Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Princess And The Scoundrel By Beth Revis

We’re throwing back all over the place this week here at The Fangirl’s Dilemma! Game Of Thrones winners, and a Star Wars release so momentous, it was worth bringing back a review.

The Princess And The Scoundrel is a newly released Star Wars novel by Beth Revis, it tells the story of Han and Leia’s quick engagement and wedding after the events of Return Of The Jedi and then their kind of chaotic honeymoon aboard The Halcyon, (AKA the ship you are on in The Star Wars hotel in Disney World!)

There’s banter and kissing and reckoning with legacy and Han gets obsessed with a pastry, while Leia just CAN’T PUT HER PHONE AWAY AND BE ON VACATION! Han asks Luke to use the force to break up his bachelor party, which Luke refuses to do. Lando produces wine glasses as if from the air. Han has a panic attack diving into icy water because of PTSD from being frozen in carbonite.

It’s just all really really fun and right up my alley and I cried a lot while reading it. But I’ve been waiting most of my life to think about Han and Leia getting to live happily ever after. (They didn’t, but at least, happy for now!) The Princess And The Scoundrel did not disappoint.

104 New To Me Movies: Anna Karenina (2012)

Stats

Title: Anna Karenina
Release Year: 2012
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Tom Stoppard (WHAT???)
Recommended by: I guess my Pinterest feed? And Scanning HBO Max.
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

This is not a movie for the faint of heart.

If you’re the kind of person who has even an ounce of irony blackening their soul against romantics epics, I advise you to stay far far away. If you, like me, are the kind of person who finds Kiera Knightley, as Anna Karenina whispering “Murderer” as she orgasms in a haze of white sheets, the best idea in the history of cinema, you’re going to like this movie, I did.

Oh sure, like any adaptation of a Russian novel, it skips around, cheats at the edges and feels all over the place. (I haven’t read Karenina, I plan to now.) But it’s carried by the energy of Wright’s direction, the earnestness of Stoppard’s script and the breathlessly wonderful performance by Knightley in the title role. Half the movie is just her in fabulous (though hilariously modern) gowns, walking with purpose and declaring that she will her follow her heart even to disaster!

It’s great fun and I can’t believe it took me ten years to watch this, my new favorite movie.

In The Shadow of Adaptation: Rebecca

“We can never go back again, that much is certain. The past is still too close to us. The things we have tries to forget and put behind us would stir again, and that sense of fear, of furtive unrest, struggling at length to blind unreasoning panic – now mercifully stilled, thank God – might in some manner unforseen become a living companion as it had been before.

Du Maurier, 5

I almost started this review with Rebecca’s famous opening lines, but I prefer the above quote, which I think sums up the story better. Rebecca is a story about people trying to both live with the past and outrun it at the same time, and it makes for a fantastic psycological thriller.

The new version on Netflix is not really that. It does star two actors who I have big crushes on, and does dreamy period romance and murder mystery well. It doesn’t however, do particularly well with the Gothic Romance elements of the story, which is probably my favorite part of the novel, as you can see in my review of it from a few years ago.

I’ll start with the actors. Our leads, Maxim DeWinter and his unnamed second wife are played by Armie Hammer and Lily James. Hammer has done hard work over the past few years winning me over. (The Man From UNCLE! Call Me By Your Name! Leaking kinky photos of himself post divorce! ALLEGEDLY!) and I have had a massive crush on James since she flounced into Downton Abbey with her modern ideas about fringed dresses and interracial romance. They both do well here. The movie really leans into the fact that these two very hot people want to be having sex with each other.

And they do have plenty of hot sex. And they wear gorgeous outfits and flit around Monte Carlo and that part of the movie is excellent.

Then we come to Manderley. Maxim’s ancestral home. Things are still being run by the creepy Mrs. Danvers, played with chilly precision and Sapphic repression by Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca were DEFINITELY having sex and you will never convince me otherwise.). She is appalled by her new mistress. The only scenes that nearly touch the Gothic perfection of the novel and the Hitchcock movie are the scene where Mrs. Danvers describes Rebecca in her boudoir and when she tries to convince Mrs. De Winter to kill herself. The rest feels silly and perfunctory and it’s such a bummer.

