Monthly Archives: August 2009

Movie Magic Mondays: Labyrinth

I have to say, I hold a special spot in my heart for today’s movie magic pick.

My mother first introduced me to the sheer brilliance of the movie Labyrinth when I was about four years old. I can’t tell you why I loved it at first sight, but I did. Maybe it was the music (it is pretty catchy) or maybe it was the overall experience.

Labyrinth is one of those movies that has the ability to suck you in and immerse you in the world it creates. Granted, having been filmed in 1986, it’s victim to ancient effects and puppetry, but in the brilliant hands of Jim Henson and George Lucas, it still manages to work!

The Goblins are an ugly bunch, but they’re full of tons of personality. Hoggle, though a supporting character, manages to have an impressive and thorough character arc. And Ludo, who is really nothing more than a giant, hairy beast who grunts, still manages to exude a kind of compassion through perfectly puppeteered eyes.

Many of you will recognize the heroine, Sarah, played by a very young Jennifer Connelly. She isn’t quite up to par (if you’re thinking A Beautiful Mind and such) but she plays a belligerent and whiny teenager convincingly. It isn’t however until she petitions the Goblin King to steal her crying baby brother Toby, that the story REALLY gets going. Because let’s be honest, David Bowie makes Labyrinth what it is. He’s brilliant in the role.

As a child I enjoyed the glass balls he manages to make float and turn into bubbles. As an adult, I appreciate the subtle labyrinth2-1024sensual nuances of his relationship with Sarah. In fact, I believe it’s their chemistry that makes the movie work on so many levels. For instance, his tenderness and patience with Sarah seems nurturing, though he desires (and expects) her to fail. At the same time, he’s the man who can make all of her dreams come true, at a very heavy price. Something about that mixture of authority, mystery, conniving, and sensuality make their relationship thrilling to watch, although the only romantic implication is made when they dance at the Goblin Ball.

Overall, this movie is exactly what a good fantasy should be. It takes you to a world so far from our own, yet full of all the things we recognize: friendship, love, dreams, heartbreak, difficult choices and personal discovery. It has a great soundtrack – not just the songs sung in the movie, but the instrumentals as well!

I give it an: A+

(I even want to pop it into the DVD player right now, after talking about it). 🙂

Friday Finds: Magic Everywhere

Since Fridays are open ended post days, I thought I’d post a few fun things I’ve been enjoying throughout the week.

Keep in mind that Fridays are an open forum here at Hollow Tree and anything you’d like to talk about for the coming week is fair game! So post away and let us know what books you’ve been reading, what movies you’d like us to see, what shows are catching your eye, what myths you’ve always loved, etc and we’ll be more than happy to discuss them!

With today being as gloomy as it is here in New England, I’ve been wanting to escape to a more magical place. Thankfully, the internet brings magic to your fingertips in all sorts of ways.

Music has always been a HUGE source of inspiration for me so when I first saw this commercial, I was captured by the beautiful instrumental playing in the background. Plus, mermaids! I mean, who doesn’t love mermaids? Ariel is MY favorite Disney princess.

I just never get tired of watching that commerical. It is so beautiful. And I will definitely be checking out The Blue Sky Project album to see what other instrumental gems I find.

I also found a really amazing makeup tutorial which I used as inspiration for my heroine’s costume in the masquerade scene of my story! I really want to find more places to attend where I can do stuff like that. Anyone up for planning a masquerade?

And finally, a movie that I am very anxious to see (and a clever little segway to next week’s book reviews!):

That has movie magic written all over it. Visually stunning, interesting, and come on, Johnny Depp! 🙂 Love it.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Bleeding Heart Flower


This is a very old Japanese legend that was told to me by my father, when we happened upon a Bleeding Heart flowerbush once, and today I will tell it to you.  The really amazing thing about it is that the entire story, as happens in Japanese legends occasionally, can be illustrated in actual physical things—in this case, the anatomy of a flower.

There once was a young man who fell dearly in love with a beautiful and wealthy maiden.  He made her lavish gifts to try to win her love.  Firstly, he gave her a pair of the most luxorious rabbits to keep as pets.


These she took happily, but declared she could not love him.  Still, he can’t bear to give up hope, and he makes her another gift of slippers made of the finest silk.


She also recieved these gifts, but told the young man her feelings would never change towards him.  Desperate, he spends the rest of his small savings to send her the most beautiful pair of earrings he could purchase.


