Friday, February 28, 2014

Feature Friday: Shakespeare Cookies

When in doubt, make cookies.

That's been my motto for several years now.  And it has served me well.

I love a good cookie.  Like, we're talking big, huge, capital-L LOVE a good cookie.  I've made many different kinds and eaten even more, but I've never had a Shakespeare cookie.

Which brings me to today's post.  I found this tutorial for Shakespeare cookies online, and I became really excited to eat sugar cookies and read A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Aren't they awesome??  I just wish that cookie cutter was widely available.  If you really want it, though, I believe it can be ordered here.

Hope you have a lovely dose of literature and sugar this weekend.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Moby-Dick Art

Last week I was in Hawaii enjoying clear ocean water and blissfully warm sunshine.  (Don't worry, I'm back in cold, snowy weather again, so you can stop being jealous.)  It was green and warm and lovely, and I'm already plotting a way back.

So, naturally, I've been thinking of beaches in my now-freezing state, which is probably why this artwork from Moby-Dick was especially appealing today.  Blue water!  Large ship!  Clear skies!  Terrifying monster whale!  What could be better??  

(Is my reaction a symptom of withdrawal?  I DON"T CARE.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book-to-Film: Top Five Films that Should be Books

With all the hulaballo surrounding book-to-film adaptations, it's easy to forget that things could go the other way, too.  What about film-to-book adaptations?  Films can be awesome, but sometimes that 2-3 hour time window just isn't enough to develop all the characters, or to let the sub-plots be fully fleshed out, or sufficiently lets you into the protagonist's head.  You know what I mean?  Some stories work as films, others work better as books.  A few lucky stories thrive in both.  But some stories are stuck in the wrong medium.  Here are a few films that would be fabulous books:

In all fairness, I love this film.  It's a quiet and touching story about acceptance and forgiveness and it stars Johnny Depp.  Hard to go wrong there.  But my favorite part of this film is the little relationships between all the minor characters.  Just think of how much more those relationships could be developed if put to page.

House of Cards
This one is actually a television series, not a film.  But I think the political intrigue, conflicting ambition, and plethora of secrets would make a phenomenal rotating-perspective book.  I imagine it kind of like a modern-day Game of Thrones book series, showing each character's plots and schemes from their own perspective.  (It'd be cool if dragons eventually showed up, too.)

Captain Phillips
I think this story, while a pretty cool film, would make an even better book.  It could even start its own genre, since it's not completely fact nor fictitious enough to be historical fiction... just an alternate retelling of recent events.

Clash of the Titans
This is a classic case of there being too much crammed into the film for a 2-3 hour block.  If it were spread out in a book, the mythology, history, culture, monsters, action, and romance would be much more satisfying.

King Arthur
I've had a thing for Camelot for a long time, and I think this film put a really interesting spin on the series.  But it could have been much better if it had more time to develop the plot and really give the (super intriguing!) minor characters a chance to sing.

Have you ever seen a film that makes you think, "Man, that would be a great book."  Yes?  No?  Just me?

This post was inspired by the recent article addressing the same idea at Word&Film.  Thanks, Word&Film!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign

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

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND!  (Pick from previous topics you want to do again or may have missed)

THIS is where only being a book blogger for 4 months comes in handy, people.  There were so many great choices to pick from, but ultimately my fascination with book cover art won out and I chose the prompt: Top Ten Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign.  Here's my list!

10.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I know it's a classic and all, but I've never warmed to it.  I much prefer Baz Luhrmann's version from the film posters.  Much more unnecessarily extravagant and glamorous.

9.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  I don't dislike this cover, but I don't think it does a very good job of capturing the tone of the novel.  It does hint at its epistolary nature, I guess, so there's that at least.

8.  Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass.  Um, excuse me, I think you forgot your pants...?

7.  Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi.  Probably the most boring, generic covers I've ever seen.  Not remotely representative of the fantastic, exciting story inside. 

6.  Gilt by Katherine Longshore.  Alternate book title: Here, Let Me Show You the Inside of My Nose.

Arc Cover:
5.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson.  The original cover isn't so bad, really, but this series features a curvy, dark-skinned protagonist, and I would have loved if the cover artists embraced that instead of hiding Elisa's face behind her godstone and cutting out her beautiful, curvacious body.  At least they changed it from the ARC cover.  (Because, GOOD GRIEF.)

4.  The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn.  I'm actually a huge Shinn fan, but this cover just makes me shake my head.  What on earth is going on?  Is she supposed to be demurely sitting on a log?  Because she just looks uncomfortable.  And the green smoke behind the title and author's name is just weird.  And don't even get me started on those werewolf eyes. 

3.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  I'm probably making enemies by including this one, as I know there are many people who love this cover image, but I can't help but think of Fifty Shades Darker when I look at this cover.  The mask just gives off such similar vibes in both books that, even though they actually have very little in common, are now seared together forever in my brain.  The fact that the two books were released within a couple of weeks of each other doesn't help things either. 

2.  The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  Now all I can think of is Samwise telling Frodo, "Stay gold, pony hobbit."  

1.  Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.  I'm copying this one from Writer of Wrong's list because I think she is spot on.  This is a case of a cover I wish I could un-redesign.  The lovely, graphic, haunting cover on the left is the original.  Then they redesigned it to the horribly generic cover on the right.  WHY.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary"Canada is proud to welcome this bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning author with eight dazzling stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. 

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories–a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love and fate–we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one fateful winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome. 

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers."

Review:  This compilation of short stories begins with the following quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne:
Human nature will not flurish any more than a potato, if it is planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn out soil.  My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.

The book then tells the stories of those who have been given roots and wings made from different materials, and shows what they make of them.  

That's the short answer, anyway.  The long answer is much more difficult. 

I cannot say how forcefully this book pounded my mind and heart.  You'll just have to take my word for it: it did.  Each story stripped me bare and left me breathless with Lahiri's ability to reveal the human soul.  It's been said that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.  If you agree with that sentiment, you need to read this book.

Unaccustomed Earth is powerful collection of stories.  This book goes for subtlety and elegance rather than noise and fury .  It told relatable stories of real people - not of quirky but loveable heroes or of characters in extraordinary circumstances, but of just regular people that have a hard time forgiving, or deal with feelings of guilt, or struggle with the tension between freedom and duty, or find themselves one day to be utter strangers to family members they've known their whole lives.  They are stories of flawed people dealing with other flawed people, but who still manage to love, live, and breathe in this imperfect world.  

Nearly every protagonist in these stories has geographically different roots and wings, as they are the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves.  I've read a number of books that address the issues dealt with by the people in these situations: questions of identity, complicated struggles to maintain balance between different and sometimes conflicting cultural expectations, and so on.  My family has lived in the United States for generations, so I cannot directly relate to these struggles on an international level, but I still identify with them in smaller ways.  I have lived in four states in the US for extended periods of time, and spent 18 months in Europe in my early twenties.  Looking back, it is clear to me that I changed immensely in each place, precisely because of the place in which I lived.  

When my husband and I were first married we were debating whether to move to Massachusetts or Indiana or Georgia.  Each place had its merits, but Indiana ultimately won.  When we first arrived I was completely lost, having never previously spent much time in the Midwestern part of the US.  The freezing rain, the farmer's market, the cornfields, the Golden Dome, the tornado warnings, Shipshewana... all of it, though foreign at first, became recognizable over time.  It then became familiar, then endearing.  Finally, it became home.  (I should probably admit that the freezing rain never endeared itself to me, but I do at least have some great freezing-rain-stories.)  Those years have left an imprint on my heart and have changed the way I see the world.  Now, I carry a part of Indiana with me wherever I go.

I still would have changed in Massachusetts or Georgia, but I would have changed in different ways.  I would be a different version of myself right now.  

Here's the kicker, though.  Not only did Indiana change me, but every single person I interacted with changed me as well.  More broadly, every person I've ever met has left their mark.  It's happened to you as well as to me.  It's like we're all made of wood and holding machetes, nicking and carving at each other as we stagger and bang through life, creating totems ornate, grotesque, and uniquely beautiful.  

I feel myself getting progressively existential.  It's a bit like falling into the rabbit's hole, contemplating how all the little decisions in your life led to the exact version of yourself that you are at the present moment.  But that's just what this book does.  It tells stories that make you look more closely at yourself, and wonder at what precisely has made you who you are.  It reveals the conflict within yourself in all its jealousy and selfishness and ugliness, and yet still leaves you with the courage you need to face each new day.  

William Faulkner believed that man would not merely endure: he would prevail.  Lahiri seems to believe that humankind can prevail, but urges each of us to deliberately choose to prevail.  We are capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.  Life will be dirty and disappointing and discouraging.  It can also be glorious.  Let it be so.

I absolutely recommend this book to everyone.

(Even you, Liz.)

Weekly Words: Arielle Levin

Friday, February 21, 2014

Feature Friday: Read a Book, Get Mind-Reading Skills

So that post title is more than a little misleading, as I'm sure you surmised.  It's long been believed that reading boosts your empathy.  This study is related to that belief, and researches whether reading fiction will increase your ability to read others, or "the ability to intuit someone else’s mental state."  Apparently, the answer is YES.  From HuffPostScience (the original link to Science Mag appears to be broken):
On average, both groups did slightly better on these tests than control subjects who read either a nonfiction article or nothing at all. This fits with previous research showing a positive relationship between fiction and theory of mind. But among the fiction readers, those who read “literary” works scored significantly higher on the theory of mind tests than those who read popular selections, Kidd and Castano report online today in Science.

This article would be a lot more exciting if it claimed that reading gave people bonafide telepathic mind-reading abilities.  As it is, it reads to me kind of like the statement "People who like ice cream tend to notice ice cream stores more than others."  Umm, OBVIOUSLY.  Did we really need a study to point this out?  

Also, HuffPost includes a disclaimer at the end pointing to how difficult it is to categorize all fiction into "literary" and "non-literary," which is THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE CENTURY and I thought deserved more attention than the throwaway addition at the end of the article, but what can you do.

Despite my reservations about the article and the study itself, I thought I'd post a link to this in case one of you is in a reading slump and needs a good reason to pick up a book today.

Also, I would REALLY love it if you did notice some latent telepathy manifesting itself mid-chapter.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anne of Green Gables Gets a New Look

From Publishers Weekly: 
Sourcebooks has announced its acquisition of exclusive American trade paperback and e-book rights to all of L.M. Montgomery’s copyright protected works in the U.S. ...The house will launch its program in February 2014 with the release of paperback and e-book editions of the six novels in the Anne of Green Gables series.  ...The Sourcebooks Fire books will feature uniform, newly designed covers and will contain an introduction by Kate Macdonald Butler, Montgomery’s granddaughter. 
Originally launched in 1908 by L.C. Page & Company in Boston and currently available in Bantam mass-market paperback editions, the series has sold more than 50 million copies in more than 20 languages. 
“My family and I are so pleased to partner with Sourcebooks,” [Montgomery's granddaughter] said. “...[my grandmother] would be pleased and, possibly, astonished, to know that Anne of Green Gables continues to enchant both returning readers and a new generation who are discovering her novels for the first time.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book-to-Film: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

From BBTV:

Yale graduate, Leigh Bardugo’s smash debut novel has been picked up to be adapted by DreamWorks. But what’s seemed to have fans buzzing like crazy is that Harry Potter producer, David Heyman, is on board to produce.  It’s still really early in the movie process to know when/if this movie will ever happen, but this story, about about an orphan girl whose ability to harness a rare magic makes her one of her nation’s most coveted warriors, is bound fill the hearts of Potter fans alike.

As a huge fan of this series, and as an even bigger Potter fan, I really hope this one happens.  If done right, it could be SO AWESOME.  *crosses fingers.*

Also, in case you haven't seen it, the cover for the final book in this trilogy, Rise and Ruin, was released this past week!  I first decided to read this book solely on how lovely the cover was, and I'm so glad I did!  The inside is just as good as the outside.  I was really looking forward to this cover reveal, and it did not disappoint!   Here it is, in all its lovely glory:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Blogger/Reader

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

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Blogger/Reader

I've been a book blogger for a whopping 4 months, so obviously I'm an expert, guys.  Seriously, though, I do love blogging, but my first love is reading, so I'm going to base my answers on that.  Here's my list of my top ten reasons why I love reading:

3.  Reading lets me believe the impossible.  Anything is possible in books.  Impossible situations, fabled creatures, intergalactic politics, happy endings... it's all not just possible in books, it happens on millions of pages.

Oh, books.  I love you.

What about you?  Why do you read?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke."

Review: Do yourself a favor: Find a hammock, grab a smoothie, and read this book.  You will have one of the most delightful and charming afternoons of your life.  

Edenbrooke's cover claims it to be "a proper romance."  That pretty much sums it up.  This book is wholeheartedly and unabashedly a love story.  Marianne is a heroine with gumption, Philip is a hero with principles, and together they have some wonderfully witty dialogue and fabulously swoonish dance scenes.  

The rest of the cast was delightful as well.  I particularly loved Caroline's kindness and elegance.  Mr. and Mrs. Clumpett provided some wonderful comedic relief.  And Marianne's grandmother bore a striking resemblance to Downton Abbey's Lady Violet Crawley, which is about the highest compliment that could ever be paid to anyone.

I had the same feeling reading this book as I did while watching the movie Enchanted.  Of course you know within the first five minutes what's going to happen.  It's still delightful to watch the story unfold.  You don't watch Enchanted or read Edenbrooke for thrills, rather you just sit back and enjoy it.  (And then you download the soundtrack and dance to it around your kitchen for the next three months.)  (Oh how I wish Edenbrooke had a soundtrack.)   

I was a little bothered by the back of the book.  There are three quotes under the title "Praise for Edenbrooke" given by the wives of New York Times bestselling authors.  Not the bestselling authors themselves, mind you, but their wives.  I understand that this book is marketed primarily to women, but if they wanted quotes from women on the back to help market the book, there are plenty of female bestselling authors out there to choose from.  Those women may be married to talented writers, but they themselves don't hold credentials that should sway a reader.  I do not mean to offend those women, they are certainly entitled to their opinions.  The way it was presented just seems manipulative to me.  It feels a little bit like a trick, just so that they could use the words "New York Times bestselling author" on the back of the book without actually having praise from any single person who actually holds that title.   It's as if someone asked me to provide criticism on the evolution of the common-law doctrine of promissory estoppel, simply because I'm married to a lawyer.  Sure, I could do some research and come up with something, but Law is not my area of expertise and my opinion on the subject doesn't belong in court.

ANYWAY, that bit of annoyance is targeted more at the marketers of this book, not at the book itself.  Back to the book.

This story is lovely and charming and will leave a smile on your face for days afterwards.  It was definitely worth the read.  I'd recommend it to fans of Jane Austen and/or fans of the Regency era who enjoy a good romance and prefer their books to be clean, or who are just looking for something to brighten their day.

Weekly Words: Albert Einstein

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feature Friday: The Evolution of the Romance Novel

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Literary Matchmaking

So I was thinking about Valentines Day, and about some of my favorite fictional literary heroes and heroines, and I wondered what would happen if I could play a cross-novel literary matchmaker for a day.  If so, here's who I would pair...

Both born into powerful families with ruthlessly ambitious parents, these two would either run the world or be AA buddies.  Or both.

They're both insufferably idealistic and optimistic, but I think they'd make each other happy.

With their combined resourcefulness and determination, I'm pretty sure we'd see their bid for Prime Minister before they're 25.

With their understanding of politics and mutual thirst for adventure, this would a fearsome couple anywhere from board meetings to pirate ships.

Just because I always felt like Charlotte got the short end of the stick and I want her to be happy.

Just think!  They could be emo piles of angst together!

No crime would be safe from their sharp eyes and unfailing intuition.  (Langdon will have to suddenly age a fair bit for this to work, though.)

They're both passionate and fearless enough to fight any battle that needs to be fought, from the Civil Rights to the French Revolution.

They can bond over their obsessive loves of their respective preciousessssssss.

Although they would find some nefarious companionship in each other, the rest of us better book our flights to the moon.

What bookish characters would you pair?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book-to-Film: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is an upcoming film from Fox based on the James Dashner novel of the same name. The young adult novel features a group of teens who find themselves in the center of a giant towering maze. The story follows a young man named Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) after he awakes in the maze without warning and with no prior memories and attempts to decipher the workings of the ever-changing maze in order to figure out how to escape.

The Maze Runner is set to open September 19, 2014.  Here are a few stills and character portraits that have been released to get us excited: