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Thursday, March 30

Awesome Artist Alert | Merwild

Thursday, March 30

Sometimes, the best part of being in a fandom is seeking out—or happening upon—the great works of related content other people in said fandom create. I'm a huge fan of fanfiction, fan videos, and fan art (when done well, mind you) and enjoy being able to celebrate the things I'm excited about with more than just the original thing. When you love something, you want it all, you know?

I can't recall when I first ran across the art of Merwild, a.k.a. Coralie Jubénot, but I was enamored from the very start. She creates absolutely stunning illustrations inspired by some of my favorite pop culture properties, including Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses and Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, which are three of my favorite YA series.

I mean:

Six of Crows

Sarah J. Maas

And here's a Thane, from Mass Effect, just because.

Wow, right?

Check out more of her art—WARNING: some of it is NSFW—on her DeviantArt or her Twitter.

Friday, March 24

Haiku Revieu | Beauty and the Beast

Friday, March 24
Beauty and the Beast

Live-action cartoon
Hermione meets the Beast
Little Me is awed

An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

Let me preface this review: The animated Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney animated film, and when I was 8, it was my everything. I had the sheet and comforter set, the books, and the Barbies. I loved everything about the story of a girl who loved books falling in love with a literal beast of a man who just needed some proper guidance on how to behave in polite company. I loved that Belle loved books and reading as much as I did, and have long believed that Beast's gift of his entire library to Belle was one of the best gifts ever given.

So when I heard that they were making a live-action version of the movie, I couldn't help but be skeptical. Would they do it justice? Would Adult Mandy feel the same as Little Mandy about the story (which, yes, is somewhat problematic, but I won't get into that here). Watching the news roll in about the casting, then when watching the trailers, I reserved judgement. This wasn't going to be a case of "it was OK"; because of my connection to the source material, the film was either going to be amazing or absolute crap.

Thankfully, my feelings fall firmly in the former camp. I adore this movie. From the very first word of Mrs. Potts' introductory voice over, I found myself in a trance. An online friend put it perfectly when she said, "Childhood love is a helluva drug."

I've heard some people critique the movie for being a near shot-for-shot remake of the animated version, but that didn't bother me one bit. (See: My long-held love for the original.) I love how the various scenes, characters and costumes are brought to life with updates that made them feel more real and less cartoony. I also really enjoyed the new parts, from the backstory about Belle's mother to the Beast's solo song as Belle leaves the castle to rescue Maurice. (This seems to be an unpopular opinion, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .) I thought the casting was excellent, and was surprised at how much I liked both Emma Watson and Dan Stevens' voices. (The latter was largely edited to sound more "beastly," but again—it worked well for me.)

I am always down for Ewan MacGregor in a a singing role, and wish there'd been more of an opportunity for him to showcase his talents. (He's got a killer voice.) Luke Evans as Gaston was spot on, and I appreciate Le Fou's character growth; instead of being the flat, jokey sidekick, he actually had quite a bit of depth.

And I can't even explain how amazing it was to see the Beast's transformation from beast back to man. Dan looked exactly like the animated version, right down to the terrible hair and hilarious manpris.

I do have to nitpick a couple of things, though. One: The Growl. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. That was awkwardly unnecessary. (But I'm totally #TeamBeard.) And two: I find it somewhat odd how the servants reacted to Beast's imprisonment of Belle. The live-action versions of the characters seemed much more inclined to excuse his behavior, while the animated versions only let him go so far. 

I highly recommend seeing this movie, especially if you're a life-long fan like me.

Check it out:

Thursday, March 23

Happy Birthday, Mister!

Thursday, March 23

The past year has been one of major highs and major lows, but there's no one I'd rather have by my side through it all than this guy, who just so happens to have a birthday today. Together, we can make it through anything and everything, and come out stronger in the end.

To the ends of the universe, my love—and happy birthday!

