Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant

Published in 2008, read on my iPhone, purchased through iBooks for only $1.99!

In this book, everyone over fourteen disappears in the blink of an eye. Kids are left in Perdido Beach by themselves. Luckily, the power plant still works, but everything else: internet, phones, school, and everything the adults controlled is gone along with the adults. The place recalls themselves FAYZ: Fallout Alley Youth Zone. The disappearance isn't the only thing amiss. Kids are developing powers, coyotes can speak, snakes are growing wings, and there's a barrier encompassing them in a twenty mile radius. The kids have to figure out how to deal with each other as well as dangerous new circumstances.

I give this book 3 stars for writing, 4 for story. It was a very interesting story - only kids left, new powers, a power struggle between Coates kids and townies. I read the last two thirds of it all in two days, and it's a pretty hefty book (about 575 pages in print). I didn't know what to expect next. It feels like anything can happen in the FAYZ. There's some "Darkness" trying to take control of everything and even though we know the cause of the FAYZ by the end of Gone, we don't know the cause of the mutations or the origin or purpose of the Darkness or where the adults went. I guess there are six in the series, and the last two haven't been published yet.

The 3 stars for writing is just because the book feels very spread out. It's a huge cast of characters and hard to keep track of all of them, plus the author throws in everybody's POV. But I still really enjoyed it and I will check out the sequel.

Sidenote: These covers are hilarious. Are they supposed to be FOURTEEN? You're not fooling anyone. HarperCollins. . .

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Hardback, published 2011, friend's copy.

I borrowed this book from my husband's cousin. It's Tina Fey's memoir, but. . .it's not really a memoir. It reads more like a series of comedic essays. I don't read many memoirs, though, so I'm definitely not an expert. I'm actually watching her interview on David Letterman, and she admits it's not really a memoir, but a collection of essays. I think the publishers marketed it as memoir and had a certain expectation.

It was so funny, though. I read it one day, I couldn't put it down. I kept saying, 'Okay, I'll finish this chapter and then start editing. . .okay, next chapter!' It was extremely entertaining. Tina Fey has so many awesome stories, and she puts such a funny spin on them. I like her a lot more after the book - not that I didn't like her before, I liked her, I just didn't know much about her.

I really enjoyed what she had to say about female comedy writers or comedians. It came up in a few different spots, referencing Amy Poehler who didn't care about being unladylike, an old comedy leader who said no one wanted to see two women in a comedic skit, how women in comedy skits were sometimes typecast, and everyone asking her "what's the difference between men and women comedians?". She keeps the conversation grounded but funny while making it clear "we don't ****ing care if you like it." I loved the fact that the skit with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton was one of the most popular, and she said something along the lines of, "So, I guess the guy who said no one wanted to see a skit with two women can go shit in his hat."

Entertaining read, I gave it 4 stars.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book/Movie Comparison: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

This is long, just so you know. Deathly Hallows is my second favorite book in the series, and it is currently my favorite movie of the series. I had to cut a lot of gushing out and remind myself what this post is actually about - analyzing how well the film version carried out the story of the book. I'll look at: Setting, Characters, Theme, What was Gained from Film Adaptation, and What was Lost from Film Adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and last book in the Harry Potter series. Published in 2007, it follows Harry, Ron and Hermione’s quest to find the four remaining Horcruxes, which are magical artifacts which hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul. It also chronicles the final battle between Voldemort and Harry.

The movie came out in 2010, and it is the first of two parts, the second coming out in July (oh, happy day!). Adapted to screen by Steve Kloves and directed by David Yates, it stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron, and Emma Watson as Hermione.

Obviously, the first movie only covers the first part of the book: their search for the locket and its subsequent destruction, the falling out between Ron and Harry, the beginning of the discovery of the Deathly Hallows and Dumbledore’s involvement with them, and the confrontation with the Snatchers, who take them to Malfoy Manor when they realize they might have Harry Potter.

(Many, many spoilers ahead, for both the movie and book!)


In the book, the trio returns to 15 Grimmauld Place and they also infiltrate the Ministry under Polyjuice Potion. They visit Godric’s Hollow for the first time, but much of the rest of the book is set during their camping trips as they try to stay under the radar and search for Horcruxes.

I thought the semi-apocalyptic setting was great for the story. The destroyed motor homes, the snowy forest after Godric’s Hollow, the stretching fields. Malfoy Manor was so intimidating, and I can’t wait to see more of Shell Cottage.

