Blog Posts

Fantastic Beasts, the Crimes of Grindlewald (Spoilers)

I’m going to take a break from book reviews today, to give a movie review. It’s also going to be quite heavy with spoilers, so fair warning, if you haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts, the Crimes of Grindlewald yet, don’t read any more of this blog. Instead, go see the movie, and read when you’ve watched it, and feel you need to see the opinions of another person who’s watched it.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I grew up with it, and the story is a huge part of me. Which is why when the first Fantastic Beasts movie came out, I made sure that I was seeing it as soon as possible, in a special screening. The same for the second film.

This won’t be me arguing about the casting choice for Grindlewald. I know it’s a very controversial topic right now, so I’m just not going to touch it. Instead, I’m going to talk about the film itself.

To start off with, I loved it. It was visually stunning, with great effects. Newt was just as adorkable as ever. Tina was wonderful. Jacob and Queenie were absolutely beautiful. Then of course, there are the stars of the film, the beasts themselves.

Everyone’s favourite niffler returns, this time with some babies who cause havoc in Newt’s home. The baby nifflers are absolutely adorable, and I’m not afraid to say that I’m probably going to buy plushies of them as soon as I can. I remember walking away from the first film talking with my friend, excitedly talking about how we needed a niffler plushy. Of course, they delivered. I have one sitting right behind me now.

Nagini is wonderful, although I can definitely understand the controversy surrounding her. The idea of a maledict is great, and of Nagini, the snake we’ve all grown to love/hate in the original series, being one is wonderful. However, I am somewhat worried because I instantly fell in love with her. Nagini is a lovely person, who’s clearly been hurt in the past. She spends most of her time in the film trying to help Credence on his quest to discover who he is. However when the time comes to choose whether to follow him and join Grindlewald, or to stay with the chance to fight against Grindlewald, she chooses to stay. This is where I have my problem. Well, let’s just say, potential problem. It will take a great amount of fantastic story telling to get this beautiful character to join Voldemort. Certainly, there’s an element of Voldemort having control over her due to her being his horcrux. However, Harry was able to resist, without even being aware he was a horcrux.

There are other wonderful creatures, of course, though many we only see briefly. There’s the augurey, who I would have loved to see more of, after everything in Cursed Child. Pickett makes another appearance, with his beautiful bowtruckle nature. We see some firedrakes in a cage, and a kappa in a bath. Of course we see the kelpie, who Newt and Bunty are helping with healing. We catch a glimpse of a leucrotta, and there are the matagot’s in the ministry. Thestrals make another appearance, driving the cart where Grindlewald makes his mistake.

Finally, a new star appears to try to steal the show with the zouwu. A beautiful creature, it is very reminiscent of a cat, with the way Newt manages to befriend it and calm it down. I feel one of my favourite moments may have been when Tina took the toy and caught its attention.

Now it’s time to talk more story things that I may or may not have been happy with. I loved how charismatic they showed Grindlewald to be. This was what made him such a dangerous person, how he managed to convince people that he was working for the greater good. It wasn’t that he hated muggles, but that wizards were better. He even convinced Queenie, a character who loves a muggle, to join him, for the betterment of wizard kind. They didn’t even shy away from showing how Albus loved Grindlewald, which made me quite happy.

Leta was wonderful. I was curious about how she would fit in with the story, and particularly with how she was going to fit in to Newt’s story. I was a little worried, after the first film, that perhaps she would be a Bellatrix clone. Instead, she was a lovely person, set to marry Theseus, Newt’s brother. Theseus was also quite an interesting character. Not gonna lie, there may have been some tears on my part when Leta died. Her story was beautiful. I loved how she was a perfect example of a Slytherin, without being evil.

I have saved what I feel as the most controversial and spoiler filled thing for last. At the end of the film, after it is revealed that Leta swapped her brother for another child on the boat, we (supposedly) discover Credence’s true identity, as a long lost brother for Aberforth, Albus, and Ariana. I was so angry when this was revealed, because it seemed like lazy writing and story telling to me.

