4 Underrated YA Fantasy Novels

Hi guys,

One thing you should know about me is that my favorite genre in books is fantasy. When I read, I love to see princesses in peril, magical powers, and romantic entanglements. No other audience in literature seems to understand what I want more than Young Adult. I used to fluff YA off as childish and cliched, but when I looked deeper I found many more great stories lying beneath the surface.

These 4 fantasy novels are some of my absolute favorites and they exemplify that searching a little bit harder can yield remarkable results.

 

4. Lips Touch: Three Times – Laini Taylor

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Fans of Strange The Dreamer should check out this collection of three separate dark fantasy stories that surprise as much as they make you swoon. In each tale, a dark-haired, blue-eyed female is faced with the magic of a kiss and the ramifications thereafter.

“Goblin Fruit” (my personal favorite) opens the collection. Kizzy is warned not to be tempted by goblins, but when the allure of a new boy at school (who may or not be a goblin himself) calls her, she has to decide whether to embrace her desires or deny her passions, all for the sake of one, tantalizing first kiss.

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” centers on Anamique who is cursed at birth never to speak a word lest she kill all of those within earshot. When a soldier falls for her, she has to choose whether to believe the curse and stay silent or risk destroying the man she loves.

“Hatchling”, the longest and most complex of the collection, focuses on Esme and her mother, as they attempt to outrun and outwit the wicked, inhuman creatures known as Druj. When one Druj shows just a semblance of emotion, a torrent of questions are raised about the origins of the Druj and what lies at the source of their eternal brutality.

After reading the collection, you can’t help but be impressed by Laini Taylor’s skill (as well as the gorgeous illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo.) “Hatchling” alone is an intricate story, with an incredible depth and a vast knowledge of mythology. If none of these stories get you in the heart, then you may be just as heartless as a Druj yourself.

3. The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

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Fervent readers of fairy tales will likely be familiar with Angela Carter. Her short story collection The Bloody Chamber, and most notably its tale “The Company of Wolves” is her most popular work.  However, they might have passed over this wonderful little gem. That would be a shame.

The Magic Toyshop follows Melanie whose parents are killed in a plane crash. Her and her two siblings are taken to live with their estranged Uncle Philip, his wife Margaret, and her brothers Finn and Francie. While staying with them, she begins to develop a tender relationship with Finn while uncovering the disturbing secrets of her extended family.  It’s this story’s ambivalence that makes it work so well. The back and forth of Melanie’s feelings for Finn, the unsettling characters and atmosphere, along with the peculiar puppets that represent those involved create a unique story that isn’t going to be for everyone. And its revelations will have you reeling for days.

But if you’re willing to do into darker territory with your reading, this is a high recommendation from me. Not in the mood to read? A movie version is available on YouTube that’s really good; in ways, it even improves upon the book.

2. The Songweaver’s Vow – Laura VanArendonk Baugh

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Not only do I love a good fairy tale, I love mythology, particularly Greek and Norse. Both have such fascinating characters and stories that I don’t know which one I like more. With this book, I didn’t have to choose.

It follows Euthalia, a young woman captured by viking raiders and forced to marry a dragon god. Despite how this sounds, Euthalia actually comes to discover the dragon god, named Vidar, is quiet kind and gentle. Yet, their love is unconventional. Stricken by a curse, Vidar warns Euthalia never to look at him in the light. Euthalia breaks this promise and he leaves her. She eventually goes on a quest to find him, all while preventing the prosphesied Ragnarok from ever occurring.

Along the way, Euthalia tells Greek tales to the Norse Gods, making the story a unique blending of the two distinct mythologies. The execution of Loki’s character, a primary force in the novel, is exquisite while other gods and goddesses are also fleshed out. Don’t know the myths? Don’t worry. You don’t need to. Just enjoy the surprising, sweet, and bonkers journey this takes you on.

