Saturday, July 23, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
THIS POST IS SPOILER FREE!
Here's the list upfront cause this post is long
(Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
(Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen)
(Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath)
4.) The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
(Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker, Soul Eater, Outcast, Oath Breaker, Ghost Hunter)
As promised by my last post, I am here to present to you five series to help you get over your Post-Potter depression. So the Harry Potter saga is over. No more books or films to look forward to. No more midnight releases to attend. You've been to the theme park already. What's left to look forward to!? As over as your life may seem, don't fret! Always remember you can crack open Harry whenever you want to. But when you're not re-reading Harry for the tenth time this year, there are plenty of other wonderful books out there which are not only great in their own right, but can help you get over the sadness of no more Harry Potter books.
So I went on kind of a reading spree trying to find what novels to recommend. I read quite a few good ones and some great ones, but it was hard deciding what would be a good recommendation that all of the Harry Potter fans could enjoy seeing that range of readership in this demographic is huge. I considered many of the most popular young adult fantasy writers including C.S. Lewis, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. Le Guin, Tamora Pierce, Lian Hern and Robin Mckinley. I also took a look at many of the popular children/YA fantasy series right now such as Percy Jackson, The Heir Chronicles, and The Bartimaeus Trilogy. This task was a lot harder than I had originally anticipated. Some series were too creatively written, others were aimed too much at younger audiences, and some (and I'll admit) were just too boring. Let me briefly go over the novels that did NOT make it to this list. These aren’t book reviews, I'm just explaining why they were not chosen.
BOOKS THAT DID NOT MAKE THE LIST
1.) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
I saw The Chronicles of Narnia listed as a recommendation from all those other "Books to Cure Your Post Potter Depression" lists, but I disagree. I'm not denying these books aren't great. They were some of my favorite when growing up, and I can see why people compare it to Harry Potter as it’s also about regular kids finding themselves in a magical world. C.S. Lewis' world of Narnia is wholesomely imaginative and filled with magic, but I don't believe many of my friends would enjoy these books in the same rank as Harry Potter. Why? Well these books are older. One of the biggest joys of Harry Potter is that it's modern and we were able to relate to Harry and grow up with him. The Chronicles of Narnia is written much more like a fairy tale. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of these kids, I in no way could relate to their prim mannerisms. Yes I recommend this series, but not as a one to follow up Harry Potter.
2.) The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
I've actually never read a book by Diana Wynne Jones, and I've always just known her as the lady who wrote Howl's Moving Castle- the book based off of the amazing Hayao Miyazaki film. I loved the film Howl's Moving Castle and was excited to read a series by Ms. Jones. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci was one of the highest recommended so I chose that one. My initial thoughts are that Ms. Jones is probably the most imaginative writers I've ever encountered. Her way of word is very out there. It's creative and dry at the same time. Her ideas are all great and she obviously has quite the imagination, but I had trouble buying into the magic, the stories, the worlds, and the characters. I could see why her works would translate into wonderful Miyazaki films but it didn't do it on paper for me. All the characters are fun but seem to have no real brains/common sense/moral thinking. In the first book Charmed Life, one of the characters Janet is unknowingly and magically placed into a different world, and her first reaction is to explore the house and make funny faces in the mirror turning her eyes "long and Chinese." I think it would have rather seen her screaming in fury and demanding what the hell is going on. That's what Harry would have done.
3.) The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
Okay I'll admit I did not finish the Earthsea Quartet, but I do plan on it!! I'll bashfully confess that I had a lot of trouble paying attention to this series. No it's not hard to understand by any means, and it's pretty short, but I still found myself zoning out a lot. I felt like all the parts I didn't care about were going by too slow, and when it started getting exciting, it passed by too fast. The pacing takes it's time and the plot is set in a very romanticized fantasy word archipelago called Earthsea. Everything feels very mystical as you read it and the magic feels real. This is probably a series for the serious fantasy readers who enjoy the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. It's a wonderfully developed fantasy world but besides that, there's not too many similarities it has with Harry Potter.
4.) The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Ah, The Song of the Lioness. From this series, I read the first two novels. The famous Alanna and In the Hand of the Goddess. Why stop at two? Well unlike Harry Potter, each books is kind of a separate adventure in its own. Yes Harry Potter was kind of like that too, but all loose ends were tied by the end of book two in The Song of the Lioness and to go on to the next novel would be starting a whole new adventure with Alanna. I actually really enjoyed these books and I plan on reading the rest of the series soon, but I don't recommend them as a follow up to Harry Potter because the series does not work up to a grand finale like HP does. In Harry Potter, the series is focused on Harry's fight to defeat Voldemort. Alanna on the other hand has subsequent adventures with each novel.
5.) The Tales of the Otori by Lian Hern
I was super excited about reading The Tales of the Otori because I’ve heard it described by many people as an Asian Harry Potter. Needless to say, it was nothing like Harry Potter. The magic is pretty minimal. Yes we have the whole, boy-discovers-he's-not-normal-and-in-fact-has-great-powers-and-goes-on-a-journey type deal, but that may be the only similarity. First off, I think this may be aimed at a more mature audience cause there were themes or rape and torture throughout. Secondly, everything moved on the slower side. There's a lot of cool ideas but everything remained completely dead to me on page. Reading it was like being in a dream. Nothing really came alive to me, especially the characters. The main two characters may as well have been drones to me. I did not whatsoever care about them. It was an entertaining enough book with a semi-rich world but compared to Harry Potter, it would look dull, harrowing, and impossible to care about the main character.
