Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: FOREVER

So, after a long wait thanks to inexplicable Amazon silliness, I finally got my hands on FOREVER, the final installment of Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.

I've got to say, Maggie Stiefvater is truly fantastic at plotting out a series. With LINGER, my fears of second-book-syndrome being the inevitable follow up to SHIVER's gorgeous conclusion were smashed. And of course she continues from LINGER's cliffhanger to the perfect conclusion in FOREVER. It was exactly the kind of ending I like best - all the important things have been taken care of, but not wrapped up so neatly that it seems fake in all its shiny tidiness. It was bittersweet (beware page 374), but satisfying.

My one major complaint from LINGER was Cole St. Clair, and I liked him so much more in FOREVER. I'm not sure if I just came to terms with him or if it was that he was less of a jerk, but I was much happier to read the chapters in his pov.

Also: Grace and Sam are beyond adorable and I love them to bits. TO BITS I TELL YOU.

It's a very spoil-able book, so I don't want to say too much. But trust me, if you haven't read this yet, absolutely do. I'm sad to say goodbye to Mercy Falls, but this is exactly the way such an excellent series should end. Brava, Maggie Stiefvater, brava. I can't wait for THE SCORPIO RACES!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Writing vs. Talking

In The-Class-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named last semester, we read a lot of articles about the writing skills of "beginner writers," a term strangely used mostly to describe people in freshman comp classes in college. (If someone is a freshman in college... he or she is not a beginner writer. He or she has been writing in some capacity since they were about six. Cue confusion.) And most of these many (exceptionally boring) articles were about writing processes to help said beginner writer become a stronger and more confident writer, a more skillful writer.

Most of these writing processes I disagreed with loudly in class (I was a big fan of waving my "it's different for every writer and if it works for you then it's not wrong" flag in that class), but none more so than the idea presented in several articles of talking through your paper before writing it. As in, literally taking a tape recorder and talking through your paper.

Now, I will say this in favor of talking: sometimes, when I'm stuck, nothing works better than to go for a walk in the park with a friend of mine who's willing to listen to me jabber on, and I'll explain to them why I'm stuck and what I want to do that's not working and oftentimes something miraculous will occur to me. It's because when I'm stuck, I need to think about it differently and explaining to someone else works for me. It's like what they tell people about math problems: if you can explain it to someone else, you understand it.

But in every class that this talking-as-prewriting thing came up, I jumped into the conversation to say "uh, excuse me, no." First off, I am vehemently opposed to prewriting and have been since middle school, when we were often forced to hand in an outline of our tiny little essays.

But talking-as-prewriting?

Now, I'm a writer, I like words. I like to think that I am rather good with words, with putting the right words together to form sentences, paragraphs, stories that are well constructed and mean what I want them to. But when I talk? It's a little more like this:

"It's like - there's this thing - God, what's that word - um, you know when you - um - oh, you know what I mean!"

All. The. Time.

So if I was to prewrite something by talking, that is all I'd get. It would sound utterly ridiculous, and be so much more trouble than it was worth.

What about you guys? I'm really rather biased against anything we talked about in The-Class-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Is there any truth to this? Am I alone in my inability to form coherent sentences with my mouth rather than my fingers? What do you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rereading Books

I don't know about you guys, but I am typically not a rereader of books. I read them, enjoy them, and then smile at them as they sit on my shelf and look pretty. I think this causes my excellent parents some despair, as I can read a four-hundred-page book in six hours, so there's $20 gone in one afternoon. Heh.

But sometimes, there are books that I do reread. And oftentimes it's sort of random which ones I'll pick. I've reread both INKHEART and THE THIEF LORD on a whim; EAST and THE BOOK THIEF were both favorites of mine that I'd borrowed in order to read, and so when I finally bought them both, of course I sat down to read through them again. I've read PAPER TOWNS twice. I reread all seven Harry Potter books this winter (in fact, I've read PRISONER OF AZKABAN so many times that my copy has literally fallen apart. This makes me incredibly sad.) I've reread Tamora Pierce's books quite a few times, in spite of the fact that my edition of the SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet makes me want to give her proofreader a stern talking to.

Right now I am rereading PRIDE & PREJUDICE for the fourth or fifth time (I feel like this is quickly becoming that book that I actually sit down and reread every year) and am waiting for my sister to read PLAIN KATE so I can reread that.

So while it seems that I do reread books more often than I originally thought (clearly buying them is now justified :P), I do tend to go a long time in between rereads. Before this winter, I hadn't touched the Harry Potter books since I finished the seventh one in lightning speed several years ago. I don't think I've done a Tamora Pierce reread in a couple of years now. (I have reread PRIDE & PREJUDICE fairly recently, as I said. Hello, I am a massive nerd, nice to meet you.)

So while I do prefer reading new books to rereading old ones (thank you, library card) there are some that are just too good to not reread, that just have to be revisited. I'm sure people say this all the time, but the metaphor exists for a reason - rereading a favorite book really is like visiting a friend you haven't talked to in a long time. It's so easy to fall right back into that comfortable place.