The maiden took the earrings, but still refused to marry the young man.  Torn, and bereft, the young man knew finally that he had no more to give, and so he took his knife and pierced himself through the heart.


The first Bleeding Heart plant sprung from the place where he died.


Oh I was enchanted when my father told me this story, delicately taking the flower apart to show me the various parts of the legend.  Never before have I seen science and fairy tales so closely intertwined.  I can see why the story appealed to my father, who loves plants and has always seemed very well-versed in his own culture’s mythology, and it appeals to me for similar reasons.  It is very indicative of the Japanese way of looking at things, close study combined with flightful imagination, building into a tragic romance.  This is the newest addition to the small store of Japanese legends that I know myself, and I do believe that it is my very favorite.

Flower-part images courtesy of More Friends and a Blog.

Book Geek Wednesday: TBR Additions

Instead of a book review today, I thought I’d live a little dangerously and tackle the object of my frustration: my TBR pile. It’s been seriously lacking for a few months now, mostly due to lack of time and funds. But I’m about ready to build it back up and I’m looking for some great YA fiction to fill it.

For starters, I’m reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I’m not too far into it yet, but I definitely like the world building surrounding people’s ‘graces’. Some seem utterly useless (like talking backwards without thinking) while others, like Katsa’s, can be invaluable and abused. I’ll definitely have a review for this one once I’m finished reading it, so look out for it, ok?

And might I just point out the AMAZING book trailer? It’s how I first heard about the book in the first place. It’s so professionally done, it plays like a movie trailer. I was very impressed. I wish more books had trailers like that. I know they’re most likely expensive to produce – but it might be worth the expense. It got me to buy the book after all!

So check it out:

I have been hearing a lot about a certain Maggie Stiefvater. I first saw her book Lament over at Flux Books (which have a great YA selection!) I absolutely loved the blurb so I started checking out a few of her other books. Now, I also want Shiver. It’s about wolves and I’m sure my sudden interest in it stems from my intense and ridiculous love for Jacob Black. There, I said it.

So those are just a few things that I’m reading or that I want to read. But I’m always open to suggestions. Is there anything you’re reading that you’d highly recommend?

I’ll admit, I tend to first judge a book by it’s cover (I know, bad me!). But more than that, I take friend recommendations VERY seriously. It’s how I stumbled onto some really amazing books. And it is, in my opinion one of the highest compliments you can pay a writer, to say to a friend this book is exceptional, you should read it! Because it means the book has stayed with you long after you finished it. 😉

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Tithe by Holly Black


I came by owning this book quite accidentally.  I bought Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan, which also features a cover with a butterfly on it, and then at a closing sale for my hometown’s mall Borders, I bought what I thought were the sequels to that, but were of course Holly Black’s Tithe trilogy.  And so I used my Borders Bucks and bought Tithe itself.  I’d been meaning to anyway, I’d heard good things about it, and I generally like to see what the fuss is about when there is fuss.

Sadly, I can’t say that I enjoyed it.  Well, that’s not exactly right.  I enjoyed bits of it.  The Faerie world in it was certainly attractive and mesmerizing… but the human world seemed… just plain off.  Like Black was trying too hard to contrast the two, and had to up the harshness of the human world to an unrealistic level.  Besides the main character, I simply didn’t buy that these kids were kids.  They all seemed far too jaded, and a little caricature-ish.  And everything in the Faerie world seems… oh a bit too awful.  I mean, I never was the type who’d pretend faeries were supposed to be pretty, nice little things, but I’ve always felt that there had to be some niceness to them, otherwise why would people be so enamored with them?  I’d think you’d get tired of the cruelty to the point that the physical beauty simply couldn’t make up for it.

There’s something particularly dark going on with one of the main character’s human friends, too, that I really just don’t even know if I want to see where it leads to.  It can’t be anything good, at this rate, and again, what is the appeal of something that can’t lead to any good at all? As I already own the sequels, however, I will probably read them at some point.  I don’t have a lot of hope that they’ll get better though.

I give this a disappointed B-… leaning towards a C+.  Some people love it though… maybe one of you can tell me what I’m missing?

Movie Magic Monday: Ever After

Hi blog readers! Welcome back to Movie Magic Monday! The movie up for discussion today is Ever After: A Cinderella Story starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, and Dougray Scott.

The fantastic thing about this movie is that although it is not a modern day adaptation of the famous fairytale, it does have an air of maturity and independence that feels very current. It’s tag line: ‘Desire. Defy. Escape.’ sets the stage for the intelligent and passionate protagonist Danielle, who unlike the fairytale Cinderella is not a helpless victim, but more a triumphant heroine, who manages to make the most of some truly terrible situations (and one very cruel, obnoxious stepsister).

