“Since the last Games, something’s different. I can see it.”

catching-fire-movie-poster

Anyone who has known me over the fast few years has undoubtedly noticed my affection for The Hunger Games series. I read the books the first time over a weekend; I just couldn’t stop reading. It reminded me of the days when I first read Harry Potter (the greatest love of my life, along with Hanson), where I would marathon read, my neck cramping and eyes blurry because I can’t stop without knowing what happens. The Hunger Games hooked me.

I fell in love with Katniss, the strong female lead who is a good role model for young girls (especially in the wake of “if you leave me, I’ll die” Bella Swan), and the supporting characters were all believable and interesting. And the premise. Ooo. I do love me a good dystopia (and thanks to the success of THG, teen dystopias became all the rage, which means I have that many more to read… even though most are super weak in comparison, though I did love super-flawed Divergent and Matched).  Not to mention, I was already a fan of Japan’s Battle Royale, which is basically the same premise but heavier on the gore. Are there flaws in THG? Absolutely. Do I care? No.

When I taught the first book the first time (yay for being an English teacher), I became completely wrapped up in it. Every time I teach it (it’s been 3 times now), it basically becomes my life. When my students need to find vocab words, it doesn’t take me long to find it, I’ve read the book so many times.

Then the movie came out, which was… meh. You can read my full review here, but basically, though I loved it and LOVE Jennifer Lawrence (I basically want to be her), I was disappointed with many of the details.

Then came Catching Fire. Oh My God. I LOVED this film. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the second book in the series as many times, so I didn’t notice the details they failed to include, but I thought the transition from page to screen worked so well. Not only is the eye candy amazing – between Josh Hutchenson, Liam Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin, plus JLaw for my girl crush – I was good; but there’s so much more than that. The film was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I went from tearing up at the scene in District 11 to angry at the Capitol, to laughing at Haymitch and Effie, to suspense in the arena, to tears at Mags, to suspense at the monkeys… you get the picture.

Having read the book, I already knew the plot twists and secrets, but that didn’t make it any less enjoying. In fact, I had a lot of fun with Boy next to me; angry at characters I knew to be good and worried about characters I knew would die. His review, by the way, was a 10/10 (it’s worth noting our first movie we ever saw together in theaters was the first installment).

Everything translated so well. I loved Finnick, played by Sam Claflin, and Jena Malone’s Johanna was perfect (I do have a soft spot for the crazy bitches though… Clove was one of my favorites in the first book). I liked being able to see Betee’s wiring project and the Arena itself, which matched the descriptions pretty well. It was also interesting to see the Capitol’s side of things, a continuing element from the first movie that helps with suspense and red herons. I also felt the portrayal of the animosity of the tributes toward the Capitol, and the unfairness of it all was spot-on. The interview scene was done very well. I almost felt sorry for Caesar Flickerman.

ID_D30_12018.dng

And, oh, the costumes. I wish I could dress like Katniss. She has so many good looks in Catching Fire; from the tour outfits that are comfortable yet flattering, to the gorgeous wedding dress-turned-mockingjay. I also thought the “girl on fire” look was ten times better than it was in the first movie, where it looked obviously fake; here the smoldering coal look was more believable and entrancing.

o-CATCHING-FIRE-PHOTOS-570Then there was the love triangle. This is how I feel about the whole Katniss – Peeta – Gale drama: if Katniss had never gone into the Hunger Games, she and Gale would’ve been meant to be, but because she endured the Games with Peeta, a connection forged between them that could never be broken. Sure, Gale is strong and handsome and good for her, but he brings out the dark side of Katniss. Peeta, on the other hand, is calm and peaceful, traits Katniss needs to balance her out. Gale will never understand the Games the same way Peeta does, and so he will never understand the bond between Katniss and Peeta. Katniss fights it because she wants a choice, and she feels the Games and the Capitol concocted her relationship with Peeta, even though her feelings are true. It isn’t until the scene on the beach that you see Katniss’ true feelings for Peeta come out, and it’s lovely to watch. Not to mention, Josh beefed up between films, so it’s not even an easy “Gale’s hotter” decision anymore. But oh, there was so much more kissing. Thank catchingfirestill3 goodness.

When I watch movies or read books that really grab me, I know I love them because of how they affect me emotionally. If I spend the next few days replaying them in my head, empathizing with the characters and wishing I were in the world, I know it was done well. Catching Fire was no exception here. I couldn’t help but feel the same trapped feeling as Katniss, the surrealness of being back in the Arena, but this time knowing there’s no escape. As she watches Cinna’s beating and is lifted into the Arena, a feeling of “Oh, God, it’s really happening and I’m not ready for this” washed over me. When she conspired with Peeta about leaving the alliance, knowing there’s no way out of the Arena but death, I felt it. Call me crazy, but I did. And that is a mark of something good.

Though the third book is my least favorite in the trilogy, I’m excited for the two-part installment (thanks, Harry Potter, for that trend… while you may have needed the six hours to tell the final book, now every film adaptation feels it needs multiple movies as well, when all it really wants is more money…  I’m looking at you Twilight and The Hobbit).  I can’t wait to see the end play out, and more Haymitch on screen is always a bonus.

o-CATCHING-FIRE-PHOTOS-570-1

Advertisements

Black and White and Read all over

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

The Night Circus UK

A magical circus that revolves around a mysterious game of illusion and enchantment, with a love story thrown in? This sounds absolutely perfect for me.

And it was. I absolutely adored The Night Circus.

The book was suggested to me last year by a friend in my teacher book club. She and I have very similar reading taste (her ringtone is Harry Potter, which had me running down the hall to find the source, only to pop in her room – instant friends), and she suggested I would love The Night Circus. Well… it was one of those books. You know the kind… the ones that you download, meaning to read but always forgetting what it’s about and putting it off toward a “later date.” Except then it was chosen for the next book club. Apparently, the stars were in my alignment.

The Night Circus is beautiful. It’s full of all of my favorite literary elements: magic, love, intrigue, multiple narration (okay… that’s a hit or miss depending on the book), stories within stories, and imagery. I was there. I could smell the caramel apples and taste the chocolate drizzled popcorn. I could see the big tents, striped in black and white, and feel the crunch of straw and grass under my feet. I wanted so badly to be able to go to the circus, wander it’s tents and get lost in the magic. I wanted to make a wish on the wishing tree, smell Widget’s aroma-stories, feel the ice garden around me, get lost in the labyrinth.

The story is centered around a mysterious circus, only open at night, that comes and goes without warning or prior acknowledgement. Many of the tents are filled with wondrous and mystifying elements that defy the average Ringling Bros. circus (plus, no clowns!). Unbeknownst to the circus goers, and many of the entertainers, the circus is really a platform for a to-the-death challenge of illusions concocted by rival “magicians,” blinded by stubbornness. The magicians come from differing schools of thought on magical education, and must elect a player to compete in the challenge, bound by magic and kept in the dark about the true nature of the challenge itself. Within these confines, the Night Circus blooms and grows, and love ripens across the players, as is wont to do when two perfectly matched persons are pitted against one another (Romeo and Juliet rings a bell).

Yes, there were some negative elements – I felt the love story should have been introduced earlier and caused more ripples and tensions, and the beginning Marco-Isobel relationship wasn’t clear at first (I thought Isobel was a fake name for Celia, as did the school librarian). Additionally, the ending was predictable, in some manner, thanks to the foreshadowing, though maybe the English teacher/Film major in me is too clever for my own good.

The negatives, however, were greatly outnumbered by the positives. This book really grabbed me and immersed me into its world. There weren’t any characters I found unlikable, and the believability of something so fantastic was still present. I never found myself questioning holes in logic (then again, it IS magic…, and I WAS raised on Harry Potter…), because the magical elements were rooted in realism. According to The Night Circus, while some of us are born with natural abilities, others can simply learn it through books and study, though the power of magic and its teachers has greatly dwindled over time, and when not looking to believe, it is easily missed. On a side note, this is probably one of the reasons why I’m so gullible. Books tell me to believe or it isn’t true, so I believe. Same thing happened with Peter Pan (I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!), and I’m still waiting for that Neverland flight…

The Night Circus takes the reader back to the end of the 1800s, and jumps narrative from the three primary perspectives of Celia, Marco, and Bailey, with the occasional secondary character thrown in for plot development. Celia and Marco’s stories begin in the 1870s and continue until the story’s climax in 1902, whereas Bailey, introduced to the reader in 1897, mostly takes place in the book’s “present,” 1902. It isn’t until the end that the timelines converge. The unusual timeline of the book allowed the characters to be introduced to us at their own leisure, at the right timing – which, as we all know, timing can be crucial.

The Night Circus made me happy. I imagined a place, only open at night, with contortionists, acrobats, and illusionists; with the best circus food imaginable; surrounded by mystery and delight; where every experience is a unique one; with my one of my favorite color schemes (black, white, and for the fans, red); where you can float on clouds, gaze at stars, and stare into the endless white bonfire.

The Night Circus is truly magical, and has rightfully earned a place on my bookshelf among my favorite books.

the_night_circus_book_sculpture_by_wetcanvas-d5xncm7

Best Job Ever.

As usual, I spent the summer of 2013 (just like the summers of 10, 11, and 12) with iD Tech Camps, this time at Towson University, in Maryland. In addition to the awesome dress-up days and theme weeks (this year we had Hawaiian, Disney, America, Cartoon, Hipster, and of course Harry Potter), we had 27 international females (females? at a tech camp?!?) from all over the Middle East and North Africa, who came over with a program called TechGirls. I was even mentioned in their blog! AND I was Director. Management.

And Management means Spirit Hoods.

1098236_10100487665506616_1271016463_n

Embrace the power of the snow leopard.

As director, I got to utilize my teaching skills along with learning how to better and effectively manage, something that has definitely come in handy this year teaching journalism. It was great getting to help the new instructors fine tune their teaching abilities and really come into their own as instructors. PLUS, I got the benefit of getting to play the campers’ games and joke around with them, without having to actually teach, which I get burned out doing after 9 months straight.

AND, another one of my responsibilities was camp photography. Which basically meant I got to walk around all day with a camera, then play in Lightroom. We even inspired a photo contest on the iD Staff facebook page, and won it twice. And then I made trading cards in Photoshop.

994530_10100487657652356_571240106_n

Seriously. I’m an awesome boss 🙂

Now, it wouldn’t be camp without a camp video… so naturally I made one of those too. Not only did it make it to the facebook page, but it also went up as one of FOUR on the iD Tech official videos page. One of FOUR. There were at least 10 made this year. Booyah. (so you know, it’s the “Can’t Hold Us” video, and the spirit hoods make an occurrence).

Best Job Ever. Apply here. You won’t regret it.