Then I thought about it some more, and realised that it could be amazing story telling instead. The so-called proof that was offered up was a phoenix, (presumably Fawkes) who Credence had been taking care of as a baby, and was revealed to be a phoenix at the end of the film, when Grindlewald reminded us of a story that had been briefly foreshadowed earlier about a phoenix coming to a Dumbledore in need.

At first, I was angry, because of how this contradicted what we know about the Dumbledores. Of course, that’s when I started to really think about it more. Because it does in fact contradict what we know. Here’s what we know.

Ariana Dumbledore was an obscurus, much like Credence. She became one after muggles teased her furiously. This is when Percival Dumbledore killed the muggles who had hurt her, and was locked up in Azkaban for it, where he later died. Even in the wizarding world, it takes two to make a baby. Then there’s the little fact that Credence couldn’t have been more than twenty years old in the first film, which took place in 1926, a solid 27 years after Kendra passed away.

Sounds very contradictory of course, when you lay it all out like that. However, what if it is supposed to be? And this is where I decided to accept (at least for now) what happened at the end of the film. It’s yet another example of Grindlewald using his charisma to get others to do what he wants. He explained previously how he wanted Credence to join his side so that he could kill Albus for him, something Grindlewald couldn’t do himself because of the blood oath he and Albus swore.

Kendra Dumbledore was killed by her obscurus daughter. Grindlewald, being close to young Albus, and part of the cause of Ariana’s death later on, was well aware of this fact. Which further explains why he might want Credence to be the one to kill Albus, to hurt him all the more. No one ever said he wasn’t a cruel man. So, Grindlewald simply needed Credence to be uncertain about his heritage, and to prove that he couldn’t be Corvus Lestrange, in order to convince Credence to join him. Once there, he lies about Credence’s parentage, in an effort to make Credence hate Albus, so that he might kill him.

Of course, there’s always the chance that my theory is wrong, and that it simply was lazy story telling with an attempt at a shock factor. I suppose the only way to find out will be to watch the next film, when it comes out in two years time.

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Blog Posts

We Can’t Be Friends

Today I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, and oh boy was it amazing. I had goosebumps. The casting was absolutely spot on—couldn’t possibly be more perfect. There were moments I had to laugh—when Mike Myers’ character was saying how no one would crank up the movie’s namesake song and sing along with it. Especially given the first time I remember hearing the song was when I watched the movie Wayne’s World. As amazing as the movie was, it’s not what I particularly want to talk about in this blog. Instead, let me talk about one of the advertisements that came on before the movie.

A family were sitting in a car. Two boys, their father, and a little girl. The oldest boy had just received detention, for flicking a girl’s skirt up. The father said that was such a small thing to get detention for. His brother said that it’s silly, cos boys will be boys. The young girl explained how she was already well aware of how she was basically an object, and how she was expecting to be harassed like that for the rest of her life. Needless to say, I fell in love with this ad. For such a simple thing, it captured one of the most problematic things about our society’s view of men and women so perfectly.

While I’d love to continue about the “boys will be boys” problem, it has been done to death on the internet—and for good reason. Today, instead, I’d like to share my views with you about another issue our society faces. One which I don’t see as much discourse about online. What I’d like to discuss today, is the myth that adult men and women can’t just be friends.

This is the big myth, of which so many others stem. The myth of the friend zone, for example, comes from this. Well, I say myth of the friend zone. It’s not entirely a myth. It does exist. Though for the most part it’s for good reason. Personally, I would like to blame a hetero-normative society for the beginning and continued propagation of this myth.

It annoys me, for example, when it becomes obvious when reading a book who the love interest will be, simply because they’re the person the main character is closest to of the opposite gender. Or, worse than that, those books (movies, TV shows, media of any sort) where there’s a schism between friends, or a relationship, because of a girl or a boy. For example, Twilight. Yeah, I’m not a fan, I’m just using it as an example because it’s popular and was for some reason the first thing that jumped into my head.

Bella was friends with Jacob, but he was in love with her, even though she was in love with Edward. Obviously the whole thing gets awkward, and gross, but… let’s ignore that. Instead, I’ll look at Vampire Academy (a far better teenage vampire series, in my opinion). In the first two novels, Rose is friends with Mason, who was in love with her. It’s one of the reasons why I love books that break this tradition. And books where you can honestly find yourself uncertain as to who the main character is going to end up with at the end.

There are book series which I love, and still have the same or similar problems. For example, The Darkness Rising trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, Maya’s best friend, who seems to be firmly her best friend throughout the series, ends up being the love interest. Not that I’m complaining, I loved the series, and Dan was a beautiful person, but it still has that sense of “boys and girls can’t just be good friends” to me.

Even in Harry Potter, I remember everyone shipping Harry and Hermione, before the last book. Everyone was certain they were going to end up together. Then there’s Ron being the one to end up with Hermione (not to mention his moment destroying Slytherin’s locket where he’s worried Hermione and Harry might have ended up together).

It’s so annoying to me when people are jealous of anyone talking to their partner. A girl wouldn’t be worried that her partner was going to leave her for another boy. Even if the boy is bi (I imagine I’ll discuss bi-erasure on another blog one day. Perhaps. Not today’s topic, at least) she won’t be nearly as jealous of a boy talking to him than she would of a girl.

This is just a big pet peeve of mine. In any case, I shall leave you to contemplate the subject, and maybe reevaluate any friendships you may have. Blogs and reviews will likely be rather short from me for the moment, as unfortunately I am almost entirely drained. Certainly, uni is finished for now. I just wish my anxiety might listen to that fact, and calm down.

Books Books

Kingmaker Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog/Books Books how I recently read the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet, and had to go out and buy the next two in the series. I don’t know if I can do this series justice in my review, but I can try.

I couldn’t tell yo how long I had A Promise of Fire before I started reading it. I may not have mentioned in the blog that accompanied the last Books Books that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. I’m certain I mentioned that I tend to buy books a lot, but that’s only part of the problem.

The other part is that while I do read a lot, I don’t always read every book I buy. At least, not right away. I fully intend to read all of the books I’ve bought. Eventually. When I was still buying four Discworld books a month, I would wander through the bookstore, and buy a book that caught my fancy, while placing the next four books on order. Then when they were in, I’d buy them, along with another book that caught my fancy. Sometimes, I would read the book that caught my fancy right away, other times they went to… the shelf.

The shelf doesn’t exist because I don’t want to read the books. Instead, it’s where books that I’m interested in reading will sit until I’ve read the books that caught my attention more recently. The books on the shelf are never bad, I’m simply more taken by something else at the time. Often, as is the case here, when a book finally makes it off the shelf and into my hands, I find myself so enamoured that I simply must consume it as quickly as I can, and continue on to consume anything else that there is to do with it.

When I went down to Melbourne recently, I brought four books with me. There was the one I had just started reading (The Witch’s Blood, by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr), Mirage, by Somaiya Daud, which I discussed last week, Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong (which I still haven’t gotten around to reading. I have much of the series, and will eventually get there) and finally, A Promise of Fire.

I finished the first book shortly into my stay, and began Mirage. I didn’t end up starting A Promise of Fire until just before my flight back home. I was happily surprised that I spent more time being social down in Melbourne than reading books. At least that means I didn’t end up finishing all of my books and not having anything to read for my flight home.

I was enamoured very quickly. Catalia was simply a wonderful character and Bouchet a brilliant story teller. I was soon drawn into Thalyria, alongside Cat as she was kidnapped by Beta Sinta, and his team.

Sometimes when a book introduced a number of characters who are often seen together, I find it can be difficult to distinguish between them. As great as the book might otherwise be, it can be disappointing to find two characters who could easily merge into one and not be missed. I initially found myself worrying, when Flynn, Carver, and Kato were all introduced along with Griffin. Griffin clearly stood out as the love interest, so I worried that the other three might blend together.
This was definitely not the case though, which I was very pleased to discover. Each member of Beta team was incredibly distinct, all the way throughout the series. (SPOILER ALERT: Oh Gods, I’m crying at the loss of Kato. Such a pure soul.)

Amanda Bouchet promised fire with the first novel, and Gods did she deliver! Clearly she must be a Magoi herself, for when she used that name, she must surely have been compelled by magic to deliver.

The story was engaging, with wonderfully unique characters. Thalyria was a fantastically built world with a recognisable pantheon of Gods (who may just happen to be my favourite pantheon already). All public domain characters were written brilliantly, without betraying their true characteristics, which is always good to see.

The love story was beautiful, and didn’t make me roll my eyes, which is always a plus. I often find myself bored with love stories, because often fantasy books feel that they need one when it’s not absolutely necessary for the story to make sense. In this case, the love story was integral to the story, but it also wasn’t the only thing that the story rested upon, making it that much better in my mind.

Another thing I love about a good book is that it leaves you with a strong message. There are quite a few strong messages from this series which I took away, and would like to share with you reading this now.

One that is strong in a lot of fantasy media is the concept that family doesn’t end in blood. This concept is in Harry Potter, with Harry and Hermione being all bar adopted into the Weasley family even before they became official members. It’s also particularly strong in Supernatural, with Bobby at one point saying “Family don’t end in blood, but it doesn’t start there either.” Family isn’t what you are born into. Harry’s blood family may be the Dursleys, but the family of his heart is the Weasleys. Sam and Dean may be blood brothers, but their father wasn’t the best, and the rest of their family is those who they gather around them. It’s Bobby. Jo and Ellen. It’s Charlie, Claire, Jody and Alex.

It’s prominent in another fantasy series that I’m in love with at the moment lately, The Medoran Chronicles by Lynette Noni. It’s there in Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, Succubus Blues, and The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead. I’m finding it in the Vimes or other Watch books by Terry Pratchett. This is a message which I love and find incredibly true.

I have a good family, but my friends are also my family. I care about them and love them, and will always be there for them. Family doesn’t end with blood, and it’s always nice to see a book pull this message off well and without trying to sound preachy about it.

Similarly, and another message that’s prominent in a lot of fantasy novels, including the ones that I’ve mentioned, is that caring for people, and having people care about you, makes you stronger, not weaker. Again, Bouchet manages to get this message across without sounding preachy about it, which is always amazing.

Another message that is important that I took away from this series was that people can be contradictions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cat is a wonderful contradiction. She doesn’t want to care for anyone, but when she does she cares hard. She doesn’t want to have responsibility, but when she does she carries it on her shoulders with pride.

I know that I feel like a contradiction myself so often, and it’s just lovely to see that being reaffirmed in a novel, particularly one that I found as lovely and beautiful as this series. Amanda Bouchet is an absolute master craftswoman, and I look forward to reading more from her.

As I mentioned in my previous review, I will rate books more by whether or not I would read them again. I would, and one day I certainly will, absolutely read this series again.

Blog Posts, Books Books

Myself as a Reader/Books Books

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I grew up with Harry Potter, with the first book coming out when I was in my first year of primary school, through to the seventh book coming out when I was in my second-to-last year of high school. Even in my final year, I had Rowling’s wizarding fairy tale book, Tales of Beadle the Bard to entertain me and keep me going through the school year.

I can vividly remember starting a new school in year five, clutching my copy of the fourth book to my chest. I regret to say that as a child, I wasn’t necessarily good at looking after books, and with my intense love for this series, my copies were so well-read that the hard covers ended up off the books, and the books themselves rather water-logged due to an unfortunate habit of reading in a bath. I have since perfected this habit, along with one of reading in a pool, to the point where any book is perfectly safe within my hands while I soak in the water that I love. Though, that can be a tale for another day.

For father’s day when I was five years old I read my first ever book aloud to my grandfather, at Pancake Manor. He was appropriately delighted as I regaled him with the story of Sam I am, while reading Green Eggs and Ham. My love for books has only grown as I have. I can now appreciate the Harry Potter series as more than just an entertaining children’s story. Just as I can now appreciate the amazing story behind Green Eggs and Ham, as Dr Seuss. An entire story, written with only 50 words.

