Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Fairly New Fandom (Semi-Guest Post starring Emery)

Today I finally got hold of my dear Emery for a chat about a certain Detective. No, it’s not Sherlock. *gasp* He’s actually Irish. And dead. He is technically dead. (Wait so was Sherlock). We basically are asking a bunch of questions and answering them. That’s not weird at all. Emery is in this lovely plum-colour :D and I am in black. (Like Valkryie) Or very dark grey.
note: I own none of the pictures/art in this post
What/who is Skulduggery Pleasant, for all the poor souls who have never heard?
AMAZING AWESOMENESS WITH ATTITUDE. Okay, okay, Skulduggery Pleasant (with one l) is a dead detective. Who is a skeleton. Held together with his own intellect. (Catie finds this very attractive).Yes she does. He is an elemental… which can lead us into another topic…. The magic disciplines. It is very rare to switch the discipline once it is learned, (almost like changing a college career). There is adept and elemental. Elemental is manipulating the four elements: water, air, fire, and earth. Adept comes in many forms and is basically everything else. For example Tanith Low can walk on walls, and unlock/lock any door. China Sorrows uses symbols to enhance fighting, to heal, etc. How does one get their magic? (This is one of my favorite parts) The names… Each person has three names, their given name (the one their parents give them), their taken name (the one that protects them from manipulation from other sorcerers), and finally their true name. This is where a mage gets their power. For example, Derek Landy is the author’s given name. His taken name is probably somewhere in the books series (he wrote himself in but won’t tell who it is), and his true name is EVIL.
Wise words. Ever noticed how Vile spells evil when you rearrange the letters? I feel a new theory coming on...anyway. Skulduggery Pleasant is the title character of a nine-book series for young adults by Derek Landy, the Evil One, blah blah blah, and is made of of bones, sass, and impeccably tailored suits. As Emery said, he is held together by pure willpower (or magic, whatever), which I find insanely, er,  interesting. Okay. I have a tiny crush on him (Catie, that is the biggest exaggeration I have ever heard. He is your soulmate) That’s completely normal, right? He drives about Ireland in his Bentley R-Type Continental, solving crimes, punching people, and saving the world from--er, with, Valkyrie Cain, his companion/assistant/annoyance. It’s great fun.

Favourite character?
This really isn’t a question because anyone you ask will always say Skulduggery himself is the best character automatically. He really is amazing (don’t tell him I said that his ego is huge). You realize how much you are really attached to him (and the series) in book 3 (The Faceless Ones). Oh, Skulduggery also drives a really nice car (or a bright yellow one when the bently is in the shop).
Now, now, his ego isn’t bigger than anyone else’s, he just isn’t afraid to talk about it. He is confident. And pretty darn funny.  
Favourite minor characters?
Tanith Low is amazing. She makes me want to be fit so I can fight and be awesome like her. She has always been my second favourite. And Fletcher Renn is great too. If any of you have read Hunger Games, he is a Finnick kind of character, at first you hate him, and then he is your favourite.
I like to compare Fletcher to Galinda. He grows on ya. I think their personalities are similar, and they have about the same amount of hair--Fletcher’s just sticks up more. And let’s not forget Kenspeckle and Clarabelle. HOW COULD I FORGET HIM!! (SPOILER: maybe bc he is dead? LANDY!)
And Val’s dad and mum.
"What are your intentions towards my daughter then? I hope just because you don't think you're going to be holding her hand or anything. Just because her knees are visible does not mean she is the kind of girl to hold the hand of a strange-haired boy on their first date" ~Desmond Edgley

