Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

Title:  Why Shoot a Butler?
Author:  Georgette Heyer
Genre:  Mystery
Pages:  329

Rating:  A-

Synopsis (from  Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly... On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her--at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up...
In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, every clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why Shoot a Butler? was my first Georgette Heyer mystery, so I really didn't know what to expect when I started it.  Having only read Heyer's regency romances, I thought there was a good chance the story would have witty dialogue, lots of descriptions of people and places, and an interesting heroine.  I missed two out of three.  First, there's no heroine, but a "hero."  The main character of this story is Frank Amberley, a barrister/amateur sleuth with a smirking haughtiness that hides his intelligence and passion.  He actually reminds me of Sir Percy Blakeney, aka the Scarlet Pimpernel, except that Sir Percy uses humor and goofiness as a cover the way Amberley uses arrogance.

Secondly, the long descriptive passages that Heyer normally has in her romances are nonexistent here.  In this book, Heyer's main focus is not on the landscapes or what people are wearing, but on the mystery itself.  Her story is non-stop movement from beginning to end; there's no time to spend on descriptions.  The story may seem a little bare at times because of the lack of any involved details on the characters and their surroundings, but since the plot never really slows down, there isn't a lot of time to notice it. 

The one thing I did guess correctly was the dialogue.  It wouldn't be a Heyer book without amazing conversations and sarcasm.  Amberley's dialogue is sharp, witty, and biting.  His conversations with his uncle are hilarious, as his uncle doesn't always understand sarcasm.  But the best conversations are between Amberley and Shirley Brown, the possible "femme fatale."  She's not impressed with Amberley's wit, and has no problem telling him off.

As for the mystery itself, it was exciting and had the appropriate number of twists and turns, with a somewhat unexpected ending.  I admit that after reading a lot of mysteries (and watching a lot of crime shows), I've realized that it's never the obvious person you suspect, and therefore I'm not always surprised at the endings.  With this book, as I said, I was somewhat surprised because I had two guesses as to who the villain was, and one of them was right.  But I never guessed the motive or how the solution would unfold.  A-

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

Title:  A Civil Contract
Author:  Georgette Heyer
Genre:  Regency romance
Pages:  422

Rating:  A-

Synopsis (from  Adam Deveril, Viscount Lynton, returns home from war to find his family in financial ruin. To help his family, he sacrifices his love for the beautiful Julia and marries plain Jenny Chawleigh, whose father is a wealthy businessman determined to marry his daughter into a title.
Adam chafes under Mr. Chawleigh's generosity, and Julia's behavior upon hearing of the betrothal nearly brings them all into a scandal. But Jenny's practicality and quiet love for Adam bring him comfort and eventually happiness. And over time, their arranged marriage blossoms into love and acceptance across the class divide.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For Christmas this year, I asked for a bunch of books by Georgette Heyer, and I got them!  Of the Heyer books I got, A Civil Contract was the first one I read.  Unlike most of Heyer's other books, this book is much more serious in tone, and its love story isn't a whirlwind, swoon-worthy romance.  Adam Deveril and Jenny Chawleigh marry for convenience, and they face their ups and downs together, eventually realizing that they do love one another.  It's not the typical passionate, breathtaking love that comes and goes, but a deep, steady love that's grown out of mutual respect and companionship.

Heyer's heroine in this story is very different from her typical female leads.  In most of Heyer's books, the girl is beautiful but poor; Jenny Chawleigh is the opposite.  Neither poor nor beautiful, she does possess a good head on her shoulders and a dry sense of humor.  Her "hero," Adam Deveril, doesn't deserve the title.  He's often rude to Jenny, and sometimes fails to hide his feelings for his first love Julia whenever she's around.  Lucky for him, Jenny is a very understanding and patient woman.

I really enjoyed how Heyer looked at what might be the outcome of an an arranged marriage.  The disbelief and awkwardness at first, followed by the slow acclimation to one another's personalities, and finally the realization that what the two of them share is much more enduring than the feelings of being "in love."  Heyer never becomes unrealistic by having either of her characters suddenly wake up one day and say, "I can't believe I didn't see it before! I'm madly in love with him/her!"  I admit a little part of me was hoping for that breathtaking aha! moment, but in the end, I'm glad it didn't happen.  It would have seemed forced and unreal.  What Heyer portrays in A Civil Contract is a real love, which was a refreshing change from the typical romance.  A-

Book Review: The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

It seems that with every Pratchett movie-adaptation, I always see the movie before reading the book.  That's true in this case as well.  I watched The Color of Magic with my family a few years ago, and only now read the two books which it's based on.  I think part of the reason it took so long was because, of the three Pratchett adaptations I've seen -- The Color of Magic, Going Postal, and The Hogfather, -- it's my least favorite.  I love all three of them, but I just love this one a little less.  And no offense to Pratchett, but I think Rincewind is the probably the most annoying main character he's ever written.

That being said, I still really enjoyed both The Color of Magic and its sequel, The Light Fantastic.  They were the first two Discworld books that Pratchett ever wrote, so in the beginning, they do feel a little like they're a giant introduction to the Discworld universe.  But once you get to the actual main plot, the story's pace quickens and holds your attention.  The story tells of a failed wizard named Rincewind, living in Ankh-Morpork, who has the misfortune to meet a strange little man calling himself a "tourist."  Rincewind finds himself roped into being a tour guide to this little man, Twoflower, who unfortunately doesn't understand the meaning of fear or sarcasm or subtlety.  While nearly losing his life a thousand times taking Twoflower around, Rincewind must also save the world... no biggie.

As I said before, Rincewind is a very annoying main character, but he grows on you.  Twoflower is the real star of these books.  His simple and naive outlook on the world, as well as his inability to know when to keep his mouth shut, leads to some very interesting situations for both him and Rincewind.  The secondary characters also shine in these books.  Each one has their own unique personality, and each adds a fun twist to the storyline.

As with all of the Discworld books, Pratchett filled these books with sarcasm and satire, making fun of much of what we consider normal parts of life.  Government, fantasy stereotypes, insurance, and tourism are just some of the topics that Pratchett has fun with.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the books was how little they focused on the Unseen University and the wizards.  I thought their storyline was awesome, and I would've loved to have read more about them.  But despite that, I found The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic fun and entertaining, with plenty of adventure and comedy.  While they're certainly not my favorite Pratchett books, they were definitely worth reading.  B+

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #6

I really meant to post this either Monday night or Wednesday but never got to it.  Christmas was a little more important than updating my blog.  So instead, I'm posting my belated Top Ten Tuesday on Thursday.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  This week they let us have a freebie and choose whatever topic we wanted, and I really wanted to post my Top Ten (and then some) Fictional Crushes.