Friday, March 17

Nerd News | American Gods trailer

Friday, March 17

Dayum, son—this trailer looks AMAZING.

I read American Gods years ago, so I don't remember many details, but I do remember loving it. (I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan, in general.) I'm wavering on whether I want to read it again before the show airs; on the one hand, I'd help myself remember the characters and plot, but on the other, there's that whole "adaptations aren't always accurate" issue.

We'll see. There's time before April 30.

Also of note:

Wednesday, March 15

Haiku Revieu | Logan

Wednesday, March 15

Wolverine is old
Taking care of Charles X.
They both curse a lot

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

Going into Logan, I only knew two things: The movie would be a hard one to watch—I tear up every time I see the trailer with "Hurt" played with it—and it wasn't an X-Men storyline I was familiar with. (I've never read the Old Man Logan comics, which I heard the film was loosely based on?) Still, I wanted to see it, particularly because it featured an R-rating, and I was curious to see how the Wolverine and Professor X we "know" would translate to a more adult film.

And Logan is definitely a more adult film. I'm not typically squeamish when it comes to action gore, but there were a few scenes in which Logan stabbed someone with his claws and I cringed and hid my eyes. Little Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen, who is awesome) is brutal, too. And hearing Professor X spout the F word is jarring. (Hearing Logan call someone a motherf**ker, however, is actually really fitting for his character.) All of the more adult themes fit with the movie's plot and feel, though—the film is bleak and heartbreaking, and watching someone get stabbed through the chest in a ridiculously over the top manner adds a bit of levity1 to a movie that otherwise might break you.

That's not saying it didn't break me. I cried—hard—and for way more of the film than I'd been expecting. (Yes, even with my feelings toward the "Hurt" trailer in mind.) Watching Logan and Professor X as old, broken men, rather than superheroes, did a number on my emotional state. Add to that the fact that Old Charles reminded me of my own father, and the fact that the day Patrick Stewart leaves us2 will be a day I call out of work sick because I will be that distraught, and I felt like I'd taken a beating alongside Logan. And that's not even taking into account when [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] happened. (Happy to chat about the REDACTED moments in the comments.)

All that said, I think the movie was great, and I love that although part of it was an ending, it left the door open for further adventures with Laura and the rest of project X-23.

Check it out:

1I know that's a strange word to use in this situation, but I think you know what I mean.
2Knocking on all wood that this NEVER HAPPENS.

Friday, March 3

The 2017 North Texas Teen Book Festival

Friday, March 3

I mentioned this great event last year, but the time has come yet again for another North Texas Teen Book Festival.

The festival, which is tomorrow (March 4) at the at the Irving Convention Center in Irving, Texas, will feature panels and keynote sessions with Young Adult and Middle Grade authors. The event is free, and you don't have to be a teen to attend.

This is my third year to go—a group of my friends from the Austin chapter of the FYA Book Club have gone each year since it began in 2015. The festival organizers manage to outdo themselves each year, and I know this year won't be an exception to that exponential growth of awesome.

In addition to attending panels, I'll also be moderating one at 11 a.m. with authors Kate Hart (After the Fall), Brendan Kiely (The Last True Love Story, The Gospel of Winter, All American Boys), Jennifer Mathieu (Afterward, Devoted, The Truth About Alice), Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) and Jeff Zenter (The Serpent King, Goodbye Days). The panel's title is Betrayed!, so laughs will surely be had*.

Check out the festival's website for more info about the rest of the panels and the authors attending.

And if you're attending, definitely let me know so we can say hi!

*I'm being facetious, but I do hope it's a fun panel, even if it verges into some dark territory.

Wednesday, March 1

Hey March | 2017 Man Calendar

Wednesday, March 1

Download this page of the 2016 Man Calendar for personal use by clicking on the image; it will open in a new window. Right/control click to save it. Then print the page on letter-size cardstock, and trim it to 6"x9".

Desktop version:

Find the rest of the 2017 Man Calendar here.