Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde

Once I was famous. My face was seen on T-shirts, badges, commemorative, mugs, and posters. I made front-page news, appeared on TV, and was even a special guest on The Yogi Baird Daytime TV show. The Daily Clam called me "the year's most influential teenager," and I was the Mollusc on Sunday's Woman of the Year. Two people tried to kill me, I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV. All that and more besides, and in less than a week. My name is Jennifer Strange.

Much like The Eyre Affair, The Last Dragonslayer is set in alternate England- this time in the twenty-first century. Magic has long been useful for everything from rewiring the house to larger, grander tasks. But it's fading. Fifteen year old (sixteen in two weeks) Jennifer Strange runs the Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an employment agency for magicians, but since magic is drying up, business is slowing down. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world's last dragon at the hands of the last, so-far unnamed dragonslayer. I bet you can guess who it is. Something known as Big Magic is coming.

This one was an amusing and light read. There's a lot of background history that is explained in the exposition: the history of the Dragon pact, the strange creatures in Kazam's building, etc. But once that's out of the way, Fforde has crafted another funny novel. This one's really easy and short, but I still enjoyed it. And such amusing names, just like in The Eyre Affair. For example, Tiger Prawns, the new foundling at Kazam. I enjoyed the character of Jennifer too; she's smart and not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right. And I loved the Quarkbeast, who is very ferocious-looking, but in reality is a loyal and gentle creature. Thanks to Harcourt for giving me a review copy.

Read The Last Dragonslayer:
  • if you like fantasy
  • if you like alternate fiction
  • if you like Jasper Fforde
  • if you like books with dragons
287 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, Gabrielle Zevin

If things had been different, I'd be called Nataliya or Natasha, and I'd have a Russian accent and chapped lips year round.

I loved Elsewhere, and so was looking forward to reading this one. It's the story of Naomi, who tripped on the way back from getting the yearbook camera down the steps. There was a coin toss between her and her friend Will to see who had to go book. And she picked heads. The fall causes her to not remember anything from the past four years. She meets James, the boy who found her after the fall. There are two other guys in the novel, Will, her best friend from yearbook, and Ace, her boyfriend before the accident.

I don't know. I wanted to love this book, but I couldn't. James has a turbulent past; he was rather crazy, on drugs, etc. It wasn't exactly his fault, but still, most people wouldn't want to associate with someone like that, never mind become romantically involved. I liked Will much better. However, I think the ending was sweet and just right, so it redeemed the book for me. A lot. I just couldn't have born it if she ended up with James. Zevin's writing style was just as good, and the premise was quite interesting.

Read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac:
  • if you liked Elsewhere
  • if you like YA realistic fiction
271 pages, 3.5 stars.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lies Knives and Girls in Red Dresses, Ron Koertge and Andrea Deszo

From "The Stepsisters": I write this on a brailler, a kind of typewriter for the blind. Ella is married and happy. Our Ever After is silence, darkness, and bitterness.

Lies Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is a collection of dark, dark modern fairy tales. They are really dark and grim, I would say. For example, Red Riding Hood actually wanted to know what it's like to be swallowed whole. The stories are basically prose poems; they're written in stanzas, but flow like prose. Koertge was pretty creative, and had me inwardly and ironically chuckling. This is a slim little volume with many illustrations (which were amazing by the way), but it's certainly not for younger readers. There are a few curse words and some references, as well as the fact that some of these stories were pretty scary. It didn't take me that long to read it, and I enjoyed it much more than The Rose and the Beast. Back to the illustrations. They 're kind of disturbing, but very enjoyable, in black and white for the most part. Thanks to Candlewick for providing me with a review copy of this one.

Read Lies Knives and Girls with Red Dresses:
  • if you like Grimm's fairy tales, grim-style
  • if you like dark short stories
87 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where'd You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

Galer Street School is a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet. 

This is a light-hearted, yet serious novel set in Seattle. It's very funny; even in the first sentence, it accurately portrays the over-formal lingo of private schools (though I go to one myself) with a word that doesn't exist: connectitude. "Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world." 

