Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #4

With the release of the film and consequently several books following it, I thought I would wrap up this series with one of the first books I ever read.

#1. Book – “Wild nights are my glory,” beamed Mrs. Whatsit. So begins A Wrinkle in Time, with the storm that sweeps a rather unusual visitor into the Murry’s kitchen. Meg with her braces, missing father, and failing grades, is anything but a vision of perfection and she feels sure her little brother is doomed to the same fate, no matter how smart she knows he is. When a rather mysterious trio of women named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which call upon Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and a new friend named Calvin O’Keefe, the universe is turned upside down in an intriguing sci-fi adventure. As darkness threatens to take over the universe, warriors like the three Mrs. must fight to stop it – and this time they need outside help. Meg, Charles, and Calvin are sent to Camazotz where the mysterious It reigns supreme, convincing the inhabitants that like and equal are the same thing. With the darkness fighting against them on all sides, can Meg, Charles, and Calvin find their father and save Earth?

#2. Movie – While there are actually two adaptations of Madeleine L’Engle’s famed classic exist, today I will be reviewing the newest adaptation which was released  in US theaters on March 9, 2018. One of the major talking points for the new film was the bi-racial casting choice for the Murry family, something that has definitely spurred some controversial conversations. I myself am not a huge fan of the decision for two reasons. Firstly, Meg was white for a reason. If you read the rest of the series, it became vital to her family’s history and how and why they were able to do everything they did. The adventures they went on were dependent on the family lineage that was not only made up of white people, but also Native Americans. Second, the decision to make Meg black was fueled by one reason and one reason only. The director reportedly made the decision so that she could make a film for black girls because black girls had no heroes to look up to. To that, I can only respond with a sad shake of the head. If our heroes must be the same as us to be relatable and admirable, we will never find heroes because every human experience is unique and personal. That having been said, I think the film is visually rather wondrous to look at. It has an excellent cast, though I think a lot of the talent was wasted when character such as the three Mrs. have such little screen time. Much of the depth from the book translates well enough, but there is an ethereal element that is lacking somewhat in the film. All in all, it is a serviceable adaptation that compares well to the novel and is certainly better than the first television iteration in 2003.

#3. Making of the Film Book – This is an enjoyable read that is only somewhat tainted by its over-emphasis on the diversity and modern updates to the film. I enjoyed reading about what went into the making of the film and while I think that the creators could have been more generous with their concept art, it is an overall well-pieced-together read.

#4. Wrinkle in Time: A Guide to the Universe – This is a rather interesting read that I really enjoyed because it gives an insight into the world the film never really explores. New characters such as Veronica are explored in much more detail and we get a very interesting look into the lives of these different characters. I really enjoyed seeing how they tried to change the story because in this instance I viewed the film as a separate entity from the book, with this book being something of an extension of the film world. In this light, I think both the 2018 film and books based on it are much more enjoyable. In truth, I don’t think the 2018 film is necessarily lacking. While it is not the most excellent work ever committed to film, it is a pretty entertaining watch, especially when you understand the stories explored in A Guide to the Universe.

Overall, I don’t think A Wrinkle in Time has truly ever been done justice or ever necessarily will. This is just a consequence of the nature of book-to-film adaptations, but I think it is particularly interesting that such a straight-forward read such as Madeleine L’Engle’s classic has never quite been adapted to meet the tone of the original novel.

Chime Time! What do you think of the 2018 film? Have you read the original novel or Hope Larson’s graphic novel adaptation? If so, which is your favorite? And if you’re a true fan…have you watched the TV film?

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The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 3

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

Oxford, London, 1885

“MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN LEXINGTON!”

Mssr. Shipman was found this deceased this morning of a cracked skull. His cook, Mz. Llewyn reported it after alarming the neighbors with her screams. The police were summoned to the crime scene to find Mssr. Shipman dead of a head injury. He is said to have been dead for nine hours previous to being found by Mz. Llewyn.

After being soothed, she was brought to police headquarters for questioning.

Says she: “Mr. Shipman was not a man prone to accidents [and] would not have fallen in such a way. He was too young and stable to be damaged by such a fall.”

The autopsy revealed that Arthur Shipman had several blond hairs on the collar around his throat. His own hair is dark, raising the question of whether the incident can truly be attributed to a fatal accident or whether there was foul play. Reports of a break-in have been uncomfirmed, but eyewitnesses have attested to the sighting of several men entering the residence of Mssr. Shipman after normal visiting hours.

Whether the criminals in question will be caught remains to be seen.

“I bet they don’t catch them.”

“Don’t be so depressing.”

“I’m not! But I bet you a guinea they murder at least two more before they’re caught.”

“Felix!”

“Oh, don’t worry, Sacha. It always happens in the detective stories. Bet you the inspector could get to it faster than any of them.”

Mariah and Sacha exchanged an exasperated look over the top of the piano.

There were times – unfortunately very often – when Mariah Mundi found himself wondering if the adventures he and his brother had found themselves in almost eight months ago had merely served to intensify his brother’s thirst for adventure. Such an adventure – his brother being kidnapped, parents possibly dying, his own near-death escapades – seemed to have an opposite impact on his brother than it should have.The newspapers did not help, as the only kinds of readers they seemed to cater to were those like Felix.

His little brother snatched up his blue book from the settee.

“Off to read about your brilliant detective then?” Mariah asked.

His little brother shot him that teasing smile that he was so good at. “Of course not! I’m off to feed Rishi.”

Both of the young adults in the room gave an exasperated sigh at the name of Felix’s pet monkey. Half demon and half dumb animal, Rishi was the worst of both worlds.

As Felix went off to cater to his loathsome pet and Sacha went back to her painstaking attempt to learn piano, Mariah picked up the newspaper. The print was clean above the rather violent and melodramatic illustration of a sobbing Mz. Llewyn standing over the body of her dead employer. Such headlines were sure to sell, he thought dryly. Even at Oxford, the English people had a taste for blood that could not be sated.

The story was indeed grim, going on to list several other murders committed within the last month. The ads were no better, as most of them relied on the public’s shock and horror surrounding the violent crimes to advertise self-protection devices. They ranged from more practical items like pistols and ivory-handled daggers to talismans and charms that would “ward away” any evil.

Complete nonsense, he thought scornfully.

Then again, had the Midas Box been nonsense? It had certainly proven to be more than just a silly story about turning things to gold. He shivered, remembering the golden vibration of the weapon the Midas Box really was and how close he had come to being a victim of it himself.

“Sir?”

He looked up to see a maid holding out a long parcel. He accepted it with as gracious a smile as he could manage. She left the room as Felix entered it with the spider monkey on his shoulder.

“What is that?”

Rising from behind the piano, Sacha joined the two as they peered at the label slapped rather shoddily onto the brown packaging paper.

“Well, then what…?”
Felix snatched the package from his hand, unwrapping the long parcel before letting out a groan.

“It’s just another stupid artifact, like all the other ones Mum and Dad have.”

Had, Mariah thought, but he didn’t correct his brother. He knew Felix had not given up hope that their parents might be found once more; he, however, was far less certain.

His father certainly would have liked this staff though if he had been alive. His mum too, despite the fact that she was more keen on the adventuring and collecting artifacts part of the job. This staff would certainly have caught her attention despite her penchant for action.

It was a true masterpiece of an artifact, kept intact wth precision. The handle was carved ivory, as was the figure on the head, though this figure was set with gold. With its curved golden stripes and elegantly carved falcon’s head, it certainly looked like something that belonged in the Oxford museum. Yet Will had sent it here. Why?

“Mesopotamian?” Felix guessed, looking up at his older brother.

“Early Egyptian, I think,” Mariah corrected him. They were not the sons of Oxford professors for nothing. “I wonder why…”

He never finished his sentence because the staff was suddenly snatched from Felix’s hands. All three looked up to see Rishi the spider monkey bound across the room, grabbing hold of the coat rack and jumping from it to the lamp that hung from the ceiling.

While the two boys shouted at him to come down, the monkey began to screech loudly.

One of the maids darted into the room, saw the monkey, paled, and ran back out again.

Mariah had no doubt she was off to tell the rest of the staff about their incompetence, though that hardly seemed important compared to the task of actually getting the staff away from the monkey.

Greedy thing. Their parents should have left it in the jungle, where an animal like him belonged.

Chattering loudly, the monkey jumped from the large lamp in the center of the room to one of the gas lamps on the wall. Mariah was tall enough to grab him, but Rishi, seeing the look in the adolescent’s eye, darted away once more.

Sacha was the first one to actually do something. While Mariah and Felix attempted to grab on to the tiny animal, she was racing out of the room and up the stairs. Meanwhile Rishi was yelling loudly and not very happily from where he was now perched on the fireplace mantel, dancing away from the urgent reach of the boy’s fingers. If he would just lean down a little lower, Mariah could grab the staff, but his brother kept complaining about not hurting his monkey.

Sacha hurried back into the room with a butterfly net in hand, her face set. Felix took one look at both the net and her face before turning to Mariah.

“She’s got my net! Don’t let her use my net!”

“Do you want to get him or not?” Sacha said, just as Rishi jumped down from the mantel, raced across the piano keys, and jumped up onto a portrait frame that wobbled underneath his weight.

“You’re going to hurt him!” Felix yelled as she swung her net at the monkey, who wailed loudly.

Mariah could have sworn that the monkey was faking it, because he stuck his tongue out at the collective group before moving back to the lamp at the center of the room.

“Mariah, tell her to stop!” His brother yelled, yanking on the net.

“Felix, we have to catch him!”

“Mariah!”

The two, locked in combat, looked up at him, both with equally pleading looks.

“Well – I”- He felt suddenly uncomfortable, his skin prickling underneath his finely starched collar.

His brother looked betrayed watching Mariah fumble for words and Sacha merely exasperated.

He was saved by the sudden appearance of the housekeeper in the room. Rishi chattered over her as she spoke, leaping once more from the lamp, though this time he was aimed for a very different target.

“Rishi, heel!” A voice commanded.

From behind the housekeeper, out stepped the familiar figure of intrepid bureau member Will Charity. The monkey landed in Charity’s open arms where the staff was immediately plucked from the monkey’s thin arms.

“Will?” Mariah said in disbelief.

The tiny spider monkey bounced up in annoyance, crawling onto the gentleman’s shoulder so he could nibble on the curls that poked out from beneath a fashionable top hat.

“Looks like I got here just in time,” their guest chuckled, though the laughter didn’t quite reach his dark eyes.

While the elder two were distracted by Charity’s appearance, Felix snatched his net back.

Rishi was escorted back into his cage as soon as they had all exchanged greetings, giving the elder members of the household a reason to breath a sigh of relief. The less time that animal spent outside of a cage, the better. Once his brother had returned, the small group turned towards the dining parlor.

“Might I have a word?” Charity hissed in a low voice.

Mariah paused, looking around. The hall was hardly the place to have any sort of discussion.

“In here,” he said, turning towards his father’s study.

When his father had been alive, Mariah had taken studies with his father in this very room. The dark burnished office was overstuffed with artifacts and books on various subjects, all of which he’d been forced to categorize as part of his studies. The orderly system that his parents had taken so much joy in was disrupted almost a year ago when their home had been invaded – of course by then, they had thought their parents dead.

