Blog Update

Hey everyone (haha everyone),

So, I’ve basically been MIA since my last blog post on Empire of Storms (read it here), and I’m sorry. This hasn’t been intentional, but life’s been busy (isn’t it always) and I let it get on top of me. Unfortunately, I’m completing my honours in history so this year’s not gonna be much better.

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Credit: https://www.tenor.co/view/guilty-ericforman-that70sshow-gif-5332532

 

So I’m gonna alter my blog slightly. I am going to keep doing some reviews,but mainly of movies cause I’m not going to be able to do much reading for fun. Instead, I think I’m going to publish more random things on my blogs. Randoms thoughts. Random pictures. And to be honest random things on my honours topic (which is the legend around the Romanov Grand Duchesses).

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Credit: http://bavatuesdays.com/the-peoples-open-education-jam-or-say-it-with-a-gif/

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post more regularly, but we’ll see.

Talk soon,

Beatrix

 

 

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Empire of Storms

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Photo Credit: https://yabookreviewsandblogs.com/tag/empire-of-storms/

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Empire of Storms is the penultimate book in Sarah J Maas Throne of Glass series, and it is a masterpiece that not only lives up to but also exceeds the standards created by the previous books. Maas somehow ups the ante in everything that has been happening, which has created a highly addictive, rollercoaster of a book. It’s unpredictable, but not in a way that’s off putting. Somehow, it all makes sense and everything ties in together.

I would say my favourite thing about this book is probably the character developments and dynamics. Aelin continues to grow and develop as a major power player, who somehow delights in tormenting her companions by only letting them know about her plans at the last minute, but also has them and their safety at the heart of her plans. She is simultaneously shown as being incredibly independent to the point of frustration for Rowan and Aedion, but she is so dependent on both of them that she does certain things purely to protect them. However, despite her apparently becoming all-seeing to a certain extent in terms of her planning, and then having contingency plans to back up all of the other plans, the events at the conclusion of the novel show that she isn’t all-seeing and makes her seem a little more human, because I must admit throughout Queen of Shadows and the start of Empire of Storms, I found that Aelin’s planning skills were starting to border on being a little unbelievable and unrelateable.

Character developments within this book aren’t just limited to Aelin. I would say that Dorian and Manon seem to have changed the most throughout Empire of Storms. Readers see completely different sides to both of them that haven’t been seen before. In Manon we see a softness that causes a major plot twist that I wasn’t really expecting to happen when it did. I think I was expecting it to happen at some point in time, but Maas made it shocking. In Dorian however, there is an edge that definitely wasn’t there before, and I really enjoyed reading this. Considering what he has been through, particularly in Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, I loved that we saw that it affected him because I feel like sometimes author’s aren’t always good at showing how events can shape characters, and it was amazing the way Maas handled what happened to Dorian to keep him as the character we know and love, but also show that he has changed, as anyone would have if they had been through what he went through. I am also a huge fan of what Maas did with Manon and Dorian, which once again wasn’t completely unexpected, but it felt like a really natural progression and result of their growth as characters.

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Back Cover Artwork. Photo Credit: http://worldofsarahjmaas.com/post/147394712079/the-stunning-back-cover-art-for-empire-of-storms

In terms of continuity with the rest of the series this keeps everything going and adds on without feeling forced. I found that I was reminded of certain things that appeared in Throne of Glass or the prequel novellas that I had kind of forgotten about. A lot of depth has also been added to previous events and choices made by Aelin that I had barely noticed first time round, like the fact she dyed her hair red and fought under the name Ansel of Briarcliff at the beginning of Queen of Shadows. I won’t say why this is important, but this seemingly inane fact played a big part in one of the major twists at the end of Empire of Storms. This also ties in with what Maas tends to do with Aelin’s plans and the reveal of them. As I said previously Aelin takes great delight in revealing her plans to her companions whenever she pleases and, as a reader, I can never pick what’s going to happen either. Maas keeps it as a surprise for the readers by not really mentioning anything about it at all, and it gets revealed to there readers when Aelin explains to the rest of her court how she did it. All of a sudden little throw away lines of text that I tended to note but then disregard make sense. The initial reveal is always a shock, but then as it gets explained and I think back to the part being discussed I would literally have an ‘aha’ moment and honestly, I think this technique is amazing. I’ve gotten used to sometimes being able to guess plot reveals and twists in other books so I love that this keeps it fresh. The only thing I ever knew for sure in Empire of Storms was that Aelin would always have something up her sleeve and some plan going. This in turn made the ending even more shocking as I was not expecting it at all.

Though I don’t want to give too much away, this ending also made Maeve, the Fae Queen into a much bigger player in the next book than I thought she was going to be. Whilst with everything I knew from the previous books it was obvious that she was going o have some role in Aelin’s quest to get the wyrdkeys and the lock needed to get rid of them, I always thought she would be a lesser player in comparison to Erawan, but now, I really don’t know which one is going to turn out to be the worst out of the two. Plot wise this is great, because it raises the stakes even more than they were already raised in this book with its reveal about wyrdkeys and what Aelin needs to do to end it all. It also sets up the next book to be an absolute mammoth of a book, which to be honest I didn’t think was completely possible with the size of Empire of Storms, and I cannot wait. Even though it will be bittersweet because obviously it will be the conclusion of this series, I am honestly so excited for it.

4.75 out 5

Till next time,

Beatrix

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Photo credit: Google Images

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a book and a movie retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with zombies added to it. I read the book a few years ago, but haven’t read it since because honestly, the addition of the zombies was a little odd. Even so, I decided to try the recent movie version because I was intensely curious about how it was going to translate from the pages onto the screen, and also how it compared to other movies, namely the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFayden and Donald Sutherland purely because it’s the version I’ve watched the most.

I really enjoyed some of the aspects of this movie. Visually, it is amazing. The costumes and detailing was meticulous and beautiful. The outdoor scenery was gorgeous, but had dark lighting because the sky appears almost perpetually stormy and grey. In saying that, some scenes were of almost stereotypical English countryside with bright sunshine, which was jarring when zombies appeared because, the make up and effects on the zombies made them appear extremely realistic, and completely out of place.

Character wise, it was very interesting. Matt Smith’s Parson Collins was hilarious, silly and light hearted. This works well against the deadpan humour throughout the movie, though there are other scenes that were just as amusing. One of these was the proposal scene between Elizabeth (Lily James) and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley). This Mr Darcy is more open and emotional than the 2005 Mr Darcy (Matthew MacFayden), which was nice. This helped to lead to the full-blown brawl between the two that included Elizabeth brandishing a fire poker. Other moments of levity included Lena Headey playing the formidable Lady Catherine with an eye patch. However, I kept expecting it to turn into a complete horror movie at any moment, so I spent much of my time watching and waiting for the penny to drop.

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Gif credit: https://exitpursuedbyabear.net/diary/and-zombies

Though I enjoyed it, there are some points of this movie that I had a problem with. The movie deviates from the book in several ways. I won’t say whom, but in the book there is a character that has been infected by a zombie, but in the movie it is a completely different character. This allows, and causes, different events to happen and different characters to meet whom have never met in any previous versions of Pride and Prejudice. These all lead to a different ending in the movie than what is in the book. This is good in one way because it allows everyone to be surprised, but at the same time, it could be off putting for people who love the book the way it is.

Another point is that the movie doesn’t explain very well where exactly the zombies are. They are clearly in the vicinity of London, but there is a wall surrounding London and there is something called the Royal Canal. It seems that the zombies are trapped in an area called the in between, which made me assume that another wall had been built and zombies hadn’t spread throughout England. But, and it’s a big but, the way the characters talk about the zombies and an introduction at the beginning that explains how the zombies came to exist, make it appear that the zombies are all over England. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to this bit, but I got quite confused and kept wondering about it, which obviously then worked to make me not pay proper attention to the movie. Also, a strain about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are said to be harbingers of the Last Judgment, was added which I don’t remember from the book at all, and this strain never seems to be properly resolved by the end.

