Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Harry!

Let us join together and cheer for the birthday of the boy who lived! (It also happens to be J.K. Rowling's birthday as well.)

Summer Part 3: Books Part 2 - YA

Young Adult books, just by their name carry a stigma to some, but I say trash that, as my friend said over on her blog the other day, Ya for A! Young Adult books are no longer just for the teens, do not feel bad for looking at these books in the bookstore! With authors like Neil Gaiman stepping into this genre and winning the Newbury, you can see that these are books everyone should be reading (a note, a Newbury winner doesn't guarantee a good book, but pick up The Graveyard Book and you won't be let down). I personally believe that while Young Adult books have always been around and good it wasn't until Harry Potter came that J. K. Rowling was able to dent the preconceived notion of what defines childrens and what defines adult literature. She broke down the stereotypes to an extent, opening the flood gates to a whole new world of well written extremely successful Young Adult authors, from Shannon Hale, even to Stephenie Meyer.

Young Adult seems to be broken down into two categories. The first is the more true to life, or at least mildly realistic and more confessional books. These range from The Gossip Girl series, which can be over the top, some would say overly mature for their age bracket, to my favorite, the Georgie Nicholson books by Louise Rennison. I love the Georgie Nicholson books because they are quite literally if Bridget Jones had written books as a teenager. Georgie is very British, very funny and her, some would say, bastardization but I will say inventiveness, with the English language is priceless. (There is even a British to American, aka Hambuger-a-go-go-ese, dictionary.) Her tenth and final book is out this month in England, look for it stateside in the fall.

The second category is Science Fiction/Fantasy, where I usually dwell. In fact a lot of my favorite authors are considered part of this genre. I personally like Young Adult Sci Fi/Fantasy because unlike the adult books you don't get unnecessary graphic sex. I'm not a prude, but I think that the sex should be a part of the story and occur naturally, and not all be lesbian, I mean come on, not all women in this genre will go for other women if given the chance no matter what the typical fanfic and slash writers think. Even George R. R. Martin falls prey to this with some of his characters and I ask why? Young Adult writers are doing pretty good without it (aside from Stephenie Meyer) thank you!

So I suggest you go out to your local library or bookstore and spend some time in the Young Adult section. You might get some strange looks, but I guarantee you will find something you like, and maybe even something you love.

Authors I would strongly recommend:
Cornelia Funke - Her Inkworld series dealing with literally inhabiting books is wonderfully dark and very reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. The first book, wrongly translated as Inkheart, it's real title is Inkblood, is the weakest, but the final two should not be missed.

Neil Gaiman - If you haven't read his teen books you are missing his best writing, check out Corlaine and The Graveyard Book.

Shannon Hale - Her books of Bayern, starting with a re-telling of the Brothers Grimm's Goose Girl are wonderful. Also recommended is her Book of a Thousand Days.

R. L. LaFevers - Her Theodosia Throckmorton books encompassing the world of Egyptology are fabulous. I'd especially recommend her for fans of Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mummy, or what it reminds me most of, the best movie ever, Young Sherlock Holmes!

Christopher Paolini - I love him, though most people say his fantasy about Dragons is just a mish-mash of other writers, I still love them, and find them better written than most.

Terry Pratchett - His Tiffany Aching series about a young witch brings back all the Discworld witches we know and love and uses them as background for a young witch in training. And the Nac Mac Feegles! Och Eye!

Louise Rennison - Bridget Jones if she was a slightly funnier and loonier teen.

Authors I would avoid:
C.S. Lewis - Narnia, yeah it's good for awhile, but it goes all religious weird and then he kills everybody! Except Susan, cause she likes make-up...personally I'd be siding with Susan if it meant I lived.

Stephenie Meyer - What started out as a good series with a chance to be different ended up showing us that even in a world of Vampires you need to have a man and a child to be complete.

Authors I have not made my mind up on:
Melissa Marr - I just started her Wicked Lovely series, and I like the dark fairies and the different courts, but it does have a boy that can it might be headed the way of Stephenie Meyer...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In My Mailbox on Monday

Because of the internet authors are able to keep in closer touch to their readers than ever before. I liken this contact to the days of old, where you could write to the likes of Mark Twain and get a response, or you would write to Patrick Bronte saying what a fan you were of Charlotte's and he'd send you a bit of a letter he had cut up so you could have a little something of hers. Only now it's much more immediate. Whether through social networking websites like facebook or twitter, or more book oriented sites like goodreads, or even the author's personally run site, the internet is making reader author communication more possible than ever before. I love authors who have wonderful websites and are willing to go that extra mile for fans. From message boards to book extras to competitions, if an author does a little something extra they are sure to keep their fans interested.

From time to time I will highlight these authors who go above and beyond. The author I'm lauding today is Laurie Viera Rigler who has written the Austen themed Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, about a modern woman thrown into the past, and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, about the parallel story of what happened to the girl who was thrown from the past into the future. Fun, cute reads from an author who knows how to use the internet. Not only is she a goodreads author, she has a wonderful website with such fun items as Austen, "Signs of Addiction" to quizzes and games and movie trailers. But what I found really wonderful is, if you aren't able to make it to her signings, but really would like your book inscribed, she offers signed bookplates, now how cool is that? I got mine in the mail on Monday morning, with bonus postcards! So go check out her site and perhaps find a new favorite author.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bookworming Contest - More Fire for Monday!

Over at Bookworming in the 21st Century, Kristen is running a competition to win an ARC of Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire. This book is the sequel to The Hunger Games and is the hottest book coming out this fall (hot/fire, get it?) Anyway, go over to her site and stay awhile, you might find a book you want to read, or you might win the most anticipated book of the year!

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: July 28th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 512 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.

As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all."

While I have not yet read Larsson's debut, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (having only gotten my hands on a copy this week in anticipation of the sequel, thanks Mom), I have been very interested if only because of the circumstances surrounding these novels. Stieg Larsson was a journalist from Sweden. He was a political activist, photographer and editor of several sci-fi fanzines. When he died of a massive heart attack at the age of 50, he was most likely going to be remembered for founding the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to "expose racist and totalitarian organizations and tendencies." But he died with a secret. He was journalist who happened to be a novelist in his spare time. Writing for his own pleasure, at the time of his death in 2004, he had written three completed novels, a partial draft of a fourth, and the outlines for the fifth and sixth in the eventual ten volume series. The Millennium Series has been sweeping the world by storm. This little known journalist has become a literary sensation posthumously, winning awards left, right and center. His first book, published last year in the US under the title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, originally titled, Men Who Hate Women, was a huge success, and the books sequel is sure to be equally successful. The third and final completed book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, will be out in October in the UK. A US publication date and title has yet to be set. Look for my review of the first Millennium book hopefully in the not too distant future.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Back to Wonderland

Looming on the horizon we have yet another Alice in Wonderland adaptation. But this one looks to be far more...interesting would be the word, I think. It is Tim Burton after all and the trailer was just released this week in time for Comic Con. There have been so many adaptations and disambiguations over the years that it's a risky venture. Feature films have been obsessed with bringing our Alice to the silver screen. Many actresses have portrayed her over the years, from sci-fi vampire Kate Beckinsale to indie darling Tina Majorino, she is a popular role. The Mad Hatter has also been played by such luminaries as Peter Cook to Martin Short and now Captain Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp. This new version will be the second Disney release, the cartoon being the most famous, but Walt Disney was veritably obsessed with Alice and spent years in pre-production with a live action version which never saw the light of day. I have hopes, I'm not going to say high. The posters are a bit scary to say the least, and while I love what Tim Burton did with Willy Wonka, I don't like the original source material, classic though it is, Matilda and The Witches are the only Roald Dahl truly close to my heart. And the fact remains, this book is close to my heart. I have read and re-read Alice countless times, and each time she is dearer to me. The literary nonsense that is Alice in Wonderland is a true classic, the likes of Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz.

But will this movie succeed or fall flat on it's face? As Tim Burton himself has said, the combination of live action and surrealistic animation defies categorization. Plus will he remain faithful to the source material or diverge drastically? I am most reminded of Return to Oz. This film succeeded, but it was also carefully crafted to logically diverge from the source. The plot was constructed from the second and third Oz books (you do know there are more Oz books than one right?) But layered on top of that was a dark plot line of Dorothy having to undergo electric shock therapy. Which, while not relating to the magical land of Oz, would make sense if she came back to depression era Kansas and started talking about Tin Men and Flying Monkeys. But it is still done logically, and can we count Tim Burton to do anything logically? And the story of Alice is a delicate balancing act. For the number of times it has been filmed, I have only really liked two of the adaptations. The Disney cartoon is classic and is most likely the reason I picked up the book in the first place, but the only live action version I enjoyed was Jonathan Miller's. And Jonathan Miller's was a completely surrealist drug induced trip with minimal dialogue, lots of sitar music, and the Peters, Sellers and Cook. So I am very intrigued as to what is to come of this newest version. Are you looking forward to it? What do you think of the trailer?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So, it's been a week since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finally graced our theaters. The movie has since made more money than you can imagine and is sure to make more with the IMAX release next week. Despite being a Harry Potter geek in the extreme, I did not see it on opening day, due to friends being busy mid-week, but I did see it Friday night, along with everyone else it seems. I enjoyed it very much, but there are some things I would have liked to have seen, and adding them would not have made the film overly long in my opinion. Plus book six is so much a bridge book, setting up the events of the final book, and that translates to what the movie is as well, so they should have set up more then they did, because when you boil it down, this book doesn't have much plot. So here follows my pros and cons, the good and the bad of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Jim Broadbent was wonderful, great at the world weariness and the once great man brought low by his past.

Jim Broadbent as a chair!

It was funny! Lots of good dark humor.

The young Tim Riddle's were both great.

Luna. How can a character that I found originally so annoying in the books be so perfect onscreen?

Mr. Weasley's "Muggle Shed."

Lavender Brown, just perfect, moony and annoying.

Helen McCrory finally appearing in the franchise. Originally cast as Bellatrix she had to pull out when she found out she was pregnant, but now she's back as Narcissa.

Hermoine at the Christmas party eating stinky food.

Harry on Felix Felicis and how he was basically high, but really funny.

I like the added scene of the Burrow being torched, it upped the stakes a bit.

How Hermione shelves the books, so cool.

Quidditch being back.

Dumbledore's sleeping portrait.

Tonk's and Lupin are together!

Slughorn's little shrine to those he "collected."

Bad (which is a little nit-picky, but most could have been solved with a little line of dialogue or some action in the background, I understand the difference between a direct copy and an adaptation, but I think the story needed a little more structure at times to make it feel less jumpy and make it feel like there actually is a plot):

The lack of definition as to Harry and Dumbledore collecting memories, if you hadn't read the books you would have been lost. Would it really have taken extra time to say "I am going to give you private lessons Harry wherein we will only study the history of Voldemort in an attempt to find his weakness!?!?!"

The final fight. There WAS NO FIGHT! Did they just think it would be better to have Dumbledore die and the Deatheaters saunter out as if nothing had happened?

Ginny and Harry. They were never a couple, a few glances and a dumb kiss, I wanted coupledom!

Ginny not being mad at Harry for trusting a book, she seemed fine with it in the movie, are we trying to forget book two?

Draco and his vanishing cabinet. Why did they use the EXACT SAME SHOT of him pulling off it's covering every time?

I wanted some lessons on how to apparate, some spliching please! Just a kid in the background having forgot there leg, that would be funny!

Only two of Voldemort's memories? Sure they are the crucial two, but you kind of need a third to show the developing pattern of collecting after killing.

Why doesn't Harry have his invisibility cloak? Did the director just think him behind a pillar worked better than how it was written? Don't you think he would have been seen? Plus the cloak, kind of IMPORTANT!

The mounting death toll, or lack thereof, just a few shots of the newspaper racking up the death count wouldn't have hurt.

Cormac McLaggen was too attractive, I pictured him more thuggish, and less like Rafe Spall...

Harry willingly going to a Slug Club party, didn't he always avoid these?

The Bezoar egg, and how it was only on Slughorn because of Harry earlier in the day.

Madame Rosemerta being excised and Draco doing it all himself.

How did the Deatheater's know it was time to attack? Don't they like wait for Dumbledore to leave whereas this seemed more set time and place?

