Posted in adaptations, discussion

What I Look For In Adaptations

More and more we’re starting to see adaptations dominating the new releases at cinemas. It’s starting to feel like almost every day there’s an announcement of another book – primarily Young Adult – that’s been picked up by a film company. This is a good thing on many levels because it feels like Young Adult content is starting to be taken seriously. Fancasting is a common thing in the book community and many of us openly say we would love to see our favourite story in a visual format (I personally cannot wait for the A Darker Shade of Magic TV show). A phrase that’s batted around a lot is “the book is always better than the film.” I am the absolute worst for watching an adaptation with someone and going “you know in this book…”

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I took a module titled “Film and Literature” where, you guessed it, we read a book and watched its subsequent adaptations then discussed them in classes and essays. In my exam, the highest marked question was “All good books make bad adaptations. All bad books make good adaptations. Discuss.” I remember starting at the paper in horror. How was I expected to write a minimum of three pages about how this is entirely subjective? (I tried and failed miserably I still don’t know how I passed the module at all)

I still firmly believe that this is subjective: what may be someone’s favourite adaptation may be the worst thing ever to someone else. So I put the question to various people on social media sites to see what they thought. I was surprised that a lot of the responses I got focused on the feel of it: people seemed rather happy to have the adaptation veer off from the original material as long as it was true to the story. Capturing the real essence of the world and characters was naturally the overwhelming response I received. After all, how can you enjoy it if the meaning of the tale is lost? Naturally another common response I got was about accuracy: as long as everything is exactly as it happens in the book, it’s sure to be good. But with a need to streamline stories, a lot of seemingly unimportant stuff gets cut. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series but the shortest film out of the franchise. (Come on, did you really not expect me to slip Harry Potter in somewhere?

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I am the traditional reader who will pick up the book before going to see the movie. Mainly because I like to imagine everything for myself before that is permanently tainted by someone else’s interpretation of the same story. When I watch the adaptation, I am one of those people who lives for accuracy; even the smallest change can completely take me out of the world. It’s a curse.

So to turn these thoughts I have into something a bit less hypothetical (and probably make this post much longer than it needs to be) I’m going to share two adaptations I really enjoyed and two that are better left forgotten out.
Allegiant (2016) 

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I absolutely adore the Divergent series and the final book is my favourite. I was amazed at how well done the first two films were and often find myself re-watching them. But watching Allegiant felt like being trapped on a train that had derailed over a bridge. Not one once of this adaptation reflects the source material. Nothing was really explained and it felt like the real message Veronica Roth was trying to get across had been muddled in all the changes that were made for the sake of more action scenes. I did a full spoiler review of it on my channel which you can find here if you want to hear me rant.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) 

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It’s only writing this that I noticed I have coincidentally used two examples where Shailene Woodley is the main actress but I had to talk about this film.  I’m sure everyone has heard about this book regardless of whether they’ve read it or not. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, tears rolling down my cheeks while I breathed a sigh of relief. This one of few adaptations to me that really got it right; so much so that I didn’t mind the minor changes. Everything about this is perfect, from the  soundtrack to the aesthetic, to the acting. As I said in the introduction, keeping the message is important and you really do feel it in this film.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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My tolerance for horror and anything creepy is almost non-existent which makes it odd that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. So when I heard that he had signed on to work on a story about peculiar children and there was a book… you can see where I’m going with this. I ended up loving the overall series more than I ever thought I might as it is out of my comfort zone ins some respects. The adaptation is very mixed more me as I really didn’t like some of the actors, and for the life of me can’t understand why the roles and names of Emma and Olive were swapped for the film, but it has some redeeming element to it; mainly the aesthetic. I feel like enough of the world is there and that information is presented in a way that makes it easy to follow (whereas Ransom Riggs’ prose gets difficult to follow at times) but I think it did the right thing in changing the ending as I don’t think it did well enough to work on Hollow City. 

The Book Thief (2013)

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If you watch at least one adaptation in your life, please make it this one. The book is a very dark, haunting read. (What could you expect from a book narrated by death?) With such a strong narrative voice, I felt this might be lost once it was changed for screen and in a lot of ways it is but the acting is absolutely beautiful. I think it’s impossible to watch this film and not feel with every ounce of your being for these characters and the unfortunate situation they’re having to endure. The message is clear, visually it’s gorgeous and while a very slow burn, it’s so worth it for the re-evaluating of your life you’ll definitely do after.

And there you have it. You’ll notice that I didn’t use Harry Potter and that’s for a good reason: I plan to do a whole separate post about the franchise. Stay tuned for that!

