Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Have a safe, spooky, happy Halloween!
image via

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book-to-Film: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It's not news that the entertainment business is having a field day with book-to-film adaptations.  With the massive, ginormous successes of the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games movies, film studios are clawing over each other to snatch up the film rights to books all over the place.  Often these days, film rights are purchased before a book is even published.  I think it's safe to say that we are in the midst of a full on book-adaptation frenzy in the film world.  I recently stumbled across this article written by the lovely ladies at Big Books, Tiny Voices where they detail the progress in over 60 books with film adaptations in the works.  (Yes, there really are that many, and more.  Not that all those films will actually be made, in fact most probably won't.  But some will.)  I highly recommend checking out the full article, if you're interested in the subject.

I already knew about most of the adaptations they feature, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn of a possible adaptation to Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.  I just finished reading this novel last week, so I was particularly interested in this new development.  Here's what BBTV reports on the adaptation developments:

"The Skinny: Even though Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus was written for adults, its combination of magic and forbidden love has had a cross-generation appeal. The story is about two magicians forced to compete against each other in an elaborate duel but instead fall in love. The film rights were scooped up by the production company behind the Twilight Saga franchise- Summit Entertainment, in January 2011. Since then David Heyman (Harry Potter Movies) has signed on to produce alongside Jeffery Clifford (No Strings Attached; Up in the Air) with Moira Buffini (2011, Jane Eyre) as the scribe."

I have to be honest, I didn't love The Night Circus.  I thought it was a great idea (Dueling magicians! Eccentric circus setting!  Forbidden love!)  and was written with some really lovely prose, but the pacing of the story was way too slow and the plot was frustratingly muddled.  I really wanted to like it, but the book just didn't deliver for me, despite its promising premise.  The great and terrible thing about film is that it edits books down to its bones in order to cram the entire story into a two-hour segment.  That hurts some stories, but I think it could be fantastic here.  The pace would automatically be improved as a movie just to fit the demands of the medium of film.  And in the hands of a good screenwriter, the plot holes could be filled.  I'm not familiar with screenwriter Moira Buffini, but I'm hoping she can get the job done.  If done right, this film could have all the tension and excitement that the book lacked.  I hope this movie really happens!

If it does, can I request Dave Franco and Michelle Trachtenberg in the title roles of Marco and Celia, with Ed Harris as Alexander and Bill Nighy as Prospero?  Please?  Yes?  Thank you.  I'm glad we had this conversation.

Dave Franco

Michelle Trachtenberg

Ed Harris

Bill Nighy


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Books for All Ages

This sign has been making the rounds on Pinterest.  I'm only an average crafter.  (Read: I do not own a cricket but I do know what a cricket is.  For you anti-crafters out there, I'm not talking about the insect or the sport.)  But I think this sign just might be worth the black paint and vinyl letters.

Anywho, in case you've been living under a rock let me inform you that Halloween is in TWO DAYS.

Here are some book suggestions to get you and your whole family in the mood for Halloween.

For Kids: Popcorn by Frank Asch.
This is the story about a young bear named Sam who is left home Halloween night while his parents go to a party.  Sam decides to throw a costume party of his own, and invites all his friends.  Things are going fine, until they decide to pop all the popcorn in the house in a big black kettle... The story, the costumes, and of course the popcorn will get kids ready for the excitement of the season.
Alternate: Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Alternate: Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant

For Tweens: The Witches by Roald Dahl
Fun and adventurous with just the right touch of scare, this is a great book for kids who have outgrown picture books but who aren't ready for YA yet.  It's a classic Dahl combination of humor, excitement, and just a little bit of the grotesque.  Perfect for Halloween.
Alternate: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic by Betty Macdonald
Alternate: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

For Teens: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
With all the paranormal books out there these days, there are dozens and dozens of books with plenty of creep factor to get teens in the mood for Halloween.  There's nothing wrong with vampires and werewolves, but in case you want something spooky without the supernatural, give this book a try.  Sometimes the lack of the supernatural is even scarier.
Alternate: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Alternate: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

For Adults: Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble."  Just those words from the witches in Macbeth get me in the mood for Halloween.  This is perhaps Shakespeare's spookiest play, with elements of the supernatural sprinkled throughout this dark and bloody tale.  A worthy read at any time of year, but you'll get the most out of these atmospheric words at Halloween.
Alternate: Anything by Edgar Allen Poe.
Alternate: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Happy reading!

What Do Palpatine and Draco Malfoy Have In Common? APPARENTLY ME.

Who are you?  

(If you are Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, we are, apparently, mortal enemies.  Prepare to duel to the death.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "It's been months since Aria learned of her mother's death.  Months since Perry became Blood Lord of the Tides, and months since Aria last saw him.

Now Aria and Perry are about to be reunited. It's a moment they've been longing for with countless expectations. And it's a moment that lives up to all of them.   
At least, at first. Then it slips away. The Tides don't take kindly to former Dwellers like Aria. And the tribe is swirling out of Perry's control. With the Aether storms worsening every day, the only remaining hope for peace and safety is the Still Blue. But does this haven truly exist?

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night? In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and sci-fi elements to create a captivating adventure-and a love story as perilous as it is unforgettable."

Review: Just when I thought I was all dystopiaed out, this series came along.  I resisted reading this series because the book covers are so horrible.  (Seriously, they're awful.  Not remotely representative of the rocking story inside.)  But I'm so glad I gave them a chance.  I am loving this series!  It is surprising, gripping, and emotionally compelling.  Book 2's in trilogies are often just filler.  Not so in this series.  Through the Ever Night further develops the characters, deepens the plot, and heightens the stakes.  I left even more emotionally invested than I was after I finished the first book.  One moment in this novel full on ripped my heart out.  Have I talked you into reading this series yet?  I hope so, because it is definitely worth it!  I've already got Into the Still Blue (book 3) on hold at the library, even though it won't be released until January.  January can't get here quickly enough.

Weekly Words: Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king's fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.  It's there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court."

Review: First off, I WANT SHARON SHINN'S VOCABULARY. BAD.  There were multiple times when I turned to Mike pointing to an unfamiliar word to ask if he had ever even seen that word before. He hadn't. For any of the words I showed him. I think my vocabulary is decent, but man Shinn's got me beat by miles. It didn't feel like her story was over-thesaurus-ized. I think she's just a grandiloquent sesquipedalian. (See what I did there??)

Anyway, the book. The story follows a girl, Zoe, who is coru, ruled by the elemental sign of water. This means that she has a certain proclivity towards adaptability, resilience, change, unpredictability, and other aquatic traits. And Zoe certainly was unpredictable. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed the novel so much, I never had any idea what she would do next. Zoe is intelligent and elementally powerful, but hardly ambitious. She's obviously an introvert; every time she bemoaned her fate at having to attend a grand party at the palace filled with dozens of people she didn't know I wanted to fist-bump her and say, "I HEAR YA, GIRLFRIEND." Zoe has her faults - her flexible nature makes her a bit flighty and unreliable, and she tends to make decisions based on impulse rather than calculation - but on the whole I liked her. 

I felt that the novel as a whole shared many of Zoe's characteristics: it flowed from one page to the next in a smooth but unpredictable way, keeping me guessing and entertained when I guessed wrong. But it also seemed to be anchorless at times, and I wished the plot was more tightly designed, rather than running from scene to scene in a leisurely and sometimes inconsequential way. 

I also wish some of the characters were a little less caricature, displaying more than one or two personality traits at most. Zoe felt much more fully realized than many other characters, which I was grateful for since I spent the entirety of the novel in her head. 

There were too many things to enjoy to let that keep me down for long, though. I loved the verbal sparring between characters. Excellent world building. The culture, economy, politics, religion, history, and even fashion were well thought out and finely portrayed on paper. I felt I had a solid grasp on this tenuous kingdom and on Zoe's place in it. I know some didn't like how strongly the elements were used in the story, but I thought it was so integral to the characters and their culture that it had to be so prominent. 

All in all, I very much enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend it to YA lovers.   I can't wait for the sequel, which is coming out November 5th!!!  I've already got it on hold at the library.  

One last note: Someone please tell me what to think about this cover.  On the one hand, I like that her attire alludes to the Arab influences in the novel.  But the cover as a whole just reads so blah to me.  I know it's YA, but something about it feels too juvenile.  I wish I could copy and paste the cover of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth to this book.  It would be so much better.  Yes?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Feature Friday: Random House's Pinterest Board

Three Reasons Why You Should Follow Random House Books on Pinterest:

1) Book eye candy.  Really, Pinterest is all about eye candy.  So if you love pretty things and you love books, these Pinterest boards have a ton to offer.  Especially their Bookshelf Envy and Best Book Covers boards.

2) Gift ideas.  Stumped as to what to get your book-loving friend for their birthday?  Head on over to Random House's Literary Wish List and A Book Lover's Christmas boards.  There's sure to be something to please.  I mean, just look at these three examples.  Amirite?

3) Writing resources and inspiration.  Their Writing Essentials board has links to podcasts, books, infographics, inspirational quotes, and all sorts of other goodies for writers.  I defy you to look at that board and NOT be inspired to write something.

Check them out!

**Note: This is not a sponsored post.  I just really love their Pinterest boards.**

**Another Note: Should Random House ever want to sponsor me, or have anything at all to do with me, THE ANSWER IS YES.**

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Something Pretty: The Gladstone Library

I could blissfully spend several months inside those walls.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book-to-Film: The Book Thief

When I first learned that The Book Thief was being made into a film, I got a stomach ache.  I really didn't think there was anyway that this feat could be effectively done, and I worried that people would watch the film instead of read the book, which would rob many of a truly remarkable and poignant experience.  How would Death be incorporated?  Would they cast twenty-somethings in the roles of the children?  The book is largely about words themselves, so to remove the story from the page seemed a massive misstep.  