1. Trick – Natalia Jaster

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Set in a world ruled by the kings and queens of the four seasons, this entertaining and thoughtful romp pivots between the dual viewpoints of Briar, the level-headed princess of autumn and Poet, a jester of spring whose clever wit is matched only by his deviant bedroom antics. Considering his reputation, Briar instantly takes a disliking to the charismatic jester. After a creature attacks them in the forest, Briar gets wounded attempting to protect Poet and is taken back to a cottage where he reluctantly reveals his biggest kept secret. She starts to gradually lower her guard down while Poet also begins to see her in a new light. Like a flower in spring, a romance slowly blossoms, even at the risk of losing the things they hold dear. Are they willing to risk it all for true love?

I’m going to be honest with you. Brace yourself. This is the best book I’ve ever read. Hands down. While it is more NA (New Adult), than it is YA due to the mature content, it nevertheless is a funny, charming, steamy novel with two leads whose chemistry is off the charts. It’s not Disney-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great princess story.

Honorable Mention: The Perfect Fool – Bethany Zohner Herbert

If Trick turns you on to jesters, this romantic (though much cleaner) story is still incredibly funny, lighthearted, and swoony. Fans of The Princess Bride will really get a kick out of this romantic medieval tale.

Fantasy, fairy tales, and mythology are all well-represented in modern YA. These 4 tales are examples of crisp, intelligent writing, intriguing characters, and fascinating plotlines. Look for them at your next visit to the book store. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

See you next time!

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Most Underrated Song of 2017

Hi guys,

One of the features on my blog has been highlighting songs that tend to go under the radar. Last year, there were a few songs that just didn’t get the air-time they deserved, including The All-American Rejects’ comeback song “Sweat” and Foster the People’s Vegas-sounding “Sit Next To Me.” While those are great tunes, neither gets the title of what I feel is 2017’s most underrated song — “Stroll On” by MUTEMATH.

 

 

You may be more familiar with MUTEMATH’s song “Typical“, which, while not charting on the Billboard Hot 100, did reach #33 on the Alternative charts. This song is so laid-back and easy-going, it’s almost dream-like. The tune is psychedelic, a little funky, and soars in the most perfect spots. It’s like the group is singing from a distance, out in space with their guitars, hypnotizing you with their melodic sound. “Stroll On”  is that transportive. If you think I’m over-selling it, just listen to it. You’ll see what I mean.

 

What do you think? What’s your most underrated song of 2017? I’d love to know so tell me in the comments. See you next time!

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 – Part 2

Hey everyone,

It’s part 2 of my 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018, served up hot and ready. These are my Top 5 hyped flicks of the year. Let’s see what they are, shall we?

5. Incredibles 2

Incredibles is one of Pixar’s more memorable flicks, even among its impressive line-up. The adult humor mixed with the lovable Incredible family packs a punch and offers something for every age. The trailer definitely shows this same slant, as Mr. Incredible is forced to be the parent to Jack-Jack while mom’s away saving the world. Honestly, I’m not sure how the franchise will do as it’s aged so much since 2004, but the fact that it starts right where the last one left off, with the Incredibles pitted against the Underminer is a great way to transition audiences back into the action and move us forward in time. Will it be Incredible? We’ll have to wait and see.

4. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom

For me, Jurassic Park has fallen — from grace. I hated Jurassic World. Uh, that movie irritates me. The climactic dino fight was epic, I’ll give it that. But the kids in those pods? C’mon! And I’m sorry, neither Chris Pratt nor Bryce Dallas Howard did anything with their roles. They just stood there, basically. So why is this #4 on my list? It’s Jurassic Park, people, okay? Regardless of how the last movie went, there’s so much potential for this action-packed series to make up for its missteps. Dinosaurs don’t get old. Well, okay, they do get old, they became extinct, but they’re still fascinating to watch on screen. And I’m praying the return of the charming Dr. Ian Malcolm can save this franchise (we love you, Jeff Goldblum!)

3. X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Superhero movies blow me away these days. Whether it’s the hilarious humor and heart-pounding action of Thor: Ragnarok, the ragtag adventures of the Guardians of the Galaxy, or the incredible multi-hero brawl in Captain America: Civil War, we’ve got some heavy-hitting moments over the last few years. X-Men is the dark horse superhero franchise in all of this, and so is its next film (literally), Dark Phoenix. I really enjoyed the original X-Men of the early 2000s, but when the franchise went back in time, I wasn’t thrilled.

