Anime · Film And Television

Anime Review: My Hero Academia (Season 2 Part One)

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Funimation/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Available April 2nd 2018

Summary:

A school of young superheroes searching for their identity. In a world where 80% of people are born with a superpower, or quirk, Izuku Midoria (known as Deku) is unlucky to find himself one of the powerless. His character and hard-work catches the attention of the greatest hero All Might. All Might passes his quirk on to Deku at the end of Season One. Season two sees Deku return to U.A. High school in time for the annual sports tournament.

Talent scouts are watching for the heroes of tomorrow. Any aspiring hero must catch the world’s attention and gain a place at a hero agency. All Might tells Deku he must introduce himself to the world as the next great power.

As the tournament progresses, Deku rises up the rankings, but has he underestimated his rivals? Class 1B – the general studies class who failed to demonstrate a quirk during the entrance exam – are on the warpath. They are out to demonstrate that they have what it takes to be transferred to the hero course. They want to teach the world, and the hero class, a lesson.

Meanwhile Deku’s rival Todoroki is struggling with his past, and with his manipulative father’s plans. Does the side of Todoroki which comes form his father mean he will end up with the same personality?

Everybody is out to win. The young heroes must figure out what price they are willing to pay for victory.birdGeneral Thoughts:

A great coming-of-age series which will appeal particularly to teenagers. The story picks up on the pressures teenagers are under to achieve academic success, and the impact (both positive and negative) that this can have on their friendships.

Deku makes a relatable lead. Despite proving himself in Season One, he isn’t certain he belongs with the heroes. He makes a good contrast with other characters, who are top of the leader board but less good at empathising with others. The supporting characters have good storylines, which keeps us interested through 12 action-packed episodes.

Internal reflection helps us to understand the characters’ motives. These short scenes, where the characters reflect as if to camera, add variety. Although the action scenes were great, most of the episodes take place in the same arena, and the internal dialogue and the character’s motives are what make one battle significantly different from another.

The adult heroes and villains were interesting, and I would like to watch more of the programme to learn their backstory. There was a suitable level of threat throughout the series, which kept events interesting and reminded us the true purpose of the school tournament was to encourage and educate the next generation of heroes.

The animation is fantastic, with particularly strong action scenes. I also loved the must which is non-intrusive but underlines the emotional drama of the story.

This may be my new binge-watch. A programme as catchy as its theme tune.  

birdThemes:

Rivalry

The stakes are set out early. Winning the tournament enhances career prospects. Every character has their own reason for wanting the prize. There is Uraraka, whose family need a secure income, and there is Todoroki who wants to prove that he can win without resorting to his father’s tactics.

At times the characters are forced to team up and rely on friends. There are some great messages about encouraging each other and drawing strength from other people’s belief. It was interesting to see how these messages were shown alongside the idea of single-minded focus. Unlike in many narratives I have read, where friendship comes out above success, My Hero Academia shows that success does not come at once, and that we need friends along the way to help us maintain the drive which is necessary to success.

The other interesting rivalry was between class 1A and 1B. Initially Class 1A write off the general studies class, but soon learn that their rivals might also have the ability and drive to succeed.

 

Identity

The tournament forces many of the students to revise their values. There is also a big focus on forming an identity because or in-spite of adult influence. Todoroki’s narrative is all about embracing parts of himself while rejecting his father’s manipulative values. Deku is influenced by All Might, but he must find his own ways of using the quirk.

 

The Cost of Power

While Deku is physically hurt by overuse of his power, other competitiors learn that victory cannot come at the price of hurting others.

 

My Hero Academia (Season Two Part One) is available on DVD and Blu Ray from April 2nd. Available for pre-order now.

Thanks to Fetch Dynamic LTD for sending a preview copy. Opinions my own.

 

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Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: AdoraBull by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore

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Tom is all grown up and Derek the bull feels rejected. He and Tom used to be best friends. Now Tom is at school and he wants a pet. A cute pet. Derek sets out on a mission to make himself cute, but it is hard to be convincing when you are a bull …

A hilarious and warm-hearted narrative.

The story is right up to date. It uses internet trends and smart-phones to tell an age-old narrative. This means it could also be used to discuss the pressures of social media. Derek looks online and sees cute animals. Does this mean he needs to change himself? It is great to see modern-day problems reflected in children’s books.

Alfred also learns about his own beauty. When he stops trying to copy others, he does something genuinely cute. This is an important message at a time when young people feel increasingly pressured to alter their appearance.

The story could also be a metaphor for new-arrival jealousy. Alfred wants to upstage any new pets, but when the kitten arrives he bonds with it and everybody agrees that Alfred and Kitten make an adorable pair.