6.) The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
WOW! I loved The Blue Sword! I stayed up all night one day to finish the entire thing! I've heard great things about it from all sorts of Harry Potter fanatics. The first couple chapters are pretty slow and I was wondering what I got myself into when I started, but trust me, things pick up and the main characters (who incidentally is named Harry) is an incredible heroine and you will be completely engrossed by her journey and her story. The Blue Sword shares a similar idea in Harry Potter which is a girl from a none magical world finds out she's someone important in a not so far magical land and the people of that world look up to her to defeat an impending threat. Why I did not choose this book to make it to the list is because it's not a continuing series and everything is wrapped up so well in one novel (though there is a prequel). Because it's only one book, there's not the time to get as emotionally attached as you would in a book series. Hell who knows, maybe after reading the prequel I will add it to the list.
7.) Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
I found Percy Jackson and the Olympians to be thoroughly entertaining and it had A LOT of similarities to Harry Potter. All the ideas are cool, it's set in a modern setting like Harry Potter. The main character discovers he's special, goes to a special school to develop that power, learns of his part to play in defeating a greater evil, and sets off on journey's to defeat this evil with the help of loyal friends. This is probably the most similar series to Harry Potter I read, but I'm not choosing it because it's basically Harry Potter but dumbed down. Nothing is taken too seriously and it's obviously written for children. The first chapter is titled "I Accidentally Vaporize my Pre-Algebra Teacher." Immensely entertaining series and hard to put down, but doesn't even come close to the emotional substance that Harry Potter provides.
8.) The Heir Chronicles by Cinda Williams Chima
This series had a pretty good shot at making my list. The idea was cool and unique, there was fantasy yet it stayed modern, and you got good dash of adventure, suspense and mystery. I only made my way around to reading the first novel The Warrior Heir but will be making my way to reading the others. I'll be sure to write a full review of this series when I do cause I think it really deserves one. Even with all of Ms. Chima's great ideas, I found the final delivery to fall a bit short. The build up to the climax could have been more exciting and that maybe would have made the climax itself more satisfying. When the lore and concept of the fantasy land is explained, it sounds like you're going to get a lot of magic and adventure, but instead you get our hero mostly just hiding away and training. Also the main character was too easy to love and had zero complexities to him. I needed to see some flaws!
9.) The Bartimeaus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
I don't know what everyone else is going so gaga over with this series. Read the first novel Bartimeaus. The idea of the demons is cool and the author obviously has a lot of research under his belt, but I found the story to be un-enticing and couldn't stand the way it was written. Also everything written in the demon's perspective was super annoying. This may be a better series for younger children especially boys. Not if you're older than 11.
Ah! So after all that, what DID make my list you ask? Look below and you'll find out along with much more detailed explanations of why chose the books I did.
The following are all Young Adult Fantasy/Steampunk/Sci-Fi novels, with young leads who go through a coming of age journey.
BOOKS TO CURE YOUR POST-POTTER DEPRESSION
1.) His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
(Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
His Dark Materials written by British author Phillip Pullman is my number one choice for the best follow up series for Harry Potter. First off it’s got all the works. It’s a children’s series that can by enjoyed by adults; it’s a fantasy series that’s modern, creative and not you typical Tolkien style fantasy; there’s deeper meanings and lessons to be learned; and it’s filled with complex, incredibly likeable characters. One difference I should point out is it may be more dark and deep than one would like in their fantasy adventure, but if that’s what you like, than this is the series for you and here’s why!
So the controversial author Phillip Pullman recently admitted that he is not a fan of fantasy....weird right? Especially considering he wrote one of the most famous fantasy series ever. As quoted from the London Literature Festival:
"I realized that His Dark Materials would have to be fantasy – realized with a heavy heart, because I don’t really like fantasy."
And then he goes on to admit he's not a fan of Tolkien?? What is up with this man? Actually all of this seemed to make pretty good sense to me. I find a lot of fantasy such as the works by Tolkien can find themselves so engrossed by these rich worlds they've created to the point that it's all you find yourself reading about. I think the worlds need to complement the story and the characters instead of the other way around. Mr. Pullman’s world is completely different from anything you've read. In some ways, I feel like Mr. Pullman wrote more of a Science story (is that even a genre?) and only used some elements of fantasy and steampunk. If you read His Dark Materials, it's apparent that Mr. Pullman created these parallel universes the books are set in to fit in with the direction his story was moving towards. In a way, I feel like this is very much what Jo did as well with the Harry Potter series. Jo's initial thought for the books was "A boy who doesn't know he's a wizard goes to a wizard school." Jo knew her story was going to be about the boy's journey and she created the Wizarding World around that thought.
I never wrote a full review for His Dark Materials, so I'll briefly explain. The books focuses on the journey of two 12-year old kids named Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry as they travel through several parallel universes on an epic journey during a brewing war in "heaven." I think many elements of this series matches that of Harry Potter. One would be the unique creativity of these fantasy lands. We have the normal non-magical lands and then the many fantasy lands. In His Dark Materials, we get to visit several worlds as one of the concepts in the novel is that there is the existence of several worlds all existing on top of one another. In Lyra's world, the heroine of the series, the setting seems very 19th century Victorian-era with some futuristic elements such as aircrafts and zepplins and studies in particle physicals which they refer to in the book as "experimental theology." The Church is the dominating power and they exert oppressing control over this world. Also in Lyra's world, there is the existence of daemons which are basically one's soul which exists in the form of an animal outside their bodies, as well as witches, gyptians, and armored bears (called panserbjørne)! In the other worlds the books travels through, we get to see angels, mulefa (these sentient elephants), cliff-ghasts, and spectres (these soul sucking vampire things), deaths (a person’s death that always follows behind you in the shadows), gallivespians (tiny people who ride on dragonflies), and much, much more!
Not only do I think that His Dark Materials and Harry Potter hit the same creative note, I think many of the theme's taught are similar as well. On top of all the fantasy elements, Phillip Pullman used many elements from studies such as philosophy, physics and theology. All of this is used to look at questions like growing up, physically maturing, freedom through knowledge, having free will, what it means to have a soul, the importance of sex (yes in children's book), and most importantly, love. In Harry Potter, we get many themes such as freedom from prejudice, acceptance and tolerance, keeping sanctity of one's soul, loyalty to your friends, bravery, faith and again, most importantly, love. I think many people can learn a thing or two from the things preached by Mr. Pullman and Mrs. Rowling. Try not to be turned off by all the negative controversy from Christian groups towards this series. Give it a shot. Harry Potter was also challenged by many religious groups, but that didn't stop us from reading it and embracing its values!
