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Movie Monday: The Jungle Book

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Jungle Book

Directed by Jon Favreau
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Running time: 105 minutes
Released: 2016
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios

Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he's ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.

The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli, a human boy taken in and raised by a pack of wolves after his father is killed by the tiger Shere Khan. Throughout the film, Mowgli struggles to find his identity as a man living among wolves and other jungle animals.

If anything can be said about Disney’s remake of its 1967 animated film The Jungle Book, it is that the film was visually pleasing. The almost entirely CGI created scenes and jungle creatures draw you into a magical world.

The Jungle Book keeps a lot of the charm and humor from the original animated film. Baloo, as expected, brings some laughs in his appearances as he cons Mowgli into helping him steal honey from bees, and the adorable and na├»ve runt of the pack Grey Brother brought many “awws” and smiles. In addition to its humor, the film conveys a message through its theme of strength in community, which is portrayed through the idea of the law of the jungle. From a young age, wolf pups are taught that “the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” In this, the film draws a bit more heavily from Rudyard Kipling's novel than the original animated film does.

The depth of detail put into all the CGI in The Jungle Book was frankly amazing. The scenery was majestic and beautiful. However, beyond the visuals, the film fell flat for my tastes. Some things felt out of place or just flat out unnecessary. While the moment where they sing “Bear Necessities” felt natural in the film, King Louie singing “I Wan’na Be Like You” felt forced and out of place, as it seems like he just randomly bursts into song. The song is especially awkward considering the racial undertones of the song itself. Implementing the song without the underlying colonial context of Rudyard Kipling's work made it feel distasteful. Furthermore, the emotional development of the film felt lacking. There is not enough build up towards the action scenes, so I felt little to no tension in them. Towards the end of the film, the forest animals become scared of Mowgli as he uses fire and almost burns down their entire forest, but they appear to spontaneously forgive and even love him again after he kills Shere Khan.

While I understand that Disney wanted it to be a family film, The Jungle Book drew too heavily from the original animated film in my opinion, adding immaturity that clashed with the majestic visuals it used. In doing so, it missed out on the chance to pander more to Kipling’s original classic to create a deeper and more satisfying film. As it is, the film felt a limited and controlled where it could have been more ambitious.

Overall, I would say that The Jungle Book did its job as a solid remake of the original animated film, but not much more. It was a good time waster, but was not very memorable or special in the end.

Review: What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle

Saturday, June 18, 2016
Written by Jennifer Castle

YA Contemporary
Hb, 384 pages. Harperteen.
Publication date: June 7, 2016

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

What happens when a summer fantasy starts becoming reality? Do you jump in headfirst or start running in the other direction as fast as you can?

Ari Logan isn't used to getting what she wants, not with a younger half sister who clings onto her, an absent mother who works nights, and a stepfather who needs her help at the store. Not to mention that she's still struggling with her memories of the night she cut herself and the inner demons that led her to self harm.

So when she sees Camden Armstrong at the lake one summer and starts crushing on him, she finds safe satisfaction in her fantasies and learning what she can about him from other people instead of approaching him herself. It isn't until the next summer when she runs into him in oops let's not let that embarrassing incident come to light! that her fantasies start becoming reality, and she begins falling for him harder than any of her wildest dreams.

With an inside look at some dysfunctional relationships and the healing process, What Happens Now is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching read that does not feel as long as its 384 page count suggests. Despite its light-hearted looking cover, this novel is a story about the demons in all of us, about the fight to overcome them, and about forgiveness and the healing that comes after. As scene after scene passes, and Ari continues to make poorer and poorer decisions, I found myself turning the pages quicker desperate to find out where this seeming spiral of destruction led her.

