Sunday, June 29, 2014

Harry Potter Happy Hour!

Earlier this week my boyfriend had a fantastic idea: why not have a Harry Potter Marathon? What better way is there to spend 20 hours than in the Wizarding World with my favorite trio? 

And then I had another idea: why not make Harry Potter inspired FOOD for the marathon? Nothing too fancy or difficult, just some stuff to get us all in a magical mood. So that is exactly what we did, and it turned out great. So now, I thought I would share these witch worthy food ideas with you too!

First I thought about dinner. And of course, the first person I thought of was mother of the year Molly Weasley. The Weasley's are a pretty big family, so she would have to make something that would easily feed a crowd. In the book it is mentioned that she makes onion soup, but I personally was not excited about that idea, so instead I decided to make my Mom's baked potato soup! It is one of my favorite meals in the whole world. It screams of home comfort, so it seemed like a perfect Molly meal. And even better, I already knew how to make it. I think just about any soup would fit the bill for a Molly Weasley dinner, so pick a family favorite to make for yourself!

Okay so that's dinner. But obviously we would need something to drink. And what's a more Harry Potter-esqu drink than butterbeer? This decision was easy.

American confession: I never knew that butterbeer was something J.K. Rowling made up. I had always assumed it was just a thing the UK had that we didn't. But then I went looking for recipes and realized that no one really knew exactly what it was. I did however find a fantastic blogger who had gone to the Wizarding World at Universal Studios and had then done her best to imitate the recipe, and it was pretty damn good. You can find the butterbeer recipe I used here! The cream recipe she came up with is particularly delicious! I'll definitely be making this again.

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Next I turned to snacks. I knew I definitely wanted to make something based on the Hogwarts Houses. I decided on House Cupcakes! I figured 24 cupcakes would be perfect because then we could have 6 for every house. Unfortunately my cupcake wrappers had a different plan.
I finished putting all the wrappers in my cupcake tins only to find the box was a wrapper short. We decided that Gryffindor got enough screen time in the movies so they could do with one less cupcake. 
Next I made the frosting. Now friends, I am not much of a baker. I don't know how to make basically anything. But I'm pretty good at following other people's directions. So I found a recipe for whipped frosting online; you can find it here

After my frosting was whipped and ready to go it was time to turn it into Hogwarts House colors. I just got some regular old food coloring and mixed it into my homemade frosting. Not perfect, but good enough.

After I separated enough frosting out for my cupcakes I mixed some strawberry cream cheese into my leftover frosting and called it fruit dip. It is delicious. Which is why I've basically been just eating it out of the bowl with my fingers...I'm essentially eating cream cheese and sugar and there is no one stopping me. This is what it means to be an adult.

Then just decorate and viola! Hogwarts House Cupcakes! See the little tiny Gryffindor cupcake? We named that one Collin Creevey. Seemed appropriate. 


For some reason I really had my heart set on coming up with drinks inspired by Harry Potter. I didn't want to make a ton, alcohol is expensive, but one or two just for fun. The first I decided on was a Malfoy Martini. To make the martini I took this recipe but substituted Sour Apple Pucker for the the schnaaps because I couldn't find schnaaps and also, as I mentioned, it is expensive. I also only put in 2 tablespoons of vodka because I just did not want a ton of vodka in mine, but that's just me. It turned out great even though the picture of it is mediocre at best. Definitely recommended for the 21 and up Potter fans. 



As a Ravenclaw, I also really wanted to make something specific to my House. What I ended up doing was taking this Goblet of Fire cocktail recipe from this site, modifying it a tad, and turning it into jello. The only changes I made to the cocktail ingredients was swapping out the curacao for UV Blue (so good, sooo good) and omitting the rum. I did however essentially completely ignore the measurements because...well I was making jello. I honestly couldn't tell you exactly how much lemonade we put in, it was a bit of guess and check. We decided on one part vodka and 2 parts UV Blue, but decided afterwards that we could have done with a bit more UV Blue. I'm going to keep playing with this recipe until I get it just right so stay tuned Ravenclaws.

A lot of few unexpected twists popped up Saturday, which snagged the marathon a tad. And by a tad I mean we only ended up watching one movie. We've decided now that we're going to watch a few of the movies every weekend until we finish the series, which means more butterbeer and more chances to mess with my Ravenclaw Jello Shots! 

Do you have any favorite Harry Potter inspired food or drinks? Have a recipe I should try out? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature Friday: The Princess Bride


I have to be honest with you; if you have not seen this movie you are not living properly. But fear not! There is still time. I am here to rescue you from the darkness that surrounds you.

This is probably one of the best movies ever made in the history of cinema. It has everything: "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles," not too mention some of the best and wittiest dialogue you could possibly want. Imagine a movie filled with characters who talk like Tyrion Lannister. It is taking all of my willpower not to fill this post with gifs of my favorite one-liners, but I want those of you who haven't seen it yet to get to enjoy it properly in all it's glory. I will, however, promise you that after watching this movie you will walk around quoting it for at least a month. It is inevitable. (Inconceivable even...)

So what exactly is this movie that I am so enamored with? The Princess Bride is, at its essence, a fairy tale. Young lovers Buttercup and Westley are separated when he sails away in hopes of earning enough money for them to marry. But before he can reach his destination, his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and everyone knows the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn't take prisoners. Five years later Prince Humperdink sets his eyes on Buttercup, and she has no choice but to accept his proposal, but before they can be wed she is kidnapped. Will Humperdink rescue his would-be bride? And who is the masked man following her and her captors around?

I know that probably not many of you are running to buy it after that synopsis, but you're going to have to trust me. I'm trying really hard not to spoil anything, but it is one of those movies that is kind of hard to talk about without ruining something. It is an experience that is best gone into blind. And trust me, that is exactly what this movie is: an experience.

I'm going to tell you right now, if you go into this story expecting a serious tale of love and lost you are going to be disappointed. The movie is meant to be a parody of the typical fairy tale. If you go to its page on TVTropes.org the list of tropes that this movie utilizes scrolls for miles. But it is so smart about it that you hardly notice. Instead of taking the stupid-funny approach that most parodies try for, The Princess Bride goes for witty humor. And it succeeds. Oh lord, does it succeed. Almost every single line in this movie is quote worthy. I probably watched it 10 times before I managed to catch every joke because some of them are so quick, just one line, that they are very easy to miss.

