Wonder Woman (2017 movie)

wonder_woman_ver5The future of justice begins with her.

Before I start this review, I want to give you a couple of disclaimers.  I went and saw this on Friday with my boyfriend, not because I was necessarily interested in it, but I did owe him because he saw Beauty and the Beast on opening night for me.  And because I love him and wanted to see him happy, I put on my big-girl pants and went to go see a super hero movie I had very little interest in.  (This will become slightly more evident throughout the review.)

I’m just gonna assume y’all know who Wonder Woman is and a little about her, so we’ll just skip to the review.  (This movie is basically her origin story.)  Ok, moving on.

Like I said earlier, I’m not really into super hero movies.  The only one I’ve seen and liked was Iron Man and that came out what, like a decade ago?  (2008, I just checked.)  Personally, I think they’ve only gone downhill from there.  So take all of this with a grain of salt, but I had a hard time getting into the movie.

(Quick story to prove I have no idea what I’m talking about with super heroes.  So like an hour into the movie when it became obvious Chris Pine had a crush on Wonder Woman, I turned to my boyfriend and asked, “Is that a thing?  Captain American and Wonder Woman?”  After the initial what are you talking about?, he informed me that Chris Pine is not Captain America.  Needless to say, I was embarrassed.)

It’s a pretty typical example of a hero’s journey, if you’re at all familiar with Greek mythology or literally any story with a “hero,” super or otherwise.  They are living their life, the get a call to action in the form of someone needing help, and then they go through a lot of self-discovery and fighting and learning.  Blah blah blah.  (Again, to me, this is utterly predictable.  It’s probably the same sense of predictability guys feel in romantic comedies.)  So Diana is an Amazon princess, training away, and then she meets a *man* for the first time.  *GASP*  From there, she sets off to end World War I basically on her own.  Apparently this is a change from the comic books, where she jumps into World War II.  As a history buff, I approved of this change.  World War II is way overdone.

(Ahem…my sarcasm may be a little thick…I’m going to try to tone it down a bit.)

Anyway, I found the plot to be slow on top of being predictable.  There’s a ton of background info, lots of scenes that I felt weren’t totally needed, and some that were a bit too long.  (The running time for this movie is roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes.)  And all the fighting sequences?  Did they really have to be in slow motion half the time?  Ugh.  Slow-mo fighting is the worst.

I will say, even though most of the movie seemed predictable to me, there were moments where I was taken by surprise.  There’s one really good one where my reaction was, “Oh, cool.  Now we’re talking.”  And then it went into another slow-mo fight scene.

What I did actually like were the characters.  This greatly enhanced my movie experience.  Gal Gadot does a very nice job playing Diana as fierce and passionate while also completely out of her depth and innocent.  And Chris Pine definitely steals more than a few scenes with those big eyes and snarky humor.  Those two definitely made the movie worthwhile.  There was character development (which is my weakness) and it made sense to the story.

From the beginning, I had high expectations about this being feminist and full of strong female characters, etc.  That’s how it’s been hyped up in the media.  And to an extent, that was true.  I’m thrilled that there is now a female super hero for girls to look up to that isn’t like, Black Widow.  (Nothing against Scar-Jo, but Black Widow’s not exactly a role model.)  Wonder Woman is an idealist and tends to see the best in things, and she’s incredibly brave and determined to make the world a better place.  Having an entire village of Amazon warriors also played up this feminist approach.

Was it perfect?  No.  I wish there had been another female lead character, because after the first half hour or so, it’s just Gadot up there.  Her team, of sorts, includes 4 men and a female secretary who is probably in about 15 minutes of the film.  I mean, couldn’t there have been a female smuggler?  You can’t tell me women couldn’t hide a number of things under those Edwardian dresses.  And being female wouldn’t have stood out any more than the ethnicity of some of the characters.  (One is Turkish while another is Native American.)  Heck, why not cast a Turkish woman or Native American woman for the part?  It’d have the same effect.