Ari's particular demon is her depressive tendencies. Most novels I've read that explore mental conditions are dark, dense texts that get deep into the heart of the issue to the loss of other areas of the protagonist's life, such as his or her relationship with beyond the romantic interest and a few close friends, maybe a family member. What Happens Now is told in a lighter style that is more in the vein of beach reads that make it a suitable addition to the tote bag. Furthermore, it does not lose sight of Ari's relationship with her best friend Kendall, her new semi? friends (Eliza and Max), or her family members (mom, stepfather, and half sister)—and in fact develops them! It even dips beyond the surface of Ari and Camden's relationship, though their relationship never does seem more than a summer fling that I expected to burn out as quickly as it caught fire. The only character that didn't get as much attention as I would've thought is Ari's ex, with whom she shares some hefty baggage.

I believe that many of us can relate to at least some part of Ari: the depression. The desire for a guy she's hard-time crushing on but can't find the nerve to approach. The baggage with your ex-boyfriend.  The need to rely on a fictional heroine to hold yourself up. The wondering if these cool people can really truly like you. The feeling of falling too hard too fast. The knowing that something is wrong for you but too tempting to let go. The feeling that your best friend is becoming distant, and you don't know how to repair the relationship. The wanting to go further than you should. The pleading to make things right. The crying after a painful breakup. The crying to forget. The coming to terms with the fact that nothing's perfect, but it doesn't need to be. And that's just a part of the picture.

If the wounds still feel fresh, this will be a raw and painful read. Ari does a lot of rebellious things, things that in another context would have made me dismiss her as another wild teen. Knowing the problems in her family and her internal struggles made me feel for her and wish wholeheartedly that things were better for her because I emphasize with a lot she's going through. I wish that she knew how much her mother loves her and that her mother speaks from a place of love—that sometimes the people that know us and love us the best say no to us because they mean well for us. That lying to her parents and running wild with a crowd provides with temporal satisfaction that will not last and is not worth giving up your parents' trust in you. That giving so much of yourself early into the relationship will hurt you and break you when the guy doesn't turn out to be the person you grew to love.

Ari's not a bad girl. She's a beautiful girl that's been hurt badly by the people she cares (and, in some cases, cared) about. Over the course of this novel, she learns to fall in love again, to take chances, and to forgive. She grows into a more confident, if not entirely assured person, and that's okay because life is all about learning and maturing from our experiences. She also learns that everyone carries something, nobody's perfect, and there's no clear-cut answer on when to let go.

That said, I, with all my heart, did not agree with how the romance angle turned out. I believe Ari made the right, if hard, decision once, and I didn't see the need for the unexpected turn that upended her big decision, especially given all that she's been put through. And I absolutely do not see how Ari ignored everything that happened to do what she did at the end. What I do love how the family plot worked out and began moving them in the direction they needed to take, and I wish the romance had been left as it was.

Sometimes, we need to let go and move on.

  • N/A
Mature Content
  • Language (scattered)
  • Explicit sexual content

Review: Ivory and Bones by Julie Eshbaugh

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ivory and Bone
Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: FantasyHistorical
Hardback: 384 Pages
Publication: June 7, 2016
by William Morrow

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.


For a while, I couldn't decide whether or not to pick up Ivory and Bone. The synopsis doesn't give us much to go on other than what looks like a triangle—romantic or not, I can't say. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but it's difficult to do well given all the world building and characterization that must go into it. (Both are always important to a novel but especially so when your audience isn't familiar with the culture and setting.)

Unfortunately, Ivory and Bone didn't end up being for me. In particular, two narrative choices on top of poor characterization threw me for a loop:

Kol narrates the story to Mya while they're out somewhere in the wild and in danger. At least, that's what I'm guessing based on the little that we're given in the prologue. While the prologue invites intrigue, it doesn't do a good job setting up the reader for the scenario much less the 2nd person narrative. 2nd person is used to submerge readers into the story and make us feel like we're a part of it. Frankly, it's challenging enough to use without introducing the reader to a historical fantasy world. It didn't work at all for me here.

