Friday, January 31, 2014

Feature Friday: Homes of Classic Literature

When done well, settings are as important as any character in a book.  Imagine Harry Potter without Hogwarts - it's nearly impossible, right?  The places characters occupy are often just as important as those who reside there, as the below blurb points out.  Here are the blueprints to several homes featured in classic literature:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars TRAILER


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book-to-Film: Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Who knew that children's horror would be such a huge genre?  Goosebumps ruled children's lit in the mid 90s.  I remember reading a few of these when I was a kid, and being simultaneously exhilarated and freaked out at the same time.  Now, titles like "The Cuckoo Clock of Doom" just make me laugh, but as a kid it gave me, well, goosebumps.
A Goosebumps movie has been sort of in the works for some time (and has had a brief stint as a TV series - currently on Netflix) but it looks like a film might actually happen now.  Jack Black is in talks to star as "an R.L. Stine-esque writer, whose literary creations start coming to life in read and frightening ways."  Rob Letterman (of Monsters vs. Aliens) is set to direct, and Neal H. Moritz (of The Fast & the Furious franchise) is producing.  If you're curious about the project, you can Twitter-stalk R.L. Stine for updates.
It's too soon in the project to have a release date, too soon to even know for sure if there ever will be a release date.  If/When one gets released, I'll let you know when I find out.  Read the full article where I found out about this information here.
This seems like the kind of project that could go REALLY WRONG.  But maybe not.  We'll see.  Horror isn't really my thing, but as with any book-to-film adaptation, I'm curious.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the folks at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In

10. I think the most obvious world that comes to mind is Westeros, from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.  Goodness me, the mortality rate in that world is OFF THE CHARTS.  I don't know how anyone is still alive in that world, after all the wars that have gone on.

9. Panam from Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series is a pretty obvious one too.  Any world that sanctions violence against children is bad bad bad bad bad bad bad.

8. As a woman, and, frankly, as a human being, Margaret Atwood's (mostly?) fictional world in The Handmaid's Tale is about as frightening as it gets.  *shudders*

7. Wonderland, from in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  I really like rational people, and am a huge fan of logic.  That world would about do me in.

6. U.S.A., as seen in Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave.  Alien invasions are so not my thing, neither in reality nor in fiction, as it turns out.  (Review coming soon.)

5. The world from P.D. James' The Children of Men.  I can only imagine watching the human race go extinct, not from war, aliens, robots, or anything like that, but from infertility.  If you haven't read this book, READ IT.  It's creepy, disturbing, thoughtful, but hopeful.  (Still, I'm glad not to live there.)

4. The dystopic world in Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden series.  Seeing as I'm 29, the whole dying at 20 thing is pretty big turn off.  

3. Let's just go ahead and put all the other dystopia worlds here.  They're fun to read about, not so fun to live in.

2. In no circumstances whatsoever would I like to live on the Pequod, the whaling ship run by a mad captain in Melville's Moby Dick.  If I could escape the ship and live on land somewhere, it wouldn't be so bad.  But the ship itself sounds dangerous, smelly, exhausting, extremely unfulfilling, and full of really bad food.

1. Alderaan.  (The planet the death star destroys in Star Wars.)  Apparently I'm just a really big fan of living.

This was fun to put together, since I think most people think of fictional places they'd like to live (Hogwarts!  Narnia!  Chocolate planet!) rather than places they wouldn't.  So, where would you NOT go?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
Rating: 3.75 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.  She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.
This stunning conclusion picks up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate."

Review: **minor spoilers to the first two books in the series are below.**
Emerald Green is the conclusion to the Ruby Red Trilogy, and while it was just as fun and lighthearted as the previous two, it didn't quite wrap up all the loose ends. 

There were still many things to enjoy, though.  Gwen is as carefree and spunky as ever.  She's not really a rebel, but she has just enough disregard for the rules to make her fun to read about.  Gideon's brother Raphael is a great new character, and I wished he had more page time.  Ximerius has some fabulous lines that will leave you in stitches.  I loved the scenes with Gwen's grandfather.  This book has a much faster pace than the previous two, and left me very reluctant to put it down at the end of the night.  

My major complaint with Sapphire Blue (book 2 in the series) was that not very much of significance happened.  This book had the opposite problem: too much happened, and not enough time was given to digest the implications of each event.  There were revelations and surprises (really, I was genuinely surprised a few times) that made me gasp with shock and glee, and I was excited to see how each new revelation would add to Gwen's story.  But rather than building on the story, each revelation was sprung forth in a "Ta-da!" manner, and then was mostly ignored in favor of Gwen/Gideon swoon time.

I was really looking forward to Gwen having a conversation with Dr. White, and giving him some sort of closure about his son.  I also wanted Gwen and Charlotte to have an honest conversation that may not conclude with them liking each other, but would help them understand each other a little better.  I also wanted Gwen to resolve Lucas' murder.  (I guess it's implied that she does, but we never get closure.)  I was hoping for Lady Arista to show some emotion besides rigidness.  None of these scenes were directly relevant to the main plot, so I guess I understand why they aren't there.  Still, it would have been nice, and would have make the story a little less thin, if you know what I mean.

I am happy to have read something not originally written in English.  (This series was originally written in German.)  It's nice to break out of the mold now and then.  Especially if it means finding a series that makes you laugh as hard as this one did.  

I wished for a tad more fulfilling ending, but still very much enjoyed my experience reading this series.  While it didn't quite leave me satisfied, the book was still a fun and fitting end to this series.  It didn't change me or make me think very hard, but it left me feeling content, cheerful, and enchanted with the vast worlds contained in even very simple books.  

Weekly Words: Alan Bennett

Friday, January 24, 2014

Feature Friday: Recaptains

You know how it goes.

You read a book, think it's great, but discover that the next book in the series doesn't come out for another year.  A year goes by, and the next book is finally released.  You check it out from the library, sit down to read it, and about five pages in you think, "...huh?"  Somewhere in the year between this book and its prequel, you've forgotten things: characters names, subplot lines, main plot lines, terminology, etc.

It happens to all of us.

Which is why I was so thrilled to come across the Recaptains website!  Recaptains is a blog dedicated to spoiling books on purpose.  It gives you all the stats (title, author, release date, link to Goodreads, etc.) a brief synopsis, and any key points you should know before starting the next book in the series.  It highlights any special terminology you should know, and gives special attention to the last chapter, so you're ready to pick up the next book.  It's aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly, and will prevent you from furrowing your brow trying to remember details from a book you read a long time ago.

Basically, Recaptains will save you a ton of grief.

I just used it to brush up on Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi so that I'm ready to read Into the Still Blue when it comes out next week!  (Squee!!)  And, bonus, if you need the recap to a book that isn't posted, Recaptains accepts requests!  Just fill out their (short, simple) form, and they'll get that recap posted.

Recaptains is awesome.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out."

Review: Sapphire Blue is the second book in the Ruby Red Trilogy.  It follows the same lighthearted tone that was set in Ruby Red, which I was immensely grateful for.  There are time-travelling adventures, centuries-old secrets, villainous counts, insta-love romances, obnoxious and endearing gargoyles, and hilarious one-liners.  This book is a carnival ride, and I had a fun time while it lasted.  

The mystery and action were always present, but Gwynneth sometimes has a hard time focusing on the tasks at hand while other serious matters also require severe concentration.  Of course, those serious matters consist of over analyzing Gideon's every word.  Gwynneth and Gideon are polar opposites of each other.  She is as carefree as he is serious.  She just assumes that things will work out, while he frets over every decade-appropriate nuance.  (For example, she's been known to sneak her cell phone into one of her time-travel visits just so that she can show her best friend Lesley what eighteenth century fashion looks like.  Gideon's more likely to dance a perfectly timed minuet than break rules so overtly.)  They don't intuitively understand each other, and sometimes have a hard time communicating.  But their attempts to reach the other person were funny and sweet and all around entertaining to read.

