Anyone Up For Some Dark Fantasy?

I don’t usually review books, but my friend Cherie just did a great post on her blog about a book series that looks pretty freaky, and it gave me an idea for a post of my own; I hope she doesn’t think I’m stealing! Head over to her post and check it out. She talks about a book series she loves, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it because lately I’m all about dark fantasy. This looks more like horror, but if it’s YA I’ll read it anyway. (I’m too much of a wimp to read general horror!)

Everyone expressed interest with the books in her comments, but a few people worried if they might be too scary for their kids to read. And that’s what brought this particular series to mind that I’m in the middle of reading: The Last Apprentice books, known as The Wardstone Chronicles in the UK – or The Mortal Instruments. The series is a dark fantasy revolving around 12-year-old Thomas Ward, a seventh son of a seventh son, who because of his lineage, has the ability to perceive things that ordinary people can’t: ghosts, boggarts, and other evil things that plague humankind. He takes an apprenticeship with an experienced Spook, one whose profession is protecting the county against supernatural creatures who threaten the residents.

The books can be downright spooky at times, but unless you’re like I was as a kid, they’re not likely to give you nightmares. Except, I warn you, I’ve only finished the third book in the series. The fifth book cover was the one that first got my attention at the bookstore. Now that one looks nightmare-inducing!

The storyline borders on Middle Grade, which depending on the content, I’ve also become a fan of. But one thing that bothers me is Delaney’s repetitive lapse into a passive writing style. He uses forms of “was” to describe everything in a scene. As someone who is constantly on the lookout for passive writing in my own manuscripts, this tends to trip me up and annoy me if “was” is used ten times in a single paragraph. However, the creepy villains and good character development make up for the sometimes annoying writing style.

I’ve also heard there’s a movie (or movies) coming out. I usually have mixed feelings when this happens. On one hand, there’s The Hunger Games, which I’m sure is going to be totally awesome; but then again, there was The Lightning Thief. Ugh. Sure, I’ll see the movie, but even if Hollywood screws it up I won’t get my knickers in a bunch over it, because I like The Last Apprentice but I’m not a rabid fan.

I suggest you give these books a look if you enjoy a good dark fantasy that won’t scare the pants off you, or if your kids like to be a little spooked but you don’t want them terrified. And from a writerly perspective, I was inspired by the creativity in each book’s plot.

Got any other super spooky dark stories to recommend? The creepier the better! Also, what about movie adaptations from books? What have you loved? What movies made you want to throw the book at the screen?

The Good, the Bad, the Funny, and the Freakout

I’m such a blogging loser lately! Not only have I not been blogging as regularly as before, but I haven’t been spreading the comment love amongst my blogging friends as I should either. I do apologize, and I’m going to try to remedy that situation soon!

The good & bad: The good news is, from restricting my online time, my shoulders have been feeling much better. They don’t hate me anymore, although they still dislike me a lot. More good news: I’ve given up rejection candy. Bad news: If I were still eating rejection candy like in the past, I’d have gained 20 pounds in the past 2 weeks. Good news: I’m taking a break from querying during the holiday season, which gives me more time for Cobalt.

The funny: So last night I went to the store to get some cookies for Brian’s scout meeting, and the Harry Potter kiosk grabbed me on the way out. It did an Accio spell on me or something. I debated in front of that kiosk for like 5 minutes (because we’re still stuck in that “we can barely even afford the stuff we need let alone the stuff we want” thing). I finally decided the final movie was a definite need. So I grabbed it and ran out of the store laughing my head off. (I paid for it first!)

When I got home, I called Lia to tell her to send Brian out for scouts, and told her to come out too. I gave her the movie, and she ran back inside screaming. While Brian got in the car, I could still hear her screaming in the house. When I got home 2 hours later, she was still screaming. Okay, she wasn’t, but only because it was in the middle of Snape’s memory scene…

The freakout: After we finished Deathly Hallows, we used to say, “Well, at least we still have the movies to look forward to.” Then just before the last movie, all of us had mini breakdowns and lamented, “What is there to live for now??” Well, just a few days ago, Lia posted the answer on my Facebook wall:

My life has meaning once again. It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s a dang good story, and it looks like the movie is going to be great!

Then we watched the following video, which I think is the best fan-made trailer I’ve ever seen. (Apparently it was made in the hopes of getting the young actors a chance to audition.) Brilliant acting, I thought, even though I couldn’t see the little girl as Rue. Big spoiler warning here, if you haven’t read the books. And I totally needed a Kleenex. I know I’m going to need some for the actual movie!