I'm not fond of the pairing of modern language with the prehistoric setting. It felt like I was watching a bad movie where the actors were trying to act in a historical movie but forgetting to leave their modern lingo behind. For an example of a YA historical fantasy series that aligns the dialogue to the time period, I highly recommend Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

I couldn't feel a connection to the characters. One reason is that the characters themselves fall flat. Outside of his immediate fascination with Mya, there is no substance to Kol. Though he describes his apprehension of hunting mammals, I understand his theory but couldn't feel his emotions. The other part of this disconnect goes back to the second-person POV. It weirded me out that Kol narrates this story to Mya and thus refers to Mya as "you" when describing her. On top of not being Mya, I wasn't given an opportunity to get to know Mya before Kol begins addressing her. To read this novel as a story addressed to Mya caused an immediate disconnect with the characters.

This novel didn't work for me because of the use of the 2nd person POV, the poor world building (language disconnect), and the lack of substance in the characters. If you don't mind 2nd person narration, you may enjoy this one more than I did. Otherwise, I recommend reading Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

DNFed 10% into the novel

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 1 star

  1. Ivory and Bone
  2. Untitled
  3. Untitled
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Review: The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Girl
from the Savoy

Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical
Paperback 448 Pages
Publication: June 7, 2016
by William Morrow

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown. . .

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?


Two young women, both with big dreams and losses incurred during the war, come together. The premise intrigues me. Given the similarities in their dreams and the difference in their class, there was potential for the story to make parallels between Dolly and Loretta's lives to show how love, war, and ambition intersect with class biases and the culture of the time to influence the young women's lives. However, the author takes far too long to set up the context. It isn't until close to midway in the novel that Dolly and Loretta's paths cross or the plot starts going anywhere. Despite Dolly's big dreams, we don't see them take direction until she meets Loretta. For a novel that does a better job of portraying the culture of the society and the relationships of its individuals, I recommend The Great Gatsy. (Albeit, it examines a different social class across the pond from The Girl in the Savoy.)

It seems as if the author wasn't sure where she was headed with the novel for much of it. Many of the initial scenes shown do not serve to build the story and could easily have been omitted. On the other end, there were characters and plotlines that were not developed enough. For example, Mr. Snyder's character represents the good darker sides of stardom, and he could have served as a good foil to Perry's character. However, Mr. Snyder was only given two key moments, neither of which led anywhere to reinforce the character traits he exemplifies. Again, a good opportunity to build the world is wasted.

Generally, I'm not fond of multiple perspectives because they're difficult to do well. Every perspective that is added takes away space that could have been used to further develop the main perspective. The Smell of Other People's Houses is another recently published work that does a fantastic job intertwining the stories of the protagonists (read my review here). The Girl from the Savoy does not handle this as well. For example, many of the revelations about Dolly and Loretta end up being revealed to the other later in the novel. Time spent with Dolly and Loretta's perspectives could have focused on their internal conflicts and the emotional damage dealt to them while hinting at what happened. (Just Listen by Sarah Dessen is a fantastic example of a work that successfully hints at a past trauma while building to the big reveal.) As for Teddy's perspective, I honestly didn't see a point to it except to show us what Dolly and Teddy had. What we learn with could have just as easily been shown through Dolly's perspective while further building her character and keeping the story focused on the two starring women.

Overall, The Girl from the Savoy is a decent enough read if you're looking for a historical fiction novel to pass away the time. It is unique from novels like The Great Gatsby in that it is set in London post World War I, though the setting / culture isn't developed enough for me to be entirely conscious of the differences in culture. However, it isn't one that I would go out of my way to recommend.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 2 stars

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Hot Ebook Deals for Summer Reading

Saturday, June 11, 2016
There are some FANTASTIC $1.99 ebook deals going on right now! I love so many of these books; others I plan to get myself. If you don't already own an ebook copy of these, I recommend getting a copy for yourself. Or buy one for a friend. Books are always good! Click on the covers to go to the Amazon page for these books.