They didn't set up what a Horcrux is enough, making me not surprised that they need two movies to finish out the series versus one. In fact a lot of little things that they removed will have to be explained in the final two movies, they really should have been more careful with what they took out and what they left, because everything ends up being important in some way.

No Bill Weasley and Fleur! What the Hell! Are we just doing away with the wedding, again just them being there would have worked? But I guess with getting rid of the battle how will Bill be injured?

Ginny being in The Slug Club due to a bat bogey wonderful jinx.

Draco's manical glee at fixing the cabinet.

Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. Used by Harry but not by Draco at the end?

The Gaunts and tying in with the Riddle deaths in book four. Actually not sure how they would do this, but they really needed another memory...I mean Dumbledore's big cabinet was supposed to be full of Voldemort memories, and we see two? Maybe even referencing that Dumbledore is showing Harry more would have worked.

Kreacher, just grumbling in the background would be fine.

The Cave, it looked like the Fortress of Solitude!?! All sleek crystal and so Kryptonian!

How come Dumbledore was so shocked about Horcruxes? Isn't that what he expected afterall?

They seemed to make Snape too nice, I mean we know he really isn't evil, but he's supposed to BE EVIL here and now, to have all outward appearance of a traitor!

Mr. Weasley finally has more power in the Ministry yet it isn't mentioned?

No Neville!?!

Well, there you go, my initial feelings for the movie, I'll definitely be seeing it again, so opinions might change, but this is what a feel now. Still anything's better than those first two movies right? Also, it wasn't my favorite book, so what chance did it have of being my favorite movie?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuesday Tomorrow

So today, aka Monday, I'm starting a new weekly post entitled "Tuesday Tomorrow." So why is Tuesday so important for book lovers? Because Tuesday is release day! All the beautiful new books are placed on the shelves just waiting for someone to come along and buy them. Think about them today, sitting cooped up in boxes in backrooms across the country with all that potential to entertain and enliven. Then later tonight or in the early hours of tomorrow morning the excitement builds while they are stocked on the shelves waiting the opening of the store so that they will be released into the wilds of someones library. This week the book whose release I'm anticipating is Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
Published by: The Dial Press
Publication Date: July 21st, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man.

Sadie, however, could care less.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way. Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family."

So why does this book intrigue me? First off, the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella (real name Madeleine Wickham), while by no means a staggering literary feat, is sheer fun for a quick read. And everyone needs a fast read every once in awhile, a sort of palate cleanser. We can't all be reading the Russian masters all the time, you need a bit of diversity. But the main reason is that I love the decade the book's ghost is from. The twenties, especially in London, you couldn't ask for a more fascinating time! Carefree youth flush from the victory of the Great War, not realizing it is a temporary peace. England literati the likes of Noel Coward. Oh, to be in England! So hopefully the book will live up to the summer reading fun I think it should be.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review - Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: 1970
Format: Paperback, 97 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road is a compendium of the twenty year correspondence between the New York writer Helene Hanff and the British bookseller Frank Doel. One day Miss Hanff saw an ad in the Saturday Evening Review for the Marks & Co. Bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road saying they specialize in antiquarian and out-of-print books and immediately writes them with a list of the rare non-fiction she is looking for which she is unable to find stateside. The shop is able to supply the books to her in wonderful clean and tight copies for next to nothing, and there starts the connection. Through the years she becomes a part of the staffs' lives and they hers, though they never meet.

With this book you walk away with the feeling you wish more bookshops were still like this. That intimate one on one friendship where they knew what you were looking for and were able to find you gorgeous books for a pittance. I also thought of my friends down in Houston who run Murder by the Book, maybe I should start sending then ham and eggs at the holidays to show how much I really appreciate them. Also the love of books that these people had is rarely seen nowadays. They bonded over a shared love of knowledge and history.

While at times Miss Hanff comes across as abrasive, the British view it as her type of wit, and perhaps it is, because she generously sends them holiday gift baskets to help during the hard times inflicted by the continuation of rationing. Or perhaps she just liked being a fairy godmother to those far away, embracing those who were dear to her in the only way she could. See Helene Hanff hated travel and never actually met Frank Doel, and perhaps these gifts were her way of saying sorry for me not being there. But at the end when Frank dies you are conflicted. You are left with on the one hand, you should never leave anything too late because you never know what might happen. But on the other hand, could Helene or Frank really have lived up to the others expectations?

In her last letter contained in the book to her friend Katerine, you feel that perhaps all along you never knew how much that book shop meant to Helene, that behind the false bravado of a New York writer there was just someone longing to connect to someone else and she found it half a world away with people she never truly knew. You also cry out, the book is too short, the sequel is out of print, the time lapses sometimes go for months or years, was this due to letters being lost or just edited out? You just want to live in this long ago and far away world a little more, even if it isn't the stuff of fiction, which is how Helene would like it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In the Name of Harry

In honor of the newest installment of the Harry Potter franchise gracing the silver screen I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the things I have done (some be it absurd) in the name of Harry Potter. From lack of sleep to lack of sanity, to forsaking friends just to get through the book, to even making myself a wanted women (see picture), I've done it all.

• I have pretended to work magic spells, in particular "lumos". (In order to re-create this spell yourself, you will need a light and a friend standing next to that light who is willing to turn the light on when you point a wooden stick at it and say "lumos," and not laugh at you.)

• The night before my friends wedding, despite having the stomach flu and needing sleep, I still went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and was able to read a chapter before passing out from sheer exhaustion.

• One year for Christmas I knit all my friends scarves in their house colors. I soon realized I'd need a lot of blues because I know a surprisingly high number of Ravenclaws, with only a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff and one Slytherin (you know who you are snake boy!)

• I was the artistic director for the Harry Potter charity event at the Wisconsin Club for two years running, forfeiting sleep and sanity for much of the first year. Though not many people can say they painted a faux engraved stone Hogwarts plaque.

• When Half Blood Prince came out I didn't sleep for well over 24 hours, needing to be in line for my wrist band at 6 am, and then reading the book till 6 am the following day, with a little Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in between.

• My friend Matt and I for Halloween made ourselves our own school uniforms, cloaks and all. Of course mine was a traditional school uniform and his was a Quidditch Captains uniform in flowing green. Mine was far warmer for October in Wisconsin.

• I have actually had a serious discussion with my friends as to whether I'd bring an owl to school. They all wanted owls because it's basically wizard email, I still went for a cat though.

• I have thought long and hard and decided I would probably be best at potions because I like doing recipes.

• Though I was unable to attend the Harry, Carrie and Garp event in New York City due to my mom having surgery, I now have a signed first edition of Half Blood Prince, which I then had a slipcase made for in a faux leather, chosen because it looked like dragon's hide.

• I made my own wand.

• I have taught others to make their own wands.

• Am I becoming Ollivander? Please don't let me end up in a dungeon....

• I was one of the only people at Barnes and Noble who dressed up for the release of the last book. What's with that really? Wouldn't they all want to be dressed up? Plus there were a lot of angry parents...

• I have read all the books in both American and British versions (and yes they are subtly different!)

• I think that Stephen Fry would kick Jim Dale's ass if they had a book narration competition (sorry Dave). Though for me conveying this honor on him he would never be allowed to do the Nymphadora Tonks voice EVER EVER AGAIN!

• I almost cried when I found that moths had eaten my Gryffindor scarf (made before my full allegiance was pledged to Ravenclaw). I took this as an omen I was never meant to be one of Godric Gryffidor's students.

• No other books are allowed on my Harry Potter shelf in my library, though I'm sadly in need of shelf space.

• I have a time turner, but it doesn't seem to be working...

• I bought the paperback mega box set that came out last week despite already owning all the books in hardcover, paperback, audio, British and French editions.

• I still think of Edward Cullen as Cedric Digory.

• I love that David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Roger Lloyd Pack (Owen Newitt, Vicar of Dibley) play father and son in Goblet of Fire. I also love how Brendan Gleason took on so many of David Tennant's mannerisms that when he became David it was a very quick transition. I also hope other people noticed this besides me...I can't be the only David Tennant freak right?

• For my friends birthdays I gave them Bertie Botts beans, they ate them all, it was disgusting to watch.

• If Hogwarts were a real place I would apply to be the Muggle Studies teacher.

• I have a Sirus Black wanted poster framed.

• While I love Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, I still think Val Kilmer would have been awesome. Also I think Richard E. Grant should have been Remus Lupin and Diana Rigg as McGonagall.

• Before the movies I kind of pictured Dumbledore as Jim Henson.

• I totally agree with the statement Daniel Radcliffe made that he pictures characters in books kind of like cartoons.

• I have a friend who really likes Daniel Radcliffe and feels that she is going to a "Special Hell."

• My character in Everquest 2 is a Ratunga, aka a giant rat, her name is Pettigrew, I often get complimented by random people who go "Harry Potter Rules!" Pettigrew has three pet cats in her apartment in the Shades, their names are James, Sirus and Remus.

• I've had a goldfish since 1993 and my friends keep telling me that it's really an Animagus.

• I have a Harry Potter ipod, school crest and all engraved on the back.

• And finally, for my final project in Intro to Computer Graphics I created Voldemort's Chocolate Magic Stars Cereal, for Pure-Blood Wizards! Sweetened oat cereal with a sense of entitlement!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book Review - Shannon Hale's River Secrets

River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: September 2006
Format: Paperback, 290 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

River Secrets
is the third book in Shannon Hale's popular Bayern series. If Goose Girl was about discovering your hidden power, and Enna Burning was about learning to control your power, then River Secrets is more an acceptance and dealing with the consequences of your power. The war between Tira and Bayern is at an end and a shaky alliance exists between the two countries. In order to forge a lasting peace Bayern sends an ambassador to Tira to sway the assembly's vote for peace instead of resuming the war. Among Bayern's Own chosen to escort the ambassador is Razo. Razo is so alive and fully formed the little runt of a forest boy jumps off the page and into your heart. Unlike the two previous books we are following someone with no magical powers and who does not think very highly of himself, despite all the things he's good at which he is blind to. River Secrets is also unique because unlike the first two books that were almost purely a journey of the central character, here we have a journey wrapped around a tangled web of a mystery.

Upon the Bayerns arrival in Tira, Razo discovers a burned body, the first of many. Trying to find out who the burner is and why they are burning is the mystery Hale presents us with. We are offered many likely suspects, from the cute red-headed ambassador's daughter Dasha, to the more nefarious of Tiran's, even to Bayern's own Enna. Talone, the Bayern's head of security assigns Razo to route out the pyro, because even if Razo hasn't noticed, he happens to be a very good subconscious observer, and therefore the perfect spy. Razo eventually saves the day, and not just by uncovering the burning consipicy, but just by being his wonderful food loving, life loving self and showing the Tiran's that the Bayern aren't all bad baby eaters, some are cute spiky haired forest boys who used to herd sheep. Also Enna learns that though her power is destructive by nature, her own nature can help to control it and heal the wounds she inflicted on others.

Like Enna Burning, the first time I read this book I did not like it as much as I did Goose Girl, but again I have surprised myself with loving it the second time around. Razo is so wonderfully lovable and is able to make the best of a bad situation, plus as a personal prejudice, he used to take care of the sheep, how awesome is that!?! Also the lush and very Venetian Tiran capital of Ingridan is such an interesting city of white buildings and tile work, you get lost in the lush descriptive city with its oppressive heat. But what I find draws me to this book most is the mystery. Readers love a mystery, it propels us to finish, reading late into the night, way past the time we should have turned out the light. While in Goose Girl we wait with baited breath to see how Isi will get what is rightfully hers and with Enna we hope she survives but with River Secrets, we have to know the hidden depths the book contains. Who is burning? Why? Will Razo stop them in time? Will he ever be the one to get the girl? It's a page turner, no doubt!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Giveaways!

In trawling the ever expansive web I found another cool contest. Over at Fantastic Book Review they are having a competition to win signed copies of Evermore and Blue Moon by Alyson Noel. So go check it out, everyone likes free stuff, and especially books right?

And in other giveaways news, I've finally won a goodreads giveaway! I don't really know how many competitions I've entered in the time I've been a member, but I finally won! And not just any book, a book by that genius Anthony Horowitz. If you don't know who Anthony Horowitz is you really have been living under a rock. Even if you don't know any kids who worship him for his Alex Rider or Gatekeepers/Power of Five books you must have watched Foyle's War? One of the best BBC mystery series set during World War II starring Michael Kitchen, Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks. Or Midsomer Murders, Anthony Horowitz was the head writer for all the early episodes and his wicked wit was a trademark the writers continued to employ after he left to do bigger and better things (ie Foyle's War). Or Poirot, you have to know Poirot and Anthony Horowitz did all the early dramatizations of that show. He's literally omnipresent and a true workaholic, currently re-launching Foyle's War, writing the next Alex Rider, working on a few other TV shows, a screenplay, a play and numerous writing festivals...does this man actually ever sleep? Anyway, look for my review of Anthony Horowitz's Gatekeeper's/Power of Five Book Four, Necropolis coming to the blog hopefully soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book Signings

I have been to a vast number of book signings in my time, and I have, over the years accumulated a vast plethora of knowledge, which I will now impart onto you, you lucky reader.

1) You have to buy the new book the author is promoting at the signing. Some book stores make in mandatory, but really it's just common courtesy. The author took the time to come out and see you, you need to show your support in return. Plus if they don't make enough money to warrant another tour, come the next book, you won't be seeing that author roaming the country. Additionally, the stores that usually get signings aren't big chains, but small independently run bookstores, and they need all the support they can get!

2) Don't be afraid to ask the bookstore about their restrictions in advance. Some have personalization rules, like only the new book can be inscribed to you. Or maybe only 3 books total. But sometimes you luck out, I went to a Nick Hornby signing and I called in advance to see what the restrictions were, turns out, the event had almost no one coming and they told me I could get as many signed as I wanted!

Personalizations, an aside. Collectors say that books are more valuable signed and dated and not inscribed. I personally take the view that this is bullshit. I'm going to see an author because I like their work, and therefore my book is my book and it means more to me signed to me. Also I've found that authors appreciate this, usually they all ask, "Are you sure?" My response, "Hell Yeah!" To which they smile, because they have a fan, not someone who's getting a book signed to sell on ebay.

3) Don't be afraid to be first in line. Some bookstores do numbering, some don't. I've always found that people are frighted to be first in line. Why? If you're first you also get out first? So be brave and decisive and be that first person!

4) Post-it-notes are awesome. For ease of signing and making sure your name is spelled correctly, I always put a post-it-note with the correct spelling of my name on the half title page (the page that is "traditionally" signed). It also speeds up the line and makes it easier for the author to find the right spot.

5) Always be polite and curteous, the staff and the author are doing this for you.

6) Can't make a signing? Contact the bookstore, they may be having the author sign stock or you may be able to get a book signed to you. Questions never hurt anyone! Also if an author is not coming to your city, check out their site, see where they are doing signings and contact a bookstore that is on the itinerary. I in fact have a few bookstores that I rely on, they have wonderful customer care and really go that extra mile. One bookstore that has never let me down and I'm now on a first name basis with the staff, without ever having been there, is Murder by the Book in Houston, Texas. They'll do personalizations, also if you order the new book you can send in 3 old books of that author to get signed as well! They are also good personal friends of Charlaine Harris, just fyi, and I think that's pretty cool. I have also used Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, though their customer service isn't the best and sometimes you don't get what you requested. I've also had a good experience with The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles and The Concord Bookshop in Concord, Massachusetts. And finally, if you are just wanting a signed edition Powell's Books in Portland has a wide selection of signed books.

And finally, just go out and support your authors! Over many years I've met many great authors, a few of which are: Carole Barrowman, Christopher Golden, Shannon Hale, Charlaine Harris, Nick Hornby, Lisa Lutz, George R. R. Martin, Salman Rushdie, Caroline Stevermer, Joss Whedon, Lauren Willig and Patricia C. Wrede.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Royal Regency Time Waster

As it says over on "Smart Bitches, Trashy Books" this is a true eliminator of productivity time in the form of your own Regency Dress Up Doll! For creating your own Hero or Heroine or even yourself! Sarah Victoria (*savivi) has created just a wonderful new toy, with beautiful costumes. For those stuck in the cubicle or the 21st century, this is the fastest way to time travel back to the 19th century. Now let's go spend some time dressing up for tea and toast with the Bennets!

Here's me...first is pre-haircut and dye of a few weeks ago, the second is post. And no, I didn't cut and dye my hair just so I could make myself all Regency again, it was just an added bonus.

Special thanks go out to Lauren Willig for posting this on her blog!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bookworming Contest

Kristen over at BookWorming in the 21st Century has a competition in honor of achieving the great accomplishment of having 50 followers to her blog. So go over and check out her great blog and see if you might win her ARC of Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin which doesn't come out until September 8th. I said go! You always need new sources for book recommendations, there is only so much time in a day and I can't review all books for you!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review - Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1911
Format: Hardcover, 318 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Due to The Secret Garden being classified as a "Classic" (and yes, classic with a capital "C") almost everyone knows the story, even if they have never read the book. Mary is a spoiled brat orphaned in India and sent to live with her Uncle in a big creepy house in Yorkshire that contains many secrets. The Uncle is still reeling from his wife's death ten years previously and thus shuts himself and a mysterious garden off from the world. Mary becomes preoccupied with finding this garden and in the process befriends Dickon, her maid's younger brother and "animal speaker." Along the way she also befriends a Robin and a crotchety old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff. She eventually learns that she has a cousin, Colin, hidden in the house because he is an invalid, but only because he's never heard he can live. They all have fun in the secret garden becoming fatter and healthier and then the Uncle comes back and he is once again happy because even though it was the garden that took his wife and resulted in premature labor, the garden has given him a child (even if he did ignore him for the better part of a decade).

This book was actually not popular during Frances Hodgson Burnett's lifetime, and I can see why. The book really isn't that well written or that original. I personally believe that the book gained classic statues due to the film industry which just loved to make this into movies, which I've seen almost every version of, even the one with the "Wizard of Oz" effect where the movie is all black and white till they are in the garden. But good adaptions do not a good book make!

I'm not sure what it is about this book but I just did not like it. Perhaps if I had read it when I was younger I would not have found Dickon, Mary and Colin such pompous little shits. They were cruel and taunted the locals by imitating their Yorkshire accents. Even if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, mockery of their "plain speak" and good down to earth values isn't. The servants think the children spoiled, obnoxious brats until they are outside getting exercise. But they are still the same kids only with more meat on their bones and the same cruel superiority in their hearts. Also their dialogue felt like it was written by an adult who had no knowledge of how children spoke. And near the end when the book started to go off on the "magic" tangent and Colin's new found love of lecturing, I had to keep repeating, it's almost over, it's almost over.

But I think what was most bothersome about this book was that it was such a mish-mash of other books but without making it a cohesive whole, here's a little Brontes for you, now lets make a character almost 100% like Peter Pan...what shall his name be, how about Dickon! I can only hope due to the Yorkshire setting and the winds "wuthering" that Colin, Mary and Dickon grew up to be like Heathcliff, Cathy and Hindley and that once they all hit puberty it all went down hill and ended in the same fashion.

As a final adendum, I blame Frances Hodgson Burnett for J.K. Rowling's overuse of the word "streaming".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hugh Bonneville, You've Made My Day!

Hugh Bonneville is that most perfect of British actors, whatever he is in he is bound to be perfect. From the bumbling broker in Notting Hill to the duplicitous Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda, he is divine. Also let us not forget he did appear in the series finale of Vicar of Dibley, trying to woo Geraldine away from Richard Armitage. But his best work has been with Andrew Davies (if we are willing to ignore Richard Curtis for awhile, which everyone should every now and then, he sometimes gets a bit too preachy, Girl in the Cafe...hello!) Though I also want to omit the Davies Doctor Zhivago from this list, he was in it for five minutes and as Bill Paterson, one of the fellow stars said, Zhivago should not have been redone. So back on track I await with baited breath the arrival of that most anticipated of DVDs, Hugh Bonneville staring in the Andrew Davies adaptation of Diary of a Nobody! Exciting news indeed, especially if, like me, you've been waiting since 2007 to see it. My copy is already on it's way from Acorn Media (I was willing to pay the extra $10 so I didn't have to wait till August) so the review should be forthcoming. Until then, check out his website to get some other fabulous watching in! Also look for him later this year staring with David Tennant in Glorious 39 by Stephen Poliakoff.

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