It’s too bad we couldn’t see the trio shacking it up in Grimmauld Place with Kreacher waiting on them. I just think that would have been so cool to see Kreacher making them dinner and stuff. Definitely not necessary, though, so I’m glad they took that out instead of something else.

Great way to tell the Deathly Hallows legend. I was wondering how they were going to do that - just have her read it? Summarize it? Beautiful imagery!

I think it was a good idea to focus solely on the trio instead of trying to also squeeze in everything that was happening at Hogwarts. Rowling can juggle multiple story lines flawlessly (well, mostly) in her writing, but that’s a book. A movie needs to be a little more focused, and it was a good decision to stick with the trio and their problems. I think we’ll hear more later about what happened at Hogwarts. Maybe leading up to the battle.

I needed more Kreacher and more Regulus. They both really redeemed themselves in this book, but we get two sentences about Regulus. Kreacher was pretty cool, though, retrieving Mundungus Fletcher.

It’s also weird how the movies try to squeeze stuff in, but it comes off kind of half-assed. Like Bill’s scars, or Tonks about to make the announcement that they were going to get married and/or they were pregnant. It’s like they do it just to throw the readers a bone, but people who haven’t read the books probably have no idea what’s going on. Same thing happened with Fenrir Greyback in the sixth movie. I don’t know what to think, like part of me is “All or nothing!” and part of me is like, “Well, at least they referenced it!”

As for the more major characters, I LOVE RON. I feel like they are finally getting him right. I hated, hated, hated when they gave Hermione Ron’s line in Prisoner of Azkaban - “You’re going to have to kill us first.” But I wasn’t really mad when Ron was the one who noticed RAB haha, I think I’m biased. But seriously Rupert Grint is amazing, and I think he played Ron brilliantly in this film. Talking Harry out of leaving, getting angry, seeing his insecurities, and then fighting for Hermione at Malfoy Manor. I did want to see some screaming and bellowing in the cellar when Hermione was being tortured.

Speaking of which, that torture scene was amazing! I really feel like the three of them are growing as actors. The other movies I can’t even take seriously because Emma and Dan botch up the serious lines (and Rupert hardly ever had serious lines, he just pouts). But they have really improved, and I think the torture scene was proof of that. I cried all three times I saw it! I love Harry and Hermione’s friendship, and I think the screenwriters and directors are finally not trying to shove them on us (even with the Horcrux kissing scene). The dancing scene was awkward at first, but now it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

Emma Watson was great as Hermione: her romance with Ron, her cleverness, etc. And Daniel Radcliffe. . .oh, my goodness, he’s really becoming how I picture Harry. Like sometimes when I read the books, I still have my own pictures of Hermione and Ron, but I almost always picture Dan when reading about Harry. Plus his acting was brilliant in the scene with seven Harrys. He was playing eight different characters in that one scene! Loved it.

The Ron and Hermione romance is great, but the Ginny and Harry stuff - not so much. That kiss in the kitchen was so stiff, but George dropping in makes me laugh every time.

What I’m really looking forward to, though, is Harry finding out more about Dumbledore. His family, his involvement with Grindelwald, his quest for the Deathly Hallows. That was a big plot point in DH, and I want to see more of it. I want to see Harry doubting Dumbledore and I want to see him considering the Hallows instead of the Horcruxes.

And of course, it will be interesting to see how they reveal Snape’s true allegiance. The Pensieve scene in the fifth movie was underwhelming, so I’m hoping they do a good job with that.

The movies usually do a great job with the themes of Harry Potter: love, friendship, courage, good versus evil. At the same time, I think since this is the first part, they didn’t have a chance to have a big “lesson” like the last movies. It’s just building up the story; it’s getting us ready for the finale. We still saw a lot of love (Ron and Hermione!) and good (the wedding, Neville sticking up to the Death Eaters) and evil (Voldemort killing Charity Burbage), but I think the second part will be way more intense.

What was Gained from Adaptation
I love seeing these scenes visually. Some people complained that the seventh book dragged, that the camping parts were too long, and this film condenses it. I hear some people complaining that the movie dragged, too, but I thought it balanced a fast pace and the hopeless feeling that the trio felt while realizing they don’t know where to find the Horcuxes.

What was Lost
I really wanted to see the sign at Godric’s Hollow. I know it’s such a small thing, but it really encouraged Harry when he needed it. You know that Remus had to have been the one to put it up, and the one to bury James and Lily. (Remus! I don’t want more people to die!)

I’m going to be a complete wreck the next movie. I’m going to bring a box of tissues and I won’t even be ashamed of sobbing when all my favorite characters die. Oh, JK Rowling, what you do to me. . .


The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers

The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers

Hardback, 2009, Library copy.

This is the second book I’ve read my Moers. I picked up The City of Dreaming Books after seeing the awesome cover and liked it so much I found this one!

In this book, an animal called a Crat (which is very much like a cat except for it can speak every language possible) lives in a city called Malasia, where disease is a part of everyday life. This Crat, Echo, finds himself homeless and starving in the beginning of the book. He’s forced to make a deal with Malasia’s dangerous Alchemaster Ghoolion to survive. The Alchemaster will feed him and take care of him for a full month in exchange for Echo’s life. At the full moon, he’ll use Echo’s fat to bring himself immortality. The book is about Echo’s adventures with Ghoolion and his quest to find a way out of their contract.

Like Dreaming Books, this book moves slowly. It took me about a month to finish it, even though it was probably in about five or six readings. I think that’s just his style. It’s not a “I-can’t put this book down, it’s so addicting” type of read, but it’s the type of book where I can just get lost in the world. There are so many creative inventions. How does he come up with so many different creatures and ideas? I want to know what goes through this guys’ head as he’s walking around grocery shopping and stuff. I can just picture him picking up a nut and being like, “Hmm, this could be the food that imparts visions and knowledge to Echo in my book!”

So, yes, a very enjoyable read. I get lost in Zamonia and I love reading about Moers’ crazy inventions. I think it’d be cool to have them on e-readers, but then we’d be without his cool illustrations.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In My Mailbox #2

I'm going to do another of these. . .I don't have any pictures of my beautiful face because they're mostly on Kindle. Have some cover art instead!

Shatter (The Children of Man) by Elizabeth Mock
This book was a free download from Kindle, and I'm really surprised. It's really good writing for free, and I'm about halfway through. I keep wanting to finish it, but I can't find the time! It's the first of a series, and I'm assuming she'll be selling the next one. It has the prophecy/fantasy quest style, but it centers around a large group of people. It's kind of an ensemble cast, which I'm not too used to, but she does it really well.

Gone by Michael Grant
I downloaded this on my new iPhone! It was only $1.99 and it's been on my Goodreads "To Read" list. It's about the disappearance of everyone over fourteen and how the kids react. Some of the kids actually have powers, and different groups are formed in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). It's counting down to the main character turning fifteen. I think they're going to figure out what happened to the adults eventually.

After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart
This was a free read on Kindle, too! It's a coming-of-age novel about a girl who lost her father. It seems kind of short, maybe 50K? But I like it so far, it has a Christian slant and it's been a while since I've read ~inspirational~ fiction.

That's what I've got for now! :)

The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden

The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden

I don't remember the edition - it was hardback, first published in 1999. Library copy.

This is the seventh and last book in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. The series follows a group of Australian teens who go on a camping trip the same weekend their country is invaded. They do what they can to survive and thwart the plans of the enemy soldiers. In this book, Ellie Linton and her friends are put on a last mission while the New Zealand troops attack the enemies with all they have.

I liked Ellie's character development. A couple times she was in one on one battles and she knew she'd have to kill to save herself. It's crazy because in the first book, she was wondering what was wrong or right, if she could do it, etc. A year and a half has passed, and she's come to the point where she realizes she has no choice. Not to stay she became ruthless or anything like that, she's just changed. At the same time, I think her internal monologues sometimes slow down the prose. She's always thinking back to the farm and stuff. I realize this is how people think in real life, but it was kind of a disjointed narrative.

I'm so sad that this series is over! I really loved it. This book I read in less than twenty-four hours even though I had it for a couple weeks from the library. I was expecting something a little more climatic, though, I felt like the second half was kind of a letdown. I think that's a cool thing about this series, though; he decides on realism instead of entertainment. War is uncontrollable and so is the violence that accompanies it. I also think it was kind of neat to see the prison camp because you can't deny that dehumanization happens in war. It's sad to think this is happening all over the world and has happened for years and years. It makes me think about why we value certain things and what we're willing to do for land and resources.

I'm going to check out the Ellie series, but I don't know whether to have low expectations or not. Not too many great reviews on Goodreads. I really like his writing, and everything goes so fast, so I probably will if the library has it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book/Movie Comparison: Never Let Me Go

Same drill: After a brief summary, I'll look at Setting, Characters, Theme, What Was Gained by Film Adaptation, and What Was Lost by Film Adaptation.

Never Let Me Go is a literary novel with a science fiction twist written by Kazuo Ishiguro in 2005. You can read my review of it here. It takes place in an alternate history where humans are cloned with the sole purpose of eventually giving up their vital organs to save lives. Instead of focusing on the implications of this, the novel focuses on a trio of friends Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. The book is from Kathy's POV, and she has a very nostalgic, reflective voice during the book. The narrative spends time on their years at Hailsham Boarding School, the cottages after school, and their time as donors and carers. The book itself won a lot of awards and was received well.

The movie came out in 2010. It was directed by Mark Romanek and adapted to screenplay by Alex Garland. Carey Mulligans plays Kathy, Andrew Garfield plays Tommy, and Keria Knightley plays Ruth. It was nominated for and won a variety of awards at different film festivals.

Some spoilers - ye be warned!

I thought the cinematography and the world this movie was set in fit the book's tone. The movie was full of subdued colors and everything was very old. I thought the book had a melancholy sort of feel to it, especially because of the subject matter. I liked how even though there were a lot of advances to science, the film wasn't set in a technologically advanced world, it was set in the 70s and 80s in our own world. Everything was familiar, even though the situations weren't.

Hailsham was great, how the children were so obedient and the viewers could tell something was a little off. In the end, though, they were just kids, they looked and acted just like normal kids, but they had a much different destiny. I liked the change from the different stages of their lives. Hailsham and the cottages were similar, but then we're plunged into the clinical settings of the recovery centers and hospitals. It showed the bleakness of their situations.

The mood of the movie was a tad too depressing; it kind of left my husband and I sad. I guess in a way that's the point.

I think the acting was amazing. I adored all three of these actors. They did a wonderful job with the subject matter they were given. There was a lot of subtext, and I think they did great with that.

I wasn't too keen on how Ruth was portrayed. In the movie, she just seems like a spiteful, mean girl. Her apology at the end was cool, but she really didn't look happy when Kathy told her they were going to go ask for a deferral. In the book, Ruth is Kath's best friend for a reason. She does have veer towards manipulative and condescending behavior, but I felt like I didn't see their friendship at all in the movie. I was actually wondering why Kath put up with her at all.

Carey Mulligan was very talented at Kath; she really had a lot to accomplish, and she was great. The writing was odd, though. At times during conversation, Kath just wouldn't say anything, and there would be these weird, awkward pauses. I understand that these characters don't always say what they're thinking, but sometimes, the dialogue just seemed stilted.

Andrew Garfield as Tommy - wow. I don't think anyone who sees this movie will forget his scream at the end. He portrayed Tommy so wonderfully, capturing that childlike innocence as well as his growth to the end.

In general, I really liked what the movie did with Kath and Tommy, but I think they could have made Ruth more likable.

I think a lot of the same themes were present in the movie. The theme of memory wasn't as strong, of course - while in the book, we jump around from the past to the present in Kath's mind, the movie is more linear except for a few minutes in the beginning when we see Kath as an adult. But the movie focused a lot on Kath and Tommy's relationship, which keeps you yearning for things to work out between them.

That sense of mortality and finality is definitely presence in the movie. Kath and the other clones have no choice. Their lives are set out for them, and they just have to make the best of them that they can, like all of us.

What Was Gained
The film producers made a good choice when the decided to make everything linear, unlike the book. While our minds may jump from past to future to present in a matter of minutes, and a reader can follow that in a book, it wouldn't have been good for a movie. We saw their growth chronologically.

What Was Lost
Like I said earlier, some of the dialogue seemed stilted. Things were awkward, and the movie was pretty slow. I wished there could have been more scenes of them at Hailsham or maybe of Ruth not seeming like a horrible person.

All in all, I loved this movie. I think the way they worked out the cinematography, acting, and everything else really had a way of settling in your bones and making you feel kind of hopeless. And yet, there was distinct moments of beauty in their lives. The sale at Hailsham, Kath and Tommy's love, Tommy's drawings, their hope at a deferral, the boat. I think those times made it so much harder in the end, and I think it's harder for a movie to do that than a book.

Never Let Me Go on Goodreads
Never Let Me Go on IMDb
NPR Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go on BetterWorldBooks