Mariah wasn’t sure what to think now, especially seeing the serious look on Charity’s face.

“Is this about our parents?” He asked, taking a seat behind the desk.

It felt like betrayal to sit where his father had sat almost every single day of his life, but it would likely be best if and when Charity delivered the truth. He would have to take it alone, for Felix’s sake.

“Mariah, your parents…” Charity took in a breath, leaning on his cane before turning to look around the office with something of a nostalgic smile.

“What about them? Are they safe?”

The adventurer looked back at him, impish eyes no longer dancing.

“The truth, Mariah, is that we simply don’t know.”

“But I thought you were looking for them. You assured me, sir, that”-

-“I’m sorry,” Will hurried to add. “Truly. But Gormenburg has been undermining us every step of the way and we only have a hint about where they might be.”

Mariah did not speak even as the bureau agent approached to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“I promise you, Mariah, I will keep searching, but you have to trust me. And I need to trust you.”

“How so?”

Charity looked twice around the room, as if there might be hidden spies. The door was locked and the window set into the wall looked out into the alley where the only people skulking about were coal boys and chimney sweeps too tired to care about what they might be saying. Still, it didn’t stop the secret agent from crossing the room twice to check that all doors were locked and the window was secure.

When he’d finally finished this process, still taking rather measured glances around the room, he turned to look at Mariah.

“You might recall that when we first met, I told you that we – rather, I – suspected a traitor amongst us,” he said.

The older boy nodded.

“It would appear that this traitor has become more generous with those that he informs. That scepter you received right now is highly sought after.

“I couldn’t risk it falling into enemy hands and I suspected that the traitor might yet not know of how closely you are connected to the Bureau.”

“So we’re to hold it for you?” Mariah asked. He was dubious. “Why is it whenever you show up I find myself involved with some magical artifact?”

Will smiled thinly. “It is getting a bit boring, isn’t it? Next time I’ll have to send you a monster. Those are always fun.”

A monster? Mariah thought dubiously, rising as Charity did.

What was he to tell his brother then? He queried. The explorer simply shrugged.

“Tell him all is well with your parents and we’re on the trail. If all goes according to plan, we should find them soon, safe and chipper as ever,” he continued.

Mariah paused. “You want me to lie to him?”

“Would you prefer you tell the truth?”

Yes, he thought, but he didn’t say so. In truth, it would hurt far more to finally tell Felix what he knew than to keep the secret to himself as he’d done for the past eight months.

Whether he liked having to keep the painful truth to himself or not was besides the point: Mariah could and would not dash his brother’s hopes.

Will smiled, taking his thoughtful silence as an agreement and clapped a hand on the boy’s back before opening the door so they could both continue on to the dining room.

Felix and Sacha were just being served the second course of their light luncheon as they stepped into the room. His brother looked eagerly at Will Charity as he took a seat, practically wriggling with more excitement than Mariah had seen in him for months.

“So what did you have to talk about? Are we going on another mission?”

“Not today, old chap, but I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that my missions have been going splendidly.” Will winked at Felix. “And I have good news about your parents.”

Mariah glanced down at the spotless china plate that lay before him. From the across the table, Sacha gave him a sharp glance.

“…We should find them soon,” Charity was just saying.

“Did you hear that?” Felix said, turning to give his older brother an I-told-you-so look.

“We’ll have Mama and Papa back any day now, you’ll see.”

Mariah smiled back, but he didn’t feel like it.

When the luncheon was finished, Felix escorted their guest to the door. Mariah and Sacha had said a polite goodbye and now sat in the parlor. From the settee, he watched the adventurer walk out onto the street, swinging his cane casually, but constantly glancing left and right. As he came to the corner, a black hansom pulled up. Mariah didn’t like the way Will stepped back nor did he like the looks of the man who stepped out of the carriage. The tall man towered over Charity and after a few moments of what looked like tense dialogue, the secret agent stepped inside the hansom.

We suspect a traitor…but they do not know of you.

He sincerely hoped Will was right.

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Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #3

It’s the third and possibly last week of the series “Re-Reading Childhood Favorites” and I thought I’d end it all with a stand-alone novel focused more on character than on big action and fantasy elements. This easily became one of my favorite books when I was assigned it as a required reading assignment. I now return to it on a tri-monthly basis.

There’s no place like home, though for Kit Tyler home is undefined. With her grandfather’s recent death still fresh, she boards a ship to escape to the New World where the king’s colonies lie. Here she hopes she may start again in Wethersfield, Connecticut, though she has never met the family that awaits her there. But her dreams are soon met with a bitter reality as she realizes what an intolerant place this new country is. Here she is met with disapproval for her love of reading, her standing as an unmarried woman, and most shocking of all – her ability to swim! Though Nat, the captain’s son, advises her to make herself as meek and unnoticeable as possible, Kit Tyler is her grandfather’s granddaughter throughout. Though her family is kind, Kit knows she’s an outsider, especially when she tries to befriend innocent Quaker, Hannah Tupper and the abused child, Prudence Cuff. And when autumn strikes especially hard in Wethersfield, Kit’s poor standing with the town may be on the verge of sending her away – forever.

This book is wrapped around a story of family. Though there is the larger plot of Kit’s being accused of witchcraft, the main throughline focuses on her relationships with the people who surround her. Beautiful Judith, sweet Mercy, her aunt and uncle, kind Hannah Tupper, and teasing Nat. I absolutely recommend this read.

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The Adventurer – Fan Fic Sequel Pt. 2

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

Egypt, 1885

He hated sand.

The gritty element seemed to be everywhere in this wretched place. No matter the fact that he stayed in one of the finest hotels this backwards country had to offer; the sand did not care about wealth nor luxury. It invaded anyway, like the heat that permeated everywhere and made the inflated stench of the common men worse. It would appear soap and water was a rare commodity here, he observed, waving his nose as the carriage he rode in passed by a butcher’s shop. Cleanliness was not the forte of foreigners, it would seem.

Mopping his forehead with a handkerchief, he sank back deeper into the dark shadows of the coach he rode in. The only thing one might see, were they to peer into the vehicle, was the square of linen fabric resting on a darkly-suited set of legs. The formal wear was his custom, the kerchief a remnant of the love he had cherished and the bitter past he hoped to put behind him.

The only place he managed to escape it was in the comforts of his hotel, and that was a long ways away, along with his wife. No, he mustn’t think of her and their sons. They’d already cost him one treasure, he couldn’t afford to lose another. No amount of familial affection was worth that. He’d already lost Luger, who was one of his most valuable assets. But none of that mattered now, compared to the treasure that awaited him.
The carriage stopped in front of a small rundown building, a palace compared to the shacks that leaned against it on either side. He paused to pay the driver who babbled in his unspeakable language, wiping his hands after passing the coin. He could not fathom why Will enjoyed consorting with such filth. Then again, his dear “friend” had never been one to shy at getting his hands dirty.

The small building was little more than a large storeroom, which was littered with various knicknacks and artifacts rather poorly dressed up in the vain hope that any unlucky tourist who happened to wander in might be tempted to purchase a few.

How trivial.

He wound his way around a leaning set of pillars to see a small, dark man waiting for him.

“You are Gormenburg, I presume?” The Egyptian stepped forward.

The Englishman offered a tight smile. “You’re late. The staff was supposed to be found and delivered by the beginning of this week.”

The businessman shrugged. “Men work as fast as their pay.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Gormenburg said, using his teeth to pull off his gloves. “You’ll be paid, and handsomely. As long as you have what was promised.”

“But of course, my friend.”

He graced the man with a cool look, making it clear that he would not allow anyone to presume such familiarity, especially such a man as this. He followed the man into a back room, trying to conceal his impatience. He had come a long way for his prize and he was not going to let it elude him again.

Leaning down, the Egyptian moved with much ceremony, inserting a key into the richly colored wardrobe before him, pulling open the doors. With an ominous click, a hidden drawer popped out, revealing a moderately long object, wrapped in brown paper.

“The staff of emperors,” the man said, yellow teeth gleaming as he held it.

Gormenburg had expected to feel some kind of power seeing the strange object, the same chill as when he’d handled other such objects. There was no such reaction. Still, he couldn’t help but feel a gleam of satisfaction seeing what he’d waited so long for.

“And it was removed without anyone knowing?” He asked.

The second man crossed his arms and nodded. He could have been lying through his teeth and Gormenburg wouldn’t know based on the large grin pasted across the man’s browned face.

“Just me and those unfortunate souls lost in the river fire. Very tragic.”

The Englishman ran a hand around the object, feeling for the curve of the cane and weighty emblem that should rest on the top. When his fingers met the desired shapes, he nodded and drew the packaged object to him.

“Now, I believe the price we agreed on was 10,000, but seeing as how much effort my crew put into the job, 50,000 should suffice.”

“You’ll get a reward for this,” Gormenburg nodded.

The Egyptian turned, his sly smile sliding off when he saw the revolver pointed at his face.

“No – wait!”

The gunshot was quiet, the bureau’s own invention. It was immensely satisfying to hear the thud of an obstacle eliminated, thought Gormenburg.

Outside the world continued as usual, just as filthy and God-forsaken as it had been when he left it. The small crowds of men who passed him, garbed in white cloth and muttering to one another, eyed him as he passed by with a large grin. They were all fools, he thought scornfully. He felt a strange surge of affection for their pitiful faces. It would be easy to crush them now that he had what he wanted.

Exactly as his buyers wanted.

The carriage driver looked down at him, just as unknowing of the trade that had just been made. Unknowing of the power that had been acquired.

Too easy, he thought, flicking off the brown packaging with precise movement.

His smile disappeared.

The golden staff he’d expected to see was not there, replaced by a wooden rod of the same shape. Anger flooded through his veins, turning his vision red. It couldn’t be – no, of course not. There was no way his wife had managed to get word.

There was only one person who could have taken it.

Charity.

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Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #2

Picking up from last week’s first re-reading post, I am re-reading another series that helped to form my childhood. This week we will be discussing all things Percy Jackson with a brief review of the separate book series, the original Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus, the film adaptations, and the graphic novel adaptations. While I’d love to get more in-depth with the review concerning the books, there are too many for me to go as deep as I’d like. Today is more of a comparison between the different forms the story has taken rather than a critique of the novels themselves.

With all that out of the way, on to the review:

1. Percy Jackson – Percy Jackson is a pretty average kid. Well, average if you count the fact that he’s dyslexic and has ADHD. Otherwise, he’s your typical trouble child, always struggling with school. His family life’s not much better, given the kind of jerk his stepfather is. It’s not until one particularly strange day at school that things change. Suddenly Percy Jackson is thrust into a strange new world with a threat old as history – ancient history. With his new friends Annabeth and friend-turned-guardian Grover, Percy must face a future overshadowed by a prophecy, a monstrous new threat, and a future choice that may define the fate of the world.

Whether or not you’re a particularly large fan of the original series, there’s no denying that these are the books that started it all. Rick Riordan certainly breathed new life into old myths and characters with the first book, which kicked off to a really great start and made the majority of us fall in love with the flawed world of demigod heroes. I genuinely enjoyed how the themes of redemption and good vs evil are discussed in this series. Luke Castellan’s arc is one that is to be admired for how it was thought out, written, and explored. Some of the books are weaker links in the chain to me than others, but as a whole series it is a pretty good experience.