I will give you a bit of advice. See this man?



His name is Inigo Montoya (don't worry, he will introduce himself.) He is easily one of the most iconic characters in cinema history. If you want to avoid missing the more subtle lines of gold, pay very close attention to everything this man says. You're welcome.

I cannot express to you enough how badly you need this movie in your life. You need it like air. It is ice cold lemonade after a long day in the sun. It is fleece pajamas and hot chocolate on a snowy winter night. It is a pair of jeans with real actual pockets in it. It is the best decision you will ever make.

Love yourself. Go watch The Princess Bride. (And then comment/tweet me so we can talk about how amazing it is together.)







Thursday, June 26, 2014

Endings, Plot Twists, and the People who Spoil Them

I was probably 11 years old, maybe 12, when I dove into Christopher Paolini's Eragon. It was far from my first book- I had loved books since before my own eyes could make sense of the words- but it was my first real book, or at least, sitting strong at just over 500 pages, it felt that way to me. My Dad had already read it and had given his copy to me to read.

Take note of mistake number one: my Dad had already read it.

I was sitting in the backseat of my Dad's van, book in hand (those were the days when I could read in the car without getting a migraine, once upon a time), slowly but surely working my way through the world of Alagaesia. And, as one is wont to do, my Dad started asking me about how far I had read so far.

There is a certain art to asking someone about a book you have already read, a show you have already seen, and movie you have already watched. You must be tactful, subtle, and most important of all, vague. "What is going on with X-character?" "Has anything big happened yet?" "What is happening where you are right now?" All of these are acceptable leading questions to discover how far into a story someone has made it.

My Dad opted for none of them.

"Is X-Character dead yet?"

No. No he was not.

I learned an important lesson that day. When it comes to stories, people who already know what happens are not to be trusted.

As someone who obsessively loves fiction, spoilers are the bane of my existence. Knowing about a major event in a story before it happens takes so much out of the experience for me. So many important moments have been ruined for me, and no matter how long it has been, in some cases years, I am still angry. I will never know the feeling of shock and sadness of reading the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the first time because a friend of mine told me what happened just days after the book was released. When I make it to the end of A Storm of Swords I will not get to experience the jaw-dropping shock of the epilogue because I already know what's coming. I might never finish reading the Divergent Series because I know what happens at the end of the final book (I actually threw a shoe at my wall over that one).

When it comes to stories, there are two types of people in the world. There are the casual readers/watchers who enjoy a story well enough, but it is not particularly important to them. And then there are the passionate readers/watchers, people like me. For us every book we open is a door into a world as real as the one we live in. The characters live and their lives matter. And if they die, it hurts.

Neither type of reader/watcher is better than the other. However, there is something very important that all casual readers/watchers need to remember and remember well: the fact that it is not important to you does not make it okay for you to ruin it for us.

A lot the things that have been ruined for me were ruined simply because they were not important to the other person. It did not effect them much, so they had no problem talking about it as if it is no big deal. But when they did that they stole something important from me, something I can never get back. So please, to all the casual readers/watchers out there, I beg of you to be careful about what you say around people who have yet to read or watch whatever it is you are talking about. Because when you nonchalantly throw spoilers around you are ruining important moments for those of us who do care. You are stealing from us. You are telling us you are not to be trusted.

There are very few things that upset me as much as someone ruining something from a book I'm reading or a show I'm watching. It taints my experience with the book and after it has been done nothing can undo it. I have realized by now how difficult it is to explain to someone who doesn't get it just how big of a deal this is, so instead all I can ask is that you recognize that it is a big deal to me, and to many others. You don't have to understand- believe me, we think you are just as strange for not getting emotionally involved as you think we are for getting so attached. But please, at least respect it. Because if you do ruin something important for us, we will never forgive and we will never forget.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Breaking the Spine where book bloggers feature an upcoming release we are eagerly anticipating. 


Title: A Thousand Pieces of You

Author: Claudia Gray

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Synopsis: Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.


When I found this book and was SO excited to run out and buy it right away, and then I noticed the release date. I was heartbroken. I cannot wait for it to finally be released so I can get my hands on it!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings


Title: The Murder Complex
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Pages: 262 (Nook) (At least that's what mine says. But B&N says 416)
Reason For Reading: Personal Interest
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The Murder Complex is an action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn't know it—one of the MC's programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or is it part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?


Review

I'll start by saying that I have no idea why my Nook has the page count at 262 when B&N insists it should be 416 pages, but I am quite confident that there were not 200 pages missing from my book, so I think my Nook is just formatting it weird.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I was excited about the premise of this book from the start. I love me a good dystopian thriller. I read the the first chapter on B&N.com, fell in love with Meadow's narrative voice, and bought it for my Nook immediately. And it did not disappoint.

The first thing that struck me was how naturally Cummings was able to start world building right from the start without falling into the info dump pit; the narration drew me into the world of The Shallows right from the first page. It is immediately obvious that this is going to be a show don't tell type of book, and if you read my review for The Maze Runner you know how quickly I tire of excessive telling, so I really appreciated the change.

The narration of the book is split up between Meadow and Zephyr, both as first person narrators, which threw me off a little bit at the beginning. But the characters have distinctly different voices, so I did not find it particularly difficult to follow who was speaking and I think it worked really well for this book. I  personally preferred Meadow's narration to Zephyr's, I found him a bit whiny, but it was interesting getting to see scenes play our from both of their perspectives.

I really loved Meadow's narration. As I mentioned it was one of the first things that grabbed my attention, and it held it throughout the book. She is a fantastic protagonist. Cummings did an excellent job making her a complex character and making her a character that we as readers can connect to and empathize with despite her cold tendencies. As a person she is rough, to be sure, but I never wondered why she was that way. And despite her circumstances, she is still a person. She is not simply cold and hard 24/7. Her walls come down from time to time. She gets curious. She has spontaneous moments of compassion. She is not one-dimensional, even if she wants to portray herself that way sometimes.

I also really liked the dynamic between Meadow and her family, especially her father. He reminded me a lot of John Winchester (who incidentally my list of Top 5 Worst Fictional Fathers) but I did not have the same reaction to Meadow's father as I did John. Considering the type of world they are living in, I think I would have wanted a father to teach me to defend myself too. But I liked that it was never quite that simple. Meadow understands why her father is the way he is, and appreciates his teachings, but they still took their toll on her relationship with him, as we would expect.

