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.

 

cameron post

 

Grade: A

“Waiting on Wednesday”: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Fan-made book cover
Fan-made book cover

Lady Midnight

Cassandra Clare

To Be Released March 2016

Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

I am beyond excited for Cassandra Clare’s new addition to her Shadowhunter World: her upcoming series, The Dark Artifices. Lady Midnight will be the first book in the series.

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It follows the life of seventeen-year-old Emma Carstairs, an orphaned shadowhunter, and her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn. She idolizes Jace Herondale and is a badass fighter. She aims to exact revenge upon whoever killed her parents, bringing comparisons to my mind to Arya Stark of Game of Thrones, another kick ass fantasy female character much loved by me.

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I’m super thrilled to read her story, especially since I can’t get enough of shadowhunters in general. It’s so exhilarating to have another girl to join the ranks of Clary Fray, Tessa Gray, and Isabelle Lightwood. I’m particularly elated for a main female character who seems to be a fierce warrior. I’m used to seeing that more from male characters like Jace and Will Herondale. Sure, Isabelle was tough, but I see her more as a femme fatale, than just a kickass fighter. I’m highly anticipating Emma’s badassery.

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I can’t wait to explore Emma and Julian’s relationship as parabatai of the opposite sex. It’s cute how Emma is going to be crushing on, and I’m always a sucker for forbidden romance (parabatai cannot be together romantically). More so, I’m ecstatic to get to read an opposite sex friendship that also involves them being fighting partners.

Julian’s family, the Blackthorns, are going to be so much fun to read! I love reading about big families. I’m so interested in their family dynamic and reading the interactions between all the many different kids: Helen, Mark, Julian, Livia, Tiberius, Drusilla, and Octavian. I’m also particularly fascinated by the faerie blood in their family as a result of their father, Andrew Blackthorn’s extra-marital affair with a faerie producing Helen and Mark. I find it interesting that he named all his kids after Greek and Latin historical. I’m falling in love with this Shadowhunter family already.

Something that is really exciting about this series is that it is set in Los Angeles, which is a far cry from the New York setting in the Mortal Instruments series. It also continues Cassandra Clare’s portrayal of different big cities in her books, such as London in The Infernal Devices. I think that Los Angeles is going to be a fresh, interesting setting.

Mark is a character that I am desperate to know more about. I need to find out what happens to him after the events of City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6). He’s the second child and oldest boy of the Blackthorns, and his character really intrigues me. I don’t want to give away any  events of CoHF, though. I suspect that he could also be a love interest for Emma, which I wouldn’t mind at all. Fingers crossed!

After reading about Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns last summer in CoHF, I’m dying to read more about this enchanting bunch. I was drawn to twelve-year-old Emma’s impetus and outspokenness in CoHF, so I’m highly anticipating more of that in Lady Midnight. 2016 can’t come fast enough!

If you’re interested in kick-ass heroines, large families, and forbidden love, look no further than Lady Midnight, coming out in March 2016!

Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

clockwork angelClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Published August 31, 2010 by Simon & Schuster

479 Pages

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them….

My Thoughts

The prequel to the thrilling Mortal Instruments Series comes The Infernal Devices. I would recommend reading The Infernal Devices after the third book in TMI, City of Glass, and before reading the fourth book in TMI, City of Fallen Angels, for optimum understanding and entertainment.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in this electric series, centered around a mysterious shapeshifter girl named Tessa Gray, who was tricked into going to London from America after her brother. Here, she stumbles and falls into the dark world of demons and witches and shadowhunters, the fierce race of angelic humans who fight demons. She ends up at the London Institute for Shadowhunters after painfully discovering her wondrous powers to shift into any person, as long as she has an item particular to them.

She meets the shadowhunter ‘family’ that live there: The small but mighty Charlotte Fairchild, the head of the Institute; her ditzy inventor husband Henry; the imperious and beautiful Jessamine Lovelace; the scarred and loyal pretty servant girl Sophie; the frail and dying yet delicately handsome Jem Carstairs; and the fiery, magnetic, passionate, bold, alluring Will Herondale.

Throughout the book, Tessa tries to figure out what exactly she is, while becoming aware of the growing attraction between her and the stormy Herondale. They both love literature and poetry, but it is clear that Will is twisted, racked with hidden inner pain. Tessa immerses herself in trying to figure this haunted boy out. Meanwhile, his parabatai (sworn fighting partner), Jem, is racked with actual physical pain, dying of a disease that destroys him from the inside out.

It is a powerfully urban fantasy novel, as Tessa steeps into the supernatural world hidden in the city of London. Yet, there is someone who wishes her nothing but harm, who desperately wants to get his hands on her for reasons the Shadowhunters do not know. He is the evil human Mortmain, who plots the downfall of all shadowhunters. Somehow, Tessa is the key to that downfall.

For lovers of the shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments, this book is a must read! Meet the ancestors of the characters you love, and find out how the shadowhunters were centuries ago.

5 stars

Kele

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium, #2)

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Title: Pandemonium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Published: February 28th, 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young-adult fiction, Romance novel, Utopian and Dystopian fiction

Read: July – August 2015

Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble

Where To Find It: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

My Thoughts

I read Delirium a couple years ago and really loved it. I picked up Pandemonium a while ago, started it, got bored of it, and dropped it. This summer, I decided to pick it up again and give it another shot.

What I Liked

Lena kicked ass! I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by her being a kick-ass heroine being able to fight for herself deftly. She used her brains adeptly as well with clever thinking to get herself out of tricky situations. She definitely developed a lot as a character, from being a naive product of her society to being fierce and independent.

I never thought I could see Lena with another guy after how cute she and Alex were together, but when Julian came into the picture, I really liked the idea of Lena getting together with him. I love star crossed lovers, and Lena + Julian was no exception. I loved how they started out as enemies, then grew to trust each other. I swooned when he shared things about himself and his childhood with her. I felt like their romance was really smooth and really rooted for them to fall for each other. I especially liked how Lena ended up saving him. They’re too cute together and I ship them so hard!

I found her dynamic with the leader of her “Wild” gang, Raven, to be pretty interesting. Raven is very hardened and fiercely independent, and she really influenced Lena to be “stronger”, yet they also brushed against each other the wrong way over their ideological differences over the revolution. I found that to be an intriguing relationship.

I lover Lauren Oliver’s writing style. Her descriptive language is impeccable and her at times poetic style is so beautiful. The narrative voice of Lena was pretty enthralling.

What I Didn’t Like

Lena’s attitude towards Julian at first. It was so unnecessarily rude and hostile to me. I didn’t get her animosity towards him. It kind of made me want to shake her a little and I found it really annoying.

Some parts of the book really dragged on and were quite uninteresting, particularly earlier on during the Then parts. It got better when the Then parts got shorter, though.

I sometimes didn’t like Raven because of how emotionless she seemed to be. I gradually got to understand why her character was so hardened though. She was a good leader, yet highly flawed. Her strength derived from stamping down feelings of care about others, which, although wise in their situation, I didn’t like.

The Twist

I did not see that coming. The revelation was really infuriating to me, yet somehow ingenious. It was actually a brilliant twist, no matter how maddening it was.

The Ending

Lauren Oliver really gave us readers the illusion of a happy ending. I felt so elated that Lena and Julian could be happy and free together. It was so intensely disrupted by the return of a very important person from Lena’s past, who she’d spent much of the book pining for. I’m kind of sad that Lena and Julian didn’t get much time together to be a blissful couple, but still ecstatic to read what happens next with Lena juggling two people she’s grown to care about dearly.

Favorite Quotes

“I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.”

“We have picked each other, and the rest of the world can go to hell.”

pandemonium quoe

Rating: 3.5/5

Film Review: The Words

the words

The Words

Released: September 7th, 2012 (USA)

Watched: August 21st, 2014

Genre: Mystery Romantic Drama

This movie, quite simply, enchanted me.

Everything about it was just so elegantly classically beautiful: the cinematography, the background music, the romance, the cast, the intriguing storytelling, and the mesmerizing story.

The Words reinforced to me why I want to be a writer so badly! The torrent of emotions that drive the out pour of words from your system, and the feelings that are evoked as you pour yourself into your writing. That’s what I love.

I was even more drawn into the story with the flawless orchestral music playing in the background, setting up the scenes and making watching them so dreamy. The actors wrought out the highs and lows of their characters’ lives so magnificently that the lines between fiction and reality were almost blurred for me. And is it just me, or were all the main characters ridiculously good-looking?! Watching their story was like witnessing art come to life. All three romances depicted were swoon-worthy – the struggling love-sick writer (Bradley Cooper) and his supportive adoring wife (Zoe Saldana), the dreaming idealistic young man (Ben Barnes) and his exotic tragic wife (Nora Arnezeder), and the brilliant enchanting older writer (Dennis Quaid) and his enchanted intelligent young fan (Olivia Wilde).

The ending was a mystery, and leaves the viewers to figure it out for themselves, according tot heir own interpretation. I feel like Olivia Wilde’s character was supposed to represent the viewer in her theory for how the writer’s story ended. I agree with her. It was a tale of morality, and how the writer had to pay the ultimate price for his lack of integrity in stealing another man’s work, words, and life.

A relishing 9/10 for me.

Note: Wasn’t Ben Barnes absolutely DELISH in this film?

Favorite Quotes: 

The Old Man: We all make choices. The hard thing is to live with them, and there ain’t nobody that can help you with that.

Clay Hammond: You have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch. They’re two very, very different things.

Movie Review: Belle

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Belle

Release Date: May 2nd, 2014 (USA)

Watched: August 28th, 2014

IMDB

This film was spellbinding to me from the start to the finish.

The background music was magnificent, the wardrobe was exquisite, the drama was deep and the moral message was endless.

I enjoyed it as a historical film, and it’s not a secret, that, as a black female, history has not been kind to people like myself, but the history depicted in this film pleasantly surprised me.

The beginning already stole my heart with Dido Belle’s father being so sweet, loving, and caring to her as he took her to his uncle’s house to live as she is entitled as the daughter of an aristocrat. Even though she was half-black, he staunchly told his uncle that she was his daughter and he was not ashamed to give her his name.

I got to watch what it was really like to be a ‘mulatto’ girl in the 18th century during the slave trade in colonial England, viewing it instead of just reading about it in a history book. Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha Raw) grew up with her pure white cousin, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon), who she shared a very special and lovely sisterly bond with, but had a very confusing place in society and in there household. When her father died, she was wealthy with a good family name, but being half-black hindered her.

The film tackled many social issues of the time, including the dependence of women like Elizabeth on ‘suitable’ suitors. I deeply admired Mr. Davinier fighting to make a change despite his class. The Zong case that rocked England and the slave trade was horrific and it was interesting looking at the legal, financial/economic, and moral aspects of the matter. The forbidden love between Dido and Mr. Davinier was simply beautiful. I was ecstatic when justice is served in the end, and when Dido was unequivocal in her love for Mr. Davinier and her loving acceptance of her bloodline

Straight 10/10 for me. All the performances by the actors were just sublime, and it was great watching Tom Felton act the asshole, James Ashford: his specialty.

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