2. Heroes of Olympus – Picking up from where the last series left off, the Heroes of Olympus series follows the two halves of the mythical world colliding. Percy Jackson and Jason Grace awake to find themselves in two separate places with absolutely no memory of who they are or where they are. All Jason Grace knows is he has the letters SPQR tattooed into his arm. All Percy Jackson knows is he has a necklace with painted beads around his neck. Both are dressed in the colors of a special camp, but each feels out of place. Their journey back to their true homes will bring about the collision of two very different worlds, two sides of one universe where the Roman and Greek gods must deal with their battling sides to unite against a much larger enemy: the mother of the universe itself.

This series is a hit or miss for me. While I actually enjoyed the newer characters of Jason Grace, Leo Valdez (aka the best new character of the series), Piper McLean, Frank Zhang, and Hazel Levesque, I could have done without this story. I understand that Rick Riordan left room at the end of the last series on purpose and that this is an interesting dilemma for the characters to face, but I disliked some of the character choices made (there is a larger amount of politically correct content than ever in this series), the action, and some of the books seemed unnecessary. Overall, an okay read that I could have done with or without.

#3. The Movie Adaptations – Following the same general plot as the books, the films make a grave error when it comes to the characters. Missing are the familiar traits that made the main trio so memorable, replaced instead by infallible Hollywood teen idols with hashed-up personalities. Relationships are cliched at best. The second film exceeds the first in quality, but is still a rather poor example of what one could do with the original material.

When it comes to the films, I think no fan will contest that they pale in comparison to the books. This is often true of book-to-movie adaptations, but Percy Jackson is especially guilty of botching a well-laid world. Not only are the characters poorly translated to screen, but the world, action, and pacing are completely different. The themes of redemption, family, and trust are completely tossed aside in the spirit of trying to create yet another popular YA flik. According to fellow fans, the films were discontinued after lead actor Logan Lerman refused to keep playing the role on the basis of doing the books a disservice. Is this true? The world will never know (or at least I won’t), but it’s definitely an interesting theory.

#4. The Graphic Novels – Of the two roads to adaptation, the graphic novel version of the books wins by far. Not only are the characters kept consistent with the books, but the friendship dynamic of the main trio – Percy, Annabeth, and Grover – is preserved with clarity and humor. While many scenes are slimmed down or even omitted, the graphic novels do their best to honor the series and do an excellent job of capturing the spirit that made them so good.

Percy Jackson, as a whole, is a diverse universe full of rich characters that is well thought out and plotted. My only complaint is that Rick Riordan is perhaps a little too politically swayed, something that is evident when watching the film. Also, a lot of story choices make little to no sense because they merely waste time or seem to serve no purpose. But, I guess that’s just a part of the adventure/fantasy genre as a whole.

All in all, a pretty good series. 3/5 stars, with some taken away for the PC content, mature implications in the Heroes of Olympus series and films, and some “mild” language.

Chime Time! Have you read the series? If so, what do you think?

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The Adventurer – Fan Fic Sequel Pt. 1

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

         Egypt, 1865

Death awaits you.

That’s what was written on the ancient tomb that Catherine Norton stared at now. The clay that made up the encasement of the dead body was beginning to detoriate so that the heiroglyph spelling out the threatening message looked far more like a cheap replica at a sideshow carnival, but still.

It didn’t stop the goosebumps that rippled across her skin.

Waves of heat shimmered across the sand, making the light dress she wore stick to her skin. Any goosebumps she had disappeared the instant the sun touched her in the heat.

“Over here!”

From the other side of the excavation point, a young man waved to her. She approached, offering him a strained smile. He was accompanied by another young man, taller and more elegant. She could not help but grin more genuinely seeing the pair together.

“They’re just burying the you-know-what at this moment,” said the shorter of the two.

She glanced over at Charles. Her soon-to-be-husband had a look on his face. Though his lips were curved in a smile, the grin did not quite reach his cold eyes.
Once more she shivered. It was not the first time she’d been grateful for the involvement of the Bureau of Antiquities. She’d never hesitated to do the job that her superiors ordered, but this one…she feared for Charles’ sanity far more than her life. It didn’t feel right. There was something wrong, something seductive that had been pulling Charles into its grasp…something they needed to escape.

In the pit below, the men raised a hand to indicate that the chest had been dropped.

The crew was done, the treasure buried. Hopefully it wouldn’t be discovered, for a very long time.

Later that day, Catherine packed for the boat back to England. It felt like forever since she’d seen the familiar roads and buildings; it would be good to get back. As she moved at a furious but controlled pace, she heard a familiar knock on the door. Smiling, she straightened.

“Come in, Will,” she called.

The young man came in, chestnut curls brushing his damp skin.

“I shall never be so glad to be drowned in the motherland’s rain,” he panted, wiping his forehead.

“Ever so melodromatic, Will,” Charles said dryly as he stepped into the room behind his friend.

Catherine closed her suitcase, looking around the room for the last time. For a minute, she wondered if she’d miss Egypt. After all, she might never return, especially not if she was to be married to Charles.

Not like Will, who would never have made her leave if she didn’t want to.
For a moment she felt warm, having the two of them in the room. Then she shook herself. That was all over. Everything had been resolved.

Will offered her that easy smile of his, straightening his traveling jacket. Near the door, Charles seemed preoccupied with his own thoughts, a dark look in his eyes that made her turn cold.

“Are you all right?” She asked in concern.
He offered her a thin-lipped smile. “Of course. Just thinking of those artifacts we returned.”

If Will had been different, he might have bristled. As it was, his grip on his cane tightened.

“It was for the best, Charles,” he said casually, eyes never straying to his friend’s face. “Do you really think that much power is advisable in the hands of any man?”

“For some,” the taller youth replied with a smile that chilled Catherine to the bone. “I certainly would have liked to give it a go.”

She spoke up quickly. “Lets not quarrel. The bureau did what was right and we followed orders admirably. That’s what’s important, yes?”

Will nodded amiably and after a moment, Charles followed suit, reluctantly.

“Yes, of course,” he smiled.

She relaxed, turning to put on her hat as there came a knock on the door.

“Who’s that?” She asked, gaze still fixed on her reflection as she pulled on a traveling coat.

“Package,” Charles said simply.

Catherine watched as he signed off for it, signing as he usually did with his grandfather’s name. Charles Mundhi was usually so composed, but she thought she saw something tense in the way he signed, with a slashing G.

They left together, but Catherine had enough time to look back and see the sun glinting off the pyramids’ surface. Charles never looked back, but he still had tense shoulders. She was thankful they were leaving.

There are some treasures never meant to be found.

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Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #1

For the next few weeks, I will be re-reading childhood books that were an essential part of my childhood. Given the fact that my reading experience has expanded significantly over the years and my writing expertise somewhat improved, I thought I might take the time to go back over the books that helped to form my literary journey and give my current and honest opinion about them. For the first week of this project, I will be re-reading the Kingdom Keepers series.

For many people, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books changed and formed their childhood forever. For me, this is how I viewed the Kingdom Keepers series, especially considering I was a member of the Kingdom Keepers Insider website where I was able to further flex my writing skills by writing fan fiction.

The first book of the series, Disney After Dark, was written by Ridley Pearson and published by Disney/Hyperion in 2005. The series was published before the current rise of YA/tween fiction, making it, alongside reads like the Percy Jackson series, Harry Potter, and other such reads somewhat interesting. Series targeted at an audience who was growing up quickly became trendy around this period and Kingdom Keepers was certainly not the only one to jump on the bandwagon.

Let’s take a look at the first series, not including The Return, a sequel series following the characters as they move into college.

#1 – Disney After Dark – The book opens with the main character of the series, Lawrence “Finn” Finnegan Whitman, opening his eyes to see the moon shining above him and the rest of Main Street, Disneyworld. From this opening we jump into an intriguing conversation with an old Imagineer named Wayne Kresky. Finn is given the assignment to find the rest of the kids (Terrence Maybeck, Dell Philby, Isabella “Willa” Angelo, and Charlene Turner) who were hired to be DHIs – Digital Hologram Imaging or Disney Host Interactive. With the help of a mysterious girl from school named Amanda, Finn sets off on a mission to unite his team. But even with a team assembled, the newly formed “Kingdom Keepers” are up against some of the most dangerous enemies known to the Magic Kingdom and even perhaps the world. The Disney villains – “Overtakers” as they call themselves – are ready to do anything to break free of the Magic Kingdom, including destroying Finn and his friends.

This is a pretty okay read, going back over it. On my very first reading years and years ago, I was absolutely enthralled by the story and fell head-over-heels in love with the characters. However, going back over it I noticed right away that the book is riddled with inconsistencies and the character descriptions are serviceable at best. It is a disappointment, because there are such great moments and a strong plot that are great that more than make up for it. Points go to Ridley Pearson for setting up such an engaging world that feels both familiar and entirely new.

#2 – Disney at Dawn – Unlike the first book, the second in the series starts off explosively with a daring ride down a zip-line in a madcap effort to go after the newly escaped Maleficent. Shortly thereafter, Finn and his friends discover that one of their friends, Jess the magically gifted sister of Amanda, has been kidnapped. The bulk of the book is spent on the hunt to find where Jess has been whisked off to and what the grand master plan of the evil Overtakers is. Their search will lead them to Expedition Everest where only the most evil of Disney’s creations lie, waiting to be unleashed by Maleficent.

This book is about the same quality as the first and on that account there’s not much more I can say about it. Like the first, it has several inconsistencies, a problem that would not have been remedied until Ridley Pearson hired Brooke Muschot as an intern to check for such mistakes. Something interesting to note about this book: it is clear that he never intended for this to be a series. There is a distinctive air of finality at the end of the first book that the second does not have, given the fact that this book has a cliffhanger finale.

#3 – Disney in Shadow – Picking up from the last book, Finn and his friends must discover the whereabouts of their mentor Wayne Kresky while seemingly avoiding the persistent woman who continues to tail them. Has he been kidnapped? Where has he gone? And what do the Overtakers want with him? With several of the Disney villains still on the loose, Finn and friends must discover where Wayne, their biggest ally, is before it’s too late.

Mysteries and future-spotting visions abound in this chapter of the series, with the seeds for future romantic drama being planted here. The families of the Kingdom Keepers are brought into the spotlight much more, Finn’s mother taking a much more prominent role as she helps to solve some of the featured puzzles. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios take a starring role as the locale for this part of the series.

I actually think this is my favorite book of the series. It’s filled with humorous moments, more puzzles than ever, both of my favorite parks from the Disneyworld resort, and great character interaction. There is even some pretty good character development to this part of the series. I think of book number three as the end of a certain era in the Kingdom Keepers series and as an “era”, I really think this is the best one of the series.

#4 – Power Play – Finn Whitman and friends have found Wayne, but life is still not easy for the Kingdom Keepers. The Overtakers seem to be amassing an army made up kids from their own schools and a larger more sinister plan seems to be afoot. With the arrest of a close ally and a curse placed on the sisters Jess and Amanda, the Kingdom Keepers are up once more up against a force that seems to threaten the magic of the parks that they love and know.