And China. Yes, just... China. She is one of a kind.
Let’s talk about Stephanie/Valkyrie. Why is she so awesome (no spoilers about the end of Dark Days and beyond)?
She has a convincing reflection. She is a great fighter. It is fun to watch her character growth throughout the series. She is very independent, and is Skulduggery’s partner. ⅔ of her is a psychopath.  
I like Val because she is a bit different from any character I’ve ever read. She’s an INTP, for one thing, which is rare. She is likable, which is even rarer. She has flaws that are neither artificial nor off-putting. I do get angry with her though. She’s not some overdrawn feminist-in-your-face brat, nor is she just along for the ride--nor has she suffered any tragic loss that defines and cripples who she is. Both of her parents are alive (and intelligent, moreover). She loves them. She gets affectionately annoyed with them. She adores her baby sister. She makes bad choices and good choices and stupid choices. She’s a person, albeit a very sassy one--an actual, real, literary person, not just a bundle of insecurities or blond hair or independence filling the protagonist role.
Another pit authors often fall into is depending on a hobby/interest or physical features to define a character. Not so with Valkyrie.   
 Very well put.
Favourite Villain?
Favourite in the sense of wow-so-awesome-but-so-awful would be Lord Vile. Otherwise, Vaurien Scapegrace, the Killer Supreme.  
The Killer Supreme, the Zombie King, give it up for Vaurien Scapegrace (bk 2)! He is not a proper villain,(I think he might object to that) (I almost put he would be very offended by that statement) but he is really funny. And in Kingdom of the Wicked, he references Doctor Who. Scariest villain for me was Tesseract, because he was the only person who could kill Skulduggery. But the Faceless Ones are freaky too. And their followers are even more so. I also like Billy-Ray Sanguine. He is an american assassin who can burrow through walls. (I also hate him with an unadulterated loathing due to an event in book 5, Mortal Coil, you will know when you read it).

Favourite discipline?
Teleportation is probably my favorite. It is the most useful for a lazy, ordinary person like me. But if you were in a fight, the only thing teleportation helps to do is flee. Elemental is great in saving your life. Like if you get hurled off a cliff into the ocean you can just use the water to buoy yourself up. Or (as a last measure) you can use earth to turn yourself *SPOILERS for book 1!*into a statue (Ghastly, bk1).*End of spoilers* There are so many avenues of adepts. I can’t talk about them all (though I may try).
Teleportation obviously. Elemental seems like the most well-rounded. Symbols are useful.
But I think I would love to have wall-walking. Can you imagine the look on people’s faces when you just go and sit on the ceiling? I bet you could be an excellent dancer, since you could shift your center of gravity around, which would enable all sorts of ‘impossible’ feats. Hmm...
What’s the best book (or the best scene(s) from the books thus far)?
Kingdom of the Wicked and, though I hate to say it, Mortal Coil. The scene in Death Bringer with Val at the airport is one of my favourites.  
Mortal Coil is heart wrenching. Just… OKAY MOVING ON BEFORE THE TEARS START. *whimpers in the background “Gainith!”* Why is it you are so deeply attached to the books that have destroyed your heart? Anyway, Gosh! They are all so good! I am thinking I really like The Death Bringer (because of the Darquesse scene toward the end) and Kingdom of the Wicked. I am not the kind of person who rereads books, but when i finish these my first thought is to turn back to page one. The first two are more setting it up for the rest of the series, after that they get better. Much better. So don’t give up. Another great feature is that these are technically kids books (they are found in the “x” section at the library). The reading level is for a twelve-year-old (Note: these may be a bit too intense for sensitive 12-year olds like myself. Was. Think N.D. Wilson level of scary), so they are quick reads; very easy on the eye. If you aren’t accostomed to fight scenes (like I was), at first it is difficult to read them, but the trick is to read it fast. It flows that way, and I enjoy them more now. [most of that probably should have gone under the last question]