And there were still lines or scenes that still felt slightly uncomfortable because of how the men in the story saw Diana.  I’m not talking about the typical, “You stay back while we take care of it,” macho approach.  I expected that, especially given the time period.  No, there’s one scene where a man sees Diana fighting for the first time and says, “I’m both afraid and aroused.”  Seriously?  That was necessary to this film?  It got a laugh from the predominantly male crowd, but I didn’t like it.  I literally could not stop thinking about that line for the rest of the movie whenever that character popped back on the screen.  Which was fairly frequently, considering he was a main-ish character.

Perhaps ironically, there was another scene in the movie toward the very end that kind of made me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.  It wasn’t sexist or demeaning at all.  (It’s kind of a big twist in the story, so I can’t tell you what it is.)  Anyway, it finally dawned on me why it made me feel off.  Normally in super hero movies, it’s a female’s action.  The fact that a man was doing it threw me off and I didn’t even realize it for over 12 hours.  It flipped things on me and once I realized that, I had more respect for it.

Look, I’m one person, and I know that every woman, man, feminist, or Amazon is going to have a different take on how well this portrays women.  Here’s what I’m truly most excited about: the crowd for the movie was predominantly male and it was busy.  This means this movie is going to do fairly well for itself in box office totals AND that men truly don’t care that this movie stars a woman, was directed by a woman, and all this other stuff the media keeps hyping up.  Hopefully this means that more movies like this will be green-lighted because there is an audience out there.

From the reactions of my boyfriend and the other men in the theater, this was well-worth seeing.  My biased self?  Worth seeing once, but I’m certainly not going to rush out to see it again.

(Personally I’d give it a 3, but my boyfriend urged me to post this review and I’m pretty sure he’d give it a 4 or 5, so I’m going to average that out and give it a 4, since he knows more about super hero movies than I do.)

Summer Days and Summer Nights

91q8iuk2b3clHey guys!  It’s hard to do first lines for an anthology, so I’ll just get right to it.  This anthology was edited by Stephanie Perkins and I’ll break down each story in its own right without (hopefully) too many spoilers.  Whether you want to read the whole thing or just part of it (or if you’ve already read it yourself and want to see what I thought of your favorite short stories), this is your guide!

Head, Scales, Tongue, Tale by Leigh Bardugo

This one was weird and I thought an odd choice to start off an anthology of love stories.  It’s definitely fantasy, but like…urban fantasy?  Anyway, I thought it was odd.  3/5

The End of Love by Nina LaCour

The first of a number of LGBT stories.  This was a little dark content-wise (which I kind of expected from LaCour, who has made a career writing about dark topics like suicide), but it was cute.  Kinda hopeful, kinda cynical.  It worked.  4/5

Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray

Freaking creepiest story in the whole book.  It didn’t help that I was reading it at midnight right before I planned on going to bed.  Leave it to Libba.  But the story itself was hilarious and incredibly well-written.  Just freaky.  5/5

Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block

I truly think I just don’t like Block’s writing style.  She didn’t give any of the characters names, just letters like L, M, and J.  And, in terms of content (not scare-factor), this was the darkest of all of the stories.  It wasn’t even really a love story.  2/5

In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins

This was what I expected out of Perkins.  It was cute, with a narrator who is a little bit lost, a little bit off balance because of things happening around her.  I could get behind both of the characters and it was all very sweet.  And it was funny.  I really enjoyed it.  5/5

Souvenirs by Tim Federle

Another LGBT story, set in a theme park.  While I don’t normally read LGBT stories (nothing against them, they just aren’t what I normally search out when I pick books), this was really good.  Federle makes some hilarious observations about people at theme parks and the difference between introverts and extroverts.  5/5

Inertia by Veronica Roth

Probably the only story in this book that had a little bit of a sci-fi bend to it, which I expected from Roth.  It was an interesting story, but I still felt like it was missing something.  4/5

Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron

A slightly bizarrely-told love story that follows multiple couples working at/visiting a resort.  The story telling was funny, but it felt fake/forced at the same time.  3/5

Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert

This is one that starts off depressed and lightens up a little as the story goes on.  I wasn’t overly thrilled with it because of that mood and how it never really felt like a love story either.  3/5

Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare

Oh, Clare.  Leave it to her to write a creepy story.  But I’ll tell you what, these creepy supernatural love stories were some of the most entertaining.  Clare’s inventive to say the least.  5/5

A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith

This was utterly adorable.  It starts off a little like a comedy of errors, but you quickly learn why things don’t go the way the main character, Annie, thinks it should.  It was really really cute.  5/5

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman

Like Groundhog Day, this couple who’s never met get stuck reliving August 4th over and over again.  It was cute, but it didn’t seem to focus on the romance and it seemed a bit odd.  Like it focused on things that I wouldn’t have focused on.  3/5

Overall, I thought this was a good anthology.  There will always be stories you don’t like because of an author’s writing style or what have you, but there are others that are totally worth it.

House of Furies (House of Furies, #1)

29736099First Lines: My name is Louisa Rose Ditton.  I work and live at Coldthistle House, a house for boarders and wanderers.  A house owned by the Devil.

I’m going to start by saying that I’ve never read anything by Madeleine Roux before, but I always hear about her.  My students love the Asylum series; I just haven’t gotten around to it.  So when I had the chance to read this as an ARC from Edelweiss, I jumped at the chance.  (The book officially released yesterday…I’m only a little behind.)

After escaping from an abusive boarding school for girls, Louisa is grateful to find work as a maid at the Coldthistle House.  But soon after arriving, she realizes that things aren’t right here.  Things that go bump in the night are actually real…and dangerous.  The owner, Mr. Morningside, isn’t simply interested in taking in boarders; he’s out for revenge.  He and the staff pass judgment on those who are too far gone to be saved and execute them.  Quickly, Louisa begins to fear for a kind and charismatic young man named Lee.  She doesn’t think he deserves the ultimate judgment, so it’s up to her to prove he’s innocent.  But in a house owned by the Devil, how can Louisa know who to trust?

Let’s take a little stroll through my likes and dislikes.

I really liked the concept. Set in the 1800s, the Devil owns a mansion and exacts revenge against people who commit atrocious crimes. Alright, that sounds interesting. Pour on top of that a healthy mix of supernatural beings who add flavor to this story and you have something guaranteed to catch my attention (and apparently make me use food-related metaphors). I love supernatural stories, and the weirder the better. This wasn’t the weirdest thing I’d ever read, but it had its moments. And I’m all for that.

I really liked the cast of minor characters. Louisa’s friend Lee was sweet and open in a way that contrasted nicely with the world that she’d grown up in and the one she currently found herself in. He was innocence in all the darkness. And the others in the mansion like Poppy, Mary, and Chijioke were interesting counters to what was happening as well. Even though they were part of it all.

What I didn’t like may be a slightly longer list.

I wasn’t crazy about Louisa, the main character. She spent a lot of her time being in denial, which seemed to just make the story longer and more boring because she’s hearing things from twenty different directions and she’s choosing to ignore them all. It was annoying, even if I understood her motivations. She was also a pretty typical maiden-in-distress that only sometimes was able to save herself. Look, I know in the 1800s it was seen more that women needed men to save them. We’ve got plenty of fairytales from that period that proves it. And I’ll admit that I’m getting used to historical novels where the women are gutsy and strong. But I still believe there had to be women throughout history (and more than just a handful) that could save themselves, especially girls like Louisa who were poor and beaten down. Those are your fighters and she just wasn’t.

I thought the plot was slow and unsurprising. The book jacket basically tells you everything big that happens in the book, so there were no twists or big reveals. And the “twists” that were there were hardly what I would call surprising. There was no sense of suspense at all throughout this entire story. Ok, maybe once or twice, but it didn’t last very long.

I also thought some of the writing choices were strange. We get to read excerpts from a guide Louisa finds and they come at the beginning of many of the chapters. However, sometimes those excerpts were longer than the chapters themselves and by the time I got done with the excerpt, I’d forgotten what was happening in the chapter before. So it made the story feel a bit choppy and then I tended to forget about what the excerpts had said because there was no context for it in the story and it didn’t seem to fit with the action anyway. (They do come into play later, but not for a long long time.)

A point that’s neither here nor there but is worth mentioning is that I had an ARC copy, which means a lot of the interior pictures were not there. The illustrations for Morningside’s book were there, but photographs/other artwork were not. So I know I’m missing out on something that probably could have enhanced my reading of this book. C’est la vie.

Overall, I just wasn’t very impressed by this. It wasn’t scary, I couldn’t really get into the main character’s mindset, and the action really never went anywhere.

Thoughts on Episode 1 of Still Star-Crossed

So yesterday I posted about how excited I was about this show because of how much I love the book.  And I made sure that I was sitting in front of the TV right on time to watch this.

Initial reaction to the episode: Meh.

There was too much going on.  I know that not everyone is an amateur Shakespearean scholar like myself, but I thought reviewing what happened in the end of Romeo and Juliet was kind of boring.  Not to mention they changed things, like virtually entirely cutting Nurse out of it all and putting Rosaline in her place.  I understand why the show did it, but c’mon.  Authenticity.

And all the characters still feel like stereotypes.  There are so many characters being introduced at this point that there was no room for depth.  At. All.  Everyone feels like a caricature.

Anyway, there was way too much going on in this show.  I know they’re trying to introduce all the characters and the conflict between the families and all that, but I never knew where to look!  Constant sword fights, throwing faces our way that we don’t really recognize yet and hoping that we can follow along, rapid-fire plot twists.  I’ve read the play many times, the book twice, and I still had trouble following it.  I don’t even know how newbies are doing with this.

I still think there’s a lot of potential here.  I’m hoping it’s just the pilot that’s too rushed.  They were showing scenes from the rest of the season at the end of this episode and I think it could very easily sink into a really good story.  But it’s going to have to do that soon because right now it feels a lot like a soap opera.  (And yes, I realize that’s also basically how Shakespeare wrote his tragedies.  But his never unfolded quite this quickly.)

Still Star-Crossed–Coming to TV Tonight!!

Hey guys, so if you’ve been following me long, you know that I’m a pretty big English nerd (you may have picked up on that simply because I have a blog entirely devoted to books, but just in case you didn’t notice).  And one thing I completely geek out over is Shakespeare.

So when I heard that this beauty, Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub, was going to be turned into a TV show by Shonda Rhimes, well, this was a no-brainer.  I’ve read the book twice and I’m super excited to see how this show adapts it.

51qnlnlyy3l-_sx328_bo1204203200_

“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene.”

If you haven’t heard about this show or the book, it’s basically life in Verona after Romeo and Juliet kill themselves.  Remember, the Prince made the Montagues and the Capulets swear that the fighting would be over now that it had claimed so many lives.

But, of course, it doesn’t.  At least in this adaptation.  So the prince needs to fight dirty, and he decides that there needs to be another cross-family marriage.  Needless to say, no one is happy about that, least of all the couple to be wed.

The book is gorgeous, if you haven’t read it.  I love the characters and the way the story is written.  I’m always in the mood to pick this back up because there are some really interesting twists in it that I didn’t see coming the first time and really change your feelings toward the characters from the original play.  In interesting ways, let’s just say.

Anyway, the show airs TONIGHT on ABC at 10 PM Eastern time and I’m totally pumped.  I will probably be back on here tomorrow talking about my reactions to the first episode.  I’m just going to drop the extended trailer down here.  It gives you a better idea of what the show is than the 30 second commercials.  Enjoy!  Drop a comment to share your thoughts!

 

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)

512and8xm0l-_sx331_bo1204203200_First Lines: Aliens are stupid.  I’m not talking about real aliens.  The Others aren’t stupid.  The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog.  No contest.

Look at me, knocking out books left and right!  That’s because IT’S SUMMER VACATION!  So hopefully this means I’ll get back to normal with all these reviews.  I’ve got a huge backlog of ARCs and new releases that I’m working on.  So sit back and watch me read!  (Wait…that sounds kinda boring…)  Anyway, this was a book my students are always reading and I needed to see what was up with it.  Literally all I knew about it before starting it was it was a movie and there were aliens.  That’s it.

Four waves of an alien invasion have basically wiped out the human population.  If Cassie has learned anything so far, it’s to trust no one.  And with the 5th wave just beginning, she knows that only the strongest and smartest will survive…and she’s determined to be in that group.  To stay alone is to stay alive, since the Others can look just like humans.  But that all changes when she meets Evan Walker.  He is Cassie’s only hope for saving her brother.  So Cassie has to choose: stay alone and miserable with little hope of saving her brother but staying alive herself or joining up with Evan to save her brother but putting herself more at risk?

