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I recently watched two movies adapted from YA books, Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. 

Beautiful Creatures


The Book (by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl):  Lena, a caster (witch) will have to choose between the light and the dark on her 16th birthday.  She falls in love with a mortal, Ethan, triggering a long standing curse in her family.

The Movie: I understand that the pace of the southern lifestyle isn’t exactly fast and furious, but it seemed to take a long time for anything to happen.  And once it did, I still didn’t feel any urgency or suspense.  The special effects were sparse and not that great.  But the main problem was that the two leads, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (Alice Englert), had good chemistry, it was just the wrong kind; it felt more like buddy chemistry than fated lovers chemistry.  Alden Ehrenreich brought a lot of energy to the role, but his attempt at a southern accent was so thick and exaggerated that at times I needed subtitles.  And he crossed the line from quirky to goofy which is just not swoon worthy.  On the other hand, the supporting cast reveled in their eccentric characters. The movie may be worth watching just for Emma Thompson’s performance alone.  She was good as the wanton and wicked southern belle gone bad. 

Rotten Tomatoes critics rate this movie as 46% fresh with comments that it has “charming leads,” but is “plodding” and “watered down.” 

My final verdict: read the book and skip the movie.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones


The Book (by Cassandra Clare): Fifteen year old Clary accidentally runs into Shadowhunters: warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Clary is pulled into their world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon.

The Movie: First off, I’m guessing that this film had a much larger budget.  The special effects were great and there were lots of them.  Being set in New York City already lends to a faster pace and the plot kept moving quickly with lots of action.  The cast was excellent with crackling chemistry between the leads (Jamie Campbell Bower and Lily Collins).  Robert Sheehan was a perfect choice for the awkward best friend and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is always deliciously villainous.  The film is fairly similar to the book with mostly minor changes and a much more dramatic final sequence involving a lot more characters.  I liked the movie and thought it was fun to watch.

Rotten Tomatoes critics rate this movie as only 12% fresh with a comment that it “borrows ingredients from seemingly every fantasy franchise of the last 30 years -- but can't seem to figure out what to do with them.”  However, the audience rates it as 61% fresh.  The books have garnered criticism for having the exact same plot as Harry Potter, but that obviously doesn’t put people off because it has been a very successful series.

My final verdict: read the book first then enjoy the movie.

When it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, one of my favorite subjects is aliens.  Another one of my favorites (as you have probably gathered by now) is Vikings.  So when I heard about a 2008 movie that was about both aliens AND Vikings, I thought I must have died and gone to heaven.  Could there really be such an awesome mash-up?  There is and the name of that movie is Outlander. 


Rotten tomatoes rates the movie as only 38% fresh.  It criticizes the film for being “schizophrenic in subject and lackluster in execution.”  Obviously I disagree with the comment about the subject.  And, yes, the execution could have been better, but it was still a pretty good movie.   Of course, when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, my attitude is a lot like the saying about pizza (when it’s good….it’s great, but when it’s bad….it’s still pretty good). 

So imagine my surprise and delight to see that the Starz network is now filming a new series called none other than Outlander.  This new series is based on the books by Diana Gabaldon and combines two of my other favorite subjects: period pieces and time travel.


Here is the description of the book: In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.

Needless to say, I purchased the first book in the series immediately and I will spend the weekend in mash-up heaven (which is really fitting since I have a lot of leftover cottage pie to eat).

Back in the day when I was a kid (the 1980’s to be exact) my two favorite books were Mandy by Julie Edwards and Ronia, the Robbers Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. 

Mandy is about a ten year old orphan who scales the orphanage wall and finds a deserted cottage in the woods.  She turns the cottage into her own private sanctuary.  One stormy night at the cottage, Mandy gets sick, and no one knows how to find her—except a special friend she didn't know she had.

Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter is about a young girl who lives with her father and his band of robbers in a castle in the woods.  When she befriends the son of a rival robber chieftain, Birk, her father disowns her.  Ronia and Birk run off together to live in the woods.  Their new life is full of adventures and perils. Eventually Ronia and Birk find a way to end the feud between their families with the aid of an old robber’s secret. 

Both of these stories have common themes that appealed to my young self: a feeling of not belonging and the search for independence (and of course Vikings in Ronia).  If you are in the mood for some middle grade, whether young or old(er), I highly recommend these two books.

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