The movie does handle the section of the story where Maxim is accused of murdering Rebecca perfectly. (He is, in fact, guilty, but Rebecca was a bitch who was cheating on him, so I guess it’s OK?) It handles the conspiracy and uncovering of Rebecca’s cancer wonderfully.

It’s just a bummer because that is the portion of the story that I’m just not particularly interested in. I like the early whirlwind romance and I like the Gothic horror aspects, and this particular adaptation is not as interested in that portion. Which is fine, there are several angles to take with this story, I just don’t think this take is for me, despite it’s appealing leads and lovely costuming.

Movie Review: The Personal History Of David Copperfield

Of all the things that I miss about life in the before times, I was missing my weekly trips to the multiplex the most. I miss brunch, and bars and going out dancing, and hugging my friends.

But I missed the movies so much, that I actually danced for joy when Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state of NJ was going to allow 40% capacity in movie theaters starting on September 4th.

I was at the shore when I found out and sitting out on a patio drinking Chardonnay with some family friends, one of them asked me what the first movie I would go see was.

I exhaled. I’d given it some thought. I miss superheros so I was psyched for New Mutants, and it’s always exciting to see what’s going on in Christopher Nolan’s weird brain, so Tenet was also in the mix. But honestly? Bookending my COVID based cinema gap with interesting and exciting adaptations of classic novels seemed correct.

So I went to go see David Copperfield, which, if you read everything I’ve ever written you might remember is a novel I did not care for, despite usually liking Charles Dickens quite a bit. (Part of that is finding David himself insufferably virtuous.) I did however really enjoy this movie. My issue with the narrator was solved by him being played by the impossible not to love Dev Patel. And my issues with the narrative, that it leans into the worst of Dickens’s quirks with coincidence and black and white elements of virtue, vice, reward and punishment, are solved by the sharp and cynical eyes of it’s co writer and director Armondo Ianucci.

There was no way that the man behind Veep was going to fall into the sinking pit of melancoly and sentimentality that is so easy to fall into with David Copperfield. And indeed he did not.

I am here for this new trend where we adapt classic novels and actually lean into their comedy. I was cackling at the performances in this movie, Darren Boyd and Gwedolyn Christie play the wicked Murdstone siblings that sweeping ghosts. The flight but loving Micawbers are magically and affectionally played by Peter Capaldi & Bronagh Gallagher (A Doctor and a Commitment? DELIGHTFUL) but the true triump are Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton as David’s loving a loving but eccentric relations. (Ben Winshaw is also great as sleazy and villainous Uriah Heap)

What’s most fascinating about the film, to me though, is how it feels like play. Most of the characters have only one costume, the performances and broad and straight faced, and with the exception of Jairaj Varsani as young David, no one is aged, despite the story taking place over a lifetime.

Overall, I was extremely impressed and I think I made the right choice for my triumphant return to seeing movies out in the world.

The Series Series: The Great Library By Rachel Caine

Ohhh, this was a fun one, you guys. I really enjoyed it. (Thanks as always to Aless for throwing YA series at me with gusto)

The premise of the series is as follows, The Great Library of Alexandria was not destroyed and as such it was what became the great power. Not The Roman Empire. Not The Church. And history was shaped by a completely different values set as a result.

The Books

Ink And Bone

Paper And Fire

Ash And Quill

Smoke And Iron

Sword And Pen

The Author

Rachel Caine grew up in West Texas and published her first series, The Weather Warden in 2004. She writes a combination of Adult Urban Fantasy and YA Fantasy, and also writes under the pen name Julie Fortune. I like the look of some of her other stuff, so I might check it out. I really enjyed the writing on this series.

