Top 10 Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Fantasy

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is ‘Reason Why I Love…’. Fantasy has been my favourite genre for so long. I think it’s what really got me into reading. So I decided to write about 10 reasons why I love fantasy!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Escape – Fantasy provides an escape from the real world. When I’m reading fantasy, I can really envelope myself in this other place, this other world, and forget about everything going on in my life.

New worlds – One of my favourite things about fantasy is the world building. I love discovering a new world in each book I read and immersing myself in that place.

Magic – Of course, magic is a big part of the fantasy genre. There’s something about magic that just sparks my imagination. I also love seeing all the different magic systems that authors come up with!

Magical creatures – As someone who loves animals, I love it when fantasy worlds are populated by magical creatures as well as people.  

Dragons – Yes you could count dragons as magical creatures but I felt they deserved their own point on this list. They are my favourite magical creature! I have a collection of dragons and always enjoy seeing my favourite creatures in books.

Imagination – There are so many possibilities with fantasy! Endless things authors can do with worlds and magic and everything else that comes with a fantasy story.

Adventures/quests – What drew me to fantasy as a child was the idea of going on an adventure! Setting off on a quest and overcoming obstacles to reach the goal!

Characters – I love the mix of heroes and villains in fantasy and seeing characters grow over the course of a book and a series!

Political intrigue/court intrigue – I do really like when there is a good dose of political intrigue in fantasy. Seeing how different kingdoms and peoples interact with each other, political rivalries, alliances, characters out for their own gain or with their own agendas, all makes for such suspense!

Reflecting on the real world – Fantasy (and science fiction) can be used as a lens through which to explore issues from our own world. I like it when fantasy is used as a way to highlight things that are important in our own societies.

What do you love about fantasy? Or your favourite genre? Chat with me in the comments!

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

HO00005124-lgFantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

Release date: 16th November 2018

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the anticipated sequel 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Following the events of the first film, Credence is looking for his birth family in Paris, and Albus Dumbledore sends Newt Scamander to find him. Meanwhile, dark wizard Grindelwald is also seeking Credence.

Having loved the first film in this spin-off series, I couldn’t wait to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. While I absolutely loved the film and was not disappointed, I can’t help but feel it could have been even better.

This film takes places primarily in Paris, and falls short on the high standard set by the setting of New York in the first film. 20s New York really came to life in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the sequel took surprisingly little advantage of the potential Paris had to be an equally dynamic setting. There were a couple of moments where I got a sense the characters were in France, but for much of it they could have been just about anywhere. Since the first film set such a high standard, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the filmmakers didn’t utilise the Parisian setting more.

There are a lot of plot strands in this film, and I feel like I need to watch it again to completely grasp everything that happened. There are many new characters, a lot of new backstory to get your head around, and some surprising twists that throw up more questions than answers. At times the plot felt a little meandering, without an obvious end goal beyond finding Credence. This film, which we must remember is part of a whole being only the second in the series, seemed to set up a lot for the future films.

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Film Review: Tomb Raider

tomb-raider-poster-alicia-vikanderFilm Review: Tomb Raider

Release date: 15th March 2018

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film franchise, loosely based on the reboot of the video game. This vision of Tomb Raider is a little different from the Angelina Jolie films you may be familiar with. Alicia Vikander portrays a young Lara Croft, unable to accept her father’s death, and living away from Croft Manor. In search of her father, she journeys to a remote island off the coast of Japan where he had been looking for the tomb of Himiko. Alicia Vikander does a great job playing Lara, but there are few other substantial performances to make the film come alive.

Those who have played the 2013 game will recognise some similarities here, but the film is quite loosely inspired by the game rather than being an adaptation of it. Some things are familiar like Lara’s bow and arrow, the climbing axe and some of the action sequences, for example when she is washed down the river. Otherwise, the film takes quite a different story to the game.

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Film Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

HO00005086Film Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Release date: 14th December 2017

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson

Runtime: 152 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fans have been divided over this film, but I have to say I loved it. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a little different from other Star Wars films. Yes, that is a good thing from my point of view! I’ve liked (to varying degrees) all of the films. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it did recycle major plot elements from the original trilogy too much. It didn’t stand on its own two feet. This film did.

It was rather long. It did feel a little episodic, almost like a TV series squished into a film. However, that didn’t really bother me. I just enjoyed the story. There were a lot of twists and turns and although some parts were a little predictable, there were parts that I didn’t see coming and broke from the mould, which I really liked about this film.

Visually and musically it’s stunning yet again. The soundtrack of John Williams is part of what really makes these movies great for me. Some interesting new worlds were explored in this film which made for some new captivating visuals and designs.

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Film Review: Wonder Woman

wonder-woman-final-posterFilm Review: Wonder Woman

Release date: 1st June 2017

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright

Runtime: 141 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Historical

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Prior to its release, Wonder Woman was a highly anticipated female-led and female-directed superhero movie. I had my doubts, since films don’t often live up to their hype. Man of Steel, which I liked, is the only other DC film I’ve seen, and since many of their films have flopped and had negative reviews, I was a little apprehensive. In this case, I was thrilled it met expectations.

