Sugar Plum Problems: A Winterspell Review

Howdy readers! LGG&F will be on a break for Thanksgiving, but don’t worry! We’ll be back December 2nd for the content you’re all here for. For now, though, let’s talk about the holidays.

Not too long ago, I ventured into my local Barnes and Noble in search of a specific book I’ve had my eye on for many days. You know, for an early Xmas gift to myself. Though I scoured the teen section high and low, I couldn’t find it and resigned myself to missing out on the fairy tale re-telling goodness I was going after. However, then a strange mood hit me: on that day, I was damned if I was going to leave the store empty-handed! So after looping around the aisle a couple times, I finally picked out another book and left the store feeling apprehensive, but intrigued.

 As it’s November and media has dictated that we should already be waist deep in mistletoe and and various other Decemberween/Festivus/etc. accoutrements, I was immediately drawn to something with that sort of holiday feel to it.  But unlike many, I… never had any attachment to the story of The Nutcracker. Sure, I know the story and Tchaikovsky’s music, but I never went to see the ballet in person. In fact, I can’t ever recall liking the old tale that much. Despite my indifference, with a promising endorsement from Marissa Meyer (author of Cinder) endorsed in sugar plum purple on the cover and the promise of much more than dancing rats and swordfights, I journeyed into the world of Claire Legrand’s Winterspell. At the end of it all, I truly felt like I had weathered a great battle, but not necessarily for the reasons Legrand was intending.

Spoilers beneath the cut, and trigger warnings for rape and sexual harassment.

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Trailer Tuesdays: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

It’s been so long since the first Snow White and the Huntsman movie that I was more than surprised to see that they were actually going forward with a second movie in the same universe. I didn’t really love the first movie—I liked it more for what it was trying to do than for what it actually did—but based on this trailer, the franchise might draw me back in for part two.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Movie Review

Mockingjay Part 2 Poster with Katniss on FireI can’t say that I was completely blown away by the final installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The movie felt a little choppy, jumped around in a few places, and had a habit of throwing characters at us without any kind of proper introduction. As Mockingjay was the only book in the franchise that I didn’t finish reading in its entirety, I found its second installment to be the most confusing of all the movies. I knew how it was going to end and I knew which characters were going to die beforehand thanks to Wikipedia, but I shouldn’t have had to rely on that in order to know who people were.

But fear not, people who really want to see Mockingjay, I would not say that the movie is all bad. Sure, it’s choppy and rushed, but it still had all the excitement that I had come to expect from it, and there were more than a few places that caused me to jump a little in my seat.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at Mockingjay Part 2. Spoilers up ahead.

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Magical Mondays: Science or Magic? Why Not Both?

We’re big fans of both magic and science on this blog, so unsurprisingly, any time they intersect all our heads swivel in unison like prairie dogs. In the era of the Internet, 3D printing, and nanotechnology, never has science felt more like magic than it does now. While it is expected for science fiction writers to be heavily influenced by the latest inventions and the most puzzling enigmas of quantum physics, it seems that for all the incomprehensible wonders science has achieved, rarely do fantasy authors take advantage of the ever-shrinking median between technology and magic. A notable and incredibly well executed exception is Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, which paints magic more as a slightly fanciful elaboration upon known principles of physics than as a nebulous and unexplainable form of power.

Wands that shoot lasers.

Wands that shoot lasers.

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Diversity Troubles and More Issues with Intersectionality in the Harry Potter Franchise

fantastic beasts cast

By now, you all have probably heard about the extremely white cast for the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is extremely disappointing for those of us who were hoping that the film would have more diversity, as we certainly  thought that a film set in 1920s New York would have at least a few characters of color. Alas, that was not the case, but apparently enough people have complained about this issue that producer David Heyman felt the need to speak out about the issue.

Like all of Jo Rowling’s works, [Fantastic Beasts] is populated with a variety of people and that will be the same in this series over the course of the films. There will be people of various types of ethnicities. In New York in the 1920s, there was a segregation between white and black, the neighborhoods were largely separate, and that is reflected in [the film]. But the wizarding world is a much more open and tolerant society where people of color and different ethnic backgrounds exist harmoniously together. There are people of color filling this world in an organic way.

There is so much about this comment that disappoints me that I barely know where to begin. That outrage aside, there are several issues at play here that need to be discussed.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Christian Initiation and Geeky Coming of Age



By the time this posts, I’ll have spent two full days at a workshop learning how to more effectively navigate people through the rather detailed stages of Christian Initiation in the Catholic Church. There are so many moving parts: say these things here, do these actions here, meet the bishop here, pour water and oil there… it’s enough to make a theologian’s head spin. Today’s Catholic Initiation can be pretty simple or pretty complicated. But it got me thinking about how much simpler initiation experiences seem in some of my favorite geeky stories. Often we’re treated to a single coming of age ceremony or experience that makes a character an adult or a full member of their community. But these ceremonies still serve an important role in our characters’ lives, and we can see parallels between them and the kinds of things religious people do to mark the stages of initiation into their community.

Of course, initiation ceremonies aren’t just limited to Christianity or even to religion. From Masonry to fraternities and sororities to clubs to professional organizations, rituals and oaths are how we mark that someone is “one of us.” Christianity is the religion with which I’m most familiar, so I’ll use it as a lens to view some examples of coming of age and initiatory experiences in geek culture. I’d certainly be interested to see a similar treatment from a different (particularly non-Western) religion’s perspective. So let’s dive in.

Some spoilers for Dune, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Giver, and Doctor Who below.

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What Would Steve Rogers Do?

On December 20, 1940, Captain America #1 went on sale, and the world learned the name Steve Rogers. The United States was nearly a year away from declaring war on Nazi Germany, but famously, Steve Rogers debuted with a right hook to Hitler’s jaw.


Despite the star-spangled costume and the hyper-patriotic code name, Steve never falls into the traps of American jingoism. He resiliently stands for the better angels of our nature, and for the highest ideals of the American experiment.

Last Friday night, a terrible crime was committed in Paris. As frightened citizens and visitors sought shelter, Parisians responded with the social media hashtag #PorteOuverte—open door—offering their homes to anyone who needed to get off the streets during that dark night. But an ocean away, twenty-six American governors gave in to the opposite urge, closing their doors to refugees fleeing the same evil.

In this world, in this America, Steve Rogers will return to theaters with Captain America: Civil Warstanding tall as a frightened world demands registration and monitoring of super heroes. And as cowardice and bigotry threaten fundamental American values, it’s time again to turn to the Star-Spangled Man.

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