Fangirl Moment: Author of “Seraphina” Accepts My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Please allow a major fangirl moment, in which the author of one of my FAVORITE books ever, “Seraphina,” accepted my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in an adorable way. Rachel Hartman wrote a song and sang it in a bathtub, accompanied by ice over the head. And she named me on her blog. Squee! Authors can still be fangirls, right? Because I sure am hers.
By the way, AWESOME news from the ALS Association: because of the ice bucket challenge, $100.9 million has been raised in just one month, from more than 3 million donors!!

Ice Bucket Infographic

Rachel Hartman

I thought I would escape the ice bucket challenge unscathed, since everyone who knows me personally lives in fear of my basilisk’s glare. However, fellow writer and alert reader Amanda Fowler has called me out, so here I am getting silly in support of ALS research. I sing. You’re all doomed.

You’ll notice I didn’t explicitly tag anyone in the video. My camera operator (who came down with the giggles there at the end) BEGGED me to challenge him and has just run to the gas station for ice, so he’s my main challengee (and yes, we’re both donating).

As for the rest of you scurvy knaves, if you watched this video and had a good laugh, consider yourselves challenged, and even if you don’t dump ice on your heads, please throw a few bucks at the ALS Association. If we all do a little good, it adds up…

View original post 23 more words

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “New Frontier” Review

Hello, readers! I apologize this review is tardy; I’ve been so busy catching up with everything after being sick! I’ll take being busy over bronchitis any day, though, that’s for sure! 😉

Today, I am happy to share my review with you of Jeremy Lee’s sci-fi space novel, New Frontier, as part of Novel Publicity’s blog tour. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes! 🙂

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: As a new era dons for humanity with all the attendant celebrations and riots, finally breaking the bonds which left us tied to the Solar System is reported as being the moment which unites all the disparate parts of the world and brings us into an era of peace and discovery, and yet this giant leap is almost instantly marred by greed erupting into violence. The Argos, the ship sent out on this historic mission, is left adrift and crippled far from home, survivors of this mysterious attack struggle to hold their ship together and come to the rescue of homesteaders and compatriots relying on them to not only survive but retaliate, and rescue a world where the Solar System has become a rugged frontier ripe for colonization and opportunity filled with the honest and ruthless carving out lives past the veil of civilization.

Several rival corporations, monopolies delving into every industry imaginable, have all but supplanted nation-states, keeping governments around only as a necessary fiction to pacify populations, and the realm of business now reaches into politics, military, religion, and all other aspects of human life. The frontier regions of space are a place filled with new homesteaders, miners, merchants, bandits, and scientific minds that is barely able to keep from slipping into total anarchy, a frontier region where people can disappear from their lives and head off into the unknown. New Frontier is an adventure which stretches from the furthest reaches of space, to slums in backwater cities, to the lunar capitol, and ultimately onto the wreckage of the great ship. The gallant and the selfish alike are forced to face the best and worst of human civilization far from home and decide what they truly believe in.
Get New Frontier through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

NEWFRONTIER

Review

This novel fit pretty easily into my usual genre preference, and I could have seen myself picking it up on my own, although I’m glad Novel Publicity introduced me to it, making sure I did see it, after all. 🙂

I would classify this as an adult sci-fi space adventure. I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes futuristic novels about space travel.

The universe: I had to change the usual title of this category from “world” to “universe,” for this book. 🙂 The universe was massive, and I was impressed with how well fleshed-out and detailed it was. It was slightly hard to keep track of everything, at times, but not too bad. The author created a good sense of fear and awe at the scale of the universe right away with an almost cinematic camera shift from a cocoon of a ship to the deadly emptiness of the sky–symbolic to the shift humanity has made in this book from expanding from Earth into the universe. I appreciated how every scene was grounded in an environment that was well-described but not distracting. The environment was always relevant to the story itself.

The characters: I liked these characters. I enjoyed learning their back stories early on, which revealed motivations earlier than some books may–I always find it frustrating when I can’t figure out what is driving a character. I would actually have liked to be a little “closer” to the characters’ thoughts; sometimes, the zoom-out of large, sweeping observations about the universe in general could be a little jarring, without characters to attach the thoughts to. It took me out of the story, when I just wanted to hang out in the minds of these cool characters. I liked the diverse cast of widely ranging personalities and strong characters from both genders. The villains were vicious and scary, and I felt like they weren’t quite as developed as the protagonists, but that worked OK for the book’s purposes.

