A Quirky Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Abridged synopsis from the official Quirk Books website:

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather— were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive…”

My Grandfather is an extraordinary, albeit “peculiar” man. He has always been mysterious, to say the very least.

He was adopted as a young boy, and although he has since unearthed his buried past, for years I entertained the notion that he had been a young Prince of some grand, foreign land, spirited away in a desperate final act by a usurped Royal family. I would daydream that one day all would be revealed, and I’d inherit a title (and perhaps even a horse) overnight.

His entire life seems to have run in a series of unbelievable events. As a child he was forced to smoke cigarettes for the amusement of grown-ups, and as a grown-up himself dressed up as Superman and climbed up onto the roof of his house to entertain the neighbourhood children. The stories of my Grandfather’s efforts to woo my Grandmother make The Notebook pale in comparison (sorry, Ryan, but he built her TWO homes). I blame their story for the fact that to this day I remain decidedly single.

He is a master craftsman, self-taught, of course. There are four Grandfather clocks currently chiming in his home (one for each of his four children), and every one of them was made by hand. His talent truly knows no bounds, and he even went as far as to paint portraits onto the clock faces; mermaids, seascapes and flowers decorate what would otherwise have been white space behind the whirling hands.

He is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating people I know, and his story is the reason I enjoyed this particular novel so very much.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children unfolds as Jacob, our sixteen-year-old protagonist, embarks on a journey that will retrace the steps of his Grandfather’s fantastically peculiar life. As is typical of any good hero’s journey, Jacob is still reeling with the shock of tragic personal loss and questioning his own sense of self when he is offered a so-called “reprieve” on a remote island off the coast of Wales.

It’s here that he comes face-to-face with some of the characters that once played starring roles in the tall tales his Grandfather would regale him with when he was a young boy. He encounters an extraordinary woman (with an extraordinary gift) and befriends the orphans with oddities that she has taken under her wing. By the final chapter Jacob himself has realized what the reader has known since page one; that the life he is destined to lead shall be equally as remarkable as his Grandfather’s was before him.

The movie rights have already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox, and although I’d be first in line to see this tale played out on the big screen, the pages are rife with such vivid imagery that it needs to be enjoyed in the way that it was originally intended; as a book that will encourage and inspire readers of all ages to put their imaginations to good use.

The author, Ransom Riggs, had originally only intended to create a picture book featuring the collection of mildly macabre vintage photographs he had collected at swap meets, but was advised by an editor at Quirk Books to take inspiration from the images and create a narrative instead. Fans of the book will be forever in debt to that editor, as Riggs manages to seamlessly weave a tale of romance, intrigue and adventure. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is like Big Fish meets X-Men (if whimsy were to take the place of Wolverine). It’s as hopeful as it is haunting, and gives a whole new meaning to the expression “family demons”.

What truly stuck with me, however, was the poignancy of the plot that revolved around Jacob and his beloved Grandfather.

It seems as though many popular YA books feature protagonists that are either orphans or children fleeing broken homes. As a result, there is never a real sense of where they came from- the focus is entirely upon where they are headed. Clearly this formula works, but it was a welcome change to read about the family bonds than can span (and sometimes skip) whole generations.

  • Published: June 7th, 2011
  • Publisher: Quirk Books
  • Pages: 352
  • Readership: Young Adult
  • Genres: Fantasy, mystery
  • Rating: 5 1/2 Harry Potters out of 7.
  • Buy it here! Or better yet- at your local bookshop!

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Why Nobody Should Love Marineland

One year, when I was just a little girl, I received a toy orca and a toy bottlenose dolphin for my birthday. That same year, for Christmas, I asked Santa for another orca and another bottlenose dolphin. My parents did not understand why I wanted more of the same toys, and I was forced to explain that the toys were lonely and required separate pods. Blaming the WWF pamphlets they had ordered for me, and the almost idiot-savant levels of obsession they had provoked, they gave in to my seemingly nonsensical request and for Christmas I found two more orcas and two more dolphins in my stocking. From that point on I took advantage of every available holiday, asking only for more whales and porpoises. By the time I was finally sated, I had accumulated three orcas, four dolphins, a beluga (in an effort to appease me when they could no longer find orcas), a grey whale and her calf, and a humpback and her calf. Our bathtub turned into the ocean every time I had a bath. I can vividly recall my mother standing at the sink removing her contact lenses, beseeching me to wash my hair as I flipped my orcas into the air and watched them hit the water with a splash.

“They’re breaching!” I’d shout over the noise. Their joy seemed so much more imperative than clean hair.

I used to have a baby beluga, but it went missing at some point over the course of the past decade. Marineland also lost a baby beluga, but theirs was an actual living, breathing mammal that died as a result of injuries sustained following a two hour attack by two adult male belugas.

When my parents set up an inflatable pool in the backyard, I’d swim around and attempt to breach myself, and insist that they watch me, the way that I had watched humpbacks breaching in the wild when I visited my Grandparent’s summer home in Massachusetts. I’d fill my mouth with water, hold my breath for as long as was humanly possible, and then raise my head and spit it out in a misty puff. If someone didn’t mime taking a photograph I’d helpfully call- “I’m SURFACING!”- and try again.

A trip to Marineland was only inevitable. I was six-years-old when my parents took me to Marineland for the first (and last) time. Here’s what I can remember:

Morosely tossing marshmallows down into what was little more than a cement pit filled with bears.

Sobbing and begging my father to lift me up because I was small and frightened by the hungry deer vying to take the food pellets out of my hand.

A comical image, but a miserable reality for the deer, who do not eat unless someone pays to feed them out of a cone. They live in a corral of dirt and sand. There is nowhere for them to graze freely.

Absolutely nothing regarding orcas, dolphins, or seals.

The only orca I remember is the inflatable one that my parents purchased for me as a souvenir. On the way home I pretended our car was a tank and bumped its nose repeatedly against my window, making clicking sounds at the other cars passing us by on the highway.

The reason I feel compelled to share this now is because even then, as a child, I understood that keeping such incredible mammals in a fish bowl was wrong. Although most Canadian citizens were horrified by what the recent “Toronto Star” exposé unveiled, there have been a few voices raised in defence of Marineland and other “parks” like it.

“There are MILLIONS of people who go to Marineland, Zoo’s and African Lion Safari every year. Children especially love being able to be that close to animals without being at risk. Many develope a love for animals and desire to grow up to be Vet’s. That’s not something looking at a picture in a book, nor Jacques Cousteau documentary can create people!” –Someone on the internet who clearly hasn’t actually seen a Jacques Cousteau documentary.

Most tout the “educational value” of such establishments, while others imply that the animals will lead a better life in captivity than they would in the wild.

Having been to Marineland as a child, I can honestly say that relying on parks like Marineland to educate children on the wonders of these magnificent creatures is tantamount to studying human behaviour by visiting a penitentiary (Jacques Cousteau would concur). It is preposterous to suggest that you will find accurate depictions of either species in either environment. You will only see what we as a society have reduced them to. In the case of Marineland, mere commodities with convenient permanent smiles on their faces.

“A dolphin’s smile is the greatest deception. It creates the illusion that they’re always happy.” – Ric O’Barry

When I asked my mother what she recalled about our visit to the park, she admitted that she felt guilty for having taken me, as I was saddened by the bears, frightened by the deer, and baffled and upset by the orcas. According to her, I kept asking why their dorsal fins had fallen over, and weren’t standing up tall and proud the way they did in my books. I refused to say it was my birthday and raise my hand when one of the trainers asked who wished to be kissed by an orca, as I was too distracted by the lone killer whale off to the side in a holding tank, swimming mindlessly in circles.

Even at six, I understood that orcas lived in pods, the same way we humans live with our families. As an adult, I understand so much more. I understand that orcas weigh up to 2,500 pounds on average, grow to be thirteen to twenty feet in length, and migrate thousands of kilometres every year with their pods containing upwards of fifty members spanning over four generations. They are incredibly social and highly intelligent, capable of passing hunting tips down from one generation to the next.

Anyone that has read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” knows that dolphins have been long regarded as one of the world’s most intelligent species-

Anyone that has seen “The Cove” understands their present plight, and how “amusement parks” like Marineland take part in promoting the slaughter that takes place every year in Taiji, Japan-

I do not feel compelled to go into detail regarding the inevitable physical effects orcas and dolphins suffer as a result of spending decades in what is little more than an above ground pool, as these have been discussed in-depth in the videos and articles released by the “Toronto Star”, but the psychological distress they undoubtedly undergo on a daily basis is equally as abominable. The same can be said for the other creatures Marineland showcases. The sea lions with cataracts, the bears in their cesspool, and the deer, that in hindsight are probably frightened on a daily basis as badly as I was as a child.

I have loved animals my entire life, and I have hated Marineland for nearly as long. I am writing this on behalf of the little girl I was not so long ago. I’m asking the parents out there who are good parents like mine to stop and reconsider their choice when their child expresses an interest in visiting Marineland. There is infinitely more information available to the public now than there was in the early nineties, elucidating all of the many reasons why Marineland (and Sea World and any other likeminded park) should not receive the support of the public. Educate yourselves and your children in turn. Respect their intelligence; they can handle so much more information than you think if it is shared in a comprehendible way. I am not suggesting that you sit them down to watch The Cove (although you should); I’m simply suggesting you explain to them that animals in captivity are not the same as animals in the wild, and if they truly love them, they will simply have to wait. Buy them books, go to a museum, but bypass the amusement park and wait until you can take them somewhere to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats. Despite what parks like Marineland would like you to believe, there is no educational merit to be found in watching a lone orca swim morosely in circles, staring vacantly at the cement bottom of her miniscule tank. The terrible reality is that when you visit parks like Marineland, you are paying hundreds of dollars to watch an animal die.

If you live in North America, you’re literally surrounded by the ocean. In Mexico, from January to March, thousands of grey whales enter the lagoons of Baja, California for breeding and birthing. From February to March, humpbacks can be seen from hotels in Oahu and Maui. In Manitoba you can see belugas and even snorkel in the water in order to hear their magnified vocalizations. In Quebec, from May to October, you can see finbacks, humpbacks and even belugas in Tadoussac. Minke and pilot whales frequent Cape Breton from June to October and yes, wild orcas are easily accessible as well. Three resident pods reside along the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, and can be seen mere feet from boats from May to October.

Trust me, your animal loving child will thank you in the future.

On Sunday, October 7th, I attended the final protest held at Marineland. I was determined to participate, not only because this is an issue I feel passionately about, but because Ric O’Barry, the advocate and man behind The Cove and a personal hero of mine was set to speak. I arrived early with a friend, and participated in the protest, waving at the cars that drove by and honked in support. I was not, however, one of the people to hop the fence and disrupt the on-going “show”. As much as the notion of the final show day being spoiled by protesters pleases me, I do not advocate scaring little children. Though I’m certain the protestors did not intend on spooking any children, I do not believe it was appropriate to rush up into the stands. Instead of turning my attention upon the attendants in the stadium, I focused on the children outside of the park- the children participating in the protest. They were there with their parents too, but not to watch any dolphins performing silly tricks.

Six-year-old Dillen Grant of St. Catharines holds a sign and joins over 300 protesters gathered on Portage Road in front of Niagara Fall’s Marineland Saturday, August 18th, 2012. Tara Walton/Toronto Star

Keeping in mind the topic of this article, I requested permission from their parents to ask them some questions. I told the parents that I was working on an article about my first experience at Marineland, and the views I developed myself as a child. To their children I posed questions like- “How do you feel about Marineland?” and asked them if they would be willing to wait to see their favourite animals if it meant being able to see them in the wild. Here is what they had to say:

According to Sydney, aged 12, Marineland is “horrible” because they are “keeping wild animals who need lots of space in small tanks.” Reese, aged 6, simply said she “hates Marineland” for the same reason. They want to see all of Marineland’s animals released back into the wild.

Brandon, aged 11, “feels bad” because Marineland is “hurting animals that didn’t do anything.” He loves dolphins and wants to see them released. Justin, his twin, says Marineland is “horrible”. He loves sea lions, and both boys said they would be willing to wait and see their favourites out in their natural habitats, rather than pay for a ticket to an aquarium.

Then there was little, red-headed Ayden, aged 7. He has been protesting Marineland for two years, and wants to see it shut down. He says Marineland “tortures” their animals. He wants to see them free (the bears especially). Ayden and I actually had quite a bit in common. He’s anti-fur and loves the Harry Potter series! What a guy!

There is no doubt in my mind that if the parents that had brought their children to Marineland to enjoy the last show of the season read this, they would dismiss the children above by implying that they were simply reiterating their parents’ words. They would suggest that they were operating under their parents’ influence, and that they never would have come to those conclusions on their own.

I suppose they would have a point. After all, the same can be said about their own children, who consider Marineland fun and believe an orca swimming alone is neat instead of horribly, horribly sad. How could they possibly be expected to know better when the people they look up to the most in this world at this present moment in time encourage those feelings?

  • To sign the petition to help save Marineland’s animals, click here.
  • To read and keep up with the “Toronto Star” reports, click here.
  • To keep up-to-date with the efforts to shut down Marineland, bookmark the Marineland Animal Defense website here.
  • Share your own thoughts with me on Twitter here.

Why The Dark Knight Doesn’t Quite Rise to the Challenge

This is the third time I have attempted to begin writing this review. They say the third time’s a charm, though! Unless, of course, it’s in regards to the third part of a Batman trilogy. In a last ditch effort to not simply diverge on a diatribe that would make Two-Face seem sapient, I’m going to break this review down into parts. I’ll warn you now that this review will contain more spoilers than there are prostitutes in Old Town (plenty!), so look away if you wish to remain unsullied.

And here we go-

Batman/Bruce Wayne:

What the fuck, Bruce? Where do I even begin?

I worked at Silver Snail Comics for five years, and every day I went to work I made it my personal mission to prove that Batman was- hands down, without a shadow of a doubt- the BEST comic book hero out there. Five years of hard work were very nearly diminished within the first five minutes of this film.

Are you CRYING, Bruce? Oh, your knees hurt? You didn’t think to tack on an order for knee pads while you were shipping in high-tech Kevlar jockstraps from Japan? MAN UP.

My willing suspension of disbelief simply refuses to extend to the lengths that would be required for me to believe that Batman would find himself hung up on Katie Holmes’ vapid interpretation of Rachel Dawes for nearly a decade. Maggie Gyllenhaal brought incredible depth to a character that had been written for the sole purpose of dying in order to advance the plot of the men (oh, Nolan), but I still could not find it within myself to believe that any man would spiral into a depression so all-encompassing that for eight years he would not manage to function socially as a result of losing a woman he had known on and off for two years and had kissed twice. Seriously. She hit him as often as they kissed.  What is this, Spider-Man? Stop crying; rub some Tiger Balm on those joints and GET OUT THERE.

Don’t get me wrong, there are few things I love in this world more than Christian Bale with a beard, but I love Batman even more than I love his slightly ginger facial hair and I was simply not willing to accept the fact that he’d spent the past eight years hobbling around his manor with a scowl, exhibiting virtually no interest in anything- including the company his father left him- besides tree-hugging and archery.

I actually applauded when Selina Kyle kicked his cane out from beneath him because by that point I was so sick and tired of his moping.

Now it’s time for a story.

When I was a child I was inspired by the acrobatics of The Animated Series’ Catwoman to learn gymnastics. I quit my actual classes when my instructor forced me down into the splits (I winced even writing that), and learned, through a process of trial and (painful) error, how to do everything she could do. I could walk on my hands, cartwheel, back flip, and was once so flexible that I could lie flat on my front and watch TV with my legs bent over my shoulders so that my feet were flat on the ground on either side of my head.

My point is this: If I tried any of that shit today I would probably die.

After ten years of presumably doing nothing besides pissing money away and weeping over a framed photo of Rachel, all Bruce Wayne needs is a knee brace and he can not only operate the Batpod but outwit and overcome numerous members of The League of Shadows? He’s not out of practise at all? No? Okay. Sure. You know what? I’ll take it. It’s a movie. One of my favourite shots was of Batman walking in bad-ass slow-motion up to the fallen member of the motorcycle gang, his cape whipping around his muscular calves, and that wouldn’t have been possible without his robo-tech Forrest Gump knee brace, so, fine.

With that being said, the fight that took place between Batman and Bane was one of the least dramatic or impactful fights I have ever seen on the big screen. The commercials for “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” roused a more emotional response out of me. Although his physicality clearly did not suffer as a result the eight-year hiatus, his mind evidently took a turn for the worst. When I- a member of the audience- am thinking a step ahead of The Batman– something is very wrong.

Did Batman, “The World’s Greatest Detective” truly not clue into the fact that Bane appeared to be wearing some kind of breathing apparatus? HIT HIM IN THE FACE. No? Another kidney shot? Are those sharp, pointy devices on your gauntlet gloves there for decoration? COME ON. At one point I thought, ohohoho, surely he’s about to disconnect a few of those tubes and Bane is going to fly into a panic-driven-blind-rage and shit will get REAL but…no. Nothing happened.

In the end Bane didn’t even “break the bat”, he just dislocated a disc. It was like watching a “Dancing With the Stars” move gone horribly wrong, not an incredible fight between two worthy contenders.

Speaking of dancing, let’s take a moment to discuss the horizontal tango.

First of all, I get it. Marion Cotillard is stunning. However, when you expect us to believe that Bruce Wayne lost the woman he loved so much that he was willing to sacrifice his life-long relationship with Alfred for the sake of her mere memory, it seems extremely forced and out of place when he’s literally making out with a busty French woman on top of her portrait a few hours later.

When did those two even hit it off?! There was no sense of a relationship budding between the pair, no sense of there being any sort of internal conflict warring within Talia. So…why did they have sex? If, unlike the comics, where the character of Talia Al Ghul is multi-faceted and interesting, she had no romantic interest in Bruce Wayne, why would she have felt compelled to allow him to have sex with her? To establish the trust required for him to hand her control of the atomic bomb in the basement of his warehouse? She could not have made herself seem worthy by showcasing the merits of her mind and outwitting him? She had to have sex with a man we can only assume she despised? The man that she believed to be responsible for the untimely death of her beloved father? The father she is willing to blow up an entire city for? As a woman who loves comics (and my Dad!), I felt resentful of that choice. It not only diminished the plot concerning Bruce’s heartbreak over the loss of his one true love, but it diminished Talia as a character entirely.

At this point in time I’m wracking my brain attempting to come up with something- anything I liked as far as Batman’s arc in this story went, but it’s hard. It’s really hard. The elements that I enjoyed are all entirely thanks to Christian Bale and his incredible ability as an actor. I still believe he is one of the only actors working today capable of successfully playing all three elements of The Batman. Batman, Bruce, and Bruce Wayne the playboy. I loved his humour in this, and I wish he had had a better story to tell.

Bane:

Oh, Bane.

When casting was initially announced, I was angry that the role of Bane, a villain from South America, had been fulfilled by a white, British guy. I still find that unsavory, but at least Tom Hardy is talented. Does that fact justify yet another role being handed to a white guy? Hardly, but I could write another six pages on that topic alone, so, we’ll move on.

There’s currently a picture of Bane floating around on Facebook, captioned: STILL MORE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS THAN KRISTEN STEWART- and it’s true. It’s impressive how much Tom Hardy managed to emote despite the contraption he was forced to wear. Not that it’s hard to emote more than Kristen Stewart, but still.

His voice is another issue, but I’m not going to waste any time nit-picking. My Dad thinks it sounded like a bad Sean Connery, I thought it was “a lovely, lovely voice“. It did, in a way, make him one of the most unintentionally charming villains I’ve ever encountered, and in the end I felt that was a disservice. I was never scared of Bane. Not once. I will admit I squirmed in my seat when he dropped his hand down on Daggett’s shoulder and drawled- “Do you feel in charge?”- but then what happened next happened off-screen. Perhaps watching “Game of Thrones” has ruined me in some twisted way, but…I’d like to see some violence! I want to be afraid of the villain! I want to see at least one example of his famed ferocity- but all he did was choke people- which I don’t feel is a good choice when your villain breathes like Darth Vader.

I could have liked the story between Talia and Bane, but the relationship between them also severely lacked development. Sure, we got back-story, but that felt like an effort to distract the fans that had never picked up a comic from the fact that R’as Al Ghul had a daughter instead of a son. The only moment that existed between them was weakened by their lack of a connection. Also he was crying. I’m pretty sure at one point I said aloud in the theatre-

“Is he crying?”

“No!”

Yeah. That’s what happens when his morphine muzzle is disconnected. He blubbers like a child with a scraped knee.  It took me five seconds to come up with the winning strategy it took Batman five months in a Lazarus Pit to formulate. Yeah, The Batman. His contingency plan was ultimately to fist-fight Bane again, but this time aim a bit higher.

Really?

Really.

He got beefed up on banana chips and the occasional sip of water, and made it back to Gotham in time to go toe-to-toe with Bane again. I thought that we would finally be delivered with an incredible fight when Batman disconnected one of those tubes, but no, Bane reacted the way I do when I stub my toe.

Bane’s master plan (Talia’s master plan?), on the other hand, was just as feckless. Turn Gotham into an above ground Lazarus Pit? Watch people struggle and climb over one another, seeking the light at the end of the tunnel that in reality was only the approaching train? I get it, but…why? What was the point? Was it really worth keeping Gotham on the map for a few months so that a jury of bad guys could force rich people to take part in mock trials? Your master plan involves a few cases of hypothermia and a big bang? By biding their time, Bane and Talia only provided Batman with a window of opportunity. How he got back to Gotham City without a penny to his name is beyond me, but again- it’s a movie and he’s Batman, so I’m willing to overlook that.

Catwoman/Selina Kyle:

I’m still not willing to overlook those fucking shoes.

For a man who spent two films justifying how and why a man could believably become The Batman, Nolan and his team sure as hell did not approach the ladies with the same careful consideration.

Before I begin, I want to make one thing very clear: I think Anne Hathaway is a wonderful actress and person. I want to be her best friend because she’s probably the kind of person that puts a lot of thought into birthday gifts. Any and all issues I have with the way Catwoman was depicted in this film have to do with the plot and the writing. Oh, and the costume design.

I don’t even know where to begin.

The costume? Why not.

As many people have already pointed out, being kicked hurts. It hurts! It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes the person is wearing, so that attempted justification of her chosen footwear was utterly preposterous. When you graduate from one karate class to another you’re presented with a belt, not shoes. There’s no “black stiletto” level for a reason. Heels aside, has anyone here ever worn a pair of shoes that extend up past the kneecap? Anyone? If I were to ask you- “What profession would require a woman to invest in a pair of thigh-high stiletto boots?”- would the answer- “Cat burglar!”- spring to mind? No?

I could go on, but I’ll refrain, because at this point in time I think we’ve all come to a mutual wink-wink-nudge-nudge understanding that that costume was made with the male fans in mind. Unlike Batman, her suit was not designed to provoke fear; it was not designed to be convenient or even remotely sensible. It was not designed with anything besides sexual provocation in mind, and that is the difference between the men and the women in this Superhero world. If you think I’m being histrionic about the way women are depicted in film (and in comics), and how impactful that is on our society as a whole, look at the difference between the questions Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway were asked in interviews regarding the film. He’s asked interesting, thought-provoking questions, while she’s asked about her diet, and what she had to do in order to fit into that catsuit– as if it were made prior to her being cast, and she had to adjust herself to fit the garment, instead of it being the other way around.

I don’t know about you guys, but I tie my hair back when I’m vacuuming- nevermind engaging in hand-to-hand combat with armed assassins.

Despite all of that, however, my main issue with the suit was the fact that it even existed.

It looked like another one of Lucius Fox’s creations. It was slick, high-tech, and extremely baffling as a result. How did she manage to put together such an elaborate, expensive costume complete with gadgets while Holly was still forced to swindle and turn tricks in the stairwell? Whenever the backstory of Selina Kyle watching over the younger girls in Old Town is utilized, her costume is generally homemade and functional. That backstory is one of the best, and one of my personal favourites, and if you’re going to use it you had better do it justice. Perhaps if she wasn’t stock-piling her money on the off-chance that she’d need to fly first-class out of Gotham on a whim, her friends would no longer be forced to risk their personal safety working the streets for the sake of a few dollars. I’m certain that plot was added so that we too would be willing to wag our fingers and forgive her the way Batman did after she betrayed him (twice), but it wound up having quite the opposite effect in the end, as Holly and the other girls in Old Town were never mentioned again. When Catwoman proposed they find a way off the island, she was speaking to Batman. She never once asked him how he got on the island, and if he could get the girls off in the same way. They were never spared a second thought.

Unless she required an unwitting accomplice to bring an envelope to armed and dangerous thugs, of course.

Like Talia (who I will get to in a minute), Catwoman is an anti-hero, and as multi-faceted and interesting as Batman himself. Attempting to include them both in a single film turned out to be a grievous error, as you cannot introduce both Selina Kyle and Talia Al Ghul in the final act and expect to do them justice. Neither of them wound up having a believable relationship with either Bruce Wayne or Batman, and- as wry as Catwoman may have been- neither wound up playing the parts of characters that you wound up caring a great deal for. I was never rooting for Catwoman, or even remotely invested in her storyline. Her only endeavour in this film was entirely self-motivated, and harebrained at that. A magic eraser? Really?

Perhaps if she had opted for more sensible footwear, and had made an effort to conceal her hair every once in awhile, she wouldn’t have wound up with a record thicker than the heel of her shoe. Just a thought.

With all that being said, there were some wonderful moments. Screaming in the bar in order to avoid suspicion? Great! Kicking the cane? Amazing. Breaking the perverted prisoner’s wrists? Yeah! She even made a dick joke! As wonderful as those wonderful moments were, they made me sad in the end, because watching this film made me realize how important a role Catwoman could have played in this trilogy, but instead we were forced to endure two films worth of Vicki Vale 2.0. because Nolan felt he required a woman to kill.

Yet again.

Talia Al Ghul:

What a waste.

I know, I know, this film was a contract obligation and not the intended conclusion, but just imagine for a moment how sweet it would have been if Miranda Tate had been introduced in the second film. Imagine if they had taken the time to truly develop the relationship between Bruce and Miranda- to explore the underlying push and pull Talia experiences every time she is forced to decide between Bruce and her father.

Imagine actually giving a fuck when she literally stabbed him in the back?

It is honestly kind of mind-boggling how effectively they belittled one of the most interesting characters in the Batman Universe. She was operating like a suicide bomber the entire time- willing to die on behalf of the beliefs of another person. She operated utterly without remorse, or a sense of there being anything beyond her sense of righteous indignation. That kind of black and white portrayal of good and bad is best left for “My Little Pony” cartoons, not the grey scope of the Batman Universe.

And that’s…about…it.

I have nothing more to say about Talia because besides having sex with Bruce Wayne and attempting to blow up some orphans she contributed little else to this film- and that is a damn shame, considering this is a character that has been featured in stories since the early 1970s.

I’m not sure who has less of a chance of survival. Women in Nolan films, or Sean Bean in…anything.

She’s the mother of his child, by the way, and one of the most important characters in the Batman Universe, having saved his life or helped him in dire circumstances numerous times, but would you have any inkling of that depth after watching this film? No. Now on the other hand, consider everything the audience now knows about Harvey Dent, Two-Face, and The Joker having seen The Dark Knight. It is certainly possible to portray characters accurately and provide them with depth over the course of a single film, but instead of providing Talia with any actual character development, she only revealed layers by removing her clothes. The only time Talia had a moment to tell us about herself, she had a knife between Batman’s ribs and she was talking about Bane, telling us his story once again. Yes, the henchman had more screen-time and backstory than either of the two main women involved.

Ten minutes later she was dead (sorry, Damion!), and at the end of the film on both occasions that I saw it, I heard men referring to her as a bitch as we exited the theatre.

Officer “Blake”/Robin:

I can’t.

I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I even loved him in this role; however, I don’t feel that the whole “Robin” shtick at the end was called for.