X-Men: Days of Future Past changed all of that. I loved how fun that entry was, the way it played with time, and the addition of the adorable Quicksilver (not to be confused with the less adorable version we got in Avengers: Age of Ultron.) X-Men: Apocalypse took a step down again, but this third (prequel? sequel? reboot? huh?) may just be able to make up for the mistake that was X-Men: The Last Stand. Jean Grey deserves a better ending. Fingers crossed this Phoenix rises from the ashes (had to do it!)

2. Bohemian Rhapsody

Finally, finally, finally. Ever since 2010 when the first inklings of this movie came about (when Sacha Baron Cohen was attached), I have been dying to see this picture. Queen is my favorite band of all time, and Freddie Mercury, the greatest male voice this world has ever known. His campy, flamboyant nature only added to his mystique, and I’ve wanted to see someone portray his larger than life persona to the fullest. The minute I heard Rami Malek was chosen to replace Sacha, I cheered. I was excited about SBC, but the project drastically changed in tone since his involvement, and I couldn’t have chosen anyone better than Malek. He clearly looks like Freddie and we haven’t seen all he’s capable of yet as an actor. This could be just the role he needs to break out. Thank God it’s Christmas Day 2018 that this baby comes out!

Before we get to number 1, here are some of my honorable mentions:

Ant-Man and the Wasp

  • Liked the first one; didn’t love it. Still curious to see how the story expands.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

  • This would have made the list if not for that trailer. Meryl’s dead! No, just no.

Ready Player One

  • Wreck-It-Ralph brings the cameos, and so does this one. But the trailer is so dark, it’s hard to see any of them. Hey, is that the Joker and Harley Quinn? Yes!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

  • Not a Harry Potter fan, but I did like Fantastic Beasts (like, not love.) With Johnny Depp on-board (he still is, right?), this could be an exciting new outing for Newt and his pals.

 

1. Avengers: Infinity War

You had to know this would be #1. After setting up an epic showdown between good and evil, the Avengers vs. Thanos, this will be the culmination (well, the culmination before the real finale in 2019) that brings in the Guardians of the Galaxy for a superhero mega-battle. Look at all the superheroes just on this picture alone. Everybody’s here to kick intergalactic booty, and I for one cannot stand the wait! Luckily, the release date moved up a week to April 27th, so that helps.

Who’s good? Who’s bad? Who’ll live? Who’ll die? What will happen to Loki? To Bucky? To Tony? Who knows? This clash of the titans is going to be the blockbuster of the spring and will likely break some major box-office records, so be prepared for a mind-blowing experience! To Infinity and Beyond!

 

Well, that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did compiling it. What are you looking forward to this year? Tell me in the comments. And have an awesome time at the movies!

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 – Part 1

Happy February, everybody!

Yeah, not the happiest of months, I know. So in order to liven it up, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 Most Anticipated films of 2018. Last year, I had a pretty rockin’ list and those movies turned out great, better than expected. So, I decided to do it again. Like last time, I’m splitting it up into 2 posts. Look forward to part 2 in the coming weeks. For now, let’s start off the list. . .

10. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

Unlike many people, I was not a big fan of Wreck-It-Ralph. I loved the concept and the numerous video game references, but it just didn’t have that special sauce and I soon forgot about it. So why am I excited for the sequel? Princesses! I’m not joking. Wreck-it-Ralph 2 is reportedly going to have every single Disney princess in the film. Not only that, it’s also going to feature Star Wars characters and even have appearances by a few Marvel characters (because, you know, Disney owns everything now!) Honestly, the amount of cameos is why I’m hyped about this one. Sorry, Ralph!

9. Mary Poppins Returns

Similarly to Wreck it Ralph 2, I’m also not a huge Mary Poppins fan (although I kind of dig “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!”.) This sequel however has me pumped for 2 reasons:

1.) Emily Blunt is stepping into the iconic shoes of Julie Andrews (and I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else.)

2.) Lin-Manuel Miranda is starring in it! With his natural talent for song, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to add to the film.

Hopefully this one soars to the highest heights this December.

8. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Okay, you had to know it was coming! This isn’t called Pop Culture Grinch for nothing, folks. This year, we’ll be treated to the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch voicing one of my favorite characters of all time. Why is it so low on the list then? It’s animated, that’s why! I love Jim Carrey’s manic portrayal in the live-action version, and no matter how excited I am to hear Cumberbatch’s deep voice give life to the Grinch, it’s still not the same as seeing the person in the fur (uh, flesh.) Plus, Illumination Entertainment is behind it and while I love Despicable Me and its sequels, they have not had a good run with Dr. Seuss (*cough* The Lorax *cough*.) But, I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’ll be half as fun as the live-action film. If anything, I like the Grinch’s design.

7. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Drac and the gang our back in this third outing in which the group heads out on a luxury cruise ship for monsters. While on board, Drac meets its captain Ericka and a relationship blossoms. Turns out Ericka is actually a descendant of the great Van Helsing. Obviously, the “stakes” are high in this one! I joke. No, but I love the concept. We all want Drac to find a match, and who better than a relative of one of the most notorious vampire-killers of all time? The inherent romantic tension makes this entry an interesting one in the franchise, and one that may prove to have more bite than its predecessors.

6. I Feel Pretty

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Originally, this would have been the Barbie movie, but since that got pushed back, I decided to put this clever feel-good comedy about inner beauty in its place. After hitting her head, an insecure woman named Renee (Amy Schumer) forgets how she feels about herself and suddenly discovers she is as beautiful as she sees other women. Inspired by her new outlook, she starts embracing life, and finding out how great it can be when you’re secure in your own self-image. Great concept, excellent casting in Schumer, this one’s going to be the movie all women need to see.

 

Get ready for part 2 next time!

 

 

Best of the Year – 2017

Hi everyone,

2017 has been a year of surprises. The biggest one? That I actually enjoyed a lot of the things that came out of it! Movies in particular were better than they’ve been in years thanks to entries like Beauty and the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Today, I’m revealing my absolute favorites in 5 different categories – Best Movie, Best Song, Best Album/Soundtrack, Best Television Show, and Best Book. I’d love to hear your favorites too. Without further ado, here are my favs!

Best Movie:

Thor: Ragnarok

What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? A true “marvel”, Thor: Ragnarok is everything superhero nerds like me want — action, humor, style, did I mention humor? Thor 3 is full of one-liners and one-two punches. Not only that, it’s also brimming with characterization, turning what was essentially the most mediocre of the Big 4 Avengers into a star. Loki is also treated perfectly, vain, conflicted, deceitful. Brava! Oh, and all the new characters – Valkyrie, Grandmaster, Hela, Skurge — are dynamic and fun. It’s a non-stop joyride, and you’re crazy not to get on it!

Best Song:

Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Earlier this year, I did a post called 10 Best Songs of 2017 (So Far). My top pick was, and still is, “Bad Liar”. We’ve had some great songs since June (“Feels” by Calvin Harris, “How Long” by Charlie Puth, “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons), but none compare to Selena Gomez’s clever ode to unspoken feelings. It sounds like nothing else on the radio, so merely for that, I like it. Selena’s voice also sounds great, it’s creative, and I hope to hear more songs like it in 2018.

Best Album/Soundtrack:

Tie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack and Anastasia Soundtrack

 

This was seriously a toss-up. The Guardians of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack kicks intergalactic booty with another powerhouse sampling of 70s hits including “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac and “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. We are immersed in the film’s stellar moments thanks to Director James Gunn’s excellent song choices. On the other hand, Anastasia picks up right where the 1997 film left off with bright interpretations of classics like “Journey to the Past” and “Learn To Do It.” Plus, the same songwriters from the original film, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, include new songs such as “In my Dreams” and “The Neva Flows”, crafting an enchanting musical embrace that takes you way back in time. Both go to show that some of the best music today lies in the past. Whether you’re in the mood for sweeping ballads or classic rock, these are two albums you definitely need to listen to.

Best Television Show:

The Orville

My most anticipated show of 2017 turned out to be one of my absolute favorites ever! And that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen a ton of shows. Seth MacFarlane is one of those guys you either love or hate. I personally love him! Family Guy aside, he’s funny, cheeky, dark, strange, and yet surprisingly heart-felt (Ted and Ted 2.) My original expectations for Orville, as they were for many people, revolved around the show being an out-and-out Star Trek parody. Boy, were we wrong! Orville is more like a space satire, a hodge-podge of funny episodes and impressive subversive episodes that critique societal norms.

