Thursday, February 27, 2014

REVIEW: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): YA, Sci-Fi, Romance
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

Recommended Subtitle: Cinderella is a Cyborg!!

Recently, everywhere I look this series is being raved about. The hype is definitely on. While frequently hype and disappointment go hand in hand for me this one looked pretty intriguing. It’s a retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale (one of my favorites) with a science fiction and mildly Asian twist. Sixteen year old Linh Cinder is a reviled cyborg working as a mechanic in the futuristic city of New Beijing. She works to support her hateful stepmother and two pampered step-sisters one of which she actually likes. Within the first few pages of the book, Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth (as most of Asia is called in this post World War IV world) stops by her booth in the market to get an android fixed and the intrigues have begun.

This was so much fun and such a pleasure. Yay for hype not being completely misguided! It is the time of year when my job becomes completely overwhelming and I’m looking for a nice bit of escapism with a good story, good characters, and nothing too intellectually challenging. This book really filled the role nicely. I was completely sucked into the interesting future Meyer has imagined with deadly plagues and dangerous conflicts and a Lunar colony whose citizens have evolved beyond the people of Earth. The foundation of the fairy tale is there, along with its most notable components but Meyer has not just painted a thin veneer of “alternate universe” on it. The society is a blend of cultures, of old-fashioned and high tech and it still embraces many prejudices. It’s vivid and interesting – I loved it.

The characters are also easy to connect with. I loved Cinder's android and friend, Iko, with her teenage girl’s personality. Prince Kai is suitably dreamy and easy to like though his affection for Cinder does seem to develop fast and with little cause but, you know, it is a fairy tale retelling. Cinder was probably the character I felt took the longest to become interesting but by the end of the book I dug her and have hopes for her in the future.

My one “disappointment” is that I had gotten it in my head that this was a stand-alone. I imagined that each book in the Lunar chronicles was a retelling of a different fairy tale. It is in fact true that each book will tackle a new fairy tale but it will all be in this same universe and be a part of the larger story started here dealing with the people of Earth vs. the people of the Moon. This is and ambitious idea and pretty creative of Meyer and I’m intrigued, however, it resulted in me getting to the end of Cinder and being really surprised that there is no wrap up. I know, I’m an idiot. I dealt with this by immediately rushing out and getting book 2, Scarlet, from the library.

Final Verdict: Cyborgs! + Lunar people with glamours! + Cinderella!   = Total Fun!

So I would love to hear A) what people's favorite fairy tales are and B) if you have any favorite re-tellings?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Book To Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a free-for-all this week.  The instructions are to pick any of the past topics. This was a mite challenging because there were a LOT to choose from and many of them intriguing.  The topic a couple weeks ago about swoon-worthy books brought up a lot of book/movie memories for me so since it has been on my mind I decided to do my top ten book to movie adaptations.

1) Pride and Prejudice 2005

I am a ginormously HUGE fan of Joe Wright's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which I went on about, at length, in this past post.  It's definitely my favorite Austen adaptation and is one of my top 20 movies of all time.  And I don't even particularly like Keira Knightly. Because of this film, I am a steadfast fan of everything Joe Wright does and his adaptation of Atonement also almost made it on this list.  He has a gift for adaptation (though I have yet to see Anna Karenina).  I also don't want to take anything away from the BBC's 1995 mini-series which is great in it's own way (though not as good as this).  While searching the webs for a good picture, I found this  adorable "deathmatch" conversation comparing the two adaptations on a blog entitled Forever Young Adult.

2) Gone With The Wind

 This book and this movie are equally fantastic. Historically sweeping and epic, both took hold and just sucked me right in.  I think both  are thought of as romances but actually Scarlet and Rhett's romance is anything but functional and it doesn't end well.  I think it's more appropriate to think of them as just freaking amazing story-telling.

3) Anne of Green Gables/ Anne of Avonlea Mini-Series

This is probably cheating because it's a mini-series and not a movie but whatever.  It is a live action adaptation of the books.  I actually watched and LOVED this mini-series before reading the books.  Upon reading the books I realized the mini-series took quite a lot of liberties with the "story"  but I do think they evoked the overall feeling of the books and got the characters right.  I still own the videocassettes (Yup, videos) of these and just did a re-watch on vacation last year - still fantastic!  Again while searching for a picture to use, I came across all these mid-2012 rumors that a new adaptation was in the works but zero news since then so perhaps it went nowhere?  Anybody know?

4) The Lord of The Rings

I think the verdict is still out regarding The Hobbit trilogy but Peter Jackson did almost everything right with the three Lord of the Rings movies.  His respect and admiration for the original text is apparent.  The movies are beautiful and moving. Whatever liberties he might of taken, I, for one, am okay with.

5) The Harry Potter Series

The overall success of this entire series of adaptations is pretty astonishing considering that multiple directors were involved.  I suspect they benefited from a cast that ended up being pretty great as they grew older and the consistency of having the same excellent screenplay writer, Steve Kloves.

6) Jurassic Park

This was a pretty good book and a terrifying roller coaster of a movie.  The dinosaurs in the movie practically made me pee my pants. Both were a ton of fun!

7) Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk displays a highly unique writing style in this book, so much so that it's astonishing how successful the movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton was.  They are both an iconic and a creative satire of modern culture.

8) Stand by Me

This is the one entry on this list where I have not read the source material but this is one of my top ten favorite movies of all time so it must at least be equal to the Stephen King short story on which it is based.

9) North and South

This is another TV mini-series and it is SO good.  A great cast brings the characters of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel to life particularly Richard Armitage as John Thornton.

Wuv. Twu Wuv. That Bwessed Feewing.

10) The Princess Bride

I have adored this film for many years and can quote big sections of it but I just read the book by William Goldman last year and was ... underwhelmed.  I think the movie took what was great about the book and discarded all the less than great stuff which is what a good adaptation should do.

Having made this list now I'm not sure if it is really a list of best adaptations or if it is just a list of great movies based on books I've (mostly) read. There were a few I thought about including but didn't such as The Wizard of Oz but I hadn't read the iconic source material or To Kill a Mockingbird which was a great book and a great movie but that's about all I can say about them because it has been so long since I watched/read them.

Now, I'd love to hear what your favorite movie adaptations of books are!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Tutor's DaughterThe Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2013
Genre(s): Romance
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

Recommended subtitle: Gothic Adventures in Cornwall

Emma Smallwood is a “bluestocking”, an intellectual woman in a society that doesn’t value this trait in a female. She grew up in her father’s boarding school for boys and learned to value knowledge but when her mother dies both she and her Father lose direction. An invitation arrives, from longtime patrons the Westons, with an invitation to come to their seaside home to serve as tutor to their two teenage boys and Emma’s father surprises her by readily accepting. The Weston’s two older sons had spent three years in the Smallwood boarding school and Emma is torn between a feeling of excitement to see the younger brother Philip and dread at being under the same roof with older brother Henry.

Thus begins a Gothic tale of romance, family dysfunction and stormy seas, regency era style. When the Smallwood’s arrive at the Weston estate they are greeted by surprise and a distinct lack of welcome particularly by the Baronet’s second wife, Philip and Henry’s stepmother. It seems clear that the family has a secret and Emma is drawn into the mystery when it becomes clear that someone is sneaking into her room at night and some of her things start to go missing. All the while, Emma is trying to sort out her feelings towards the charming Philip and the brooding Henry.

Overall I really enjoyed this plot driven romance. Plot isn’t always at the center of a lot of romances; they include just enough to set up the romantic chemistry and conflict between the central characters. Not so in a Tutor’s Daughter which includes a host of characters and a multifaceted plot. It’s not that it is all that complex, it was easy to see what was coming from a few miles away, but it’s a fun Gothic mystery. As a suck-you-in comfort read it worked pretty well.

I liked it but I didn’t love it. It borrows a lot from other books, none of the story elements or characters are terribly original. The protagonists were a little too good and the other characters a little too not-good. It is classified as Christian Fiction which was a first for me and I was curious what this would actually mean. I am not religious (neither am I anti-religion) and would not have enjoyed it if the book was too overtly preachy. Mostly it wasn’t, though it has a few moments. I didn’t miss the explicit sex scenes which are the norm in most modern romance novels, and appreciated the focus on building chemistry through more “old-fashioned” means. Hmmm. Okay, well, it doesn’t really get more old fashioned than sex but hopefully you know what I mean. :-)

Final Verdict: I liked this plot driven regency era romance and plan on picking up others by Julie Klassen.

P.S. Thanks to Lovely Literature for bringing this author to my attention!

So this is likely a silly question but do other belief systems have their own genre?  For example, is there Buddhist or Jewish Fiction?  I may have to investigate.  If you know of any, let me know.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

REVIEW: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs, #5)An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2008
Genre(s): Mystery, Historical
Series: Maisie Dobbs #5
Awards: None
Format: Audio on CD
Narrated By: Orlagh Cassidy

Recommended Subtitle: The Drunken Lies of the Aristocracy

I’ve liked none of the subsequent books as much as I loved the first book of this series but I still have a pretty big soft spot for Maisie Dobbs. My affection for the books is, in itself, a little mysterious because Maisie is a bit of a Mary Sue which is usually one of my pet peeves. She’s an extremely clever private investigator making an independent living in London in the 1920’s and 1930’s. She’s very solemn and can be a bit of a jerk but that doesn’t stop everybody she meets from thinking she’s the most special. But the way she goes about her investigating is pretty fascinating and the mystery in An Incomplete Revenge is one of the strongest of the series thus far. Also, a couple of significant occurrences in this book promise to shake up the series.

Maisie is drawn to Kent during the hop-picking season to act on behalf of her benefactor’s son. The family’s company wants to buy a brick works in the area but is nervous about the amount of petty crime and fires that seem to plague the community. Maisie quickly discerns that ever since a Zeppelin raid hit the town during the war, things have not been “right”. Tensions are particularly high at the time of her visit with the Londoners and Roma in town to help with the hop picking. I figured out most of the mystery pretty early on but there were still a few surprises in the solution.

What sets these mysteries apart from others is how well we know Maisie. The first book in the series was less a mystery and more a story about Maisie and her rise from costermonger’s daughter to independent educated woman. This is definitely a series you want to read in order. There are a number of through lines that enhance the books. As I mentioned, there are a couple of pretty big life altering events that occur in this installment and it feels a bit like Maisie is at a cross roads. It makes me anxious to see where the next books take her.

The narrator for the audio book was pretty decent. She had to voice a number of accents and a lot of characters and she managed pretty well. Her voice for Maisie is quite good and how I imagine her speaking.

Final Verdict: For me, this was one of the stronger books in the series with a good mystery and some significant developments in the overall story of the series.

Any other Maisie Dobbs fans out there?  What do you think of her character?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book OneY: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book One by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2002
Genre(s): Graphic Novel
Series: The Last Man Series
Awards: Eisner Award
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

Recommended subtitle:  This Just In - Men are actually really useful.

NOTE: This is book two read for the eclectic reader challenge hosted by Book'd Out and fits the Graphic Novel category. 

One day in 2002, everything with a Y chromosome drops dead. Everything that is, except the unfortunately named Yorick (22 year, unemployed escape artist) and his pet monkey, Ampersand. On one level this is the story of Yorick as he tries to deal with the fact that he is the last man on Earth and how he and a few others approach saving the human race. It’s an apocalyptic adventure, complete with a stone-faced secret agent, a wisecracking magician and a band of violent feminists. Israel is in there too though this in this first volume that part of the story is still pretty murky. The ultimate question is what caused this gender centric plague? Book one ends on an awesome little twisty cliffhanger.

On another level this is the ultimate ‘what if’ tale with a side of social commentary. Beyond the obvious problem of reproduction, there are some other repercussions, like industries collapsing because they are so heavily dominated by men (garbage collection, energy production, flight travel). Many of the scenes in the book manage to be satiric and tragic at the same time. Early on, the wives of republican congressman storm the capitol because there are so few women representatives and ¾ of them are democrats. They demand to be give their husband’s seats so that the government will be representatively two party again but there are no elected officials left to appoint them (because 90% of the nation’s Governors are dead). The scene ends when one of the republican wives accidentally shooting one of the secret service agents in the head. Satiric, darkly funny and tragic.

Overall, for an apocalyptic tale, it manages not to be too terribly grim though it is violent in places. While I found it a really interesting idea and thought the story intriguing enough, it did not grab my attention as well as other graphic series I’ve read (namely, The Fables). I found Yorick a little hard to take though he is only 22 so that could explain that:-). Despite not being totally in love with it I liked it enough that I will definitely continue with the series.

Final Verdict: A pretty engaging exploration of an interesting idea. Will be continuing on with the series.

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