My Top Ten Fictional Crushes

  • Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)  -  I love the dark, brooding anti-hero.  Mr. Rochester's such a passionate romantic, and you can't help but love him, even when you know he's in the wrong.
  • Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)  -  Honestly, who doesn't love Mr. Darcy?  Haughty and proud at first glance, but really a big softie underneath, especially where his sister's concerned.  And anyone who can hold his own in a conversation with Elizabeth Bennett is pretty amazing.
  • Severus Snape (Harry Potter series)  -  I loved him from the very beginning of the series.  Even when everyone else thought he was really a traitor, I just knew deep down that Severus wasn't evil.
  • Sir Percy Blakeny (The Scarlet Pimpernel)  -  So funny when he's pretending to be dimwitted, and so passionate in his feelings for his wife.  The description of him kissing the ground where she walked because his feelings are so intense just gives me shivers.
  • Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games trilogy)  -  Team Peeta all the way!  He's so sweet, strong, and dependable; he'd be there for you no matter what.
  • Lord Carlyon (The Reluctant Widow)  -  I love someone who's witty and sarcastic, and Lord Carlyon is a perfect example.  His sarcastic banter is entertaining and quick; you'd never be bored.
  • Robert Beaumaris (Arabella)  -  Beaumaris is just the right mix of every Austen hero, and his dry sense of humor is so amusing.  Every time I read this book, I want so badly to be Arabella.
  • Barney Snaith (The Blue Castle)  -  I love him because he's kind and considerate, but he has a mysterious side.  I'd love to live on his little island in Canada, just the two of us.
  • Faramir (The Lord of the Rings)  -  He's kind and gentle without being timid or weak.  He's brave and strong without being proud.  He's noble and wise; he's the quintessential knight in shining armor.
  • Raistlin (The Dragonlance Chronicles)  -  I fully admit to having a thing for the "bad guy".  Raistlin is definitely dangerous, mysterious, and power-hungry, but he's not past all redemption or hope.  He often seems ruthless, but he's got a soft side that he hides from his companions.
And the honorable mentions are:  Boromir (The Lord of the Rings), Colonel Brandon (Sense & Sensibility), Professor Bhaer (Little Women), Howl (Howl's Moving Castle), Michael Pardue (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), Calvin Featherbone (The Gentleman Outlaw and Me ~ Eli), Dustfinger (The Inkworld trilogy), Dodge Anders (The Looking Glass Wars), The Beast (Beauty), and John Thornton (North & South).

There are many more fictional characters that I love, but these are the current top twenty.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Worth Losing Sleep For

Have you ever read a book that is so good that you just cannot put it down?  Even if it's after midnight, and you know you have to get up for work at 5:30am?  I love that kind of book, which is evidenced by the times I've gone into work exhausted from needing to finish a book.  So far this month, two books have been worthy of keeping me up late.

 Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier was an awesome read.  The story centers around Neryn, a sixteen-year-old girl with a special gift that puts her life in danger, thanks to the king's desire to slaughter anyone with these gifts.  When left to fend for herself, she decides to journey to Shadowfell, the location of the resistance, and on the way has many adventures with members of the faerie folk.  She also meets a mysterious stranger named Flint, who rescues her but is hiding something.

I could not put this book down.  It was exciting and full of adventure; it never seemed to drag at all.  Because the story was about a journey, the "action" was continuous, and it kept me on the edge of my seat.  Besides a good plot, the book also had great characters and character development.  Neryn and Flint were the main characters, but the faerie folk stole the show.  They each had a distinct personality and voice.  I just kept wishing they had bigger roles.  Maybe in the next book?  I also liked the characters that had very brief, small roles in the book; they were well-written and developed and not just glossed over.  This was my first Marillier book, and if her other books are anything like this one, then I will definitely be reading them.

The sequel for Shadowfell is coming out in 2013, and I cannot wait to see what happens next!  A

This next review's gonna be a bit longer, since I read the book only two days ago so it's fresh on my mind.  

I love Rick Riordan and his Greek/Roman mythology series, and The Mark of Athena is the best book of the series yet!  Lots of adventure, plenty of action, romance, friendship, mythology - pretty much everything I love in a book.  I started this Wednesday morning and absolutely could not put it down until I finished it that night.  And now I have to wait until October to find out what happens next!

After being separated for so long, the whole gang has been reunited - Percy with Annabeth & the Camp Half-Blood demigods and Jason with the New Rome demigods.  Despite the fact that the Greeks & Romans have avoided contact before, they now must work together to save the world.  Just a normal day in the life for these guys.

One of my favorite things about this book is that we get to see things from Annabeth's point of view.  In the original Percy Jackson series, everything was from Percy's POV (makes sense).  In the first two books of the new series, everyone's had a chance to have their POV heard, except Annabeth.  So it was really cool to finally get inside her head, and see how she deals with everything happening around her and to her.  It was also awesome to have Percy & Annabeth back together again.  It just felt so wrong when they were separated.

The other characters were great too.  Their interactions with one another as they adjusted to being a team was a source of both tension and humor, especially between Frank, Leo, and Hazel.  The two guys hamming it up and getting on each other's nerves to impress Hazel was just the right amount of humor needed to keep the book from being too tense and serious.  Besides the Frank-Hazel-Leo situation, there was plenty of other romance too.  Of course Percy & Annabeth being reunited provided some of the romance, but Piper & Jason were dealing with their own relationship as well.

But the part of the book that really got me was the ending.  I still cannot believe how the book ended; it was totally unexpected.  Usually Riordan tends to end his books a specific way.  It's not that there's always a happy ending, but usually by the end of the book, the main bad guy of that particular book has been vanquished, and the characters have a little bit of peace before their next adventure.  Riordan rarely does the huge OMG cliffhangers (I laughed when I wrote cliffhanger, and if you've read the book, then you get it), but he really went all out in The Mark of Athena.  I just can't believe that he stopped where he did; that he did what he did to those two characters (trying to avoid spoilers is hard).  It's killing me that I have to wait almost a year for the next book!   A+

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It's so hard to write reviews of movies that just came out without giving anything away, but I shall try.

I really liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It's fun and exciting.  It's definitely not on the same level as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it's still very good.  And it's definitely not for children.  The book may have been written for kids, but this movie is rated PG-13 for action violence (lots of action violence) and scary images, aka really creepy orcs and gross goblins (totally unintentional alliteration).

In adapting the book to the movie, there were changes of course, but I was expecting them so they didn't bother me too much.  Also, I didn't mind the extra material that Peter Jackson said he'd be adding from The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings appendices.  It was interesting, and it definitely helps explain things, such as where Gandalf was whenever he left Bilbo & the dwarves in the book.

The dwarves are amazing.  Each one has a unique look and personality; it's not just a homogenous group of white-bearded short guys.  Certain dwarves got some more screen time than others, especially Fili & Kili (being the youngest "hot" dwarves).  The movie also just further proved that my favorite actor, Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), is incredibly talented and worthy of being my favorite.  I love him so much, and his portrayal of Thorin is brilliant.

Bilbo's character is a bit different.  In the books, Bilbo would never have run off gleefully to join an adventure or willingly jumped into a fight with orcs, but in this movie adaptation, he's become a bit braver.  Martin Freeman was definitely the right choice to play Bilbo, as he's a great actor and really brings Bilbo to life.  Gandalf is the same abrupt, pipe-smoking, Hobbit-loving wizard.  McKellen has made that role entirely his; anyone else would just have been wrong.

My biggest complaint (and there aren't many) is the CGI.  In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there was an army of extras dressed in full costume to play the orcs, but in The Hobbit, they took what is probably the most current and possibly cheapest route.  The orcs, the goblins, the elf army, and the dwarf army were all CGI.  Of course there were CGI characters in the original trilogy, but there weren't as many.  And the problem with using so much CGI is that it makes the movie look so much less real.  I remember so many people loved Avatar because they said the CGI looked so real.  But when I watched it, it just looked like very good computer graphics.  In The Hobbit, I feel like the CGI wasn't always that good.  There were moments when it was so fake that it was distracting.  I can't even imagine how it looks in 48fps.

Besides the CGI, I can't really find much else to say about this movie that's negative.  Good acting, lots of adventure, and a classic story make this an awesome movie that I would absolutely see again.  And I'm looking forward to seeing what Jackson has done with the rest of the story.  A

Side note -  I know it seems silly to complain about this, but for the past few years, every time we go to the theater, every time, someone tall sits in front of me.  It doesn't matter if they're part of a group or by themselves; when choosing a seat, they always pick the one in front of me.  If they're part of a group, it doesn't really bother me too much, but it really irks me when it's just one person.  When we went to see The Hobbit, I was sitting towards the end of the row, the last of my friends, and there was a seat between me & the two people sitting at the very end of the row.  All the rows in front of us were empty, and a very tall guy walks down the whole row in front of us and picks the seat directly in front of me.  WHY???  It wasn't like I was right in the middle, and if he'd gone one more seat down, he wouldn't have been sitting in front of anyone.  Like I said, I know it's silly to make a big deal of it, but it would be nice to see a movie again without someone's head in the middle.  (And of course, when sharing this story at work, one coworker compared me to a hobbit, and two other coworkers couldn't help teasing and said I should bring a booster seat next time.  Pfft!)

Top Ten Tuesday #5

I'm still so shocked that we're at the end of 2012 already, and it's only one week til Christmas.  I hope everyone's finished their Christmas shopping so they don't have to brave the malls this week.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  This week's topic is the Top Ten favorite reads of 2012.

Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2012
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green  -  I'm so in love with this book.  It is by far the best read of the entire year.  Beautiful, touching, and real, TFiOS is both a book that makes you cry and a book that makes you think.  And Augustus & Hazel are one of the best literary couples ever.
  2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins  -  I really loved this trilogy.  Gritty and edge-of-your-seat exciting, plus some romance, this was a great read.  I can't wait to read it again, but the story can be so real and so heartbreaking.  I'll definitely need tissues at the ready.
  3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green  -  So lighthearted and fun, AAOK was such a breath of fresh air after reading all these intense dystopian novels.  I love the main character, Colin, but it was really his best friend who stole the book.  Hassan is the most awesome comedic relief/sidekick.
  4. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien  -  So incredibly amazing.  The plot, the characters, and the settings all worked together to make this book so incredible.  After The Hunger Games, this is by far my favorite YA dystopian novel.  I cannot wait to see what happens next!
  5. Matched by Ally Condie  -  I discovered this year that I'm a sucker for dystopian romances, especially if it's a love triangle.  Lucky for me, the majority of what I read this year fits that exact description.  In this book, while I felt like the secondary characters and setting descriptions didn't get a lot of attention or development, I really liked the plot concept and the relationship between Cassia & Ky.
  6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer  -  I thought this was an awesome retelling of Cinderella, mixing just the right amount of the original concept with steampunk, dystopia, and science fiction.  I originally wasn't quite sure how I felt about the lunar people part, but it works really well with the story.
  7. The Selection by Kiera Cass  -  Besides having a great concept (Dystopian future meets beauty pageant), this book had one of my favorite heroines of the year.  America is smart, funny, and outspoken, not afraid to say what she thinks, even to royalty.  Cass also did a great job making the tension between the "contestants" so tangible, you can feel it.
  8. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer  -  A great ending to one of my favorite series.  I was a little worried about how Colfer was going to wrap up Artemis Fowl's adventures.  But there was no need.  It was just the right amount of fantasy, science, and adventure.  And the ending was unexpected but satisfying.
  9. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett  -  I blame my brother for getting me hooked on Pratchett a few years ago, and now I try to read at least one Pratchett book a year.  I especially love the character Death, so any novels that have more of a focus on him are my favorites.  This book was fun not only because of its Death storyline, but also because it's an incredibly funny satire on the rise of rock-n-roll music.
  10. Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier  -  This is my first Marillier novel, and I'm so glad I picked it up.  I couldn't put this book down once I started it.  Fantasy is my favorite genre, so the book already had that in its favor.  But I really loved this book for its characters.  Neryn, Flint, and the fairy folk are all amazing, mostly due to Marillier's great character development throughout the novel.  Now I'm so excited to catch up on other series and novels by Marillier.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

John Green = Love

I cannot believe it took me over a year to read a new John Green book, after reading Paper Towns in December 2010 (read my review or my brother's).  But it did.  I didn't read another of his books until March (or was it April?) 2012, after my brother finished reading his copy of The Fault in Our Stars.  And I read my third John Green novel, An Abundance of Katherines, in October while our power was out, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  I don't know why I left such big gaps between his novels, especially considering how they are amongst the few contemporary YA books I enjoy.  I tend to avoid contemporary fiction for the most part, for many reasons.  But I really love John Green's novels; they are exceptionally well-written, and they also make you think.

The Fault in Our Stars is probably the best of Green's novels I've read so far.  Centered around the lives of two teenage cancer patients, Hazel and Augustus, this love story not only focuses on the relationship between the two teenagers, but it also delves deeper to make you think about how you view life, death, love, and what you leave behind.  The one thing it doesn't focus on is the cancer itself.  It's always there obviously, but your attention isn't on the disease; it's on the people.  Hazel and Augustus are amazing main characters; they're so real.  They're just two kids trying to live the most normal lives they can.

The writing is also fantastic.  I never felt like the story lagged, nor did it ever get overly dramatic.  It was just so beautifully written.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this book on almost every blogger's Best-of-the-year list, or if they haven't read it, it's on the top of their TBR list.  I was warned ahead of time that this is a crying book, so I'm warning everyone who hasn't read it - Have tissues ready!  A+

While the power was out during Sandy, I was looking for something to read to kill the time, and suddenly remembered that I'd bought another John Green book months before and still hadn't read it.  An Abundance of Katherines was just the right kind of book for a blah day with no heat or power.  It's a cute story about a prodigy, Colin, who only ever dates girls named Katherine, and always gets dumped by girls named Katherine.  So after the nineteenth Katherine dumps him, Colin and his best friend Hassan decide to go on a road trip to distract Colin from his break-up.  While on the road trip, Colin decides to come up with a formula that will apply to all of his previous relationships and will also predict how any future relationships will work out.

Colin and Hasan are great main characters, but Hassan is definitely my favorite.  Colin's desire to avenge dumpees everywhere through his formula, as well as his Katherine backstories, are amusing and fun, but Hassan is just so funny.  He's the ultimate sidekick: always there when you need him, but also never afraid to push his friend's buttons.  The dialogue between these two is what makes this story so enjoyable.

Compared to The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, this book is definitely the most lighthearted of Green's coming-of-age stories.  It's fun and kind of nerdy, and it never even gets close to really being a serious book.  And I think that's what makes it stand out from the other books.  When you consider that TFiOs and PT are both so much more serious in their tone and subject matter, the cheeriness and fun of AAOK is a refreshing change.  A-

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #4

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & Bookish.  This week's topic is New To Me Authors I Read in 2012.

Top Ten New to Me Authors of 2012
  1.  Suzanne Collins  -  I can't believe I didn't read the Hunger Games until this year.  Collins' writing is so good, and it definitely got me into more dystopian literature.
  2. Ally Condie  -  After finishing the Hunger Games, I was looking for another dystopian love triangle, and Matched came up as a recommendation.  I loved it, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next two books.
  3. Kiera Cass  -  Dystopian books, especially those with love triangles, seem to be one of my new favorites.  I loved Cass's The Selection, and America is such an amazing main character.
  4. Caragh M. O'Brien  -  O'Brien's Birthmarked might be my favorite dystopian novel, after the Hunger Games of course.  O'Brien made her characters and settings so gritty and real, and she really loves to throw in some great, unexpected plot twists.
  5. Marissa Meyer  -  I love fairy tale adaptations so incredibly much, and Meyer's adaptation of Cinderella, with its dystopian and steampunk elements, was amazing.  I'm super excited for the next book, Scarlet.
  6. Philip K. Dick  -  So this guy may be the weirdest new-to-me author of 2012.  His books, while genuinely interesting, are also just... weird.  I enjoyed his short stories - Minority Report, The Adjustment Team, Paycheck - much more.
  7. Juliet Marillier  -  (added 12/14)  I completely forgot that I just read one of Marillier's books for the first time this month.  My office has a "lending library", meaning you can bring books you don't want anymore and leave them next to the copy machine for other people to borrow or just take.  Someone left a brand new copy of Shadowfell, and I loved it!
Sadly, I can't think of any more authors who were new to me this year.  Most of what I read was by authors I've read in previous years.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The TBR List of Doom

After weeks of looking up books and hours of sorting and typing, my crazy To-Be-Read list is officially posted (it's one of the top tabs, right between About Me and Book Reviews).  As of right now there are over 330 books on the list.  And there are still so many more that aren't on the list yet, or that I just haven't discovered yet.  I have a feeling that I will be adding more books over the years than I will be subtracting.

My overall goal with this list is to read at least 75 books off this list each year.  Considering how my plan is to keep updating it with new books I want to read as I find them, I don't think my reading goal of 75 will ever make much of a dent in the list.  But since I didn't make the list to be a challenge, only as a way to keep track of the stories and plots that interest me, I won't be disappointed if the TBR list always looks as crazy as it does now.

P.S. (12/10)  I will also eventually link all of those books to their pages.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #3

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  This week's topic is "Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me".

Honestly, if Santa brought me nothing but books this Christmas, I'd be the happiest person in the world.  But I'll only include the top ten that I really, really want right now.

The Christmas Wish List

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. Arranged: A Novel by Catherine Mackenzie
  3. A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Georgette Heyer novels (Yes, I'm cheating here but I love everything she's written!)
  5. A Kiss in Time by Alex Finn
  6. Abandon by Meg Cabot
  7. Reckless by Cornelia Funke
  8. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  9. Promised by Caragh O'Brien
  10. The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Reading List

At the start of 2012, I made a reading list for myself that consisted of over 175 books, a list I planned on completing within two years on top off all the other books and series I already had in my TBR pile.  Needless to say, I didn't get very far at all.  As a matter of fact, I barely scratched the surface.  And now, thanks to lots of other blogs I've discovered through The Broke and Bookish, my list has grown even longer.  After reading some of my fellow book-bloggers' most-anticipated books for 2013, I realized that there were a lot of books and series out there that I've been missing out on, and so my book list has grown from over 175 books to over 275.

But looking back at my original reading list, I think I can see just why I never had the motivation to attack that reading list.  I fully admit that part of it had to do with us getting satellite TV, and I got hooked on lots of new shows.  But the other reason is the books themselves.  At least half of the books I'd included were books I really had no interest in, except that I thought they'd be good for a series of posts about books versus their movie adaptations.  Since there was no real desire, nothing drawing me to those books, I never bothered to try them.  So I've decided to organize and even weed out my original list, removing the books I know I will never read and organizing the rest by interest and priority.  Hopefully my TBR list will no longer look quite as daunting, but I doubt it.  Within the next couple of days, I plan to post my list here, labeled "Reading Goals: 2013".  Or perhaps it would be better to leave it open-ended and just add and subtract as I go.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Rise of the Dystopian

Ever since The Hunger Games gained popularity, the genre of dystopian literature, especially dystopian romance/love triangles, has become the number one genre everyone's reading.  Just as Harry Potter boosted the fantasy genre and Twilight the vampire genre, The Hunger Games has opened the market for so many new dystopian novels and trilogies, possibly the biggest boost this type of literature has had since 1984 or Brave New World.  And I've discovered that so far, I really like this genre.  Lately, besides fantasy and sci-fi, it's the number one type of book I read.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is both dystopian and sci-fi.  Centered in New Beijing after World War IV, the story tells of Cinder, a cyborg mechanic, who lives with her stepmother and two step-sisters.  But this is not your classic Cinderella tale.  Cinder isn't a helpless maid who needs a fairy godmother to save her; she's the heroine who needs to save the prince.  With awesome descriptions of a world broken down by war and filth, this book feels so real.  And the cliffhanger is just killer too.  I cannot wait for the next book to see what happens next.  Rating:  A-

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien has some similarities to The Hunger Games.  In this dystopian world, there are the wealthy and privileged people living within the Enclave, and then there are the workers, the farmers, the under-privileged living outside its walls and supporting it.  The main character of this story is Gaia, a sixteen-year-old midwife outside the walls, who must hand over a quota of the babies she delivers to the Enclave.  After her parents are taken, Gaia must learn why and how to get them back.  Very adventurous with plenty of unexpected twists, Birthmarked is a great read whether you like dystopian novels or not.  Also the first book of a trilogy, I look forward to the next books, which I'm hoping might also have a little more romance in them.  Rating: A-

Matched by Ally Condie is another first book of a trilogy, and like The Hunger Games features a love triangle.  Cassia lives in a dystopian world, a pretty nice one actually, where the Society does all the thinking for you.  They decide where you live, what you do for an occupation, and most important in Cassia's mind, whom you marry.  On the day of her matching ceremony, instead of one, two matches are presented to her.  The Society tells her it's just a glitch and to ignore the second match, but now Cassia must decide whether she'll just follow the will of the Society or defy them and meet this other match.  Almost entirely a romance, the story also has its exciting moments.  And although the writing isn't amazing, it's definitely still worth reading.  Rating:  B+

The Selection by Kiera Cass is very similar to Matched.  A love triangle, a dystopian world that isn't really all that terrible, and almost entirely a romance.  America (a girl, not the country) enters a competition to be the next queen, not really because she wants to, but because she knows it will make her mother happy and she has no fear of being selected.  However, she is chosen as one of the possible brides and travels to the castle, where she and the prince begin a friendship.  There's a little action and adventure, but for the most part, the book is focusing on the relationship between America and the prince, as well as her feelings for the boyfriend she left behind.  America is also a great character because she's both independent and compassionate, and she's definitely not afraid to pull punches.  Despite having a good concept and a great main character, the story does drag a little at points, but I still really liked the book.  Rating: B+

While I know this isn't a new book, I did read it recently and thought it belonged here with the rest of the dystopian books.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick is a very strange read to say the least.  The main character of the story, Rick Deckard, is essentially a bounty hunter, but instead of hunting criminals, he's tracking and destroying androids.  The androids that were created as helpers for the Mars colony are not allowed on Earth, but they often find a way to sneak back there anyway.  While hunting them down, Deckard meets a new kind of android who causes him to question his job and his concept of morality.  The movie version, Blade Runner, tried to give the story a happy ending, but I think if you've read the book, you'd understand why it just wouldn't work.  Like most of Dick's work, the book is strange and sometimes seems very disjointed, but overall it  was a good story and worth reading once.  Rating:  B-

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #2

It's Top Ten Tuesday time!  Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten books I'd want on a deserted island.  At first, I thought practically.  Maybe I should choose some survival guides or books having to do with survival, such as Robinson Crusoe or The Swiss Family Robinson.  And then I thought, "Forget that.  If I'm stranded on a deserted island, I'm as good as dead."  So I think the books I'd want to have with me are my favorites - the books that I have read over and over a thousand times without them ever getting old.  Of course I have more than ten books that fit that criteria, but I picked the ones I think are the very best of them all.

Top Ten Books I'd Want on a Deserted Island
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - A gothic novel with just the right amount of romance, suspense and brooding.  I've loved this novel since the first time I read it.
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen - Classic romance.  Elizabeth Bennett is one of the best female characters of all time, and Mr. Darcy is pretty amazing too.  Their love story is timeless and never gets old.
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer - Funny, witty, sarcastic.  The banter is just fantastic.  It's a gothic romantic comedy.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - If I had to, I mean if I was forced, to choose only one book and not ten, this is what I'd pick.  I'd even venture to say it's my all-time favorite book.  Epic fantasy, a reluctant hero, the pure-hearted best friend.  I love it all.
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - Ok, I realize it's cheating to say the whole series, but can you blame me?
  • The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - I love the Anne of Green Gable series, but this book of Montgomery's is my favorite.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy - Sir Percy Blakeny is the best master-of-disguise ever.  And the suppressed passion between him and his wife gives me goosebumps.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale - Who hasn't dreamed of being a part of Jane Austen's world and being wooed by your very own Mr. Darcy?
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones - Adventure, magic, humor, romance.  The characters are both infuriating and lovable.  And I wish I had a door like Howl's that could lead me anywhere I wanted with a simple turn of a knob.
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle - L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series is great, but for some reason, I think this one's the best of all.  Perhaps it's because Charles Wallace is a much more minor character (he's great in small doses only).  Maybe it's because the Ecthroi make for a better villain than the brain in Camazotz.  But I think mostly it's because of the awesomeness that is Progo the cherubim.

DVR Dilemma

During the summer, my TV watching lessens considerably, simply because there are fewer good shows on then.  But now that it's fall, my TV schedule is crazy.  And my DVR is filling up fast.  As of right now, almost every night of the week, the DVR is recording something.  Usually I'm able to stay on top of the shows, but lately I've fallen behind and now have weeks worth of episodes to catch up on.

  • 8pm - Once Upon a Time (ABC)
  • 10pm - Revolution (NBC)
  • 10pm - Castle (ABC)
  • 10pm - Vegas (NBC)
  • 10pm - Covert Affairs (USA)
  • 8pm - Arrow (CW)
  • 8pm - The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  • 8pm - Last Resort (ABC)
  • 9pm - Person of Interest (CBS)
  • 9pm - Beauty & the Beast (CW)
  • 10pm - Elementary (CBS)

Obviously, Thursday is the craziest TV watching day, and the one day when my DVR is overloaded.  And if that weren't bad enough, it won't be long before Downton Abbey and Psych both start up again.  And of course, my parents record things as well, so the time has come to start deleting things and making room.  But the question is - what do I get rid of?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #1

I recently discovered something fun called Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  I thought it would be cool to give it a try and see how it goes.  Of course the first week I start is a freebie week, meaning I can write any Top Ten topic of my choosing.  I decided to go with Top Ten Worst Film Adaptations. There are so many books that have been made into movies, often several movies, or mini-series, and rarely are those adaptations able to get it perfect.  But they're not usually terrible, or the changes are understandable.  However, there are some that are just so bad or the changes are so drastic, I don't know what they were thinking.

Top Ten Worst Film Adaptations
  1. Eragon -  I feel like the screenwriters just threw the book out the window when they made this movie.  They could have done so much better.
  2. The Lightning Thief -  I was actually surprised during the first half of the movie at how closely they followed the book.  Sure, the acting was awful, but I could ignore that.  Then towards the end, everything went wrong.  They took a perfectly great ending and changed it horribly.  And now they want to make a sequel?!
  3. The Cat in the Hat/How the Grinch Stole Christmas -  Two beloved children's books by Dr. Seuss and two comedians known for raunchy humor.  Put them together and you get two non-family-friendly films.  Jim Carrey's Grinch doesn't annoy me anywhere near as much as Mike Myer's Cat, but I still won't let my little sister watch either.  Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I really think potty humor and sexual innuendos do not belong in the same category as Dr. Seuss.
  4. Jane Eyre (2011)-  Ok, so this movie wasn't really that bad... until the end.  Throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking, "This is good so far; sure Mia Wasikowska isn't great, but she's not terrible."  And then the final scene, one of the best scenes in literature... they destroyed it!  Instead of that beautiful moment and the following banter, they abruptly end the movie with one line.  I felt cheated.  If you're going to watch a Jane Eyre adaptation, watch the 2005 BBC mini-series.
  5. Twilight -  Somebody please tell Kristen Stewart to give up because she just can't act.  Throughout the movie, she's wooden and monotone.  I'm still not sure if she even realizes that she can't change facial expressions.
  6. Alice in Wonderland -  I'm not sure where to begin here.  Mia Wasikowska as a grown-up (boring) Alice?  Johnny Depp as a very strange Mad Hatter?  Anne Hathaway's eyebrows?  I've seen better adaptations than this, and I think I'll stick with them.
  7. Dune (1984) - Long.  Drawn out.  Weird.  It also doesn't help that I saw the 2000 miniseries first, which was much better.
  8. The Black Cauldron -  I don't know what Disney was thinking when they made this movie.  First off, it's way too dark for a Disney animated movie.  Second, it's based on the second book of the Prydain Chronicles, not the first.  If you're going to adapt a book from a series, it's usually best to start with the first book.
  9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -  I love Freddie Highmore and Johnny Depp, but I really did not love this movie.  The oompa-loompas were creepy; Willie Wonka was creepy; the whole movie just seemed creepy.  Plus the Gene Wilder version was just fantastic, making the newer adaptation entirely unnecessary.
  10. The War of the Worlds (2005) -  Tom Cruise.  Enough said.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Major Redo/Update

It has been way too long since my last update.  A combination of laziness and a broken laptop has led to my poor blogs being extremely neglected.  So I'm finally trying to get back on track.  Besides posting new reviews, I've obviously changed the look of RWAABA (I really didn't expect the initials for my blog to be so funny).

Hopefully over the course of the next week, I'll be able to get the following posts done:
  • How I Met Your Mother: Seasons 1-3
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
  • Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Matched by Ally Condie
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass
Those are just some of the posts I need to get taken care of; there's also more movie and TV show reviews as well.  And soon I'm going to start posting writing prompts, including my responses to them.  I just got this book, 642 Things to Write About, and it looks awesome, so I'll be posting some of their prompts along with my own.  I think I'll begin with just one per week, and then expand to two or three, until I finally start posting one per day.  So let the writing begin.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Title:  The Hunger Games
Genre:  Dystopian/Science-fiction
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens

My rating:  A+ 

Synopsis (from  In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thrilling, intelligent, and exceptionally filmed, I was completely impressed with The Hunger Games.  Having fallen in love with the book series, I was a little worried about whether I was going to be disappointed or happy when leaving the theater, but this movie was incredible, beginning to end.

First, the casting was perfect.  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks-- they all did an amazing job bringing their characters to life.  I still can't believe how many people thought Jennifer Lawrence shouldn't play Katniss because she was too curvy.  Who cares if she has hips if she can act?  I'd much rather have a curvy actress than some skinny girl who can barely change the tone of her voice, let alone act.  *cough* Kristen Stewart *cough*.  Hutcherson, as Peeta Mellark, also did a great job at portraying his character's openness and quiet strength.

The filmography was brilliantly done.  They decided to go with the shaky, handheld camera for many of the more intense and violent moments in the film, which added to the realism.  The filmmakers worked hard to achieve realism and believability during the film, and I think they were successful.  The sets and the costumes were neither too simple nor too ridiculous (except the Capitol citizens, but their clothing was supposed to be ridiculous).  I also loved the use of color throughout the film.  In District Twelve, everything is gray or tinged with gray, and the images are sharp and stark.  But as soon as Peeta & Katniss board the Capitol train, the color' s become vivid but overwhelmingly so, like it's oppressive.  When they finally enter the arena for the Games, the colors are lush, but everything seems to sharpen again.

The violence that was to be expected in a story about kids killing each other in a gladiator-like event is there but a little subdued.  The books were written for a younger audience after all, and they didn't want to alienate a large part of their audience.  It still doesn't mean that it wasn't intense, especially when you remember that you're not watching two adults fighting, but two kids.  It was especially hard to watch whenever it was a 12-year-old, because they're so little and young.

There were changes between the book and the movie of course, which I will discuss further in an upcoming Book Vs. Movie entry.  What I will say is that the changes weren't huge or plot-changing.  There was only one that really irked me, but I think it's because they're going to address it in the second movie.  So I'm definitely not disappointed with this adaptation.

Even if I'd never read the books, I would have enjoyed this movie.  It had all the right components for a great movie-- action, adventure, romance, interesting plots and subplots.  And because I didn't see it on opening weekend, I got to watch it without a lot of screaming tween fan-girls.  Major bonus.  A+

The Hunger Games trilogy

Series:  The Hunger Games
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Titles:  The Hunger Games (1), Catching Fire (2), Mockingjay (3)
Format:  Hardcover
Genre:  Dystopian/Science fiction

Rating:  A+++++

Background information (from Wikipedia):  The Hunger Games trilogy takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of the current nations of North America, in a nation known as "Panem". Panem consists of a rich Capitol, located in what used to be Rocky Mountains, and twelve (formerly thirteen) surrounding, poorer districts which are under the hegemony of the Capitol. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol wherein twelve of the districts were defeated and the thirteenth destroyed, every year one boy and one girl from each of the remaining twelve districts, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected by lottery and forced to participate in the "Hunger Games". The Games are a televised event where the participants, called "tributes", must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena until only one remains. The winning tribute and his/her corresponding district is then rewarded handsomely with food and plenty, seeing as the lower districts are starving.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 It is going to be so hard to write this review without giving anything away, but I will try.

First, let me start off by saying I LOVED THESE BOOKS!  Passionate, well-written, and thrilling, this trilogy had me hooked from the beginning.  As soon as I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  I read The Hunger Games over a weekend.  Originally I had avoided the series simply because of the hype, but with the movie gaining even more attention, and my commitment to Read It 1st, I thought I'd give the books a try.  And now I'm so glad I did. 

The books tell the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District Twelve who's chosen to be the female tribute during the 74th Hunger Games.  She's determined, somewhat hard, but also frightened and confused, emotional and loving.  Her inner monologues further develop her character and the reader's connection with her.  Her pain and turmoil are believable and real.  Collins did an amazing job with her character development throughout the series.

The descriptions of the Games themselves are harrowing and lifelike.  The suspense and tension kept me reading.  Warning- there's a lot of violence, and if reading about kids killing each other, sometimes brutally, upsets you... do NOT read these books.  Besides the violence, character development, and suspense, the books also contain romance.  In this case it's a love triangle.  Katniss is torn between her best friend Gale, a hardened coal miner who wishes to defy the Capitol but must support his widowed mother and his younger siblings, and the baker's son Peeta, a strong and artistic baker with a heart of gold who is chosen to be the male tribute for District 12.  Personally, I'm Team Peeta all the way, and in the end, Katniss picks... Well, you'll just have to read to find out.

It's so hard to really do justice to these books without including spoilers, so even though this review is kind of lame, please know that the books are definitely not.  If you love action, adventure, romance, suspense, science-fiction, dystopian literature, or David-versus-Goliath stories, you should absolutely read these books.  A+

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Vs. Movie: Something Borrowed

I honestly don't know why I bother with chick lit or romantic comedies anymore.  Maybe I just keep hoping that I will find another book like Austenland.  But nothing ever comes close.  Chick lit & rom-coms are almost always cliched, immoral, and annoying.  I decided to give this one a try anyway, simply because I think Ginnifer Goodwin is a great actress, and because other reviewers liked the book.  Next time I will follow my instincts and avoid books & movies like Something Borrowed.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin tells the story of Rachel, an average, hard-working 30-year-old woman whose beautiful, superficial best friend Darcy is getting married to the seemingly perfect guy Dex.  After a night of "partying" for her birthday, Rachel ends up taking a cab home with Dex, and they sleep together.  The rest of the book centers around Rachel and Dex figuring out how they feel about each other, while also showing the development of Darcy & Rachel's friendship over the years through flashbacks. 

I didn't even bother finishing the book.  Besides the whole cheating storyline turning me completely off, the characters were two-dimensional and stereotyped.  The main character would just not stop whining about how old and miserable and alone she was; her best friend was as superficial and shallow as you could make her; and the fiance Dex was spineless and wishy-washy.  Could someone please tell me when men stopped being... men?  There is nothing attractive about a man with no backbone.  Also, the flashbacks that are supposed to show us how Darcy & Rachel became and stayed friends throughout the years were unrealistic.  There's no way these two completely different people would have remained best friends, especially considering how badly Darcy treats Rachel.  I just can't take this book seriously at all.  Perhaps if the characters hadn't been SO cliched and transparent, or if Rachel had not been such a whiny doormat, or if the guilt she and Dex supposedly felt had seemed real at any point, I might have taken the time to finish the book.  Incomplete

Something Borrowed, the movie, follows almost the same storyline except for a few changes I noticed here and there.  For one thing, Dex and Rachel were actually really into each other during college; Darcy just swooped in and "stole" Dex away.  But the two of them never stopped loving each other, even after Dex proposed to Darcy.  I suppose the screenwriters thought that if Dex and Rachel had always been in love with each other, then we'd be more forgiving and accepting of their cheating.

Throughout the whole movie, I sympathized the most with Rachel's best friend Ethan.  He pretty much said it best when he yelled at Rachel for being a whiny pain-in-the-butt who brought these problems on herself.  And I can't stand that the movie is geared towards making you think it's okay that Dex and Rachel cheated because a) Darcy cheated too so "it's only fair", and b) they all ended up happy in the end anyway.  Rachel even says to Darcy, during a chance meeting months later, that she's sorry for hurting her, but not for sleeping with Dex.  And Darcy seems okay with it because she's happy with how her life is going (she's pregnant by the guy she cheated on Dex with).  So the moral of the story seems to be that as long as everyone gets to have a happily-ever-after, it doesn't matter how they were able to achieve it.  C-

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

UPDATE- Book Vs. Movie

So here I am, all excited to start this new series - Book Vs. Movie - as soon as I got back from vacation.  I borrowed a ton of books from the library, sent for their movie versions from Netflix, and what should happen?

My blu-ray player breaks.  Something is wrong with the laser, and the player refuses to read any and all discs.  Which means that Book Vs. Movie is currently on hold until my bank account has recovered enough from vacation and the upcoming Comic-Con ticket sales.

That doesn't mean that I'll put off reviewing things that I have seen or read since it broke.  I'll just include them in the series later.  I'm currently in the process of writing reviews for the following:
  • Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Secret World of Arrietty
  • Downton Abbey: Season 2
And I'm currently reading the Hunger Games trilogy, which has been amazing thus far.  Hopefully the movie will live up to, or at least not destroy, the awesomeness of these books.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Vs. Movie: Monte Carlo

It rarely ever happens, but sometimes a movie surpasses the book that inspired it.  For this first review in the Book Vs. Movie series, that is exactly what happened.  Monte Carlo, released in 2011, is loosely based on the 2001 novel Headhunters by Jules Bass.  Both center around a group of women who go on vacation together to have some fun and excitement, and while there, everyone believes them to be someone else, and they all find love.  That is the extent of the similarities between the two; the rest is incredibly different.

Monte Carlo tells the story of three young women-- Meg, Emma, and Grace-- in their late teens and twenties who travel together to France to celebrate Grace's high school graduation.  When escaping from the rain in an expensive hotel, Grace is mistaken for an heiress, and the three of them take advantage of the mix-up to travel first-class to Monte Carlo.  Of course this leads to all sorts of adventures and mishaps that lead to Grace and Meg finding love, until the real heiress arrives and panic ensues.  It's a fun, cute movie with surprisingly few embarrassing moments and a satisfying happy ending.  Selena Gomez isn't the most amazing actress, and her British accent was terrible, but overall she did a pretty good job.  But it was Leighton Meester's character that I loved the most; her story line was the most exciting and romantic.  A-

Headhunters is completely different.  The story revolves around four middle-aged, menopausal women (with filthy mouths and dirty minds) who decide to spice up their boring, monotonous lives by traveling to Monte Carlo and impersonating four extremely wealthy women.  They meet four men there, who are also impersonating people, and they all fall in love.  Their secrets eventually cause lots of drama and headaches.  One reviewer said of this book, "These women make the First Wives Club look like Little Women."  And it's absolutely true.  I couldn't finish the book; it was so trashy.  Every other sentence contained the F-word, and all the women talked about was sex in the crudest way possible.  Definitely not worth reading.  Incomplete

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Read It First

So just this month, I joined the Read It 1st campaign, pledging to read the book before I watched its movie version.  I've always believed in reading a book first for several reasons.  For one, I like to imagine things my own way, and when I'm reading a book, I don't want someone else's interpretation in my head.  Especially if theirs is awful.  Secondly, I prefer books to movies and TV shows, so there's always a likelihood that I'll never even get around to watching the movie anyway.  Third, a movie adaptation can be such a flop that it could turn me away from a book.  If I hadn't read Eragon first, only watched the movie, I never would have bothered picking up the book.  And finally, there are those rare occasions where the movie is actually better than the book.  It doesn't happen very often, but in the case of Princess Diaries and Under the Tuscan Sun, both books were absolutely awful.  I saw the movies, both of which I loved, and expected the books to be amazing.  Big disappointment.

So I prefer to read it first, but what about listening first?  I hadn't really considered the audiobook as part of the Read It 1st campaign until my brother told me something interesting.  One of his friends had been listening to an audiobook (I Am Number Four), and after listening to it, she told him that it was a badly written book.  I loved that book (gave it an A+), and I truly hate bad writing, so I tried not to take the insult personally  ;-)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that an audiobook is no different than a movie adaptation.  It's someone else's interpretation of a book.  You're listening to how they think it should be read-- their vocal inflections, character voices, and emotional investment.  I can think of several times when an audiobook just didn't get it right, in my opinion.  When I was little, my parents had The Hobbit on tape.  The narrator completely turned me off from the book; thank goodness I decided to give it a try, but it wasn't until years later.  Another example is The Lord of the Rings audiobook from the library.  My friend Mary was reading the book before seeing the movie and I figured I would too, but I wanted to try the audiobook instead.  I gave up on that before a few chapters were done.  I'm a fast reader, and listening to someone else read at a snail's pace (to me) was incredibly off-putting.  And when I tried listening to a book I'd already read, that was even worse.  I bought a few Georgette Heyer audiobooks, and even though I loved Richard Armitage's voice as he read The Inconvenient Marriage, his interpretation of the main character didn't remotely match how I'd envisioned her in my head.  I had pictured her as a feisty, spirited heroine who laughed in the face of danger, and he read her as timid and frightened.

So I've decided that besides putting off watching the movie/TV adaptations until I've read the book, I'll also put aside the audiobook version as well.  I've also decided that besides following the rules of the Read It 1st campaign, I'm also going to go back and read the book versions of the movies I've seen in the past.  There are many that I hadn't realized were based on a book or story, and I've decided to see how they compared to each other.  Of course that does mean reading it second, but it also means the start of a new series on my blog.  During the year, I will be doing a series called Book Vs. Movie.  As I read a book and then see the movie (or read the book after having already seen the movie), I'll review them together.  I've made a list of as many as I could find, and it's seven pages long, so it looks like this will be a nice long series that may take me more than just 2012 to finish.  If my Netflix movies arrived today like they should, the first Book Vs. Movie review should be up tomorrow.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Title: Terra Nova: Season 1
Genre:  Sci-Fi Adventure

My rating:  A-

I know a lot of people will disagree with me about this TV show, which is why it will most likely not be coming back for a second season.  But I actually liked Terra Nova, especially towards the end of the season.  I think the biggest problem people had with this show was that it started out too young and too cliched.  Almost everything in the first half of the season seemed kind of corny and overdone.  But the show matured in the second half of the season, ending with such a great finale.  If only the entire season had been as good as that finale.

Besides a great finale, Terra Nova also had a talented cast.  Stephen Lang, Jason O'Mara, and Shelly Conn are brilliant actors, and their supporting cast was good as well.  I'm always a little nervous about child & teenage actors, but the ones in this show either have natural talent or very good acting coaches.  As well as a good cast, the show had great villains.  They were reasonably evil without going over the top, and their characters had depth and dimension.  A-

The Superhero Years

It seems that our society has become obsessed with superheroes.  Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon, but for some time, their popularity had dwindled.

Now it seems Hollywood is bent on a "revival".  Thor, Captain America, Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman-- all the old favorites are getting a facelift and a franchise.  And some are even joining forces for the highly-anticipated movie, The Avengers.

But why now?  Perhaps it's simply because Hollywood has run out of ideas, a very plausible theory.  But I think it has more to do with the current state of affairs.  When Superman, Captain America, and Batman were introduced, World War II was just starting and America was still recovering from the depression.  Iron Man, Spiderman, and Thor were products of the 1960s, when the country was involved in both the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  Now, America is struggling financially and fighting terrorism in the Middle East.  What better time to re-introduce America to their heroes?  Superheroes are born out of necessity; when America needs them, they appear, ready to save the day.  And so, Hollywood has been hard at work.

The two most recent Superhero movies I've watched are Thor and Captain America.  I personally enjoyed Captain America more.  For one thing, I think Chris Evans is a much better actor than Chris Hemsworth, and for another, the dialogue was pretty awful at points in Thor. Both movies were enjoyable though.  Their plots, special effects, and supporting cast all work together to make fun, action-packed movies where good triumphs over evil.  I'm definitely looking forward to when these two heroes meet up in The Avengers this summer.
Thor:  B
Captain America:  A-
Title:  I Am Number Four
Genre:  Fantasy/Science Fiction
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some language

My rating:  B+

Being one of those people who likes to read the book before seeing the movie, I usually cannot help comparing the two.  If they don't make too many changes or if the changes aren't drastic, I can enjoy the movie, despite loving the book so much.  I Am Number Four received a B+ from me, not because they changed things, but because the movie had too many plot holes and seemed much to rushed.

Of course there were a couple of changes, most of which I considered no big deal.  But there was one change that just irked me throughout the whole movie.  In the books, John's protector and mentor Henri is a very different person; he's much kinder and loving, treating John as if he really was his son.  John looks up to him and thinks of him as a father.  In the movie, John and Henri have a tense relationship, with Henri being very strict and gruff and John being very disrespectful.  I was able to handle every other change, both minor and major, but the change to Henri's character was the one that I couldn't get past.  It made Henri's self-sacrifice in the end seem less emotional and touching than it should have been.

But the main problem with the movie was just how much they rushed it.  Most movies now are at least two hours long, so why they cut this one short is beyond me.  If they'd just added on an extra fifteen minutes, they could have filled some of the plot holes or kept the movie from feeling too hurried.  B+
Title:  Pegasus
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Pages:  400

Rating:  B+

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):  Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.  But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wow, it's been a long time since my last review.  So much has happened since November, it's going to be a challenge catching up with all the TV shows and movies I've seen, and the books I've read.  My first review of 2012 is of Pegasus by Robin McKinley.  I love Robin McKinley's books, especially her fairy-tale adaptations, but while this book was good, it just didn't live up to her past work.  There were points where the story seemed to bog down in long-winded descriptions, and sometimes I just wanted to give up or skip a few pages to get past the dull moments.  And I'm also going to have to assume that this is the first book of a series, or there will at least be one sequel, because this book ended so abruptly, with so much left undone and unsaid.

What this book did get right was character development.  Princess Sylvi and her pegasus Ebon had so much depth that they seemed almost alive.  They made the book worth reading; I always wanted to know what adventure they were going to go on next.  McKinley's greatest talent (in my opinion) is making her characters lifelike and approachable.  If she'd just cut a few paragraphs of descriptions here and there, the book would've been so much better.  B+