Boy, did it take a while to get into the story. I was stuck in the beginning for the longest time, even stopping to read another book in between because it just wasn’t going anywhere. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of alien stories unless there’s something else about the story to grab my interest. And at the beginning of this, I wasn’t finding that “something else”. It wasn’t until the end of Part II that I started feeling like we were getting somewhere.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Cassie as a character. I think she’s strong and fierce, especially when she has to deal with the entire world collapsing around her. It’s pretty awesome how she manages through it all. The beginning is this weird mash between Cassie’s past before the invasion and her living alone in the woods trying not to go crazy. And the longer the story went on, the more I liked her.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, which were sometimes hard to keep straight because it never comes out and tells you who is speaking. You have to figure it out. But for the most part, it’s not terribly difficult. The weirdest thing is that one of them is sorta told in 2nd person, which never really happens. And it’s just different.

The minor characters were great as well. I don’t want to get too far into the details because I think half of the fun of this is not knowing what’s coming. (Somehow, even with a movie out, I managed to completely not know what this book was about besides aliens.) But I found the characters to be intelligent and clever and resourceful. Exactly the characteristics someone surviving in an apocalyptic world should have. If they were idiots, they’d be dead.

The action of the story, once you get past the beginning, is actually pretty interesting. We’re basically in the middle of a war zone, humans vs. aliens. So constant battles, injuries, and suspense about who we can trust. It’s always moving. My one complaint about the action is that the constantly switching perspectives sometimes means that something exciting happens and then you have to read an entire part to get back to that. It felt like it slowed things down rather than keeping me in suspense, which I think was the point. I was way more likely to put the book down when it did that than when I could just stick with Cassie.

Sure, aliens aren’t really my thing, but this book was pretty good. I can see why so many of my students kept telling me to keep reading when I told them it was going so slow.

The Great Pursuit (Eurona Duology, #2)

thegreatpursuitfinalFirst Lines: A new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will.

Sorry the first line is so short, but any more than that and I started having spoilers from the previous book and really, who wants that?  So today is my OFFICIAL FIRST DAY OF SUMMER VACATION.  Thank God.  Not that I don’t love my kiddos, but I am desperately in need of a break.  And I’m way backlogged on my books.  Hopefully, that means I get a lot of reading done soon!

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

The kingdom of Lochlanach may have managed to destroy the beast that hunted their land, but they have traded that for an enemy so devious and vicious that she may just destroy the world as they know it.  Rozaria Rocato is beautiful, dangerous, and clever.  And she’s offering Paxton Seabolt a future and power that he never imagined having.  But all of that comes at the expense of his home and his love, Princess Aerity.  Lochlanach is ruled by traditionalists who don’t want things to change, even in the face of extinction.  When dire circumstances force Aerity’s hand, she realizes that now is the time to make big decisions for the sake of her kingdom before Rozaria can further destroy them.  One hunt may have ended, but another is about to begin.

I’m not used to two-book series, but I will say that I am kind of digging them. The action in this one was always moving because, hello, all the loose ends needed to be wrapped up by the end of the book. So we had a good conflict/cliff hanger to from the end of the last book to lead into this one and then it was off and running. There really wasn’t ever a dull moment or a time when I thought the action was being drawn out as a filler. So that was awesome.

I really like the strength of the characters in this book, especially the female cast. Aerity is stubborn and determined enough to do whatever she thinks is best, but she still worries all the time about making the wrong decisions. That was a nice weakness to give her strength. Vixie and Wyneth really grew as characters in this book and I loved that. I didn’t really remember them that much from the first book, so I liked seeing that change. And, of course, I adore Pax. Just as stubborn as Aerity, he’s got a real self-deprecating streak that makes him more real.

I will say that Higgins knows how to write characters. I’ve always felt that, even from the Sweet series. She writes characters that have real motivations, believable personalities (in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, and actions), and great hearts. The characters she writes are always endearing.

I think the ending of this book felt reasonable. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Since this is only a two book series, I did feel like the big resolution came early, just because I’m so used to waiting so long for it. But the action was well-paced, exciting, and easy to follow. It was interesting and I did have to stop at one point or I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep until I finished it.

This was really good. I’m glad I’ve got another series I can cross off my list.