Series Structure

We start with Jess Brightwell, a teenage boy from London’s POV and stick with him for most of the series, though by book 3, we also get chapters from his classmates and allies. The Library has banned all ownership of books, instead using alchemy to project copies onto “blanks.” (There’s an oddness to reading a library loaned kindle copy of this series) Jess’s family has made their fortune stealing, smuggling, and selling rare original books. His father is sending him to train as a Librarian so that he can eventually help them steal directly from the library.

But it turns out there’s more going on than Jess realized and he and his friends and their teacher, Scholar Christopher Wolfe, begin a change of events that start a revolution.

In between the story are italicized “Ephermera” letters from characters to one another, old Library records that reveal bits of the different history. (Thomas Paine began a faction of rebels called “Burners” who burn books to show how valueless lives and free thought have become. I love that even in an alternate reality, Thomas Paine is gonna Thomas Paine)

Themes

“Any authoritarian organization, given enough time, will go bad.” – Sara Lance, Legends Of Tomorrow, Season 3, Episode 3 “Zari”

The horrible secret that our hero Jess Brightwell and his friends discover is that the library has been halting the natural progress of both society and science at crucial moments when advancements were deemed “too dangerous.” Now, that danger morphed from “dangerous to people” to “dangerous to the power of the library.” The main one being of course, the printing press, which was surpressed each time it was individually thought of.

Look, I’m an American and a Catholic, if there’s one thing I am deeply aware of in my own identity and society it is the way something with benevolent intent and ideals can be twisted to surpress, hurt and destroy. It’s something I reckon with pretty much daily. But what I loved about the themes of rebellion against authoritarianism in this series was that the Library was not deemed so corrupt it couldn’t be saved. The ideals were deemed worth fighting for and reforming. That rules. 

Favorite Book

I really really enjoyed Smoke And Fire, which is where the real organization of rebellion began. It was a lot of fun. It’s also the book that doubles down on Scholar Wolfe and his partner Captain Niccolo Santi as the most epic of epic love stories. Seriously, it rules.

Least Favorite Book

Ash And Quill had a lot of promise that didn’t really go anywhere which bummed me out.

Favorite Character

Khalila Seif is one of Jess’s classmates, she from a prominent Saudi Arabian family, a devout Muslim, and the most intelligent and thoughtful and kind person in the story. She’s also a badass politician. Seriously, I’m obsessed with her

Reread Possibilities

I’ll probably revisit in a few years. I very much enjoyed it and I’d like to catch things I might have missed. A lot like with the Leigh Bardugo stuff, this is a world I just really enjoyed being in. I’m not crazy about Jess and so it’s hard to get super invested.

I’m not sure what’s next here, to be honest. I’ve got a stack of more reality based books that have been calling my name, plus the two book clubs will be making their choices in the next week or so. I’ll update when I finish another series.

 

The Series Series: Throne Of Glass By Sarah J. Maas

You know how like, when you’re at a house party and it’s late and someone says “let’s order pizza!” and you say, “YEAH!” And then you’re psyched because you’re going to get pizza but then they ordered Dominos, and you eat a slice and think, “Dominos is better than I remembered,” because you’ve really been craving pizza, but then you get a second slice and remember that Dominos is a pale imitation of pizza?

That’s sort of what happened with me while I was reading Throne Of Glass. 

I miss Westeros so much you guys, that I was overlooking the uh, less than great-ness, of parts of this series, because it shares some, well, stuff in common with A Song Of Ice And Fire and Game Of Thrones.

Namely, an exiled fire queen with a prophecy on her head and a tendency to burn her enemies.

That said, there’s a lot to like about Throne Of Glass on it’s own and I did like it. Let’s dig in.

The Books

Throne Of Glass

Crown Of Midnight

Heir Of Fire

Queen Of Shadows

Empire Of Storms

Tower Of Dawn

Kingdom Of Ash

The Author

Sarah J. Maas began writing Throne Of Glass as a teenager on Fictionpress before the series was picked up to be published conventionally, which is pretty damn cool. She was inspired by epic fantasy and apparently by Disney princesses which means I bet we’d get along pretty well. (Hey Sarah! Call me!) Since Throne Of Glass she’s written two more series, which I haven’t decided if I have the bandwith to pick up.