Wonder Woman follows Diana of the Amazons, who chooses to leave her paradise home and join the war to end all wars when an American pilot (played by Chris Pine) crashes on the island. I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comics before I saw the film and didn’t realise the background to the character is of Ancient Greek mythology. As mythology has always been an interest of mine this was a pleasant surprise.

Gal Gadot does an excellent job of playing Diana, and it’s refreshing to see a new face playing a lead superhero role. The other cast members also played their characters well and side characters had personalities rather than being cardboard two-dimensional afterthoughts. There are some good touches of humour throughout which also adds to the likeability of the characters.

The cinematography is stunning. All of the fight sequences were well thought out and choreographed. As I watched, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning way these sequences had been filmed, capturing such detail in fast paced action scenes. At the climax, the film took a different direction than I was expecting, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which made for a thrilling final conflict. It did slide into clichéd sentiments towards the end, but it didn’t prevent the ending from being satisfying. The film was perhaps a little too long, with small scenes that could have been cut down a little to give a better flow to the movie.

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release date: 28th April 2017

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 136 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the follow up to the highly successful first film in the franchise. The first film provided great music, quirky characters and bucketfuls of fun adventure. In some ways, the sequel can’t live up to the first film for me, but it is equally enjoyable. This time, the group has found friendship together, but the cracks are beginning to show and while the first film brought the characters together, this film shows them having to overcome their differences to realise the importance of their friendship. The main plot centres on discovering Peter Quill’s parentage, which I won’t say anything more about to avoid spoilers.

Most of the humour was amusing, although there were a couple of places where it felt too forced or overdone. Baby Groot provided both cuteness and humour, but while still having character and not being reduced to a comic twig. None of the new characters stood out especially, it was still the returning characters from the first film which I liked the best. It was good to see more of Karen Gillan’s Nebula, and this second film explored the sibling relationship between Nebula and Gamora much more, giving more insight into their past and complex relationship.

The design of the whole film was once again excellent. There are some beautiful set pieces which are so creative and made great viewing on the big screen. As well as the visuals, the action was also good, with tension filled action sequences.

The only problem is it seemed to be trying too hard to live up to expectations. They threw so much at it that at times it missed a beat. However, on the whole it was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable, and that was my overall impression after exiting the cinema.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

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Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

Release date: 25th May 2017

Director: Joachim Rřnning, Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites

Runtime: 129 minutes

Genre: Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is the fifth film in the franchise and an attempt at rebooting the series. Notably, they’ve decided to call it ‘Salazar’s Revenge’ here in the UK instead of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ for no apparent reason. It would be far less confusing if they just gave films and books the same names. I prefer ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and since this is a line in the film it fits much better. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who once again has an undead seaman seeking revenge upon him. Sound familiar? Javier Bardem plays the undead Spanish captain who wants to destroy all pirates. Jack joins with astronomer Carina and a sailor, Henry, to find the Trident of Poseidon.

The film features some memorable and bizarre scenes that are familiar in style and comedy to fans of the franchise. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbosa and once again plays a great double-crossing pirate alongside Captain Jack. Kaya Scodelario did an excellent job playing the intelligent Carina, providing a strong female character whose superior knowledge regularly results in confusion from the bumbling pirates. Henry on the other hand, although acted well by Brendan Thwaites, was fairly two-dimensional. His goal is to find the Trident of Poseidon so he can free his father from a curse, but this is about all we know about him. He lacks any defining characteristics and faded into the background compared to other characters.

In many ways it was more of the same, following similar plot lines to previous films in the series, and certainly doesn’t compare to the original film. There is a very odd scene on an island which I think was supposed to provide comedy but just seemed rather silly to me. There’s a scene early on which seems rather unrealistic and excessive, but this is a Pirates film so it’s easy to overlook that and enjoy the spectacle for what it is. In the end, that’s why I gave this film four stars. It wasn’t brilliant, but was thoroughly entertaining and if you just take it for what it is then it’s an enjoyable comedy adventure flick.

The film ties up some loose ends and unfinished stories from previous films, and so would seem an appropriate place to end the franchise. I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t make any more films, as I felt Salazar’s Revenge provided an appropriate ending for the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made another one though. So long as they’re still making money they’ll keep making them. I also wouldn’t complain about them making another one, so long as they can actually come up with a good plot for it, and make it a justifiable addition to the franchise.

Accessible Classics

If you want to get into the classics but you go into a bookshop and are horrified by the thought of attempting to get into Dickens or War and Peace, these are some good books to start with. There are plenty of classics that aren’t too daunting, but here are a few suggestions from a mixture of time periods and genres.

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 ‘Older’ Classics:

Jane Austen – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a good period drama, it might be worth giving an Austen novel a go. Pride and Prejudice is probably the most famous, but there are also Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Around the World in Eighty Days – Don’t go into it expecting it to be like the Jackie Chan film which, while keeping the basic plot, embellished it rather dramatically.