How about you guys? Do you have books that you reread again and again?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book-to-Movie Adaptations

With all this excitement about the last Harry Potter movie coming out, I've been thinking a lot about movie adaptations of books. Obviously, there are some that do it better than others (for the most part, the Harry Potter movies are not my favorite adaptations, although there have been things I've enjoyed about them, and I liked 6 and both halves of 7).

But I don't want to talk about adaptations that went poorly; I want to talk about adaptations I enjoy. Interestingly enough, for probably all of the book-to-movie adaptations I really like, I saw the movie first, whether because I didn't know it was a book or simply hadn't gotten around to it yet. This approach makes me far less likely to throw things at the screen and far more likely to sit back and enjoy. For some reason, I'm far more reasonable about changes made in adaptations when I see the movie first; then I can simply compare it to the real thing in the books and go "oh, I see why they did that."

On to the movies!

Bet you were expecting this one, right? Well, Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS films are probably the only example of book-to-movie adaptations where I prefer the movie to the book. *ducks flying objects and cries of blasphemy!* Yes, I know that probably makes me a terrible fantasy fan. But these movies were just adapted SO WELL. These films took a classic fantasy epic of grand proportions and made it human. I think so many of the characters really shine in the films. For example, Aragorn is actually given a character arc, and he becomes a relateable, human character instead of a heroic archetype. I love these films and have watched them dozens of times. The casting is superb, the music wonderful, the detail that went into every aspect of filming amazing. All I can say is that I cannot WAIT for The Hobbit.

I love love love love this adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I use it as a writing soundtrack. I put it on as background noise while doing homework. I've put it on to fall asleep to. The casting is excellent. I've read the book four or five times now (and am currently rereading it) and I can't read it without hearing these actors' voices in my head. I don't care for the new adaptation for a couple of reasons, but like I said, not going to talk about the ones I don't like. This one I do like. If THE LORD OF THE RINGS is an example of how to make changes and do it properly, this adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is an example of how to put a book on screen.

Plus, who doesn't love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Yeah. I thought so. :P

If I didn't like Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, I loved her in ATONEMENT. This seems like the perfect book to adapt for film to me; they do so much in this movie with multiple points of view, and it illustrates the point of the book beautifully. It's very easy to see what is really happening versus what Briony thinks is happening, and the dramatic irony is just done perfectly. It's also another movie with an amazing soundtrack (I just realized that all for all four of the movies I'm going to talk about, I own the soundtrack. Hmm). I like how they did the ending as well; it's different from the book, but we still get the same punch from it (and what a punch!).

I love STARDUST. The way this differs from the book is mostly in tone; the book is much darker and creepier, typical Neil Gaiman style, while the movie takes all the lighthearted parts and brings them to the front. The result is a fun and absolutely adorable movie that's definitely good for warm fuzzies. (Conversely I finished the book on a bus and felt a little bit like crying.) The book and the movie are like mirror images of each other - one dark and one light, the same but different. (This is not to say that the book is wholly dark and scary; it's Neil Gaiman, the current British master of mixing the creepy with the subtly funny and sarcastic.) I adore the book and the movie equally, but for different reasons. Again, another example of how to make changes in an adaptation and do it properly.

Those are my top favorite book-to-movie adaptations. I do have a few other favorite movies that were once books, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON... but I've never actually read those, so they don't go in the post. Heh.

What are your favorite adaptations of books? What books do you think should be adapted to film?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I can hardly believe that it's here. I can hardly believe that tonight, I'll be driving to the movie theatre and settling down to wait in the dark for the final installment of Harry Potter - the end of the thing that has defined our generation.

We get called the iGeneration, the kids who grew up with the internet, the last ones who will remember a life without Google. But over the past week, I have read so many blogs and seen so many posts from people who grew up with Harry, who began their journey with him in elementary school and are now graduating high school and college, who are taking a step into the adult world. For so many of us, it seems like tonight's film marks the closing of our childhoods.

The most magical thing about Harry Potter, though, is not the books, which have so much that delighted me and a great deal that irritated me. It's not the films, which for me have gotten to be enjoyable only recently. It's the fact that all of us have come together out of love for these stories, that we have made them our own. There are people all over the world who love Harry Potter, and that is not going to go away simply because there will be no more new books or movies. The story is ours now, and as such a huge part of so many of our childhoods, it is something I doubt we would leave behind lightly.

As J. K. Rowling says, "Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This is another book that I've been wanting to read since it came out (clearly I need to get up on this whole reading new releases thing. *shakes fist at schoolwork*), and another one that I found was definitely worth the wait.

There is a delightfully creepy atmosphere to this whole book, and I loved the idea that the whole town knows that something terrible is happening, but they ignore it, because they think in the long run it's helping them. And because the truth isn't something they want to look at too closely.

Mackie Doyle, however, can't escape that truth because that is what he is. He is a changeling who has somehow survived iron poisoning long enough to reach the age of sixteen, pretending to be normal and fade into the background.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the way that changeling folklore was woven so neatly into small town America. Brenna Yovanoff found a way to make everything fit together so nicely, from Mackie's extreme discomfort riding in cars to the way he deals with his inability to follow his pastor father into church by pretending he's being rebellious to the places that the fairy folk are hiding underground. It was so seamlessly done, so well thought out, that there was never a moment where I thought "hang on, how does that work?" It all made perfect sense, as though it could really happen that way.

