Tuesday, 12 March 2019

If You Haven't Seen Alita: Battle Angel, Do Yourself a Favour



Alita: Battle Angel is on it's way out of cinemas. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend it. It can't pick a genre (is it a cute teen romance? A sports story? A dystopian sci-fi? Who knows!) and it can't pick a plotline either, but my God is it fun. It's one of those films where you watch the action scenes with a massive grin on your face. 

Alita is found in a scrapyard by Dr Ido and put into a new body. She's a full-replacement cyborg, meaning that everything but her brain is cybernetic. Unfortunately, she can't remember anything from her life before. This makes her pretty naive to start off with, but she likes dangerous sports, and dangerous boys, and she really doesn't like to lose. Whether it's sports or life and death combat, it's a game and she's winning. The best scene in the whole film involves her going into a bar filled with badass hunter-warriors (bounty hunters) and taking them all on. She's good and she knows it. You can't help but root for her.

https://giphy.com/gifs/alita-battle-angel-NSFQW1cF0xpXXiwDXt

The side characters aren't particuarly well-developed, but Hugo, Alita's love interest, has just enough character conflict to be interesting. Dr Ido rubbed me up the wrong way because he didn't know her, he didn't know her life, and here he was trying to control her because of his own inability to let go. But he gets better. Vector's pretty bland, and Nova's a mystery, leaving Dr Chiren to be the best villain of the film. You will end up sympathising with her. Just give it time.

The world-building is immersive and the visuals are beautiful. All of the sky cities except Zalem fell three hundred years before and everyone in Iron City - and I mean everyone - aspires to go there even though they have no idea what it's like. Through manipulating those desires, Vector effectively rules Iron City. There are no police on the streets, leaving registered hunter-warriors to fight crime. They're mostly motivated by greed. No superheroes here. A lot of the people there are cyborgs and their character designs are awesome! Their fighting styles are all unique too. 

To sum up, if you like huge fight scenes, heroines who like to get their hands dirty, and gorgeous visuals, you cannot miss this. You cannot.

Have you seen Alita: Battle Angel?

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Classics Summed up in One Sentence




Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Half the teenagers in Verona die because somebody took a rebound crush too seriously.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

There is a monster and a doctor and they are both named Victor Frankenstein.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Cathy and Heathcliff somehow manage to torture each other for 500 pages even though one of them kicks the bucket halfway through.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

The fictional case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is unnecessarily long and boring, almost as unnecessarily long and boring as this novel.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

The American Dream is a lie.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I concur with John Steinbeck.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Spiting a relative is always a good reason for marriage. 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I am physically incapable of writing an interesting female character unless they're a villain.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Please let these never ending pastoral descriptions distract you from the fact that this virtuous woman has to die.

The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman

I have post-partum depression and men are not helping.

Emma by Jane Austen

Father, I wish to marry a man who is so much more like a brother than a lover to me that a future film adaptation will literally make him my stepbrother.   

https://giphy.com/gifs/90s-blonde-bad-UvwTujCTG9k52

 Sum up a classic in a sentence. Go on. It will make you feel better.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

February Wrap-up


People were on the beach a few days ago. In Feburary. That has to be a sign of the apocalypse.

News from the Reading Front

Have you seen the new tabs on the Goodreads stats page? You can now see how many books you read in a month and how many pages. No longer do I have to open the pages of random books to check the dates I finished them when making wrap-up posts!

This month, I read five books.

DC Rebirth: Justice League, Volume One: The Extinction Machines by Bryan Hitch (Writer and Artist), Tony S. Daniel (Penciler), Sandu Florea (Colourist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Sean Parsons (Artist), Jesús Merino (Artist), and Matthew Clark (Artist) - 2 Stars

Batman: Jekyll and Hyde by Paul Jenkins (Writer), Jae Lee (Artist), Sean Phillips (Artist) - 4 Stars

The Angel of Elhamburg by Aki - 3 Stars

Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves - 4 Stars

Robin Volume One: Reborn by Chuck Dixon (Writer), Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle (Artist), and Tom Lyle (Artist) - 4 Stars

News from the Blogging Front

I've only posted twice this month because I am in the middle of an inspiration drought. If anyone's looking to try anything collaborative, I'm open to suggestions.

For anyone who missed it, I posted my second installment of Dear Ivy. It's a fictional advice column which I've been posting as a Valentine's Day feature since last year.

News from the Drawing Front

https://twitter.com/Ivyclad_Ideas/status/1099799093310828546
 
Colouring's a bit scrappy, but here's a little something I drew the other day. 

News from the Net
  •  MAGGIE STEIFVATER HAS ANNOUNCED THE FIRST BOOK OF THE DREAMER TRILOGY! It's called Call Down the Hawk and it comes out on the 5th of November 2019. Mark your calendars, guys!
  • They're casting Ravager for Titans Season Two! Also Deathstroke, Jericho, and Superboy, but I am biased. (Source)
How was your February?

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Dear Ivy...


Dear Ivy,

My life has been one long trauma. First, my parents were brutally murdered before my eyes. Then, I found out that I was, in fact, from a faraway planet. A faraway planet that has been destroyed five different ways by five apparently unconnected organisations. Soon after the discovery, puberty brought with it a slew of fantastical powers that left me feeling like an outcast. I thought if I used them to help people, they'd start to like me. Instead, I've been kicked off five different teams, blamed for the end of the world (twice), and accused of causing a number of scheming supervillains to spring up. I thought I'd hit rock bottom when my fifth sidekick died (I really liked that one), but, barely a week later, the love of my life went missing only to turn up in my fridge.

Then it happened.

I met her. 

She's intelligent, and beautiful, and seemingly has a death wish because every other week her life is in peril. She's also an award-winning journalist for a well-respected broadsheet. I know that if I want this relationship to stand a chance, I have to tell her who I really am - you can't build a stable relationship by taking a woman for a drink every time you save her life, after all - but it's difficult. All my life I've been rejected. I don't want to risk losing her...

Yours sincerely,

Don't Look at My Underpants 

(Dear Don't Look at My Underpants,

I have one question for you, do you want to be front page news?

Seriously. I don't know what it is with superheroes and journalists, but it's like you're all looking to be exposed. You don't say how long you've been with this woman, but I get the impression that it isn't long. Ask yourself this, how invested do you think a well-adjusted, professional woman is in a relationship - I don't even know if I should call it a relationship.  Have you had that conversation with her yet? - with a man who deals with his issues by dressing up in spandex and punching things? Publishing your identity could do wonders for her career. Do you honestly believe that she isn't going to give you a hug and leave as quickly as possible to call her editor?

Yours sincerely,

Ivy

P.S. If you don't want people to look at your underpants, maybe you should redesign your costume. Just an idea.)

Dear Ivy,

This is going to sound terribly convoluted, but I don't think my boyfriend is who he says he is. 

It all started last week, when my beloved Aunt Agatha was murdered. They found her body at the bottom of the stairs - frightful shock, it was - and the police said that she'd been pushed. Naturally, it happened during a family party so everyone was present. Since then, he's been acting...strange. Intercepting letters before the servants collect the post. Sneaking off at all hours of the day and night. Becoming defensive when asked where he's been. He's hiding something. What could it be but his own responsibility for the murder?

I don't want to accuse him - the idea that he would even consider hurting her is poison to me - but I can't trust him. Not when he's acting like a stranger. 

Yours sincerely,

Mystery Maiden

(Dear Mystery Maiden,

There's no easy way to say this, so I'll start with the good news: your boyfriend is (probably) not a murderer.

Now for the bad news. There's a very good chance that he's cheating on you.

I would wait to confront him about his suspicious behaviour until after the murderer is discovered. Just in case.  

Yours sincerely,

Ivy

P.S. Make sure you clue the detective in. With any luck, he'll clear the whole thing up for you and you can dodge any awkward conversations.)

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Want more questionable advice? Check out Dear Ivy... (2018).

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." (Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/92105.Rebecca_s_Tale
3/5

"There is only one true legitimacy, and it's bestowed by love, not male lineage." - Sally Beauman, Rebecca's Tale, page 411

The reviews for this are vehement. There's a lot of high and mighty talk about how the author must not have any of ideas of her own, even though a quick Google search will tell you that she's written plenty of original fiction. I can't understand it, because there are plenty of well-repsected British writers out there who never wrote an original story (Shakespeare springs to mind), and fairy-tales and myths are being rewritten all the time. I think, perhaps, people feel insulted that she's rewritten a classic, but I'm not. Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is haunting in its ambiguity. It's haunted me too.

I warn you now that I am about to spoil the big twist of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. If you do not wish to know, turn back now. 

I think the ambiguity of Rebecca is actually what makes this continuation so contentious. Everyone comes out of the novel with a different interpretation of the three central characters. Was Rebecca the monster Maxim likes to paint her as? Did Maxim intend to murder her? Or was he goaded into it? Did Rebecca deliberately taunt him into killing her, committing suicide by proxy? These questions, and many more, are never truly answered because we are only given Maxim's side of the story. Something that caught my eye when I reread it was the poem at the beginning. The narrator finds it in the pocket at the passenger side of the car, where Rebecca would have sat when out with Maxim. It talks about being chased by a man. That, and a number of other things, not least how he treats his second wife, made me think that Rebecca was Maxim's victim. I do not believe she was wholly innocent herself, especially in Gothic terms. In fact, I think they tortured each other. But he killed her. He took away her voice. 

Perhaps this interpretation was why I was able to enjoy this retelling.

It's told through four different perspectives: Colonal Julyan's, Terrence Grey's, Rebecca's, and Ellie Julyan's. Each of them sees Rebecca differently. To Julyan, she's a good woman who he failed. To Terrence, she's a mystery he wants to solve. To Ellie, she's a woman wronged, a woman silenced, and a role model. Ellie's perspective comes last, so it's the one we come away with, and yet I think Rebecca's was the most important. It does not exonerate the character, which is a good thing as it allows the ambiguity of the original novel to remain intact. There's a charm to her voice that doesn't quite gel with the narcissim and the thirst for revenge. There's something a little... off about her. 

One thing that I did have an issue with was how modern the views of the characters were, particuarly regarding gender and sexuality. I don't have a time machine, but I have a good enough grasp on history to feel that some of the things that happened in this novel would likely not have happened in real life. I'm not questioning people having sex outside of marriage - there's plenty of evidence to show that people risked their reputations all the time and hoped they wouldn't get caught - but I struggle to believe that people would have come out so casually in the fifties. The feminism at times also seems rather radical. At some points I would also say that it wasn't actually feminism on Rebecca's part. Beauman gave Rebecca a background that could, perhaps, have justified it, and Rose, I suppose, qualifies as an eccentric for the time period, but I struggled with it coming from Ellie. Her father was so traditional. Yes, there's Rose's influence, and her own intelligence, to consider, but Rebecca's notebooks are given the most significance by the text. I understand the choice she makes at the end and I think it makes perfect sense for the character, but some of her thoughts still had me squinting. Yes, there was feminism in the fifties, but it wasn't the same as it is today.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I think, if you enjoyed Rebecca, it's a worthwhile read, and Beauman's prose is beautiful.


What's your opinion on retellings of published novels?

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Hello, I'm Still Alive! (January Wrap-up)




How's 2019 treating you? So far I've been cold, unfulfilled, and miserable, which is a fabulous omen for the year ahead. Things are looking up for February though.

Let's take a look back at January.

News from the Reading Front

I finished seven books this month.
Remember how I said I wanted to work through my TBR pile this year? Well, three of these are library books and another was lent to me by a relative. Expect me to read a lot of murder mysteries in the coming months, as my family is passing them around. If anyone's looking for any recommendations, Ann Cleeves is a fabulous writer.

News from the Writing Front

https://giphy.com/gifs/snow-haruhi-pS11NQcq0R2g

January has not been a great month for writing, though not for lack of trying. I've felt sad for a frankly ridiculous amount of time. The kind of sad that weighs on your chest. It's been interfering with my ability to come up with ideas. As of yesterday though, a short story seems to have captured my heart. I hope it stays. I think completing something - even something small - would be good for me.

News from the Blogging Front

This has been a frankly appalling month. Four posts. 50% reviews. 25% tags. 25% memes. The reason? Like I said above, something's beaten my inspiration into the ground with a stick.

Hopefully things will get going again soon. The cold can't last forever.

So, now that I've made everyone feel miserable, how was your January?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Evil Takes a Holiday (Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23018778-evil-under-the-sun
3/5

“Ah! Madame, I reserve the explanations for the last chapter.” - Agatha Christie, Evil Under the Sun

This was a solid four star read until the reveal. Set at a British seaside resort in Dartmoor, Evil under the Sun follows Poirot as he deduces who murdered the fatally beautiful Arlena Marshall.


It boasts a fairly entertaining cast of characters. There's Mr Marshall, a stiff upper lip type with a habit of marrying damsels in distress, Rosamund Darnley, a fashion designer, Linda Marshall, a teenager who somehow manages to find a book on witchcraft in a small resort library (girl after my own heart), Emily Brewster, the obligatory sporty, no-nonsense, young woman, the Gardners, an American couple, and Patrick and Christine Redfern, whose marriage is now on the rocks because Patrick is having it on with Arlena. That's not a spoiler. It's established within the first few pages. 

Patrick's affair is framed by male characters as him being silly and losing his head. They comment several times that Christine is overreacting - doesn't she know that a man can cheat and still care deeply for his wife? This is notable because I've been wondering for a while if Poirot's views line up with Christie's or not and I've decided that they can't, at least not always, because Christie's first husband did cheat on her and eventually divorce her to marry another woman. Her brief disappearance is sometimes theorised to be linked to her husband cheating, either because she wanted to teach him a lesson or as a result of mental health problems that were exacerbated by his infidelity.

I suppose I've kept you in suspense long enough. Without giving anything away, my issue with the reveal is that it's impossible. I don't just mean it's impossible to get, I mean it's impossible in-universe. It hinges on two characters not being who they say they are. (An idea later reused in Third Girl.) We're supposed to believe that a female character who has been described as "tall" and having "dainty hands and feet" is the same person as a character described as "hefty". I always find reveals where characters turn out to be completely different characters contrived, but this one is all the more irritating because the descriptions just don't match up.


Have you ever read a mystery that was ruined by the reveal?