The illustrations allow us to read Derek’s emotions, first when he feels rejected and then as he sets about on his desperate attempt to win Tom’s affections back. They are also funny. It is difficult not to laugh at Derek strutting down the street, bedecked with bows. The reader knows ahead of Derek that his attempts aren’t working. This is a powerful form of humour which puts the reader in charge.

A book full of laughs and fuzzy-moments. A lovely bedtime story. 

Thanks to Maverick Books for my copy of AdoraBull. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton

 

 

Round-Up

Northern YA Literary Festival – Talk round-up

Reader, I passed initiation. A world of possibility has opened at my feet. On Saturday 24th of March I went to my first YA festival. Eleven authors, one stage and a whole load of publishing swag.

How great that it wasn’t in London?! Nearly everything happens in London. Book launches, publishing events and literary festivals are centered around the capital. You’d think as a small island we would be happy to travel to different corners but the UK seems to have signed a pledge to fit everything into the smallest amount of square miles possible. In the past it has been very difficult for many people to get to bookish events. 

Thank goodness for the University Of Central Lancashire for hosting the Northern YA Literary Festival. This day-long event was the first of what will hopefully become an annual event.

Check out my post for a round-up of the talks. I will post separately about my bookish treasures and purchases so check back later for more information.birdGetting into Publishing: a conversation about paths to publication

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L-R: Kevin Duffy, Danny Weston, Anna Day and Terri Terry

How is writing turned into a saleable product? Many scribblers have asked themselves the same question.

Authors Anna Day, Terri Terry and Danny Weston spoke in conversation with Kevin Duffy, founder of independent publisher Bluenose books. The authors shared their routes to publication.  Both Danny Weston and Terri Terry took a traditional route to publication. They sought literary agents who sold their work to a mainstream publishing company. Anna Day’s opportunity came after being shortlisted for the Times Chicken House competition. 

It was clear from this talk – and from discussion throughout the day – that most writers have multiple manuscripts behind them before even approaching the point of submission. Terri Terry was high up there with nine complete novels and Kevin Duffy suggested that four complete novels would be a good average. 

There was some discussion about the role of an agent. Agents have the experience to know whether a book will be marketable. The editing process was discussed, with authors varying on the amount of input they would like to have into their story’s final shape. Anna Day said that after initially feeling disheartened she usually concluded that her editor was correct. Terri Terry was happy that her editors recognised when something wasn’t working but liked to find a solution herself.

The talk followed writing from a hobby through to a manuscript and the various stages along the road to publication. This would have been of interest to writers as well as to people thinking about a career in the publishing industry but with very little idea of what roles might exist.

 

Feminism In YA:

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L-R: Laura Stevens (author who provided a fantastic introduction to the panel), Matt Killeen, Lauren James, Annabel Pitcher and Katherine Webber.

There is no wrong kind of feminism. The key message from this panel was anyone who believes that people should have equal rights regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of gender is a feminist. Chaired by Katherine Webber, the event looked at the theme of feminism and how it featured in the authors’ works.

I was particularly interested to hear Annabel Pitcher talking about The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell. Previously, children’s fiction has featured male protagonists who learn to respect women (Bill’s New Frock, for example) but Archie Maxwell looked at what gender equality means for boys, specifically at the idea that boys shouldn’t show emotion. Archie is a boy who is going through a difficult time but has no outlet, and no vocabulary to explain his feelings.

Pitcher spoke about the misconceptions which turn people away from feminism. These can include thinking that feminists are against femininity and that men shouldn’t be masculine. There is also a problem when people think men don’t gain from feminism.

Writing advice stressed the habit of completion and not falling into the trap of perfectionism. Lauren James also suggested deciding a character’s darkest secret to learn their plot. There was some fascinating discussion about the YA age-group, and how teenagers are in the process of rejecting other peoples’ ideas to form their own.

This was a particularly strong line-up of authors and I liked the topic-based focus.

 

Alwyn Hamilton (interviewed by Samantha Shannon):

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L-R: Alwyn Hamilton and Samantha Shannon

Arabian Night meets The Wild West. Author of Rebel Of The Sands trilogy Alwyn Hamilton spoke about her writing process in conversation with author Samantha Shannon.

Asked which of her three books she liked the most, Alwyn Hamilton spoke about exploring the wider world of her novel during book 2. Book 2 was also where her character developed in a different way. Due to the plot there were fewer action scenes which meant more internal development.

Hamilton originally envisaged the work as a stand-alone novel, but realised there was too much to say in one book. She always knew how the series was going to end. Shannon likened this to navigation. If you know the destination you can read the map, but it can be good to be flexible about routes. This was a nice bit of plotting advice.