I really enjoyed this one and the way that it lightly ribbed Seattle. Actually, more than light humor. But it was amusing, especially with all the talk about "community" that is so Washingtonian. And Bernadette is constantly remembering that she lives next to Idaho, and ranting against the idiocies of the city. The parts where Bernadette is emailing Manjula, her virtual Indian assistant, are pretty funny too. (By the way, there is a twist with the Manjula.)  Bernadette pours out all of her concerns, and Manjula responds in a few crisp, formal, business-like sentences. There were also a lot of Seattle references that I got because I spend a lot of time there.

Where'd You Go Bernadette is an epistolary novel; it is composed of emails, notices, and excerpts from Bee and Bernadette's diaries, for the most part. I think that was an effective way to tell this story as it allows you to get into the minds of all of the characters. Where'd You Go Bernadette was a humorous and entertaining novel, though the beginning was much better than the end.

Read Where'd You Go Bernadette:
  • if you like Maria Semple
  • if you like books about Seattle/mocking Seattle
  • if you like books set in Washington State
  • if you like zany fiction
326 pages.  
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Emma, Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. 

This is my second attempt at reading Emma. When I got it in late August, I got about twenty pages and had to put it down. Now, I picked up where I left off, and I really enjoyed this one. I don't know why I couldn't get through it before. Maybe I was just in the mood for a different genre.

Emma is the story of Emma Woodhouse "handsome, clever, rich". She is also extremely spoiled, and her favorite pastime is making matches for all her friends; pairing them up with men. Her beloved tutor, Miss Taylor, was recently married to Mr. Weston. Now Emma's attention has fallen on Harriet Smith. She pulls Harriet away from Mr. Martin, the man she truly loves, and tries to match her up with Mr. Elton, a wealthy handsome young vicar, with disastrous consequences. That's the main plot.

There are several other side-stories: that of Jane Fairfax, an orphan taken in by a friend of her father, Frank Churchill, Mr. Weston's son who was adopted by his uncle, and of course, Emma and Mr. Knightley, a long-standing friend.

Emma is a character that you don't like; I kept wishing that she would just mind her own business. Mr. Knightley redeems her a bit; he's smart, and realizes that Emma should not be interfering. But there's not much he can do about it. But he is a great character. Austen's writing is very light and witty, which I enjoyed.

I read the Penguin Thread (Deluxe) edition, and I've got to say, it was just beautiful. Seeing the image doesn't do it justice. Penguin uses 3D imaging to scan a woven pattern. So basically, you can feel the stitches on the front of the cover and the back of the cover (and the back side too.) Beautiful, beautiful design, and I look forward to reading some of the other books from this series.

Emma was an enjoyable read; though I didn't love it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I definitely liked it more than Northanger Abbey

Read Emma:
  • if you like Jane Austen
  • if you like light romance
  • if you liked the movie/TV series
392 pages, 4.5 stars.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love.

"It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them-not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He has it all-family money, good looks, devoted friends-but he's looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys." 

The plot description doesn't really do justice to this amazing story. I read The Scorpio Races in February, but The Raven Boys is a bit better, I think. It's much easier to get into, and I really loved the characters, especially Gansey. Basically, Gansey and two of his friends from Aglionby are searching for Glendover, this Welsh king who is "asleep", but if awoken, will grant you a wish. Also, these ley lines, lines of energy criss-crossing the globe are connected to him too. 

Stiefvater has a talent for interesting prose, when she's not writing YA girly books, like Shiver (do we really need more werewolf type things? Admittedly, I haven't read it but still...) The Raven Boys is definitely aimed at teenage girls, but less so I think.  Her dialogue is really great, and she portrays the supernatural elements of the story well, without going into too much detail. I think the writing in this one was better than The Scorpio Races, though the plot was perhaps a bit less original. There's definitely going to be a sequel, because there were a lot of unresolved things in the book. At any rate, this is a great new fantasy from Maggie Stiefvater.

The last thing that I want to mention is the cover. It's a bit misleading, as there's only one or two actual ravens in the story, but I think it's amazingly beautiful. You can actually see that it's an (I think) acrylic painting; you can see and almost feel the texture and the brush strokes, especially on the pink part under the raven's wing. I always love it when a great book has a lovely cover. Thanks to Scholastic for providing me with a review copy. 