The last comparison I'd like to make is what I think is the most important one. Both Jo and Mr. Pullman have a wonderful gift in creating characters that you fall in love with and care so much about to the point that it's unhealthy. I’ll admit, I was obsessed over some of these Harry Potter characters. I loved the older generation of Hogwarts alumni; that being Sirius, Remus and Snape. I was constantly stressing over what was to become of their fates as a new book was released. You can imagine my reaction at the end of the fifth book. It was the first time a book ever made me cry. In His Dark Materials, you will fall in love with Lyra and Will and all their companions. The ending will make your heart ache, and as much screaming and crying you throw towards your book, at the same time you understand that it must be that way. The characters choose the path that is right instead of the path that they want (basically it’s the complete opposite of the ending of Twilight). It’s perfect and yet it makes you emotionally wrecked.
2.) The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix
(Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen)
So my number two choice is The Abhorsen Chronicles (also referred to as the Old Kingdom Trilogy) written by Australian author Garth Nix. Now you may or may not have seen my previous posts about these books a few months back in which I reviewed each the books in the series, that being Sabriel, Lireal, and Abhorsen. You can find them here and here. I’m recommending it as a follow up to Harry Potter because it is also a brilliant young adult fantasy series that's creative, unique, adventurous, well written, and full of great characters. Unlike my last commentary on His Dark Materials, I won’t be comparing it to Harry Potter as much, but I will explain what I think makes this series so special.
The series is an incredibly well thought out and creative work of literature. It is foremost a fantasy series unlike Phillip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials which more so borrowed fantasy elements. The setting of The Abhorsen Chronicles are split between a none magical land resembling the 20th century called Ancelstierre and a land where magic exists through a system known as the Charter called the Old Kingdom. You won’t find any wizards here! The heroes (or should I say heroines) in this series are Necromancers (people who bring the dead back to do their bidding). But they are a special type of Necromancer called Abhorsens who work at putting these reanimated dead back into death. The other folks in the Old Kingdom that have magic running through their veins are Clayrs, a group of women who can see the future, and the royal family. The series is also filled with very interesting creatures and monsters. The monsters are basically zombies; we got dead hands which are the typical beings brought from the dead by necromancers, and free magical elementals which are more powerful and scary and cannot be killed. We also get two very interesting creature characters which include a dog called the Disreputable Dog and a cat called Mogget, though it is not apparent what exactly they are until the very end. Another cool item we get to see are the nine gates of death. As Necromancer, our heros can travel through the gates of death and come back. There are some pretty fun chases and fights we get in these eerie gates, but you gotta read to the last novel to see all nine of them!
I love the system of magic that is used in the series. It’s a very unique take on it, though you don’t fully understand how it works until the very end. As you read the novels, you will become more and more familiar with the history of the Seven Bright Shiners, and how the Charter was put into place and how it’s tied together with our hero’s task. As you understand how everything is connected the more you read, it all comes together so perfectly at the end.
For the most part, I love this series because it is so well connected, creative and fun to read. The stories are adventurous and suspenseful. You are challenged to think, but not think too hard. With that said, The Abhorsen Chronicles doesn’t extend much beyond being a highly adventurous, creative series. You’re not going to run into themes such as the meanings of love, the concept of a soul, and the power of free will like you may see in Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. This is why I didn’t place this series as number one though it may be the more engrossing series.
And lastly, I need to give Mr. Nix props for writing such wonderful female characters. The series is dominantly female based. There are guys, but they’re clearly overshadowed by their female counterparts. Please don’t think that because you have female leads, the stories are going to be gay like Twilight. These female characters are brave, stoic, strong minded, and motivated. The star of the series is Lireal who is introduced in book two. She is introduced as a very insecure young teenager who struggles with her self-identity. Mr.Nix does a wonderful job helping her grow throughout the series and finding her true strength. This goes the same for our male lead, Prince Sameth, who starts off a pretty annoying, seemingly useless prince, but eventually finds his true calling in the end.
3.) The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.
(Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath)
It was only recently that I feel head over heels in love with The Leviathan Trilogy by Australian author Scott Westerfeld. This is actually a steampunk series which is a sub-genre of sci-fi (which is basically the same category as fantasy right??). Actually this series isn’t even complete with the last novel not coming out until September, but I already love it so much I knew I had to put it on this recommendation list. Leviathan is the book I’m vying for everyone to read right now instead of The Hunger Games.
If you did read The Hunger Games and decided that it was poorly written, unimaginative, and had a heroine that fell off her head after the first book, try Leviathan for a change. I do think this series is a great follow up to the Harry Potter series and also is potentially the series that breaks the steampunk genre into mainstream reading. It’s creative, adventurous, and has two great young leads! I recently posted by full review of the first two novel in the series which you can find here!
So what super special qualities does this series have that makes it deserving to be on this list? Well first off it’s about World War I! A chance to learn a little history in a very different perspective! So in Leviathan, we got the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungry) called the "Clankers" and the Entente Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Algeria (a colony of France), Serbia, and Japan) called the "Darwinists." Clankers were characterized by their use of mechanical war machines and weapons, such as "Walkers" which were diesel powered walking war machines you pilot from the inside. The Darwinists on the other hand used evolved, fabricated creatures, also called "beasties," as their war weapons which is what the Leviathan is; a gigantic flying whale, which is also an airship that is part of the British fleet. The cool thing about the Leviathan is it's a fully working, sustainable ecosystem so it can repair itself if injured. Problem is, all the Darwinist flying beasties are filled with hydrogen so it makes it vulnerable to firearms. Interested yet? Just check out this cool map to get a better idea of what I’m talking about!
Yes the series is filled with beautiful illustrations such as the one above. The images actually turned me off from reading this series awhile back because I was certain I didn’t need no drawings to help me envison the book. Okay now I’m wholesomely thankful there were pictures because some of these ideas in Leviathan were so foreign to me when I began reading, that without the help of the photos, I may have been lost. What ideas do you ask? Well a giant flying whale for an airship for one! My mom is currently listening to these books on tape and was completely baffled by the idea of a flying whale. Other cool beasties are the Huxleys which are kind of a mix between a hot air balloon and a giant jelly fish, flechette bats which are bats that swallow metal bullets and fly over enemy planes to shoot them with, and krakens, giant squids that swallow up enemy ships that crash into the ocean.
On the Clanker side, we get some cool mechanical war machines as well, especially when we go to Istanbul, a neutral country that uses Clanker machines but shaped into Darwinist beasties. Our male lead in the series pilots a Stormwalker which is giant walking war machine. We also get other cool machines like giant spider-like walking land frigate, planes that can create lightning with a special cannon, but my favorites got to be the iron golems that guard the Jewish neighborhoods in Istanbul.
The awesome war machines and beasties aren’t even the best part of the series. There are only a handful of book characters I get really attached to; the only other books where this has happened are Harry Potter (of course), His Dark Materials, Let the Right One In, and now Leviathan. The heroine of Leviathan is Deryn Sharp, a Scottish girl who is disguised as a boy so she can join the Royal Air Navy, because flying is her greatest passion. Our hero in the series is Prince Aleksander of Hapsburg who is on the run from the Germans who may be trying to assassinate him due to his position in line for the Austria-Hungry throne. Deryn is a Darwinist and Alek is a Clanker, and fate brings the two of them together in a joint effort to stop the war. The two develop a close bond, but the only problem is, Alek believes Deryn to be a boy. You will fall in love with Alek and his incredible selflessness and thoughtfulness for others besides the fact he was raised a spoiled prince, and you will fall in love with Deryn and her awesome airman swagger, bravery, and devotion to Alek.
I really need to congratulate Mr. Westerfeld for writing such loveable characters and probably my favorite female heroine of all time. Is it a bad sign that all my favorite novel heroines are written by men? Well except for Hermione.
4.) The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
(Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker, Soul Eater, Outcast, Oath Breaker, Ghost Hunter)
The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness may be a series aimed at a younger audience then the rest of the series on my list, but this doesn’t mean it’s childish or dumbed down in the least bit! Some elements of the series were actually quite scary! Don’t ever be turned off because a book because it is located in the children’s section of the library, cause you can find some quality shit in there! This series is on the shorter side and it doesn’t waste any time by immediately jumping into things. From the first page, things kick off and it becomes impossible to put down from there. Check out my full review of the series here! Continue reading below to find out the cool pointers of the series that I think made it special.
This series is a children’s fantasy series, but it’s set 6000 years ago during the Stone Age in some fictional forest (modeled after several forests in Europe, around Scandanavia). The forest is surrounded by a snowy arctic to the north, the sea to the west, and some mountains in the Northeast. These lands are inhabited by various clans who are scattered in their individual territories. Each clan is devoted and named after an animal of the lands and they are skilled and incredible survivors at living off their area. With each book, we get a map of the clan’s territory that the book will be set in. Take a look at one of the maps below!
The series is focused on the adventures of a 12-year old boy named Torak of the Wolf Clan, his pack brother wolf called Wolf, and his friend Renn of the Raven Clan. I loved reading about the different clans as the series progressed. Each books is set in a different part of Torak's world and from that we get to see the different clans that live in that area and how they live differently. For example, Torak and Renn are part of the Open Forest being from the Wolf and Raven Clan. In the next book, we go out to Sea to the islands where we meet the Seal Clan. I particularly liked reading about the clans from the Far North (think snow and igloos) and the clans from the Deep Forest. Each map in the book shows the lay of the land the story is set in, as well as where the clans are located. The cool thing is, the maps are updated with each new book, and we can see how all the clans migrate.
The magic used in this series can only casted by powerful mages. Some people are born with a gift for mage craft, and there is only one mage per clan. Renn has an uncanny gift for mage craft which makes her unliked by many in her clan. Torak’s special power on the other hand is something that is unique to him only. From his mother’s sacrifice when he has only a baby (like Harry!), Torak was given the gift of a Spirit Walker. The Spirit Walker is one who can place one of the irthree souls in the body of another creature and move about their body. This power is something all mages desire and spend their entire lives trying to achieve it.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the devotion and respect these people had for their lands (which they refer to as their clan mother) and nature in general. It made me sad thinking about how far detached humans have become with nature, especially when I looked at the relationship between Torak and Wolf. The relationship between these two go beyond much more than a typical boy and his pet dog. Torak is able to speak to Wolf because when he was a baby and no longer had a mother, Torak’s father placed him in a den with a mother wolf to nurse him. Their relationship touched me so much that I ended up getting a tattoo of Torak and Wolf on my back and I love it!
5.) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Ender Wiggin Saga is probably just better known for the first book in the series which is Ender’s Game. This book has become a classic in the Science Fiction realm, and is often a required reading for high schoolers. With that, I’ll say right now that I actually only read Ender’s Game and haven’t touched the rest of the series. Well for one, the book had a conclusion so you don't really need to read the others. The rest of the series follows our hero Ender on his subsequent travels so they’re kind of more like add on’s to Ender’s Game which is the main novel. Second, I ran out of time to read the others, haha. Because I haven't read them all, I don't feel right to recommend the whole series. But it doesn’t matter! This book was awesome enough that I can stick it on this recommendation list without even having read the rest of the series.
I love the quote Mr. Card has in the novel at the beginning. “For Geoffrey, who makes me remember how young and old children can be.” This is exactly the reason why I loved this book and all the other books on my list so much. Stories with brave and heroic children are my favorite to read about. One of the reasons I love Harry Potter so much! Ender’s Game takes this concept to a whole other level. You see, Earth has been invaded by aliens and therefore a special military school is created to train prodigious child geniuses into soldiers!
Before I get ahead of myself, let me take a step back and explain the setting a bit more. So in some time far in the future, humans are invaded by an unknown alien race from outerspace called Formics and they nearly wipe out the entire human race. Humans therefore create an international military unit which call the International Fleet to combat the aliens. Humans at this point in time can travel through space and they’ve built space stations for human habitation. The booked is centered around a space station called the Battle School where these child prodigies train. The International Fleet test all the children of Earth and select the best to enroll in the Battle School. This is what happens to the hero of our story Ender Wiggins, who quickly demonstrates the ability to rise quickly above all the other children in the school.
The coolest parts in the book were during the “null gravity” training exercises. These were simulated battles done in zero gravity where two opposing teams would play against each other. Besides the cool training and battle simulations, what I loved most about this book was becoming engrossed in Ender’s story of struggle at the school. You can imagine at a military school, a boy younger than everyone else is quickly becoming the best, above all the older kids....it doesn’t make him a very popular guy at school. As a reader, you become concerned constantly about the physical and mental welfare of Ender as he is pushed to limited that no child at his age should. This point really also goes for all the other series I’ve listed here.
This book may be more dark and too science fiction-y for everyone, but even if you don’t like science fiction, give it a shot! You may be surprised. I will be sure to give you a more in depth review once I finished the entire series. I’m trying to keep this post as spoiler free as possible that’s why I have not delved too much into plot details. I’ve merely pointed out all the cool shit about each of these series to get you intrigued, and hopefully convince you to read some!
Whew! Long post! Hope it was worth writing!!
Friday, July 15, 2011
Last night, I got in line at 9:30 to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at my local theater. Seemed like the entire shopping center was in a Harry Potter frenzie! Every store seemed to be holding some sort of Harry Potter themed event. The theater was serving all sorts of Harry Potter themed drinks including alcoholic butterbeer (made with butterscotch schnapps!). People showed up in awesome costumes, my favorites including a real hot Bellatrix Lestrange, a hilarious Voldemort (some chick bandaged up her entire head), and a adorable old woman dressed as Umbridge!
So after all this build up, how did the movie measure up? Well personally, I thought it was FANTASTIC! I haven't been the biggest fan of Harry Potter films because they've never quite measured up to the books for me, but this film was different. I actually think that fans of the books will like this movie BETTER than those viewers who have not read the books. About 90% of the movie is focused on the Battle of Hogwarts, which in the books is really only about 1/5 of the last novel. So to have an entire movie based off of only about 150 pages of the books, as you can imagine, took many liberties in filling in some of the events that were happening during this epic battle that we weren't able to see in the book which was focused on Harry's watch.
Like I just mentioned, the entire film is mostly the Battle of Hogwarts, but I'll do a very brief synopsis. The film picks right back up where the last one left off. We see the scene where Voldemort snags the Elder Wand of Dumblydore's tomb and then we head back to Bill and Fleur's cottage where Dobby died. From there, Harry figures they got to break into Gringrotts because he suspects there is another Horcrux hidden in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault. They make a deal with the Goblin to help them get into the vault in exchange for the Sword of Gryffindor. Breaking into the Gringrotts bank was one of my favorite parts in the book but it was pretty short lived in the film. Yeah I get it, they wanted to get to Hogwarts as soon as possible. The trio does manage to find the Horcrue in the bank which ended up being a goblet belonging to Helga Hufflepuff, but unfortunately the goblin runs off with the sword so they don't have a way to destroy it. After escaping Gringrotts, Harry does his freaky shit where he reads Voldemort's mind and figures that another one of the Horcruxes are in Hogwarts, and it's something that belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. Harry and Co. manage to sneak into Hogwarts pretty easily with the help of Dumbledore's brother Aberforth and there, they are reunited with Dumbledore's Army who are more than willing to help Harry in his fight. Harry's presence in Hogwarts is immediately known, and Voldeymort gathers his army of Deatheaters, ready to raid Hogwarts and kill off everyone to find Harry. At this point, Hogwarts students and staff retaliate and the epic battle has begun.
Being able to see the Battle of Hogwarts in the way the film laid it out was something entirely new and satisfying. When reading the book, I imagined a bunch of Hogwart students in their school uniforms running around shouting spells at the Death Eaters. Well there is that in the movie, but we also get a lot more. At one point, I thought I was watching Lord of the Rings and the Battle at Minis Tirith instead of Harry Potter. We got giants rolling in and swinging their clubs on the Death Eater's side and these statued knight dudes marching out like an army from Hogwarts. I also like how we actually got to see Ron and Hermione go into the Chamber of Secrets and destroy the goblet. Like I said, the book mostly focused on Harry's account during the Battle of Hogwarts so it was cool seeing what else was going on at the time, which was just left to the imagination in the novel.
Some things that the movie did not show that I was hoping to see was for one, all the chicks, Hermione, Ginny and Luna fighting against Bellatrix before Molly comes and saves the day. I was also hoping to see the death of Remus while fighting Antonin Dolohov and Tonks from fighting Bellatrix. I thought the water works were going to start for me when Fred's time came, but surprisingly they did not. The character deaths weren't nearly as emotionally gripping as I thought they would be. They show bodies laid out in the Great Hall and the camera rolls over their bodies briefly. It wasn't even explained who was killed by who. My friend was sure her tears would come when you find out about Remus and Tonk's death but it was all so emotionally detached, it wouldn't allow for it. I can see why because the films did not nearly focus on their characters in the same way the books did. Remus was my favorite character in the book and his life was such a tragic story that I constantly ached for him when reading. However in the movies, I did not whatsoever care about his character and I feel so disappointed at the films portrayal and time devoted to him that I basically just completely block his character out of my mind. The film audiences who have not read the books will wonder why Remus showed up when Harry called upon the souls of his parents and Sirius when he found the resurrection stone. My other friend who has not read the last book was asking why he was going on blabbering about some mysterious son during this scene.
I'm not saying the movie left me completely dry eyed throughout the whole thing, cause I yes I did end up needing those tissues I brought along. Another favorite character of mine in the books was Severus Snape. Ah how I love characters with tragic stories. When Harry looks into Snape's pensieve and sees the memories of his life, his friendship with his mother, and all that he had done for Harry, the tears started flowing. I was kind of scared the movie wouldn't do this scene justice like in the fifth movie where Harry had previously (or was suppose to) visited Snape's pensieve. I can assure all of you out there that Mr. Yates brought more than justice to this scene. We finally get to see Snape for the man he really was and any haters out there will be bound to change their views. Oh this is make you wish that Harry had been born Harry Snape (lol horrid name) instead of Harry Potter.
Alright now here's one complaint I had about the film, and for me, it's a pretty big one. Once the battle is all wrapped up and he-who-must-not-be-named is gone forever, the aftermath of the battle was too fine and dandy. I fortunately was a part of the Harry Potter generation who got the opportunity to grow up along side Harry and have him beside me as I faced my own real life trials. The book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out during a time of great confusion, anger and sadness for me. A few weeks back, my school Virginia Tech was hit with a grave tragedy on April 16, 2007. I had a lot of trouble emotionally dealing with it and I wasn't sure how to react or who to go to. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, reading about the Battle of Hogwarts brought a new sense of strength to me. These students of Hogwarts were fighting so hard for their beloved school and through all the death and sadness, they were able to overcome it with such strength and immortalize their fellow students who passed by holding on to their dear memories. They were able to help me deal with the passing of my own fellow students at my beloved school, even though it took me many months to even begin to heal. Now going back to the movie, the moment the battle ended, everyone went back to being happy-go-lucky despite the tragedy that just happened. Ron had a smile on his face and was making jokes like his old self; your effing brother just died, spend a little bit more time mourning will you!? I wish they could have changed around the last scene of Harry, Ron and Hermione on the bridge outside of Hogwarts. I think a vigil outside the castle remembering all those who just sacrificed themselves or something like that would have been more appropriate.
So leading from that was the scene that I was most scared about seeing. You know I was reeeeeally hoping they would not include an epilogue. I seriously don't know a single person who mildly enjoyed the epilogue in the book. Honestly, no one wants to read about old Harry, Ron and Hermione and/or their kids. It was that much worse seeing it on screen. Ahhhhh Albus Severus! I could no longer contain my laughter at that point hearing it coming from a balding Harry. Thank goodness it was kept short and sweet as to not torture the fans for too long. It was also awkward seeing Harry and Ginny as an old married couple. The coupling of Harry and Ginny was bad enough in the books, and films devoted so little time to actually developing their relationship. If anything, it seemed more like the movies were shipping the characters of Harry and Luna. On that note, one change I really like that the movies did was pairing Neville and Luna at the end. As I understand Luna and Neville marry other people according to Jo, but seeing how bad ass Neville is and how loveable Luna is, I'm glad the film took the liberty to satisfy the fans in that sense.
And so this is really the end! Nothing left in the Harry Potter realm for me to look forward to!! I'm so thankful that I got to be apart of the generation that grew along side Harry and hope the future generations will be able to enjoy it all the same, though they may not be able to get drunk in the Harry Potter fandom with other HP geeks uniting at book and film releases like we were able to. And with the end to the saga, I pour out my heart and thank Harry for growing up with me through my awkward teenage years and helping me through all the bumps along the road in my lifetime. But don't be too down! As with anything when it comes to an end, it opens a spot for something new. There may never be another series like Harry Potter for several decades (if you say Twilight, I'm going to punch you in the face) but there are still many great, undiscovered book series out there. I'll be posting my list of book series you can try reading to help you heal your Post-Potter Depression. With these series, hopefully it will help you move your way through the seven stages of depression and reach the point of acceptance! Always hold Harry close to you and remember that he is only a bookshelf away if you ever need him!
Final Score- 9/10
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Leviathan series has loooong been overdue for me to read. I first discovered it around sometime last summer and I've had it on my reading list ever since, but seeing how distracted I am when it comes to picking the books I read, I didn't get around to it until a couple of weeks ago. Now that I finally have read it, I'm kicking myself hard in the butt for putting it off for so long. After reading the first two books in the series, I really think the Leviathan series could be the series to pave the way for steampunk novels in mainstream reading. First it was wizards, then vampires, now dystopia, and if I'm right, steampunk will be the next YA fad. Before I get ahead of myself, let me give you the definition for Steampunk. Once I tried to explain it to a friend of mine and she answered back with a blank stare, so I've pulled this definition from Wikipedia in the hopes that it will make more sense than my own words:
"Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction...Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc...
Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history-style presentations of "the path not taken" for such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace's Analytical engine."
As for Leviathan, the book takes an alternative look at World War I where the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungry) are called the "Clankers" and the Entente Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Algeria (a colony of France), Serbia, and Japan) were the "Darwinists." Clankers were characterized by their use of mechanical war machines and weapons, such as "Walkers" which were diesel powered walking war machines you pilot from the inside. The Darwinists on the other hand used evolved, fabricated creatures, also called "beasties," as their war weapons which is what the Leviathan is; a gigantic flying whale which is also an airship that is part of the British fleet. The cool thing about the Leviathan is it's a fully working, sustainable ecosystem so it can repair itself if injured.
The book begins in 1914, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife have been assassinated, and the Great War is about to break loose. Prince Aleksander of Hapsburg is forced to flee from the German assassins who killed his parents. Even though Alek is not the technical heir to the throne because his father married a commoner woman, Emperor Franz Joseph I is old and has no heir so Austria may turn to Alek when he passes on. Because of this, Alek's fencing instructor Count Volger and his Master of Mechanics Otto Kloop decide to pull him out of Austria at the risk of being murdered. They escape in a Stormwalker and have Alek practice piloting it while they're on the run.
Meanwhile in Britain, a girl named Deryn Sharp is studying to join the Royal Air Navy. Deryn dreams of being able to join the academy because flying what she loves more than anything and it's what she learned from her father who died in a ballooning accident. Because women are forbidden to join the air service, Deryn must masquerade as a boy and takes on the name Dylan Sharp. When she makes it to the academy, she takes a ride in a Huxely (a mix between a jellyfish and hot air balloon) and gets blown away in a storm off to the North Sea. While floating around the air, the famous giant airship The Leviathan comes and retrieves them. On the airship, Deryn joins the crew as they receive their first mission: to transport an important scientist, Dr. Nora Barlow, and her secret package to Constantinople.
In the meantime, Alek and his men make it to their hiding place in the Swiss Alps after evading a number of attacks from Austrian and German patrols. Their hideout is a castle installed with 10 years worth of supplies that Alek's father had prepared for him in the case of an event like this. While this is going, the Leviathan is in the air after having picked up Dr. Barlow. The ship comes under attack by German planes and crashes down on to the same glacier as Alek's castle. Alek sees the crash and decides to secretly bring medical supplies to the crew. When he makes his way over the to crash-site, he sees Deryn unconscious in the snow and wakes her. He tries to bluff saying that he is a Swiss villager just being a good samaritan and bringing them medical supplies. Unconvinced, Deryn sounds the alarms and Alek is taken prisoner. Not long after being captured, Alek's men coming crashing towards the ship in the Stormwalker and a battle almost explodes between the two sides. Deryn prevents this by pushing Alek out in front the Stormwalker and holding a knife to his throat. Okay I don't want to give away the entire novel so I'll just say that that is the beginning to a beautiful friendship between our two heroes.
By the time we get into the second novel, Behemoth, The Leviathan arrives in Istanbul with the secret package that Dr. Barlow has prepared for the Sultan. Istanbul is a mosh pit of Clanker culture and Darwinst principles, creating an interesting cultural intersect. The purpose of this secret package is to serve as a gift to the Sultan in an attempt to keep the Ottoman Empire's political ties neutral after the fact that Britain created a war monster called the Behemoth for the Ottoman Empire that they fully paid for, yet Churchill ran off with it. The Sultan is cutting off Britain's supplies to Russia, hurting them in their fight against the Clankers. Now the politically charged and hostile country is being influenced by Germany who bestowed two Clanker ships to the Sultan which are installed with a Tesla cannon. A weapon which could be used to easily shoot down hydrogen ships such as the Leviathan. The Behemoth beastie weapon could easily take down these ships but the Ottoman's Kraken net prevents the Behemoth from getting into Ottoman territory. Again, I don't want to give too much away so I'll just say that the we get to see Alek and Deryn join some revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire called the Committee of Union and Progress that involves some use of epic Clanker Walker machines.
You can't tell me that this plot synopsis doesn't intrigue you. I love the idea of linking historical events and locations with an alternative perspective, and Mr. Westerfeld does it in the most creative and innovative way. After the end of each book, Mr. Westerfeld hands us an Afterwords that goes over the historical liberties that he took. For one thing, Archduke Ferdinand did not have a son named Alekander so he is a fictional character, but you would be surprised how many things are based off of fact. My favorite was seeing the melting pot of Istanbul and its mix of Clanker machines and Darwinst culture.
Another fun things about reading this series was discovering all these war machines and monsters that came from the noggin' of Mr. Westerfeld. You might have a hard time envisioning these creatures and machines at first, but the book are dusted with rich detailed drawings by Keith Thompson to help you better see this alternative world created Mr. Westerfeld. It is totally worth buying the books just to get these incredibly ornate images. I don't usually like pictures that accompany books, but in this case, you need them to get the entire experience of Deryn and Alek's world. Just look how beautiful Mr. Thompson's artwork is below!
Coming in to reading Leviathan, I had recently come off of reading the Eon series just a few weeks before. Now if you read my review of Eon, you know it is also about a girl masquerading as a boy in some alternative ancient Eastern Asia land that heavily resembled China, and you'll know that I disagreed with Eon's (or Eona's) character. She had trouble embracing the woman in her, and when she does by the second book, she just becomes stupid girl pitting two men in her life against each other. Now Deryn on the other hand I loved. She knows how to act like a boy without losing her female identity. She embraces who she is instead of despising it like Eona. The introduction of a boy in her life also doesn't scramble with her common sense (at least not in a unhealthy way), but does provide a lot of cute moments (oh and Alek never knows that Deryn is actually a girl in the series so far). Deryn was probably one of the funnest and most interesting characters I've got to read about in a long time. I love her so-called "swagger" and fun lingo she uses (barking spiders!!!) and just her all around happy-go-lucky mentality. Deryn's character was just so well written, unique and epic, I just know that I will be comparing every book heroine I run across to her from now on.
Now typically when a novel's got both a main girl and guy character, one tends to overshadow the other. In the case of Leviathan, both Deryn and Alek get their equal share under the limelight. Both characters were also very likeable that it's almost hard to choose who you prefer (though I think I prefer Deryn a tiny bit over Alek). Alek, though he grew up a spoiled rich "barking ninny prince" (as Deryn puts it), he is incredibly thoughtful and really believes he can end the war. Alek quickly matures and grows up a lot throughout the two books and his immense kindness shows up at several moments. You will fall in love with both Alek and Deryn as you read the series, up to the point when you'll get stressed out over the thought of the two of them potentially getting separated.