Danielle has found happiness in her simple life, though it is not the life she was meant to live. The servants of her father’s household have become the family she so sorely lacks and she is still very much an optimistic dreamer, despite her lot in life.

There are a few fantastic surprises in this film, including the very charismatic and hysterical gypsies, the kind stepsister who in my opinion often steals the show, the handsome prince who manages to have more depth than Prince no-name Charming ever could, and the appearance of a very famous historical figure, who manages to ground this fairytale into reality.

Anjelica Huston is just perfectly empty as the wicked stepmother. She even manages to have a glimpse of brief humanity before it literally melts off her face. And Drew Barrymore’s performance is impressive, more so than I could have imagined. I cheered for her the entire time.

This movie is so good, I know guys who have added it to their DVD collection. I swear. It’s fantastic.

I give it a definite: A+

Rapunzel, a Retelling by Lisa


Rapunzel, a Retelling

© Lisa Asanuma, 2009

My mother wasn’t quite the woman the stories have made her out to be.  Ugly, cruel, to lock a beautiful young girl up in a tower with no chance of escape and no one but herself for company.

The truth was, I went in willingly.  She didn’t force me, or put me into an enchanted sleep until the deed was done.  She told me she wanted to protect me, to keep me from the horrible things of the world.  And I was a vain and naïve child.  She told me I was beautiful and I believed her—it was very lucky for me that I truly was.  She might have had a twisted perspective of the world, and she might have taken advantage of my young and trusting mind, but I did trust her, and if I had the option of going back now—not to the tower, understand, but to her—I probably would.

She had been beautiful once, and loved and admired for her talents, one of the last of her kind, of the revered witches.  She was born too late, outlived her sisters, was chased and persecuted.  Can you blame her for wanting to hold fast to something, someone she loved?

I harbor no illusions, however.  I know she is not my true mother, that she stole me from a pair of peasants as a display of power.  I’ve seen them, since, the woman staring longingly after me, a woman who looks like me, who I used to dream of though I was hardly old enough to remember her when I was taken.

But that woman never brushed my long golden hair, or told me stories of the songs the moon would sing, long ago, as my mother did.  My rescuer would only have me remember that in my tower I had no door, but I had a window, and the sky, and every possibility open to the imagination that those things could bring me.

It was more difficult than I can tell to leave that cozy room, full of all the lovely things she could give me.  To give up my entire world, just for him.  She would most likely kill me now, the poor woman, as I’ve betrayed all her trust and broken her heart.  That he is a prince, that he is rich and handsome and benevolent, is easily enough understood.  That he is worth it… remains to be seen.

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Selkies

selkieSelkies are one of my favorite changeling legends, seals that can remove their skins and become human.  They originate in Orkney Islands, and are mainly prevelent in Scottish, Irish and Icelandic tradition. It is said that a selkie can come on land and come into contact with one—just one—human, but then they must return to the sea for seven years before they can come ashore again, though some places say one year.  Selkies in their human form are supposed to be particularly beautiful and attractive—so as you can imagine, there are quite the number of selkie one-night-stands.

Male selkies are said to have power over storms, and to sink ships to avenge against seal-hunters, but they also are drawn to women who are unhappy in their romantic life—a woman can even summon a selkie man to her by letting seven of her tears fall into the ocean.  Children born as a result of these trysts are often selkies also, and as a result often leave their mothers.

Female selkies tend to have a hard lot in stories.  Just like the males, they can shed their skin and once they put it back on they must return to the ocean for a set amount of time, but if their skin is stolen from them, and hidden (or in some cases, burnt) then the woman must marry the man who has stolen her seal skin.  They make for good, dependable wives as they will do precisely what their husbands ask of them, but they often miss their home in the sea—and possibly family in the sea—so much that they are simply miserable in their land-locked lives.  Quite often in stories like this, the seak skin is discovered by one of the selkie’s children by accident, and she will put it on and escape back to her home in the sea, never looking back at the life she’s leaving on land, except maybe once in a while to visit her children and play with them in the waves.

There’s exceptions to every rule, however, and there is another story of a selkie woman who truly loves her human husband, and warns him away from fishing in dangerous waters, but when he goes anyway, and his ship is wrecked, she returns to her seal form to save him, even though it means being banished from her happy home.