What do you look for in adaptations?
What are some of your favourite adaptations and why?

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?

 

 

Posted in discussion, review

Book To Movie Talk | The Book Thief

*not spoiler free*

 

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The Book thief is based off the historical fiction novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and is without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by death and follows Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl, in Germany during World War 2. After her brother dies, Liesel arrives at her foster parents finding it even harder to adjust to her new surroundings. Exposed to the Nazi regime, Liesel is threatened with the possibility of losing the innocence of her childhood. Until a Jew called Max shows up and seeks refuge in their basement. Hans teaches Liesel how to read in secret as the Nazis are burning anything that may be considered communist. So she must steal them.

The book moves at a slow pace and is very long. It has an overwhelming and phenomenal narrative with a use of metaphors that really put things into perspective and made me feel for these characters in a way that I can’t put into words and don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a book like this again in my lifetime. So naturally, I had my expectations for the adaptation.

Here’s a breakdown of the “main” cast:

Liesel Meminger played by Sophie Nelisse

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Rudy Steiner played by Nico Liersch

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Rosa Hubermann played by Emily Watson

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Max Vandenburg played by Ben Schnetzer

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Hans Hubermann played by Geoffrey Rush

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“One small fact: you are going to die.”
This starting line really hits you hard with a truth many of us try to avoid. Like in the book, we follow the train but miss out the colour element. Death does not talk about the brother’s soul (despite talking about others later on in the film) or the colour, in fact, the voiceover focuses entirely on Liesel and his unexpected “interest” in her that leads him to keep coming back to watch her throughout her life.

The true beauty of this story lies in the narration and I feared that this may be lost in an on-screen adaptation. And I was right. Death was voiced by Roger Allam and it just felt too Americanised and that the delivery was off. It didn’t have the same impact as the written word. However, there were exceptions such as “I’ve seen so many men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me” which are kept in and showcase in a way the terror of what these characters are about to face.

I feel as if the only way an adaptation could fully satisfy me is if the acting was done in silence and the book narrated over the top.

To me, the casting of Hans Huberman was the most important. He is fundamental to Liesel’s transition into a new home. While Rosa is cruel and unloving, Hans is welcoming and warm, offering Liesel a hand to help her out of the car when she first arrives. When Hans discovers she has a book and it turns out she stole it, he doesn’t hit and scorn her like Rosa would, he teaches her to read. When I saw that Geoffrey Rush was taking on the role, I was more than happy. He portrayed Hans like I read him in the book.

Another fundamental character is Max Vandenburg because he and Liesel are so similar in terms of their situations: both had to leave their families, both are trapped in the same house, on this street. But in a world where Liesel is being told from all angles that communists are bad and Jews are evil, he opens her to a different perspective. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job and really solidifies their relationship on screen in the jokes he makes with her and the time they spend together.

There are so many scenes in this film that stands out to name a few:

The contrast of the choir song about freedom while Nazis are beating people on the ground and destroying a bookstore:

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The library scene at the Herman house when Liesel explores the shelves in awe. The score music, composed by John Williams really shines here, encapsulating the feeling of exploring wonderment for the first time. The way this is shot is so beautiful too. I love the lighting:

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A scene in the basement with Hans, Rosa, Liesel and Max where they’ve brought snow in, made a snowman and they’re all sat together while Hans plays a Christmas song on his accordion. It just reflects, to me, a willingness to keep things normal despite fear:

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When Hans cries in the kitchen saying “I’ve ruined us.” It’s a fleeting scene but holds a lot of depth. The performances from both Geoffrey and Emily shows just how dangerous doing something as simple as standing up for someone could potentially lead to bad things. This is also when you start to really see the breakdown of Rosa’s character. Again, unlike scolding him and mistreating him for his terrible choice of action, instead she holds him and cries with him

And finally, the scene where Rosa cries over the accordion. This scene is just so utterly moving and powerful. A simple object as an accordion, something that is normally always connected to Hans is on its own. The way Rosa holds this then sits and breaks down in tears shows that she isn’t the soulless woman we may have been tricked into believing she is. I think this short moment may be my favourite of the whole film. It also breaks my heart in a follow-up scene when Liesel returns to find Rosa lying on the bed asleep.

 

I realise that I have focused primarily on Rosa, Max and Hans in this review and that’s because they are the ones that hold this film together. Nico as Rudy looks the part but doesn’t bring the cutesy charm that I felt came through in the book and his friendship with Liesel appears more like acquaintance on screen, and Sophie as Liesel leaves a lot to be desired. As this film is very slow paced and relies heavily on character development and arcs (as the action doesn’t happen until the last half an hour of the film) having engaging characters is very important and the film Liesel just fell very flat for me.

The film overall feels quite flat as a lot of the grit and darkness has been stripped away to create a smooth finish and it just feels too light. After all, this is – in a sense – a war film, while we know from history that Germany wasn’t attacked until the end of the war, the people who lived in Germany at the time didn’t know that would be the case, and so you would expect there to be tension and fear. But alas, there isn’t.

The ending to this story is perfect and surprisingly I enjoy both versions. I love the panning shot around the modern room as the voiceover tells us what became of Liesel. There’s annoying product placement in the way of a mac computer and I wish that wasn’t there. It would have been much nicer just to see the collection of photographs as Death brings us to the end of this story.

And I just adore the last line:

 

“I am haunted by humans.”
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Posted in book tag, discussion, fantasy

Throne Of Glass Tag

This tag was created byAlexaLovesBook and Soobsessedwith and when I saw it was Throne of Glass themed I HAD to do it!

Lysandra – a book with a cover change you loved

 

 

Ironically my choice for this one is the book this tag is based off. Throne of Glass definitely has one of the best cover re-designs I’ve seen. I didn’t know there was a different cover until I saw it in one of jessethereader’svideos. I’m not a fan of books with models/real people on the cover. It just puts me off a bit. The new cover is simple, white and the drawing of Celaena is just so badass.
Abraxos – a book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside

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It’s not hard to ignore that the first edition cover of The Great Gatsby is well… not nice. I’m taking this topic in the sense of the book cover is awful, but the story inside is truly wonderful. There’s rich people, lavish parties, secrets and lies. I Love it so darn much.

Erilea – a series with great world building

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The world that immediately came to mind is that of the Darker Shade of Magic series.  In this book there are four different Londons: Grey London which lacks magic and is ruled by a mad king, Red London were magic is revered in a flourishing empire, White London ruled by whoever murders their way to power, and Black London… which no one mentions. The description of each of these realms is so rich and beautiful. I felt like I was walking through them while reading this book.

Rifthold – a book that combines genres

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs. It takes the basic things that make something horror-esque and combines it with magical fantasy elements. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because horror just isn’t for me. But this book is too good not to miss.

 

Damaris – a book based on/inspired by a myth or legend

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Hear me out on this one… Yes I have mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson, nor do I intend to finish the series BUT I have read The Lightning Thief and this was the first (and only) thing to come to mind when I looked at this question.

Kaltain Rompier – a book with an unexpected twist

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The last book I read that really made me gasp, splutter and drop it was A Grimm Warning which is the third book in The Land Of Stories series. Seriously, this ending nearly killed me. I need to get on to the fourth book pronto!
Assassin’s Keep – a book with an unreliable narrator

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I brought this up with a group of people a while ago and they disagreed with me however, I find that the protagonist – Charlie – is unreliable. The story is told through letters he writes to someone unknown (it reads like he’s writing the letters to you) talking about aspects of his life, mainly his internal struggles. Some of the things he chooses to and not to tell just makes me doubt whether I can trust him.

Asterin Blackbeak – a book that’s got squad goals

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Ultimate squad goals award goes to the shadowhunters of The Mortal Instruments universe. They just make a really cool badass team with the occasional help of warlock Magnus Bane.

 

Terrasen – a book that feels like home

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Harry Potter has been such a monumental part of my life. I grew up reading these books. I followed the characters from children to adulthood as I went through the process myself. Even though I hated school, the idea of Hogwarts (even with the workload) just fills me with warmth and happiness in a world where I can use Accio to get me things when I’m too lazy to move. Whenever I pick up any of the books and re-read them, I feel like I’m going home and returning to old, well-loved friends.

 

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius – a book with the power to destroy you

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Allegiant – the final book in the Divergent Trilogy – utterly ruined me. This was the most I’ve cried reading a book next to Harry Potter. I think this is probably my favourite in the trilogy because even though the ending is so bittersweet, it feels like the right ending for this book.

 

Manon Blackbeak – a book that intimidated you

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This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. And I doubt I will find anything in my lifetime that tops it. This is the story of a German girl called Liesel who steals books… and the narrator of her adventures is death. You read that right, death. However, this book is huge. I am quite a quick reader but it took me a good month to get through this one.

 

Ronan Whitehorn – a book that makes you swoon

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I had to sit and think really hard for this one. I guess I’m just cold and heartless as I resorted to scrolling through my read list on Goodreads in the hopes of finding a suggestion. Then I came across Eleanor & Park. This book is so cute and the relationship formed between Eleanor and Park is adorable.

 

Chaol Westall – a book that challenged you to see things differently

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I bought a copy of this book along with the new, recently recovered Which Pet Should I Get? Purely because there was a line from Oh The Places You’ll Go that helped me get through high school: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” I knew this quote but had never actually read the book.

As a recent university graduate who is back in her hometown, living with her parents, not exactly doing or being where she wants to in life, I feel a bit stuck. Reading this book helped get things into perspective for me and made me see that sometimes being stagnant is all part of the journey and just because I’m in this position now, doesn’t mean I will be forever.

 

Fleetfoot – a book that you received as a gift

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This books was given to me as a git by my wonderful writer friend Jenny.  It’s an Alice In Wonderland spin-off kind of thing. I am still yet to read it but look how gorgeous this cover is!

 

Eye of Elena – A book you found right when you needed it

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I discovered this book at a really difficult time in my life and without it, I truly don’t know where I would have ended up. It gave me the courage and the strength to keep going on, when all I wanted to do was give up.

 

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Posted in book tag

Disney Book Tag

The Little Mermaid – a character who is out of their element, a fish out of water

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Carson Phillips from Struck by Lightning is in his final year of high school and in the process of applying to University. To make himself stand out more on his application he tries to set up a Literary Magazine at the school. But there’s one problem – he isn’t exactly at the top of the social food chain. He uses his outsider knowledge of the populars to try and get them to write for his magazine the only way he knows how: by blackmailing them.
Cinderella – a character who goes through a major transformation

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Pip in Great Expectations goes through one of the biggest transformations I’ve read. He starts off as a lower class orphan boy helping out in his sister’s husband in the forge. When given the opportunity to meet with the mysterious Miss Havisham things for Pip start to take a turn in a brighter direction, and soon he is heading off to London to learn how to become a Gentleman.

Snow White – a book with an eclectic cast of characters

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If you haven’t read Harry Potter then return to the rock you’ve been living under and never speak to me again! For me, it’s frankly impossible to NOT pick this book series for this one. The cast is just so eclectic from the muggles to wizards to squibs to the houses to the animagi and various species.

Sleeping Beauty – a book that puts you to sleep

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As someone with a love of literature who extended that passion on to a university degree, I’ve had to muddle my way through a lot of classics. By far the worst has been Pride and Prejudice which I’ve had to re-read a lot of times. I just find the story so boring and the characters don’t really do much to save the plot. Not to mention Mr Darcy is awful and I can’t understand why anyone could possibly want someone like him.
The Lion King – a character who had something traumatic happen to them in childhood

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The Book of Lost Things follows David, a boy who loves books -especially fairy tales – and loves reading them to his ill mother. Sadly, she dies. Twelve year old David suffers badly from this loss and my heart just went out to him. I wanted to climb into the pages and give him a hug.
Beauty And The Beast – a beast of a book (a big book) that you were intimidated by, but found the story to be beautiful

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Anyone who knows me, will know that I can read a 400 page book in two days if I just sit down and read. I came across this book not long after its release and heard it was a beautiful book (just like the cover!) so I bought a copy. It’s a monster of a book and took me over a month to read because it’s rich and well written. The writing is unbelievably beautiful and I don’t think I will ever find a book as beautiful as this one.
Aladdin – a character who gets their wish granted, for better or worse 

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One specific event in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer really sticks out at me for this one which is what I refer to as “the dog incident”. One day when Mara is coming home from school she finds a dog chained up in someone’s garden. The dog is clearly neglected and when she stands up to the owner, a not very nice man, she walks away wishing that something bad would happen to him. A few days later he is found dead in his home and the dog gets taken away to a better place.
Mulan – a character who pretends to be someone or something they’re not

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This book follows Tris, a sixteen year old who has her choosing ceremony coming up in which she must decide whether to stay or move factions. Each faction operates under a certain personality type and to help decide where you fit best you have to take a test prior to the ceremony. Tris’ results reveal that she fits into three of the five factions which makes her “Divergent.” These types of people are dangerous to society and slowly being killed off. So Tris has to hide the fact she’s Divergent and try to fit in.
Toy Story – a book with characters you wish would come to life 

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Peter Pan is my all-time favourite book and the reason I decided to pursue a life as a writer. If I could have any collection of characters come to life it would be the ones in this story. I can think of nothing better than flying through the sky with Peter Pan and fighting pirates with the lost boys.
Disney Descendants – your villain or morally ambiguous character

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One of my favourite “villains” is Camille Belcourt from The Mortal Instruments series. She’s just so sassy and evil and yay for vampires. She messes things up between Alec and Magnus but I love everything she does in this series.
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