surely i oughta…

Honestly, I ought to go back to bed. Come to think of it, I probably ought to go upstairs and study some more. But while I might be a night owl in normal life, I can’t make myself a night owl for my college studies. Especially when I’m not one of the teeny-bopper students that I trip over all the time. 🙂 12168714_10153620567529976_1870777962_oThough I find more and more that being a “returning student” is not a completely unheard of thing, nowadays. We are not alone. Sort of.

I wasn’t asleep, but just getting comfy and then decided that I needed to check some things on my computer. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here, hasn’t it? But while snippets of story ideas and photo opportunities come my way, at the end of the day, I don’t have any brain space left for blogging. Unlike my time in Australia, when all I had was a constant story to tell, right? Or when I was jobless before school started? Perhaps I still have that 12124494_10153625474544976_1265596368_ostory to tell… but I’m too tired to tell it, mostly. Or when I do feel like telling it, it’s usually because I’m avoiding something. You know, like going to bed or doing homework. Fall has begun, here in the South, and I’m looking forward to taking some pictures of the changing leaves… with my phone, at least, though I tell myself I really should get over to the Botanical Gardens on one of these glorious cool days. I might even do it, between books that I’m reading for my history classes. I’m taking three of them, by the way. Modern South America, Britain from 1688 til now, and Museum History. The latter was to see what’s what in the field of Public History, but I don’t really think I’m going into that field. But I have learned one thing… no matter whether you agree with a museum curator’s method of arranging 12171063_10153621803034976_751679144_otheir exhibit or not, give them due credit. They work their backsides off for next to nothing, and often, their only reward is criticism. So, be nice to the museum people, they work hard.

What else has been happening? Weddings and receptions and drooling over DIY projects on Instagram. So, of course, after every wedding, I have tons of pics of my cousins’ kids and my friends’ kids. I have to take pictures of SOMEBODY’s kids, you know, if I can’t have my own yet! If you remember my darlings from Australia, then I can’t survive for long without playing with the kiddos. Come to think of it, I really don’t have much time for that, either. No wonder I’m always tired… haven’t gotten my baby fix. I was going to try, the other week, but then SC had serious flooding along the coast and in Columbia (the capital, at the center of the state). Interstates got shut down, roads got broken up by flooding.12022006_10153581173309976_1545617657_n

If you’re into certain shows on TV, I manage to watch Dancing With the Stars and Once Upon a Time, every week… but at the moment, I’m at least a season behind on Castle. It’s very sad, but two shows is the limit for TV goof-off time. Movies? I haven’t been to the theater in eons, but we did finally watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron during my fall break. That was quite fun, and it taught me my new favorite quote.

“The elevator isn’t worthy.”

Speaking of movies, yes, I am paying close attention to all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Star Wars movie. However, I am a serious Star Wars BOOK geek, more so than the movies. I love the movies, especially the originals, but I’ve been reading the books for 20 years of my life. So, now, they have declared most of that 20 years of book to be NON-CANON. Don’t even talk to me about it. My 12033463_10153581340084976_447329520_nbrother and I have been cringing for a long time over it. So, yes, I’m thrilled by the newest trailer, but as much as I love J.J. Abrams, ask the Star Trek fans about their last movies. I am seriously looking forward to THIS movie, and yet I’m positive they’re going to ruin it. Because the books are brilliant… at least many of them are. So, they’re not allowed to change the story, sorry. Ok, I need to stop… this subject gets me steamed.

Books…. yes, I’m always reading books. Haven’t updated my list in a while. Sorry. I’ve been bingeing on Georgette Heyer again, though I also read through some of Juliet Marillier’s books, recently. The Shadowfell series, and then rereading Wildwood D12162874_10153606713649976_1342687055_oancing and Cybele’s Secret. I was even in a Barnes & Noble, recently, and that made my week. What did I buy? Oh, right, the new Rick Riordan book. Which I enjoyed, but I’m not awake enough to go into detail. Also, a kids’ book called The Doldrums, which I’m still reading slowly, interspersed with Heyer. Because you know, Georgette Heyer remains brilliant, and I go back to them like comfort food. If I could write like she did, I’d die happy… and rich, too, probably.

I’m running out of steam. I do actually have to get up in the morning, even though my class isn’t until afternoon, because as I said, I have a math test AND I need to make an attempt at reading some pages (in German) more in depth. We’re starting to study sports in Germany, in GER 305.

11939122_10153526703864976_2017429301_oAnd blast, do you know, I just remembered I should have looked at the school website and decide on which classes to register for, for next semester? I have a meeting with my advisor this week, and really need to have my list ready to show him.

So, to close this rambling post of mine, I’m going to include some of the latest pics I’ve taken, some selfies, some kiddos, one abandoned mill that my museum professor took us to see, and proof that I’m still an honorary Aussie… I have to have my Vegemite! Especially when it’s on my mom’s homemade toast. If we have them in the house, I add avocado slices, too. Heavenly!

I hope to be rambling at you again soon. Have a great week! 🙂

i’m behind again…

Too many photos, too little time? Is it really that I don’t have enough time? I don’t feel like I’m doing that much, but let’s think that over again. I found out a week or so ago that a grad student friend’s wife was expecting and… I think her due date was yesterday. So, in addition to raiding my mom’s baby bootie stash (I don’t know how to knit, yet, so I can’t make them myself), I’ve been working on crocheting a baby blanket. I’m not posting pictures yet, because I haven’t had time.DSC_0176

DSC_0177As many of you already know, you can’t type on your computer and crochet at the same time. Nor can you read. Yes, some FB friends recommended that I listen to audio books, and I did dig up my Audible account, and find I had a few credits to my name. So, I’ve started listening to Brian Jacques’ Doomwyte, which I’ve read before. But if there’s one audio book series I like, that would be the unabridged Redwall books. Jacques narrated them himself, with a full cast to do all the voices. Of course, it makes all the bad guys creepier, and the descriptions of the Doomwyte cave even creepier than it ever was when I read it.DSC_0178

DSC_0180So, suddenly I’ve realized that I have a lot of photos piling up, from a visit to the Botanical Gardens, wandering around in my own yard, pictures of my bedroom before we started stripping the wallpaper, and a number of other things. But if I throw my weekend into catching up on photos and writing, I’ll never finish that blanket! And I haven’t heard if the baby arrived yet…DSC_0184

DSC_0188My preference is to watch movies while crocheting, though, which I find much more entertaining than just listening to an audio book. The crocheting just flies by. But I feel like a lazy bum, sitting on the couch all the time! I haven’t watched this many movies since… well, since Imogen and I had our movie binge, in Australia. No, I didn’t start watching any Austen or Gaskell movies yet. Instead, I’ve been watching my way through The Hobbit (with my family), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, While You Were Sleeping, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Tangled. If I can talk my brother into watching The Hunger Games with me, I’ll watch that again, too. DSC_0189

DSC_0191Also, I should have lots of time, because I haven’t gone to the gym much in the last week. I’ve been pretty tired, despite not working enough to make me so, and my foot has been bothering me. But I avoid going back to the doctor for it, and hope that the lack of energy isn’t from having a mono relapse. I don’t think it is. Even if I did HAVE a mono relapse, it’s nothing like what I’ve heard other people go through with it. But it keeps me from having enough energy to do what I want to do, and I feel like I’m doing little enough, as it is!DSC_0198