So does anyone know if they’re doing movies for Catching Fire and Mockingjay too?

What about you guys? Any books, movies, or just general life stuff you’re really looking forward to?

Monday Har Har ARR!

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day (which isn’t all that different from any other day for me), I’m posting the bloopers from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which never fail to give me a good laugh.

#3 is my favorite:

Ooh! I lied! I didn’t know bloopers from the 4th movie were on Youtube yet, so imagine the fangirl fit I had just now when I discovered this little gem. I just watched it for the first time. A lotta giggling in this one. I loved how Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz kept cracking each other up. And Geoffrey Rush is always so funny at improvising his messed-up scenes.

One more little tidbit of pirate crazy before this wench signs off to get herself some grub:

Okay, so I was posting these things and Lia complained that everyone would have seen them already. And I was like, whatever, bimbo. I mean, “Yar, shut yer porthole, ye pox-ridden scullery maid!” I can watch these over and over again. So tell me what your favorite bloopers were.

Oh! Before I sign off, I want to share some fun news. So I logged onto my email this morning, and had a message from a member of an English band that creates a blend of folk and Indian music, and has been getting some attention in the steampunk scene. He liked my post on Vernian Process and very nicely invited me to do a post on them. I was really excited to get this email. “Squee! People read my blog!” So I’ve been listening to them today and really liking what I hear. A lot of it is very writing-friendly music. Friday I’ll feature this band, so I’m leaving their name a mystery for now.

And now I’m off to sail the pirate van in search of booty and grub. Happy Funny Monday, ye lubbers!

Boo Hoo

Johnny Depp can be a crybaby on my blog any day!

Okay, I’m not ashamed to admit it doesn’t take much to make me blubber. Anytime we’re watching a sad movie, TV show, or commercial with sentimental music, my kids will turn to stare at me, and if I let out the tiniest sniffle there will be a chorus of “Are you CRYING?” Kinda ruins the moment.

But yes. I even got a little choked up while looking up the videos to these Top Three Scenes That Made Me Bawl.

(Disclaimer: Spoilers may occur in the following text and video.)

#1. The song Uncle Iroh sings in Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Yes, I’m an Avatar geek.) Avatar is full of scenes that make me go wah, but this one is the most memorable. I’ve seen this episode at least four times but it never fails–just when Iroh chokes up, my waterworks turn on. Time to pretend I got a cat hair in my eye, or the kids will start to point and laugh. Totally not fair, it’s a sneak attack because the rest of the episode is silly and hilarious, and then WHAM, this little scene ambushes you out of nowhere.

#2. Ending of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. I had a feeling the story would end tragically for at least one of the main characters. Still, it felt like someone had clomped me over the side of the head with a hammer. The kids had to pause the DVD while I finished sobbing so I could make it to the end credits. Beautiful, beautiful story.
I hate when embedding is disabled for Youtube videos. 😦

#3. Doctor Who: David Tennant’s last scene. SO many crying moments in Doctor Who, but I didn’t want to say goodbye to #10. This was one of the rare moments where the kids weren’t laughing at me because they were all crying as hard as I was!

Honorable mention (and only because it’s not out on DVD yet, or I’d totally be posting that video too): Snape’s memory montage scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2. Snape’s death scene didn’t actually get me even though it was very tragic and horrible and well acted–probably because of all the girls who’ve been romanticizing him ever since the first movie, even though in the books Professor Snape is supposed to be gross and greasy, and definitely not a sexy, conflicted soul with amazing hair–I digress. Anyway, those girls screamed and squealed and ruined the scene for me. (Cursing annoying kids in a movie theater with a plastic wand doesn’t work, by the way). But the scenes in the pensieve, when Snape found Lily’s body and was, himself, sobbing. Oh my dear goodness. Kleenex time.

When I’m drawn into a great emotional scene in a book, it’s just as easy to lose it and cry as I would during any sad scene in a movie. Fred Weasley’s death scene in the book–I think I actually felt physical pain at that one. I was still reeling from his death when I got to the part where Harry sees Lupin and Tonks’ bodies in the Great Hall, and I don’t know why I didn’t just put the book down for the night. I was torturing myself.