But my favorite thing about this book was Mackie himself. In spite of everything, in spite of how much he's suffering because of the iron, his feelings of guilt that he isn't really Malcom Doyle even though he pretends to be, and his desperate attempts to blend into the woodwork, Mackie is just so nice. He's one of those protagonists you just want to hug forever and promise them that it'll all turn out okay. Mackie's relationship with his sister Emma is just so lovely (and I really liked that Emma had a large role to play in the story, rather than just being a token family member). I'm seriously convinced that, as Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff are critique partners, they are planning to take over the world by first winning us all over with their nice-guy protagonists.

(In related news, I'm seriously excited for FOREVER, which comes out today. MUST GO TO BOOKSTORE.)

THE REPLACEMENT is truly a great read, one of those books where the setting is truly another character and sporting and ending that makes you go "oh, that's perfect!" This is definitely something to pick up the next time you're at a bookstore or a library.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: PLAIN KATE

The minute I heard about Erin Bow's PLAIN KATE, I knew I needed to read it. The idea of a girl woodcarver missing her shadow and going off to get it back with the help of a talking cat sounds like exactly my idea of a good book.

Also, this cover is gorgeous. I know judging books by their covers is not the way to go, but how can you not read a book with a cover this beautiful?

Fantastic cover is fantastic.

But, gorgeous covers aside, I finally got my hands on it, and boy was I right when I thought "I have to read this." PLAIN KATE is wonderful. Absolutely positively wonderful, and you need to go read it RIGHT NOW. (Unless you are currently in a public place. More on that later.)

The voice in this book is spot-on. It's as though Bow has crafted her own fairytale, and she does it well. Of course a story about granting wishes and missing shadows and talking cats would start "A long time ago, in a market town by a looping river, there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate." Of course. And the language throughout the whole book is lyrical; I'm going to have to reread it soon so I can properly soak up every word without needing to hurry on ahead to find out what happens next.

I also loved the setting. It's one of those fantasy novels that takes place in a world so near our own you can almost recognize it - perhaps Eastern Europe roundabouts the 15th century. It is a time when everyone both loves and fears remarkable things, and poor Kate soon falls under the category of something to fear, because she is so skilled with her carving knife. There are gypsies (called Roamers rather than Roma, which I thought was clever and fitting) and witches and spells - the whole atmosphere is enchanting and eerie at the same time.

But the best part about PLAIN KATE is Kate herself and Taggle, her talking cat. Kate is a wonderful heroine, scared and lost and confused at times, but brave; she doesn't know how to fix things, but she knows how to survive and she's going to find a way to make things better. And Taggle is the most perfect talking cat. I have two cats myself, and I feel like Erin Bow must have cats as well, because Taggle is just so cat-like, rather than being a talking cat that sounds more like a human. I loved that half of his observations were about food. There is a moment when Taggle has been hurt and Kate is terribly worried about him:

She eased the cat off her shoulder, muttering, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"Why? What for?" said Taggle. "Did I miss something? Was there food?"

Now, about the reading in public thing - I read PLAIN KATE during two babysitting sessions. For the second half, I was watching my cousin at the pool, and I had to look away every half-page and take several deep breaths to keep myself from bawling like a baby. I was seriously considering putting it down and finishing it in my room so I could cry over it and not look like a lunatic at the pool, but that really wasn't an option. Of course I had to finish it. There was no way I could put down a book as good as this one ten pages from the end, even if it meant getting a few strange looks from the kids on the tetherball court. PLAIN KATE is absolutely worth it.

I would recommend reading the ending someplace where you can have a good cry and not be embarrassed about it. But absolutely, definitely go read this book.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Work in Progress!!!

I have started something new, blogsphere! Something I am very excited about. Something that looks sort of like this:

Yes! It is my first epic fantasy wip in about five years, and it is called HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Here's a really rough little blurb I worked up for you guys:

The castle has a real name, of course, but its inhabitants refer to it only as The Beginning. It is a convent school for noble girls, who are separated from the rest of society and educated there while they wait for their knight in shining armor to literally rescue them and whisk them off into their very own fairytale ending.

But Lady Caroline has had more than enough sitting around. With only one year left before it’s assumed no one will ever rescue her and she will have to stay forever in The Beginning, teaching future nobles how to curtsey, she comes up with a plan. She disguises herself as a boy and rescues her best friend, Elisamarie, and the two of them set out to fix up a fairytale of their own design.

But the world outside The Beginning isn’t as accommodating as the girls had thought. When Elisamarie is captured, Caroline has to try and rescue her again – for real this time.

What do you guys think? Rescuing Elisamarie is only part of the plot - I need to work a bit on weaving this whole thing together. But this is the basic idea so far. I'm really excited to get working on it!

(Also, thanks to my lovely friend Ella for making the picture of the map blog-able. Computer savvy, I am not. :P)