Once I started reading the book I got a bit frustrated with the synopsis. It seems like Zephyr being a programmed assassin was meant to be a bigger mystery, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more not knowing from the beginning what was going on. There were a few other twists thrown in that made up for it a bit, and there was certainly still plenty of mystery to the book, but I wish they would have left that to be a surprise too. I just felt like I knew things I wasn't supposed to know.

There are a few things that I didn't love, probably the biggest of which being how quickly Meadow and Zephyr's relationship forms. The instant love is something I find problematic any time it is used, but it felt particularly unrealistic in this book considering Meadow's background. Zephyr's end I can understand, all thing considered, but it seems highly unlikely that Meadow would ever trust someone that quickly. Her curiosity about him made sense; the instant attraction, not so much.

I also did not appreciate how frequently "girl" was used as an insult, or rather that it was used but never challenged. Obviously real people use it, so it makes sense that characters would too, but the fact that it was universally accepted by all the characters irritated me. The biggest badass in the book is a girl, proving that girls are not weak and helpless, which was something that I loved about the book from the very beginning. Having so many of the characters, worst of all Meadow herself, use this sexist (and frankly down right stupid) insult took away from my excitement over having such a strong female protagonist. I had actually hoped Zephyr would use it in front of Meadow and she'd throw him on his back for it, since she is walking proof of how ridiculous that concept it, and that would have been awesome, but instead she ended up using it towards him. Super disappointing.

I highly recommend giving this book a shot. I read it all in a single sitting. I never got bored and I never hit a spot that felt like a good place to end for the night because I always needed to know what happened next. I have high hopes for the rest of this series and for Cummings as an author in general. As far as debuts go, she's got a pretty good thing going for her right now.

A small aside: when you buy a new book, make sure to check if it is book one in a series BEFORE you start reading. I did not pay attention when I bought it and did not notice that it is the first in a series. So naturally I got about 20 pages from the end and started realizing that there is no way everything is getting resolved in time. After finishing the book, which leaves off on a massive cliff hanger by the way, I sat in silence for a few minutes before looking it up on Goodreads. Oops. Now I wait in agony until the next book is released.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Feature Friday: Avatar: The Last Airbender


Okay, before you role your eyes at the Nickelodeon logo and close this tab on your browser, just hear me out. Avatar: The Last Airbender is not only one of the best television shows I have ever seen, it is one of the most amazing stories I have ever had the privilege to experience.

I think the best way to explain the basic premise of the show is through the monologue Katara, one of the main characters, gives in the show's opening:

"Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the avatar, master of all four elements, can stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years past and my brother and I discovered the new avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone."

The show follows Aang's journey with Katara and her brother Sokka, as he travels around the world trying to master all 4 elements in time to stop Fire Lord Ozai and the Fire Nation from taking over. All the while they must evade capture by the exiled Fire Nation Prince, Zuko, who dreams of (obsesses over) capturing the Avatar in order to regain his honor and be allowed to return home.

Avatar: The Last Airbender wallpaper

It all sounds pretty simple, I know. But Avatar is honestly one of the most complex, well thought out stories I've ever seen, and I'm an English major. The world building is great, the character development is superb, and the cast is highly diverse in almost every possible aspect. And don't let the fact that it is animated fool you; the content of the show is by no means light.

The show is called The Last Airbender for a reason. Shortly after Aang disappears, the Fire Nation wipes out his people, the Air Nomads, in an attempt to kill the Avatar (when the avatar dies the new avatar is born into the next nation of the cycle; the avatar before Aang was born to the Fire Nation, so the Fire Lord knew that the new one would be born to the Air Nomads). When Aang wakes up 100 years later his people are gone; he is the only Airbender left in the world.

Aang is not the only one with tragedy in his past. Katara and Sokka have seen and lost their share to the war. Prince Zuko was exiled by his own father, but not before his father left his face permanently scarred as punishment for what the Fire Lord considered cowardice. 


The show delves into complex and serious questions. Aang struggles to grapple with the realities of war and with what his expected role in the fight is when all he was ever taught was peace. Zuko is caught between the desire to please his father and the need to find himself. Katara is forced to confront her lingering anger and hatred over the murder of her mother. And that is only to name a few.

I think one of the best things about this show is the diversity of the cast. Not only are multiple groups represented, but they are represented well, and the show makes a point to play off some common misconceptions. For example, a character that joins the main cast in season 2, Toph Bei Fong, is blind. Her parents are convinced that her disability makes her frail and helpless and they attempt to keep her locked up in their house where they can do everything for her. In reality, however, she is anything but helpless. She is arguably the best Earthbender in the world.


Toph won't let anyone treat her differently because of her blindness. And she is more than willing to educate you on just how awesome she is if you try. Her blindness is never treated like a disability in the show; it is just a fact of her life. She even jokes about it from time to time.

gif Sokka Avatar katara toph avatar the last airbender the last airbender the blind bandit toph beifong blind joke gif Sokka Avatar katara toph avatar the last airbender the last airbender the blind bandit toph beifong blind joke gif Sokka Avatar katara toph avatar the last airbender the last airbender the blind bandit toph beifong blind joke gif Sokka Avatar katara toph avatar the last airbender the last airbender the blind bandit toph beifong blind joke
gif Sokka Avatar katara toph avatar the last airbender the last airbender the blind bandit toph beifong blind joke

Needless to say Toph is probably my favorite character.

Another misconception the show does a really good job of deconstructing is the concept that women are weak and/or less capable than men. There is essentially an entire episode dedicated to it. Sokka is an exceptionally sexist character at the beginning and has quite a lot of learning to do. Like I said: superb character development.

One post is truly not enough for me to say all the reasons why I love this show. It is one that I can watch over and over again and I love it more every time. It easily makes my list of top 5 favorite stories of all time. I know animation has garnered a reputation for only being for kids, and that is really really unfortunate. There are so many amazing stories that you will miss out on if you write off all things animated, and this is one of the best. Give it a chance. You won't be disappointed.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Making A Few Changes

You've probably noticed that a few things have changed since you're last visit. Don't worry you're in the right place. The Pop Cultist has become Paperback Planes.