Several other books have made me cry throughout the years–some I read in my early teens, yet I still remember the scenes that affected me: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern; The Masterharper of Pern; Heart’s Blood; The Once and Future King; Flowers in the Attic; The Sleep of Stone; Bones of Faerie; The Hunger Games. And many others, I’m sure, that I’m not remembering.

What books or movies have made you lose it? Have you written any sad scenes in your own work that have either brought a tear to your eye, or hopefully tears from your readers’ eyes?

Funny Junk!

Let’s take a break from writing. My daughter Lia had a film class in her senior year. They had to pick a movie for the semester and make short films based on it. Lia’s chosen movie was Disney’s Hercules. Her movies ended up being too hysterical not to share!

The first was a mashup of Hercules and Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought it was amazing how she almost perfectly synched the voices and sound effects.

Her second movie was done in the style of the Kid History videos–also hilarious, check them out!

The next movie is one of the funniest. There’s really no explanation for the madness, just watch:

The last video (there was actually another one, a stop-action with clay, but she didn’t like how it turned out so she never uploaded it) is a silent Western (she knowingly took some liberties with sound effects), and incorporated clips from the previous films as a class requirement. Yours truly is in it! Don’t miss the bloopers at the end. Yes, those are my everyday clothes. Yes, that’s my real butt running down those hills, and it was scary. (My butt was also nominated for Best Actress. No joke.)
Please comment, because I have no life and I love your comments, and tell me which was your favorite!

Pirates–Yeah, I’m Actually Doing a Movie Review

Got back from seeing the long-awaited Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides tonight, and I feel inspired to write a review. I’m usually all about books, but a story is a story anyway, whatever the medium. And…well, pirates.

Don’t read this if you don’t want minor spoilers. Captain Jack retained most of his humor and charm, but much of the series’ wacky humor so prevalent in the previous movies seemed to be lacking. It also tragically lacked a certain amount of Will Turner. Okay okay, I know why he wasn’t in the story, and that Orlando and Keira had decided the time was ripe to bow out of the franchise. I’d accepted that; it was Johnny Depp who brought the movies to life anyway.

The story was relatively straightforward, without the complicated side plots so many critics and fans hated in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. I personally didn’t mind the extra twists in those movies, although a couple of plot threads sailed over my head in AWE, and I had to get on the internet later in order to read the summaries. I was still okay with that, having been totally caught up in the action, humor, and kissing with lots of explosions and swordfighting in the background.

There were still plenty of action scenes in OST, fun enough to watch. The mermaids proved to be dangerous and creepy adversaries. Gibbs and Barbossa: likeable as ever. I missed Pintel and Ragetti, but Scrum was a decent substitute.

I read in a writing book that if you’re going to take a main character out of a story, you’d better replace him or her with someone just as important. I thought Angelica’s character was okay; they fleshed out enough backstory and tension with Jack to make her interesting. In a standalone movie Blackbeard would have been a great villain, but I thought Barbossa in the first movie was a much more detestable character (although Blackbeard is quite evil enough, you don’t feel any pity for him when he gets his just desserts); and even with a few token supernatural powers, he can’t hold a candle to the masterpiece that was Davy Jones.

I loved the mermaid Syrena and wished she’d had a bigger role, but I simply did not like her love interest Philip. Oh, he was sweet and good and pure-hearted, and I knew he’d be a love interest for someone the instant his character first showed up. Maybe I’m still hooked on Will and Elizabeth’s tempestuous romance, but I just couldn’t get into Philip and Syrena. Character replacement fail there. Or it could just be that most of the character replacements seemed very flat compared to the original characters.
Awesome movie moments: Any shot of the beautiful ship Queen Anne’s Revenge; Jack and Angelica’s “kiss” scene near the end; the short extra scene after the closing credits. Make sure you don’t miss that one.

Here’s what I rated the entire series:

Curse of the Black Pearl: 5/5
Dead Man’s Chest: 4/5
At World’s End: 4.5/5
On Stranger Tides: 3/5

I’m downright maniacal about Pirates of the Caribbean, to the point of incorporating pirate stuff into aspects of my daily life. But I think the time has come to bring the series to a respectful close, and I’ll just watch any of the first three movies over again whenever I need a pirate fix. An exception would be if, and only if, they come up with a truly spectacular plot that mirrors the genius of the first movie. I wouldn’t mind something involving Will and Elizabeth (and Jack too, of course). They could have a story revolving around Will’s current situation as the captain of the Flying Dutchman. But I won’t hold my breath.