Then I saw the trailer.  I adore Geoffrey Rush.  That setting is magical.  The music is atmospheric, sad, and lovely.  It looks like they're trying their hardest to stick to the integrity of the novel.  I'm still nervous, but I've resolved to reserve judgement until I see it.  Who's with me?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Favorite Book Characters

You can really get to know someone by discovering who their favorite book characters are.  If someone tells you they ADORE Elizabeth Bennett, you probably already have an idea of what that person is like.  (Secretly romantic; values smarts and wit and propriety; holds themselves and others to a high standard; possibly lives in their heads a bit too much; is probably silently judging you; might own a cat, etc.)  (For the record, I do adore Elizabeth Bennett.  She just barely did not make this list.)  This person holds a very different set of perceived characteristics and mannerisms as the person whose favorite character is, say, Robert Langdon.  Which is different again from the person who just loves Rand al'Thor.

Of course, there are exceptions.  I know someone who is male, athletic, and extremely sarcastic, and absolutely adores Twilight.  To each their own.

Still, it can be quite revealing.  So, in the spirit of revealing Bookmark Dragon's soul, I compiled a list of some of my all time favorite characters.  I really struggled to narrow this list to only ten.  But I finally did it.  Characters are like colors.  Some are bright and vibrant, others' greatest strength is in their subtlety.  And as with favorite colors, what makes a character great is entirely subjective.  So this is my list, which is probably completely different from yours.  

But maybe not.  

10) Elisa in The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa is wonderful because of her growth throughout this novel.  She begins the story as a struggling young girl with very little confidence, but she ends up as a leader with determination, strength, and conviction.  It's not a complete 180 degree turn around, she still has weaknesses, but that just makes her feel more human, and her transformation more empowering rather than convenient for the story, as happens in many other YA novels.

9) Hans Hubermann in The Book Theif by Markus Zusak
I can hardly talk about this book without bawling my bloody eyes out.  Suffice it to say, Hans is the kind of gentle and brave soul I both admire and am inspired by.  I'd like to be a little more like him.

8) Flavia de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Flavia is a kick in the pants.  She is sharp, cunning, darkly hilarious, and a poison genius to boot.  Oh, and she's eleven-years-old.  These kinds of exceptional characters either really fail or really succeed.  Flavia positively soars.

7) Gertrude in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
I wrote my MA thesis on Gertrude, so I'm a little biased here.   Gertrude is a difficult character to really know.  Her textual ambiguity has made her everything from a naive girl to a political schemer to a cunning seductress in film.  It's the variety in her possibility that intrigues me.  

6) Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Screwtape is intriguing more because of what he represents than who he is himself.  Screwtape represents a terrifying kind of evil: not the mindless raging evil we sometimes think of, but the devious, calculating, ruthless evil that is terrifying in its subtlety.

5) Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Caulfield's cynicism and adolescent angst and struggle is well known.  I first read The Catcher in the Rye when I was about Caulfield's age, and felt a reluctant kinship with him.  I've grown up since then, and I'd like to think that Holden could too, if he were ever allowed to escape the pages in which he's been so immortalized.

4) Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Several Gatsby films have been made, but few have really succeeded.  Part of the reason for that, I think, is because Jay Gatsby is so difficult to accurately portray.  He's that nuanced.
3) Matilda Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl
I loved anything written by Roald Dahl when I was growing up, but Matilda was my favorite.  She's an extraordinary child in ordinary circumstances.  I may or may not have spent several hours trying to develop telekinetic capabilities after reading this book as a kid.  (I know what you're thinking: "As a kid... riiiiiiight....")

2) Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Atticus is quietly courageous and compassionate.  He's one of my favorite father figures in fiction.  I've always felt that TKAM was just as much Atticus' story as Scout or Jem's. 

1) Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by The Queen J.K. Rowling
Clever, brave, loyal, and passionate, Hermione is the brightest witch of her age.  If I could be anyone from one of my beloved novels for a day, it would definitely be her.  And not just so I could attend Hogwarts and drink butterbeer.  

What are your favorites?  
(I promise to try and reserve judgement if you say Voldemort.)  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Rating: 4 stars
Buy the book: Amazon
Summary: “The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one."

ReviewThere were things I loved and there were things I didn't. There were parts of the story where I could not put the book down, no matter that it was the middle of the night and my infant child would be up and needing to eat in a few hours. There were other parts where I was checking how many pages I had left to read until I was done with the chapter. All in all, the good beat the evil in this story (as it does in all fairy tales) and I ended up appreciating the creativity, the humor, the well-written dialogue, and the character development enough to look past the more convoluted moments in the story.  I didn't realize until I finished the novel that it was technically a middle grade novel, not YA.  Looking back, that makes sense.  I'd recommend this to fairy tale lovers who enjoy adventure and unpredictable characters, and who don't mind that this novel was written primarily for a younger age group.

Weekly Words: Sarah Ban Breathnach

I just had to kick things off with a dragon quote.


I'm so excited to introduce Bookmark Dragon!  I'm an avid writer and a huge book lover, so, really, it was just a matter of time before Bookmark Dragon was launched.  I can't wait to get started.  Here goes!