Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book-to-Film: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

From The Guardian:
A screen adaptation of Donna Tartt's bestselling novel The Goldfinch is on the way after the producers behind The Hunger Games announced that they have taken up an option on the book.
...The Goldfinch, Tartt's third novel and her first since 2002's The Little Friend, is about a 13-year-old boy who survives an art-gallery bombing that kills his mother, and ends up in possession of the Dutch Old Master painting (by Carel Fabritius) of the title. Since its publication in October 2013 it has attracted widespread acclaim for its "Dickensian" scope, and named by the New York Times as among the 10 best books of 2013.
No details have emerged of any film-makers or actors who may be under consideration - and nor whether any resulting project would be aimed at the big or small screen. Said Jacobson: "We've been thinking we are more likely to make a limited series for TV. There's so much scope to the book. At the same time, a film-maker could come in with a perspective that changes our mind."
I just checked out The Goldfinch from the library a few days ago.  Folks, it's 1,238 pages long.  I don't know if this film will be made, but if it is, it's going to be one. long. movie.  

Have any of you read it?  Any thoughts on this adaptation?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Book Club Books

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  I couldn't come up with much for their prompt this week, so I made my own!  This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Book Club Books

I've participated in a lot of book clubs over the years.  From schoolmates to work colleagues to church friends, I've seen many different reactions to various books.  Sometimes the best discussions are born from a giant difference in opinion, others because the readers just feel passionate about the subject matter.  Are you in a book club?  Consider one of these books for your next pick!  I've had some of my best bookish discussions around these!

10. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Susan WuDunn
If you are a human being, you need to read this book.  Then talk with your book club about what you intend to do about what you've read.

9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Possible discussion topics include storytelling, imagination, religion, and what constitutes truth.

8. Peace Like a River by Lief Enger
One of the greatest questions this life asks is how can we find peace in a world that is guaranteed to hurt us?  This book addresses the grey areas: Murder or self-defense?  Guilty or innocent?  Divine intervention or coincidence?  READ IT.

7. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
This is one of those divisive books.  Personally, I love it, but I know people who most definitely do not.  Idealism and jaded weariness meet the Vietnam War in this classic.  Opinions are sure to fly all over the place, and passionate and conflicting thoughts will make for a very interesting evening!

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
If you had to choose between love and peace, which would you choose?  And, bonus, after you finish this book you can go on a book club field trip and see the movie.

5. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Feminism during the suffrage movement is certainly an exciting thing to read about, but some of the things this protagonist does in the name of feminism will have you squirming... and dying to talk to someone.

4. Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston
Memoirs are great fodder for discussion.  This one, about a girl growing up in poverty in the eastern US, is of those books that should be read by everyone, and yet no one has heard of it, so you're pretty much guaranteed that no one in your group has read it before!

3. This is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks
Short stories rarely get the light they deserve, but this collection is short, engaging, darkly funny, and thought provoking.  Everything you'd want in a book club pick!

2. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Such wonderful questions raised on identity, parenting, religion, and the intersection of the personal and the political.

1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
How do you find meaning in life?  Whether you love this book or hate it, you're sure to get a great discussion out of it!

What about you?  Any great book club books that you'd add?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious--and sure that it is Liyana's fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice--she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate--or a human girl can muster some magic of her own."

Review: This book was a flying cobra snake.  I don't know how else to put it.  It was different and exciting and wonderfully suspenseful.  It completely captivated me.  I read the whole thing in just a couple of sittings.  When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it.  Always a good sign!  If you're looking for an original fantasy standalone book, this is definitely a solid choice!

Liyana was such a wonderful protagonist.  If I had to pick three adjectives to describe her, they would probably be pragmatic, gutsy, and strong-hearted.  She makes brave and difficult choices, not recklessly or because she has a hero complex, but rather because she simply uses her head and makes what she believes to be the best choice, regardless of whether others agree with her.  Regardless of whether deities agree with her.  She is smart and competent and loving, and I loved reading about her.

Characterization was pretty great across the board, actually.  The other vessels were each their own characters, distinct from everyone else, with their own voices and mannerisms and conflicting opinions.  The only character that I was slightly disappointed with was Korbyn.  As the trickster god, I had hoped that he would be, well, trickier.  I liked him just fine, and his story was fun to read about, I just wished for more surprises from the god of tricks

I loved how Durst created the religion of the desert clans.  Religious myth plays a huge role in their culture, and many of these stories were told several times throughout this book.  Rather than bore me, I thought it strengthened the worldbuilding, grounded the characters, and often came into play in the characters' decision making throughout the novel.  Plus, the stories were short and fun and interesting to read about.  The interaction between the deities and the vessels fascinated me.  There were some really interesting moral questions raised, and I applaud the novel for asking them.  I wished the novel hadn't tried so hard to answer them, though.  In my opinion, asking hard questions is a sign of a great novel.  Answering those questions, however, is the reader's job, not the book's.  That's just my opinion, though. 

I was reminded of Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns series more than once while reading Vessel.  The dessert setting is familiar, of course, but I also felt like Elisa and Liyana would have been friends.  They both have strong wills and large hearts and make fabulous leaders.  If you're a fan of Rae Carson then I definitely recommend picking up this book!

Between Sarah Beth Durst and Rae Carson, I think a new subgenre of fantasy has been created: Desert Fantasy.  (Because it takes place in the desert.  Yes, I came up with that creative title all by myself, why do you ask?)  Something about shifting the setting from a more typical medieval-esque setting to the desert changes the whole feel of the story.  There are fantastical creatures, to be sure, but not the dragons or trolls or elves that you might expect.  In the desert there are sand wolves and glass serpents and giant silk worms that can swallow a grown human whole.  Desert creatures are not for the faint at heart.

My quibbles with this book are very small.  Korbyn could have been trickier and the romance could have been smaller, and the book as a whole could have used a little more humor.  But these are all very minor issues.  The ending was thrilling and satisfying, and just slightly bittersweet.  I left the book feeling content and so glad I had read it.  On the whole, I had a really great experience reading Vessel!

Bottom Line: Unique and engaging, this book asks hard questions and entertains along the way.  Definitely worth the read, especially if you're a Rae Carson fan!

Weekly Words: Annonymous


Friday, April 25, 2014

Feature Friday: The Ten Most Read Books in the World

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Most Expensive Books in the World?

Folio Society has completed an eight-year project letterpress printing Shakespeare's work.  The typesetting and marbling is done by hand.  

From Melville House on the process:
The text has been printed in 16-point Baskerville, with type set in hot metal and impressed on thick, mould-made paper. [...]
The case sides for the first volumes were hand marbled... To create the effect, droplets of oil are floated on a solution of caragheen moss and combed into patterns. Since each pattern is different, each book is unique. [...]
The quality of the print and the thickness of the paper meant the presses had to run slowly, with frequent adjustments to ensure evenness of inking and impression. Printing just one of the plays involved eight hours of work a day for six weeks. When the printing was complete the type was melted down, the setting never to be used again. [...]
Each book is half-bound in goatskin from the Sahel region of Nigeria. The leather is tanned in Northamptonshire and then sent to Lachenmaier bindery in Germany. Like many other stages in the production, the binding is executed by hand. [...]
Each volume is individually numbered, titled in 22-carat gold leaf and presented in a buckram-bound solander box. [all emphasis mine]

Each play is a cool $545, and you can get the entire collection for $21,335.  

Pocket change, right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book-to-Film: Movies Based on Poems

I saw this list on MentalFloss and, seeing as it's National Poetry Month, I couldn't help but share.  You might have been familiar with the poetic origins of the films Beowulf and Nightmare Before Christmas, but I bet you didn't know that these popular movies were based on poems!

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Joel and Ethan Coen released a comedy about a trio of convicts trying to escape a Mississippi chain gang only to stumble into a series of misadventures and misfortune. With George Clooney playing Ulysses Everett McGill, the Odysseus surrogate, O Brother, Where Art Thou? took ancient Greek poet Homer’s episodic structure of The Odyssey and married it with absurd comedy and old-timey bluegrass music from T-Bone Burnett. The Coens didn’t read the epic poem while making the movie and actor Tim Blake Nelson was reportedly the only person on set who was familiar with Homer’s work (he holds a degree in Classics from Brown University).

Mel Gibson’s Braveheart was based on a fifteenth-century Scottish epic poem titled “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace” or simply, “The Wallace.” While the film received heavy criticism for being historically inaccurate, Braveheartwon five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography, in 1996.

In 1998, the Walt Disney Company released their 36th animated feature film, Mulan, which was based on the ancient Chinese poem “Ballad of Mulan.” The film and poem told the story of Hua Mulan, a young woman who takes her elderly father's place in the army during the Northern Wei Dynasty.

See the full list at MentalFloss.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Characters Who Would Be My BFF

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

Top Ten Characters Who Would Be My BFF

This doesn't include all my favorite characters, rather characters I would be friends with.  Because, claro, I love reading about The Darkling, but would like our relationship to continue to be STRICTLY FICTIONAL.  The rest I'd be happy to know in read life:

10. Liv and Roar from the Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi
Because I just love how brave and determined and passionate they are. *sob*

9. Tyrion Lannister from the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Because of his sharp wit and affinity for books.
(But he would have to come live in my world, because there ain't no way I'm moving to Westeros.)

8. Cather Avery from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I am convinced that we are actually the same person.

7. Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
Because she is smart and kind and bookish.  Also, telekinetic.

Because befriending an extremely powerful wizard/jedi master is never a bad idea.

5. Jane Hayes from Austenland by Shannon Hale
Because we bookish obsessive girls need to look out for each other.

4. Zoe Ardelay from the Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn
Because Zoe is DA BOMB.  (Have you read Troubled Waters yet?!?)

3. Belle from Beauty and the Beast by Disney

2. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Lizzy Bennett is the coolest girl of her generation.  Also, I would get to meet Darcy.

1.  Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series.
Because, hello, they're Fred and George Weasley.

What about you?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road."

Review: First off, I should warn you that although one cat does make an appearance, there are tragically few jellicle cats on Jellicoe Road.


This book leaves me kind of speechless, and I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Here are my thoughts:

I was eager to read this book because I'd heard so many wonderful things.  Everyone seemed to love it, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

So I checked it out from the library and started reading.  

Cue: immense confusion.

I had no idea what was going on.  There's Taylor and Ben and Narnie and Hannah and Jessa and Jonah and Fitz and Jude and Webb and Tate and Santangelo and Raffy and the Brigadier and the Serial Killer and the Police Chief and the Territory Wars and the Purple Book and the cadets and the townies and the arsonists and the poppies and car accidents and child abandonment and some kind of magical realism with a boy in a tree that talks to Taylor in her sleep and about twenty other things going on that you're just plopped right smack in the middle of with no explanation or direction or anything to guide you.  

Usually in situations like this the reader can figure out what's going on, but I was really confused for a long time.  It was irritating.  I couldn't figure out what people liked about this story.  About fifty pages in I actually checked under the book jacket to see if it had accidentally been swapped with another book, and I was actually reading something other than the highly praised, award winning Jellicoe Road.

I wasn't.  It's just really confusing.  And irritating.  For about 150 pages.

So, clearly, the first half of the story was highly disappointing for me. 

I went to Twitter to ask if I should continue reading or put it down in favor of something else, and was encouraged to keep reading, so, begrudgingly, I did.

It's a good thing I did because my experience with the second half of the story was completely different.

It turns out that Marchetta had plopped her readers smack in the middle of not one but two stories.  Once I figured out that it wasn't a dual perspective thing, and which characters belonged in which story (more difficult than you might imagine since several characters belong in both stories) things started picking up.  After a while I started enjoying what I was reading.  The book became pretty good.

Then something amazing happened: it became great.

Like, we're talking breathtakingly, devastatingly, heart-breakingly great.

I ached for these characters.  I felt their pain.  I yearned for their happiness and reconciliation, and so badly wanted them to find peace.  There were certain sentences that ripped me to shreds with their poignancy and simplicity.  All the threads that drove me crazy for the first half of the book were beautifully woven together, and made for a deeply emotional and emotionally satisfying conclusion.  

I'm kind of shocked at how much I loved how this story ended.

Looking back, I still think that the first half was unnecessarily confusing.  Those lame territory wars were never very well set up, and didn't do much to progress the story.  It didn't need to by crystal clear, but it shouldn't have been that hard to figure out what was going on.

So I hated the first half and loved the second half.  I don't know how to reconcile these two experiences, so I awarded this book a perfectly mediocre 3 stars.  The truth is that no part of this book is mediocre.  It's either spectacular or horrible, depending on which part you're reading.  I don't know what to make of this book as a whole, but I'm glad I finished it.

Bottom Line: This book somehow managed to bore me to pieces and then absolutely break my heart.  It's worth slogging through the first half to get to the second half though!

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Friday, April 18, 2014

Feature Friday: Take Hogwarts Classes Online

It's true.

You can now take Hogwarts classes online.

The site is made and run by fans, as further proof that Harry Potter has the best fans on earth.

From the site:
Thanks to the Wizengamot, the British and American Ministry of Magics and a handful of tech-friendly professors from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry , a Hogwarts education has now become available online to all aspiring witches and wizards.
You are now able to enroll at Hogwarts, collect your textbooks and begin taking our 9-week courses online. You can now progress through all seven years of schooling and be assigned a professor, homework assignments, quizzes and more.
Meet other students online by joining a House dormitory, chat with others in the Common Room, browse and contribute to the Hogwarts Library, collect chocolate frog cards, earn galleons & house points and so much more.
Thanks to the efforts and resources (plus a little magic) from the Wizard-Muggle Integration Movement, this online Hogwarts experience and education is entirely free. With a lot of passion from fans and with extraordinary creativity, anything is possible.

As you were.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Middle Grade vs. Young Adult: What's the Difference?

Sometimes I get a book that I think is YA, only to discover partway through that it's actually a middle grade (MG) book.  For me, that's not a bad thing, but I know others who prefer one category over the other.  Did you know there was a difference?  It's more than just the age of the protagonist and where it's shelved at the library.  Here are some of the basics of each category:

  • Books are primarily for kids ages 9-13
  • Main character usually falls within that age range as well
  • Books are often shorter and simpler
  • The issues/darkness is generally dealt with secondhand (MC's mom is an alcoholic, not the MC himself)
  • The book is often written to the target audience, helping them figure out right and wrong and who they are
  • More outwardly focused (plot changes are more important than how the protagonist changes - though how protagonist changes still important)
  • Think Middle School (first time not being a child, learning who you are)
  • Generally have happy endings

  • Books are primarily for kids ages 14-18
  • Main character usually falls within that age range as well
  • Books are often longer and more complicated
  • The issues/darkness is generally dealt with firsthand (MC is a teenage alcoholic)
  • The book is often written from the vantage point of the target audience, helping them figure out how the world works and how they fit in
  • More inwardly focused (how the protagonist changes is more important than the plot - though plot still important)
  • Think High School (Becoming more individualized, beginning to look outside self)
  • Endings can be happy or not

Of course, there are books in each category that don't follow these guidelines exactly, but most do.  If you want to read more on the differences between the two, there are some nice articles on the topic here, here, here, here, and here.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book-to-Film: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

Sofia Coppola is set to direct a new adaptation of The Little Mermaid, with Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) as screenwriter.  It sounds like this adaptation is going to be closer to the original Hans Christian Andersen version than the Disney version.  Here's an excerpt from its synopsis:

The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world).  Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.

This marks a notable departure from the more adult themes of (Coppola's) previous work... but if she sticks to the plot of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale it will be more adult than ever.

This is still in pre-production, so there's no release date to look forward to yet, but rumors are that Emma Watson is in talks to star as Ariel.  Emma and Sofia previously worked together in The Bling Ring, and make a great team.  Let's be honest, I'll see anything Emma Watson is in, so let bleakness and exquisite pain commence!  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like to Own

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

Top Ten Bookish Things (The Aren't Books) That I'd Like to Own

I could easily make about twenty of these kinds of lists.  Here is my (extremely edited) top ten:

7. This home library:

6. Some awesome bookends:
5. Some more awesome bookends:
4. All of Penguin's beautiful Hardcover Classics
(I know these are books, but I'd use them as much for decor as reading so I say it counts.)

3. A trip to the Harry Potter Theme Park

2. A backyard like this in which to read/swim/drink pina coladas:

1. And, lastly, tickets to visit these seven wonders of the fictional world 
(except for Barad Dur, because, spoiler, I am not an orc):

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Rating: 3.75 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it."

Review: These Broken Stars is basically what you'd get if you threw both the mega-blockbuster Titanic and the hit show LOST in a blender, and then added spaceships for spice.   

It was well written and engaging, and there were plot twists and turns that I didn't see coming, but on the whole it was a little slow for my taste.  I think if it had employed more Titanic and less LOST then it would have been more exciting, but it was still a solid read.

The Titanic-esque metaphorical iceberg-crash happened much sooner than I expected.  Tarver and Lilac became the only two characters in the entire story very early on.  On the one hand, I liked that there was high-stakes action happening so early in the story, but looking back I think this plot decision may have been a mistake.  If the crash hadn't happened until later there would have been more time to develop the side characters, making their fate more emotionally traumatic, plus it would have enveloped Lilac and Tarver in a more socially dangerous relationship, making their decision to love each other more a matter of decision rather than convenience.  I'm glad they fell in love, but it would have been more satisfying if they weren't literally the only two human beings on the planet.

The romance was more front-and-center than I prefer, personally, but romance fans will not complain.  There was insta-attraction, but not insta-love in this book.  I appreciated that the authors differentiated between the two.  

The best part of this novel, for me, was the weird, paranormal happenings on the planet.  Clearly, the planet on which they crashed landed is no ordinary place.  The paranormal moments were perfectly executed, so creepy and intriguing, I had to finish the book to know what was going on there.  I also really liked the way the story ultimately unfolded.  I did not expect it to end that way, and I like having my expectations blown.  (Also, the story actually ended instead of just leaving side-plots off to dangle forever, haunting us with their lack of conclusion.  Hey, LOST producers, IT CAN BE DONE.)

The worst part of this novel, for me, was the world building.  I didn't totally get what was going on in the basement.  (I can't say more or else this will get too spoilery.)  There were times when I was just trying to figure out logistically and logically what was going on, which pulled me out of the story at a time when I would have much preferred to stay in the story and enjoy the ride.

And, I didn't realize (AGAIN) that this was a start of a series.  I like series, but prefer to know ahead of time what I'm getting into.  Not sure I'll continue this series, unless someone else reads it and highly recommends it to me.  We'll see.

Still, well done to Kaufman and Spooner on this novel, I think plenty of people will totally eat up this series.  There were some problematic moments, and it wasn't quite my cup of tea to begin with, but it was still a solid read.

One last note: Maybe it's because I just finished Veronica Rossi's wonderful trilogy, but I saw echoes of Rossi's Under the Never Sky all over the place in These Broken Stars.  Tarver and Lilac's trek across the planet reminded me a lot of Perry and Aria's trek across their respective planet.  (Class differences, blatant animosity between the two characters, him being more capable to handle the rough terrain surrounding them, her being more naive but impressively resilient, him cursing his inner nobility that refuses to let him leave her to fend for herself, them eventually developing a grudging respect for each other, etc.)  There were several funny little parallels there, but I think I prefer Aria and Perry's story.

BOTTOM LINE: I didn't connect to the novel the way I wanted to, but I think paranormal and dystopia readers who like a strong focus on romance will love this one.