Series Structure

Seven books which tell the story of assassin Celaena Sardothien, who is really Queen Aelin Galythenius and her quest to regain her throne and destroy a great evil that is threatening her world. What I thought was most interesting about this series is the way it develops. It clearly started in a world where Harry Potter and The Hunger Games ruled in genre stories. There’s an oddly biased love triangle, a rigged contest, a magical castle with mysteries to solve, but by book three, the wind had changed in what fantasy held sway, and suddenly, a fire queen, sexy sex, beheadings galore and more characters you could really keep track of if you have a normal person brain ruled the day, and the series moved in a completely different direction.

It’s frankly, completely fascinating to behold the shift, and Maas pulls it off for the most part.

Themes

Legacy, I guess? Also letting go of the past to build the future. There’s a lot of both of those things, which are fun themes to explore. There’s also some shades of choosing light and life rather than giving into despair, but that’s pretty boilerplate for this sort of thing.

Favorite Book

My god, I loved Heir Of Fire, which shows Celaena/Aelin off in a Faerie realm with the Male who would become her mate, Rowan, (it is complicated) while her dueling would be lovers from the first two books, Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol Westfall realize they are in over their heads in their homeland, and that something is definitely up with Dorian’s father. It has a third act twist that gut punched me in a way I haven’t felt since The Red Wedding (though it is not as good, but it’s as brutal and out of nowhere)

Least Favorite Book

I do not like Throne Of Glass, which means, if it weren’t for this project of finishing what I start, I probably would not have continued. I’m glad that I did, because the series is pretty rewarding if a bit much in places. Maas’s sex writing in particular is very repetitive. At one point she’s got Dorian fucking a witch with ACTUAL IRON where humans have Keratin and the most she can do is put her on top? Come on lady! Show some creativity.

Favorite Character

Manon Blackbeak is a 500 year old witch of two royal lines who gets Spiked like YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE (To “Spike” a character is to have them begin as a very fun secondary antagonist and eventually become the best of the good guys and the problematic lover of one of the heroes. Origin – Buffy The Vampire Slayer) She’s also a military genius, and executes two of my favorite tropes ever, a character who rejected connection learning that love is not weakness, and calling the cavalry when all seems lost.

Also, she just rules.

Reread Possibilities

I really enjoyed the series, but part of what I enjoyed were the twists and turns and “WTF?” moments. I don’t think it would hold up on a reread, and frankly, it’s too long to reread without love, which, I liked and admired it a lot, but I didn’t love it.

Next up will be The Great Libary series by Rachel Caine, although it might be a bit though because there’s a scene in Kingdom Of Ash where Aelin is falling through multiple world that made my heart call out for yet another world.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed…”

I half expected her to have to have a conversation with That Fucking Turtle. 

Magical Movies Tour: The Black Cauldron

Note: These are the only things I’ve felt like writing for the past two weeks, so I’m going to start posting two a week. I’ve gotten way ahead of myself and want to share my thoughts! Hooray!

Well, that was better than I expected.

Everyone always talks about what a tremendous failure The Black Cauldron is, as a film on it’s own, and as an adaptation of the wonderful The Chronicles of Prydain, and in reality it is perfectly fine as both. The movie takes on the first two books in the series, The Book Of Three and The Black Cauldron, and omits so reasonably important characters, (Wither thou, Gwydion?) but it does an OK job by them.

Taran’s relationship to Hen Wen is perhaps given a bit more weight, (Hen Wen is an oracular pig, in case you forgot.) and Gurgi is given a bit more weight. (To be fair Gurgi is kind of a perfect Disney character.) Eilonwy is pefectly sketched as in Fleudeur Flam (though his true self, a king in his own right, is never revealed). The Horned King is terrifying and clearly the portion of the film the most love was given to.