The plot: The plot was very interesting, both in terms of structure and events. It was told in a layering of time jumps, which kept the reader’s attention because of the constant shifting. It was also illustrative in a relevant way that I really appreciated, because you didn’t have to lose focus by waiting to find out important background details–you often found out what you wanted to know in the very next chapter, even though it wasn’t chronological. At times, this was slightly disorienting, but I think it was the right choice, structurally. The stakes were clearly high from the beginning, which made the reader invested. Also, the action got my blood pumping, and I lost track of real time while I was reading, since I was so engaged with the story.

The language: The language was my least favorite aspect of this novel. It felt a bit clunky at times with unnecessary adverbs (something I, as a writer, also have to remind myself of–it’s tempting to do!), and the punctuation was a bit off, not giving room to pause in the dense prose. Also, sometimes the pronouns could be confusing in scenes with multiple characters. In a book this packed with detail, imprecise language can really trip me up from being able to get into a story. The universal observations came across as a bit stilted, but the character dialogue was accessible and easily distinguishable from other characters. For future books, I would suggest to Lee that he add even more of this great dialogue and cut back on the unattributed broad observations.

Review: 6/10. An action-packed adventure–an interesting ride with a little turbulence. 

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of New Frontier! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest here
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official New Frontier tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: Born in Odessa, Texas Jeremy grew up mostly in southern New Mexico. Strongly influenced by his grandmother’s adoration of history and his mother’s love of reading, both of which he adopted early in life. Inheriting a work ethic from his father, which served him well in the manic world of theater, Jeremy Lee started out writing for the stage, first in Denver and then in small New York venues while attending the New York School for Film and Television.
With 2011’s Where I’m Bound I Can’t Tell he began working in novels with a deeply personal look at growing up without growing old, which simultaneously expanded into a worldwide adventure through the 20th century.
Kings of New York began a long and rewarding relationship with Neverland Publishing, which continues even today. This gangster tale played in the wonderland of 20’s New York, and painted a picture of cons just trying to survive and make a dishonest living the ruthless world they inhabit.
With New Frontier his career took an abrupt turn, looking not into the past but into the possibilities of the future. Exploring themes of strife, political corruption, greed, adventure, and religion, the book touched off a storm from reviewers.
Jeremy Lee currently lives in Denver with his family, writing ferociously when he can’t find and excuse to be in the middle of nowhere fishing, getting blissfully lost in a museum, or occasionally just watching old Bogart movies and eating pizza on the couch.

Connect with Jeremy on his website, Facebook, or GoodReads.

—————————————-

I hope you enjoyed the review, readers! Join me later this week for a new Top 10 installment. 🙂

Best of 2013 YA Literature: Epic Reads’s Book Shimmy Awards

Good evening, dear readers! Awards show season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes earlier this month and the Grammys happening as I post. And though you couldn’t tell it from my outfit at the moment–head-to-toe fleece (#PolarVortex)–I certainly enjoy the glitz, glam, and overall spectacle of it all.

OMG Katy Perry (Grammys 2014), that DRESS! Fabulous! We are practically twins at the moment. Combining my love of music and romantic drama–you ordered two, right?

This year, though, I discovered my new favorite awards show. It was much smaller-scale: a two-woman operation plus a pouty cut-out of Four (from the upcoming Divergent movie).

“The *Book Shimmy* Awards” is an awards show hosted by Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s young-adult literature community. The two ladies behind Team Epic Reads host a weekly “Tea Time” series to discuss the latest and greatest in YA lit. They developed a new verb on Twitter to connote enthusiasm about books–*book shimmy*–and thus the term was born and given its own awards show.
Their thought was that young-adult literature deserved its own glamorous celebration, and that the winners should be decided upon by readers. I appreciate that Epic Reads truly does foster a community of book fans, even if we are continents apart. 🙂

These ladies are so cute, quirky, and nerdy (in a good way); their shows are lots of fun to watch. The awards show is an hour long, but you can watch it in parts. If you don’t have time to watch it, they also created a great infographic to represent the winners from each category:

 

And here is the whole awards show:

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday! Join me later this week for a Top 10 list and whatever other silliness or excitement pops up. Stay warm! 🙂

Top 16 Most-Anticipated YA Books of January 2014

Hello, dear readers! I hope the week has been treating you well. Mine has been busy, interesting, productive, and even fun, so I suppose I couldn’t ask for a better mix. 🙂 I hope to share some stories with you about it soon.