The plot carried on much as it did in Ruby Red, which is to say that I was always entertained, but never quite satiated in my wonderment over what was really happening behind the scenes.  I was always happy while reading, but, frankly, not a lot happened in this book.  I wished that Gwynneth would find a way to sneak into one of the top-level meetings and find out what was really going on.  I wished that Gideon and Gwynneth would stop their DTRs and focus more on the plot.  I wished that batty old Aunt Maddie would remember some secret that would help them find more clarity in their mission.  I wished I knew what their mission really was.  More clarity would have been nice.  But I laughed so much along the way that I forgave it its faults.

I had a good time, but never found much of a purpose in this book.  But you know what?  In this book's case, that is perfectly okay.  This book isn't trying to be more than the lighthearted story that it is.  It just wants to give its reader a good time, and it succeeds in that goal.  

In conclusion, Sapphire Blue will put a smile on your face, but won't do much more.  If you just need a cheerful pick-me-up, than this is the book for you.  If you want something more substantive, I'd look elsewhere.  I will keep this book on hand for next time I'm overwhelmed and stressed out and just need a break.  In that situation, this book would be the perfect breather.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book-to-Film: The Jungle Book

Folks, there are not one but TWO Jungle Books adaptations in the works.

From The Guardian

Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu... is being lined up to direct a big-budget adaptation of The Jungle Book, it has been reported.  ...However, this live-action Jungle Book, written by Harry Potter's Steve Kloves and back by Warner Bros, is facing serious competition in the shape of a similar project from Disney, which earlier this year was reported to have attached Iron Man's Jon Favreau as director. Disney recently confirmed an October 2015 release date for their movie, so it would appear their project is well advanced.

Let the Warner Bros vs. Disney showdown commence.  

It seems like movie trends are moving away from fairy tales and towards live-action remakes of classic Disney films.  (Snow White came out twice not too long ago in the form of Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman; The Sleeping Beauty remake Maleficent is coming out soon; A Cinderella remake is on its way, with a couple of Downton Abbey stars cast as Cinderella and Drizella; etc.)

With all these remakes going on, I would like to know WHY no one has optioned doing an Aladdin or Mulan remake?!?  Those stories are just awesome.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is:

January 21: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

Oh man.  As soon as I saw this week's prompt, the old wheels immediately started turning and my imagination started racing in a thousand different directions and I knew I had to participate.  Here's what I came up with:

1. I would like someone to re-write Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  There, I said it.  Of course, it would be best if Collins re-wrote it herself, but I'm not picky.  That book made me so angry.  We also need it to be completed in time for the filmmakers to base their screenplays on the new re-write, instead of the current version.  Let's get on it, shall we?

2. I would like the last two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin on my nightstand by 8:00pm, please and thank you.  Bonus points if Arya rules the world in the end.

3. I would like for the Next Big Trilogy to be based somewhere in Asia.  I love reading in that setting.

4. I would like for more YA books in general to feature more friendship, less romance.

5. I would like for the covers of the YA books to not be photoshopped.   Or whitewashed.  Or feature over-sexualized images.  If it's too hard, world, just stick to illustration and graphic design.  Those types of covers are my favorites, anyway.  

6. I would like for J.K. Rowling to write a new, non-Potter-related, high-fantasy fictional series that features themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, compassion, and love.  (But I don't mind if she also keeps up with her Cormoran Strike writing as well.)

7.  I would like to read a suspenseful, tightly-written murder mystery that takes place on a pirate ship.  (Not joking.)  (Stop laughing.  You know it would be awesome.)

8. I would like Sharon Shinn to write whatever she's currently writing FASTER.

9. I would like for Agatha Christie to come back from the dead and write another mystery set in modern times.  So curious what she would have made from the material of the modern era.

10. I would like Fred and George Weasley to make an appearance in every single YA book from now until the end of time.  I don't ask for much, people.