Right now I am freaking out so badly over what fates Alek and Deryn hold, and the concluding novel named Golaith isn't coming out until September 20th! What the shits am I suppose to do til then!? I haven't been this excited for a book release since the last Harry Potter book. I've waited around for plenty of book releases since then, but never held anticipation like this in a while. Ahhhh, just look at the epic cover!
Honestly, even if you don't like steampunk, science fiction or anything like that, this series is a wholesome, fun way to pass the time that any reader could enjoy. I do hope this series picks up a bigger following because it deserves it waaaaaaaay more than some other shitty YA novels out there right now on trend. If you want to get away from shit-head, mentally retarded, attention seeking, "I'm good for nothing" "heroines" created by Stephanie Meyer or very underwhelming worlds with falling-to-shit writing by Suzanne Collins, try Scott Westerfeld for a change. Now my only question left for you is...do you oil your war machines, or do you feed them? Oh my god wow, I've become nerdier than ever.
Final Score- 10/10
You can also check out this cool promotional video for Leviathan here:
Also I just want to note that I'm sorry I've been so bad about writing reviews lately. I read a whole slew of books recently and I plan on getting those reviews out to you as soon as I can! Turns out I have a lot more time now to focus on my beloved blog!
Monday, June 27, 2011
"Brave is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Merida is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Merida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom. In an attempt to set things right, Merida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman (Julie Walters) and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Merida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), the surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane)."
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Okay so let me just give you a brief synopsis of the film. The movie centers around a group of friends in 1979 (who looked to be around 12) living in a small, quiet town in Ohio. The kids are working on a short film about zombies during summer break, but they need to film it in secret because their parents forbid them to make it. The story focuses around Joe Lamb who incidentally has a crush on a girl named Alice from school who is also helping with the film. One night during filming, a train is passing by and young director of the group, Joe's best friend Charles, yells at the group to begin shooting with the train in the background to up their production value. While filming as the training is passing by, a man driving a white truck slams into the train and reeks havoc with the kids caught right in the middle of the crash (don't worry, none of them are hurt). In the middle of the train ruckus, the kids notice there was something strange in the cargo that got out. They find run into the man who crashed into train (who for some reason survived the crash) who turns out to be their biology teacher at school. The man warns the kids not to speak of what they saw or else "they" will come and kill them and their families.
The kids then embark on a journey to uncover the truth behind what was in the cargo while strange things begin happening around town, and the air force coming in starting up some suspicious activity. As a side plot, Joe is also fighting an internal struggle trying to cope with the recent death of his mother, struggling with his estranged relationship with his father (who is also the town deputy), and pursuing a friendship with Alice who his dad forbids him to see because she is the daughter of the man he blames for his wife's death.
So where do I start with my commentary on this film? The film certainly pulled through a lot of that Spielberian feel, but also you saw the J.J. Abrams in it, plus a few others. I must say, the train wreck scene was one of the most intense action sequences I've ever seen and I almost was thinking for a second that this was a Michael Bay film. You also got a lot of Spielberg produced film The Goonies coming through while watching these kids at work. They're cute, have great chemistry together, and shine while on this crazy-ass adventure they're embarking on. I must say though, unlike the Goonies, Joe pretty much stole the majority of the spotlight instead of letting all the kids equal opportunities to shine. Alas, another film I was reminiscing upon that was neither Abrams or Spielberg was the Iron Giant by Brad Bird. I can't be the only person who thought this, especially during the scene at the end. Just watch it and you'll see what I mean.
Spielberg's magic was dusted throughout the film with his uncanny ability to transport you back to being a child again. Again, think back to E.T. For two hours on Friday night, I was a kid again- something I really needed after learning some pretty disheartening news earlier in the day. Oh and another very Spielberian quality of this film was the score. Written by probably my favorite composer (who I was wishing would eventually score an HP movie) Michael Giacchino, the music was so similar to E.T. that I thought maybe it was actually John Williams who composed it. Besides all these influences, you could still see Abram's mark written all over the film. Yes, yes there's the annoying lense flare, but you get use to it. Another were all the monster teasers (cough cough, smoke monster, cough), its got LOST written all over it! And yes, just like LOST, you pretty much don't see what the monster is til the end (so don't get annoyed). Now by the time we did see the monster (and this is the only complaint I have on the film) it seem very Cloverfield-like to me. Now Cloverfield was a Abram produced film so maybe that's just way all his monsters look, but by the time we got a close up of it, I felt like it was apart of a different movie. Now I was expecting the monster to be more, ehhh...not sure what the word is...realistic? I know this is a Sci-Fi film but the monster was a bit too science fiction for me, seeing how grounded the rest of the film was.
What drew me to this film the most, and the reason I loved it so much, was because of the kids. My friends may find this part funny, seeing how much I hate kids in real life, but stories about kids are my favorite type in film and in books. No, I don't like dumb children films about kids ouwitting adults. What I love are stories that show just how grown up a kid can be such as His Dark Materials, Ender's Game, Let The Right One In, Coraline, Spirited Away, etc. So don't be deterred from this film if you think it's a film for kids because it is about a group of kids. The main two actors in the film, Joel Courtney who plays Joe, and Elle Fanning who plays Alice, were I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E!!!! These two are young stars to keep your eye on. Both Joel and Elle were successfully able to carry out a huge range of emotions without faltering once! The two also had really good chemistry together and were super cute!
So what do you take out of my review. Yes, the film is a mashup of a lot of things we've seen before, BUT we've never seen them put together in a way like this. Screwn together, it's become something entirely on its own. I wouldn't have liked just another E.T. movie. Nowadays, I feel like we need films to be more raw and bleak, and I think Abrams was able to deliver that with Super 8. I really do think Abrams is proving himself just as good a film director as he is producer. The film critic in me tells me this film deserves an 8, but the kid in me is telling me to give it a 10. Just look at that film poster! Classic 80's movie cover right there! How can you not love it!? Stay through the credits; you get to see their short zombie film. Super cute!
Final score- 10/10