For now, though, it’s time for this week’s Top Ten post–except this week, it will be 16! Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s fun young-adult literature online community, posted a list of this month’s most-anticipated YA book releases. I’m glad they did, because I hadn’t heard of a lot of these, and my to-be-read pile has grown even larger (can’t wait for that new seven-foot-long bookcase…). I’m especially excited for Cruel Beauty (#9), a dark reimagining of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast; Infinite, a fantasy dystopia; and Defy, a fantasy adventure that was a runner-up for the “Top 15” list. Click the titles to take you to their Goodreads entries, where you can read more about them as well as purchase them. (Blurbs are from Epic Reads and Goodreads.)

The 16 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing In January

(Most anticipated = most YA books added on Goodreads as of December 12th, 2013 when we collected the data. View the entire list and see how the rankings have changed here.)

1. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

On sale January 28th

Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent series, Veronica Rossi’s trilogy has been called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “incredibly original” (Seventeen.com). Brimming with romance and danger and building to a climax that will leave you breathless, Into the Still Blue brings this “masterpiece” trilogy to an unforgettable close (Examiner.com).

2. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

On sale January 14th

In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.

3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

On sale January 21st

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

4. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

On sale January 28th

From New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan, Uninvited is a chilling and suspenseful story about a girl whose DNA brands her as a killer, perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

5. Enders by Lissa Price

On sale January 7th

Someone is after Starters like Callie and Michael – teens with chips in their brains. No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

6. Infinite by Jodi Meadows

On sale January 28th

The stunning conclusion to the Incarnate trilogy, a fantasy series about a girl who is the first new soul born into a society where everyone else has been reborn hundreds of times. Romantic and action-filled, the rich world of Infinite is perfect for fans of epic fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, while Ana’s courage to expose the cracks in society and fight for what is right is ideal for fans of dystopian novels.

7. Unhinged by A.G. Howard

On sale January 7th

Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through Alyssa’s art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind. If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

8. Erased by Jennifer Rush

On sale January 7th

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last page is turned.

9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

On sale January 28th

The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

10. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

On sale January 28th

Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

11. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

On sale January 28th

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

12. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

On sale January 7th

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

13. Avalon by Mindee Arnett

On sale January 21st

For fans of Josh Whedon’s cult classic television show Firefly comes a fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi thriller from author Mindee Arnett, about a group of teenage mercenaries who stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens the entire galaxy. With pulse-pounding action, a captivating mystery, and even a bit of romance,Avalon is the perfect read for hard-core sci-fi fans and non–sci-fi fans alike.

14. Vitro by Jessica Khoury

On sale January 14th

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw. Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

15. Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

On sale January 23rd

In a stunning story about the beauty of fate and the power of secrets, Mary Lindsey returns to the world of Shattered Souls with a breathtaking thrill-ride of a novel. [The author notes Shattered Souls takes place one month before this book’s plot, but is not a required read for this one–same world, different story lines.]

16. Defy by Sara B. Larson

17406847

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

———————————————————-

So, dear readers, did you add any of these to your “to read” shelves? Which debuts are YOU most excited for?

Forecasts are predicting chilly temperatures and more snow (at least for the weather-battered Midwest!), so stay warm and check back this weekend for more posts. I hope you have a lovely weekend, yourself!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was Forced to Read

Hello, readers! This installment of Top Ten Tuesday was actually suggested last week by The Broke and the Bookish; an extremely busy week has pushed it to this Tuesday instead. 😉 The prompt is:

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, book club) — doesn’t necessarily have to be a BAD thing. Could be required reading, yes, but also book club, or just super enthusiastic friends “making” you read something!

I’ll admit, I’ve been rather stubborn in the past with my favorite book genres. Actually, for much of my life, I would only read classics (nothing written post-1900, preferably). That’s right; I used to be even more of a book snob than I am now (I figure I could only go on hiding it for so long, readers). To be fair, though, I was similarly discriminatory with my movie taste (nothing in color–especially black-and-white classics colored in later).