What? From Seth MacFarlane? Yes! And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how Seth often takes a backseat as his character Ed Mercer, while his crew have unique, individual episodes of their own. He’s made a family at Fox, and I’m looking forward to seeing Season 2 blast off next year!

Best Book:

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Before this year, I never picked up a brand new book for the simple reason that — I’m cheap. I’d rather wait until the books is on sale. But this story, I had to have right away. . .and I’m so glad I spent the money. This magical YA novel follows a young girl named Scarlett as she races through the mystical town of Caraval in order to rescue her kidnapped sister from the clutches of the elusive Legend. It’s a heart-pounding journey through a dark, fantastical land filled with love, danger, and sacrifice. This is YA at its finest people, and by a debut author no less! If you read one book next year, pick this one up. Oh, and it’s getting a sequel next year too. . .so there’s that!

 

And that’s 2017 for ya! Compiling this list was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed sharing my favorites with you guys. But these are just a few of my favorite things. I’d love to know yours. So please share in the comments.

Have a great holiday (hope no Grinches steal your presents!)

10th Kingdom Sequel?

Hi guys,

It’s been a few months, I know. Sorry about that! Well, upon my return, I wanted to come back in a big way and what bigger way than to say The 10th Kingdom may be getting a sequel?

For those that don’t know, The 10th Kingdom is a mini-series done by Hallmark in 2000, centered around a woman named Virginia and her father Tony as they journey into the 9 kingdoms to help a prince-turned-dog reclaim the throne while they find a way to return home. Along the way, they meet a bevy of crazy characters including Wolf, a man-wolf hybrid with a particularly insatiable appetite for Virginia (in more ways than one.) Here’s the trailer:

The 10th Kingdom is one of my favorite mini-series of all time and just a few days ago, I found out that Simon Moore (the creator of the show) and Scott Cohen (who played Wolf) are asking fans to sign a petition to get a sequel off the ground. It’s through Change.Org and you don’t have to pay for anything. If you’re fan, you definitely don’t want to pass this up!

If you would like to sign the petition, below is the link:

10th Kingdom Sequel Petition: https://www.change.org/p/the-10th-kingdom-connection-make-the-10th-kingdom-sequel-happen

Oh, and if you want to keep up with progress,  there’s also a Facebook page called the 10th Kingdom Connection that you can follow!

10th Kingdom Connectionhttps://www.facebook.com/The10thKingdom.Connection/

So please enter the portal and sign the petition! I’m crossing my fingers, and wishing on a star, that this sequel will be produced. And for anybody that does sign, I want to give you my sincerest thanks!

 

Happy October from The 10th Kingdom!

 

 

 

 

Overboard Remake Update – Swoosie Kurtz Joins the Cast!

Hi everyone,

San Diego Comic Con is on and we’ve already gotten some awesome news (Harley vs. Joker movie!) But there was another piece that I also found interesting.

More information about the Overboard remake has surfaced and it’s a doozy. Or rather, a Swoosie!

According to Screen Rant, Swoosie Kurtz has been cast in the Overboard remake! WOO HOO!

If you remember my Dream Cast post I did awhile back, I said that I thought Swoosie would be an excellent choice to play Goldie Hawn’s rich mother, originally played by Katherine Helmond.  Since the characters’ names have changed, it’s unclear exactly what part she’ll play (I assume she’ll be playing Anna Faris’ mom), but the fact is, my dream came true! Again!

Earlier this year, Anna Faris (who I thought would be a great replacement for Goldie) was also cast in the film and I did a post about it! It was such a surprise, and now this. The cast is really shaping up well.

Alongside Anna and Swoosie, Eva Longoria and John Hannah have also been cast. I bet John will play Anna’s mean husband, but I’m not sure about Eva. Maybe her best friend. We’ll have to wait and see!

And we won’t have to wait long either. Overboard releases April 20th, 2018!

Dreams really do come true!

What do think? Do you like the cast? Who would you have chosen? Tell me in the comments.

And happy Comic Con, everyone!