I’m not saying The Black Cauldron is perfect, and you can certainly see how many of the people working on it moved on to work with Don Bluth, because it reminds me much more stuff like Thumbelina and A Troll In Central Park than anything else Disney’s ever done, but it’s wasn’t the awful mess I was expecting. It got the characters right, at the very least, and inspired me to purchase the books for Kindle. (This was another Quarantine Watch)

Next week, the awakening begins with the light stirrings of The Great Mouse Detective.

The Series Series: The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco

We aren’t supposed to judge books by their covers but the cover of The Bone Witch looks like THIS:

The Bone Witch

So…yeah. That’s that.

The Books

The Bone Witch

The Heart Forger

The Shadowglass

The Author

Rin Chupeco began her career as a technical writer who was obsessed with horror and fairytales and now blends them together.

I will be reading everything she’s every written, because I loved this series. Did I give away the end of this blog? Seriously though, this was a delight.

Series Structure

This is a trilogy, three books that tell the story of Tea Pahlahvi, a Bone Witch or Dark Asha, magic users who’s role in society feels like something in between university professors and geisha, in the society of 8 kingdoms in the book. Tea’s power allows her to raise the dead as well as commune and subdue legendary creatures known as daeva that often threaten her world.

The story alternates between Tea’s telling her own story and a bard (who is more than he seems) who she has engaged to tell it for you. Tea has done terrible things and she is ready to reshape the world, if she has the strength to do it.

Themes

Oh there’s a lot at work here, responsibility, accountability, civil inequality, the redeeming properties of true love (and all true love, not just romantic.)

Favorite Book

It’s probably The Heartforger although The Shadow Glass grew on me as it went along. But I devoured The Heartforger which answered a lot of questions and mysteries from the first book and did actually have me thinking that we were watching the birth of a supervillain. (We weren’t, but in the interest of spoilers, I won’t elaborate)

Least Favorite Book

The Bone Witch was lovely and sucked me into the world, but Chupeco has a lot of world building and character introduction to do. This is where the two timelines and narrators came into play as important. I wanted to know how Tea got to where she was in the flash forward sections, so I was willing to get through, “This is how I found out about my powers, this was my training” even when I wasn’t overly invested

Favorite Character

There are, alas, not direct pop culture paralells this time around for me to default into love, but I was deeply fond of Tea’s great True Love, Kalen. He’s a stalwart captain of the guard type…he uh, reminds me of someone…a little…can’t put my finger on it…anyway.

Reread Possibilities

I don’t know that I’ll reread this, but I’m not opposed to it. I very much enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to Chupeco’s other work, but I don’t know that I’d pick up this series again.

Our next series will be Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, I’m already halfway through it. Waiting on Book 5.

Nerd Girl Book Club

If there’s anything that the past two and a half months have made me grateful for it’s my friends.

I miss them like crazy but that’s only because they are some of the greatest people to ever live. I had a huge breakthrough in therapy last year when I realized that unlike most people my intimacy issues do NOT come from my family, but from a series of terrible falling outs with long term friends.

I have trouble trusting people because a good chunk of the people I trusted left me behind. A few didn’t, but most left either when things got tough (more understandable) or it was convenient to move along (less understandable). I won’t get into specifics because those are not my stories to tell for the most part.

But, they’re relevant here because of Aless, who introduced me to her friends and reopened my heart.

Anyway, that’s all old news. I’ve written about them. About my love for them. I’ve also written about the friends that held on to me in the hard transition time. (Juli, Chrissy, Maggie, Katie)

But a month ago, when Jess, Sara and I got on a Zoom call to discuss a book we all read (Bonds Of Brass by Emily Skrutskie) and when we realized we’d come across something special. Our dynamic of intelligent, nerdy, interesting women was worth investigating.