Anything that bothers you about the series?
I don’t like how Val learns necromancy (bk4). Even if it makes her battles even more epic, I wish she would just keep to elemental.
Yeah. Necromancy in general bothers me. However, SP doesn’t violate my fantasy rules, which are 1) it has to be good 2) any powers characters have that are viewed as non-evil should stem from natural, special ability and 3) the fantasy world has to be clearly defined (aka a completely different scenario from this reality--no actual, biblical magic/witchcraft/alteration of events. Bryan Davis toes the line here). Anyway.
Another thing I dislike is his habit of killing/maiming people ruthlessly. Just...why? Some of the action scenes can get a bit graphic and they make me feel a bit queasy. Actually, in my view there’s a teeny bit too much fighting/action. I tend to get a bit bored and wind up skimming--which I rarely do--during fight scenes. Unless they contain Tanith. YESH.
Sometimes I step away from the story and look at what it contains--zombies, vampires, walking, sassing skeletons--and I wonder if I’m actually reading this. From an objective, simplistic point of view it sounds so different from anything I’d be--or want to be--reading. But I promise you, the monsters and the magic and even the plots are not the point. The point is the characters. Yes. The characters absolutely make the books. They’re some of the best I’ve ever read, in this genre or any other. The rest is just framework and canvas.  
What are you going to do to Derek Landy if you get your hands on him?
Ooooo! I like this question! Well first I am going to thank him. Then strangle him. Then hug him. Then bawl on his shoulder. Also (if I have time), I want to ask him how he can emotionally kill his characters. When I write, I am very attached to my characters. They are my babies! And then to just *WHAM* and they’re dead… I don’t know how he does it. And he does it a few times. Especially when he doesn't kill the character but destroys them (think Peeta in Mockingjay).

My plan is very similar to that of Inigo Montoya’s. Just kidding. I will shake his hand and then make him write what I want him to write--with some weapon or other--and then I will torture him like he did Skulduggery that year. Note: I haven’t read the last two books. If he kills Certain Characters I may skip the torture and just give him a violent yet poetically just end.

Best quotes?
“Doors are for people with no imagination.”

“The sparrow flies south for the winter.”

“I try never to underestimate my opponents, no matter how stupid their beards.”

“And yet, most twelve-year-olds don’t believe in octopus people.” ~SP in KotW ((I reread the first book and found it!))

“We’re not retreating. We are advancing in reverse.”

Also see our Pinterest board for more extensive quotations.

Do you think you’ve found a SP fan? Here are some ways to tell:
Walk up to them and say, “the sparrow flies south for the winter.” If they duck, bravo! you’ve found one.
~Ask them if they show off. If they say, “No. I merely demonstrate my abilities at opportune times,” you’ve found one.

~Ask them if they have any rainbow dust. If they don’t think you’ve been watching My Little Pony, you may have found one.

~Walk up to them and say “Kenspeckle.” if they smile, frown sadly and/or sob, you’ve found one.

~If your supposed fan is wearing a skull, ask if that’s the original or if it was stolen by goblin things while they were asleep. Ask if the cheekbones were higher. If they chuckle understandingly, you’ve found one.

~Ask them if they like Gordon Edgley’s books. Say, excitedly, that you never met him, but one of his short stories was based on something that happened to you. This may be met with more crying or a knowing smile, depending on how far along the reader is.  

~Walk up to the suspect and say “Darquesse vs. Vile.” If their eyes light up and they get a fiendish/slightly guilty look on their face, you’ve found one.

~Sneak up behind them, wearing sunglasses, and, in a Texan accent, say “Have you seen my darned straight-razor? that **** girl took it from me.” If they whip around in terror, you may have found one. Or you may just have a really bad Texan accent.

~Walk up to them and say “Ganith.” this is slightly evil. Very evil. If they cry, you found one. You may also have a bloody nose. That is the only one I thought of. You can also tell which book they are on by this phrase.

