Movies

Movie Review: Enola Holmes (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (2020) - IMDb

Movie: Enola Holmes (2020)

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I found out that there was a movie about the teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, I was skeptical about it. How would it compare to other renderings of the Holmes family?

The answer: it doesn’t. While entertaining enough to be fun watching once, it failed to measure up. Read on to find out why.

Background

Enola Holmes was released in 2020 as a Netflix original. It is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer.

The film stars Millie Bobbie Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, and Louis Partridge.

Summary

Enola Holmes' Trailer: Millie Bobby Brown Is Sherlock Holmes' Sister |  IndieWire
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The plot revolves around 16-year-old Enola Holmes, whose mother goes missing. When she becomes the ward of her brother Mycroft and he tries to force her into an oppressive finishing school, she escapes and concocts a plan to find her lost mother.

She stumbles across the missing Viscount Tewkesbury and becomes immersed in two mysteries: Who is it that is trying to have Tewkesbury killed? And where is her mother?

The movie Enola Holmes is both a mystery movie and a story of self-discovery.

Pros

  • Unique take on the Holmes family
  • Creative pop-up book illustrations
  • Costumes interesting, had a lot of thought behind them
  • Enola had a fascinating childhood
  • Enola is good at cracking codes, self-defense, hiding/disguises, memory
  • Will likely be appealing to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls

Cons

  • Constant breaking of the fourth wall
  • Henry Cavill is a terrible Sherlock
  • Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter
  • This is definitely not going to satisfy Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Enola is not much of a mystery solver

Review

Concept

It is safe to say that movies and shows about Sherlock Holmes are overdone. But ones that focus on his family? Not so much.

This is not Sherlock’s story; it is 100% Enola’s story. The name Holmes is important in the title because of the legacy it carries of mystery, ingenuity, and creativity – not because Sherlock is a significant character.

This is a new take on the Holmes’ family – one that has not been overdone, and one that could create a worthwhile series of its own.

Pop-up Art

The choice to include pop-up animations to introduce the family was creative. These were also used throughout the film, along with journalistic illustrations that made the movie feel like Enola’s personal diary.

Costumes

Netflix's 'Enola Holmes' Quotes to Use as Instagram Captions
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The costumes were designed by Oscar-nominated Consolata Boyle. According to Boyle, Enola’s red dress was chosen to represent courage. She also utilized ivory, as it is a color associated with the suffragette movement. Each costume was carefully chosen. To learn more, check out this article

Characters

Enola Holmes is a likeable character with many skills. She is good at cracking codes, self-defense, and disguises. Her memory for details is impeccable. Her courage and generosity is also notable.

Enola is not much of a mystery solver, however. She did not solve either mystery mentally, but instead by courageous action and being where the action was happening.

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Sherlock is an ineffective character primarily because it seems like the actor is trying to be two things at once: the friendly, compassionate big brother and the emotionally detached detective. For instance, Sherlock says:

You’re being emotional. That’s understandable, but unnecessary.”

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Yet he is so emotional that, according to Screenrant, Netflix was sued by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who claimed that this emotional Sherlock was based off Sherlock stories still under copyright.

Sam Claflin interview - Millie Bobby Brown is a "powerhouse"
Mycroft from Enola Holmes

Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter who continuously fails in his attempts to control Enola. He has no redeeming qualities.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

I know this is a legitimate storytelling technique, but it was excessive in this movie. It strained one’s suspension of belief to the breaking point. Enola looks at the camera all the time, reminding viewers over and over that this is just a movie and that it’s all fake.

If you are looking for the escapist qualities of a good film, you won’t find them here. The constant reminder of the camera’s presence ruins any chance of the sort of realism that allows one to be absorbed in a story.

Conclusion

I gave this movie a 6.8 because it was better than the average movie. However, I would not be interested in watching it again.

While this movie is not for everyone, it is likely to appeal to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls.

Sherlock fans are likely to be disappointed. If you go into the movie without comparing it to other media that depict the Holmes family, you’ll be better off.

My Rating System

If you want to know how I rate movies, check out my rating system for movies.

Books

Book Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny: Still Life | D.K. Wall

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to leave a comment.

Background

Quick facts about Louise Penny:

  • She is a Canadian author who lives near Montreal.
  • Her husband of 22 years inspired her to write the character of Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector in her novels.
  • She was in her 40s when her first book was published.
  • You can learn more at her website.

Still Life is Penny’s fascinating debut. The story is set in Three Pines, where the elderly Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound. Most suspect that this is simply a tragic hunting accident, but Chief Inspector Gamache suspects it is murder.

Pros

  • Strong sense of setting
  • Rich character development
  • Suspenseful yet nuanced storytelling
  • Effective use of quotes and literary sources
  • Well-written poetry included
  • Did her research

Cons

  • Somewhat scattered beginning, a little hard to get into at first

Review

The Beginning

The book starts like this:

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round…”

“She had fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.”

Still Life by Louise Penny
photo of dried leaves on soil

I enjoyed Penny’s language. I was bemused at the caricature of death she made by comparing a woman’s position at death with the idea of children making snow angels.

Then the story goes back in time to when she was supposed to meet her friend for coffee. After that, it explains how a group of local boys pelted a gay couple with duck manure.

It goes on to explain that Jane Neal is a shy artist who is just finally willing to show her art to the public eye. Only problem? Her masterpiece, Fair Day, is like a child’s drawing, or an ancient cave drawing.

All of that happens before 10 pages are up. Now, I am no great reader of mysteries. In fact, this is probably the first mystery I’ve read in 10 years. But I was thinking, hey, let’s go back to the snow-angel corpse instead of this odd series of occurrences that I’m frankly not interested in.

But I was wrong. Every detail of those first 10 pages was absolutely integral to the story. I just didn’t have the perspective of the whole story in mind.