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid…wait a minute, you don’t look quite right.
(Casablanca image from forum.dvdtalk.com)

But gradually, through social and academic pressures against my will, I have expanded my reading repertoire. I’m glad, too, because I would have missed out on some great books. Below, I’ve listed ten memorable books I’ve been forced to read–some good experiences, some…not. All images are from www.barnesandnoble.com; click them to buy or read plot summaries.

1. The Winter’s Tale, by William Shakespeare

Winter's Tale

This one wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. I LOVE Shakespeare, but somehow, despite numerous classes on him and reading on my own, I hadn’t encountered this book until one of my advanced-level Shakespeare classes in undergrad at UIUC. This less–well-known play by the bard is actually a favorite among enthusiasts, and I think it would translate really well to a movie, especially given the popularity of period dramas nowadays. This is a tragicomedy, which, if memory serves, is the bard’s only (or one of the only) meld of the two genres (as opposed to dark tragedies like Hamlet and fun comedies like As You Like It). The best of both worlds! Plus, you get the usual memorable characters and sparkling language of Shakespeare’s work.

2. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Lord of the Flies

I probably don’t have to go into much detail with why I did not like this book, after last week’s list of book turn-offs, especially in regards to disturbing violence. Even the cover is breaking my heart. I was required to read this in middle school, and it was not a good experience. Actually, I’ve kind of blocked it out to the point where I remember the feelings I had about reading it more than the actual book itself. I wonder how I’d feel about this on a reread at an older age, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

Strangely, as much as I disliked the last book, I loved this trilogy–extreme fangirl level. I was so afraid of it being exactly like the last book (#2) that Jennifer offered to screen it for me first…that’s right, my younger sister has more book courage than I do. She LOVED these books, and as soon as I got the green light from her, I began reading it, because I actually was required to read it for class, haha. (I just needed to know with what level of caution–at what arm-length–I needed to read this.) This was one of the books assigned in my Young-Adult Literature class with Alix Reid at DePaul, which you know was shelf–and, I dare say–life-changing. Although these books were indeed violent, it was all justified, and the message was powerful and important. The writing was great, too; quick and biting, it matched the plot perfectly.

4. “Debbieland,” by Aimee Bender

AimeeBender

I couldn’t find this story or a picture of it online. Instead, this is a picture of the author, and it links to her website.

This short story about bullying, told from the P.O.V. of the bullies, disturbed me so much that I asked my teacher, with a single tear rolling down my cheek (j.k.?), WHY she had assigned it to us. She responded that that was exactly the reason why she had. Touché, Professor Pittard. (Hannah Pittard was one of my favorite teachers from DePaul, in large part because her taste was so different than mine that she helped me to grow and think outside my own writing box.) As much as I was uncomfortable from being inside the heads of such horrible people in “Debbieland,” I learned an interesting writing technique from it. To be honest, though, I much preferred my professor’s own use of the group-P.O.V.; check out her critically acclaimed novel, The Fates Will Find Their WayPerfectly lovely and haunting for this time of year. 🙂

5. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics)

I think Barnes & Noble described this book best on their website: “A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.” This book was on our Honors English summer reading list for incoming freshman year, and from this book alone, I knew high school was going to be awesome. (Perhaps a blanket judgement, but I was only 14…and I do have many fond memories of those four years. 🙂 ) Anyway, this was, hands-down, the best assigned summer reading I’ve ever had. This book was so inspiring that I chose to teach it as a student teacher in my undergrad program; I think it should be assigned reading to everyone in school. I was shocked, when I asked the class (all honors students), if they had read the book before. For some reason, it isn’t being assigned as much as I think it should be, with such timeless and important themes. This is Jeremiah’s favorite series ever; he’s read all of the books, as well as the companion books written by Herbert’s son based on the late Frank’s notes. It’s a favorite book of mine, though admittedly, I haven’t finished the series yet. As a teenager, it had changed so much after the first three books that I wasn’t sure I liked it anymore, but as an adult, I suspect I might like the bigger picture even more.

6. & 7.: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, & In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected TextIn Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

And on the flip side of assigned high school summer reading were these two books assigned for us to read the summer before my sophomore year of Honors English. Dear God, these books scarred me so badly that I can’t even look at them today. Part of me wonders if I was just too young to handle the dark subject content (15 years old), but given that I don’t like much graphic violence nowadays, either, I think I might have the same reaction reading these as an adult. Briefly: they both focus on gruesome aspects of death, as the titles suggest. I know these are classics, and I’m sure they’re well-written, but I was so disturbed by the content that I couldn’t even pay attention to the writing (unlike #4). Not only did they RUIN my summer, but I’ve stayed away from the authors’ other work as much as possible, too (though after other assigned Faulkner readings, I still am not a fan–too dark of humor for me to find it funny).

8. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

And back to the positives of assigned reading, The Graveyard Book was another assignment for that Young-Adult Literature class at DePaul (see #3). I love this book so much that I have two copies: a hardcover I read for class and a signed paperback from an author appearance when Neil Gaiman came to Chicago in 2011…the appearance where I almost got in to see him but didn’t, because the line was hundreds of people too long for the space the Chicago Public Library had available. 😥 I drowned my sorrows with a little retail therapy, that being his autographed books. Here’s a picture of me after the event (the event was specifically celebrating his book Neverwhere, another favorite of mine).

Mega-fangirl: My shirt is a sketch Neil Gaiman did, imagining a potential cover for The Graveyard Book. Jennifer bought it for me! ❤ You can buy it from Neverwear here. (Don’t you love the pun?)

Anyway, I’m really glad I was assigned this book, for several reasons: First of all, it was my gateway into Neil Gaiman, who, as you know, is one of my favorite authors (just search his name on my homepage search box and you’ll see tons of my entries pop up). Secondly, I might never have picked it up, as it is technically a “middle grade” book, i.e., targeted for an audience of ages 8-12. As you know from previous posts, I was surprised to learn how much I loved young-adult literature, and this book SHOCKED me with the discovery that I liked middle grade, too. So not only did this book introduce me to an author, but also to a whole bracket of books, too. If you’re looking for a spooky and amazing read for Halloween, I highly recommend this one! It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set, Books 1-7

I tried to hide my moments of snobbery from you before, dear readers, but I’ve officially given up as of the last Top 10 post. 😉 As a recovering pop culture connoisseur in 6th-7th grade, I tried to steer clear of anything popular after that, including books. It was to my detriment, as my older, wiser self now knows, because at least with books, they are usually popular for a reason. The first couple of books had already been out for awhile before my mom bought one and urged me to read it, and thank God she did. I read it because I wanted to figure out the “overblown hype,” but instead, I found compelling, complex, beautiful coming-of-age story as timeless as it was timely: my sister and I had the privilege of growing up with Harry Potter, as his age in each book release roughly matched ours. What a fantastic influence on a developing teenager–or for adults. I can’t see this book ever going out of popularity; it has something for everyone.

10. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer

TwilightThis book is in yellow, because I haven’t actually read it yet. I would say that it is the book I feel most pressured to read by society, both as a reader and a writer. This is such a polarizing novel series; it seems people either love it or hate it. I was somewhere in between with my opinion of the movies; I’ve seen them all. I could understand both the praise and the criticism this series receives, but I feel like until I (finally) read these, I have no right to an opinion either way on their content or writing. As a cultural phenomenon, my opinion of it is: Well-done, Stephanie Meyer. You’ve inspired millions of people to read, and you’ve made it a bit easier for authors to include more sentimentalism in their work. You know that it’s a balance I struggle with as a writer, but I do think there is a right balance out there somewhere. Maybe it’s in here. I actually requested this first book as a Christmas present a few years ago, and it’s still looking at me from the shelf, eyeing me from that big apple.

————————————————————————-

I hope you enjoyed my top-10 list this week, readers! What are some memorable books YOU’VE been assigned?

Join me later this week and next for some festive posts about autumn and Halloween. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Book–>Movie Adaptations

Hello readers! I’ve decided I would like to participate in the “Top 10 Tuesday” trend suggested by The Broke and the Bookish on this blog. So each Tuesday, barring other pressing news I’d need to post instead, I will post a top-10 list right here on this blog.

Today, I am going to list my top 10 personal favorite book-to-movie/television adaptations. You will notice the sci-fi/fantasy theme (except for #9). Not all of these movies perfectly mimic the books; some I think were even better (but some, worse–but not bad enough to exclude them from the list). Also, I only chose adaptations where I’ve read at least part of the book and seen at least part of the movie/series; I’ll specify where I haven’t finished. Read on and let me know what you think–what would YOU add or take off of this list?

1. Beauty and the Beast/Tangled (Rapunzel)/The Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

OK, so I may be cheating a bit with this first one, but there’s a good reason I lumped them all together: they’re all semi-dark fairy tales adapted into Disney movies done well. In each case, I much prefer the movie to the original fairy tale, but perhaps it’s unfair that I saw the movies before reading the tales (I know, I know, but I couldn’t even read yet when two of them came out). I think part of this preference is because each of the movies are adapted for a modern audience, whereas the fairy tales were written for centuries past, with all of its societal influence–recall my “no book is an island” explanation. So while both the written tales and the movies seek to teach lessons, they are different lessons, even if the stories are almost the same. I think Disney did a great job with making happy endings for each of these that don’t diminish the suffering and growth the characters went through–it almost reinforces the good lessons by saying “do good and you will receive good.” One of these original tales has an ending so, so sad that I couldn’t get all the way through it, though I’ve read about it (I won’t spoil it for you, in case you haven’t read them). Plus all the heroines are way more kick-butt in the Disney versions, which you know I love. This is why I will forever be a Disney princess.

2. The Lord of the Rings (+ The Hobbit)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

You already know my love for this story is intense. I did see the LOTR movies before I read the books–and actually, reading them is a project I began several times in high school and still haven’t finished, and I can feel your eyes burning like Sauron while reading this, but rest assured they are on my to-finish-soon list. I did finish The Hobbit, and I’m a big fan of what Peter Jackson has done so far. This epic story of good vs. evil is so lush and complex that it will forever be a hallmark in my mind and the mind of literary (and cinematic) canons everywhere. I was not a fan of earlier film adaptations, but I love Jackson’s rendition, for all the flack he gets. (Again, adapting an older story for a modern audience requires some changes–and again, I will never be against making females more kick-butt.)

3. Stardust

Stardust (2007) Poster

Stardust (image courtesy of imdb.com)

Stardust has always been described as a fairy tale for adults. It was a book written by Neil Gaiman before it was made into a movie, with the shortest time gap for adaptation so far on this list. In fact, Gaiman had a lot of input on the project. You can read an awesome interview about it here. Although he’s written scripts before, he had a specific screenwriter for this movie–and she had to be female, he said, to have the right touch. (An interesting quirk about Gaiman is that he ascribes a gender to all of his works; Stardust is a female book, he says, but it does appeal to all.) And while I LOVE Gaiman–one of my top 3 favorite authors of all time–I have to say I preferred the movie in this case. Gaiman did a fantastic job of writing in a true fairy tale style, but I think an inherent problem of that style is faraway narrative distance. I didn’t connect with the characters as much in the book as the movie, although I did enjoy the extra details and lore included in the book that weren’t in the movie. Also, I felt like the movie focused more on the love story, which is extremely appealing to a romantic sap like me. ❤ But Neil, if you’re reading this, I still love you the mostest, especially for The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere, and your accent.

4. Phantom of the Opera

Phantom of the Opera (photo courtesy of matineedeals.com)

There is nothing I don’t love about this movie adaptation–the costumes, the music, the scenery, the acting–it’s perfect. This is a case where I like the movie WAY better than the book, and I like it as much as the musical, which is nearly identical. The book came first, written by Gaston Leroux in 1910 as a horror story. It seems I’m not alone in my preference, because the book did not do well for a long time. It was pure horror and very little romance, and the heroine was much too weak. She’s the only one on this list who wouldn’t qualify as a strong female character, at least in the book (and it’d still be a stretch for the movie). While she is still manipulated in the musical and movie, I can forgive her because of her growth and passion, and because it’s kind of hard not to be manipulated by a psychopath, especially one who sings to you so dreamily and gives you roses, all while wearing a tuxedo.

5. Harry Potter

Harry Potter (images courtesy of the Harry Potter Wiki)

Harry Potter was such a special experience for my generation,  because we grew up with Harry as the books and movies came out. The books and movies taught us all about courage, friendship, and love. Despite small discrepancies, I thought the movies were very faithful to the books. More had to be left out later in the series, because the books got longer, but still, the ideas and main events were preserved. I love both the books and the movies, and I’d like to reread the whole book series as an adult and see what it’s like from that perspective. J.K. Rowling opened up a whole world for writers and readers alike, and her magic extended beyond the pages and made kids want to read again. The movies had that power, too, compelling fans to read the books to see what they’d missed.

6. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012) Poster

The Hunger Games (image courtesy of imdb.com)

The Hunger Games is another mostly faithful book-to-movie adaptation. The rest of the movies aren’t out yet, but based on the first one (and the INTENSE trailer for the second one), I think they will not only be faithful but excellent. Some books read like movies, and this series is one of them. This made the violent parts a little gruesome to get through, but more than anything else I’ve ever read, all the violence had a purpose, and it was sobering. The first movie did a great job of balancing the theme of it with making it PG-13 enough for younger viewers to sit through; it will be interesting to see how they navigate that for the future movies, since, as series go, it will only get MORE INTENSE. The Hunger Games introduced me to the dystopia genre of books, which is one of my very favorite. The movies made me realize it was already one of my favorite cinematic genres, although I’ve seen more that did it wrong than right. THG has set the bar very high, and it’s made big steps in legitimizing YA books/movies for adults–not one I’d recommend for younger than high school. Oh, and BTW,  Katniss (in both the books and movie) is the ultimate strong female character–physically strong, emotionally responsive, and imperfect. She’s a great role model for women of all ages.

7. The Mortal Instruments

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) Poster

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (image courtesy of imdb.com)

This first movie just came out, and I almost need to see it again to finalize how I feel about it. I love the book series, as I’ve mentioned, and the movie was fascinating and very cool. Most of it was pretty faithful, up until a certain point where it started pulling in elements from future books, so let’s just say I was glad to be done with book 3 (of 6) before I saw the movie. I can understand some of the changes, but not all, at least without having seen any of the future movies. This is definitely one I’d recommend reading before seeing, but it’s still on the list because I know I really liked both versions. When I watch the movie again, I will try to watch it as a movie, not as a comparison to the book. What both got right was development of the primary characters, which is one of the main draws to this series. They are all complex, believable, and at the end of the day, lovable in their own ways. Both also did a fantastic job of portraying the world–it actually helped to see it on the big screen to tie all the elements together visually.

8. Dune

Dune (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

This book series and TV miniseries has been one of my favorites since the beginning of high school. Like LOTR, it has a sweeping story about good vs. evil with a complex universe. And like LOTR, this is the only adaptation I like; the earlier one is soooo trippy, even for a universe where people get powers from a drug. Of course, these universes differ, and Dune has always been strictly sci-fi, whereas LOTR is strictly fantasy. I’ve read 2/3 of the Dune series and none of the other posthumous publications based on Herbert’s works; this is another to-finish series on my bookshelf. This miniseries adaptation was very faithful to the books, and it did a good job with pacing, scenery, acting, etc.

9. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (image from GoT Wiki)

This one made it on the list mostly out of speculation. I must confess, I’ve only read a small bit of the first book of the series. I was holding off watching the series till I finished the books, but I couldn’t resist any longer. A few friends have recommended watching the series first because it helps you keep the characters straight to see them visually (though it’s still difficult, because there are a billion of them). I’m only 6 episodes in, but I’m already on the path to obsession. I think about it when I’m not watching it, and when I am watching I forget to watch the clock. It’s high fantasy in some ways like LOTR, but with more rated-R+ content and less magic. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a great adaptation, and I can’t wait to finish both versions (no rush,  George R. R. Martin).

10. Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Poster

Pride and Prejudice, BBC miniseries (photo courtesy of imdb.com)

This is the only one on the list that isn’t sci-fi/fantasy, but I love it just as much. Oh, do I love it. Austen is one of my top writing, life, and humor influences; she’s one of those authors who’s changed my life in immeasurable ways. I can’t imagine many other books that have been adapted as much as this one, and I can’t imagine any book that fans would be more defensive of. That being said, the BBC version is well-loved by diehard fans of the book, and deservedly so–it is the closest book-to-screen match I have ever seen. The dialogue is verbatim in many parts. Settle yourself down for six hours of wit, romance, and eye candy (Mr. Firth, I’m talking about you), or escape in the pages/your own mind to the rural England of the nineteenth century–it’s up to you, because you’ll get the same experience either way. Elizabeth Bennet is an SFC of the Regency Era, convincing girls to be strong in their own rights rather than rely on the opinions and actions of others.

I hope you enjoyed the list! What do you think is missing? Let me know what your favorite book-to-screen adaptations are.