Officer Blake? Why not just call him Officer Drake and be done with it? We get it! We got it!

You know what; I don’t even want to talk about Robin. I’m just going to pretend it didn’t happen, the same way I’m now pretending that the ending was in reality a Nolan twist, and Alfred was only seeing what he wanted to see. Nope, Bruce Wayne was not sitting there in a pink shirt and Selina Kyle was not sitting opposite him in an ugly dress wearing his mother’s pearls and the hair style I favoured at age four. Didn’t that necklace get broken, by the way? Did eight-year-old Bruce Wayne really clamber around his parent’s bodies collecting scattered pearls?

In the end, watching this film felt like watching your favourite musician in concert, and realizing that they were lip-synching because they had lost their voice but still felt obligated to perform. On the one hand I appreciate the effort, but on the other, it is simply not the same calibre.

At least there was a dick joke (and I’m not talking about Robin).

There’s Vampire in your Cleavage

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and assume that at least one or one million of you are familiar with the show “True Blood”. For those of you who aren’t, it’s a bit like “Twilight“, except with vampires.

Anyhow, last night I found out that one of the sexiest Vamps in all of Bon Temps has reserved a soft spot in her black, soulless heart for animal, environmental and humanitarian charities!

How could you resist?

Pam! Endorsing Charity Pot! It’s a hand and body lotion from LUSH Cosmetics that donates 100% of all proceeds (excluding the tax) to various grassroots charities around the world.

I’ve worked for LUSH for the past four years, and I absolutely love the company. I always recommend Charity Pot to people because I feel that it encapsulates all of our ethics and beliefs in a single pot. Not only is it handmade and packed with beneficial and nourishing ingredients (like Fair Trade cocoa butter and loads of sweet almond oil), but it makes a beautiful gift that gives two ways.

Now, if only I could get Eric to come in for a Massage Bar demo…

Update: Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love Kristin Bauer van Straten any more, she gets involved with my personal favourite Foundation, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust! She is currently in Africa filming a documentary meant to raise awareness concerning the plight of rhinos and elephants in Africa. You can read more about the project, Out for Africa, on the website, and follow Kristin’s Blog here.

Book Review: Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

Although I love the company I now work for (the company sending me to England this summer for “work”), there are times that I miss working at The Silver Snail, the world’s biggest and best comic book store.  I don’t miss having to take customers’ sweaty bags at the front cash in mid-August in an effort to dissuade theft.  I don’t miss the regular who used to smell my hair when I had my back turned.  I certainly don’t miss being treated like The Last Unicorn by men who had evidently never seen a woman within ten feet of a comic book.  I do, however, miss the conversations.  Going to work used to mean participating in heated discussions concerning Marvel versus DC (oh, how my tune has changed since the New 52 relaunch), discussing Catwoman’s animal activism with Bruce Timm himself, or attending pre-screenings of all three Lord of the Rings films (it was a mandatory part of my job, as I was the resident Lord of the Rings expert).

Yes, women read comics too. It is known.

Make no mistake; I’m wildly passionate about my current profession.  I love what I do and I love the people I work with even more, but gone are the days that I would be paid to rant about Catwoman’s ludicrous stilettos (COME ON) or encouraged to discuss Alan Moore’s latest whimsy, and deep down I miss being surrounded by my fellow nerds.  People who are genuinely interested in the latest episode of Dr. Who or BBC’s Sherlock or whether Katniss Everdeen should have picked Gale over Peeta in the end (of course not). I am fortunate enough to work with some like-minded men and women within my new profession, but the ability to discuss The Avengers at length is no longer a job requirement.

I suppose I do feel as though my nerdy side has been somewhat suppressed ever since I entered the realm of the “real world”, and in a turn of events as unfair as Lady’s untimely demise, I left my job at The Snail a year before Game of Thrones hit the airwaves.  Yeah, I pulled a Ned Stark.

Definitely did not think that one through.

Nowadays, finding someone as invested in the series as I am is nearly as entrancing as a baby dragon.  Nerds, like the dragons of Westeros, used to be common, but they’ve become quite a rarity, and so when I stumble upon one (a nerd, not a dragon) I latch onto them like Bran onto Hodor.  If you let me, I could discuss Jaime Lannister’s glorious mane or Jon Snow’s potential parentage for hours on end, and with all that being said, I believe I enjoyed reading Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as much as I did because it felt like I was back behind the counter.  Every time I picked it up I felt like I was sitting down at a panel at The San Diego Comic Con.  Reading it was like having a conversation with a group of people as passionate as I am about Game of Thrones, people who just happened to be extremely enlightened and well-spoken.  This compilation novel includes essays covering topics ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Direwolves and religion, and features authors ranging from game designers to psychiatrists.  Even controversial topics like the sexual violence depicted in the series is covered with a great deal of tact and insight.

When Jonathan Llyr initially asked me to review an advanced copy of the novel for Hardcore Nerdity, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat daunted by the prospect.  I have come to associate the name George R.R. Martin with heavy tomes, you see, and was therefore quite relieved to discover that this book was a feather light 200 pages.  At the time I had only just finished reading A Dance with Dragons, and my feeble arms were still recovering.

You know nothing, Jon…Llyr.

Now that I’ve finished, however, I do wish it had been 900 pages long!  Every essay provides an entirely different perspective.  Every one of them is thought provoking and informative, and although they were penned by highly intelligent and accomplished individuals, not a single one comes across as patronizing or far-fetched. It’s clear that the book was the result of a medley of fans coming together, and is therefore relatable and interesting whether you’re a new or old fan of the series. At times I found myself disagreeing with a notion put forward by one essay, but strong and well-rounded opinions can only be formed when others are first considered.

With that being said, Cersei Lannister is NOT evil, Susan Vaught!  When a lioness takes down a gazelle in order to feed her young is she considered evil?  I think not!

The best thing about Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is that it can be considered a collaboration of conversation starters.  It’s a forum without trolls, a convention without body odour, and an absolute treat for the fans of the series who are now patiently awaiting not only another epic novel, but the next epic season of Game of Thrones.

How “The Walking Dead” is Going to Land me in Prison

All right.

I finally did it.

I watched the first episode of The Walking Dead.

I was dreading it as much as I imagine Catherine Howard dreaded copulating with King Henry VIII (he was ridden with pus-filled boils by that point in time AND suffered from an ulcerated leg wound- do NOT Google that, you will regret it). Why, you ask? Because a horse dies. I was still working at The Silver Snail when The Walking Dead first hit the shelves, and in an effort to spare my delicate disposition, all of my co-workers warned me not to pick up the first issue. Obviously I thumbed through a copy while I was working the front cash, because I’m still prone to the juvenile predisposition of wanting things I can’t have (like Batman and/or Khal Drogo because apparently they’re “not real”). I instantly regretted it- probably as much as you now regret Googling images of ulcerated leg wounds. I told you not to.

I was recently at The New York Comic Con with a few friends who just so happen to be big fans of the show. Outside the Javits Center hung a huge poster advertising the program, and I confessed that I refused to watch it because-

“THAT guy lets his horse DIE. How am I supposed to care about the plight of someone who let their horse get eaten? Good riddance, I say!”

They both staunchly defended Rick Grimes’ honour, assuring me that he “was surrounded” and in a delicate state to boot. I, however, remained dubious.

They told me I should give the show a chance, and even went as far to show me this photo-

in an effort to reassure me that the horse was, in fact, still intact. I, however, was having none of it. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I can’t even watch Humane Society infomercials, and so I remained adamant.

Until I saw the first episode of the second season.

It was so good. It was so good. I was in my hotel in New York, packing for my flight home, when the encore presentation just so happened to come on. My clothes and souvenirs remained strewn about the room as I sat in bed, enraptured. By the time it concluded it was nearly midnight; I had yet to truly begin packing and was forced to visit the front desk in search of scissors (for the purpose of packing- not protection). When I entered the lobby, it was deserted. There was no one sitting in the business area- and the doorman and the concierge were both notably absent.

Clearly, I had walked straight into the onset of a zombie apocalypse.

I backed away slowly, thinking of the policemen stationed literally right down the block (we were staying in a hotel in the financial district- and every night they would form a blockade to prevent the protestors from surrounding Government buildings). More than half of them were mounted, and I was about to run outside with a potted plant as my only weapon in an effort to spare a few horses when the concierge finally appeared (visibly weary but not undead).

I headed over to the desk and requested scissors, only to be informed that he “wasn’t allowed” to lend them to me. In an effort to assure him of my good intentions, I said- “I’m not going to murder my roommate, I promise.” For some reason he was not convinced, so I elaborated: “I need them for bubble-wrap! I was here for the New York Comic Con and I visited the HBO store yesterday and bought two “Game of Thrones” steins and I’m flying out tomorrow and I bought an entire roll of bubble-wrap but I have no way of cutting it and-“ and he gave me the scissors.

I made my way back upstairs, carefully packaged my steins (Stark and Targaryen, in case you were wondering), and hurried to return the scissors before the Concierge began to suspect foul-play. On my way back downstairs, I realized my jeans were undone (who seriously buttons their pants in the privacy of their own room?)- and was busy attempting to do them up one-handed when I stepped into the elevator. The doors had just begun to close behind me when I caught sight of someone- something– in my peripheral and reeled around, shrieking, scissors raised and button forgotten.

The man standing in the elevator was alive, however, so I refrained from severing his spinal column (thanks, Andrea!).

That was the first time The Walking Dead nearly landed me in prison.

Last night was the night I finally decided to watch the series premiere. I’d been following the second season since New York, and felt it was high-time I played catch-up. By the time it was over I was suffering from the worst tension headache I’ve experienced since University (I covered my eyes like a child- as far as I’m concerned, the last six minutes didn’t happen). I had done it, though. It was over. I breathed a sigh of relief, and had just begun to catch-up on my e-mails (far less thrilling), when I heard it.

A tiny whimper.

You know that moment in Fellowship of the Ring when in the midst of the council of Elrond fracas, Frodo pipes up with- “I’ll take it!”- and Gandalf has that beautiful moment where he just closes his eyes and sighs inwardly? No?

Skip to 5:09.

Cassie, my special needs fur-baby (I’m not being insensitive, she has allergies and she is prone to ear infections- at the moment she appears to be suffering from the mange, on account of her bald patch), had decided, at one thirty in the morning, that she had to pee. I immediately thought of Lam Kendal, warning Rick Grimes to keep away from the windows- because the “Walkers” were more active at night and drawn to light and OH GOD NO.

I ventured out into the hallway, looked down at her and asked- “Are you serious right now?”

She was.

She wagged her tail and trotted happily to the door (and simultaneously, I was certain, her demise). I warned her that it was every man for himself out there- that she was on her own if we were attacked. She’d be useless in the event of zombie apocalypse. Her response to threat is to show her belly. I even told her to brace herself for the most gruesome belly-rub of her little LIFE but she still seemed pretty determined to pee. So, I pulled on my jacket, put on my running shoes, got a knife from the kitchen and a bag in the event of poops.

What was that?

Oh, a knife.

Yeah, you read that right. I got a knife.

Despite my threats, I wasn’t actually about to let my dog be turned into a zombie. Who do you think I am? Rick Grimes? To get to her those Walkers would have to get through me, and honestly, that probably wouldn’t be that hard, but it’s my duty as a loving parent.

So I flipped on the porch light, held my breath for a moment, then slowly open the door- just enough to peek outside. Thankfully, no one seemed to be meandering mindlessly. I ventured down the stairs first (skunks are just as terrible as zombies), then let Cassie out. She pranced up the street, oblivious to the danger we were currently in, and I followed, making it down the block without incident (well, I nearly shanked a pylon, but that hardly counts).

While I surveyed the street like Batman she proceeded to roll in a leaf-pile, chew on a stick, itch, clean herself, and attempt to steal my mitten. I was beseeching her to pee when one of my neighbours turned the corner. I was relieved to see a person I recognized, and played it nonchalant; concealing the knife in the sleeve of my jacket (I cannot believe I just typed those words) as I followed him home. I bet he never even suspected he was being used as a human shield.

Thankfully, Cassie pee-peed before I stabbed anyone, but seriously. I awoke this morning to the dawning realization that I had been patrolling my street with a KNIFE mere hours prior, and for a moment contemplated adding The Walking Dead to my Married Movies List (a compilation of films/TV shows I will only watch when I have someone to share a bed with- not because I don’t feel I’m capable of defending myself, but because when I was little I told my mother I’d get married one day so that “the monsters would have another option”), but quickly dismissed the notion.

It’s just too good.

I wonder if I’ll get AMC in prison.

NYCC: New York, I Love You

I’ve spent this past week in The Big Apple, standing in queues. Mostly at the NYCC and/or Chipotle.

I was playing the part of publicist for Ariadne MacGillivray and Kim Belair, who were utilizing NYCC to showcase their transcendent debut novel, “Pure Steele“. I was also in attendance as a member of the press (like Lois Lane, except I can spell and I don’t have breasts). This NYCC in particular was an especially special one for me because it just so happened to be my first! Though I have experienced Fan Expo, The San Diego Comic Con, and Dragon Con, I could not have prepared myself for the absolute madness that is a New York Comic Con- and I mean that in the best sense possible!

On Sunday, for instance, I was standing off to the side, checking my messages when a man walked past me and remarked- in a wonderful Brooklyn accent- “Look at all these people! Look at all these people and no one is fighting! They’re all so happy!

It was true! When I stepped back out onto the floor a zombie walked into me and said- “Oh, shorrah!”- through a mouthful of fake, rotting teeth, placing a decomposing hand upon my shoulder in order to steady me. What a guy! It’s a shame he was decaying, because nice guys are hard to find and he had such good manners.

The convention floor was as organized as you could expect a crowded convention floor to be, though I personally believe that all of the major conventions should invest in some guidance from Temple Grandin. I’m only half joking.

"DC fans can only walk on the left-hand side!"

“DC fans can only walk on the left-hand side!”

Although I was at the Con to work, I did allow myself a well-deserved nerd-break, and set some time aside to meet Jason Momoa- and by “Jason Momoa” I mean Khal Drogo.

Honestly, I cannot express in words how devastatingly handsome this man is in person. Seriously, I can’t. I just tried and I can’t. I’ve been staring blankly at this page for a good five minutes, just reminiscing. I’m almost 100% certain he’s an Adonis who decided to forsake his gilded kingdom for the sake of us mortals, and the 1% of lingering doubt is caused by the fact that he is so incredibly kind and humble. The fact that he is so nice definitely only adds to his appeal. For instance, when he found out our photo was going to be a birthday present, he abandoned the classic “arm around the shoulder” pose and instead did this-

Drink it in.

When I left to join the queue for the signing, Kim asked me how it had felt to be held by him, and I believe my response was a succinct and dazed- “Hard.” When we met again he asked how our photo had turned out, and when I showed him he took back the Khal Drogo headshot he’d just signed (of course I picked the Khal Drogo headshot) and included- Moon of my Life­- beneath his signature. In Dothraki.

In. Dothraki.

Did I mention he spoke a few words of Dothraki in my ear? Because he did. I don’t know what he said and I don’t care. I could go on for days about how statuesque he is, but instead I’ll just post this again-

Shh, let it happen.

He was so remarkably personable and gregarious, which is always so nice to see at conventions. He was Hugh Jackman levels of nice to all of his fans, new and old, and I look forward to seeing what he goes on to do in the future. I know he’ll be missed in the second season of Game of Thrones. I still cannot believe I lost both of my boyfriends within the first season (Drogo AND Robert?!). I mean, reading the novels, I completely understood Daenerys’ decision to put him out of his misery, but now I feel like it was a tad premature. Couldn’t we have kept him around for a few more episodes? Just one or two or nine? Too soon, Dany. Too soon.

That being said, Jason Momoa was only one of the many awesome people I was fortunate enough to encounter this NYCC! Everyone at the Quirk Books booth was incredibly awesome, and I also ran into my SDCC bff, Gary! He totally Jay-Z’ed Kim and I by bringing us to the front of the enormous line to say hello to my good friends Kevin and Bruce. Oh, pardon me, Kevin Conroy and Bruce Timm. That’s right. We’re likethis.

In reality, they probably only vaguely recalled me as “the girl who requested I say her name in the Batman voice” and/or “the girl who actually had the audacity to bicker with me regarding Selina Kyle’s role as an animal activist”, but still, they were both nice enough to at least feign fond memories.

Andrea Romano just so happened to be seated between them, so I made a point to inform Bruce Timm that I was available for voice work (I’ll keep you guys posted).

Well, that’s all for now. It appears my plane is landing in Montreal, so I suppose I should wrap this up (as neatly as I did the Targaryen stein that is currently stuffed into my carry-on). I had a wonderful time at NYCC, and am so looking forward to returning next year. In conclusion I…I…

Wait. What?

Note: This post was originally written in October 2010. I’m moving it over from a different Blog, because…how could I not?!