Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) – Film Review

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Cast:Eddie RedmayneKatherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo 

Director: David Yates

Genres: Fantasy, Harry Potter, Magic

Rating: 5/5


If there’s something that you should know about me is that I’m a massive Harry Potter fan. Like, huge. So big that I’ve met JK Rowling, been an active member of Pottermore and the Harry Potter fansites for year, own a wand and a set of Hufflepuff House Robes, along with casual wear.

fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_ver4_xxlgYes, I know.

So when it was announced that we were going to get a new Potter movie, albeit a ‘prequel’ to the Wizarding World as such, I was so excited. I remember receiving my copy of the original Comic Relief textbook and devouring it. I loved the idea of Magical Beasts, and always thought that if I was in the Harry Potter Universe, I’d become something of a magizoologist under Hagrid’s schoolings.

I went to see Fantastic Beasts in my Hufflepuff t-shirt (as the lead character was also housed in Hufflepuff), and was thrilled from start to finish.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in Pre-Depression New York. English magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has travelled to the Big Apple in search of a rare birthday present, and is equipped with his battered suitcase, in which he’s placed an Undetectable Extension Charm to house his vast collection of magical beasts. However, this is not a fail-safe holding for some of his creatures, and thanks to a switch-up between the suitcases by oblivious No-Maj (Muggle) Jacob Kowaski (Dan Fogler), some of the animals escaped. It is then up to Scamander and Kowaski to re-capture the beasts. However, there is something more sinister and deadly prowling the streets of New York, and along with Scamander and Kowalski, they rope in down-to-earth disgraced Auror, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston)  and her carefree sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol) to discover what this terrorising the population of New York, without revealing the highly secretive magical community.

The first thing I discovered about Fantastic Beasts is that it has the right tone for a Potter movie. It had all the majesty, magic and realism of the original 8 films, and despite being released over 5 years since the last Deathly Hallows one, it didn’t feel as though any time had past.

Eddie Redmayne played the bumbling, oh-so-sweet and nervous Scamander amazingly. He really showed a man who was far more comfortable being with his creatures, rather than society, along with being an unsung hero for the entire film. His passion for the protection of animals was almost visceral. The rest of the cast slid into their roles as though they are built for them. The airy yet touching romance between Queenie and Jacob was also a bittersweet undertone for the entire film, and I hope we get to see more of them in the sequels.

Once again, Rowling and director David Yates did some fantastic world-building. This was the first time that we saw the Wizarding World outside England, and the slight differences were obvious but enough to make it all feel fresh and unique. Having a female Minister for Magic (over the pond they call it the Magical Congress of the United States of America) was a fabulous addition, and this film had enough of the original Potter-ness to make us feel safe, but was vastly different.

The film was fluid in its progression, and although it wasn’t particularly action-filled constantly, it was brilliant watching. There was enough jump-scares to keep the audience on it’s tone, but not off-putting for younger watchers.

It also set up for a sequel well. I’m so excited to see the world of Newt Scamander get revealed to us, as Harry’s was to readers, and I hope they keep up with this high standard for the proposed 5-film series.

All in all, a brilliant movie. Scamander is vastly different to Potter, but that is what we, as the audience needed. I personally hope they keep Redmayne as the title role, as he has now firmly cemented my love for this bumbling magizoologist.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out NOW!

The Pastry Book Tag

Firstly, a big thank you to the lovely DriftingLexi for nominating me for my first book tag! And with all these yummy pastry-titles, I can tell it is a delicious tag already.

  1. Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling.

Is it cliché of me to write this? But I cannot think of a better example. Now, I cannot speak for every single person in the whole, wide world, but with over 450 million copies sold and countless of fans, huge theme parks, fandoms, merchandise and movies, this is probably one of the biggest and most-loved book series in the world. In my personal view, I started Harry Potter when I was about six years old, and now, as a twenty-one year old English graduate, this book series made me become a reader, a writer, a dreamer and an aspiring author. It helped me become the person I am today, have the values I have, and through Harry Potter, I actually met and made my best friend.

I just love this series too much. It’s in my DNA and part of my soul.

2. Macaron: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin.

Now, this was a doozy of a book. Physically massive, different narrative voices, a lot of intertwining plot lines, fantastical elements and one hell of a battle scene. Now, I love ASOIAF as a series. I’ve read it countless times, I’ve watched the series and for somebody who hasn’t read a lot of high fantasy, I thoroughly loved it. But I always struggle with this second book, even on these re-reads. It’s so large, has so many voices, so many different worlds and political points which do intertwine, but they are so separate in the same way. But, in the bigger picture, it is crucial for the series, and makes the other books look tiny in comparison!

3. Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat.

Fate by L.R Fredericks.

Okay, I am definitely one of those people who just obsessively buys books when I adore the blurb. And Fate had that. It had the tantalising words of ‘gilded salons of Ancien Regime’ and ‘courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists’, and I basically threw it down on the counter with my money. But this was one of the most disappointing books I’ve read. It was confusing, didn’t live up to the blurb, and only really tied the loose strings together in the last few chapters. I don’t like giving up on books, but this was one I was super close to doing.

4. Pain au chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else.

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

Once again, I judged it by the blurb. But this book, which initially had the premise of an alternate history linked with the Titanic and, I thought, would be focusing on a retelling of the Titanic and what happened really turned into this spy/detective novel that had far-spacing sections of Titanic that proved unsatisfactory. The novel wasn’t the best, as it was confusing, too long, rambling and unnecessary. If Kowalski just stuck with a retelling of the Titanic story, and did present an alternate timeline, it would have been far more interesting.

5. Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne.

Now, if you don’t know me, you won’t know that I have a vast (and I mean VAST, such as 150) collection of Imperial Russia books. I adore the Romanovs, and the period that surrounds them. So I will always read any fictional accounts of this period. And, completely by accident I found this book in a charity shop. Written by the same author as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Boyne is already an accomplished author, and this is another historical fiction novel. Set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, it focuses on a tale of a rags-to-riches peasant boy called Georgy who became the tsarevich’s personal bodyguard. However, when revolution swept over the country, Georgy has to follow the family to their exile, and his fate is sealed and tied to this family forever. Written in a very historically accurate manner, I found it highly enjoyable, and did catch myself actually crying at some bits. And for such a fanatic about the Romanovs, who usually hates the rumours of Anna Anderson and all the myths that came about one of the daughter’s surviving the assassination, this is a big deal for me.

6. Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Now, I adore this book so much. I love, love, love it. The story is just so interesting, Alex is a fascinating protagonist, and it has all the qualities of a brilliant dystopian novel that I search for. But I did find it very complex, just because of the Russian-influenced argot that Burgess writes in. And I think it if you read it and just didn’t over think about the language, it would be fine. But, of course I didn’t. I basically demanded a glossary next to me.

7. Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

I feel like this is a universal acknowledgement  that Northern Lights was just significantly better than the 2007 The Golden Compass. Despite the film having a fairly good cast, the novel was just better. Lyra in the film was annoying, whilst Lyra in the book seemed rebellious. The daemon-human bond was better explained in the book, and it actually tugged on the heartstrings of everyone reading it, and the film changed the plot too much and had an entirely different, and worse ending. I remember feeling like this when I saw it in the cinema, and I certainly feel like it now after revisiting both.

8. Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.

One of my favourite books of ALL time. Set in Barcelona, this book has a labyrinth of books, a masked figure, mystery, romance, decadence, abandoned mansions, death, obsession and the past catching up with the present. What more do you want? But there is one character in this novel. And this one character is the reason I put it under this particular heading. Because it is a tragic character. This person loved, lost and never really got over that loss. And this character, who is pretty central to the book, has to watch as their world is dismantled around them, and watch other characters find love, family and companionship, yet they can never truly be at peace. I don’t want to give too much away, but please, read it!

9. Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Another favourite, this novel is set in pre-war Japan, and surrounded by the cherry-blossoms, kimonos, geishas, tea houses and beautiful Japanese gardens. Written in a first-person perspective, this novel follows the life of a geisha working in Kyoto, and follows her as she goes through all the traditions of becoming a geisha, and working in a cruel, female-dominated world where her fellow geisha are as fake as the face-paint they wear. It also has war, death, destruction, abandonment and a little bit of star-crossed love, which I am very partial too.

10. Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.

Now this is a difficult one. Because a lot of the books I read don’t have food that is too difficult, or hard to find in my life. Like, I happily eat Japanese food, and Spanish food and Russian dishes. So, I’m going to finish as I started, and choose something from the Harry Potter universe. And I want to be left alone in Honeydukes, eat my heart out, have a dinner of Pumpkin Pies, and then wash all those delicious sweets down with a pint of Butterbeer (or even a tiny drop of Firewhisky).

So once again, a HUGE thank you to DriftingLexi for the tag.

Now, I pick my three!

Wallace @ Thoughts, Musings and Storytelling.

Becca @ Shih Tzu Book Reviews

Catherine @ Books Bird 

Thanks guys!

– Alice

The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling – Book Review

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J.K Rowling

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Adult fiction, Young Adult, Tragicomedy, Society Novel, Modern Society


When I started blogging, I did make a rule that I would never review any of J.K Rowling’s books – only due to the fact that I wasn’t sure if I could write a book review that would be fair to the book and not reflect the author. But, as I did a recent reread of the novel, I feel that I have enough to say about this book without really mentioning the author.

Set in the West Country village of Pagford (think Sandford in Hot Fuzz and the idea of the pastoral/Golden England image), the death of local councillor Barry Fairbrother completely shocks the closeted community, and subsequently leaves an empty gap on the local parish council – a spot which not only holds massive personal significance to the ‘Old Guard’ of the village, but could influence how the village and the neighbouring boroughs are run. And within these boroughs, the council estate of ‘The Fields’ and the Bellchapel Methadone Rehabilitation Clinic is a long-standing, sore spot for the inhabitants of Pagford. The ‘Casual Vacancy’ of the council seat is the set up for one of the biggest civil wars that the village has ever had to deal with. And inbetween the midst of interwoven story lines of poverty, teenage drama, salacious gossip and drug and death, this battleground threatens to break the fragile bliss that hangs over the community/.

First thing that must be addressed is that, despite the author, this is not a Potter-related story in the slightest. When Rowling first of all announced the book, there was surprise over how different the genre and world was away from Hogwarts and all its magical glory. But, this book holds its own against Potter.

Now, I must be brutally honest. If, beforehand, I spotted this book in Waterstones at it hadn’t been written by Rowling, I may have not picked it up. I grew up with Harry Potter, and that woman impacted my life in more ways than one. However, after reading this novel, I have been introduced to a whole new genre of literature that I just want to devour. And, this has nothing to do with the author, but with the content itself.

This novel deals with very adult themes that do affect everyday people in an everyday life, and despite it having the center story arc of an empty parish seat and a land dispute, this novel is gripping from page one to page five-hundred-and-three.

The initial idea that everybody-knows-everything-in-a-small-village isn’t too dissimilar to my own village, and I was surprised to being able to relate some many issues that she writes about. Rowling, after living in Chepstow in her youth, clearly knows what it’s like to have such an intimate community, and has brought her own experiences of quirks that smaller towns and villages have, such as particular attitudes to outsiders, and the characters in general.

Each character is so well-developed, and intriguing to the plot that there is not weak link in the village structure. And she has done the rare thing of making truly villainous characters so hateful that you cannot find any glimmer of positivity, and she has made the upstanding, thoughtful characters lovely and more-ish. But she’s also written the others in a way that they are flawed, and human-like, so that you can understand when they make mistakes, and have personalities that you can draw upon your own.

As a Potter fan, the way that Rowling writes has clearly developed over the years. There is a massive difference between the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Deathly Hallows. And the writing didn’t shock me, but it did surprise me. he way it’s written didn’t shock me so much at first, but it did surprise me.With frank discussions about sex, death, drugs and swearing, Rowling writes in a realistic way to the genre and the adult category of the book, yet I was guilty to rearing back after reading a particularly graphic bit of swearing and thinking that this was the same woman who created Harry, Ron and Hermione. And, unfortunately, if you constantly think about the comparison between Potter and Casual Vacancy, you can never properly enjoy the book, and it may be what has put people off reading it.

However, all in all, The Casual Vacancy is truly a gripping narrative which sucks you right into the bustling world of Pagford and the constant underlying tension until the very end, and I would recommend to any age from teenager upwards. But, with the plot differing to Potter, and more adult themes that can shock unsurprising readers, it will be for a more mature audience that Rowling does attract.

There was also a three-part BBC series of The Casual Vacancy that aired earlier this year, and despite this not following the plot entirely, and having to be changed to adapt for television, I would recommend it for character choice, and quality of the acting and sets. But, read the book first. As the ending of the book is completely different to the series, and in my opinion, far more harrowing.

If you, as a reader, enjoyed:

  • Jodi Picoult’s novels
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

Then you’ll love this book!

Links

Buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

JK Rowling’s Website – Click Here

Trailer for the BBC series


Note – have begun the transferal of all my old blogposts on my now-defunct blog onto this one. This blog will house everything I’ve published before, but in a sleeker and more professional way.

Thank you for reading this review.

Please comment, share this around etc.

Alice x