DSC_0201And so, all this rambling is to tell you that I’m really trying to accomplish something with my last week or so (finish a beautiful baby blanket!), while I’ll go ahead and share some pictures of the most recent flowers that have come up in our yard. They’ve survived, despite the beating that has been administered by all the rain… but I think these were taken before the worst of the storms AND the heat. DSC_0206

DSC_0208Last week, it was in the 90’s, all week. This week, it’s “cooled off”, staying in the 80’s. Practically a cold front, you know. And it’s only getting started! This is only June. July and August are just waiting to knock us flat… or send us running for cover, in the air-conditioning of our homes. The humidity is here to stay, as well. If it were just a dry heat, we could handle it. But no, this is the South, and humidity comes with the heat, no ifs, ands, or buts. DSC_0210

DSC_0213I hope you enjoy the brightness of these lovely flowers, and I’ll attempt to catch up on my latest, bit by bit. After the blanket is done!DSC_0214

DSC_0215P.S. Please note that NONE of these photos have been adjusted. No photoshopping at all. Those colors really were that brilliant, in the bright summer sunshine!DSC_0218

i could have written that better!

In a roundabout way, watching Thor for the first time brought me back to wanting to write this post, chewing out the people who attempted to write a novelization of the movie Snow White and the Huntsman. I had let it recede from my mind, after writing a scathing review on Goodreads, and getting it out of my system. Temporarily. But Chris Hemsworth did such a good job of bringing Thor to life (and Anthony Hopkins is awesome, of course), that I was reminded of his turn as the Huntsman.

I was looking forward to seeing Snow White, not because it was starring Bella Swan, but because it was going to star Charlize Theron as the Queen. Come to think of it, I can’t remember what else I’ve ever seen her in, but I know I’ve always liked her acting, and not just because she looks like a certain cousin of mine. So, when I saw the movie, I thought she did a seriously over-the-top, crazy performance that was fascinating to watch. But I kept wanting to know more about the characters. Why did Ravenna seek revenge? Where did the shadow warriors come from? And that’s not even touching on the questions that came up over the other people.

Not being a big time movie critic or able to fathom certain nuances of acting, I was torn over whether Stewart did a good job of playing Snow White, or if she just looked the part. I was intrigued by the idea of a warrior Snow White, fighting back for her kingdom, but I wanted to know more. And, of course, the age old question… if you have Chris Hemsworth playing the Huntsman, why do you even have a prince in the story? William was lackluster and uninteresting, so you never even think about rooting for him to get the girl.

My favorite scene in the movie (do I have to give a Spoiler Warning, since the movie’s been out this long?) is when Snow White’s apparently dead, and the Huntsman is talking to her, telling her why she reminds him of his wife, and then it’s his kiss that wakes her up. So fittingly, I think. You sit there wondering if she could hear him, or if she missed the whole thing. And then, she hops up and goes and has her spaz attack in front of her people. Ok, not really, but I’m still not sure if it was a good speech or not. They really should’ve been running the subtitles, because after she started screaming “fight for me!”, I lost track of what she was saying, and wondered if the apple was still disagreeing with her.

You may have guessed already that I really did like the movie, but there was so much more that they could’ve done, things they could have explained better. The dwarfs were good fun and the Enchanted Forest amazing, but the story didn’t reveal as much depth as it could have. I’d almost say, as well acted as some parts were, their characters were still somewhat shallow.

This comes to the book, finally. You’ve been wondering, I know. I look a good novelization of a movie, and have read several about the Transformers movies, as well as the Star Wars prequels (and all the Star Wars books, for that matter). The books of the SW prequels are better than the movies, in case you’re interested. So, every time I saw the Snow White and the Huntsman novelization on the store shelf, I was curious, and eventually gave in and bought it.

I don’t know who gave it a 5 star rating on Goodreads, because I have never read such a shoddily written novel. Unlike Graceling (which just got on my nerves), I finished this one, because I kept hoping for more details on one or two of the characters. But I could have written this better, and if the makers of the movie were willing to pay me for it, I’d do it.

This should have been advertised as a junior novelization, except it’s a bit too creepy in spots for a kid to be reading, but then, I wouldn’t want any child I know reading such an awfully written book. To start off with, several times in the book, the author used certain terms to describe something that just made me wonder where they went to school. Remember when she meets the beautiful, white stag in the Enchanted Forest, and they’re having a magical moment together? The author describes this as Snow White reaching out to “pet” the horse. Yeah, it was a horse in the book. Several times, she talks about petting the horse, and it made me wonder if the author grew up next to a petting farm. How about “stroking the snow white mane of the beautiful creature” or “trembling in awe at the idea of touching the shining coat of the noble stallion”, or something similar? Yeah, not so much.

There was also a description of Ravenna’s dress that made it sound like the author was writing for a dirty romance novel, but accidentally. Even a romance wouldn’t have described the queen’s… ahem… bosom with “it looked to be bursting out of her dress” when you could further describe her beauty and adornment as “her magnificent form was set off to perfection by the sparkling brilliance of her gown”. Or she could’ve kept it simple and said her dress was low-cut. Honestly.

From the first pages, it was never really clear what Ravenna’s purpose and motive was, except for somehow revenging herself on the king. Sometime in the distant past, he might’ve allowed his soldiers to kill her mother and their village, but for what reason, when and why? And you only find out that much in flashbacks, at really awkward moments. For some unknown reason, she’s given special powers, at the last second, by her mother, which ties her to her brother, and she truly loves him. Supposedly. Why? We never find out. Her childish temper tantrums are even more childish on the page than when Charlize Theron brings them to life on the screen.

After spending ten years of her life in prison, why isn’t Snow White bitter and angry? Let’s say that she was a goodhearted child who was raised to see the best in people, and has the memories of the deep love of her parents to keep her whole in mind and heart. That may be true, but is it ever mentioned? Nope. She may be naive and innocent in some ways, but do we ever get to glimpse how she developed, while kept in the darkest of prisons? Occasional memories of William surface, but nothing about either of her parents.

The most back story you ever get on a character is of the Huntsman, but even that is few and far between. He’s angry and a drunkard, all because of the loss of his wife. Temporarily, he allows himself to believe Queen Ravenna can bring her back, but not for long. And then he just automatically goes over to the side of Snow White, and almost takes a liking to her. Occasional phrases between the two bring to mind the bickering of Han Solo and Princess Leia, but this was never done as well as that. By the end of the book, you know he has to care for Snow White, because he has no other option, and she thinks she might have some sort of feeling for him, but doesn’t know what it is.

And as for William? According to the Huntsman, he’s a bit of a twerp, with a coward for a father, who isn’t nearly as brave in the book as he is in the movie. On the second to last page of the book, Snow White mentions in passing that she can never feel the same for William as the kingdom wishes she could, but did they ever mention before that that she should? Oh, that’s right, I’m supposed to assume that, understand it instinctively.