So why do I love such a melancholy myth?  haha  I think it’s because of those little exceptions, the ones where the love is real and not enforced.  And something about a means to capture a mythical creature has always fascinated me, because the idea that a human could have a magical being in their power is undeniably alluring, though maybe it appeals to the darkest side of ourselves.

If your interest is piqued about Selkies, there have been a few somewhat-recent uses of them in fantasy tellings… I’d recommend checking out the film The Secret of Roan Inish, or the children’s novel The Sooterkin, by Tom Gilling.

Book Geek Wednesday: StereoOpticon Review

Hello dear readers! Isabelle here, with her first book review. And because I never do anything simple, I decided to review the YA anthology, StereoOpticon: Fairytales in Split Vision published by Drollerie Press, which contains not one, but twelve YA stories! That’s right. TWELVE. So get comfy, because we’ve got a buffet of young adult goodness coming your way.

The book starts off with an in-depth introduction by publisher Deena Fisher about some of the classic fairytales of her youth and how the anthology offerings pull from these in completely original ways. And as I read, I found she was right. Many of these stories felt familiar, they had a certain magic about them that brought their perspective worlds to life yet when I dug deeper, I could still find the heart of classic fairytales at their core. There’s a lovely flow to the book as a whole and I was always surprised when one ended, making me eager to jump into the next one right away.

The highlights for me were: Castle of Masks by C.S. Inman, a moving and surprising retelling of Beauty and the Beast; The Gallows Maiden by Francesca Forrest which had some of the most disturbing and memorable imagery I’ve read in a long time; and Falling by Imogen Howson, a futuristic retelling of Rapunzel which works so well, I’m hard pressed to believe the original took place in a stone tower long long ago.

These three stories stuck with me long after I finished the anthology and are some of the best examples of how truly talented this collection of authors are. They managed to put their own stamp on stories that we’ve heard many times before and do so brilliantly.

But don’t think just because I’ve highlighted those three that the others were only mediocre. Quite the contrary! This book is full of gems. I was left wondering about the true identity of the mysterious Don Joaquin all throughout A Necklace of Rubies by Cindy Lynn Spear, and I cheered when Jac decided to follow his heart in The Orb of Enori by G.L. Simmons. Trust me, when I tell, this book is full of what makes YA fantasy great.

I give it a hearty: A

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Hello, there! Lisa here with today’s pick, my most recent read, Lisa Mangum’s debut novel, The Hourglass Door.


Description from

His past. Her future. Can love bring them together in time? Abby’s senior year of high school is going according to plan: good friends, cute boyfriend, and college applications in the mail. But when Dante Alexander, foreign-exchange student from Italy, steps into her life, he turns it upside down. He’s mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she’s ever met before. Abby can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Soon Abby finds herself drawn into a mystery whose roots reach into sixteenth-century Florence, and she uncovers a dangerous truth that threatens not only her future but the lives of those she loves.

I seem to be one of the slim few (really, check the reviews) who didn’t really fall in love with this book.  It’s being hailed as a Twilight-esque romance, which I suppose it is, but something just didn’t click for me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great concepts here, and some of the descriptions are fabu, but I just didn’t get all that captivated with the main character, or even her love interest.  The bad guys are a bit too bad, and the good guys are almost too good.  But my biggest problem with the novel may yet be answered in the sequel…

Because the thing is, Dante shows up on the scene and seems to be in love with Abby automatically.  The vice-versa happens pretty quickly also, but we’re inside Abby’s head, so it’s only really her side that we get to see.  She never questions (as many a teenager might) just what Dante, gorgeous darksome mystery boy sees in her of all people… and as the reader, I’m very curious.  But there’s a hint of intrigue on that part, just the smallest hint that you might blink and miss, and so I find myself wanting to read the sequel (The Golden Spiral, due out 2010) despite my feelings thus far.  I have to give some credit to the fact that this is a debut novel, after all, and the last forty pages or so really are done wonderfully, setting up the next book nicely, and there are a few side characters (one in particular) who are really very nice additions.  I admit that she pulled a number or two over on me as well, which I’ll let you find out about for yourself, if you like. 😉

This does feel a bit like a Twilight rebound book, but it’s not a copy of the story by any means.  Mangum’s mythology is definitely all her own, which is a nice thing to come across in fantasy these days.  Certainly Hollow-Tree worthy, at that, with something as simple as walking through a door…

I think I’ll give it a hopeful C+ rating… if some big questions are answered in the sequel (why is Abby so special, for example?) then that could end up being raised, but we’ll have to wait and see!

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