I’m going to finish on an ambiguous note, and that is the zombies. The make up and special effects are on point, and the zombies look incredibly believable. This is clearly good, but its not good if you’re a little scared of zombies like I am. It’s so unnerving how realistic and believable they look, that I was watching this a ten in the morning and still felt like I had to periodically look out of the window to check there wasn’t any of the zombies in our back yard. I do not recommend watching this at night if you’re prone to being scared of zombies unless you have someone who is willing to let you hide in their shoulder.

Though entertaining, this movie won’t be winning any awards and is something that I probably won’t watch all that often, mainly due to the zombies.

3 stars out of 5.

Alice Through The Looking Glass

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So I finally got around the seeing Alice Through the Looking Glass, which I have been looking forward to seeing ever since it was announced. Not having read the book, I was very curious about where they were going to take it and I was worried that it would bomb out like many a sequel has done, but it was really good and I wasn’t disappointed by it at all.

In typical Tim Burton style, it is a visual feast of fantastical colours, characters and settings. All characters and settings have their own clearly defined look that, particularly in regards to the characters, is easily recognisable from Alice in Wonderland Alice, (Mia Wasikowska) is really the only character who has major costume changes both in the movie and from the previous movie. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) also experiences changes, but it is in his colouring rather than his costuming. Alice Through the Looking Glass centres on the Mad Hatter being sick due to missing his family, and throughout the movie he is slowly leeched of colour as he becomes more weak and, arguably, deranged. He is still clearly the same character and the changing colour works, but I felt that the make up that made his look so iconic in the first film didn’t have the same feel in this one. Whilst it was never normal, it felt somewhat authentic in the first movie, but it didn’t this time, which often worked to pull me out of the film because it distracted to me.

The character of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) is depicted as the main antagonist in the trailer. He is both the keeper of and connected to the Grand Clock, which controls the past, present and future of Underland. Both the Clock and Time are run by the chronosphere, which Alice has to steal to travel back in time to save the Hatter’s family and thus save the Hatter. Time chases her because of dire consequences that are caused by someone taking the chronosphere. I think his actions and the reasoning behind them, wanting to save Underland, make Time more of an anti-hero rather than an antagonist. However, in saying that, he does do things, such as making the Hatter, the Doormouse and the March Hare stuck at one minute to teatime, that make him an antagonist, so maybe he’s just an interesting mixture of both.

Through rampant time travel, the audience sees Mirana, the White Queen, and Iracebeth, the Red Queen, as children. This helps to develop and deepen both characters. An accident that occurred in childhood explains Iracebeth’s large head and some of her actions, while the fact that Mirana unintentionally cause the accident gives her flaws and makes her a realer character. It doesn’t explain all of Iracebeth’s actions but does explain some of her motives.

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Interestingly, despite the time travel and the interwoven viewing of younger and older versions of the same character, I felt that Alice Through the Looking Glass flowed much better than what Alice in Wonderland did. There was less repetition than was seen in Alice in Wonderland through the constant question of whether Alice was the ‘real’ Alice, and the pacing felt better. I think this was in part due to the fact that Alice goes back to the real world part way through the movie. This allows a certain parallel to exist between the worlds, that is Alice dealing with or doing something that was thought the be impossible, and allows her to grow as a character because the audience is able to see differing consequences for her growth at different parts of the movie.

I also found the ending to be much more enjoyable too. Mrs. Kingsleigh, Alice’s mother (Lindsay Duncan), became much more outwardly supportive of her daughter, which in turn causes her to make a decision at the end that goes against what society expected, which I think shows the influence Alice had on her because up until that point she appeared very concerned with what society’s expectations were.

Much like with the Alice in Wonderland the ending is advocating for people to follow their own path regardless of what society says, which I think is something that needs to be shown much more often than it usually is.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Lady Midnight

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In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other — but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, one in a long line of Shadowhunters tasked with protecting the world from demons. With her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of an secret Los Angeles where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries start turning up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were murdered years ago, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge — and Julian’s chance to get back his half-faerie brother, Mark, who was kidnapped five years ago. All Emma, Mark and Julian have to do  is solve the murders within two weeks . . . before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. As she uncovers the past, she begins to peel away the secrets of the present: What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents — and can she bear to know the truth?

Lady Midnight is the first book in a new series by Cassandra Clare that is set in the Shadowhunter world. The new trilogy, The Dark Artifices (TDA), is connected to and set in the same universe as the pervious two series by Clare, The Mortal Instruments (TMI) and The Infernal Devices (TID), and the numerous spin-off novellas. It centers on two parabatai, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorne, Shadowhunters in the Los Angeles institute and their investigation into the murders of several mundanes (humans not connected with the Shadow world and without the sight) and several half-breed Downworlders (Downworlders are creatures that are in the Shadow world, but aren’t Shadowhunters). Not all is as it seems, and Emma and Julian’s investigation leads them to unearth many new things.

Whilst this book obviously has parts and information that will be familiar to anyone who has read TMI or TID in particular, it was still fresh this was caused the many characters. Emma is a good example. She initially reminded me of Jace from TMI. She seemed a little arrogant and prone to making sarcastic one-liners. However, she had an innate softness to her that Jace rarely seemed to display, though admittedly this could be because she is a point-of-view character from the start while Jace wasn’t. Her recklessness and the reasons behind it, her parents murders, were similar to both Jace’s and Will Herondale’s (TID) but they were more of a vulnerability than the reasons behind either Will or Jace’s recklessness.

Julian, the male protagonist, is very different from both Jace and Will. He is mature and serious, though he still has lightness in him that sometimes comes out. This is almost entirely because of the responsibility he had to shoulder at the end of TMI. Due to certain events, at 12 years old he was forced to become the parent to his younger siblings, twins Ty and Livvy, Dru and the baby of the family Tavvy, after his older sister Helen is exiled and his older brother Mark is taken by faeries. In saying this I also think he had a serious personality to begin. The family dynamics caused by the situation as well as the personalities of all the Blackthorne siblings is a key component in this book and in separating it from TMI and TID.

In terms of this being a part of a wider concept, I think a richness was added to the story. Clare was able to focus on the plot and the characters, without having to be telling readers every little thing about the Shadowhunter world because she could kind of rely on knowing that a lot of her audience probably would have read TMI and TID, though she references any major points or facts relevant to Lady Midnight. This connection also allowed events from the end of TMI to be seen from a different angle, and also allowed several characters from both TMI and TID to appear in this story. However, this connection wasn’t always a good thing. Sometimes something would be mentioned, but wouldn’t be explained and because I haven’t read TMI and TID in a while, it would take me a second to place it, which kind of took me out of the story for a minute.

SPOILER ALERT, Emma and Julian fall in love in Lady Midnight despite parabatai falling in love being expressly forbidden. I love them as a couple, but I don’t particularly like the their love was dealt with. Although I knew it was coming, to me there wasn’t as much preamble as I have come to expect from Clare. I liked this because it is different from the normal build up in a lot of YA books, but it did throw me a little.

I was also thrown by the actions of the Clave in the intervening years between the end of TMI and the beginning of Lady Midnight. I thought they would have learnt from the Dark War (the war that occurs at the end of TMI), and they have in their treatment of warlocks, vampires and werewolves, but they haven’t in their treatment of the faeries, and something called the Cold Peace. It might be ridiculously obvious, but I think that this is going to have a major impact on events in the next two novels.

The ending both finishes the novel, but leaves enough open, both clearly and hinted at, for the rest of the series. Whilst I didn’t like certain parts of the ending involving Mark, Julian and Emma, I can understand the reasons behind what happens, which I think is a credit to Clare’s work. I can’t wait to see where the next book takes the story when it is released in April next year.

Whilst in my opinion not Clare’s best, Lady Midnight is a great book that I highly recommend.

4 stars out of 5.

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Florence Foster Jenkins is the latest offering of director Stephen Frears, starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg. It is a biographical film of the life of New York heiress and soprano opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Streep. Grant plays St. Clair Bayfield, Jenkins’ husband and assumed manager, while Helberg plays Jenkins pianist Cosme McMoon.

Visually, the film is amazing. The costumes are brilliant to look at with every detail seemingly having been thought of, from the jewelry to the stockings and shoes. The hairstyles are accurate, as is the makeup. Though less showy, the men’s costumes appear to have been equally meticulously designed. The same goes for the outdoor sets and cars. I particularly loved these outside scenes and spent a fair amount of time wondering how difficult it was to shut down the streets to film these scenes. I also wondered how they got so many cars from the time period in the one place (I wouldn’t really be surprised if it was CGI, but I like to think they did it the old fashioned way because it would be way cooler).

However, and it’s a big however, I felt the plot was lacking. I knew nothing about Jenkins of her life, which might have influenced this, but what I got in the film wasn’t what I was expecting, and though it included a lot about her life, a lot of her life isn’t shown. I found it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be because the joke about her not realizing her singing got old quite quick. I also didn’t immediately pick up that Jenkins and Bayfield were married, and this led to me being confused about a few of the characters and some things that happened. Not only that, but to me Bayfield appeared to be almost using Jenkins, who it becomes clear, is much more dependent on Bayfield than he is on her. I don’t really know how true this is despite researching it, but it’s an aspect I didn’t like.

A positive is the care that Bayfield and McMoon had for Jenkins was clear to see and helps to explain why they don’t tell her about her singing. Sometimes though this comes across as babying her. Support for Jenkins, comes from many different directions, not just from McMoon and Bayfield, and it was uplifting to see how many people got behind her.

At the end of the film there are a number of facts presented, which I really liked and it was interesting to see that the careers of many people around her peaked with her performances and life.

Whilst not the worst movie I’ve seen, it’s definitely not the best and if seeing this move, I would strongly suggest doing some research before hand.

2.5 stars out of 5.

Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

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Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry
Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life. 
 
Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules. 
 
And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.

Walk the Edge is the second book in the Thunder Road Series (the first is Nowhere But Here published last year) and centers on Breanna, a smart and responsible good girl, and Razor, the town ‘bad boy’ who is part of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club. At the beginning Breanna is terrified of Razor and the Reign of Terror, but over the course of the novel, certain events throw Breanna and Razor together and their attitude and opinions of each other obviously change.

I found Breanna to be an incredibly relatable character. She was bullied when she was younger for being different, something that happened to me. However, her family life is incredibly full on, with her being no. 5 kid of 9, and having an antagonistic relationship with one of her older sisters Clara. This influences a major aspect of her personality that directly relates to who she is at the beginning of the novel, and there was a certain event that played a major part in their relationship revealed late in the novel. I was not expecting this at all purely due to what it was. In a way it was clear that something major had happened with the two of them, but I did not pick what it was until it was revealed.

It was also relatable how both her and Razor grow and change throughout the story. I related to Breanna more than Razor in this because I am more like her than I am Razor, but it was really enjoyable seeing them both change and I found that it snuck up on me. I was so engrossed in the book that it wasn’t until the end when I thought about it that I realized how much both of them had changed, arguably for the better.

The ending to me however, felt a bit rushed. The pacing throughout the first about two-thirds was great. It allowed the story to develop at a pace that was believable and had the tensioning building as the stakes were being raised. At the end it became almost like a staccato in terms of pacing. Everything happened one after another, and (partly because I was reading so quickly) it felt quite hasty. There is also a small time jump near the end and I think I would have liked it signposted at the top of the page because it kind of threw me when Razor mentioned the time jump because I wasn’t expecting it at all.

Overall, I think one of my favourite parts about this book is the overarching theme of family, and the way they can be completely dysfunctional but still be there at the end of the day. I really loved the McGarry made it so that Razor’s family wasn’t just biological because I think that its important to remember that we can choose our own family; it doesn’t have to decided just by blood. I think it was also especially good that his family was a motorcycle group that did not deal in illegal stuff. Whilst I have no idea if these motorcycle clubs exist (the vast majority I’ve heard of are involved in illegal things), it was a good way to show that people shouldn’t be judged based on what they look like and by reputations, because these are not always accurate.

I really loved this book and cant wait for the next one to be released next year.

4 out of 5 stars.