5 stars · nonfiction

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon is AMAZING

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the art of how to train your dragon

written by : tracey miller-zarneke

preface by : cressida cowell

pages [hardcover] 160

favorite part of the book : toothless concept art!

summary :

Featuring more than 350 pieces of development artwork that includes early character designs, story sketches, and concept paintings never before released by the studio, The Art of How to Train Your Dragon offers a stunning view of DreamWorks Animation’s film about an unlikely alliance between a young Viking and a deadly dragon, inspired by the original book by Cressida Cowell.

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon presents the insights of the filmmakers who crafted this high-flying cinematic adventure and takes the audience on a visual tour of the Viking and dragon worlds that is an enthralling – but far less treacherous – as one would experience living among fire-breathing creatures with a boisterous Viking tribe.

The reader will be intrigued by page after page of beautifully realized illustrations that show how this remarkable movie about the Viking world, “where only the strong can belong,” mixed with the dragon world with its “fiery furies,” was conceived in its full glory. There are also behind-the-scenes section on the bold cinematic techniques used in creating this strikingly original animated movie. With an exclusive preface by Cressida Crowell and forward by Craig Ferguson, How to Train Your Dragon will be a delight for all movie and animation lovers as well as dragon and Viking fans.

review :

I absolutely love the art books that accompany most animated movies nowadays. They’re pretty expensive so I don’t own nearly as many as I’d like but whenever the stars align, and the pay is good, and the price is right, one falls into my hands. I’ve been waiting on this one for a while. It didn’t disappoint.

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon is slightly reminiscent of The Art of Rise of the Guardians, because each had a children’s/middle grade book series that existed before the film was conceived. And both films aren’t so much direct adaptations as vaguely related entities when compared to the original texts. I loved being able to see the steps that occurred between the original conception of the movie, focused more on the book, and the end result, which told its own story. Using the same basics characters, setting, and themes, but in a slightly aged-up and slightly scarier version of Hiccup’s world.

I loved it all.

I loved seeing concept art–concept art always fascinates me. To see these iterations of beloved characters and know that they could have looked like any one of those options if the design team had taken the film in a different direction. I loved the little fun facts, like Astrid’s braid trailing down her back rather than the side of her head because she kept turning and whacking other characters with it. I loved learning how they layered the settings, cheated with the lighting, threw in details they knew might not make it to the final version.

I can’t pretend to know everything about animation. I’m not an artist. But I know story. And it’s so interesting to see how all of these different components and concepts and ideas thread together into a cohesive and loved whole. Something people will watch and remember and then watch again.

I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s smart, it’s beautiful, and most importantly, it has dragons.

5/5 stars

 

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5 stars · Fantasy · series

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is all I want in fantasy

A Darker Shade final for Irene

a darker shade of magic

shades of magic #1

author : v.e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 400

memorable quote :

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

favorite character : holland

summary :

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

review :

This book is truly a rollercoaster and, wow, I can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

There are some books I know I’ve been hyped too much about and can’t enjoy. Then there are some that live up to the hype, exceed it–maybe deserve more of it. A Darker Shade of Magic is certainly the latter.

And, yes, I’d heard a lot of good things about this book. But I dove into it without even reading the summary–without knowing much about the plot really. Apart from assuming it had something to do with magic. (Yes. There is plenty of magic in this book. What. A. Shock.) I loved not knowing what I was getting myself into. What the world was, what the plot was going to be, what the characters goals and motivations were. I wanted to find out within the story and it truly delivered.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I already know I need more to devour. The writing is just captivating. I love the way that the world was built. And there was absolutely no info-dumping! I hate that more than almost anything else in fantasy novels. The characters were so nicely fleshed out that you came to feel for even the most minor of them. I wanted more of some who only appeared on a few pages!

That said, some of the main characters were a little predictable in their little heroic roles. I’m excited because the way this book left off leaves more room for interesting and unexpected things to happen. For these characters to really branch out and flex their wills and abilities in this world.

Basically I need book two like yesterday.

This is a book I’ll recommend and reread. It’s a book with characters I love and a world I can immerse myself in and a story that hooks me in. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · books to movies

Thor Ragnarok: Movie Review

This was my least anticipated Marvel title for a while now. I never really expected to actually see it in theaters.

I’m so glad that I did.

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Thor: Ragnarok follows a more Guardians of the Galaxy kind of tone when it comes to superhero films. It doesn’t take itself too seriously–actually, it doesn’t take the previous two Thor films too seriously. It pokes fun at itself, while simultaneously building on the mythology of the world and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was fun, and sad, and had a lot of amazing fight scenes complete with superpowers and explosions.

Basically, all I want in my Avengers films these days.

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Thor has always been my least favorite Avenger–maybe tied with the Hulk. And because both of those Avengers happen to be in this movie, I never really gave it much thought. The previous two Thor movies never really stood out to me. They were dark and serious, without the hearty punch that’s come from previous Marvel movies with the same tone. Which is crazy to me because undoubtedly out of the favorite characters of the MCU is Loki. The previous Thor movies didn’t have the charm and heart of the Captain America films. None of the punchy pizzazz that comes with Iron Man. Those two series succeed in having rather dark and twisted plots, amazing characters to pull them through, and memorable witty moments.

Thor didn’t really succeed with the funny for me until this movie.

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I will admit that Ragnarok did at times feel like it was trying too hard. That it wanted so much to be seen as something separate, so it could be more successful, that it was punching its way out of the setup given by the previous movies. What happened to Thor’s friends? I could only remember Lady Sif. Where did all of his friends go? Thor really doesn’t seem to care. He cares a whole lot for saving the world (well, stopping the start of the end of the world, I guess) but it’s a lot of generic for the greater good and not the good of, you know . . . all those guys he spent thousands of years fighting beside.

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The character of Thor himself was decidedly different. Of course he would have changed, what with the ‘stuff’ he’s been through (I have to be vague–I literally have no idea what he’s been up to and he gives the vaguest answer, too, okay?) and the whole Jane situation (does anyone else remember when Thor used to date Natalie Portman?). There were just a few random moments where Thor seemed very un-Thor like for the sake of throwing in a few extra jokes.

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BUT I will say that those are the only bad things I can say about this film. As soon as I finished watching it, I decided I wanted to watch it again. I loved the amazing settings, the new characters introduced, the dynamic between Thor and Loki (I MISSED THIS SO MUCH). I want more. Am I a Thor fan now? I guess. Am I even more excited for the next Avengers movie? I didn’t think it was possible, but YES.

Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok? What did you think? Most importantly: What was your favorite joke?

I give Thor a resounding 5/5 stars because the entertainment of it outweighed anything else.

 

 

 

 

5 stars · science fiction · series

Undivided by Neal Shusterman; an amazing conclusion to the series

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undivided

unwind #4

book 1: unwind
book 2: unwholly
book 3: unsouled

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 372

favorite characters  conner & risa

memorable quote :

Best way to save humanity is to turn the monsters against one another.

summary :

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future.

But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

review :

Unwind was one of those books that, after I read it, I knew immediately I was going to love it and keep rereading it forever. It took me a little while to realize it was going to be part of a series. I’m so amazed at the turns this series has taken–the ups, the downs, those nail-biting moments in-between. Neal Shusterman proves again and again that he’s one of my favorite authors because he’s brilliant, and writes wholly (ha) unique and compelling narratives, and creates these characters you can’t help but love.

Undivided, the final book in the Unwind dystology, came with a bittersweet feeling. I often hate to end series because, while I have this pull to know what’s going to happen, I can’t help but feel like I need to stretch out my time in the story. I don’t want it to end. Oftentimes it takes me longest to read the books I know I’ll love because I’m afraid of the terrible things that could happen to the wonderful characters.