While looking up some information on Thor (yes, I always meant to see it in theaters, and then didn’t get around to it!), I found one of Chris Hemsworth’s next movies listed as… Snow White and the Huntsman 2. Ok, so it’s only been announced, that doesn’t mean they’ll follow through on it. But after the movie that could have been so much better, and the book that’s atrocious, if they’re going to try again, they better fix the problems from the first. More depth of characters, better dialogue, and put some sunshine into the possibility of romance. Maybe the book was so bad because there was absolutely nothing to work with in the screenplay? Then they should’ve gotten an author that could expand on… nothing.

And yes, if she marries the prince, and he stays as shallow and uninteresting as before, there will be an uproar. Otherwise, why have a Huntsman that we’ve come to care about, in the first place? I vote they give him a bath, put a crown on him, and his red robe from Thor, and he’ll look just like Sean Bean in Mirror Mirror.

Yes, a friend and I had a really fun rant about the problems with the movie, and I filled her in on the problems with the book. But overall, this movie hasn’t made it onto my list of favorite love/hate movies (King Arthur and The Man in the Iron Mask, for example), where I both love them and hate them, in equal parts. This movie wasn’t nearly interesting enough to score on either spectrum. Now, that’s finally out of my system…

Lord of the Rings PEZ, or how I ate the Precious…

Christmas presents are always wonderful to receive, but how about getting some, halfway through the year? My friends didn’t mail them all to me, because the weight of the box was going to make it really expensive to mail. So, they let me know that there were a few waiting for me, here in the U.S.  And now that I’m back in Pennsylvania, Rachel (yes, my friend’s name is Rachel) pulled them down from a shelf closet for me.

I laughed so hard. The other present, I’ll have to show you that later. We’re waiting until her day off, so we can both see how it works, while we’re outside (or somewhere we can’t make a mess), so I’ll tell you about it then. But for now, my friends Donna and Rachel bought me a box of Lord of the Rings PEZ dispensers. The four short ones are Bilbo, Frodo, Samwise, and Gollum. And believe it or not, they even make Sam Gamgee look somewhat concerned, on his PEZ facial expression. Or maybe he just doesn’t like being a purveyor of PEZ.

Gimli, of course, is a little taller than the hobbits, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gandalf are the tallest. I think they made Gandalf the White look a little bit too much like Saruman, but I suppose it’s a little tricky, on such a small face, and when it’s made of plastic.

So, I got them out of the box, and at first, we really didn’t understand why the hobbits were so small, as PEZ containers are usually all the same length. But, obviously, they’re hobbits and therefore short. Very important, don’t you think?

Of course, the back of the box has a description of all the characters, as well as a Nutrition Facts section. I kind of like the idea that Gandalf can only be 35 calories, don’t you? I guess the hobbits would only have about 15-20 calories.

When I arranged them on a dresser, I could be reminded of the Fellowship of the Ring, except there are eight characters here, Bilbo and Gollum weren’t part of the nine, and we’re missing the other hobbits and Boromir. So, you could consider it an interesting selection of characters for the container. Then, we were interrupted in our reenactment of Gollum attempting to get the Precious, with Sam looking on in the background, in time to go down to dinner. Le sigh.

snow must fall…

The truth must be told. I don’t have internet access, here in Sydney, yet. And so, as you read this, I am not only gazing wide-eyed at the sights of Sydney, but keeping an eye out for an internet cafe, or something of the sort. I wasn’t planning to leave you high and dry, all week, with nothing interesting to read or look at!

In the meantime, I went to see Mirror Mirror, last week. Judging it by the trailers, I was expecting it to be hilarious, and just all-around good fun. My expectations were met, as it’s not worthy of an Oscar (and I mean as real people would judge, not the actual Oscar voter-snobs), but I think most people will find it delightful.

There are several moments in the movie that could have made the tale sickly sweet, with Snow White talking to birds and being gently encouraged by her faithful servants. But rather than give into the sappiness (admit it, it’s difficult to translate into live-action what may sound marvelous in a book!), they liven up the whole story with a lot of laughs, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Julia Roberts is a delightfully wicked Queen, who is obsessed with keeping her beauty (even to eating grubs and having other disgusting beauty treatments). I won’t give away how the Mirror works, but if the Queen is wicked, the image in the Mirror is somehow even more evil, both to her and to others. You can see that the Queen is playing with fire, but part of you doesn’t really want her to get burnt. At least, not when she’s being funny.

The Prince is introduced with a running gag of getting attacked by bandits, and having his clothes stolen. Presenting himself to the Queen, she keeps losing her train of thought, distracted by his bare chest. At the same time, her majordomo (or whatever he’s called) is played by the always entertaining Nathan Lane. I still want to laugh, when I think of his monologue, after returning to his human shape (having been turned into a cockroach, for a short time).

The dwarfs are interesting and different than what you would expect, especially if you’ve been raised on Disney’s Snow White. These guys are not Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy. Well, Butcher is a bit of a grump, but they need at least one of them to be difficult. Their characters are amusingly different, keeping the laughs coming. I want to see the movie again, just to catch all the dialogue.

I think this movie has to go down in history as the best kissing scene in a fairy tale (or any romance), ever. It leads up to “true love’s kiss” in a manner that you won’t believe, but I won’t give it away. I think I read a review that mocked it, but I thought it was so original, and the Prince did his part so well, why would anyone want to complain?

Honestly, to give you a better description of it, I’d have to watch it again, but since I don’t have time for that… Take your kids and go see it. I believe it’s PG rated, and I don’t think even my four year old would find the “beast” scary. My four year old has surprised me a few times, when I’ve warned her about something in a movie, and then she’s laughed hysterically over it. My friends and I had a great time watching this film, and I would happily escort all my girls to see it.

And now, the countdown begins until Snow White and the Huntsman comes out. I’m looking forward to it, not because of Kristen Stewart or Chris Hemsworth (can anyone tell me why the story needs a Prince, if they have Hemsworth as the Huntsman?), but because Charlize Theron looks like she’s going to be the most wickedly AWESOME Queen ever. And the special effects they’re showing in the trailers, well, those will only whet your appetite.

Paraphrasing Julia Roberts’ Queen, “Let the snow fall already!”.

of hunger & katniss…

So, I went to see The Hunger Games again, with a friend who has never even heard of them. So, when I wasn’t feeling delighted over our wonderfully quiet audience, I was trying to put myself into the shoes of someone who had never read the books. It’s an interesting point of view, one that could almost bring you to tears, but as I know the whole story, there were no tears from me. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted, a time or two, though.

[SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to know anything up front, stop NOW!]

When I first saw the trailers for The Hunger Games, I was a little leery over whether Jennifer Lawrence could really pull off Katniss. But the later ones began to convince, while they suggested that they had picked the perfect Peeta Mellark, in Josh Hutcherson. Gale, however, is another story.

A second viewing of the movie tells me that though Liam Hemsworth will do his best, he doesn’t LOOK like Gale. Not that he even has a huge part in the movie, but the minute he arrives on-screen, he’s not being quiet and he’s joking around with Katniss. He’s too big, with loads of boyish charm in that face. My impression of Gale is that he should be more like Katniss, smaller, quieter, darker, and self-contained. Yes, he only opens up with those that he’s closest to, so he only should’ve opened up his character, a bit at a time.