What do you want to read?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
Rating: 3.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Master storyteller Sharon Shinn created the thrilling and enchanting world of Welce in her acclaimed novel "Troubled Waters." Return with her to that elemental universe in this tale of secrecy, romance, and a battle for power...

Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city. 

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she's stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her. 

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries.  And when they learn the reason he's being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives..."

Review:  I actually read this a few weeks ago.  It's taken me some time to sort out my thoughts on this one.  I think I'm finally ready to confess that I like Sharon Shinn's elegant narrative style much more than I like this particular story.

Let me be honest: I LOVE Shinn's brand of writing.  Her vocabulary is impressive, and is on full display in her work.  She makes me feel smarter just for reading her.  Her world building is extensive and so well thought out.  Her characters are diverse and memorable.  Her plotting is still a tad too slow for me, but not without depth.  I still like Shinn.  And I LOVED this book's prequel, Troubled Waters.  I just thought this book was not quite representative of what Shinn is capable of.

I think the problem lies with the protagonist, Josetta.  To be honest, I really liked Josetta.  She's an elay girl, meaning she is most closely aligned to the element of air.  She is kind and graceful, with a strong inner spirituality.  It's nice to read about a girl who is calm and pensive and stable.  (We can't all be Beatrice Priors or Katniss Everdeens.)  Now that Josetta's position in the kingdom is less tenuous, she's free to let her inner altruism fly in the slums of the city's capital, which is how she meets Rafe.  (Cue Marvin Gaye.)  Josetta was a lovely character.  But this story isn't about her at all, nor does it really involve her all that much, besides tangentially.  It's Rafe's story, more than anything.  Josetta did very little to move the plot forward.  She just worked to provide for the poor (a fabulous goal, but irrelevant to the plot) and swooned over Rafe.  Her chapters, while containing some beautiful writing, left me wondering when we would get to the point.

Rafe's story is well written and intriguing, but pretty predictable.  His lack of elemental blessings might not be a big deal in our world, but in Welce it's huge.  The question of his identity was forefront to this story, and, despite its predictability, was far more exciting than reading about his adventures flying elay-motives.  The question of rulership in Welce was my favorite part to read about, though.  I love a good political battle.  But that question never got settled.  That question, and the story as a whole, ended rather abruptly.  It looks like we won't get closure until book three is released.  Really, most of this story felt like build up for the third book rather than its own cohesive story.

Reading this over, I think it sounds like I liked this book a lot less than I actually did.  I absolutely loved the scenes that featured Zoe.  I also really warmed to Corene, who I didn't pay much attention to in the first book.  I loved the worldbuilding.  I loved hearing about the Primes' abilities and watching how they used their abilities to solve the kingdom's problems.  The dialogue throughout the story was phenomenal, especially when Kayle Dochenza was involved.  Filomara was an excellent new character.  So I really did enjoy reading this, and would recommend it to others who read and enjoyed Troubled Waters.  But I do think that the prequel was stronger than this one.  Still, I'm greatly looking forward to the third book in the series, and dearly hope it doesn't take three more years before it's released!!

Weekly Words: William Styron

Friday, January 17, 2014

Feature Friday: The Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013

I know, I know.  You've probably seen a million "best of" and "most memorable" lists for 2013.  These kinds of lists are popular every January.  I love lists though, so I don't get sick of them.  