Not to say that Neal Shusterman isn’t also capable of creating amazing, compelling villains, or those characters who float around in the gray area between good and evil. As much as I care for some of the amazing crew they’ve picked up along the way, I always need me some Connor and Risa.

I won’t spoil anything. I will say that this book made me cry like I haven’t since I read book one for the first time. It’s amazingly thoughtful, terribly reminiscent and poignant in today’s world. It’s sweet. It bites. And it’s everything that I could have ever wished for.

What I love most about this series is that when it’s bad, you can’t imagine it will get any worse. And it does. And then when it’s good, you can’t imagine it’ll get any better, and then it does. There’s never any way to predict it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sad to say goodbye to those surprises, and these characters, and those moments that made me laugh or cry. But I’m glad for the journey–if only so I can force everyone I know to read these books, immediately.

Undivided proves, once and for all, that this will be one of my favorite series of all time.

5/5 stars

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

Teen Titans Volume 1: an interesting reboot series

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Teen Titans: Volume 1

Damian Knows Best

author : benjamin percy

illustrator : jonboy meyers

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

As a part of DC Universe: Rebirth, the son of Batman, Damian Wayne, joins the Teen Titans!

The Teen Titans are further apart than ever before…until Damian Wayne recruits Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and the new Kid Flash to join him in a fight against his own grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul! But true leadership is more than just calling the shots–is Robin really up to the task? Or will the Teen Titans dismiss this diminutive dictator?

The team will have to figure this out fast, as a great evil from Damian’s past is lurking around the corner, ready to strike at the team’s newest leader and destroy the new Teen Titans before they even begin!

The newest era of one of DC’s greatest super-teams begins here in Teen Titans, Volume 1: Damian Knows Best! Written by Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow) with spectacular art by newcomer Jonboy Meyers.

CollectingTeen Titans 1-5, Rebirth

review :

I love Teen Titans. I love the DC Rebirth event. I love this volume.

Damian Knows Best kicks off with a nice kidnapping of all of the team members and only gets better and more complex from there. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Kid Flash are all older (though not necessarily more mature) than thirteen year old Damian. He knows what he wants, and maybe not necessarily what he needs. With a team put together, he’s determined to keep all of them alive–knowing that big enemies are coming toward them, both because of and in spite of them.

I loved the character arc throughout this volume for Damian, aka Robin, aka the son of Batman. He really grew on me, from this obnoxious, egotistical little kid to a strong, brave (still really short) kid. He’s put up with so much in life. I love how glimpses into his upbringing are given without the typical info-dumping that typically happens in comics. Instead, it’s introduced gradually and seamlessly into the plot.

Apart from that, I love how every version of Teen Titans I read involves its own take of the team members. Not only stylistically with the character sketches but little tweaks with how they hold themselves, present themselves, though the core of their personalities and who they are always remains the same.

This volume also has amazing, complex, and a little bit terrifying villains. I love how nothing was simple. I loved the big battles. I love that the Titans aren’t all-powerful and still have a few things to work out between themselves to become an even greater team.

I’d definitely recommend this volume, both to fans of the Titans and those who’d never been introduced to them at all. This is one you can read with no background info and absolutely fall into. The universe and plot set themselves up so nicely, the art is amazing, and the characters are addictive. I need more!

5/5 stars

5 stars · children's books · fiction

imaginary fred by eoin colfer & oliver jeffers is the book all kids and grown-ups need

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imaginary fred

authors : eoin colfer & oliver jeffers

pages : [hardcover] 48

summary :

A quirky, funny, and utterly irresistible story from Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers, two of the finest children’s book creators on the planet.

Did you know that sometimes, with a little electricity, or luck, or even magic, an imaginary friend might appear when you need one? An imaginary friend like Fred.

Fred floated like a feather in the wind until Sam, a lonely little boy, wished for him and, together, they found a friendship like no other.

The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork makes for a dazzlingly original picture book.

review :

I never had an imaginary friend when I was younger. Maybe because I had books instead.

That sounds incredibly corny, but it was true. Whenever I was lonely, I could always find someone to be friends with me, and maybe fictional characters are their own kind of imaginary friends. I’ve been obsessed with them long enough to not really know the difference.

Imaginary Fred is an amazingly cute, quirky story about what it is to be a friend, what it is to be recognized, and what great things the imagination can do for you. Sam has always wanted a friend, and Fred has had many people befriend him during his imaginary friend gig . . . but they all, inevitably find real friends for themselves. And forget all about him.

Sam and Fred have an amazing relationship and friendship and I love all of the messages told in this story. I don’t want to spoil any of them (and, really, this book is short enough, so you need to go and read it yourself if you’re so curious, and just because it’s that good). Messages about friendship, about identity, creativity, love, caring, altruism . . .

And, yes, I know children’s books always have some kind of hidden agenda, right? They’re always trying to teach something. Or at least a lot of tiny little things. Imaginary Fred does it right because while the messages aren’t hidden, they aren’t spelled out for the kids, either. It lets younger readers do all of the critical thinking on their own.

But, really, the illustrations and story are cute enough for readers of any age.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

if you love Peter Pan, you’ll LOVE hook’s tale

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hook’s tale: being an account of an unjust villainized pirate written by himself

author : john leonard pielmeier

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite characters : tiger lily & james

summary :

A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.

Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.

Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.

review :

I received a copy of Hook’s Tale from the publisher for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you know me at all, you know I have a love for Peter Pan that will never grow up. Also, that I tell terrible jokes. If you don’t know me, then you know fairy tale retellings have only been growing in popularity–not all of them good. Hook’s Tales is one of those books you would say isn’t good. It’s great.

Hook’s Tale is narrated by the man himself, or rather, the real version of the villain. James Cook is rather offended by the nickname, though having a hook for a hand is quite useful. I absolutely loved that this book plays with the idea that Cook told his story to the author of the original Peter Pan play, who of course got all of the details horribly wrong. Hook wasn’t quite a villain, and Peter wasn’t quite innocent, and that ticking crocodile wasn’t quite out to devour him, either.

James Cook travels to Neverland quite accidentally, and the story begins with Cook as a child, with both hands intact, around Peter’s age. I loved that we were allowed this dynamic interaction between classic hero and villain, because the roles are often switched between the two of them. Cook can be sensible, and cunning, and brave, whereas Peter can also be these things, as well as vindictive, and cruel, and childish. Sometimes a deadly combination.

Throughout Hook’s Tales, Cook returns to England several times through a route he discovers for himself, that inevitably lead to the events of the classic story that everyone knows well. However, thingsstill aren’t quite the way they are told in that narrative. Cook is out to set the truth down, once and for all, about what happened in Neverland and the role he played in this story.

I loved it, I devoured it, and I want more of it even though I know there can’t be any more of it. Cook was a fascinating character and his book is written in journal entries, giving the reader a perfect view into his mindset in this world. He experiences fantastical things, like flying and fairies and mermaids, as well as tragic things, like the loss of innocence and death. There, written for anyone to see, is his truth, a contradiction to whatever else history will know of him.

This book is perfect for fans of the original because there are so many references to it that are renewed here in the way the plot twists. Basically, take everything you thought you knew about Peter Pan and prepare to leave it all behind for Cook’s version of events. Keeping a sharp eye out, you’ll read all of the classic elements of the original.

The text reads like a curious mix between historical fantasy and fairy tale, because it’s written to be just lingering at the edge of belief. Cook travels from a real place, in a real time period, to this fantastical Neverland. And who’s to say this island doesn’t exist, somewhere, waiting to be found? That Cook’s side of the story isn’t the real one?

I can’t recommend this book enough. Fans will fly through the pages, particularly if they head toward the second star on the right and go straight on to morning.

I had to at least get one more joke in there.

As a person who reads fairy tale retellings above all else, and Peter Panbooks very often, Hook’s Tale stands out as a fantastically written, wonderfully reimagined story I’ll read over and over again.

5/5 stars