The movie introduced the friendship between the two, and then only showed Gale again, later, in order to make you feel sorry for him, as Katniss and Peeta become closer. As the Gale and Katniss are still only friends, I think they should have shown Gale, looking after Prim and her mother, rather than just having him look sorry for himself, left out of the romance.

Aside from this one character issue (and I’m sure Gale will grown on me, by the next movie), I think the movie makers did a great job with their story. Primrose was perfectly played, as the little girl who everyone wants to protect, with her sister mothering her, because her mother is too broken and separate from things, to do so herself.

I don’t know if it was the “shaky cam” technique I was seeing in the film, but they seemed to be trying to show things from Katniss’ point of view, so sometimes things were blurry and confused, just like it would be for her, as she tries to take in what she’s done. Her volunteering in her sister’s place was the right thing to do, but she’s still in shock, once she realizes she’s really being torn away from her family as a sacrifice.

Effie Trinket’s performance at the Reaping is quite something, her pink toned outfit showing up garishly against the plain, simple garments of the District 12 residents. She seems oblivious to what the Capitol is really doing to its countrymen, despite the “wonderful film” that they show, with President Snow making the Hunger Games sound like a good thing. The implication is that the sacrifice of the Tributes will contribute to “togetherness”, while it’s really just telling Panem that they can’t rebel, because the Capitol has the power to kill their children.

I don’t think Haymitch Abernathy was quite such a dapper dog, in the books, but I think Woody Harrelson’s interpretation of him is great. He looks like a drunken sot, which to a degree, he is, but there’s more hidden under it. He pulls no punches with the kids, pokes fun at Effie, and keeps a sense of humor about him (I love his reactions to Katniss’ shooting the apple from the pig’s mouth). But you must remember, this man has lived with YEARS of knowing that he was the only survivor from his own Hunger Games. There’s a weight of death and remembrance that has turned him into what he is. He was a victim, just like them, once. And maybe he still is… but now he has a say in what happens to these new tributes.

The Capitol residents are quite shocking, just as they are in the book, with their lives being devoted to haute couture and pleasures of every kind. I liked the one scene which shows Haymitch gazing at the father that gifts his child with a gold plastic sword, so the children run around, making believe that death is a game. And it shows what the Games really are, to the Capitol residents. Just a game, a movie, made for their entertainment, with no thought to the real-life consequences, or that real people are dying in the arena.

I loved Cinna, and at the moment, I think Katniss has more chemistry with him than she has with Peeta. But in way, that’s correct. Because Cinna knows what she’s about to face, and doesn’t hide from the facts, so she can be real with him. Nothing romantic between them, but no need to hide. With Peeta, she hasn’t learned to be real with him, and they haven’t yet become romantically involved. Even at the end of the movie, Katniss is putting on a show, and it hasn’t become real for her… the romance, I mean. Oh, it is for Peeta, but not for her. And like President Snow, who isn’t convinced that their “love” is real, we aren’t either.

But you have to remember, here’s a difference between a movie and a book. If you’ve read the books, you know what’s going on in Katniss’ head, from the very first day. You know when she makes the choice to kiss Peeta, deliberately putting on a show, in order to save Peeta’s life. But in the movie, we can’t get inside her head, so we’re less prepared for the jump to kisses and cuddles. For those who say they don’t have much chemistry yet, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. On Katniss’ side, she and Peeta have only known each other personally, for about a month.

On Peeta’s side, of course, he’s been in love with her since he was a little girl. My first obnoxious movie audience laughed at the idea of him watching her walk home from school, every day, as if he were some kind of stalker. No, he was a boy in love, from the age of 10 or 12, onward. He just watched her from a distance, and once, he gave her bread when she was starving. And in Hutcherson’s acting, I saw him accept her attentions, like a man that’s drowning, as his injuries are overcoming him, and he wants to believe that she’s finally beginning to care for him. Because even in this instance, Peeta wants to believe the best in others, while Katniss tends to see the pessimistic or realistic side of things.

Before I forget, Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman is just awesome. Flickerman is supposed to be a bit cheesy, immensely likeable, seemingly oblivious to the harsher elements of the games, and yet the tributes can still get along with him. He’s someone they’ve been seeing on television, since they were children, even more so than Effie Trinket, in District Twelve. They are blinded to the realities of life, but in a way, the residents of Panem still have a sort-of affection for them.

I don’t remember much about Seneca Crane, from the book, but I found myself liking his character, as he oversees things as Games Coordinator. He’s a fascinating mixture of someone who forgets that death is real and terrible, and yet, when he changes the rules for the “star-crossed lovers”, he’s looking to human nature, and how they cheer for the underdogs. And he even admits to liking an underdog, which makes Sutherland’s President Snow all the more terrifying.

Compared to having a liking for the dapper Crane, with his strange and wonderful beard, President Snow looks like a white-haired patriarch, who cares only for his roses. But underneath his Santa Claus exterior, he’s like a venomous snake, waiting to bite. Crane still has some humanity in him, which is why I liked him, but you cringe and feel sorry for him, realizing he’s been put in a ring with the viper that is Snow. And in the end, though Crane doesn’t know it yet, the viper will take him down… perhaps because of that last piece of humanity that Crane possessed.

As the Games begin, though we’ve had a glimpse of the cruelty of the Career Tributes, you don’t really get the full idea, until the blood bath at the Cornucopia. The director makes it seems like we’re viewing it from Katniss’ viewpoint, with things being blurry, fast, and confusing. You see sprays of blood, but you don’t see the teens actually being killed. But you know they’re dead.

And from Katniss’ position, up a tree, you really see that the Career Tributes only see death as another game. It was reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, where the boys went feral, after being on the island for some time. These kids, both boys and girls, have been raised to kill, find torture and slaughter to be humorous, and have no remorse, unless faced with their own deaths. Listening to Clove jokingly mimic the tribute they have just killed… it’s horrifying. A culture of death, immortalized for their world to watch, on television.

Rue is adorable and smart, so from the first time you see her, you want her to make it, somehow. And you get a little glimpse of Thresh’s smile, when they’re in the training room, and Rue has stolen Cato’s knife. You remember that Thresh once knew how to laugh and smile, even when he’s rescuing Katniss from Clove, and kills her with his bare hands. But Rue, like Prim, is another little girl that Katniss is doing her best to protect. When Marvel kills Rue, it’s like having Prim taken from her, except this time, Katniss is unable to sacrifice herself to save her. So, the best she can do is sing her to sleep, and show her the respect that the Capitol has never given her.

When Katniss picks a bouquet of Queen Anne’s Lace to leave with Rue, I was reminded that this story is supposed to be set in my country, in a future time. Those flower are wildflowers that you can find all over the East Coast of America, and my own aunt used them in her wedding bouquet. Seeing the flowers, a piece of home, made Katniss’ loss seem even more real.

I think I’ve already covered enough of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, so I won’t go over it again. At the end, I knew the monsters were coming, but I was debating whether they would really incorporate the faces of the dead tributes into them. Thankfully, they didn’t. Or if they did, it was too fast-moving for me to catch. But this section kept going back and forth between the game coordinators, as they prepared to put the beasts into the arena. Just like the forest fire that almost killed Katniss, earlier, it showed me again how they only see this as a game. Crane may be likeable, but he’s still fascinated with the look of the beasts that are engineered to be instruments of a painful, drawn-out death. Likeability only goes so far.

And at the end, I’m not sure I heard right, but I think Cato seems to finally realize that this game of death really isn’t a GAME, because he knows that death is waiting for him. Even with a final showdown with his competition, amidst his bloody injuries, he sees destruction staring him in the face, finally. But he still takes a swing at defeating it. At the last, you almost feel sorry for him, as he comes to this realization, and then Katniss gives him mercy, when the monsters won’t. And by monsters, I meant the dog-beasts (I’ve forgotten their names from the books), but the title “monster” could just as easily apply to the people in the Capitol, who show no mercy to these teenagers.

So, thinking about that, I’m curious to see how they’ll portray the next Game Coordinator, Plutarch Heavensbee, as he’s the one preparing to help the Districts rebel against the Capitol. I’m guessing he’ll have some more humanity than Crane, but he still has to disguise it from President Snow and his cronies.

I look forward to what they’ll do with the next film. The characters were all well-acted, and there’s room for growth in all of them. I want to see the “romance” between Peeta and Katniss develop, as we know that it begins as an act, and somewhere along the way, Katniss no longer knows whether it’s real or not. Even having read the book, I can see any number of ways they could portray this on film, and I’m ready to see how they do it. How about you?

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the books before seeing the first movie, then get to it, before the next one comes out!

movies aren’t small potatoes…

Yes, I went to see The Hunger Games. And before you ask, NO, I will not be sharing any spoilers, so get a grip already. Sorry, I’ve already been threatened by friends, who obviously have my best interest at heart. “Don’t tell me anything that happens, or I’ll kill you! Got it?”  It’s all said in love, of course. I hope.

But since I got to see it first (unless some of my buddies wangled an advance viewing, somewhere), because I’m in Australia, I can now thumb my nose at my friendly threateners. As it happens, I left the movie theater annoyed, but not because of the movie itself. Because of the audience.

When I’m in the U.S., and I know a movie is coming out that I want to see, I usually go to the very first matinee that I can manage to get to. Preferably about 10 or 11 in the morning. Why? Because I’ll have the theater to myself, and I don’t have to gripe inwardly about the crassness and absolute rudeness of the general public.

You know what? It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, Australia, the United States or any other. I’ll still tell you, if you want to go to a movie to talk and chatter through the whole thing, go see a comedy, or an action movie (where you can’t hear anything, anyway). If you’re going to see a drama (or something else that’s serious), then plan on being serious, and… shut the hell up.

Was I the only one in the audience that wanted to shriek at the rest of the group? I hope not. I’ve read the books, I care about the characters, and I wanted to see how things turned out in the movie version. Obviously, we know how it ends. But I wanted to know if they would do justice to the book. If they acted well, or if they’re descended from John Malkovich (don’t get me started). I wanted to see how everyone interacted, and feel my heart racing, as we reached the final showdown! Now, I got to do all that, but with a bad taste in my mouth, wanting to knock some sense into my neighbors.

Rude, obnoxious audience members, you take away from the movie experience of others, and I wish you’d go spend your money watching some movie that’s just as rude and obnoxious as you are.

~

Now, that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll talk a little more normally. Sorry, I was steamed! When I got back from the movie, it occurred to me that I really should eat something that doesn’t involve potatoes, but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. Yes, if I go to Bogey’s for dinner, and have leftovers, I eat them for breakfast. And yesterday, I made potato soup, and today, I made a second batch of it, because the first batch got devoured. No, not just by me, by the whole family. It was definitely a hit.

So, having just had another delicious bowl of spicy potato soup, I’ll share with you about it. The original recipe comes straight from The Redwall Cookbook. If you know your Redwall books, then you know that they’re full of descriptions of delicious food. One of my favorites, that I always wanted to try was shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup. A favorite of the otters in the stories, it’s full of vegetables, potatoes, shrimp, and tons of hotroot pepper!

Of course, in real life, this is either chili pepper or curry powder. Your call. When I finally bought my own copy of the cookbook, I followed the recipe and then expanded on it. I don’t remember if the recipe actually calls for carrots, but there are usually carrots in the books. Also, garlic may or may not be included, but I certainly use garlic powder. Over the last few years, my recipe has changed a time or two, and now that I’ve reached Australia, it took another path.

My Aussie family is allergic to prawns, or at least some of them are, so adding shrimp to the soup was not an option. Hence the name, Spicy Potato Soup. And with my first attempt, here in Emerald, I tried adding gnocchi (potato dumplings), but I didn’t think they tasted good at all in this soup, so I picked them back out again. Here is my recipe, as best as I can remember.

~

Spicy Potato Soup

1-2 yellow onions

3-4 green onions/shallots

butter

chicken or beef broth

3-8 carrots

4-10 potatoes (depending on the size)

1 cup milk

garlic powder

chili powder

salt (black pepper, optional)

~

I know that looks like a skimpy recipe, but I find that my soup recipes vary, depending on my available ingredients, and whether I’m in the mood to chop things up. I also use corn starch (corn flour) to thicken the broth, but I ran out, today, so I added my leftover soup from yesterday, and that went just fine.

First, cook as many onions and shallots as you want to, in butter, until they’re brown. The original recipe called for leeks, but I’ve never used them, because I didn’t like the price. After that, add some chicken broth (though I’ve used beef broth, before). It depends on the size of your pot, and how many veggies you use. Today, I used about 4 cups, I think, and I used a chicken bouillon powder, while at home, I used chicken base.

Since I like LOTS of potatoes and carrots, and I know that the broth level will rise, I was careful to not put too much broth in. You want your potatoes to cook until they’re soft enough to put a potato masher in the pot, and break them down into bits. Add as much chili powder, salt, and garlic powder as you want. At home, I put tons of chili powder in, but here, I have “Mexican chilli powder”, which is a bit zippier than the home version. And it’s labeled “mild”, too. So, don’t overdo on the chili powder, if you can’t handle the spice.

When the potatoes have started to dissolve, you can slowly add your milk, and if you were doing the original shrimp ‘n’ hotroot recipe, you’d add the shrimp. When I was eating it, today, I kept feeling like something was missing, but it still tasted delicious.

Finally, I take corn starch and water, and slowly stir that in, to thicken it. But thickening isn’t necessary, just a preference of mine. If you put enough potatoes in, your soup will thicken, eventually. Taste your broth, make sure it’s salted enough, and you’re good to go.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the soup making, I was in quite a hurry, trying to finish chopping the veggies, so that I could play cards with one of my girls, who stayed home because she wasn’t feeling well. Once the potatoes and carrots were in the pot, they cooked for at least half an hour, if not more, without me having to do anything.