Why the change? Well, when I started The Pop Cultist I fully intended it to be exclusively a pop culture blog. I would blog about new books and movies, talk about progress or problems in representation, probably fangirl from time to time, and that would be that. But, as is won't to happen at the beginning of a blog's story, I decided I wanted to branch out a bit more than that. I wanted to be able to talk about other things that were important to me if the urge arose. I wanted to talk about what was going on in my own life on the odd chance that something exciting happens. I started feeling restricted by my initial mission statement, so I decided to make a change.

Do not fear. There will still be plenty of talk about books and movies here. I just also wanted the freedom to put a bit more me into my blog.

I like to think of Paperback Planes as the geeky love child between a lifestyle blog and a book blog. I hope you will stick around and enjoy the flight with me.

An unfortunate consequence of this change is that it messed up my RSS feed, so while I have moved all of my lovely bloglovin followers over to this new address, bloglovin is currently unable to update my new posts. I have contacted Google about getting this fixed, as I have no idea how to fix it myself, but until then there is not much I can do. If any of you have any idea how to fix this please let me know! In the mean time I will continue to post updates through my twitter account and it appears that Google+ updates are still working normally.

I feel good about making this change. I hope you all will too.

*UPDATE: I fixed the RSS feed and Bloglovin is updating normally again! Yay!*

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Afterworlds

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Breaking the Spine where book bloggers feature an upcoming release we are eagerly anticipating.

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Title: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Release date: September 23, 2014

Synopsis: Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Lately it seems this book is EVERYWHERE. I've seen some mixed reviews but all in all it seems most of the people who received ARCs have really enjoyed this book. I've personally never read anything by Scott Westerfeld, though I intend to get around to The Uglies soon, but I've heard only good things about his work. I'm a little unsure about the structure of this book; I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about about the two stories weaving together, but the idea itself intrigues me, so I look forward to seeing how he goes about it. I can't wait to get my hands on this book and find out!

What upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Spoil Me Rotten: Game of Thrones Season 4 Finale


Spoil Me Rotten is a regular feature on The Pop Cultist where I write about something that requires the inclusion of major spoilers. I will always make it clear how far you should have read, watched, or played in order to avoid being spoiled by the post.

Alright everyone I am about to freak out over last night's Game of Thrones Season Finale. Those of you who have not read through to the end of Book 3 or who are not caught up on the show should avoid this post. Additionally, those of you who have read the books, please refrain from posting comments with information the show has either not included or has not yet gotten to; don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Top 5 Fictional Fathers: Best and Worst

Happy Father's Day too all the fantastic fathers out there (especially my dad and step-dad! you guys rock!)

In honor of father's day I decided to put together a list of who I believe are the best and worst fathers of the fictional world.

TOP 5 BEST FICTIONAL FATHERS

This list was so much harder to come up with than it should have been why are there so few fantastic fathers in fiction? Okay here we go.

5. Ned Stark: Game of Thrones



*SLIGHT SPOILER KIND OF?*
Ned Stark is a beacon of light in a Westeros full of crappy fathers. He allows Arya to be herself, despite her going against every possible convention of what a lady is supposed to act like, even going so far as to find her a sword master to teach her in secret. After he is arrested he would rather die than pledge fealty to Joffrey, who he knows has no right to the throne. But the thought of leaving his daughters alone in King's Landing, the thought of Sansa going through with her engagement to Joffrey, is enough to convince him to do what he must to appease Cersei and her son.

4. Sirius Black: Harry Potter



Sirius may not have had any kids of his own, but he was a fantastic godfather to Harry. He was on the run and he still made sure to keep in touch and to watch out for Harry, who god knows needs as many people watching his back as possible. The first thing Sirius does when he think he is about to have his name cleared is invite Harry to come live with him. And when he realizes Harry is in trouble he races off with the others to the Ministry of Magic, literally the most dangerous place a believed-to-be criminal on the run could go, to save Harry and his friends. Sirius rocks.

3. Bobby Singer: Supernatural



Bobby, like Sirius, never had kids of his own. He did, however, essentially raise Sam and Dean Winchester the best he could during the times they were left with him while their dad went off who knows where. When Sam and Dean are in trouble, it is Bobby they are always able to turn to. He is the one piece of stability in their otherwise unstable life, and he continues to act as their father figure long after they are grown.

2. Maes Hughes: Fullmetal Alchemist



You would be hard pressed to find a man more enamored with his kid than Maes is with his daughter, Elicia. I mean...



It is impossible to have a conversation with him without him spinning off on a 20 minute rant about how perfect and adorable his daughter is.

1. Arthur Weasley: Harry Potter



And topping my list of at number one is Arthur Weasley! The Weasley's never had much, but they certainly made the best of what they had. Arthur is the best of both words: he is serious when he needs to be but isn't afraid to have fun with his kids either. And when Harry just pops up at his house one day he doesn't even question it; he is more than happy to have another smiling face in his house. He (along with Molly, of course) taught his kids that being pure blood wizards doesn't make you better than anyone else, something he holds strong too despite the problems it often causes him at work, especially as the series progresses.

To be honest I'm having a hard time explaining why he's great. He just is. Its just the he has air about him.

MOVING ON!

TOP 5 WORST FICTIONAL FATHERS

So, on this father's day, be grateful that you were not raised by:

5. John Winchester: Supernatural



You would have had your entire childhood dragged through salt as he trained you to be a hunter. Say goodbye to fond memories of home; the only home Dean and Sam ever knew was the back seat of John's Impala. New school every other month and living off cereal and soup in hotel rooms hoping that your dad made it back alive from whatever he was hunting this week. Got a full ride to Stanford despite the awful living conditions you were forced into? Consider yourself disowned. John has a few redeeming moments, but none worthy of getting him pushed off this list, in my opinion.

4. Lord Denethor II: Lord of the Rings



He told Faramir, his youngest son, that he wished Faramir would have died instead of Boromir, Faramir's older brother. He then sent Faramir and all his men on what could only be described as a suicide mission. While leaving, Faramir says to his father "if I should return, think better of me father," to which Denethor responds "that will depend on the manner of your return."

Need I say more?

3. Tywin Lannister: Game of Thrones



*SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT CAUGHT UP ON THE SHOW/ THROUGH BOOK 3*
Tywin had children for the single purpose of carrying on his all important Lannister Legacy. They are worth his while only while they are being useful. Which is all well and fine if you happen to be his golden boy Jaime, but Tyrion, "the imp," that is a spot you do not want to fill. No matter what Tyrion does, no matter that he stopped King's Landing from falling until Tywin got there, almost dying in the process, Tywin wants nothing more than to be rid of his youngest child. And he has seemingly gotten his wish now that he has happily sentenced Tyrion to death for a crime Tywin knows he did not commit. ((BUT TYRION IS TOTALLY GOING TO BE FINE I AM SURE OF IT...))

2. Fire Lord Ozai: Avatar The Last Airbender



Fire Lord Ozai is fairly similar to Tywin in that he only cares about what his children can do for him. He is slightly different in that when his firstborn, Zuko, was born he planned to throw him over the palace walls because Zuko initially appeared to be a nonbender; he only decided to let Zuko live at the pleading of his wife. Zuko's problems were not over quite yet, however. When he was 13 years old Zuko spoke out against a fire nation general's plans to sacrifice an entire division of new recruits. His father demanded Zuko participate in an Agni Kai, and assuming he would be facing the general, Zuko agreed. Instead, Zuko found himself facing his father; he refused to fight and begged for forgiveness, which Ozai took to be a sign of cowardice and weakness. He responded by burning Zuko's face, leaving him permanently scarred, and banished him.

1. Shou Tucker: Fullmetal Alchemist



*SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE SHOW*
Looks like a good guy right? Well this man was desperate to keep his job as a military alchemist, but his research on creating talking chimeras was going no where fast and his evaluation was quickly approaching. So what does Shou do? He merges his daughter with their family dog to create what initially appears to be a talking chimera. Fun fact: for his previous evaluation, he had done the same thing to his wife. And for that, he tops my list as the worst fictional father I can possibly think of.


Is there anyone you would add to these lists?

Liebster Award!


Nicole over at My Book Filled Life was kind enough to give me the Liebster Award!


The Rules

  1. List 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
  3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they've been nominated.
  4. Ask 11 new questions for your chosen nominees.
  5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you


Eleven Facts

  1. I'm entering my fourth year at university.
  2. I am double majoring in English and History.
  3. I hope to go to Grad School in New York for American Studies.
  4. I love Mackinaw Fudge ice cream.
  5. I've only been to one country outside the US (excluding airports) but I have been to 2 continents other than North America. 10 points to anyone who figures out how!
  6. My favorite color is lime green.
  7. Ten will always be my doctor <3
  8. I took 3 semesters of Japanese.
  9. I love Tyrion Lannister more than I love most real people.
  10. I base my entire opinion of a coffee shop on the quality of their chai latte.
  11. I'm currently writing a novel called The Homecoming Court that I am super excited about.
Eleven Answers
  1. What is your favorite genre to read? I generally read YA; I am most drawn to fantasy and dystopian but the periodic contemporary catches my attention.
  2. If you were stranded on a desert island, what 5 books would you want to have with you?  The Harry Potter series (I'd get the box set so that totally counts as one), The Book Thief, The Hunger Games (box set again obviously), A Song of Ice and Fire (am I pushing it with the box sets yet?), and a tie between Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars; I can't pick.
  3. Who is your current favorite book boyfriend? Impossible question. I did just see TFIOS so I'm pretty in love with Augustus Waters again at the moment. I also have a HUGE crush on Daenerys Targaryen.
  4. What was your favorite book you read in 2013? Probably The Book Thief. That book blew me away.
  5. Which fictional character would you most like to meet? I only get to pick one? Right now I'd probably have to pick Tyrion Lannister. Or Daenerys Targaryen.
  6. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? I rarely eat breakfast because my body rejects food early in the morning, haha. But I really like giant cinnamon rolls and I make them a lot on the weekends :)
  7. Are you right-handed or left-handed? Lefty!
  8. What was (or is) your favorite subject in school? Definitely literature with history as a close second.
  9. Last book you read? Numbers by Rachel Ward
  10. Favorite song? I can't even pretend to pick one. I just can't.
  11. What book are you looking forward to reading this year? So many! I'm planning on picking up a copy of Go Ask Alice soon which I'm pretty excited about. I'm also looking forward to the release of A Thousand Pieces of You this November.
Eleven Questions
  1. What book really got you into reading?
  2. What is the best book you've read so far this year.
  3. What is one book you wish you could wipe from you memory and read it all over again?
  4. One book you wish would be made into a movie?
  5. One book you wish they had never made a movie for?
  6. What character death hit you the hardest?
  7. One character you wish had died?
  8. One book you wish everyone would read?
  9. If you could bring a character to life who would you choose?
  10. If you had to live in the world of a book which book would you choose?
  11. What book are you most looking forward to reading next?
Nine Nominations

Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Adults and YA Fiction: An Open Letter to Ruth Graham


"Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children."

That is the tagline from an article that was posted to Slate.com earlier this month. I'm not going to give the author the pleasure of providing a link but it is easy enough to find if you wish, though I'm sure many of you have already at least heard about it. I initially was not going to respond to the article because, to me, it is pretty obvious what a load of BS it is, but the more I read responses to it (all awesome) the more I wanted to add my piece to the conversation. So here were are.

To start, Ruth Graham, the author of this article, insists that YA is a genre full nothing but shallow stories that offer nothing but escapism and that no mature adult reader should be wasting their time on. Lets start with that, shall we?

Ms. Graham, let us pretend for arguments sake that the entire YA genre (this is literally thousands of books we're lumping together here, you understand) provides nothing more than escapism wrapped up neatly in simple and shallow endings. Take a look at the world we are living in right now. Take a look at the world that your generation has created and left for mine. (And make no mistake, while my generation is not the only group of adults still reading YA, we are the largest; we are the generation of current twenty and thirty somethings who roam the YA shelves at Barnes and Noble and are therefore the primary group you are attacking in your article.) Ms. Graham I was 8 years old when the War in Iraq started; I am now 21, a senior in college, and men and women my age are now all grown up and dying in a war that started when I was in third grade. And speaking of college, my generation also enters the adult world that you are oh so fond of already tens of thousands of dollars in debt, because your generation, which was able to afford college through part time jobs, decided education was a privilege reserved for those who could afford it. And best of all, when we graduate from university we find that all those jobs your generation insisted our college degrees would open up to us are not there. To be frank, Ms. Graham, the world your generation left mine sucks; could you really blame us for seeking out an escape?

Of course, the idea that this is all YA offers is ridiculous to begin with. I could easily list a number of books off the top of my head that disprove this crock theory of yours. Ms. Graham, your assertion of this obviously incorrect belief tells me one of two things must be true: either you have not actually read any of the books you are so fiercely attacking, or your critical thinking skills are virtually non-existent (which, by the way, removes all likeliness of you being the oh so mature reader you proclaim yourself to be). It just so happens, Ms. Graham, that one of the degrees I am putting myself into debt to earn is in English Language and Literature, so I feel quite confident informing you that that your understanding of the YA genre, and quite frankly literature as whole, is disturbingly inaccurate.

Judging from your article, your beliefs about YA fiction seem to have very little to do with YA books themselves, and everything to do with your already obviously skewed perception of the genre and its worth. There are two passages that I think make it very clear what you are actually saying in this article.

"The Fault in Our Stars. I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds. If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up?"

If you will allow me translate, you are essentially insisting that you are too good for such books because you, as you mention over and over again, are a grown-up. It seems to me that your lens is the problem, not the literature. If you go into a book thinking you are too good to be reading it, that is the experience you will have. And that does not make you a grown-up; it makes you a text-book example of a stuck up reader. The issues that Hazel is confronted with in TFIOS do not end one day as we are magically transformed into adults. If anything, many of them become more prevalent. Love, death, loss, and grief are all things that everyone has to deal with regardless of how old they are, and they are important themes in many of the "mature grown-up" literature that you revere so much. You are just refusing to acknowledge it because you believe yourself to be too grown-up to take anything meaningful away from a story about teenagers; in short, you believe you are too good for the protagonists of YA fiction. 

Here's the other one.

When I think about what I learned about love, relationships, sex, trauma, happiness, and all the rest—you know, life—from the extracurricular reading I did in high school, I think of John Updike and Alice Munro and other authors whose work has only become richer to me as I have grown older, and which never makes me roll my eyes.

Once again, it is about your preferences. You are attacking adults and an entire body of literature because you have different preferences. I am very happy for you that you had John Updike and Alice Munro to teach you about all of, you know, life. But see, the fact that you learned all those lessons from those books that mean so much to you, does nothing to change the fact that most books in the genres that "never makes [you] roll [your] eyes" bore me to tears. They are just not the kind of books I usually fall in love with. But that doesn't mean I'm missing out on the great experiences that you seem to think I am. I learned about all those same "grown-up" things, plus much more, from reading books I love. Books by Markus Zusak, Lauren Oliver, Khaled Hosseini, J.K. Rowling, and John Green. These authors, to name only a few, have written books that have shaped me as a person and drastically altered my outlook on life. And I read most of their books when I was exiting what you consider to be the cut-off point for proper YA readership. 

I have actually read quite of few your grown up books. I am a big fan of historical fiction; I loved Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. I'm looking forward to reading another Dan Brown book after having read The Da Vinci Code. But growing up and reading "grown-up" books has done nothing to lessen my love for YA. I don't suspect anything every will. And while I do walk down your preferred isles when I visit a bookstore, it is always the YA section that ends up coming home with me. 

When I was little I was always convinced there was a distinct difference between children and adults. I believed that one day I would be an adult and I wouldn't like swimming anymore (adults don't go swimming, they go "for a float"), I wouldn't like playing Nintendo games (grown-ups only play first person shooters and bejewelled), and I would have to give up my love for books about dragons and dystopian futures. Well, Ms. Graham, today I am indeed an adult. But somehow I still love swimming, I still play Pokemon, and I still love YA fiction. I cannot imagine ever giving up my love for books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and certainly not for so ridiculous a reason as I got too old or because some snobby stranger on the internet told me to. 

You wrote this article because you fear for all the adults out there missing out on all the great books in the world. I'm responding to tell you not to worry about us; we're all doing just fine. And I hope for your sake that some day you are able to get over yourself and join us.

P.S. Don't you think the number of people in your generation fawning over Fifty Shades of Grey, which depicts a textbook example of an emotionally manipulative and abusive relationship (with downright terrible writing to match), is a bit bigger of a concern than the number of adults who read John Green and J.K. Rowling? Because I sure do.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Feature Friday: How To Train Your Dragon!


I am super excited today, guys. I have been waiting for this day for four years. Four long, excruciating years. But at last, my waiting has come to an end. And now, as I sit at my desk at work, anxiously counting down the hours to my showtime tonight, I can't help but feel a tiny bit like Sirius Black.


Let me tell you all a story. Four years ago I went to Florida with my cousin Bri to visit our grandparents for Spring Break (wow I was a junior in high school when this happened; that's trippy). While on this trip we went to see a movie. Now I had not been paying much attention to this particular movie, but suddenly my Facebook feed was blowing up over how amazing it was. I didn't get my hopes up too much, but obviously I had to see what the hype was all about. So off we went to see How To Train Your Dragon.

My life would never be the same again. 

Okay perhaps that is a bit dramatic. But only a bit. It was one of the funniest most adorable movies I have ever seen in my entire life. It was with the release of this movie that, in my opinion, Dreamworks started winning the tug-of-war game they'd been having with Disney. (The playing field has leveled out again since then I think with the Frozen explosion, but nonetheless it was a pretty big deal.) After seeing the movie I immediately went out in search of a Toothless t-shirt and thanked the heavens that I was small enough to fit into a large child's shirt.


I'm no longer so lucky as to be able to wear it, but I do still have it.

After I got home from Florida I dragged my boyfriend to the movie theater to see it again. And a few months later when it came out on DVD I played it on repeat in my room for about 72 hours straight. (I'm not exaggerating; I can now quote the entire opening monologue with only the soundtrack.) This movie is special. It has everything you could want.

Dragons


Badass ladies


Dragons


Sass


Did I mention dragons?


(I'm pretty sure Toothless is part cat)

And to top it all off, it has one of the most amazing soundtracks I've ever heard. John Powell created a masterpiece score for this one (and also got totally jipped at the Academy Awards by The Social Network, but we don't need to talk about that).

On the more serious side, How To Train Your Dragon is a great story about unlikely friendships, and it is an excellent reminder that there is nothing wrong with being different; Hiccup's story reminds us of the importance of challenging the status-quo and about the difference you can make if you are willing to stand up for what you believe in. 