Read The Raven Boys:

  • if you like fantasy
  • if you like Maggie Stiefvater
416 pages.

Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Becoming Jane Eyre, Sheila Kohler

He wakes to the scratching of a pencil against a page: a noise out of the darkness. He lies quite still on his back, reaching out for sound. His ears have become wings, straining, stretching, carrying him away. The world comes to him only through sound, and there is precious little of that.

Becoming Jane Eyre is the story of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. It focuses particularly on Charlotte and the writing of Jane Eyre. The story starts in a parsonage 1846, with a mother and two children dead, and the Bronte sisters' brother destroyed by alcohol and drugs. Their father has gone blind, and is very weak. But these three independent women are determined to get their books published and survive. The book shifts perspective from chapter to chapter, though it's mainly from Charlotte's point of view. I've read Jane Eyre (you kind of have to before you read this one), as well as Wuthering Heights and  Agnes Gray, so I got most of the references.

This book is characterized as "a novel", so I don't know how many of the facts are true, but it was still interesting to learn about the family's past. I'm sure Charlotte and Emily had no idea that their books would become classics and still be read even now (Anne Bronte is much less well known.) And I loved the way that Charlotte came up with all of her ideas for the characters and events in Jane Eyre. Kohler's writing style was engaging, and I enjoyed this book. I now want to read Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte, and compare it to this.

Read Becoming Jane Eyre:
  • if you liked Jane Eyre 
  • if you like any of the Bronte sisters
  • if you like historical fiction (read Jane Eyre first though)
232 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Prodigal Son, Colleen McCullough

Breath surrounding him in puffed clouds, John Hall put one not-quite-steady finger on the door buzzer and pushed. 

The Prodigal Son is an interesting mystery, scheduled to come out in November from Simon & Schuster. I thought that it was going to be a thriller, but I wouldn't classify it as that. If it is a thriller, it's not very good. It wasn't that suspenseful, and I wasn't on the edge of my seat. But as a mystery, I enjoyed it. It's pretty smart, and set in 1969, so there's no DNA testing or anything like that. Carmine Delmonico, the police chief, has to rely on fingerprints and other "old-fashioned" evidence.

In Holloman, Connecticut, a lethal blowfish-extracted toxin is stolen from a laboratory at Chubb University. The poison kills within minutes and leaves hardly a trace behind. Dr. Millie Hunter, the biochemist who has the poison, reports it to her father, Dr. Patrick O'Donnell. Partick's cousin is Captain Carmine Delmonico, and because of being notified of the theft, he knows the murders for what they are when the bodies start piling up. The first two murders take place at a dinner party and then a black-tie event. They seem to be linked only by the poison and Dr. Jim Hunter, a genius scientist and Millie's husband. He's a black man married to a white woman, and he's caused controversy before. Why would he be risking it all now? Is someone trying to frame him? Jim does have some motives for both murders, but so do several other people. Delmonico and his team must sift through fact and fiction to find the answer.

I said The Prodigal Son wasn't suspenseful. I did want to find out what would eventually happen, but the writing didn't make me need to read it one sitting. McCullough's certainly no Agatha Christie, but I still liked this mystery, mainly because the plot was really interesting and the characters were pretty well-developed. The writing was kind of terse in thriller-esque fashion, but somehow lacked the tension of it. But maybe that wasn't McCullough's goal, to be suspenseful. In any case, The Prodigal Son is good for what it is: an interesting mystery set in a small college town.

Read The Prodigal Son:
  • if you like Colleen McCullough (she's written other Carmine Delmonico mysteries)
  • if you like mysteries without violent killings
  • if you're looking for a mystery that won't make you stay up the whole night reading but will be enjoyable
305 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Foundation, Isaac Asimov

His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country boy who had never seen Trantor before. 

Foundation is an interesting technological/political science fiction. A very famous book, obviously. The Galactic Empire has lasted 12,000 years, but it is predicted by Hari Seldon, a genius scientist/psychologist/mathematician that the Empire will fall within 300 years. So he takes a large group of people to the distant planet of Terminius, to create the Encyclopedia Galatica, a book of knowledge. It won't save the Empire, but at least will prevent the world from falling into chaos for too long. At least, that's what I got from the purpose. The various parts of the book skip from generation to generation of people on Terminus, and their various political problems.

The political element of Foundation was very interesting to me. I hadn't read much political science fiction before. I don't think the world was that well developed; there wasn't a lot of description of it, it was more focused on the various power-plays and intrigues going on. Also, the way that each part is a different time period was a little off-putting; I really would have liked to know more about Gaal Dornick and some of the other characters. But you can't really narrate 300 years of history without skipping many years. At first, I thought Gaal Dornick was going to be the protagonist. I was wrong.

Anyway, Foundation was an intriguing science fiction with an interesting plot, and I'm certainly glad that I decided to read it. The cover says "The Foundation Novels", so perhaps there are other books about this world too? If so, I look forward to (possibly) reading them.

Read Foundation:
  • if you like science fiction
  • if you like books with lots of politics
  • if you like Isaac Asimov
244 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin

Elizabeth Hall wakes in a strange bed in a strange room with the strange feeling that her sheets are trying to smother her.

Elsewhere was a really fascinating novel. It's the story of fifteen year old Elizabeth or "Lizzie" or "Liz" who is hit by a taxi while on her bicycle. After she dies, she wakes up on a strange boat which takes her to a world called Elsewhere, where people who die go. But once you get there, you age backwards. For older people, this would be a good thing, because then you get to become younger and younger. But Liz is 15, so she'll never go to college, never have kids. It's a disaster for her in every way. Or so it seems.

This is definitely a powerful story. Though it's written for teens, I think anyone could read it. I loved the narrative voice of this one; Liz is a really likable character. I really felt for her. At the beginning, I thought it was going to be too sad, but it ended up as a not that sad novel. It reminded me a bit of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, except that it was more about life on Elsewhere, and this one was more simpler, so much more beautiful. Yes, so at the beginning, it was like there was a hole being drilled through my heart. I was tempted to put it down. But I'm so glad that I didn't. Because really, it does get better. I think that's really the message of this story. No matter how bad something is, you can eventually find a way to cope with it, however long it takes you, and however hard it is.

Another thing that I was glad about was that it didn't talk about religion. If it was all Christian or any other religion, it would have totally detracted from the book. I would recommend this one to everyone. It's hard to classify as a genre; it feels like realistic fiction, but obviously, it's not. But whatever genre love, this is an amazing book.

277 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rereading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I stare at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?

As most of you probably know, Mockingjay is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I reread The Hunger Games and Catching Fire fairly recently, so I wanted to finish the trilogy a second time. The first time around, I didn't like Mockingjay nearly as much; I thought it was too violent. It's grown on me though. The first time I read it, I was going through really fast, and didn't pay enough attention to Katniss's struggle and grief. It was really heartbreaking. The second half is still a little to violent for my tastes, but I definitely enjoyed it much more.

Mockingjay begins basically where Catching Fire left off. Katniss, Gale, and Finnick are now at the District 13 rebel base. But Peeta is still in the hands of the Capitol. The story follows Katniss's transformation from a slightly deranged grief-stricken teenager to the Mockingjay, the symbol of the Rebellion, and back again. This is a good conclusion to the series.

Read Mockingjay:
  • if you liked/loved The Hunger Games or Catching Fire
  • if you like science fiction
  • if you like Suzanne Collins
390 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

What's On My Bookshelf: 22

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Seeing Redd, Frank Beddor

Wonderland's finest architects had designed it and overseen its fabrication. The most skilled glaziers, carpenters, masons and gemologists had worked tirelessly to ensure that even its smallest details were built according to plan: Heart Palace, imagined anew on the site of the former palace, which had stood for generations until being cruelly decimated by Redd.

