling of helplessness he’s been carrying with him for so long.” – Wylan

I felt this in my chest. Wylan deserves all the happiness in the world.

 

I am so emotionally invested in the core six – Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias, and Wylan – and even the newest “member” of the crew, Kuwei!

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Film Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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This film (an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Emily Danforth) was a bridge for me, into a world where I felt heard and seen. I had been yearning to see it for a while before I finally gained access to it. It was showing in only one theater in Boston, the historically indie Coolidge Corner theater. Going to that theater for the first time just to see this film felt like a pilgrimage. Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays the eponymous Cameron Post, has been an admirable force of nature for me since she delighted me in Kick-Ass. I have watched so much of her filmography since then, but no role has spoken to me as much as her character Cameron did.

 

Cameron Post is sent to a gay conversion camp for being caught having sex with a girl. Her discomfort in that space is palpable. Chloe Moretz is adept at using microexpressions to instill real feelings of awkwardness in the viewer. The camera, up close and personal, captures all of her wariness all over her face. The camp is honestly not too different from a glorified boarding school in high school, and the need to keep the kids under close watch was all too real for me. I could relate to the quiet chafing away at the kids’ souls.

 

So it was endlessly lovely to watch Cameron discover two kindred spirits in her new friends: Jane Fonda (a rosy Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (the intriguing Forrest Goodluck). My favorite part of The Miseducation of Cameron Post is the platonic intimacy it dwelled upon. In a world where parents would be so cruel to their kids, and love interests would throw their lovers under the bus to save themselves, her friends are patiently supportive, softly soothing, and provide much-needed levity and warmth.

 

An essential part of the film is the musical score. It swooped and dove along with the temp of the film, and reached a crescendo at the climactic turning point. I haven’t heard such a magnificent score for a film in a long time. The strings, in particular, were phenomenal. Along with the music, the tight shots gave the audience a sense of the claustrophobia of the camp for Cameron, combined with wide shots of Cameron’s secret hangout spots with her friends to signify a space where she could breathe. The golden lighting indoors was also a nice touch.

 

Some  critics of the film argue that the film is permissive of the evils of gay conversion camps. I disagree. Although the two heads of the camp, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr) may have been portrayed “sympathetically”, the horrors of the camp are still felt. This is no cheery summer camp, even under the guise of karaoke nights and field trips. This film does not shy away from pointing out the lasting effects of emotional abuse on LGBTQ youth, or the kind of pain that is inflicted when they are taught to condemn the very essence of themselves. Cameron herself questions this at an important turning point in the film.

 

Cameron’s growth throughout the film places it firmly as a coming-of-age masterpiece. She starts out tightly wound shut, unwilling and unable to unveil her true feelings and beliefs. By the end of the film, she is open and unafraid, seizing her life into her own hands. She moves away from withdrawing from the program internally, to proactively deciding she deserves better. The final shot of the film is seared into my brain. Cameron’s friends are looking up, hopeful, dreamy, content, while Cameron is leaning on them, her expression one of resolution instead of abject discomfort. She has grown up.

 

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Grade: A

Fashion Inspiration of 2017

  1. Sam White – Dear White People

Image result for sam dear white people styleHer statement about pink dicks looking weird afterwards is a bit more subjective.Image result for sam dear white people clothesImage result for sam dear white people clothesImage result for sam dear white people fashionImage result for sam dear white people fashion

hermione granger

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petite

edgy

lioness

winxie

preppy

embellishments

 

2. Maddie Whittier – Everything, Everything

 

Image result for amandla everything everything

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primary colors

solid color scheme

simple

blue, white, yellow, green

 

3. Courtney Crimsen – 13 Reasons Why

Image result for courtney 13 reasons whyImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyRelated imageImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyRelated imageRelated imageImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyImage result for courtney 13 reasons whyImage result for courtney 13 reasons why

Image result for jessica davis 13 reasons why style

preppy

blazers

corporate chic

collars

jewels

embellishments

lines

ties

 