As a result, I will say that it was not a novel whose beginning gripped me, but I will concede that these pages were necessary to the development of the drama of the novel.

Setting

The story is set in the village of Three Pines, which is compared rightfully to Narnia. There is certainly something magical about the personalities of the characters who live there. They have the glint of life about them, the engaging complexities of truly well-developed characters.

Olivier and Gabri’s Bistro and B & B are my favorite places in Three Pines. Each piece of furniture and decor in the Bistro has a price tag attached to it. People can buy the table they are eating at, the coat rack, the chairs! It is such a creative place for the characters to spend their time.

Antiques signage

“Each piece looked as though it had been born there.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

Character Development

Each of Penny’s characters has many facets to their colorful personality.

Gamache, for example is careful, pushy, kind, stern, intelligent, ignorant…

Clara is a woman who grieves for the loss of Jane but has an edge of steel in her at times. Her husband, Peter, can be cold as ice or warm and loving, easily offended but loyal.

Ruth is a toughie who raps her cane off the ground to shock people to attention, isn’t afraid to let her opinions be known, and has a penchant for poetry.

There were many more complex characters, but these were some of my favorites.

Storytelling

The storytelling was remarkable because of the way seemingly unrelated events and pieces of information came together in the end. Penny is clearly a master at foreshadowing without giving away the mystery, at providing both depth and forthright depictions.

This is not a thriller – the suspense of what might happen at any moment is not sharp. Instead, the book draws you into Three Pines, where the action is happening, and invites you to stay awhile. It promises a good story, without car chases, without shootouts, but with a certain compelling sense of danger and turmoil lurking just below the surface.

Quotes and Literary Sources

Penny is clearly well-read. She uses a host of references and direct quotes from Auden, Melville, and John Donne, as well as several others. One that stuck out to me as particularly well chosen was this one:

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

W. H. Auden

Poetry

Ruth Zardo is a poet in the novel, and Penny has included poems she has written for the character. I will say that they do give the impression of being by an actual poet. It’s convincing, that’s what matters.

Research

man holding archer statue

Penny did her research, and that’s part of what makes the novel so intriguing. This is notable in the section of the book where Gamache is trying to figure out the details of hunting with a bow. Penny uses Gamache’s ignorance as an excuse to reveal beginner’s hunting mistakes, the differences between bows, common myths about hunting with bows, and all the little details of this topic.

Final Comments

This book is one of the best I have read in recent years, which has earned it the rating of 9.8 out of 10 stars.

Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

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Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel is based on the novel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Andrew Donkin created the illustrations for the graphic novel. It was published in 2007, six years after Colfer published the first Artemis Fowl novel.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Mostly faithful to book despite being shorter
  • Strong storytelling
  • Color themes matched mood and tension

Cons

  • Ugly artwork
  • Unnecessary changes to character appearance
  • Inconsistency in fairy culture

Review

Any fan of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer will notice upon reading this graphic novel that it is faithful to its source. There are even sentences that are word-for-word copies of sentences in the original novel.

The storyline likewise remains unaltered. There are no nasty surprise changes in plot like in some novel adaptations. That’s a relief.

As a result, even in this truncated version of the original, the storytelling is vibrant and engaging. I was hooked from the first page and read the whole graphic novel within an hour.

To provide a sense of mood, Donkin created color themes for different scene that reflected the atmosphere. This was unrealistic, but I recognized that it was an artistic choice that added rather than subtracted from the narrative.

Some of Donkin’s other artistic choices were poor ones. The artwork was ugly. It just was. I get that he has artistic license with how he can portray the characters and scenes, but this was too much.

For example, look at Foaly.

Foaly | Artemis Fowl | Fandom
Foaly from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

He’s blue and looks elderly. He’s not wearing his customary tin hat. Nothing is right about this picture except that he is still a centaur.

If you read the original novel, is this how you pictured Foaly? It’s not how I did. He came off to me as young and geeky, and somewhat comical. Not geriatric.

Butler is even worse. He looks like a disproportional mountain of flesh. In the original series, he was described as a “man mountain,” so I understand where Donkin was coming from. But he looks horrible, and I imagined him as a large muscular man with some style, not just sheer immensity.

Artemis Fowl | Epic Heroism for the 21st Century: a Multimedia Web ...
Butler and Artemis from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel)

Also, can I just say that Artemis’s eyes are supposed to be blue? Not brown. Blue.

10 Best Artimus Fowl images | Fowl, Artemis fowl, Artemis
Holly Short from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

Also, Holly is supposed to have “nut-brown” skin. Instead her skin is this sallow shade of white. Why? That was an entirely unnecessary change. There was not a single person of color in this novel, to its detriment. There was no need to whitewash the novel.

Also, I will explain why I think the fairy culture in the graphic novel is inconsistent. In Haven City, the billboards were all written in English rather than Gnommish even though fairies look down on humans. The fairies would never have adopted English for their advertisements and daily life. It’s a silly little mistake, but worth noting.

Conclusion

Based mostly on the story and on some (very few) good artistic choices, I rated this graphic novel a 7 out of 10. Artistic choices including character appearance were its biggest downfall, but I was able to stomach that because of the rich storytelling.

Board Games

Board Game Review: Wingspan

Wingspan Cover Artwork

Rating: 8.58 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my board game review is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Wingspan is a competitive game where your goal is to collect diverse species of birds on your wildlife reserve.

There are two variations of the game.

One of the variations is more “friendly,” allowing all players to receive end of round points for meeting the round objective. Round objectives vary, but an example is receiving one point per bird in your water habitat.

The other variation is more competitive, and only the players who get first, second, and third place for the end of round objective get points. For example, if the objective provides points for birds in water habitats, only the players with the most birds in the water habitats would get points.

Personally, I prefer the “friendly” variation of the game because it rewards you for how much you have achieved rather than based on how you measure up to other players.

Gameplay (9 out of 10 stars)

Gameplay offers a lot of options for each player’s turn even though you can only take one action per turn.

One action you can take is playing a bird card in one of your habitats by paying its food and egg costs (if applicable.)

A second action allows you to obtain food from the dice rolled in the bird feeder. If there is only one food type left in the feeder, you can reroll all the dice and then choose.

A third action allows eggs to be laid by the birds in your habitats. There are restrictions on the number of eggs each bird can lay in its nest, which vary based on the species.

A fourth action is drawing more bird cards to put in your hand. These can be played in future turns after paying the cost of the card (in food and eggs).

The resources you get from completing the second, third, or fourth action increase based on the number of birds in the habitat. You always get the resources indicated on the space to the right of the last bird you placed in that habitat.

Birds that are placed have powers that occur either when first played, when activated, or between round. They are indicated at the bottom of the card.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile to note that sometimes you can convert resources to other resources. Two of any one resource can count as one of a different resource. Also, when taking the second, third, or fourth action you can occasionally convert an egg, a food token, or a card to a different resource indicated on the space to the right of your bird.

It is also interesting that each round of the game is shorter than the last, because it puts more pressure on the players to take the most efficient actions.

Design (9.9 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art in Wingspan is phenomenal. The bird images remind me of the watercolor paintings by John James Audubon, though the lines are bit crisper in Wingspan.

The components are beautiful as well. I especially appreciate the colorful eggs, the custom wooden dice, and the dice tower bird house.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-6-768x1024.png

My only complaint is that on the end-of-round bonuses are labeled by round from right to left instead of left to right. Since English is read from left to right, I have accidentally prepared for the wrong bonus and failed to gain points as a result.

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The player boards are also designed to look like worn journals on the outside.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

This is a game where you can take on a variety of strategies based on your preferences. For example, you can try to broaden the species of birds on your reserve, accumulate eggs on your cards, or try to achieve your secret goals. Of course, it is best to do all of these things, but often one of these becomes the focus of your game.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

The concept of a game where you are building a wildlife reserve for birds is unique. Except for Wingspan, I have not come across a game with a theme like that. The closest are maybe a few zoo-building games like Zooloretto.

The mechanisms of the game are not unique, but the combination of them was creative and provides for a unique experience overall.

Replayability (7 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is decent because of the number of cards in the deck. You get a different experience every time. Because there are a bunch of strategies, playing repeatedly can be enjoyable, allowing you to change your strategy each time.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/266192/wingspan

To learn how to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgDgcLI2B0U&vl=en-US

Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl

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Rank: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl was written by Eoin Colfer and published in 2001. It has been translated into 40 languages and was named a Puffin Modern Classic.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Fantastic storytelling
  • Complex worldbuilding
  • Well-developed and intriguing characters

Cons

  • The translation from Gnommish to perfectly rhymed English is unrealistic.

Review

Storytelling

Eoin Colfer knows how to tell a story. This story is told in third person omniscient, but focuses primarily on the characters Artemis and Holly. Keeping it omniscient is an effective choice because it reveals the way the characters think. If first person point of view had been used, so much of the narrative voice would have been lost.

Colfer’s book has a strong connection to setting. Whether it is a wedding party in Italy, a meeting with a contact in Ho Chi Minh City, or Fowl Manor in Ireland, Colfer makes sure the story is not existing in blank space.

He does his research. He lives in Ireland and uses Ireland as the main setting for his story, but does not let that stop him from using places he is less familiar with and doing it well.

For example, he is specific.

“They [Artemis and Butler] were sitting outside a curbside cafe on Dong Khai Street, watching the local teenagers circle the square on mopeds.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The language he uses also contributes to his storytelling. Rather than saying that Artemis’s bodyguard Butler is armed and dangerous, Colfer cleverly uses a detailed list.

“…a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster. two shrike-throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades in various pockets.”

Artemis Fowl to Nguyen in the book Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This list not only makes Butler seem even more dangerous, it also paints a precise picture. Even not knowing what the items look like does not take away from the sense that Butler is a skilled bodyguard with an in-depth knowledge of weaponry.

I had to look up most of these items to know what they looked like, but I don’t think that is a problem because Colfer’s imaginative storytelling compelled me to do so.

Garrotte wire, for example, is used for strangulation.

There are so many advanced vocabulary words in this book that Vocabulary.com has a list of difficult words just for Artemis Fowl. I believe that this does not take away from the storytelling, because Colfer uses precise words that convey a specific meaning.

World-building

The world-building is phenomenal. Colfer bases it partially on Irish fairy tales, but with a sci-fi twist.

LEPrecon basically refers to police officers and their commanders in the fairy world. Get it? Leprechaun? The LEP stands for Lower Elements police.

Like in Irish mythology, “fairy” is a catch-all term that includes elves, pixies, dwarfs, trolls, etc.

Fairies live underground and use magma flows and pods to reach the surface. There is technology such as iris-cams and finger darts.

The finger darts are hilarious. They meld to slip on, look exactly like your finger, and do not feel unusual. This has led to the incapacitation of some officers who forgot they were wearing them and picked their nose, setting off the dart.

Character Development

Colfer’s strong point is definitely his characters.

Artemis Fowl is not your ordinary twelve-year-old. He’s a criminal mastermind. One who looks as pale as a vampire in sunlight because of long periods of time spent in front of a computer, hiding away indoors.

Artemis exhibits both the qualities of a child and an adult. According to Colfer,

“He still retained a childlike belief in magic, tempered by an adult determination to exploit it.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

When he does something out of character, his own thoughts let readers know that it is unusual. For instance, he makes a joke twice (not very funny ones because he is unpracticed) and it is more amusing in that he had the inclination toward a sense of humor for once. He even notes this himself.

Butler is loyal to Artemis, but occasionally is disapproving of Artemis’s more dangerous plans, especially when he puts Butler’s sister Juliet in danger.

Colfer doesn’t just tell us Butler is dangerous, he shows it. The “man mountain” carries an assortment of weapons and demonstrates his martial prowess against shielded fairies. Even he can be caught off guard – but those times are comparatively few.

Holly Short is stubborn and resentful. She is a rule-breaker with both a temper and a compassionate side.

Her superior Commander Root is a short-tempered fairy who cares for his officers and despite being blatantly rude and domineering toward them.

Foaly is a centaur who is witty and intelligent. He is indispensible to the LEPrecon team because he rigged up a lot of their technology and is basically the resident genius on the team, so no matter how many snarky remarks he makes, Commander Root can’t afford to fire him.

There are an assortment of other characters who are well-developed and intriguing, but I won’t go into more detail here. Read the book for yourself

A side note

By the way, this is completely out of context, but my favorite line in the entire book is this:

“I don’t like lollipops.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

It just made me crack up. To see why, read the book.

Translation Issues

My only complaint in this book is that when Artemis translates the Book that is written in Gnommish, it becomes perfectly rhymed English.

Anyone who has ever tried to translate anything from one language to another knows that something is lost in translation, and this is especially true of poetry.

Words that rhyme in one language rarely do in another. And why would a language whose closest kin is Egyptian show such remarkable resemblance to English by being translated into perfectly rhymed poetry?

Another thing is he had Gnommish written on the bottom of the pages that could be translated letter by letter with English. That was completely different from the way it was described in writing, where it was like an almost unbreakable code.

Conclusion

I would recommend this book both for a young adult audience and for adults.

If you like Fantasy or Sci-fi, or have a penchant for fairy tales, or just want to be immersed in a good story, I fully recommend this book.

Links

Card Games

Card Game Review: Coup

Coup Cover Artwork

Rank: 6.2 out of 10

Intro

The card game Coup was first introduced to me by my cousin Elyse while my family and I were on vacation in New Hampshire. I thought I would not like it because I am not skilled at bluffing. However, since first playing it, Coup has been one of my favorite card games.

Coup is #5 on my list of top five favorite card games.

This is my first full card game review. What I hope to accomplish with these reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you to determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Coup is a bluffing and risk-taking game. Your objective is to manipulate others and take control of the court.

There are 5 different types of cards, each of which have a different ability. These cards include an Assassin, a Captain, a Contessa, an Ambassador, and a Duke. Each player has two cards at the start of the game. These cards represent influence you have over the court.

You can use the abilities on the cards in your hand, or pretend to have a card with a different ability. Other players may challenge you if you are bluffing. If they are right and you are bluffing, you lose influence (in other words, lose a card.) If the other player is wrong, however, he or she is the one who will lose influence.

When you use a card to complete an action or block an action, you should not reveal it. No one should ever know what cards you have.

Once you gain 7 coins, you can launch an unblockable coup, forcing another player to lose influence.

Once you lose two cards (influence), you are eliminated.

Gameplay (7 out of 10 stars)

Gameplay is prettystraightforward. The first player takes an action, everyone has an opportunity to challenge them, and then the next person takes their turn.

There are three actions you can take without using cards – as a result, they are actions that cannot be challenged. (Although they can be blocked by some abilities.)

The first option is taking income, which allows you to take one coin. This cannot be blocked, but it’s such a conservative move that using it repeatedly won’t get you anywhere fast.

Foreign aid lets you take two coins, but it can be blocked if one of your opponents has a certain card (or claims to).

Coup lets you pay seven coins to assassinate another player’s character, causing them to lose influence. It is unblockable.

The available cards to use are the Assassin, Captain, Contessa, Ambassador, and Duke. Remember, you don’t have to have these cards to use these abilities if you pretend to, but you run the risk of getting challenged and losing influence.

With the Assassin, you can pay three coins to attempt to assassinate another player’s character, causing them to lose influence. Unlike a Coup, an Assassin is blockable.

With the Captain, you can steal two coins from another player. You can also block people who are trying to steal from you.

The Contessa blocks another player from assassinating one of your cards.

The Ambassador allows you to exchange the cards in your hands with the Court Deck. The Court Deck is a deck of the remaining cards not in the player’s hands. This is useful if someone is beginning to suspect you are bluffing, but hasn’t dared to challenge you yet. He also blocks stealing.

The Duke allows you to take three coins from the supply, and to block Foreign Aid.

Design (Rank: 7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The artwork is creative and futuristic, an almost sci-fi rendition of court life.

The components are sparse but adequate. 15 influence cards, 6 summary cards, 50 coins, and a rulebook.

Strategy (6 out of 10 stars)

This game is less about strategy than about how good you are at lying and detecting the lies of others.

There is strategy involved in how much risk you are willing to take, and whether or not to play it safe.

Originality/Creativity (6 out of 10 stars)

The artwork is pretty original.

As bluffing games go, it is pretty creative. It’s court life theme and game based on influence allows you to feel like you are really an ambitious courtier seeking dominance of courtly life.

Replayability (5 out of 10 stars)

This game is fun to play multiple times, don’t get me wrong.

But because there is not much variety, it does get old eventually. That’s why it’s good to play once or twice every couple of weeks or so. Any more than that and it will start being boring.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/131357/coup

How to play: https://boardgamegeek.com/video/78506/coup/coup-quick-rules-explanation-350

Movies

Movie Analysis: Artemis Fowl (with Spoilers!!!)

Artemis Fowl (film) - Wikipedia

Movie: Artemis Fowl (2020)

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!

This review contains spoilers for the Artemis Fowl movie and the book series.

This is my first movie analysis, and let me start out by saying the movie sucked…but had a couple of positive qualities. And by a couple I literally mean two, and that’s it.

First of all, decent special effects. Haven City looked appropriately fairyish and high-tech. It all had this blue tinge to it that made it look otherworldly. And the device that sentenced Mulch Diggums to prison was creative.

Artemis Fowl's World Explained: Fairies, The Aculos & More
Holly Short in Haven City from Artemis Fowl

The troll looked much more human than in the Artemis Fowl graphic novel, but whatever, it looked fine.

Troll (Artemis Fowl) | Villains Wiki | Fandom
Troll from Artemis Fowl

Also, the therapy session scene near the beginning of the movie was pretty good. In it, Artemis Fowl acted like his usual pain-in-the-neck, prideful self like he was in the book series. The scene was pulled straight out of book 2 (The Arctic Incident). Artemis insulted the therapists chair with poise and intelligence.

Okay, there you go. That was all that was decent about the movie, in a few sad little paragraphs.

Anyway…

As a fan of the Artemis Fowl series, I was mortified by how Disney mutilated what had been an enchanting story into an awkward compilation of multiple books’ plots with some entirely new random stuff thrown in.

They also managed to mangle the beloved characters of the books series and make them…a bunch of goodie-goodies! The horror!

The movie starts out with the media converging on the Artemis Fowl case, revealing that Artemis Fowl Sr. is suspected of stealing relics. This sounds promising. (Now if he really was a criminal in the movie, that would be accurate.)

Mulch is telling this story under interrogation, so he butts in with his dull narration. Who’s Mulch? Well, the movie doesn’t tell you that yet, so stay tuned. The only thing we know about him is that he looks oddly like Hagrid from the Harry Potter movie.

Why Mulch Diggums from Artemis Fowl looks so familiar
Mulch from Artemis Fowl

We get to know Artemis Fowl Jr., who loved Ireland.

Ireland,field,pasture,landscape,scene - free image from needpix.com

Yeah…I don’t think the Artemis Fowl in the book loved anything…or at least would never admit to it.

Of course, the movie has to prove he loves Ireland. Cue surfing scene and outdoorsy activities.

That was the moment I knew they were going to ruin the movie. Artemis was a pallid, inactive boy in the book series. The first book literally said, “Sun did not suit Artemis. He did not look well in it. Long hours indoors in front of a computer screen had bleached the glow from his skin. He was white as a vampire and almost as testy in the light of the day.”

Artemis is no outdoorsman. If this was the Artemis from the book, he would probably fall off the surfboard and drown. What am I saying? He would never get on a surfboard in the first place.

Artemis Fowl from Artemis Fowl

We get to know this new-and-not-improved Artemis Fowl better in the therapy session scene, which seems to exist mostly because it gives the viewers background information such as the fact that Mrs. Fowl is dead (instead of mentally unstable and hiding away in her room like in the book). Also, that his father is frequently away on business trips.

But it is the one good scene in the movie, so it gets an excuse for its obvious purpose of exposition.

Now for a series of affectionate father-son bonding moments. Based on the book series, it’s hard to imagine Artemis Fowl showing actual affection. In the graphic novel, he hugs his mother once and it’s touching (but kind of out of character). But in the original series, Artemis showed very little affection toward anyone. Ever.

Artemis Fowl Sr. from Artemis Fowl

After the father-son scenes, Artemis Fowl Sr. leaves on a trip and is kidnapped by Opal Koboi. Good old Opal, who made her first appearance in the second book.

She should look like this:

Opal Koboi from the graphic novel series

In the movie, she looks like this:

Who's the Artemis Fowl villain? Without a post-credits scene, we ...

Don’t ask me why Disney made her look like a Sith Lord. I guess to make her creepier than a pink-haired pixie, but it backfired.

I guess they thought giving her a grating voice would help with the scare factor too, but no…it was hard to take Miss Sith seriously.

Apparently Opal Koboi is after the Aculos, which is a fancy-looking upside-down acorn…I mean, fairy artifact…with mysterious and dangerous powers.

Wait, what? What’s the Aculos? That wasn’t in the book series. Where did that come from? And why is it at the center of this movie?

Artemis Fowl: The Aculos, the Disney Movie's New Plot Device ...
The Aculos from Artemis Fowl

Anywho, Opal threatens Artemis Fowl Sr.’s life if Artemis Fowl Jr. doesn’t get the bedazzled acorn (fairy artifact, sorry) for her.

Butler takes Artemis down to the basement, where Artemis Fowl Sr. has kept his years of research on fairies. Only…in the books Artemis Fowl Sr. was not the one who researched fairies, it was Artemis Fowl Jr.

But, okay, sure. I mean, this movie already made him the good guy, even though as soon as he goes missing he is accused of stealing artifacts. Artemis Fowl Jr. is indignant. His father, a criminal? Of course not. So he has some interest in clearing his father’s name.

And Butler is not the man he was in the books. He goes by Dom in the movie, and man, if you dare to call him something else, he will snap you in half.

Seriously? Dom? In the books, you called him Butler if you valued your life. Even Artemis called him Butler. Artemis didn’t even learn Butler’s first name until Butler thought he was going to die and revealed it later in the series.

Butler from Artemis Fowl

Butler has a little sister named Juliet in the books who is a niece instead in the movie. Juliet was a teenager in the books, but is another 12-year-old in the movie.

Juliet from Artemis Fowl

In the meantime, Holly Short is in Haven City. We get to see the other main character, finally. They didn’t mess her up at all.

Just kidding. They ruined her.

First off, she looks like a twelve-year old of average height. In the book, she was a 3-foot tall woman. Second, in the book she specifically had nut-brown skin. Why did they choose a white actor to fill this role? I guess they tried to make up for it by making a couple of secondary characters black, but why not just have a main character with brown skin? Also, the secondary characters they made black were in the role of servants.

Holly Short | Disney Wiki | Fandom
Holly from Artemis Fowl

Also, in the books, she’s a snarky, rebellious woman. In the movie, she is a kind of rebellious, sweet and dumb little girl.

Mulch picks her pocket, making his first appearance as a giant dwarf. In the books, he was just a normal dwarf. Kind of reminds me of how Hagrid is half-giant.

Moving on…

We meet Commander Root and…what the heck…he’s female! Why? Did they just feel like they didn’t have enough female characters? Cause Commander Root was definitely a dude in the book…one that came off as sexist at first, until it was revealed that he really was hard on Holly because he wanted her as the first female LEPrecon officer to be better than his other officers. That way she could prove females could work in a job like that.

Commander Root from Artemis Fowl

Anyway, I guess they really didn’t want him to come off as sexist toward women, so they made him female. And made the team of LEPrecon officers consist of several more female characters for good measure.

Now, if they wanted this film to represent women more, they should have had better female characters. Not boring and painfully unfunny Commander Root, childish and consistently helpless Holly Short, and the combatant who never shows her skills, Juliet.

It turns out the fairies do not have the Aculos either, because of the treachery of Beechwood Short, Holly’s father. Holly maintains that he is innocent. Don’t worry, Beechwood is a good guy too.

We meet Foaly shortly after Root, when they receive news of a troll that has escaped to the surface world. Now, in the books Foaly is a centaur with an affinity for tin hats. He is snarky, witty, and hilarious.

So of course in the movie he has absolutely no funny lines, and barely appears.

The only funny thing about him is the way he gallops around the room, looking like a prancing pony. That was the part of the movie that made me laugh.

So anyway, Holly is sent to the surface to deal with the troll in Italy. The troll attacks a party. Unlike in the book, no human gave Holly an invitation to enter the party that the troll attacked. This makes the rules of the movie inconsistent because fairies require human permission to intervene in situations like this.

The troll is defeated and Holly Short goes off to Tara because there is a clue to how she can clear her father’s name there. This is unlike the book because in the book she goes there to replenish her magic by completing the Ritual.

Artemis and Butler manage to kidnap her. The fairies find out and are dismayed. They retaliate by stopping time around Fowl Manor.

Artemis and the fairies attempt negotiations, which end in Artemis refusing to allow the fairies inside while he lives. The fairies decide to send in Mulch because they say he is a dwarf, not a fairy.

This is where the creators of this movie made a critical mistake. In Irish mythology, and in the Artemis Fowl series, dwarves are fairies.

The real reason Mulch was able to go inside the Manor in the book was because fairies technically can enter dwellings without permission – at the cost of their magic. Mulch lost his magic in the past breaking and entering into human dwellings, so he had nothing to lose by entering Fowl Manor without permission.

Mulch finds the Aculos located in a safe in Fowl Manor.

Artemis has a heart-to-heart conversation with Holly, where they bond over both having falsely accused/slandered fathers. Holly asks if they are friends, and Artemis says, “Forever friends.”

I almost died of laughter and indignation when he said that. It was like something straight out of My Little Pony. The Artemis in the books wouldn’t be caught dead saying something that sappy.

The Hub Renews 'My Little Pony' for Season 5 | Animation World Network
From My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Under new management, the fairies send in a troll and turn off all magic in the house. The heroes of the story engage in a pathetic battle that consists mostly of the troll smashing things and Holly shrieking at people to untangle her wings from a chandelier where she is hanging like a pinned butterfly. Juliet is equally useless. Artemis and friends winning the battle seemed like a big accident.

In the book, Butler managed to take down the troll on his second try with some advanced martial arts. In other words, he was scary competent in the book, but awkward in the movie.

Butler almost dies after the battle, but Holly is able to heal him when Root regains control and turns the magic back on in the house. At this point, Butler cries. Yeah, this is not the Butler fans of the book know and love.

The whole dying scene was completely ruined by the creepy dolls that were all over that room. The whole time Butler was almost dying I was thinking, yikes, those things are freaky, why are they there?

Rather than give the Aculos to Koboi, Artemis asks Holly to bring back Artemis Fowl Sr with the power of the Aculos. She gladly complies (Stockholm Syndrome?), and it works because the movie needs to end soon I guess. Kind of anti-climactic, but whatever.

Artemis Fowl Sr. gives Holly a list of traitors to the fairies, which Commander Root orders her to investigate. She’s happy with that, and even gets some applause from the rest of the LEPrecon officers. For what exactly? Getting kidnapped and assisting the kidnappers?

Artemis Fowl calls himself a criminal mastermind at the end of the movie. That doesn’t make sense for multiple reasons. First, they already established him as the good guy. Second, he was horrified when his father was accused of crimes and wanted his name cleared.

So why would he be proud of being a criminal at the end? Also, he did very little that was criminal compared to in the books. In the first book, he kidnapped Holly just so he could get his hands on fairy gold. In the movie, he only kidnapped her to save his father.

Overall, this is a movie that fans of the original series will hate, and it is unlikely to win over any new fans.

It is not good as a standalone movie. For people to understand it, they have to have read the book. Yet it deviates so far from the book that those who have read the books will not enjoy it. At the same time, the movie’s so confusing that people who have not read the book will be turned off by it.

Movies

Movie Review: Artemis Fowl (Spoiler-Free)

Artemis Fowl (film) - Wikipedia

Movie: Artemis Fowl (2020)

Rating: 2 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is the first movie review on my blog, and I wish that the movie would have been better. In fact, this is one of the rare occasions that a movie has made me angry by how much it differed from the book.

As a fan of the Artemis Fowl series, I was mortified by how Disney mutilated what had been an enchanting story into an awkward compilation of multiple books’ plots with some entirely new random stuff thrown in.

Below, I have outlined the pros and cons of the movie. I will be as vague as necessary to avoid spoilers.

Pros

  • The movie had decent special effects.
  • The Therapy Session scene was well-executed.

Racking my mind for any other positive aspects of this movie….

I got nothing.

Cons

  • The characters were ruined
    • For example…
      • Artemis Fowl was a good guy in the movie – not a criminal mastermind.
      • Artemis was also an active outdoorsman in the movie, while he was a pallid, inactive boy in the book series. The first book literally said, “Sun did not suit Artemis. He did not look well in it. Long hours indoors in front of a computer screen had bleached the glow from his skin. He was white as a vampire and almost as testy in the light of the day.”
      • Butler and Juliet acted ridiculous in the movie, while they were serious and formidable in the book series (although Juliet has always had her moments of poor decision-making).
      • Mulch was a giant dwarf (an oxymoron, I know). In the book, he was just a normal dwarf.
      • Commander Root was cast as a kinder female character, while in the book Commander Root was male who was in a constant state of irritation, spouting curses continually.
      • Foaly was a prancing centaur with absolutely no interesting lines. In the book, he was the funniest character and was at least respectable.
  • The plot was completely different than the book.
  • An important detail of Irish mythology was messed up in the movie.
    • Hint: Dwarves are a kind of fairy.
  • The directors never should have tried to make a PG Artemis Fowl. Instead, it should have been PG-13 to incorporate more of the important aspects of the book series. The book series was originally intended for young adults.
  • It was an awkward compilation of multiple books.
  • In the books, Holly had nut-brown skin. In the movie, she was white. Instead, they made secondary characters Butler and Juliet black, even though they were Eurasian and white.

Once both the plot and the characters of a story are screwed up, it doesn’t have a chance. I knew that this movie was not going by the books as soon as I saw Artemis on a surfboard, but I had still held out hope that it would be a good movie. Yet it was by straying so far from the beloved characters and amazing storytelling of the Artemis Fowl series that the movie went wrong.

The only part of the movie where it genuinely seemed like Artemis Fowl was acting like he did in the original book series was during the therapy session scene. In that scene, he spoke and acted like the extremely intelligent 12-year-old that he was supposed to be.

It is not good as a standalone movie. For people to understand it, they have to have read the book. Yet it deviates so far from the book that those who have read the books will not enjoy it. At the same time, the movie’s so confusing that people who have not read the book will be turned off by it.

Overall, this is a movie that fans of the original series will hate, and it is unlikely to win over any new fans.

In another of my blog articles, there is a full length movie analysis (with spoilers!!!).

Board Games

Board Game Review: The Quacks of Quedlinburg

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Cover Artwork

Rank: 8.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is my first board game review. What I hope to accomplish with these reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a board game that I have played many times with my family. This game made my top ten favorite board games for a reason! I will explain why it deserves such a ranking below. But first, a quick description of the game and its features.

Description

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a Push-Your-Luck game where you play as a quack doctor brewing potions for the market.

You start the game with a pouch of tokens. After the first player draws a card that determines the special scenario for the round, each player simultaneously places tokens in their pot. The tokens have a value on them that determines the number of spaces they progress in the pot.

Most kinds of tokens are helpful, but there is one type of token that is harmful. This token is called a cherrybomb. Each cherrybomb brings the pot closer to exploding.

If the pot explodes, the player has to choose between gaining points for the round or being able to buy new tokens.

The goal is to fill your pot as much as possible without your pot exploding. The player who accumulates the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Gameplay (10 out of 10 stars)

The gameplay is smooth and does not bring up problems. I have tried many combinations of ingredients that had variations in their abilities. Each time, none of the combinations clashed with each other, and each allowed for different strategies.

The game took about 45 minutes each time I played. It does not seem to drag on longer than necessary or end too soon.

The end of each round triggers a series of events whose order is indicated on the main board. If any question of whether it is time to do something arises, the board can be used as a reference rather than flipping through the rulebook.

Scoring is simple. Each round you get the number of points indicated on your pot at the spot directly after where you stop adding ingredients (tokens). At the end of the game, you divide the amount of money you would have received by 5 to buy new tokens and count these as bonus points. Every two rubies you have at the end is worth another two points.

Design (7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art of the game is attractive and fits the theme well. While it is not especially remarkable, it does a good job setting the scene. The bright colors add to the sense that what the quack doctors and fortune tellers do is all show.

The components are decently made and consist of cards, boards, tokens, and gems. Most of the components are made of paper or cardboard with the exception of a couple of wooden pieces and the plastic gems.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

Because this is a Push-Your-Luck game, I do not believe it would be fair to give it a lower ranking on strategy just because it involves a lot of chance.

For one thing, you can still have a strategy based on the probability of picking out certain tokens.

For another, the books of each ingredient that explain its ability dictate your strategy, but allow a lot of freedom. Which tokens you buy makes a huge difference.

For example, you may choose to buy more red tokens if the ability of the red tokens that round is to put them aside and then decide whether to use them at the end of this round or next round. If stopping at certain spaces on the pot is part of your strategy, buying more red tokens is an excellent choice.

You might likewise choose to purchase tokens that go more spaces forward, such as a 4-chip, or ones that have more desired abilities.

Furthermore, you may use a riskier strategy or play it safe. Should you place one more tile even though your pot is on the verge of exploding? It’s your call.

If you blow up, do you go for the points or buy more tokens? In this game, it seems like players are always in favor of buying more tokens because that improves your next turn. Part of the reason is that if you fall behind in points, the game gives you an advantage to make it more competitive in the form of rat tails, which allow you to start with your pot partially full. I think making buying the better choice almost all of the time takes away from the strategy, but just slightly.

Originality/Creativity (9 out of 10 stars)

This game has a creative theme. Although potion-making as a theme is not entirely original, making the potion brewers all quack doctors added to the uniqueness.

Using tokens pulled randomly to fill up the track in the pot, and then using the spot directly after for scoring was a great idea for a Push-Your-Luck game. The fact that you could explode if you pushed it too far was also a wise choice.

Also, the rat tails that give losing players an advantage prevent the game from ever feeling like they are too far behind to catch up. I haven’t played any other game that used a system like the rat tails.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

There are so many combinations of ingredient books to use that gameplay can be different every time.

Additionally, the pot can be flipped over for a variation of the game. In the variant, you can trade in your rubies for prizes that give you even more options. I found myself not interested in using the prize track after trying it because it seemed much better to use the rubies to move the starting point where the pot begins to fill up instead.

Overall, its replayability is high.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/244521/quacks-quedlinburg

How to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcvK6ExuISM

Books

Book Review: “New Kid” by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

Let me start by saying this is my first book review. Excluding any reviews or essays I wrote for school, I mean. I hope that this will be helpful to you!

In my book reviews, I would like to highlight the storytelling abilities of the author, consider the impact of the art style if any, and evaluate how well the book does what it sets out to do.

I will do this for books written for a variety of audiences and ages.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – in the end, my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if reading the book is worthwhile or if it sounds like its the book for you. For example, if it’s a well-written horror book, I will give it a good rating even though I personally dislike the horror genre.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Now, for the real review.

First, a little background.

The graphic novel New Kid by Jerry Craft won the 2020 Newbery Medal as well as a host of other awards, and was added to many distinguished lists. It is about the everyday life of an African American seventh grader named Jordan Banks. He starts the school year at a new prestigious school with low diversity, where he has difficulties fitting in.

Now I will list the Pros and Cons of the book before going into greater detail.

Pros

  • Achieves its original purpose
  • Strong message
  • Complex main character
  • Thoughtful title that changes meaning throughout the story
  • Creative chapter titles
  • Distinct artistic style
  • Well-established setting

Cons

  • The art style was unappealing, at least for me
  • Occasional build-up of tension, but low stakes
  • Slow pace

Review

Purpose

My overall experience with this book was very good. It does exactly what it sets out to do – depict the experience of an African American boy trying to fit in at a new school despite its low level of diversity.

From looking at what others have posted about it, it seems to somewhat accurately depict the experiences African Americans have had with microaggressions and racism. Some have said that what Jordan Banks experienced was much milder than their own experiences. Others empathized with his experiences and related similar experiences of their own. Overall, reactions to this have been mixed but generally positive.

Message

Part of the message was that anyone who makes assumptions about another person because of their color of their skin is being racist. Seems obvious, but that was only part of the message.

But Craft had the further, very important message that it is racist regardless of one’s intentions. Some of the people who were racist in this graphic novel were malicious, but most were just ignorant and thoughtless. (The instances of racism were still really cringey, and I believe ignorance is no excuse.) Furthermore, it is crucial to note that these offhand, thoughtless comments caused just as much harm to the main character as the malicious ones.

Another part of the message is that there is not enough representation of people of color and minorities in literature, at least not of the right kind. The writer actually used examples of what kind of literature is being marketed to black teens to highlight his point.

That was what I perceived as his message.

Complex Main Character

On the one hand, Jordan was deeply hurt by the microaggressions and racism he and his friends experienced. On the other, he was reluctant to retaliate, and struggled to find his own voice in opposition to racism.

He also feels torn because he feels that his friends from school and those from the neighborhood are somehow incompatible.

He is an artistic boy with profound ideas that come out in his drawings. For example, he wants to be like Batman, but not just because Batman is a hero, but because Batman lives two lives and manages to fit in perfectly with both.

Thoughtful Title

The title, “New Kid” seems to refer to both Jordan’s experience as the new kid at school and how he becomes a “new kid” as his experiences change his perspective.

Creative Chapter Titles

The chapter titles are puns based on movie titles. Hilarious!

Distinctive art style

Craft definitely has a style that is uniquely his own. It doesn’t look average, and the style is consistently applied.

Well-established setting

Unlike some books, which have trouble establishing the setting, this one had no problems because the setting was depicted visually with detail. The main settings are the school and the neighborhood. The school seems large and sprawling, and generally impressive. The neighborhood, where it seems many of the inhabitants know each other by name, is shown less but is still a big part of Jordan’s life.

Unappealing art style

The art style simply wasn’t for me. That being said, I’m sure there are others who adore it.

For one thing, the positions characters were in seemed unnatural at times. And not just where it had an obvious purpose such as emphasizing a character trait or emotion.

Tension

The tension was pretty low most of the time because Jordan is pretty laid-back about most stuff, and is unwilling to do anything that might jeopardize his ability to fit in (most of the time!)

A possible source of tension could be that he wants to go to art school but his parents are forcing him to go to a different school. This is a small source of tension, but Jordan barely argues the point.

When faced with microaggressions and racism, he typically shrugs it off or just complains about it later with his friends. I’m not saying that I think he should make a big scene – just that his responses keep the tension very low for most of the book.

The stakes are low – will he or will he not fit in? But he quickly makes good friends near the beginning of the book, so that lowers the stakes.

With low stakes and low tension, not much excitement is raised in this book. The climax is more like a bump in the road than a critical moment, even though it does signal a turning point. That being said, his story is still interesting, impactful, and worthwhile.

Slow pace

It may be because the tension is kept low, but the pace seems slow at times. This is because it is showing the everyday life of a seventh grader. Even the less interesting moments. The beginning took awhile to get into until it felt like the story really began and I was hooked.

Conclusion

I would certainly recommend this book, especially for middle school and junior high students, because I think they will identify with Jordan’s struggles to fit in and I think that not enough books are on English syllabi that have African American protagonists.

The poet Horace said that “the aim of the poet is to inform or delight,” and I believe that applies to writers in general. New Kid does both skillfully.

Links