Hamilton’s own advice was that trying to be imaginative inevitably results in plagiarism but thinking about interests and questions you want answered can be a starting place for something original.

The chemistry between the two authors and their familiarity with each-other’s work made this an enjoyable event.

 

Holly Black (interviewed by Samantha Shannon):

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L-R: Holly Black and Samantha Shannon

Holly Black came on stage in a faerie crown and held the audience spellbound with her discussion about faeries.

Early influences included an illustrated book of fairy tales and living in a house which her mother believed to be haunted. What draws her back to faeries? Black spoke about the fact that many supernatural creatures are basically human – werewolves, ghosts and zombies are either human or have been human. Faeries are different. Although they look like us their morals are different, and this fascinates Black.

What inspired her latest novel? Black wanted to write a ‘reverse-changeling’ story. The Cruel Prince is about a mortal who is abducted and raised in faerieland. Black gave some hints about what comes next in the series – a wedding in book 2 and a funeral in book 3. This kept her fans talking during the long signing queue.

By the time this event ended many people had been in the hall for eight hours, but you wouldn’t have known it. Black held the stage and it would have been impossible to give anything but full attention.

Many thanks to The University Of Central Lancashire for hosting, to Hazel Holmes and everyone who helped organise this amazing event, and to the authors for turning up and sharing your experience.

 

 

 

Guest Post

YA Shot Guest Post: Patrice Lawrence

yashotbanner.jpgYA Shot

YA Shot is a day-long festival held in Uxbridge, London. The money raised is used to fund author events throughout the year in schools and libraries. YA Shot aims to foster a love of reading and writing, and to help young people aspire to careers in the arts. 

 

Patrice Lawrence

Patrice Lawrence Author Image.jpgI am excited to welcome Patrice Lawrence as part of the YA Shot blog tour. Patrice Lawrence debuted with Orangeboy in 2016. It is the story of Marlon, a boy who finds it increasingly difficult not to get drawn into a world of gangs and crime. The book was a phenomenal success, winning the YA Book Prize and the Waterstones Children’s book prize. 

Lawrence followed with Indigo Donut, the story of a young woman searching for her own identity when everyone around her knows the story of how her Dad murdered her mother. Both novels deal with themes of identity and inheritance. This guest post is about the theme of family legacy. Huge thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. 

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From father to daughter and everything in between – Patrice Lawrence 

I have no photographs of my father. My parents split up before I was born and my father, Patrick Edward Singh, died in his 40s. I had spent time with him, as a child and as an adult. He was a great reader, anything from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ to the collected works of the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. He was also a musician. I remember his basement flat in Brighton being full of guitars and I knew that he had fronted a band called Eddie and the Black Princes. He loved the provocative wordplay. (The original medieval Black Prince was Edward, son of Edward 111, probably given the name because of his black armour.)

As I grow older, people remark on my resemblance to my mother. I look like her. I have her family name. I share her love of books, art and cake-making. She introduced me to early Depeche Mode, UB40’s brilliant first album and New Order. She has bought my YA books and shipped them off to the family in Trinidad. She has made sure that the booksellers in Haywards Heath Waterstones know that I am local.

Both Marlon in ‘Orangeboy’ and Indigo in ‘Indigo Donut’ are tied to family legacy. Marlon’s connection to his dead father, Jess, is through music and sci fi. He has inherited his father’s vinyl collection of funk and soul. He is named after the actor who played Superman’s dad in the 1978 film. His feelings are punctuated with music and he often articulates his world with the help of Star Trek and The Matrix.

Marlon, like the other two pairs of brothers in ‘Orangeboy’, has inherited loss and revenge. What happens to him is exciting but destructive. It is also viewed through the prism of ‘race’ – how far will he let the past shape the present and his identity as a young, black man in today’s society?

Indigo believes that she has inherited anger. Her father killed her mother and what’s inside him is inside her. It is like a wild animal, roaring up when provoked. She is frightened to let anyone get close. And what else has she inherited? She stares at photos of her mother, trying to trace their resemblance. She can barely remember living with anyone who is related to her. She is not sure how to go forward because she doesn’t understand her past.

It is only when I exceeded the age my father was when he died that I started considering his legacy to me. My father in everything except blood is my stepdad. He has been in my life since I was four and has always called me his daughter. We spent last Christmas together watching Steve McQueen films trying to list the death dates of The Magnificent Seven actors in chronological order. We recalled the joy of holidays spent in his native homeland. I don’t need another father.