This one, though is from Time Magazine.  Nice of them to include fictional people in their year-in-review lists, don't you think?  They seemed to draw much more heavily from film and TV than books, seeing as Katniss is the only literature representative.  And she might only be here because Catching Fire came out in 2013.  Oh well.  C'est la vie.  Here is Time Magazine's List of the Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013:

11. Brian Griffin (from Family Guy)

10. Tony Stark (from Iron Man)

9. Burka Avenger (a female Pakistani superhero)

8. Ron Burgundy (from Anchorman 2)

7. Michael de Santa, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Philips (from Grand Theft Auto V)

6. Frank Underwood (from House of Cards)

5. Carlos Danger (Anthony Weiner's virtual persona)

4. Sophia Burset (from Orange is the New Black)

3. Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games)

2. Olivia Pope (from Scandal)

1. Walter White (from Breaking Bad)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cool Covers: The Catcher in the Rye

Buzzfeed released an article last week of fourteen alternate covers to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.  I loved browsing through them all.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book-to-Film: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Well technically this is book-to-tv, but we'll let it slide.  Who here has read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series?  I've only read the first one, and I have no idea why I stopped there because I completely inhaled that book.  It's definitely a series for adults, not teens, so I wondered if it would ever make it to the big screen, despite the years of rumors.  Apparently it is finally on its way!  To the small screen, anyway.  But that's probably better since it's such a large book.  The costuming and set design look awesome from the trailer.  I'm curious how this series will play out.

The Outlander series is set to begin airing episodes this summer.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Unlikable and Unrelatable Characters

A friend of mine recently said that she's been frustrated with much of YA lit lately because she's been struggling to relate to the protagonists.  That line really got me thinking about unrelatable and unlikable characters.

Here's some honesty for you: The number one factor that determines whether or not I like a book is if I like the book's protagonist.  If I can't relate to a story's protagonist, or if I really disagree with her choices, or if I just flat out don't like her character, it's hard for me to enjoy the rest of the story.

For example, I am one of very few people who didn't like The Scorpio Races.  I can appreciate much of that story (the atmospheric writing, the world building, etc.) but I didn't care for Puck.  I gave that book a low rating.  (Puck was not the sole reason why, but she didn't help.)

And, conversely, I gave The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (read before the birth of Bookmark Dragon, so no review to link to) a really high rating simply because I adored Flavia.  I wasn't totally sold on the plot, but I loved her character.

I don't think I'm alone in this line of thinking.  It's understandable.  If you view an entire story through the lens of one character, and you find you dislike that character, you probably won't want to listen to what they have to say.

This is pretty common among books.  It seems to me to be particularly common among YA books, simply because YA books almost always feature teenagers as protagonists.  And, lets be honest, teenagers are often dramatic and self-centered and can be difficult to be around for long periods of time.  So if a YA story's protagonist sounds anything like a real teenager then she'll probably be dramatic, she'll probably think first and foremost about herself, and she'll probably make mistakes along the way that you, in all your adultly wisdom, would never make.  (Since, you know, adults NEVER make mistakes.  Ha.)  But this world is filled with teenagers.  They are as funny and as genuine as they are annoying, and despite all their awkwardness they really are trying to figure out how to grow up.  Navigating a teen's world is tricky business.  High school would make anyone cranky.  They need all the help they can get.

So lately I've been trying to be more open-minded about books with less-likable and/or less-relatable characters.  I have a teenage sister who is one of the most lovely human beings on the planet.  She is neither unlikable nor unrelatable.  (I really lucked out in the sister department.)  But sometimes when I meet her friends I wonder if they've beamed here from another planet.  But whether they're related to me or not, they are a human being, and as such they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  (Yes, teenagers are people, too.)

I think one of the purposes of reading is that it can open your mind to how other people think.  How often do you get that experience?  How often do you get to glimpse inside the minds of people totally different from you - different backgrounds, different experiences, different goals, and so on - and show you their motives, desires, fears, and dreams?  Learning how other people tick is a powerful and valuable thing, and, in my opinion, a worthy pursuit.  If you understand the battles other people are secretly fighting, you're more likely to be kind to them.  If you know what challenges someone else has overcome, it's easier to respect them.  Reading books about unlikable and unrelatable characters (or about anyone at all, really) teaches compassion and empathy and understanding and forgiveness.  And goodness knows we could all do with a little more of that in the world.

So next time you're halfway through a book and find you have absolutely nothing in common with the book's protagonist, or that you just don't like him or her, think about giving that book a few more chapters.  It just might teach you something you didn't know.  And you might become better for it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!  Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust."

Review:  Goodness, this book is a hot batch of bubblegum pink cotton candy, and I find I don't care a bit.  Time travel isn't my usual reading preference, since I find that the "rules" of time travel in any such book almost always contain only a thin layer of logic that itself only serves to mask the huge heaping of confusing and convenient loopholes.  You'd think that owning a time traveling device would give you sufficient resources to prevent or correct any huge crises from occurring.  But peaceful and crisis-free stories do not make fun plots, so.  

THIS book, however, avoids the error that so many other time travel books make by never taking itself too seriously.  Gwyneth is a much more typical teenage girl than is found in much of YA fiction.  She's not wise beyond her years nor witty beyond her species.  She's just a girl who suddenly finds herself in extraordinary circumstances and tries her best to makes sense of it.  She stumbles along her journey with an amusing band of co-characters, including her amiable sidekick, her hunky love interest, her self-righteous cousin, a french clothing designer, a good looking teacher, and an arrogant ghost named James Augustus Peregrine Pympoole-Bothame who cannot accept that he's dead and who no one else can see or hear, among others.  Gwytheth is curious and light-hearted by nature, and the book adopts her blithe and bonny tone.  You want Gwytheth to succeed, you just don't know how she will in this world of secrecy and intrigue.

That's why you keep reading.  You want to know what happens.  There are plenty of characters who take the whole time travel thing extremely seriously, and there are mysteries both around and about Gwyneth that need to be solved, but the cheerful tone prevents the plot from being too heavy.  There are ambushes and sword fighting and jealousy and confusion, but there is also humor and camaraderie and sarcasm and laughter.  Imagine watching transformers on mute, while playing Katy Perry in the background, and you have a sort of idea for the feel of this book.  

I wished the plot was clearer, though.  Gwyneth doesn't know everything that's going on, and as a result she is often frustrated and impatient.  The reader doesn't know everything that's going on either, though, so as a result they are often frustrated and impatient as well.  I hoped by the end it would clear up, but it didn't to a satisfactory degree.  There's always the next book in the series, but I wished for more clarity in this book alone.  As much fun as I had with this book, I prefer my fiction to carry some sort of subtle, overarching theme or message.  I couldn't find one here.  There is definitely a place for these kinds of books, but not on a five-star list.  It didn't change me.  But it did make me smile.  

I enjoyed reading this, but I would only recommend it to someone the same way I would recommend a Baskin Robbins flavor: cheerfully and readily, but only after they'd had their dinner.

PS- I never mentioned, though I think I should, that the original was written and published in German.  Yay for more international authors seeing widespread success!

PS- I thought the other covers were interesting to look at, though I admit I prefer the above one best.





Weekly Words: Charlaine Harris

Friday, January 10, 2014

Actual Teen, Actual Adult: Hunger Games Edition

Do you ever click over to Actual Teen vs Actual Adult?  It's great.  You know how movies often cast actors and actresses in their 20s and sometimes 30s as teenagers in their films?  This website shows what those actors and actresses looked like when they actually were the age of the character they're playing.  Because 31-year-olds and 15-year-olds don't usually look the same.  I kind of love it.  Did you know that Stockard Channing was 34 when she played Rizzo in Grease?!?  34!!  Even more amazing is how perfect she was for the role, considering the huge age gap between her character and herself.

Anyway, Here's what they have on The Hunger Games.  No one here is 34, but it's still pretty interesting what a few years and a talented make-up artist can do to a person:

On the left, 16-year-old Jennifer Lawrence appearing on Cold Case.
On the right, 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old Katniss in The Hunger Games.
On the left, 16-year-old Jennifer Lawrence appearing on Cold Case.
On the right, 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old Katniss in The Hunger Games.

On the left, 15-year-old Josh Hutcherson as Sean in Journey to the Center of the Earth.
On the right, 19-year-old Josh Hutcherson as 16-year-old Peeta in The Hunger Games.
On the left, 15-year-old Josh Hutcherson as Sean in Journey to the Center of the Earth.
On the right, 19-year-old Josh Hutcherson as 16-year-old Peeta in The Hunger Games.

On the left, 18-year-old Liam Hemsworth as Marcus in The Elephant Princess.
On the right, 23-year-old Liam Hemsworth as 19-year-old Gale in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
On the left, 18-year-old Liam Hemsworth as Marcus in The Elephant Princess.
On the right, 23-year-old Liam Hemsworth as 19-year-old Gale in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Great.  And now I want to go through pictures of myself from 5 years ago and analyze the heck out of them.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Things Are Shaking in the Potterverse

There have been a few bits of news in the Harry Potter universe  lately that are worth sharing.

1) Potter is headed to the stage.

J.K. Rowling is collaborating on a stage play about Harry's early life on Privet Drive before he learns about his wizarding heritage.  It is currently set to open in 2015.  Regarding the project, Rowling said:
"Over the years I have received countless approaches about turning Harry Potter into a theatrical production, but Sonia [Friedman] and Colin [Callender]'s vision was the only one that really made sense to me, and which had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry's story to the stage. After a year in gestation it is exciting to see this project moving on to the next phase."
This is probably not the first project that comes to mind when I think of areas of the Potterverse that I'd like to see expanded, but since it's in Rowling's capable hands I'm excited to see how it turns out.  I sense a trip to London coming up.  Click for the full article.

2) J.K. Rowling is writing a new set of movies set in the Potter world.

This new set of movies is based on Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  The movie will not feature Harry, Ron, or Hermione, unfortunately, but Rowling herself is penning the screenplay, so I'm sure Potter fans will flock to the theaters.  It is said to be set in New York City 70 years before the events in the first Harry Potter book occur.  Rowling's said:
It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of Fantastic Beasts, realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.
I'd rather have had a series based on the original founders of Hogwarts, detailing their magical genius and clashing philosophies, culminating in Slytherin's leaving the school for good, leaving a curse on the school in the form of the chamber of secrets...  but this will do.  Click for the full article.

3) Harry Potter mega-fan creates impossibly cool Ministry of Magic website.

This guy is my hero.  I have nothing further to say.  Enter the website here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wrapping up 2013: End of Year Book Survey

best books 2013 end of year survey
Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner created the most wonderful end of year survey to help readers and book bloggers reflect on their year in books.  I've included books I read at any point during the year, but Bookmark Dragon only started in October of 2013 so some of the books I mention below haven't been discussed here on the B-Drag.  I still wanted to answer these questions, though, for my own benefit and reflection.  Feel free to answer any or all of the questions for yourself!

 Note: The survey is for books you read throughout the year, no matter when they were published, and is not limited to just books that came out in 2013!!  Also, all links go to Amazon.

Best YA book 2013

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? 

This is like asking me to select the best bone in my body.  I'm rather partial to all of them.  But if I MUST choose, I'd say The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

 Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

 Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.

 4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I've recommended both The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein an awful lot this year.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

I discovered Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series this year.  It's one of the best fantasy series I've ever read.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

It's a tie between Cinda Williams Chima and Sharon Shinn!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I read 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma this past Summer.  I don't really know what genre it is - it's kind of a mystery-paranormal-psychological thriller-ish book - but whatever genre it is, I don't read a lot of it.  It was nice to dip my toes into these unfamiliar waters for a while, though I still prefer reliable narrators to unreliable ones, as I was reminded of with this reading experience.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

 I SO LOVED Veronica Rossi's Through The Ever Night.  It's one of the few sequels that improves on the already fantastic first book in a series.