4. Girls – Before I Fall

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cool

layers

trendy

 

5. Sansa Stark – Game of Thrones (Seasons 6 – Season 7)

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Image result for sansa stark season 7

regal

queenly

wintery

stark

northern

 

6. Francesca – Master of None

Image result for francesca master of none

Image result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of noneImage result for francesca master of none

purses

chic

coat

classy

classic

 

7. Coco – Dear White People

Image result for coco dear white people

Image result for coco dear white people

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boss lady

future CEO

put together

 

8. Lula May – Now You See Me 2

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swirly

fur

dangerous

fishnets

leather

 

9. Holly March – The Nice Guys

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kiddish

sweet

cute

 

10. Mia – La La Land

Image result for mia la la landImage result for mia la la landImage result for mia la la landImage result for mia la la landImage result for mia la la landImage result for mia la la land

bold

solid

primary colors

ladylike

swishy

 

11. Jessica Davis – 13 Reasons Why

Image result for jessica davis 13 reasons why style

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collars

trendy

A-line skirts

stripes

 

12. Kelly – San Junipero

Image result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san juniperoImage result for kelly san junipero

jackets

hanging

edgy

embellishments

leather

rocker chic

 

13. Iris West – The Flash

Image result for iris westImage result for iris westImage result for iris westImage result for iris westRelated imageRelated imageImage result for iris westImage result for iris westImage result for iris westImage result for iris west

coiffured

fitted

graceful

elegant

 

14. Kat – The Bold Type

Image result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold typeImage result for the bold type

business casual

mix-and-match

experimental

eclectic

 

15. Rachel Menken – Mad Men

Image result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel menImage result for rachel men

boss lady

classy

polished

solid colors

bold

pearls

 

16. Molly – Insecure

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business chic

impeccable

suits

immaculate

 

17. Marzia – Call Me By Your Name

Image result for marzia call me by your nameImage result for marzia call me by your name

primary colors

stripes

bright

patterns

summery ease

 

18. Mia – Black Mirror’s Crocodile

Image result for crocodile black mirrorImage result for crocodile black mirrorImage result for crocodile black mirror

teeny-tiny-pixie

chic

sleek

 

19.  Angela Moss – Mr Robot (Seasons 2 & 3)

Image result for angela mr robot season 2Image result for angela mr robot season 2Image result for angela mr robot season 2Related imageImage result for angela mr robot season 2Image result for angela mr robot season 2Image result for angela mr robot season 2 outfitsRelated imageImage result for angela mr robot season 2 outfitsImage result for angela mr robot season 3Image result for angela mr robot season 3Image result for angela mr robot season 3Image result for angela mr robot season 3

clean

polished

pristine

blazers

blouses

minimalist

black and white (and a little light blue)

sleek

slicked back

 

20. Lorraine Broughton – Atomic Blonde

Image result for atomic blondeImage result for atomic blondeImage result for atomic blondeImage result for atomic blondeImage result for atomic blonde styleImage result for atomic blonde style

coats

sunglasses

chic

heeled boots

femme fatale

 

 

Ember in the Ashes Review: Searing Political Fantasy

 

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An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir

Published April 28th, 2015 by Razorbill, and imprint of Penguin Random House

446 Pages

Read February 19th – 25th, 2018

 

Ember in the Ashes has been at the top of my to-read list for YA series, so I was thrilled to impulsively snag it at my local bookstore. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a wild ride! The action erupted in the beginning and it. Did. No. Let. Up. The double love triangle (or love square, as people have taken to calling it), was really complex, and Ms Sabaa Tahir did a masterful job of keeping me wondering who matched up better with who. Also, I found the character development really satisfying, with real growth in mind and soul in characters.

CHARACTERS

Laia

Laia started off really passive, without having much conviction for any cause (outside of saving her brother). She accepted what fed to her (by the Resistance) and was too trusting, naïve, gullible. She fell into the Black-And-White thinking of Resistance = Good and Mask = Bad, without critically thinking of underlying motives people might have. The only thing propelling her forward was her need to save her brother, without putting much thought into the greater ideals her brother was fighting for. I was so gratified when, by the end of the book, she wizened up to the Resistance’s corruption – fighting against the “Establishment” – realized the “bigger picture” (such as freeing someone like Izzi, which righted an injustice bigger than herself or her brother, and became an active player, saving herself and thinking for herself.

Elias

Elias’s soul was always in the right place. He simply needed the courage and the fortitude to follow through on his convictions and stand up to the “Establishment” that was the Blackliff Industrial Complex. He knew he wanted to be better than what they wanted to manufacture him into at Blackliff Academy. He could never be a mindless robot in their Machine. Yet, he felt trapped in the “System”. What I loved about his story is that he only became “free” when he took a stand for what he knew was Right. In the end, he did not follow along with other people’s interests, as he had been doing throughout the novel. He became bold in what he believed in. His soul became unshackled, and his body became so, too. Most importantly, he was <u>honest</u> about how he truly felt. That took Bravery.

Helene

Helene was my favorite! She deserves to be a POV character, especially after all that she went through – so I am so glad that I get to read her POV in “Torch Against the Night”! What I loved about Helene was how steadfast she was in what she believed in, and how unwavering she was in her faith in what she was doing. Although she subscribed to Martial ideals, I found it really admirable how she focused on her goals, and how driven and tenacious she was in “going for gold”. She knew what she wanted, and she kept her eye on the prize. She did not let anyone underestimate her, and she possessed a keen sense of self. Her character is inspirational. The best part is, she is capable of strategic thinking for the Greater Good. She truly wants what is best for her people and the Empire, and she was selfless in her pursuit of that. I’m glad that she wasn’t brainwashed by Blackliff in the end, and even though she had been a stringent rule follower the whole book, she broke the rules to aid Elias in Doing the Right Thing.

RELATIONSHIPS

The love square was intense! I shipped ALL of them! I genuinely had no clue who was “meant to be” and who wasn’t. Usually, it’s a little obvious who the “destined” couple are, but Sabaa Tahir pleasantly surprised me by making it more complicated – and messy! – than usual.

Laia and Keenan had that whole cute “can she melt his cold exterior” thing going on, which is always adorable. His hard edges started softening more and more around her, which was adorable.

Elias and Laia had that “insta-love”, “forbidden love”, and “opposing sides” thing happening, and it is always heartwarming to see characters that are trained to distance themselves from each other be ineffably drawn to each other, and discover their similar ideals through all the haze of exterior forces designed to keep them apart.

Helene and Elias made me so emotional! I usually am not all that into the whole “friends to lovers” thing, but they flipped that on its head! I adored their simultaneous realizations that they were Everything to each other, their need to be there for each other, and how they were such an equal match. Helene was “The Brain” and Elias was “The Heart”. The will-they-won’t-they feeling in the air had me swooning. Plus, I’m so into the whole fight-each other-but-really-love-each other thing. The fact that Helene is physically matched with Elias makes me so happy. I love when they have each other’s backs, but also adore the scene where they were sparring. That was beautiful.

My heart breaks for Helene! But Elias didn’t want to let her go in the end.  A true Tragedy.

BOOKENDS

I liked how the framing of the book showed the ending as a fulfillment of what the characters had been lacking in the beginning. Elias finally achieved the freedom he had sought for, while Laia finally had the courage to save herself – and her brother – on her own terms.

THEMES

The major themes I discovered were: overcoming fear, freedom, the soul, and the Spirit.

HISTORY/CULTURE

I found it cool how Sabaa Tahir modeled the culture of the Martials after the Ancient Romans, while modeling the culture of the Scholars after Ancient Arabs. She certainly did her research – it felt very “real”. I suspect that the Tribesmen were modeled after North African nomads, and I expect to learn more about them in “Torch Against the Night” (as well as the Mariners).

WORLD BUILDING

I’m so, so happy that the “intellectual” group, the Scholars, are the heroes and the protagonists in this series, and not the antagonists (like the Erudite in “Divergent”) nor the sidekicks (like the Ravenclaws in “Harry Potter”). Meanwhile, the “brawny” group, the Martials, are antagonistic, instead 0f heroic, for once, in contrast to the Dauntless and the Gryffindors. I appreciate that.

FAVE QUOTES

“There are two kinds of guilt, girl: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.” – Spiro Teluman

“Laia is the wild dance of a Tribal campfire, while Helene is the cold blue of an alchemist’s flame.” – Elias Veturius

“Even still, there is an animal freedom to how he moves, a controlled chaos that makes the air around him blaze. So different from Keenan, with his restrained solemnity and cool interest.” – Laia

“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. your heart.” – Spiro Teluman

“That’s who Helene is: Her faith is steadfast. Her loyalty. Her strength. They always underestimate me. I’d underestimated her more than anyone.” – Elias Veturius

RATING

5/5

CONCLUSION

Ember in the Ashes delighted, shocked, and moved me. I’m rushing into “Torch Against the Night”!

Call Me By Your Name Review: Gorgeous Summer Sensuality in the Depths of Winter

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I still can’t place my finger on when exactly I first heard about “Call Me By Your Name.” There has been buzz surrounding it for nearly a year since its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. All I knew about it was that it was set in Northern Italy and was about two young men who fall in love. What really drew me to it was the lush cinematography of the early promotional clips. My mind was set—I had to watch it as soon as I was able.

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This summer, the “Call Me By Your Name” hype grew and I was bursting at the seams to watch it. Reviewers were describing it as “tantalizing” and “sensual” and “summery.” It promised to be a visual feast with a beguiling love story. It also promised to be raw and heart-wrenching. The wait was excruciating.

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Finally, the time I had basically been waiting for all year arrived. It was November, I was in London and “Call Me By Your Name” had just come out in the UK a couple of weeks before. I was ecstatic. I got tickets to see it at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, a member of a arthouse cinema chain. The environment was relaxed and perfect—cushy seats, chill ambience and a packed theater full of other eager moviegoers.

lush

It’s hard to put into words how much I adored “Call Me By Your Name.” It’s genteel, refined and intellectually stimulating.

verdant

The cinematography really sold the summer languor of the film, focusing on luscious, verdant pastoral views and casting the characters in an incandescent light. Every scene during the day was aglow with golden natural light, and the mood was somnolent. The night scenes were humming with barely contained energy, softly lit with hallowed coloring. The setting—a small town in Northern Italy in the 1980s—was picture perfect.

light

It is set at the home of the Perlmans. The son, Elio Perlman, is home for the summer when he meets Oliver, an American PhD student who is studying the Classics with Elio’s father and residing with the Perlmans for the summer. And so ensues the pas de deux, a clandestine dance between the two love interests as they skirt around their feelings for each other. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) possesses an almost bird-like fragility, prone to sudden spurts of energy and flightiness. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is larger than life, filling up every room enters with his presence.

town

Elio is the definition of precocious. He transcribes classical music, performs renditions of classics on the piano and reads and reads and reads. He is graced with intellectual precision. To him, at first, the burly American is uncouth and brusque. They are stark opposites, yet their chemistry is electric. Chalamet’s acting as the lovelorn Elio is magnificent. The sharp interest in his gaze when watching Oliver is palpable.

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This is a film that forces you to feel every single emotion displayed on screen. It holds your feelings hostage. And so, as it seeped with romance, I could feel my own heart spilling over. I felt the dizziness and the grandeur of that summer love. The scenes between Elio and Oliver as they discovered the depths of their feelings for each other had the wispy air of a dream. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll be squealing internally. The sexual chemistry burns fiery hot and their mutual desire is as succulent as the fruits that thematically pop up throughout the film.

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Yet, with the highs come the lows, and Oliver must return to America at the end of the summer. This was the emotional weight of the film, and it wrung my heart out. Chalamet portrays a young man losing his emotional center with a sincerity that is absolutely heartbreaking. Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a truly sagacious monologue to Elio towards the end of the film that touches the soul and which I believe truly encapsulates the weight of first love.

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There were points in the film when I just wanted to bottle up the feelings I had in response to the imagery and keep them close to me forever. The music only heightened those feelings; the soundtrack was blessed with three songs from Sufjan Stevens (my personal favorite being the lugubrious Visions of Gideon), an artist that is able to transmit delicate love in his craft. The final scene was the most poignant and deeply moving of the entire film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it will hit you in waves of emotion that you may have even forgotten how to feel.

elio crying

If you love visually, intellectually and emotionally stimulating films, you will find all that and more in “Call Me By Your Name.”

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Side Note: How they make the simple act of biking look so spellbinding?

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10/10 Stars

Sansa Stark – A Lady´s Armor is her Courtesy

A short narrative piece inspired by modern day re-imaginings of favorite fictional characters. 

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Sansa liked to look like a lady. Prim and proper, not a hair out of place. What was a woman if not for her looks?

 

After all, what’s outside reflects what is inside, and if she looked pristine and polished on the surface, she would feel gracious and courteous.

 

She reminded herself to hold herself with the utmost propriety every day, and the world would smile upon her. People would be pleasant to her and she would be admired. She didn’t know any other way.

 

Strolling out of the coffee shop, she glanced at herself in the window to check she still looked her best. She did. Her eyes were bright with unfettered dreams, and she knew it was going to be a good day.

 

People looked at her appraisingly as she passed them on the sidewalk walking back to her apartment in the city. She smiled winsomely whenever she caught someone’s eye, determined to be as charming as possible.

 

As she walked past a storefront, the door opened and, before she could move out of the way, she was slammed into by a large figure. She fell to the ground like a paperweight. She looked up in astonishment to find a hard face glowering at her.

 

“Look where you’re going!” The man boomed gruffly. “You’ve got your head in the clouds or something?”

 

She blinked. Why was he yelling at her? She had done nothing wrong! She didn’t deserve to be spoken to like this, with such animosity.

 

She quivered, “I didn’t mean any harm. I’m very sorry, sir.” Her voice sounded tremulous even to her own ears.

 

He huffed, “Next time, watch it, princess,” and stepped cavalierly around her to continue on his jaunty way.

 

Left sprawled on the ground, Sansa looked around her. People gawked at her, but when they saw her looking their way, they shifted their eyes away and continued walking, evading what had just happened. She was stunned. Wouldn’t anyone help her up? Did no one care? No one even stood up for her to the malicious man.

 

Slowly, Sansa rose, and continued walking home, but this time, she wasn’t smiling. Her face hardened into an icy glare the next time she caught someone looking at her. The world didn’t deserve her niceties and politesse. With an air of nonchalance, she walked up the steps to her apartment door and shut out her dreams of a noble world.

Teaser Tuesday: Game of Thrones

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I received the first two books of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George RR Martin last Christmas as a present from one of my best friends.

This summer, I have begun to read A Game of Thrones and it is absolutely delightful. Reading what I had already watched onscreen, this time with vivid descriptions and a window into the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings, is so enthralling.

I’m so thrilled, so far, by reading the motivations of characters like Arya, Tyrion, Jon, Sansa, and Daenerys.

Here are a few teasers:

“Sansa had the grace to blush. She blushed prettily. She did everything prettily, Arya thought with dull resentment.”

“‘You Starks are hard to kill,’ Jon agreed.”

“He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.”

“Sansa was dressed beautifully that day, in a green gown that brought the auburn of her hair, and she knew that they were looking at her and smiling.”

“‘By my lights, it was you who started this,’ Lord Tywin replied. ‘You brother Jaime would never have submitted to capture at the hands of a woman.’

‘That’s one way we differ, Jaime and I. He’s taller as well, you may have noticed.'”

The characters are so complex and I’ve been loving reading how it all began!