And there you have it. Never thought I’d fit a movie and potato soup into one post. Now, could someone PLEASE get that Hi-5 song out of my head? I’ll take the Thomas the Train song, any day!

of willows, poplars, & war…

I grew up reading all of L. M. Montgomery’s books, except for Anne of Green Gables (at first). For some reason, my mother’s copy of that book had been lost or damaged, so the only times I ever read it, I had borrowed it from the library. So, while some people idolize that book, and no other by Montgomery, it was the rest of the series, plus the non-Anne books that I read over and over. I think it’s given me a different view on Anne, amply aided by the movies, as well. But my heart belongs more to the adult Anne, her children, and the friends of her adulthood, rather than all of them in their schooldays.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Matthew Cuthbert, and my heart breaks when he dies, but it’s Marilla and Mrs. Lynde that stay with you, through most of the books. And for those of you that have never read any further, Anne’s youngest daughter was named after Anne’s mother and Marilla Cuthbert. Thus, she was Bertha Marilla, but Rilla, for short. Of course, Rilla always wished she had the “dignified” and “romantic” name of Bertha, while we modern-day people know better about that particular name.  : )

Now, I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I’m going to try and avoid comparisons to the movies, as much as possible, but it can’t be completely avoided. I love the first two Anne movies, though it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen them. But, for the record, there is no way on God’s green earth that I will EVER watch the third one. Why, you say? I’m sure they made a decent film out of it, I admit it. But no movie about Gilbert going to war can ever live up to the reality, the heartbreak, and the sheer brilliance of Rilla of Ingleside.

In that book, Anne and Gilbert have to watch as their children, and their friends’ children all head to the Great War. The boys’ eyes are glowing with the excitement of battle, having no idea of the horror that they’re in for, right at the start of WWI. Rilla is forced to grow up quickly, as she, her mother, and sisters all throw themselves into helping the war effort. She watches the man she is growing to love go to war, and she watches one of her brothers wrestle with the fear of going to war, and the sheer ugliness of it all.

If you have never read about Anne’s son, Walter Blythe, you’ll never meet another such brilliant character on the page. Walter was born a poet, a visionary, and somehow, he seems to know that the Piper will call the boys of Canada to “follow him round the world”. But Walter sees clearly enough to know that even if they come back, they will never be the same again.

“Some day,” said Walter dreamily, looking afar into the sky, “the Pied Piper will come over the hill up there and down Rainbow Valley, piping merrily and sweetly. And I will follow him–follow him down to the shore–down to the sea–away from you all. I don’t think I’ll want to go–Jem will want to go–it will be such an adventure–but I won’t. Only I’ll HAVE to–the music will call and call and call me until I MUST follow.” –Rainbow Valley

And who will come back? The story of Dog Monday, howling all night long, as a warning of someone never returning home. This is the same faithful Dog Monday that goes to the train station, when Jem Blythe goes to war, and refuses to leave, until Jem comes home.

As I said, no movie about Gilbert going to war will ever compare to what really happened in the book. My heart still breaks, every time I read it, and the impact hasn’t become less, though I’ve been reading it for 15 years.

Yes, I’m already off track, but I’ll try and get back to where I meant to go. We visited the library, a few weeks ago, and Bea borrowed most of the Anne books, though I don’t know how many of them she got around to reading. I returned the books, and checked out Anne of Windy Willows, for myself. Because I had found out that this book is published as Anne of Windy Willows in the UK, Japan, and Australia, but everywhere else, it’s Anne of Windy Poplars. That’s the title I was raised on, of course.

From what I read online, there’s supposed to be more detail in Windy Willows, as they edited some of it out for us more sensitive North Americans, and they didn’t want to have us confusing the book with The Wind in the Willows. But what caught my attention was the idea that my own beloved copy of Windy Poplars may actually be considered “abridged”. How horrible.

So, I had to read the Aussie one, and see if I could recognize any differences. It’s been a long time since I read my copy, but I was fairly certain I would notice any big discrepancies.

If you’ve never read it, Anne of Windy Poplars/Willows follows Anne of Avonlea. Anne is now engaged to marry Gilbert Blythe, but he has to go through a few more years of medical school, so she has accepted the job of principal of Summerside High School. She comes to Summerside, looking for a place to board, and instead, she finds that the “royal family”, the Pringles, are raising the roof over her becoming principal. The Pringle clan wanted one of their relatives to get the position, so now there’s hell to pay.

The movie Anne of Avonlea has a number of stories taken straight from this book, so if you’ve seen it, you’ll remember Anne’s problems with the mischief-maker, Jen Pringle and the unkindness of her fellow teacher, Katherine Brooke. More on Katherine, later. The Pringles plan her downfall, when they put on a school play, requiring her to find a last-minute replacement, when Jen calls in sick. In the book, it is Sophy Sinclaire that comes to the rescue. I’ve forgotten the name of the girl in the movie, and how they somehow make her father part of the story. Oh, yes, that same father is the son of the pestiferous Mrs. Gibson, who makes Pauline’s life a misery. These stories take place in Summerside.

But how can you get by without getting to know Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty? Anne finds a place to board in Windy Willows (I’ll stick with that name, as I just read that version), which is home to the two widows. One is tall and stern, yet she had a happy marriage, and dearly misses her husband. Aunt Chatty talks excessively, has exquisitely tender feelings which are easily hurt, and hers was a very unhappy marriage. And the house would not be complete without Rebecca Dew (who they say really runs things), who has a unique look on life, from being housekeeper, cook, and friend to the widows and to Anne.

While making herself at home in the tower room at Windy Willows, Anne befriends “Little Elizabeth”, who lives in the cold mansion next door. This lovely bit of wistful imagination longs to be loved, but her grandmother and “That Woman” never give her any, while her father is far away in Paris, and she has never met him. The poor dear looks ever for her “Tomorrow”, where all will be happiness, and her father will be waiting to love her.

Ah, Rebecca Dew. This character is one-in-a-million, and I can’t forget how Cousin Geraldine, a regular wet blanket, comes to dinner, and tries to depress everyone. Geraldine LIVES on the wrong side of the bed, always seeing the downside, and Rebecca Dew would rather not sit down to dinner with her, though the widows wouldn’t mind. But unlike other houses, where the staff would work in silence, Rebecca can’t keep her opinion quiet. So, every time she comes in to deliver a new course or take plates away, she makes a remark or has a snappy comeback for Cousin Wet Blanket. Oh, it’s a riot.

As I read through the stories of these old friends of mine, I was still looking for differences between the UK and the US version. They were not as obvious as I thought they would be, and I’m still unsure about them. Windy Poplars will be the first thing I read through, when I get home. Or at least, the chapters that I’m suspicious about. The likely culprits are the graveyard chapter, the wedding story, and Tomgallon House.

Anne doesn’t mind graveyards, so she takes a wander into the neighboring one, expecting to have some time alone to read the inscriptions. Instead, she bumps into Miss Valentine Courtaloe, the town’s seamstress, who knows all the tales of every person and their ancestors. She leads Anne around, narrating the happiness and sorrows of all the people who had gone before. I think a likely story for abridgement would be the one of the man who was so bad, when he died, they couldn’t get his eyes to close, so he was buried with his eyes open. But Anne was more horrified over the story of a married couple that hated each other, from marriage to death, and were buried side by side.

Some of these stories, I don’t remember, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read them before, it just means I skimmed a few of the tales. My other idea for an abridged chapter is the one about the wedding. Anne was a bridesmaid, and she was able to supply an ear, and maybe some comfort, to Nora, the sister of the bride. The only sister to remain single, she was not happy with her lot in life, as she had recently had a beau, but they had argued and not spoken since. With the bride bubbling over with joy, Nora only barely hides her bitterness. It doesn’t help that Aunt Mouser (who always “mouses” out the things people don’t want seen or said aloud) is there to make unseemly comments. And then one of the groomsmen teases Nora about being the last one standing, and she hauls off and slaps him. I enjoyed that part, but I sure can’t remember if it was in my copy of the book.

The original “royal family” of Summerside were the Tomgallons, of whom Minerva Tomgallon is the sole survivor. It seems that her family may have a curse on them, which causes them all to die suddenly or in dramatically horrific ways. I would say this chapter could be abridged, for the subject matter, but I remember a lot of it. So, I can’t be sure. Miss Tomgallon is a non-stop talker, only letting Anne get in a word or to, about once an hour. And then after hearing all the tales of horror, she gets to spend the night at Tomgallon House.

So, in the end, I am uncertain as to the differences between the Willows and the Poplars. I will have to do further research on the subject, and get back to you. I’ll just close with my final rant about the Anne movies. Again, remember, I love the movies, but there’s no rule that says I can’t have any issues with them.

The book does a beautiful job of showing how Anne finally reaches out to Katherine Brooke and befriends her. Katherine is the child of a couple that are like the graveyard couple that Anne was so horrified by. With no love in her life, she saw Anne as what she would have like to be, not knowing that Anne had a hard childhood, too.

But in the book, though she isn’t beautiful, Katherine Brooke is a handsome woman of about 28, who dresses badly enough to look like she’s in her thirties. Anne, herself, is in her early twenties. So, when you watch the movies, you see a woman playing Katherine who is actually in her thirties, but they make her look like she’s in her fifties. And Anne is played by a nineteen year old. My objection is that the book makes it clear that Katherine is still a girl, she only dresses badly, with lovely black hair, a beautiful singing voice, and a gift for elocution. Whenever I read this, it annoys me that the Katherine Brooke in the movie is made out to be an old woman, who is made a little more youthful by learning how to smile. And standing next to the young Megan Follows, she seems older still. This bugs me.

Well, thank you for joining me on another spiel meant to introduce others to the joy that are Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books. I will continue to inform people of this, for the rest of my life, and continue to be appalled that people will stop with Anne, or just watch the movies. Because as good as the first two movies are, they’re a compression and hodge-podge mix of four books. And if you insist on never looking beyond Anne, then you’ll never know the thrills that are still awaiting you.

a delightful jaunt to mars…

I’ve never read any books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So, despite never having heard of A Princess of Mars, or any of the other books about John Carter, I was attracted to the idea of John Carter. This was a completely unknown story (to me), set in space, but not related to either Star Wars or the Alien series, and being marketed by Disney. I enjoyed the trailer, so looked forward to seeing it, despite all the rumors of overspending and “flops”. I’ve heard people say it was dull and that it has no storyline. So, I went to see it, anyway. [Spoilers ahead!]

What is everyone complaining about? I found the movie to be delightful. Any difficulty with following the initial story would just come from unfamiliarity. Most viewers are completely unfamiliar with the tale, or the back story, so the director had to insert some sort of prologue, to help us figure out what’s going on. But though I didn’t catch all the names, it didn’t take me long to orient myself. Besides, some of the first characters you meet, Sab Than and Matai Shang, are played by Dominic West and Mark Strong. I’m willing to follow almost any storyline, with these guys acting.

Some of you will remember Dominic West from Centurion and 300, but my favorite memories of him are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where he starred alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, and many others. He held his own, and I figure if he can handle Shakespeare, he can handle anything.

From the brief intro to the wars on Barsoom (Mars), the tale takes us to Earth, where John Carter is being followed by a strange man, sends an urgent telegram, and then we find that he’s dead. His nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs, has been left all of Carter’s wealth, as well as Carter’s diary. As soon as the lawyer leaves, the young, awkward-looking Burroughs begins to read the diary, as Carter’s voice says that “it all began thirteen years ago…”.

John Carter is a gold miner, trying to escape his past, but some of the U.S. Cavalry are conscripting him to ride for them, and he shows himself to be completely belligerent about it. After bloodying numerous members of the military, flinging himself out of windows, and getting increasingly bloody, himself, he tricks the guard, and escapes. An Apache showdown occurs, and in the losing battle, he rescues the wounded Captain that was originally persecuting him to join up.

They ride into the hills and take shelter in a cave, where the Apaches shy away from the strange symbols written there. A strange man appears out of nowhere, startling Carter, and attempting to kill him. In the scuffle, the stranger dies, and Carter picks up his glowing blue medallion… and is transported to a new world. Or at least to a strange place. He still thinks he’s on Earth.

He tries to stand up and walk away, but keeps bouncing and falling down, ignominiously. Think of Superman, learning how to fly. Carter eventually figures out how to jump very high, and traverse the landscape, quickly. But he has no idea why he can do it.

A hilarious introduction to the younglings of the Tharks, the green Martians, is quite funny. You feel trepidation, eying up the collection of eggs, from which burst some squalling green infants. The Tharks attack, but Tars Tarkus sees him jump, and does his best to calm Carter down, and introduce himself. Resulting in the amusing misunderstanding of Carter’s name, which they take to be “Virginia”.

As Carter begins to learn his way amongst the aliens, he collects an outcast Thark named Sola (played by Samantha Morton) and an alien “dog” named Woola. The “dog” was a bit of a cross between E.T. and a frog. He was definitely a huge favorite with the audience, as he travels at lightning speed, but still acts like a normal dog. A smart animal, he was able to get in trouble, follow orders, and come to the rescue. And Woola always got some laughs.

Meanwhile, in the city of Helium, the residents are aware that Sab Than is unstoppable in his quest to take over the planet, but has now requested that he marry the princess of Helium, Deja Thoris. Her father (played by Ciaran Hinds) is heartbroken, but knows that his people will all die, if he denies the conqueror’s demand. Deja, a bit of a scientist, is trying to discover something called the “ninth ray”, in order to fight back against their oppressors, but her machine is vandalized.

Carter comes across Deja, as she attempts to run away from her prospective husband, but he only interferes with the air battle, when he realizes that a woman is in danger. By this time, he has discovered that he can leap to such heights as air ships, and bounds all over the place, seriously annoying Sab Than.

Given a chance to run away, Princess Deja (whom Carter refers to as “Professor”), Carter, Woola, and Sola head for a holy place, to try and discover the use of the medallion, and get Carter back to Earth. At the same time, Deja tries to convince Carter to stay. He is obviously developing feelings for her, but the memories that are still tied to his wedding ring are keeping him from going further.

Captured again, the Princess agrees to the marriage, as she believes that Carter has been able to return to Earth. Carter is taken captive by Matai Shang, whose “ninth ray” powers keep him from doing anything but watch the wedding procession. But his rescue comes from an unusual and hilarious direction. Of course, he must return to the Tharks and fight for his life, in order to convince them to help him.

I won’t tell you how it all turns out on Barsoom. But we return to Ned Burroughs, who has just read that as long as Carter’s body is kept alive, in the mausoleum (burial chamber), his other self can continue to live on Mars. You see, Carter’s death was a bit of a trick, but I won’t explain how. It took him thirteen years to find what he needed, and now his plan was ready. His diary warns Ned that before his “death”, he was being stalked, and Matai Shang may have reached his body already, destroying it, and preventing his return to Mars. Young Ned immediately rushes to the rescue, as a stranger looks on.

I probably gave you too many details, but if you go to see it, you’ll have a little familiarity with the story, to help you out. I loved the movie, and think that when it comes out on DVD, I will enjoy watching it several more times, probably with subtitles, to see what I missed on the first viewing. I enjoyed the fact that Taylor Kitsch, who played John Carter, was still something of an unknown (yes, I know he’s played Gambit), which makes you see him as Carter, and not himself. Kitsch did a great job, didn’t make me laugh over any speeches, but instead, I believed what he said. This was no Jake Gyllenhaal playing around inside of a video game, that’s for sure.

And despite my naming of some of the other actors and actresses, I felt the rest were such good actors, and so well established in their character, they I didn’t sit there, thinking of their real names, whenever I saw their names. Unlike some other movies, I didn’t think Ciaran Hinds, Willem Dafoe, or Thomas Haden Church were “slumming”. They’re the great actors that helped carry the film.

No, I’m sure the movie wasn’t perfect, but I was never taken out of the story by the alien characters or any of the other special effects. It was done so seamlessly, I had no trouble believing in this world. And I loved how the romance between Carter and Dejah developed, and even let him confront his demons, over the loss of his first wife and child.

Anyone who asks, I will tell them that I loved the film, found the story delightful, and will definitely be getting a copy, when it comes to DVD. If you’ve read a review that says it’s a flop, go see it for yourself, and don’t take their word, or mine, for it. As far as I’m concerned, Disney may have spent too much money, making this movie, but I think they did an excellent job. Good on ya, Disney. Keep ’em coming.

[Update: Yes, you’re seeing more articles about how this movie is doing at the box office. The naysayers are out in force. Ignore them. This is NOT another case of Mars Needs Moms, even if the same planet is involved. This was a good movie, with great actors playing wonderful characters, that shouldn’t be forgotten just because Disney overspent itself.]

seventh time’s still a charm…

Three or four years ago, I heard (or read) about a series of books by Naomi Novik. Or maybe I just tripped over them in Barnes & Noble. I really don’t remember anymore, but the point is that I looked them up, and read the blurbs about them. Of course, the fabulous cover photos would catch anyone’s attention, as well as the title of His Majesty’s Dragon (published as Temeraire, in the UK). But then I found out that the story is set during the Napoleonic Wars… but in a world that includes dragons.

Well, can I just tell you, that one-line description had me at hello. I love reading about history, but fiction and non, and I love fantasy… especially where dragons are involved. So, I didn’t need to know much more, but I eventually found out all about Novik’s wonderful books, because I went out and bought the first four, right away.

The story begins with Will Laurence, captain of a ship in the British Navy, when they capture a French frigate. Onboard, they discover a dragon egg of an unknown type, and it is close to hatching. They are too far from shore to find an aviator to take care of the dragon, and it’s known that a dragon that isn’t bonded with someone at birth, well, they’ll go feral. So, they draw straws among the officers, but the newborn dragon had a mind of his own.

Named Temeraire, the young dragon and new aviator, Laurence, must leave his beloved Navy behind and go to join the Aerial Corps, which all countries have in their military, along with the Army and Navy. With most humans being terrified of dragons, the aviators and their dragons live in secluded areas, and their rules are a bit different from that of “polite society”. Some breeds of dragon will only accept a female aviator, so the female captains are a bit of a shock to Laurence. The existence of female aviators is also kept hidden from society.

If you know your history about the Napoleonic Wars, then I won’t explain any of it to you. With the existence of fighting dragons, all the battles take place in a slightly different fashion, with occasionally different results. For example, Napoleon does manage to invade England, eventually. But the author still remains as true to history as she can, and the battles are quite interesting, as you’re seeing them from the air, rather than from the ground.

The second book in the series takes our characters to China, the fourth to Africa, and the sixth to Australia. Yes, this series takes you all over the globe, but you must remember that the Wars weren’t just in one country, and at the same time, slavery was still in place, in other areas of the world. And some people were rebelling against it, or arguing for abolition. I wasn’t a big fan of Tongues of Serpents (book 6), but before that, they were all excellent. Maybe it’s because exile to Australia, contemplating treason, and having philosophical discussions about whether war is ever justified… well, it got to me, while it was mixed into the early colonial landscape of Australia. And the bunyips were just creepy, though they’re supposed to be a myth (nowadays).

I’m not going to give you huge details on books 2-6, you’ll just have to try book 1, and then go from there. I am going to tell you a little about book 7, but just another moment. If you are still wondering if this series is really interesting enough to read, then I’ll tell you that Peter Jackson has optioned them, to make into films, after he’s finished making The Hobbit. Whether you read them now or read them later, there will be dragon movies coming to theaters, a few years from now.

[Spoilers ahead!]

Crucible of Gold finds Arthur Hammond, England’s ambassador to China, spending three weeks straight on a dragon’s back (no stops, as far as I can tell), in order to reach Laurence and Temeraire. After thawing out, finding his feet, and nearly being eaten by a bunyip, Hammond finally finds Laurence. His mission is to reinstate Laurence to his former rank. Napoleon’s machinations are reaching to South America, and Temeraire and Laurence are requested to go there and defeat the French’s purpose.

Only a dragon transport can take them across the Pacific Ocean, so Captain Riley and the HMS Allegiance are recalled, along with Iskierka (the fire-breathing dragon) and Kulingile. These two add to the chaos of conflicting personalities amongst the dragons, as well as the humans. Iskierka is excitable, selfish, and frustrating (especially to Temeraire), while Kulingile has now grown bigger than his friends, though he’s very lazy and laidback, to go with it.

Shipwrecks, marooning, capture by the French, and possible marriages to an Incan queen are just the least of what’s in this story. Both dragons and humans must learn the strange customs concerning “ownership” in South America. Then, assisting the Tswana dragons from Africa to retrieve their descendants, who are now slaves, Laurence must figure out how to get them back to Africa, while screwing with Napoleon’s plans at the same time. When I reached the end of the book, I was impatient to read the next one, as it looks like the dragons may be traveling into North America next.

I hope I’ve been able to give you a small taste of what you’ve been missing out on. I know, it’s a little difficult to hear about, seven books in, but give it a chance. I thought I’d written a little about the Temeraire books, before, but I guess I only touched on them in my Anne McCaffrey post  (the heart of a dragon…)! That’s what happens when you’ve been reading these books for four years, but only blogging for one.

Well, almost one year, because there are three more weeks before I’ve officially blogged for a year. And while I’m counting down to something, in LESS than five weeks, I’ll be flying home!