But –

Like my characters, like so many young people, I still can’t help asking – ‘who am I?’ Does my hair, my face, my body shape bear any trace of my father’s side? When Bailey, in ‘Indigo Donut’, became a rock god with a room full of guitars, was I thinking about my father? Or my daughter? Did my father’s guitar dudeness bypass me and hit my daughter full force?

Last year, I saw that a retired nurse, one of my parents’ peers had written a history of the Victorian psychiatric hospital where they had worked. I ordered the book out of curiosity. I opened a page at random and there was a photo of my father. Resplendent in a quiff, he was playing his guitar.

 

Many thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. Check out more info about YA Shot and book your tickets here.

Middle Grade Reviews · Young Adult Reviews

Review: Movers by Meaghan McIssac

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Extract:

Hexall Hall? I know it from what I’ve seen on the news sometimes and hear when people talk. It’s a place hidden in the old part of the city – the part that the city dump has started encroaching on. The people who lived there abandoned it when the smell got too bad. But a lot of people who didn’t mind the smell started moving in.

People like criminal Movers.

Immigrant Shadows.

(Movers by Meaghan McIssac. P36.)
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Synopsis:

The year is 2083. Certain people can move people from other time periods into the present. Every mover has a shadow, a person in the future who they share a special connection with. Phase 1 movers can feel their shadow’s presence. Phase 3 movers can pull their shadows into the present.

The Government doesn’t want people coming from the future. There are just about enough resources for people in the present.

Action-packed dystopia which explores current issues such as immigration, the far right and the influence parents have on their child’s political views.

birdReview:

A short book which raises some big issues. Like all good dystopia novels, Movers takes present-day issues and uses them to show us what the future might look like if we don’t change the present. The depictions of anti-immigration groups and far-right splinters was a little too close for comfort. I love how these issues have been explored through time-travel. Showing attitudes to immigration via science fiction puts it at one remove from our own world, allowing the reader space to form their own views.

I also liked the exploration of family, and how we adopt or reject our guardians’ political views. The contrast between Gabby’s family and Pat’s brings this theme to life. (I can’t say any more because I don’t want huge spoilers.) Trust me – Pat got lucky. His mother’s stance on movement is in line with his own. If you were interested in Percy Weasley’s story (a discussion which came up at Northern YA Festival) you might find this theme interesting.

Family is central to the story. How much would you do to protect your family from corrupt laws? Pat is faced with the possibility that he might lose his mother to BMAC. All she has ever wanted is for her children to grow up safely. Should Pat try to save her?

The one difficulty I had with this novel was the high usage of world-specific terms. Movement, shadows, shelving, droidlets, pungits and FILES all have to be explained. I totally get that these things also contributed to the unique setting, and to the plot, but at times it felt like I had to build an understanding of those terms before I could focus on the plot.

The ending is explosive. I’m looking forward to sequel Shadows, which goes forward in time and explores how the events of Movers shape the future.

 

Thanks to Andersen Press for my copy of Movers. Opinions my own. 

Louise Nettleton. 

Stationery

Stationery: Ten objects which fill me with stationery envy.

 

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Rainbows of pens and little pots filled with erasers. Cloth bound journals. If you are drooling at the thought of these things, chances are you too are a stationery addict. You know what they say about addiction. Feeding it only makes it worse. 

Well. Stationery isn’t the worst addiction to have. 

Being a blogger, I spend a lot of time looking at pictures of other people’s stuff. Shiny, pretty stuff. Yes, I know it is all curated but I can’t help making a mental wish list. One of my biggest weaknesses is posts about pens and notebooks. Forget the make-up and theatre-trips and far flung holidays. All it would take to please me is a pretty journal and a collection of pens.

Here are some of the things which fill me with stationery envy. And a little envy is good, right? It means what you have is worthy of admiration. birdDot paper

Blogging and networking on social media has brought me into contact with bullet-journals. You can hardly avoid the photographs of mood trackers and months-at-a-glance and birthday lists. Why would you want to? It’s the best thing since photographs of cheesecake. I could happily binge on pictures of people’s bullet-journal creations.

Recently I have been made aware that the secret to a good bullet-journal is dot paper. It is like the structure which underpins the art. I would love to mess around with dot-paper, although the first time I became aware of my astigmatism was when I used isometric dot paper in maths lessons. I find it very difficult to focus on dot paper.

 

Fine-liners

I have invested in a small number of fine-liners. Occasionally I draw, and outline my work with fine-liners. I have accepted that I will never be a cartoonist, but I haven’t gotten over my love of fine-liners. It starts before I’ve taken the lid off. Look how you can line them up by nib size. Look at those numbers on the lid. My inner-geek is already excited.