This is the sequel to The Looking Glass Wars, a book which I loved. I didn't love the sequel as much, though it was good. In Seeing Redd, Alyss's rule has only just begun (hardly three months) when chaos arrives again. Glass Eyes (Redd's minions) appear out of nowhere and there are rumors that Redd has once again returned. Meanwhile, the chauvinist, sexist, King Arch of Boarderland, also seems to be involved in the violence. This makes for a quite suspenseful sequel, with all of the old characters and several new ones, like Homburg Molly, Alyss's bodyguard. And the prissy, fat, nefarious, Jack of Diamonds is back again.

This one is pretty suspenseful, and Alyss's relationship with Dodge is built upon a little bit. I would have liked to see more of that, actually. Also, the techonological and magical elements of the story mixed together were interesting. There are a lot of new weapons, but there is also Alyss's powers of imagination, one of the greatest weapons in the queendom. Frank Beddor has turned the familiar tale of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland into a good stand-alone series. There's a book 3, ArchEnemy, the final book, which I look forward to reading.

Read Seeing Redd:
  • if you like Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
  • if you liked The Looking Glass Wars
  • if you like fantasy
371 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Friday, October 19, 2012

John Saturnall's Feast, Lawrence Norfolk

How Saturnus created the first Garden and when, this humble Cook does not pretend to know. Nor the Name writ over its Gates, be it Paradise or  Eden. But every green Thing grew in that ancient Plantation. Palm Trees gave Dates and Honey flowed from the Hives. Grapes swelled on the Vine and every Creature thrived.

Rest assured, the whole book isn't written like this. It's the story of John Saturnall, who lives in the remote village of Buckland. His mother, a local healer, is branded a witch, forcing them to run for their lives and hide out in the woods. John's mother teaches him to forage meager sustenance from the wood. She also shows him the Book, and tells him of an Feast. But it gets colder and colder and John's mother dies. John is brought to Buckland Manor, and put to work in the kitchens. Under the guidance of the Master Cook, John rises from the Scullery to the great house above. When the King of England visits the Manor, it is John who cooks for him. Sir William, lord of the manor, wants to marry his daughter off to a horrible man. Lucretia vows to fast until the engagement is called off. John is supposed to create a dish to tempt the girl to eat, and they become attracted to one another. But Civil War looms as well.

This was an okay book, though the first hundred pages or so were very confusing. It took me a while to get into the actual story, but once I did, I kind of enjoyed it. I was kind of confused about the whole Feast thing. Are the dishes real? This isn't a fantasy, so I'm guessing not. I guess the dishes are more like "food for thought", providing John and his mother with mental sustenance. I liked Lawrence Norfolk's writing style, and the middle sections of the book were much better. The later parts were not that compelling though. I guess I just couldn't connect with the characters. I didn't really like John or Lucretia at all at the end. They seemed kind of selfish to me. However, I'm glad that I tried this one, which I got from Grove Press. Maybe some of Norfolk's other fiction is better. And it was interesting to see what life was like in this period.

Read John Saturnall's Feast:
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books about food
  • if you like books set in England
410 pages.
Okay book, but it left me wanting more!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Gathering Storm, Robin Bridges

An afternoon spent solving quadratic equations would have been infinitely more pleasant. 

The Gathering Storm is an interesting paranormal fantasy set in alternate 1880s Russia. The main character is the Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg. She has a terrible secret that no one knows, not even her family or friends: she can raise the dead. Katerina regards it as a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her talent to protect a member of the tzar's family, she's caught up in a web of intrigue. Two powerful men take an interest in her: George Alexandrovich, the tsar's middle son, who is somewhat repulsed by her secret, but needs her help to protect Russia, and the handsome Prince Danilo, heir to the Montenegrin throne, to whom Katerina feels drawn. I enjoyed The Gathering Storm, though it seems like everyone has a secret of some sort. You're really not sure who to trust. It reminded me of Shadow and Bone in some ways; Shadow and Bone is not actually set in Russia, but in a similar land. There's a love triangle in both books and a lot of evil, though you're not sure which characters are the evil ones.

I enjoyed the character of Katerina, or Katiya, as her friends call her. She's in an smart and independent young woman who wants to go to medical school and become a doctor, rather than just marrying some wealthy young man. I'm not sure if her dream is at all realistic for that time period, but still, it was a nice element of her character.

The thing was, there were so many confusing Russian names. I didn't know how to pronounce half of them. Like Princess Cantacuzene. Forget it. And I kept mixing up the characters. All the Georgovichs and Alexandrovichs, all wrapped up in the story. But that wasn't the authors fault. And I still enjoyed this one. You can read Becky's review here.

Read The Gathering Storm:
  • if you like paranormal fantasy 
  • if you like historical fantasy
  • if you like books set in 19th century Russia
386 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Watching A Tale of Two Cities

I enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, so I wanted to watch the movie (the producer of which is incidentally the same guy as that of Gone With the Wind). And really, I loved the movie. It's so intense, and portrays the madness of the period very well. Made in 1935, it's in black and white, which I think was very effective. It stars Ronald Colman as the lawyer Sydney Carton, Elizabeth Allan as Lucie Manette, and Donald Woods as Charles Darnay. I think the casting was very well done too; Madame DeFarge and Miss Pross are also well played. It's not quite so cheesy either, and I think probably paints a fairly accurate portrayal of the French Revolution, though scholars might disagree. It sticks pretty true to the original novel, except for the fact that Darnay has only one trial in the film, rather than two as in the book. I think it was thought that the film would be too long if both trials were included.

A Tale of Two Cities was certainly much more moving than Gone With the Wind (referring to the movies here.) I was crying a little bit at the end. The ending is a really powerful one. I would definitely recommend this old but great movie to fans of the novel or people interested in the French Revolution.

5 stars.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Watching Gone With the Wind

I loved Gone With the Wind, so I really wanted to see the 1939 movie, which is a very famous movie. I had  mixed feelings about it. I mean, it was entertaining to a certain extent, but it didn't really stay very true to the book. For example, Scarlett is supposed to have a son with Charles Hamilton and a daughter with Frank Kennedy, and they cut both of those children out! It was annoying. But I do think that they got Clark Gable as Rhett Butler exactly right. He fits the character very well. And I enjoyed Scarlett.
The movie was kind of cheesy though. Cheesy music, and a somewhat infuriating portrayal of the South (much like the book) of a "perfect" society "gone with the wind." Hmm, I wonder if you asked the field hands what they thought, if they would have called it that. But the movie was made in 1939, as you've got to remember. Another thing was that even though the movie is nearly 4 hours long, it still feels rushed! I remember in the book when Scarlett first arrives in Atlanta, she is impressed by its immensity and surprised by the variety of people there. Completely skipped over. And many other important scenes. However, I do think the venue of film is better for doing justice to the scale of the sheer horror of the Civil War. That was quite effective.

 I had a few other niggling complaints, but overall, it was an entertaining movie, and though it didn't remain faithful to the book, I still basically enjoyed it, though not as much as A Tale of Two Cities (the movie). Review to come later on that. So, if you enjoyed the book, you should give the movie a try. You may not like it, or then again, you may like it better. 

3.5 stars. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rereading Stardust by Neil Gaiman

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire. And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it. The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall.

I read Stardust two years ago, and really loved it. I don't know why I haven't reread it sooner. It's an amazing fantasy, and though I said I haven't read much adult fantasy (in my review of The Magicians), this is probably considered an adult fantasy. Stardust reads like a fairy tale or fable. It's the story of young Tristan Thorn, who lives in the town of Wall, named for the wall separating it from Faerie. Tristan will do anything to win the cold and beautiful Victoria's heart, even fetching a fallen star from Faerie. But everything, including the star, turns out to be more complicated than he imagined.

I love Gaiman's descriptions, I love his characters, I love everything about this wonderful novel. It may start out a little slowly, but it's well worth a few hours, and is one of those amazing fantasies that have such a great feel to them (like The Neverending Story or perhaps The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.) I would recommend it to everyone who's looking for a short but sweet read.

Read Stardust:
  • if you like fantasy
  • if you like fairy tales or fables
  • if you like Neil Gaiman
248 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

What's On My Bookshelf: 21

(Airmont Classics)(not this edition, the old Penguin Classics.)