So we put the call out to those who we thought would be interested. And so many answered. I brought Maggie and Kristi into the conversation. Other people brought others. We read All The Stars And Teeth by Adalyn Grace, and we got on a Zoom call and I was reminded all over again of how lucky I was to have never felt the seductive sting of “not like other girls/women”

Because how much I would have missed. I’d have certainly missed this call, where we talked about the book. (Great world building, reasonably interesting characters, lame plot!) And where we got to know each other. Learning our tolerance for love triangles, and Rape As Character Development and our Hogwarts Houses and top fandoms.

We’re going at least one more month and I’m SO PSYCHED to move onto our next one.

After my sister’s bachelorette party, our friend Meghan said to Mary, “Thank you for curating a wonderful group of women.” and Mary and I took it as the greatest compliment.

I was honored to be a part of a curated a wonderful group of women yet again with this book club.

Also, we’ve all pledged to meet in person when we’re allowed, and while I also can’t wait for that, I also was so grateful for our call on Saturday, when I realized, OMG Jess and Maggie could talk about video games together, and Sara and Kristi had kids around the same age and so many other things.

What have we been robbed of by society keeping women apart and in competition with one another?

Not quite the point, but a little bit the point.

Anyway, I’ve been lucky in my life to drift into the orbit of exceptional women, and then to form real bonds with them, and to introduce them to each other.

Nerd Girl Book Club is everything I was hoping it would be. I miss talking about books from college and I miss women talking together, without outside interference from men, something I had growing up with my mom, sister and aunts, and in high school with IHA.

It’s hard to value something you’ve never known so I get why other people don’t value and miss this thing that was a part of my life for so long. But I’m so glad to have it back.

The Lady Of Winterfell

It’s been a year, am I allowed to talk about Game Of Thrones again? I know we were supposed to chuck it into the ocean and never look back, but I can’t do that.

Because I think about Sansa Stark a lot.

I grew up reading fantasy. I loved it. I’ve always loved it, but there were never girls I related to in those fantasies. If there were girls, they hated being girls, or what was interesting about them was that they rejected the world of girls. There was Alanna, there was Eowyn, there was Leia. Or they were romantic heroines, which I loved but wanted more. The flip side of that coin was Belle, Ariel, Cinderella.

There weren’t girls like Sansa. Girls who wore their femininity in all it’s power as armor. Girls who used embroidery and marriage and the selfish love of the men around them as weapons. Girls who loved their families and wanted handsome princes to come save them but when those dreams shattered didn’t cower but fought, not in battles but in the ways they understood.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how she got into my blood and mind. And in the past few years, as I’ve let the floodgates open to more and more fantasy I see that I couldn’t have been the only girl who hungered for that. Because there are these books now, you see, these books written by women around my age, filled with girls. Some who are like Alanna, Eowyn, Leia, who put on armor and pick up swords and fight alongside men. Some like Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, who long for true love and princes. And there are so many Sansas.

So many girls who fit into their world of privelege and beauty and when it’s hollowness was revealed, didn’t reject it, didn’t say, “there’s nothing here,” didn’t see the other women held by it as stupid, shallow or weak, instead took those things and made them the tools of their fight.

Yesterday I finished Queen Of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series. It’s going to be a while before I finish this series, because I’m waiting on Empire Of Storms and I’m the eight person in line for 5 copies at my library. But Sarah J. Maas’s series is full of Sansas. I had trouble getting into it because the lead, isn’t, and my GOD does this girl hate other women at the beginning of her journey. And that begins to unravel, slowly as the series progresses.

“I’m not like other girls,” is a hell of a drug. I’ve never understood it. I’ve always loved other girls and women, but it’s a really hard thing to kick in society that tells us that there’s no room for us to be who we are. But I’m so grateful to see that it is starting to shift.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how overjoyed I was to find her eight years ago. I think about how she got an ending full of justice and triumph without ever compromising who she was.

I think about Sansa Stark and I cry, because she exists, in print and on TV for girls like me to find, and know they aren’t wrong or weak or stupid. There is space for them in these stories. And oh that matters so much.