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Gothic Fiction:

Frankenstein – The ‘myth’ of Frankenstein’s monster has changed and developed so much over the years that most people don’t know the original story. It is a surprisingly easy read.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – I didn’t realise how short this is before I purchased it, at around 70 pages.

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20th Century Classics:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – You may have read this as a child, but if you haven’t it isn’t too late to delve into the imaginative and quirky world of Lewis Carrol.

The Bell Jar – Probably the most famous novel on depression and an incredibly important book in the history of mental illness in literature.

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Detective Fiction:

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective around. Doyle wrote four novels and many short stories centred on the famous detective. These books are very easy to read and the mystery keeps you hooked. The published order of his novels are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.

Agatha Christie – Some of the best are considered The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders, but there are plenty of them to choose from.

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Science Fiction:

Fahrenheit 451 – This novel imagines a world in which books are burnt and although not as well-known as 1984, is a captivating and thought-provoking read.

Animal Farm – A political and satirical novella, this is a must read if you are interested in the classic science fiction genre.

(other science-fiction choices: 1984, Brave New World, Flowers for Algernon)

Book Review: Infected by Tara Ellis

Infected by Tara Ellis  

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: Self-published May 2016 (first published 2013)

Pages: 241

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

An alien plague. A sixteen-year-old girl. A fight to save the world.

When a rare meteor shower unleashes a mind-altering infection, the people Alex loves begin to change. They’re smarter, faster, emotionless, and they have a plan. One that doesn’t include her.

Guided by cryptic clues left behind by her deceased father, Alex follows a trail of increasingly shocking discoveries. Earth’s history isn’t what she learned in school, and a new hive mind threatens to rewrite the future.

Alex is a fighter, but pursued by both friends and an unknown enemy, it will take everything she has to fulfill her destiny. Desperate to save her little brother, she flees to the mountains surrounding her home, where the only chance for humanity has lain hidden for thousands of years

Infected, The Shiners is book one in the Forgotten Origins Trilogy.

I read this as part of a book club. Although I wasn’t sure about it at the beginning, it got much better as it went on. The start has far too much info dumping about Alex’s past which took me out of the present story and made me lose interest. I got pretty bored of all the recap about her life. If it hadn’t been for the book club, that really would have put me off and I might not have carried on reading. Fortunately, I did carry on and things picked up. The first half was quite slow but I was intrigued, especially when it started getting creepy. The latter half of the book is much faster and I finished it quite quickly once I got to that point as the pace was full on. Although I like that it got really intense and fast paced, I think the first half could have been paced better so there wasn’t such a dramatic shift.

There’s not much I can say about the plot without giving away spoilers! It reminded me of a strange mix of The Host, National Treasure and Indiana Jones. I liked the mystery and adventure element – I do love a good hidden clue. There isn’t really an explanation for the infection and how or why it came to Earth in a meteor shower, but I’m guessing that’s something that will be dealt with more in the next books in the series. The middle section was particularly creepy once people started changing as a result of the infection, and the author did this suspenseful aspect really well.

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Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: August 14th 2011 by Chicken House (first published 2009)

Pages: 371

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the entre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside.

 

So I’m rather late to the Maze Runner party. Having heard such praise for it and there being a film which was released last year, I thought I would give it a go. Dystopia is one of my favourite genres, but there is so much fluff out there, especially in the Young Adult market. The Maze Runner in some ways disappointed me but also thrilled me.

The beginning of the novel is rather confusing. It is told in third person from Thomas’s viewpoint, which means we only know what he knows. So I guess the reader is confused because Thomas is confused. Eventually, things begin to start making sense though and the more you get into it the better it gets.

The writing style isn’t particularly amazing. It’s quite ordinary and to be honest the writing could be much better. Often the language was a little too ‘telling’ and impersonal meaning it was hard to connect to the main character, Thomas, whose thoughts we are supposed to be sharing.

The characters are one of the weakest aspects of the novel. I just felt like there wasn’t much to distinguish them, they didn’t stand out, and their personalities weren’t clear. For the first half of the book Thomas didn’t seem to have much personality, I found him quite bland. But as I got to know him he grew on me. Though he’s nothing special, nothing different from any of the other protagonists out there. There is one thing that makes him interesting, but I really can’t say because it would mean giving away major spoilers! Many of the other characters were fairly flat at the start as well but like with Thomas they became clearer as the story went on.

The plot is definitely the strongest aspect. It really kept me hooked and almost every chapter has a cliff hanger, meaning I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what was going to happen. Throughout the book my head was full of questions which I was biting my nails to find out the answers to. There is some question of believability, but I will wait to pass judgement on that until I have finished the series (as there are many questions still unanswered at the end of this first book).

I’m definitely interested to see where it will go next and will read the rest of the series. A lot of people love this book and a lot of people hate it. There are an awful lot of flaws to it, but I couldn’t help but love it because of the suspenseful plot.