 

 Post-it wallets

00567903_2I have a healthy collection of post-its and sticky tabs. I use tabs to mark out plot points in books and I have recently experimented with post-it notes during the plotting of my own stories. (Verdict? Great idea but don’t get hung up on it. Sometimes you need to write first.) Anyways, I’m still envious of people whose post-it notes are held in one beautiful wallet. Just look at those things!

 

Pencil Rolls

Especially if it is filled with expensive art pencils. Oh, I can’t colour, not to save my life, but I want that pencil roll. I went to school with a talented artist who used to spread her pencil collection out across the school desk. So much easier than fishing around in a pencil case. Just add the beret and the cappuccino and my perfect cliché is complete.

 

Massive sketchbooks

You know those sketchbooks you see in art shops and small-chain bookshops? The ones which you could lie down on? Yep, you know the ones. They cost a fortune but the paper is glorious.

This is not about the desire to be an artist. This is about the desire to make huge mind-maps and write non-stop notes. This is about drawing diagrams of plot (because, as those of you who’ve kept up with my writing know, I like a good plot diagram. Too much. These days I limit my diagram time to weekends and holidays, but I still love them.)

 

Brush pens

Another throw-back to childhood and my friend who had a stash of art equipment. Those anime pens? The ones where you can buy 46 shades of the same colour? When I was 15 I nearly spent my life-savings on them. It wouldn’t have done any good. There is a knack to using them and my attempts looked like toddler-scribble. These days I am better sticking to my own hobbies, although I could happily devote a draw to these pens.

 

 Ex-Libris Stamps

Oh deepest wishes and ridiculous fantasies. Up there with the oak bookshelves and the ladder on wheels, except this one would be easier to sneak into the house. I have researched ex-libris stamps but have never found the perfect one. It would probably be bespoke.

 

Fountain Pens

I own fountain pens and ink pens and roller-balls. It is no good. I am chronically left-handed and angle my pen from the top of the paper in something known as a crab-claw.

Given that my parents and 6/7 of my primary teachers were right-handed it is little wonder I didn’t learn to handwrite with much success.) Think smudged paper. Think ink down the side of my hand. And on my face. And anywhere my hand happened to touch.

 

Blogging planner

My mid-year diary system is put to shame by the dedicated blogging planners available online. The ones which encourage you to think out the premise of each piece before you type. The ones with little boxes to plan out images and links. The ones with a tick-box for when the post is published. Oh, the satisfaction of a tick-box.

My current system involves a week-view diary. I highlight the post with green highlighter when it is scheduled.

 

                                       Mini-erasers      

00567657_1The most whimsical item on my list. Mini-erasers have come a long way in recent years. Guys, you can buy unicorn-shaped erasers. Collections themed around mermaids. Itty-bitty pots filled with eraser goodness. Paperchase even did an eraser advent calendar. I would never in a century use such things to rub my work out, but why wouldn’t you? It’s like fairy-dust for pencil cases.  

 

What would you like to add to your stationery hoard? Let me know in the comments below.

Louise Nettleton.

Non-Fiction

Review: Mr Shaha’s Recipes For Wonder – Alom Shaha

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Mr Shaha’s Recipes For Wonder puts the look, ask and play back into science. From the start it makes clear that its aim is to help children to make enquiries for themselves. It is a recipe book of experiments which can be conducted at the kitchen table.

There are some positive messages here about enquiry and growth-mindset. The book deidicates a section to the idea that the reader might not know the answers when they set out. A helpful chart suggests the kind of questions they might start asking.

The book is divided into five sections:

  • Motion
  • Sound
  • Electricity, magnetism and light,
  • Atoms
  • Living things

These divisions are friendly to younger readers who might not have come across biology, chemistry and physics. Chapter pages give some information about the area of science, including examples of where it might be found. I would note that the book is physics-heavy. All the experiments are great but it would have been lovely to see more biology.

The experiments are easy to follow with clear illustrations of each stage. It is lovely that these instructions aren’t confined to tiny boxes. There is nothing worse than not being quite sure what you are supposed to do. The visual checklist of equipment also makes the book more friendly for younger readers. 

Timg_5186he book would be nice for a broad age-range. Younger children might gain something from supervised experiments while children in secondary school could use it to revise scientific concepts. It would also be nice for adults looking to demonstrate science to children. When I was a Brownie Leader, for example, we were always looking for half-hour activities which could be done with basic equipment. The book encourages adults to revise the concepts themselves first to help children get the most out of their learning.

This is also a lovely book to look at. Beautiful, bright water-colour illustrations accompany the experiments and it has an attractive and exciting cover. This would make a lovely gift for children who are curious about the world.

Thank you to Alom Shaha for my review copy. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton