Friday, May 30, 2014

Feature Friday: Ayn Rand's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Objectivism

Prepare for uncontrollable giggling.

From The Toast:

“You’re a wizard, Harry,” Hagrid said. “And you’re coming to Hogwarts.”
“What’s Hogwarts?” Harry asked.
“It’s wizard school.”
“It’s not a public school, is it?”
“No, it’s privately run.”
“Good. Then I accept. Children are not the property of the state; everyone who wishes to do so has the right to offer educational goods or services at a fair market rate. Let us leave at once.”
“Malfoy bought the whole team brand-new Nimbus Cleansweeps!” Ron said, like a poor person. “That’s not fair!”
“Everything that is possible is fair,” Harry reminded him gently. “If he is able to purchase better equipment, that is his right as an individual. How is Draco’s superior purchasing ability qualitatively different from my superior Snitch-catching ability?”
“I guess it isn’t,” Ron said crossly.
Harry laughed, cool and remote, like if a mountain were to laugh. “Someday you’ll understand, Ron.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Case You Have A Spare $80 Million Laying Around

Great news, Vampire fans.  You can now buy a stake in Dracula's castle. 

From The Telegraph:
Whisper it quietly, rather than shout it from the rooftops, but Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, is on the market. Not in the conventional fashion, with estate agents staking their For Sale signs in the ground, but in a quiet, offers-are-invited-from-the-right-people sort of way.

“If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will look at who they are, what they are proposing, and will seriously entertain the idea,” says Mark Meyer, of Herzfeld and Rubin. The New York law firm is handling the sale.

The property comes with a long list of previous owners: everyone from Saxons to Hungarians to Teutonic knights. And although the facilities may not be exactly state-of-the-art (the plumbing is reported to require some work), there’s no questioning the detachedness of the property. It stands on top of a hill, and is most definitely not overlooked by neighbours.
...The question is, of course, how much will the castle cost? It’s been reported that Archduke Dominic offered it to the Romanian government for $80million (£47million), but Meyer is not prepared to quote a figure.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book-to-Film: The BFG by Roald Dahl

From Hollywood Reporter:
Steven Spielberg is attached to direct the adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book The BFG for DreamWorks.  The live-action film will be based on the fantastical tale of a Big Friendly Giant who befriends a young orphan girl. Dahl's book, illustrated by Quentin Blake, was first published in 1982.
DreamWorks acquired the book in 2011 with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall to produce. Melissa Mathison, who penned the script for E.T., wrote the screenplay.
There has been one other adaptation of the popular children's book: for a 1989 animated made-for-TV movie in the U.K.  ...Spielberg is officially committing himself to BFG and is planning a 2015 start date with a release in 2016.

I'm a huge Roald Dahl fan, and we all know that Spielberg is a talented director.  I'm most curious who they're going to cast, though.  Casting could make or break this one.  We'll see how it goes. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Ten Most Exciting and Completely Absorbing Series

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is a freebie (pick your own topic) so I decided to go with:

Top Ten Most Exciting and Completely Absorbing Series

When I was pregnant with my daughter I ran into some pretty scary pregnancy complications and ended up on bedrest for three months.  Our story has a happy ending and our daughter was born safely and is now a healthy and happy little one-year-old, but during those three months of doing nothing but lay around I spent a LOT of time reading.  Like, more than usual.  Which, for me, is a LOT.  I really needed some exciting and absorbing series to read, not only because I was bored out of my freaking mind, but because I was constantly and extremely worried about the well-being of my unborn child, and that kind of stress wasn't helping anyone.  I needed the escapism element of absorbing series as much as I needed something to do.  Happily, several of these series kept me going.  I now recommend them to you!  Enjoy:

10. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
If you're a human being between the ages of 9-99, chances are you've already read these once.  Read them again.  They're just as entertaining the second time as they are the first.  (And the fiftieth...)

9. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Just had to get these first two series out of the way.  They're an obvious choice for this week's prompt, but for good reason!  You'll never be able to put these down, and they'll fully distract you from whatever you need distracting from.

8. The Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore
One of the best YA fantasy series out there, IMO.

7. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
These books are VERY hefty and VERY dark, so if you want something uplifting go somewhere else.  If you're not so picky, you'll be dumbstruck at Martin's incredible characterization and world-building.

6. The Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi
Fast paced and action packed, this series will definitely keep you entertained.

5. The Divergent series by Veronica Roth
You might hate how it ends like I did, but Roth knows how to spin a good action sequence, I'll give her that.

4. The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
Two words: The Darkling.

This isn't exactly a series, but there are SIXTY-SIX of her detective novels available, for goodness sake.  That'll keep you busy FOR A WHILE.

So delightfully entertaining and exciting, you'll wish for another series to be set in this world the second you finish The Bitter Kingdom.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
A cyborg Cinderella?  A vicious Lunar Queen? A roguish street fighter?  CHECK.

What would you add?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.  Ananna and the assassin set off to break the spell--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them."

Review: Note: I edited the summary of this book because I felt like it gave too much away.  Read the full summary on Goodreads at your own risk.  On to the review.

First off, can we all take a moment and gush over that beautiful cover??  I absolutely adore it.  Fabulous work, cover artists.

The story inside this lovely cover image is zesty, exhilarating, dangerous, and pretty freaking entertaining.  I haven't had so much fun reading fantasy in quite a while.  Ananna is a fiery, courageous and charismatic pirate, and Naji is a smooth and cunning assassin.  They're opposites in many ways, but play off of each other really well.  Both have their strengths and their vulnerabilities, and were really full characters.  Neither one of them has the strongest moral center, considering their respective occupations, and it was both funny and endearing to watch them learn to care for something outside of themselves.  

There is a little bit of romance here, but it's not overpowering, and it never gets in the way of the plot.  Which is to say, it was the perfect amount of romance for my taste.  The plot itself was fantastic.  Within the first few pages Ananna begins her escape on the back of a stolen camel, and her gutsy and sometimes rash adventure just keeps going from there.  It never slows, which is good considering how short this book is.  I finished it in one 24-hour period and already have its sequel on hold at the library.

The world-building was really well done.  I liked the obvious Arab influences to this story (the markets, spices, clothing, etc.) and also liked how the Pirates came across almost like Outlaws from the American West in the way they spoke.  It was an interesting conglomeration to put Pirate-Cowboys in a Middle Eastern setting, but it worked.  It was different and interesting and appealing.

If there's one weakness it's the ending.  There is hardly a climax at all to this book, and I felt very little closure when I finished the last page.  It's a really short book, and I wish this and its sequel were just combined and released as one larger book.  Oh well.  I should also warn you that there are a few moments of strong language.  It doesn't happen often (I think only twice) but it's there.  If you're sensitive to language, though, take heed.  

All in all I had a blast reading this book.  Ananna reminds me a little bit of Flavia de Luce with her feisty but lovable disposition.  It's a captivating and highly entertaining read, surprisingly short for a fantasy novel, and a thrilling and dazzling debut from an author I am really glad I found and will surely be reading again.

Bottom Line:  Pirates.  Assassins.  Magic curses.  Evil wizards.  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  Read it.

Weekly Words: John Greene

Friday, May 23, 2014

Feature Friday: Google Maps

Do you know how awesome Google Maps is?  Of course you can look up directions from point A to point B, but you can also see maps that show the Italy Postal Code Boundaries, or a map that shows the percentage of tree cover in Mexico.  There are all sorts of cool maps to look at.  My favorite, though is the map that shows the location of every book store and public library in the US.  I love maps in general, and I really loved looking at this map, so I thought I'd share.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Judy Blume Cover Repackaging

Judy Blume books are getting a makeover.  You can tell pretty easily from the covers which are being marketed for a middle grade readership, and which are being marketed to young adults.
Interestingly, a few of her books have been given two covers, one for each age group.  Seeing the two covers side-by-side really brings home how different covers can give such completely different vibes and set such contrasting tones for the exact same book.  Which do you prefer?
I've actually never read a Judy Blume book.  Not sure how I missed those all growing up, but I'm thinking I should probably try one out, since they continue to be so popular decades later.  Which should I try first?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book-to-Film: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Obviously, they have taken a LOT of liberties with the source material, but it still looks like a fun, campy film.  Plus, the cast is awesome.  It's not everyday that you see a movie that features Michael Scott, Sydney Bristow, Troy Bolton, and Miss Elizabeth Charming all in one.  Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Books About Friendship

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

Top Ten Books About Friendship

I'm going to slightly tweak this prompt to more highlight friendship in books, rather than books about friendship.  Here's my list!

10. Cath and Regan in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Really, I'm just trying to see how many weeks in a row I can include this book in my TTT lists. (Seriously though, their friendship was awesome.)

9. Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Not every friendship could recover from one person getting engaged to someone the other person rejected a proposal from the day before.

8. Ahab and Ishmael in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
The bromance is a delight across the whole, massive, whaling adventure.

7. Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
They taught an entire generation about loyalty and true friendship.

6. All the pageant girls in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Instead of eating each other when they crash landed, they became wonderfully close friends, and a powerful force on the island.

5. Maddie and Julia in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I can't really talk about this story without sobbing.  Moving right along.

4. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This duo is rightly adored.

3. Danny and Reuven in The Chosen by Chaim Potok
I adored these two so much, and loved how much they learned from each other.

2. Aibileen and Minny from The Help by Katheryn Stockett
How can you not love those two?  They are impressive characters on their own, but together their friendship is positively formidable.

1. Pi and Richard Parker in Life of Pi by Yann Martell
It doesn't matter that one of them is an animal.  They gave each other strength and courage and hope at the most desperate time of their lives.  (And, if you've read the epilogue, you will understand that the most powerful friendship we can have is with ourselves.)

What are the greatest friendships you've read about?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Purchased because of all the crazy internet love for this book
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?"

Review: Guys, I'm really torn.  I can't make up my mind about this book.  For everything I liked, there was something else I didn't like.  I think the main problem is that Vicky felt like a very twenty-first-century girl parading as a suffragette.  It wasn't that her language or her mannerisms felt modern - on the contrary, Waller did an excellent job of basing the language and mannerisms of her characters in 1909 - it was more that Vicky's thought processes and decision making felt modern.  

For example, Vicky, an engaged young woman, decides to lie to her parents and spend a weekend in the country with her young, attractive, and extremely good looking muse and his family.  I seriously doubt that any girl with Vicky's aristocratic upbringing and understanding of how fragile Edwardian reputations are would ever in a million years do that.  I get that Vicky's headstrong, but that decision, and others in the book, came across as flat out naive.  At the same time, I appreciated that she was independent and pursued her dreams in the face of opposition.  Then again, there's just no way that I'm buying this story as probable historical fiction.  Then again, I kind of wish Vicky's story were real.

I told you I was torn.

Suffrage is a wonderful and important topic, and I was happy to read a historical fiction set in that time frame.  Vicky herself doesn't totally get feminism (she is quite judgmental of others who disagree with her) but she does demand respect from others, so there's that.  The side characters shined as they worked together towards something they believed in.  Plus, that William Fletcher guy is quite the catch.  

At the same time, as I was reading this book and was marveling at how much our foremothers suffered in the name of suffrage, I became really discouraged at the sad fact that we still haven't eliminated sex-based discrimination.  I don't think my reaction is typical, and I have read other reviews from self-identifying feminists who loved this book, but, personally, I came away feeling discouraged.  Sexism is unfortunately alive and well.  I am so blessed to live in a time and place where my voice is largely heard, appreciated, and respected, but I get so angry when I think of all the women across history who were ignored, marginalized, bullied, and otherwise silenced solely because of their sex.  I get even angrier when I think of all the women alive today who live in such circumstances.  The injustice of it is infuriating and overwhelming.  Reading this book and looking at how hard people have fought for something that still isn't entirely realized makes me want to go crawl in a hole and die.

I won't.  Don't worry.  I will, however, recommend caution to any fellow feminists reading this book.  Perhaps your experience will be different, but mine was one of frustration and discouragement at how slow humanity moves at correcting something as simple and obvious as equality.  And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go bury my head in Half the Sky until I regain my faith in humankind.

Bottom Line: I have no idea if you will like this.  Feminism is a hot topic here, but I think it is as likely to leave you angry as inspired in this book.  If you don't really care about the political aspect, this is a cute love story with a lot of fans who will happily gush with you.

Weekly Words: Jane Austen

Friday, May 16, 2014

Feature Friday: The Bugs of Literature

Anyone who has known me for more than five seconds knows that I am not a bug person.  I hate bugs.  More than hate.  I despise them with all my soul.  Just the thought makes me shudder.  Blech.  So you'll understand me when I say that this infographic was so cool that, even though it has to do with bugs, I had to share.  Enjoy!  (If you need me I'll be in the shower, washing the depraved shadows of all this bug-talk off.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ring Shopping for Fictional Couples

Mother's Day and my husband's birthday were both this past weekend, which means I spent a lot of time this weekend celebrating life and eating yummy food and spending time with my family and just generally being happy.  It was a good weekend.  I was still in a celebration-mindset when I stumbled across an article on the history of engagement rings, and something about it made me want to ring shop for my favorite fictional couples.  (Nothing like shopping for fictional people to reveal the gross depth of your nerdiness!)  I can't honestly say how I jumped from Mother's Day and birthday celebrations to fictional-couple-ring-shopping, but I'm going with it.  :)  Here are some rings I'd pair with my favorite fictional couples*:

*Note: Not all these couples are engaged or married in the books.  I'm looking down the line (and sometimes just wishfully dreaming) for some of them.

Cath and Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath would probably like something simple and meaningful.

Elisa and Hector from The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson
Something about this ring reminds me of a Godstone, which is what made me think of Elisa.

Harry and Ginny from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Pretty sure Ginny wouldn't want anything too fussy.  Can't have any big rocks getting in the way of her Quidditch playing!

Jay Gatsby and Daisy from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
On the other hand, the gaudier and the more extravagant, the better for Jay and Daisy!

Alina and Mal from the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
Time will tell how this series ends, but if Alina picks Mal, I'm thinking something really simple and sun-like would be perfect.

Alina and Sturmhond from the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
If she picks Sturmhond, though, something very different will be glittering from her sun summoning, princess hand.

Alina and the Darkling from the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
And we can't ever rule out The Darkling.  As terrifying and powerful as this couple would be, they would also be EXTREMELY AWESOME.  Like this ring.

America and Prince Maxon from The Selection series by Kiera Cass
This ring is feminine and royal, and for some reason kind of reminds me of the cover image.

Kestrel and Arin from The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
I like the combination of the two different stones, and think it would well represent the diversity between Kestrel and Arin.

Hamlet and Ophelia in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Let's pretend things went REEEEEAAAALY differently from how Shakespeare wrote them.  In that case, this could suit them just fine.

Zoe and Darian from Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
This ring would suite a Coru girl perfectly, though Zoe would probably think it was too showy and "forget" to wear it half the time.

Bitterblue and Saf in Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore
This ring just screams fantasy to me.  And I like the touch of blue.

Taylor and Jonah in Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Let's fast forward a decade after this book ends.  If Jonah and Taylor decide to tie the knot, I think they would need something really unique.

What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Officially scared because this is how I spend my spare time??

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book-to-Film: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

In case you haven't heard, Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy, is going to be split into two films.  (Shocker, I know.)  Those films won't be out for a while, though.  The adaptation of book 2 in the series, Insurgent, is still scheduled to be released next year, but I can't find a full cast list yet.  The only new cast member I've seen in this one:

Johanna (leader of the Amity) will be played by Octavia Spencer

I'm a fan of Ms. Spencer, and am happy with this choice.  I figured I'd go ahead and cast the rest for them.  You know, just to save them the trouble.  :)  

Here's who I would place in the still-vacant roles:

Evelyn (Leader of the Factionless) should be played by Lena Headey
(What do you think?  Too close to Cersei Lannister?)

Cara (Tris' friend Will's sister) should be played by Emma Roberts
(Mostly because they kind of look alike)

Uriah (Tris' friend and fellow Dauntless, Marlene's boyfriend) should be played by Gaius Charles
(Because he has such twinkly eyes.)

Marlene (Tris' friend and fellow Dauntless, Uriah's girlfriend) should be played by Chyler Leigh
(Because looking at Gaius Charles made me think of Grey's Anatomy.)


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't

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

Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't

I almost always finish books, even if I don't enjoy what I'm reading, just for the sake of closure.  Here are a few that I got REEEEEEEEEEAAAAALY close to breaking that rule for, though, and whether or not I'm glad I kept going:

10. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I have a feeling that this one will appear on many lists today.  The first half nearly killed me, in a bad way.  The second half actually did kill me, but in a good way.

9. Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce
I just struggled to get into this book, but ended up enjoying the ending.

8. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I probably would never have actually stopped reading this book, because I'd already read the first two books and I needed the closure.  But I surely did not like what I was reading.

7. Matched by Ally Condie
I know this series has a big fan base, but it just didn't do it for me.  I finished it just to say I'd finished it, but didn't continue the series.  (I understand the love for this series, though.  Romance has just never been my favorite genre.)

6. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Who am I kidding, I would never actually STOP reading Martin.  But boy howdy, a CERTAIN EVENT in this novel made me SO ANGRY.  I kept going, but maintain that the books drastically changed direction in this book, and they've never recovered.

5. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
I got close to putting it down, but ended up finishing it.  I can't remember much from this book other than the bizarre parts in the jungle with the "natives."  Which is why I've never read Extras.

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I actually did put this one down for a while.  A few months later I started reading again just because I was bored, and ended up totally loving it.  So glad I didn't let my first experience with this book hold me back!

My brother-in-law asked me if I would read this book if he bought if for me.  I said, "sure!"  (Um, free book? The answer will always be YES.)  Unfortunately I didn't end up sharing his love for this series, as much as I wanted to.  The only reason I finished was because I had promised I would before I started.

2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
I can appreciate the research that went into writing this book, and the gothic feel of the novel, but I still think it was about 300 pages too long.  (And I really despise that ending.)

1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I had a really hard time getting into the first hundred pages, but I'm SO GLAD I persisted because I ended up totally loving the last half!

What about you?  Any books you almost put down but didn't, and ended up loving it in the end?  Or any books that you stuck through, only to wish you'd put it down earlier?