In my opinion, what makes it even better is it is the younger generation challenging the older, which is something that is becoming more and more frequent in society today and I think with good reason, but it is not something that is often portrayed in a positive light. Too often younger generations are told they know nothing, that they should sit down shut up and let the "adults" decide what's best. The problem of course being that older does not always mean wiser (see every word Bill O'Reilly has ever uttered). There is currently a huge backlash against the younger generations in our society (run a quick Google search on millennials; I'll wait), an entire movement dedicated to silencing and discrediting up and coming voices. As a millennial myself, I am rather fed up with the entire conversation, so seeing a movie that spotlights a younger generation speaking out against the outdated traditional views and making a difference is honestly really awesome. How To Train Your Dragon teaches kids that their voice matters.

I cannot say this enough: If you have not seen this movie, you need to. Right now. And then you need to go see the second one which promises to be just as fantastic as the first (I cannot wait!!) For now, I leave you with my favorite dragon riders all growed up!


(Seriously I can't believe how good of a job they did aging the characters. Grown up Hiccup is a babe and don't get me started on the crush I have on Astrid right now.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Numbers by Rachel Ward

Title: Numbers
Author: Rachel Ward
Pages: 325 (Paperback)
Reason for Reading: Personal Interest
Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Ever since the day her mother died, Jem has known about the numbers. Numbers that pop into her head when she looks into someone's eyes. They're dates, the numbers. Dates predicting with brute accuracy each person's death. Burdened by such horrible knowledge, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. Maybe they can find happiness together, if only in the brief time that remains before his expiration date. But on a trip to London, Jem foresees a chilling chain of events: The city's a target. The clock's running out. The countdown is on to a blowup!


Review

I really love the whole concept behind this book. There is a lot of potential in a story about a girl who can see the date of a person's death simply by looking at them. For me, though, this book fell a bit short.

The synopsis is incredibly misleading. When I bought the book I was expecting it to be an action packed thriller about Jem realizing something horrible was going to happen and then trying to stop it, or something along those lines. In reality, however, the terrorist attack on London, while an important plot point, holds very little significance to the story as a whole. Her realization that numerous people have the same number to when the actual attack takes place takes up only a few pages. And to be honest it was pretty anti-climactic as a whole. She notices the numbers, they run, a bomb goes off, and that's it. I hardly felt anything because the book is told through first person perspective and Jem hardly reacts at all; maybe 2 sentences tops. Then they just go home.

So if the book isn't about the terrorist attack what is it about? Well, as it turns out running away from a location just minutes before a bomb goes off looks pretty sketchy, and soon Jem and Spider are being flashed across every television screen in the country. What Numbers is actually about is Jem and Spider living on the run after the attack. I'm not sure if knowing this ahead of time would have changed my opinion about the book or not, but as it was I was pretty disappointed.

I did enjoy Jem's first person narration. I'm a sucker for bitter and sarcastic narrations, so in that respect Jem was right up my alley. If you don't like this type of narration, the book probably isn't for you. I do wish we could have seen her anger fall away a bit from time to time, though. It seems unrealistic that anyone, even someone with so cruel circumstances as Jem, could be that angry all the time. But for the most part that is really the only emotion we see, aside from a few touching scenes with Spider.

Despite the actual plot steering off from my initial expectations, this book was looking at a three star rating for most of the read through. And then the ending happened. I will be frank: I hated the ending. I was really angry with the turn the story took and it kind of ruined it a bit for me. I understand why it ended the way it did, but I still just did not like it. And it seems like it has set up the second book to be essentially the same story with different characters, so I'm not in a huge hurry to go pick it up. I might at some point, though, because the synopsis for book 3 sounds promising. We shall see!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#E3Nintendo 2014


Yesterday marked one of my favorite things about summer: Nintendo's E3 Showcase! Don't get me wrong, I love my PS3 and I've been with Sony since the first generation Playstation, but Nintendo will always have a very special place in my heart. So naturally I spent (quite literally) all day at my kitchen table watching the E3 Nintendo live stream on Youtube. Here are my top 5 highlights from the showcase.

5. POKEMON: OMEGA RUBY AND ALPHA SAPPHIRE



Okay, so we already knew this was happening. But getting to see the trailer was still pretty awesome. I can't wait to get my copy of Alpha Sapphire. I still can't decide which starter I want. Torchic or Treeko? Luckily I've got a few months to decide.

4. YOSHI'S WOOLY WORLD



I have always been a fan of Yoshi. I may or may not have just recently downloaded Yoshi Story to the Wii so I could reminisce a bit. I'm really excited to get to explore a new Yoshi world and I love the handmade yarn theme to the game. This one is definitely on my "must-have" list.

3. SUPER SMASH BROS FOR WiiU



Who doesn't love the Smash Bros series? Last night Nintendo held the first ever Super Smash Bros Invitational and we got an awesome first look at live game play of the upcoming game, which will be available on WiiU and 3DS, and it looks pretty awesome. I am particularly excited to get to try out Zero Suit Samus.

And of course the crowd went wild over the first look at Mega Man's final smash:



2. SPLATOON



I honestly can't explain how excited I am for this game. It looks AMAZING. The basic premise is to cover the battle zone with as much of your team's ink as possible; the team who's color takes up the most of the zone when the clock runs out wins. The characters, Inklings they were called during E3, are a good mix of adorable and badass, and even better the majority of playable characters featured were girls which next to never happens. This game is gonna be a huge seller for Nintendo and I for one cannot wait to get my hands on it.

1. EVERYTHING ZELDA

If you follow me on Twitter you know that a Zelda announcement is all I wanted from E3 this year.



The Legend of Zelda is my all time favorite game series. I grew up playing Ocarina of Time and have played through the game so many times I essentially have everything up to the Spirit Temple memorized. I loved Twilight Princess. I loved Skyward Sword. I'm ready for another adventure with my favorite left handed hero.

It was a good day for Zelda fans, ladies and gentlemen. First, we got a preview of the game that is currently in development and it looks beautiful. Basically and HD mix of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword graphics from the looks of it.



Everyone in the Zelda fandom is currently going crazy over the introduction of what appears to be a feminine Link. Aonuma, the producer of the Zelda series, teased us a bit more yesterday:

"No one explicitly said that was Link." (source)

The fact that this character's bracers bear a striking resemblance to the style worn by the Gerudo people in Ocarina of Time has also stirred up some controversy from the fandom. There are still lots of questions revolving around this game. I'm willing to bet that this game doesn't release until late 2015 and that it gets a much longer feature at next year's E3.

In addition to this teaser, we also got a good look at Hyrule Warriors, which is set to release in September. I will admit I wasn't super excited about this game when they announced it last year, but now having gotten a good look at it, I'm pretty excited. I am particularly excited that Midna, Impa, and Zelda are all featured as playable characters.


I also loved that during the live game play segment the guy showing off the game mentioned needing to get to Zelda and then quickly followed it up with this:

"She is not sitting around getting kidnapped; she is busy!"

This makes me think that Nintendo is probably finally paying attention to the fact that many of us are tired of the damsel in distress stories and are doing something about it. I am hoping that this will be reflected in the newest game; as much as I loved Skyward Sword, I was really upset by the way they completely took away Zelda's agency in the final battle. Hopefully Nintendo is paying attention and will be fixing this.

Unlike Microsoft apparently. *cough cough* thanks for the 4 identical white male assassins in Unity *cough cough*

Meanwhile, Hyrule Warriors is giving us Midna, Zelda, and Impa, the Splatoon showcase featured some adorable squid girls, and the upcoming Super Smash Bros game has 7 announced female characters (one of which is rumored to be the strongest character in the game), plus the Mii option. 

Nintendo E3 2014 did not disappoint. I had not intended to buy a WiiU until the new Zelda game released (although I'll admit that Mario Kart 8 has been catching my attention) but now I'm pretty sure I'll own one by the end of the summer.

What games from this year's E3 (Nintendo or otherwise) are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!



Monday, June 9, 2014

Celebrating Progress in Diversity and Representation in Fiction

I have been noticing a troublesome pattern in the discussions of representation lately. It seems that every comment made about a particular film or television show doing something well is met with an onslaught of attacks about what it did not do. This is most prevalent currently in discussions revolving around The Fault In Our Stars, but it is far from the first time I have picked up on this.

The Fault In Our Stars is receiving quite a bit of well deserved praise over its representation of teens living with cancer. I touched on this in my Feature Friday post last week. For once we have been given a story that revolves around sick characters but does not reduce them to their illnesses. Finally we have been given a story about sick people that does not exploit them so that the other healthy characters (and arguably the readers) can learn valuable life lessons about living every day to the fullest. And even more than that, the story (the book more than the movie) openly criticizes the way society tends to think about people like Hazel and Augustus, the way we tend to consider them cancer patients first and people second.


For once children living with illnesses have characters they can relate to and see themselves in. 

The Fault In Our Stars is a great step towards improving both the way sick people are represented in our stories and the way they are thought about in our society. And there are testimonies from kids and teens living with cancer explaining just how well the story portrays what they are going through. My personal favorite is documented in an article about John Green that was recently published in the New Yorker:

""Hi, I’m Brittany. I’m fifteen and I had the same kind of cancer Gus has, osteosarcoma.” John reached out his arms to give her a virtual hug. Brittany reached back and said, “You did an amazing job of capturing the fear, the humor, and the real pain of being a teen-ager with cancer.”" (source)

The Fault In Our Stars is a victory for representation. And yet, more often than not, whenever anyone tries to celebrate this bit of progress, there are 10 others waiting to tell them it can't be considered a victory because it didn't represent x, y, z. 

I want to be clear about this: I am not saying we stop constructively criticizing a story for its representation (or lack there of) of Group A simply because it did well in its representation of Group B. However, telling Group B that their victory is invalid because Group A isn't included is something we cannot continue to do. Being critical of representation does not mean we ignore the victories as they come. There is a difference between being content with a given representation and acknowledging and celebrating progress.

Social activists, we need to stop fighting each other. Every word we spend arguing with each other is a word lost. We are all on the same team, or at least we should be. This is not a race to see who reaches equal representation first. Every one of us who belongs to an underrepresented group wants to have more characters we can see ourselves in; one group's victory should not be treated like another groups loss. Yes, please, by all means lets talk about the lack of racial diversity or LGBTQIA representation. But those conversations cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of another group's celebration that finally, finally they have characters they can relate to. If your criticism of a story simultaneously stomps on another person's celebration of their being represented in it, you need to take a step back and reconsider what you are doing.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: The Maze Runner

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Pages: 374 (Paperback)
Reason for Reading: Personal Interest
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.


Review

This book had been on my to-read list for quite awhile. I was finally pushed into buying it for two reasons; first, I wanted to read the book before the movie comes out, and second, I realized that if I waited much longer I would never be able to find a copy with the original cover instead of the movie cover and I really hate having to buy books with movie edition covers.

The premise of this book caught my attention from the very beginning. The main character, Thomas, has no idea where he is or what has happened, which means neither do we. This makes The Maze Runner a bit different from the usual dystopian because usually the characters have an understanding of how their world works and are able to explain to us; Thomas is able to offer readers no such information, and neither are any of the other boys in the Glade for that matter. The book creates a good mix of interest and confusion that got me hooked very early on. I wanted to know what the purpose of the Glade and the Maze was as much as the boys who were trapped in it and I read for hours at a time hoping to find out.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the racial diversity of the characters in the book. Alby, the leader of the Glade, is described has having very dark skin. The Keeper (leader) of the Runners was a boy named Minho who I am assuming is Korean. Of the four most prominent characters (I'm not including Chuck because he does not become extraordinarily important to the plot itself until quite late in the book, sorry Chuck) two of them are explicitly non-white. In comparison to most YA literature, that is pretty awesome.

The thing holding me back from saying I really loved this book is the writing. While the story itself is unique and full of suspense, I really struggled to lose myself in the book because the writing kept pulling me out. Dashner took an all tell no show approach which I found both frustrating and rather repetitive. It felt like he did not trust me to understand what was happening or how the characters were feeling; everything is spelled out. There was more than once that I groaned out loud. For example:

"Thomas was completely shocked to realize his eyes had filled with tears."


I will say that the closer I got to the end the less the writing distracted me. Whether that is because the writing improved or because the suspense started to out weigh it I couldn't say.


I'm not sure how I feel about where the story is going moving into the next book of the series. The explanation of the world beyond the Glade was certainly not what I had expected. I'm pending judgement until I read the next book. In the mean time, I would definitely recommend picking up The Maze Runner and exploring the world of the Glade for yourself.


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