While my love for books has eventually evolved to wanting to write, to leave my own mark on the world, and to edit, to help others achieve their goals, my love of reading rarely waivers. I have my slumps, of course. Most people do. Even in the middle of my deepest slumps, however, I can always be found with at least one book in my bag. (Though most often it’s two or more. In case I finish one.) In the past I have tried having ereaders, for the convenience of a library in my bag, along with cheaper books. However, at the end of the day, for me in particular—although I am certain there are others who share my preference—nothing will ever beat the feeling of a real book in my hands.

In January, I set myself three book-related goals to achieve by the end of the year. At the moment, it isn’t looking like I will achieve two of them, although that’s not to say it’s impossible. My first goal was to read at least 100 books by the end of the year. This is after I achieved last years goal of reading 52 books, of which I achieved a little over 70. It is currently the tenth month, and I am sitting on 76 books read. Not where I would ideally be sitting, this late in the year, although that does not mean it’s not still achievable.

My second goal has already been achieved, although half by accident. Recently, I made a promise to myself to stop buying so many books. My hope is to save my money, so that I might move down to Victoria after I have finished my study. I broke that just this Wednesday, however, after I finished A Promise of Fire, the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. I had to immediately go out and purchase the next two books in the series. I may also have bought The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs while I was there, after having watched the recent film adaptation. These three books apparently helped me move up from my gold QBD card, to a platinum one, which was my second book-related goal.

Finally, my third goal for the year, which I am a mere thirteen books away from completing, is to read the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Through the year, I have been working through the books.

My third goal is one two things which has been helping me toward my first goal, with the second thing being a subscription to the wonderful YA book-to-your-door service of Owl Crate. I have been subscribed since early last year, and never once regretted it. Once a month I have a package delivered to me, with a new book, along with a number of wonderful things related to the book. I have two beautiful and unique Harry Potter mugs. (One day I’ll have to find which crate I missed had the first one, so I can collect what I am certain will eventually be a beautiful set.)

Last month’s book was Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When I receive my Owl Crate, I refrain from looking anything up about the author or the book, until I have finished it. So with every one of the books I have read from them, I have gone in unaware as to what I might expect. This is how I read Mirage. Naturally, just with every other book I have received so far from this service, I absolutely loved it.

So, this is where I plan to start something that I have been wanting to do for a while. For a few years now, I have been thinking about starting a YouTube channel, where I discuss books that I have read, and my thoughts regarding them. However, without a good webcam or microphone, this isn’t something that I am likely to begin any time soon. Instead, I will begin slowly by simply posting my reviews online. Conveniently I now have a blog for it!

I hope to commit to posting a review every Friday. Please, wish me luck in this endeavour for the future. Along with the entire endeavour to put myself out there as a freelance Creative Writer, and Editor.

Book’s Books

In Daud’s note to readers that accompanied her book in its Owl Crate packaging, she mentioned that she has written other novels, though Mirage is her debut. What an absolutely stunning debut it is. It wasn’t hard for me to find myself on Andala and its moons among a conquered populace. I felt for Amani’s plight as she struggled to become someone so different to the kind and loving person she is at heart.

Amani was a lovely protagonist, a poet with a heart big enough to love even those who pulled her from her family. Through the course of the novel she grows from a simple farmer’s daughter, to someone who can hold her own amid a court of vipers.

The tale was a beautiful rendition of The Prince and the Pauper with its own wonderful twists and turns. While look-alikes Marim and Amani hardly trade places for fun, Amani still has a chance to enjoy the splendours of life as a Princess for a change, while Marim finds herself with a confidante.

I am most desperately looking forward to a sequel already. While I was nearing the end I found myself convinced that Amani’s tale could not yet be over. As I came to the last few pages I grew more certain, until I closed the book with a delicious sense of unsatisfaction. The first story has been told, certainly, but there is more to come which I shall no doubt relish reading.

Perhaps one day I will devise some sort of rating system for the novels I review, although for now I think I’ll simply leave things in a different manner. For me, a true test of a book is whether or not I wish to reread it. While some books lead me on with promises of sequels, I may not necessarily go back and reread them. Mirage however, is certainly something that I can envision myself reading at least once more in the future.