The middle point of the series, Power Play was not afraid to take Kingdom Keepers into the area of fiction that could be classified as teen. Romantic tension abounds in this book, perhaps a bit unexpectedly. The plot is easy enough to follow, though the climax is rather confusing and unexpected. Most of what made this read different from the last was the introduction of Disney characters as a force for good, the first mention of the puzzle concerning the whereabouts of Mickey Mouse, and the lead-in to the second half of the series.

I like this part of the series and the humor is amped up. Seeing characters try and fail to be charming with those they are attracted to is pretty funny for characters that were already awkward to begin with. However, on the flipside, much of the romantic relationships come out of nowhere and can even hinder the story. All in all, a pretty good read.

# 5 – Shell Game – This one went even further into YA territory with its mature relationships, high-action, and cliffhanger ending. Following the adventures of the five DHIs as they move to being a part of the Disney cruise line, this part of the series introduces new villain, Tia Dalma, and her attempt to bring the ultimate baddie Chernabog to life. All hands are required on deck for this one, especially given the bumpy nature of the Kingdom Keepers dynamic and the loss of Mrs. Whitman’s support due to Overtaker magic. The cliffhanger ending begs for readers to continue on to book number six.

This book was…interesting. I don’t know of a more polite way to put it. I disliked everything Ridley Pearson did with the characters and even relationships, a fact that did not change from my very first reading to the most recent one. The plot and action is actually rather entertaining, with the villain character of Tia Dalma being chilling. My biggest complaint is really about the characters, but that seems somewhat essential to me, given the fact that they carry the weight of the series.

#6 – Dark Passage – This book picks up right off from where the last one left off with Finn and Willa as they fall to a perilous fate in the dark ocean below. Up above, Cruella’s pet hyenas are still in hot pursuit of their team of friends, including newest member of the team Storey Ming. This book is full of fateful encounters and several new characters, like Mattie, a fellow Fairlie to Amanda and Jess. Dillard, Finn’s childhood friend, returns in a big way that packs a gut-punch. The story basically follows Tia Dalma as she attempts to continue her attempt to raise Chernabog from the dead and the Keepers’ attempt to stop the Overtakers, along with a little help from the Imagineer team sent in to help.

Romance is ridiculously primary in the fifth and sixth books, almost taking as much precedence as the main plot. Also, there are a lot of sacrifices in this book, but with characters that have not done enough to deserve it. Finn’s mother, who was an on-off character of limited importance, is somehow turned to the dark side in these two books and this is supposed to be a huge plot point that gets mitigated to being rather secondary to the previous points mentioned. All in all, I would have been pretty okay with the series ending here, despite the fact that several characters seem lacking for the last three books and the plots became less sensible.

#7 – The Insider – This book was the most interesting for massive Kingdom Keepers fans like me, because it gave us the chance to participate by writing a short paragraph or two to hopefully get our entry put into the final book. It was super exciting to be returning to this world of Disney mayhem, especially considering this final book takes the Keepers to Disneyland. The book picks up a long three years later after the events of the sixth book. The Keepers are graduating, but the Overtakers have finally reared their ugly head. This adventure will take them to Disneyland, California Adventure, Club 33, and treacherous Burbank. Fan favorite characters like Wayne Kresky and even real-life intern Brooke Muschot make an appearance with a *sniff, sniff* less than happy ending for all. The Keepers must find the elusive Mickey Mouse and reunite order to the original Happiest Place on Earth if they are to ever restore balance to the parks once and for all.

Okay. I’ll admit. As much as I dislike the latter half of the series, the seventh book pulled out all the stops and was nothing like expected. I entered for every single one of the contests, desperately hoping against all hopes that I could possibly get a piece of my writing in. Though I didn’t, it was an eye-opening experience that made me appreciate the final product that much more.

Final Thoughts: Overall? The Kingdom Keepers series is an interesting one, because it’s hard to view it as a whole when it’s clear Ridley Pearson never meant it to be. There was never a clear plan for the entire series, something that is evident from even a cursory read of the books. Either way, it’s an enjoyable series, especially for Disney fans who want more than the cheerful Small World version of the parks (speaking of which, those dolls are evil…)

3/5 stars. Good, but not without flaws.

Chime Time! Have you read the series and if so, what do you think?

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The Adventurer: Staff of Emperors – A Fan Fiction Sequel – Introduction

In the beginning months of 2016, Netflix, as Netflix does, decided to play host to a few nondescript movie titles that were produced on a low budget and often committed the great sin of acting like a good story could not be produced with such a budget. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box. Based upon the novels by YA author G. P. Taylor, the film has a different tone and a few plot changes but is otherwise the same. Take a peek at the trailer:

After finishing the film and enjoying it well enough, I thought I’d give the first book a read.

Midas Box book cover

Interestingly enough, the book has some differences that are significant to the character of Mariah Mundi himself, mainly those of his parents’ death having occurred several years ago (novel) and that the Felix of the film is not his brother but is instead a fellow orphan who left for a better situation long ago.

Now, I know that most people who have read the books are rather content but they point out the same problem as with the films: they accuse it of being a watered down Harry Potter/Indiana Jones. This is rather confusing to me, because I don’t see either the film nor the books as trying to be either. The first book Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box was published in 2007, a time when YA had not yet begun its rise again and the book is plain about that. This first book, along with the rest of the series, could function as either a children’s or young adult read and is set in a Victorian world that has just a few of the frills that the steampunk genre tends to employ. It’s a rather straight-forward read and watch, with neither pretending to be great action entertainment and being all the better for it. Perhaps it is just the result of a generation raised on high-stakes action flicks, but it seems audiences want more out of this simple adventure lark than it gives. Funny, because the adventure films of the past probably equate to having the same amount of action and pacing.

Either way, my biggest issue with both film and book is the main character. Mariah Mundi is a likable enough protagonist – calm, good-natured, generally intelligent as far as main characters go. No, my biggest issue comes from his lack of character development and arc. As I have not yet read the rest of G. P. Taylor’s series, this may be something remedied in the latter books, but as I have said before, both film and book are simple straight-out adventure larks. That having been said, I’d be interested in seeing not only his, but also other supporting characters be given more of an arc.

And now we finally come to the point of this post, besides giving my opinion on a book and film you’ve likely never read/seen. While the first book ends on a decidedly firm conclusion, the film gives a surprise ending that leads engaged audience members wanting more. Having been a member of the fan fiction squad for years, I thought I might as well give my own take on how I thought the adventure might have continued. So from now until I finish it, I will be posting a short segment from the further adventures of Mariah Mundi every Friday. I’d love to hear what you all think about it, what your thoughts are on the film, and whether you’d write a sequel the same way.

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He Said, She Said

If you’ve been reading my blog for quite a while, you may remember how I used to publish posts under the heading “The Writing Files”. While I did abandon these quite a while ago, I am now resuming them as I delve even deeper into the world of writing. Though I am by no means extremely experienced in the field, I will attempt to give advice or to write on the topic to the best of my ability. Just a lil’ advice. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

In reading others advice on how to write dialogue, I’ve noticed something pretty interesting. It seems to be generally considered a standard rule that when writing a conversation, you should only use the tag “said”. For example:

“Go over there,” he said.

This is the most standard tag, but most books on writing strongly advise using any other, with perhaps the exception of the words asked and replied. A conversation with these tags might go like this:

“Where are you going?” Sue asked. 

“Just for a walk,” Johnny replied. 

“Have fun then.” She said. 

While this is a form that works, I, as a writer, can often find this sort of form of conversation boring. There is no variety or rhythm; nothing changes for interest. Lets take a look at two examples of a conversation using the standard tags first and then the tags usually advised against.

Standard tags first:

Will came running fast, out of breath. “I don’t think I can lose them,” he said.

“We’ve got to,” Lance replied, leaning heavily on his knees.

“How?” May asked. 

They all exchanged looks. 

“I may have an idea,” Will said. 

Before we move on to the tags that are advised against, I’d just like to point out something. I don’t think standard tags should be done away with, nor do I hold anything against their value. I simply think that a more interesting version of this conversation can be achieved. For example:

Will came running fast, out of breath. “I don’t think I can lose them,” he panted. 

“We’ve got to,” Lance replied, leaning heavily on his knees. 

“How?” May wheezed from the floor. 

They all exchanged looks. 

“I may have an idea,” Will announced. 

Now, I’m not saying this is perfect, but there is a significant difference. Do you spot it?

The biggest difference is that the first uses body language to convey the exhaustion of the characters, whereas the dialogue and body language are used.

Now, I do understand there are some instances where standard tags would be put to better use. Lets take a look at an over cluttered example:

Susan turned. “What is that?” She trilled, the songbird in her throat actively at work. 

Nick smiled. “Don’t worry, sis, I have a plan!” He cried with unmatched enthusiasm and curiosity. 

“I hope it doesn’t take too much time,” she complained rather sarcastically and annoyingly, at least to Nick’s ears.

The problem with the tags in this example are that they are rather long. The purpose of standard tags, to my way of thinking at least, is that they are meant for simplicity and ease of reading. Using such terms as panted and announced are single words and help to set a mood without being concerned about having a ridiculously cluttered tag that takes the focus away from the action.

Whether you’re a purist who believes in only using the tag said, a traditionalist who likes using said, replied, and asked, or a writer who believes in a healthy mixture of all of it, find your happy medium so that you can start writing dialogue that sparkles. My advice? Take from both sides to convey the characters’ attitudes and postures without always having to rely on body language.

Dialogue is a powerful tool when used right.

Chime Time! How do you write your dialogue tags?

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Brave

If you need a little bit of a pep me up or something to bolster your spirits as you prepare to take on the brand new challenge of middle school, I think I may have found something for you. The follow up in a series staring with the graphic novel Awkward, this newest installment is both touching and hilarious.

Jensen Graham is going to save the world. Sure, he’s probably not the most likely kid one might think of to do so, but with his zombie survival guide in one pocket and library card in the other, Jensen is prepared for anything. Well, anything so long as it’s not math class or the bullying duo of Foster and Yanic. But, never fear – Jensen has a plan to beat every level of the school game and even a couple of mean kids can’t stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a NASA scientist. At least, that’s what he thinks before he receives a failing grade in math. For Jensen, math tutoring with one of the mean kids is one of his worst nightmares and it just gets worse as his newest friends from the newspaper team (Jenny, Akilah, and Felipe) try to convince him to speak out about the bullying he’s experienced. Can he speak up and say what he really feels? Or will Jensen never find it in himself to stand up and be…brave?

Once more Svetlana Chmakova has proven she knows how to write a story. Her art is full of stylized sweethearts whom it’s rather hard not to fall in love with, especially Jensen. He’s just a big teddy bear and I like how despite the fact that he’s being bullied, he wants to be kind to the bullies. Also, I find it hilarious that he views each day of middle school as a level of an intense game filled with monsters and bonus prizes; it makes it that much fun to read. I highly recommend this read, especially for parents and children to read through together so they can spark thinking of bullying and perhaps begin constructive discussions.

Question! What kind of video game would you compare your school too? Was it like Mario Karts where everyone was racing each other to be the best? Or was it more like Super Smash Bros. where it’s a fight to survive?

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