 9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Let's be honest here.  The Harry Potter series has been a pretty much guaranteed annual read for me since I discovered them over a decade ago.  I look forward to it every year, much like my annual Christmastime viewing of The Lord of the Rings movies with my husband.  Because nothing says Peace On Earth like watching Aragon take on hoards of orcs. 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

Ha!  I just did a post on this last week.  This one is probably my #1 favorite:

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

This has to be Zoe Ardelay from Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters.  She's a kindred spirit, and one of the fictional people I'd most like to sit down and have dinner with.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters.  I loved that book.  I wonder how many more times this book will pop up in this survey....
(Read it.)

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

Of course The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

  "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
-The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

 How I did this: Went to my read books on Goodreads and sorted by page number and just looked for what I knew I read this yeaer that was the shortest and longest.
Shortest– The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180).
Longest — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (759).

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The end of Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo had me positively DYING to talk to somebody.  (Probably a therapist.)

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Hmm.  Han Alister and Raisa ana'Marianna were lovely to read about.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Of course, the answer to this question every year will be the Harry Potter series.  Second to that, though, is probably The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson.  I still like the first book in the series best, but I still greatly enjoyed finishing Elisa's journey.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, recommended by Jannsen at Everyday Reading.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

I can't find a Goodreads sort button for genre, so I'll guess... fantasy?  I have read more fantasy this year than I have in years past.  What can I say, I'm on a kick.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Sturmhond from Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I only read a handful of debuts this year.  Of those, though, my favorite would have to be The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

I can't decide between Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series and Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters.  Both had phenomenal world building.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.  That book is completely nuts.  But I loved it.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Oh goodness.  I'm not much of a crier, but The Fault in Our Stars by John Green nearly did me in.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

I don't think many people are reading Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters, which is a crying shame.  (And part of the reason I'm promoting it so heavily.)  It's well worth the read.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013? 

Ummm.... mine.  All hail the B-Drag.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013? 

Writing reviews is my favorite part of having a book blog.  I take my time on them and try to really capture the essence of the books I read without resorting to spoilers.  I had the most fun writing reviews for Troubled Waters and Allegiant, for very different reasons, but fun nonetheless.  (These links go to my review, but if you want to go to Amazon instead, here are the links for Troubled Waters and Allegiant.  You're welcome.)

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

Still working up a viewership wide enough to engage frequent discussion, but so far the posts with the most comments are my post on minimalist posters of Disney films and my post on the Meyers-Briggs type indicator of Harry Potter and Star Wars characters.  

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

I enjoyed reading this post on if book blogging has fallen out of fashion.  As a new book blogger, I obviously found this to be relevant and worthy of consideration.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

 ...Virtually connecting with other book bloggers?  I haven't attended many events this year (largely due to the birth of my daughter early in 2013) but hope to attend more in 2014.  Someday I'd like to make it to BEA, where all the fancy book bloggers go.  

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

Starting the B-drag!!  Connecting with other book bloggers who I've read for years!  Engaging with others in the comments!  Participating in the book blogosphere!  It's been an exhilarating ride so far, and I hope this is just the beginning.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I am delighted to say that my post popular post is my review of Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters.  

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I have to echo what Jamie said: All my reviews!  They take the longest to write, but only rarely get comments. I have no doubt that people read them but sometimes when they aren’t getting as much comment love it’s easy to think they aren’t being read. 

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

 My local indie bookstore, The King's English, is awesome-sauce.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I only started the B-Drag in October, so I had no goals for 2013.  Looking forward, though, I do have a few goals... (drum roll please...)


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

 I still haven't read Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.  I MUST.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

OH MY GOSH.  Rise and Ruin by Leigh Bardugo; Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi; Cress by Marissa Meyer, to name a few.

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Ahhh!  I don't know!!  I need to get on my debut lists STAT.

 4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

See answer to question 2 above.  Cue squealing and hand flapping.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

I'm avoiding setting marketing goals (number of page hits, number of comments, etc.) because I want this to continue to be a place of fun and stress-free book discussion.  But I am setting other goals: I want to read at least 50 books in 2014, and I want to read in more genres than I'm currently familiar with, just to broaden my horizons.  I'm looking forward to it.  Bring it on, 2014!