We know that Landy is evil,
but there are things we like about him too. Such as...
I love how he puts all the different magic disciplines all in one book. You have vampires, warlocks, crazy gods, elementals, necromancy, etc. You name it, it is most probably in there.
I also love the characters. To be honest, that is my favourite part of this series. His characters are flippin’ amazing. They feel so real. Another thing is that it isn’t just another Harry Potter or Percy Jackson type series. It is its own individual thing. I have never seen anything like the story of a sarcastic, skeleton detective. It is balanced with both teenagers and adults.
TANGENT WARNING: (might I add, competent adults. Well, most of them. Okay. Some of them)
(Name one)
Skulduggery would say that he is very competent.
HE says that, but I quote him himself, “I have been known to be irresponsible, and it is entirely possible that is is happening again.”
Tanith. I win.  
Nope! I use the first book, “Did you find anything?” “We thought it was a foot print but it turned out to be, uh, more floor.”
Desmond Edgley? Never mind. “The most important thing to remember when holding a baby is not to drop pick it up by the scruff of the pick it up by the ears?”
All right. You win.
His writing style takes some getting used to, but it’s unique. For example, I had a headache and Lu was reading a section of Playing with Fire to me, and she stopped and said “he uses their names a lot.” I told her to read it in an Irish accent. Bam! Problem solved. His pattern/word rhythm may seem a bit odd, but you just have to get used to it. Another thing that took some getting used to is how dark, almost morbid-feeling aspects of the book can be. But I attribute that to its being Irish too. I mean, have you ever heard traditional Irish stories? They’re dark. And possibly depressing. Landy definitely taps into that, but I really enjoy it now. It’s simultaneously dark and very lighthearted. I can’t describe it properly. Read the books.
Like Emery said, his characters are the best part--they’re simultaneously real and fantastic. What comes out of their mouths is a close second. I joke that “I tried copying down every clever quote from that SP book. The bad news, it took a long time. Good news, I have a new copy of the book.” SP ties with Sherlock for witty dialogue.
And did I mention the fandom references? there are tons of fandom references. OH MY GOSH ARE THERE! I don’t think I see half of them, I am so immersed in the book.
I won’t spoil, but so far I’ve caught allusions to The Princess Bride, Doctor Who, Sherlock, monty python’s ‘the parrot sketch,’  and LotR. There are a few others as well that I don’t feel like remembering right now.

Any advice for would-be minions? Where can I find these books?
The books in order:
Scepter of the Ancients (or just Skulduggery Pleasant)
Playing with Fire
The Faceless Ones
Dark Days
Mortal Coil
Death Bringer
The End of the World (not a proper novel--a miniature one)
Kingdom of the Wicked
The Maleficent Seven (stand-alone novel with Tanith)
The Last Stand of Dead Men
Armageddon Outta Here!* (also not a proper novel)
The Dying of the Light
*we think
(End of the World goes between Death Bringer and KotW. And Armageddon Outta Here is b
Don’t decide whether you love them or not until you’ve read at least through three or four. The plots in the first few are a bit on the weak side, and things just generally get awesomer in the fourth book.
Also, don’t forget it all like I did. Because there are so many references to the first books, and I forgot what happened. I also forgot who Remus Crux was, he is the detective nobody likes. So keeping tabs may help.
Sound advice.
Check the library. They may have the first few. (Usually up to three. Unless you live in England. Lucky you. *angry snorting noises* THE PAIN. I had to wait three months for Kingdom of the Wicked! THREE MONTHS BETWEEN BOOKS. NO WONDER I CAN”T REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED. Grr.) There, there, dear. We console ourselves as best we can.  Then, if you get desperate for the later ones, Dark Days (4)--The Last Stand of Dead Men (8) are on Youtube in audiobook form. Keep in mind that you may just want to bite the proverbial bullet and buy them if you like them (Eventually you will. Save the hassle and buy them all now.), since the later ones have to be bought on amazon through individual sellers in the UK, they take a while to get here. Also, audiobook is a singularly frustrating way to read--it takes too long and you can’t shake the Irish accent for weeks afterwards. The plus side of the audio is a)Skulduggery’s voice--gah.  b) you learn how to pronounce names and c) it’s free & instant. Your choice. You could theoretically ask to borrow mine, I suppose...if you want to be refused.
From left to right:  Tanith, Skulduggery, China, Ghastly, Fletcher, and Valkyrie.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Promised Movie Review

Dear friends, fans, phans, theatre people, and other fabulous people (or chickens),
Allow me to show you a picture. 

I can hear your gasps now--what is this phenomenon? Surely they are not making Phantom of the Opera into--of all things--an animated movie?  
Alas, the answer is no. For better or worse, we're stuck with Karimloo as the best Phantom for now. Oh well.  Yet I still beg your attention for this great little film. Un Monstre à Paris is one of the best non-Barbie, non-Disney animated films I've ever seen. Which actually isn't that many. I guess that makes this one even more valuable, right? 
A Monster in Paris, to use the English title, is a French animated movie from 2011, with Vanessa Paradis and Matthieu Chedid (Sean Lennon in English) voicing the roles of Lucille and Francoeur, respectively. It is seriously underrated. I heard of it from a Youtube playlist, of all places. This is ridiculous. I should have had people clamoring from all sides for me to see this musical/movie. Since a sad lack of popularity seems to be its fate, I believe perhaps a brief summary is in order.
A musical genius is shunned and mocked and hunted in society through no fault of his own in 1910.
He finds his way into the dressing room of a young singer with brown curly hair who wears a lot of white. She is often referred to as an 'angel.' At first she is frightened of him, but when she hears his beautiful voice she overcomes her fear and grows to have affection for him, even singing with him on stage (he wears a white mask to hide himself). 

 Meanwhile a young man named Raoul is trying to renew his childhood friendship with the singer, though he is interested in a bit more than friendship at this point.
Raoul and his infamous straw coat
 Lucille is kept busy hiding her genius alternately from the bumbling proprietor and prominent guests of the cabaret, Mme. Carlotta, and two gentlemen, one tall and one short. 
Eventually a citywide hunt for the 'monster' begins, and he disappears seemingly without a trace (actually there's more, but you'll have to watch it for that). 
 I don't know about you, but I've never heard anything quite like that before.
So maybe it borrows liberally and unashamedly from Leroux's novel, but this lovely film relies on more than stealing from Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber--it's got plenty of fun elements of its own, in *both* languages. 

First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the songs. "La Seine" is the most prominent (I suspect because it gets stuck in everyone's head the most). As noted, it's catchy and fun. I don't care for the English version so much--I have a hard time telling Lucille and Fracoeur's voices apart, but both versions are still  lovely. If you look up a translation of the French words, Fracoeur's verse is actually addressed to Lucille. I found this adorable. There are a few other songs, but the title song "A Monster in Paris"--Francoeur's heartbroken solo song--is the one that stands out the most. As a musical theatre fan, I love movie musicals. Ones that don't have to be previewed/edited are even better. As a sensible person and a six year old at heart, I appreciate the fact that there aren't *too* many songs. This movie has the movie/music balance just about right. 
Another awesome element to this movie is that it is a French film. I'm a studious student of French. I need French stuff. My sister is a French student. She needs French stuff.  My other siblings are bored. They need French stuff (all right, maybe we did watch it in English. Whatever). The fact remains, however, that it's a great opportunity to study another language/culture through a familiar, non-boring medium. My younger brother has picked up part of the chorus of "La Seine" ("Je ne sais, ne sais, ne sais pas pourquoi") from hearing the song in French and English. I often use those phrases in conversation, and he was able to pick up and apply a bit of a language that he isn't officially learning yet. Yay for multilingual experiences. 
The biggest reason this movie is so great, though, is that it's just plain fun.  Sure, it contains elements from a dark-ish story, but it still stays mostly lighthearted and doesn't take itself too seriously. The characters are great
Emile and Maud, the adorable subplot that I forgot to mention
--how can you not love a guy who names his delivery truck Catherine?
--and while the story's often funny, it has its 'feelsy' moments too. Lucille is the queen of sass. Emile and Maud are absolutely adorably awkward. And Francoeur...well. Let's just say you have never been as attached to a flea, nor are you ever likely to again. I like Francoeur. Francoeur is cool. 
 Plus, there's actually a happy ending, which is more than I can say for the source material. 
While it is a kids' movie, I think a paraphrase of Lewis is suitable here--if you won't watch a movie when you're all grown up and in high school, you shouldn't watch it when you're ten. Which basically means that big kids can do little things too.Or something. 
In short, this is a great little film. It's not Frozen, and it's not Phantom, but it combines elements of both into an hour and thirty minutes of enjoyment. To quote AVPM, it's 'totally awesome.'   
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go seek out Lucille cosplays. I know they're out there somewhere... 
(I am not allowed to use deliberative oratory in the review for class, but no one said anything about here. Guys, this movie needs attention. Go watch it. Make your siblings watch it. Spread the madness!)