Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Book Haul 2013

Well hello again readers! I hope your holidays were fantastic and that you received everything you wanted while enjoying the company of family and friends. I know I did.

For book lovers like myself the best day of the year is the day after Christmas where I head to the nearest bookstore with gift cards in hand and prepare to make some of the hardest decisions of the month. I have to carefully calculate how many books I can get with my money and which books I really can't wait any longer to read. I think I'm pretty happy with the choices that I made this year and I may even do full length reviews for many of them. Since I stupidly managed to forget my camera before heading home for my holiday break I'll just have to use generic pictures of the covers.


Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella: There is just something incredibly entertaining about Kinsella's writing that keeps me buying every new book she releases. Her novels have such a nice blend of romance and humor that it makes for great afternoon reads. I hope this latest book doesn't let down all of my expectations.


The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead: Honestly, Richelle Mead can do no wrong in my book. I consider her to be one of the best YA fiction writers who wrote the amazing Vampire Academy Series (Whose movie adaption looks like a sad rip off of mean girls and Twilight that I'm not sure I'm looking forward to) and the amazing spin-off series this book is in. I really can't wait to read more about Sydney and Adrian!!!!! I have no doubt that I will enjoy this read. 


Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: I thought the first book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder. was an awesome mash-up of the dystopian genre and characters from fairy tales that I just had to read the sequel. I'm excited to see what Meyer does with the red riding hood character.


Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: I have to admit I was a little annoyed to find out that this book actually exists. I read the first two books  Graceling and Fire in early on in high school and I loved both of them. I didn't expect for there to be another book in the series released so long after the first two. Now I really can't remember what happened in the books before this one. Sadly, since I don't own either of them, I'll probably have to look up summaries online. Despite this complaint I still have hope that Bitterblue will turn out to be a great novel.


The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling): I have to admit that the only reason I'm considering reading this book is because Rowling wrote it. I really want to see if she can write a great mystery novel. I was a bit unimpressed by The Casual Vacancy, but I'm saving all of my judgments for this book until after I finish it.


The Angel's Game and The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: As promised in my earlier review of The Shadow of the Wind I looked into the sequels and bought the both of them. I'm looking forward to finding out if these sequels are as good as the first book and if Zafon maintained his amazing style of writing.

With those last two books that completes my Christmas book haul. Don't forget to keep a lookout for future reviews of these books and as always Best Wishes:)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot


Title: The Bride Wore Size 12
Author: Meg Cabot
Page #: 392
Name and # of Series: Book 5 in Heather Wells Mysteries
Rating:

Book Blurb: 
Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather's already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather's sure things can't get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather's long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she's determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it's the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be.

Review:

This is the last book in Meg Cabot's Heather Wells Mysteries series, a series that was initially only three books long, but recently had 2 other installments added to tie up all the loose ends. Normally I get incredibly angry when an author fools around with a perfectly good end to a series because inevitably the plot and characters get so convoluted that it's hard to even read the series anymore (I'm talking to you Mortal Instruments Series ugh!). Despite this, I gave Cabot's new book a chance and thankfully it provided an even better ending to the series.

Now before I get into all the intimate details that impressed me so much about the book I would like to point out something amazing about Meg Cabot. While some authors are usually restricted to one genre and one type of audience, Cabot is amazing because she can successfully produce books for young adult and adult readers, which allows audiences to continue to find enjoyment in her work as they get older. I've been a fan of Cabot since middle school when by chance I picked up a copy of the first two Princess Diaries books and loved them. I spent the rest of my time in middle and high school reading all of her young adult novels that I could get my hands on. By the end of high school when I started discovering some amazing adult books that better suited my older taste I found Cabot's adult novels and loved them just as much as The Princess Diaries and The Mediator Series.

Now let's get on with the actual discussion of The Bride Wore Size 12

Despite what the title suggests this book is anything but your typical Chick-lit (a label that I really detest by the way). The main character, Heather, is dynamic and really easy to relate to, which is not a characteristic you usually find today in books that feature female protagonists. Instead of being a ridiculous mary sue or the woman so completely infatuated with the male romantic interest that she can't make any intelligent decisions, Heather is hilarious, sarcastic, career oriented, and comfortable with herself. She has also experienced some amazing character development over the course of this series. While the titles of all the books are centered around her fluctuating weight, Heather has now reached a point in this book where she is actually comfortable with her body size (YAY!!).

Additionally, Heather has a mature relationship with her fiance Cooper and there are no stupid problems that arise between them in order to try to drum up some action in the plot. Her relationship with him and even her upcoming wedding are not the center of the entire book, as the title seems to suggest. Instead they are delightfully in the background while Heather tries to solve a murder.

While having another murder occur in the dorm of the college that Heather works at was really just a repetition of the plots in the previous books in the series, I still found her investigation into the death of Jasmine, an RA at Fisher Hall, to still be entertaining and it kept me guessing the identity of the true killer. I won't give any spoilers, but I will say that I thought that the identity of the killer was actually pretty logical and Cabot left enough subtle textual clues that the final reveal didn't come out of the blue.

The secondary characters in this book were also rather dynamic and fleshed out, so much so that I wished they could have been in the story more. Eva's presence and the hint of a romantic relationship with one of the inspectors was something I wished could have been fully explored. Also the back and forth between Heather and Gavin was really funny to read and I always love when Magda makes an appearance. Most importantly the female secondary characters functioned as more that just romantic rivals/threats to Heather, an aspect worth rejoicing over.

I also found Heather's position at Fisher Hall to be completely believable and correctly portrayed when I think about the Residence Life Coordinators at the college that I'm currently attending. Like Heather they always seem to be catching themselves saying "dorm" when the approved term is supposed to be "Residence Hall." Her little quip about how girls fight with each other by leaving notes on the fridge made me laugh and reminds me of my neighbors who constantly leave each other passive aggressive sticky notes when they are upset with each other.

All in all I thought The Bride Who Wore Size 12 was a highly enjoyable novel. It was a quick, easy read that I would recommend to anyone that loves a murder mystery with some moments of romance, comedy, and drama thrown in to keep the plot from being stale. The entertainment this story provides and the integration of dynamic characters made it so that the book deserved nothing less than a 4 star rating.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gift Guide for the Book Lover on Your List

I know this post is a little late in the season, but I figured I could put my own internet wanderings to good use and make a convenient list of all the book related products that any reader would enjoy getting. I've spent a good deal of my time these past couple of months trying to find stuff to put on my own Christmas list and these are some of the items that I've not only come across, but also have been ardently wishing would make an appearance under my Christmas tree.

Before I get to the actual list though I would like to address one topic that I think is pretty important for holiday gift giving and that is gift cards. While handing over a gift card for a bookstore to a reader can be a great gift (and I gift that I do appreciate on occasion) oftentimes it can be construed as impersonal and thoughtless. In order to combat those awful impressions here is some advice.

Unless someone specifically asks for just a gift card, there are a number of ways you can personalize the gift of a gift card to make everyone happy. First you could buy a small book related item to accompany the card. Something as simple as a bookmark would be perfect. You could also give them a book light which is incredibly useful particularly for those of us who have decided not to give into the popularity of ereaders. You could also nestle the gift card in an awesome mug with some small packages of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa. I know that there is no greater pleasure as a reader than cuddling up with a great book and a warm beverage. If all else fails make an amazing package to enclose the gift card.

Now it's time for the online guide to buying a book lover the perfect gift. Before buying any of these gifts I suggest that you do a little sleuthing and figure out the favorite book or author of the person you are buying the gift for. You'll see why soon enough.

  • Anything from Litographs.com
http://www.litographs.com/

This awesome online store sells t-shirt, posters, and tote bags all related to your favorite classic book. The best part is that the designs of these items are created by artists using the actual text from the book.

  • Out of Print Clothing and Accessories

http://outofprintclothing.com/
This website also sells clothing and other accessories like jewelry, tote bags, and stationary related to your favorite book. It is perfect for the person who isn't afraid to advertise their reading tastes to the public. I currently own their Jane Eyre sweatshirt and I really love it.

  • A book scarf from the Etsy shop Storiarts
 

There is something so wonderful about being able to wear parts of your favorite book and this fantastic seller takes actual excerpts from your favorite book and prints it onto scarfs. Now that the weather is getting colder everyone needs a scarf, so why not make it book related. While there are only a limited number of books available, the seller does do custom orders.

  •  Anything Book Related on Etsy.com Really
My suggestion is just to search up a favorite book or author and go from there. You will be surprised to find all of the awesome stuff people make. On a whim I searched Charlotte Bronte and now I have about a million things on my wish list.

  • Paper Passion Perfume
http://www.amazon.com/Paper-Passion-Perfume-Geza-Schoen/dp/3869305010

There is just something so incredible about the smell of books both new and old. Whenever I get a book the first thing I do is smell it and I know for a fact that I am not alone in this weird habit. The smell of paper and ink is so amazing that on more than one occasion I've wished they could make a perfume out of it and they have!! While this would make for a great gift be aware that it is quite pricey, which is one of the reasons why this perfume will remain on my wish list for some time.

  •   Personal Library Kit
http://www.knockknockstuff.com/catalog/categories/organizers/personal-library-kit/personal-library-kit/
This awesome gift is for the book lover that loves to share their books and loves the feel of having a personal library. It includes pockets, checkout cards, a stamp and ink pad, and a pencil. I would have asked for this for Christmas, but I would probably need a ton of these kits because my personal library is so large.

  • A Bookbinding Kit
 
 
This kit includes all the tools you will need to make your own book at home. I'm confident that this is one DIY project that any book lover would enjoy doing.
 
  • Floating Bookshelves
 
 
This awesome shelf makes it look like your books are floating on your walls when in all actuality they are safely shelved. This is a great way to decorate or store books that can no longer fit on your regular bookshelf.
 
 
And last but not least...speaking of bookmarks
  • Fingerprint Bookmark
 
 


 
This elastic bookmark is perfect for anyone who likes to read because it keeps track of the exact line that the reader left off at.
 
 
Well this is just a selection of the awesome stuff you can get someone who loves to read. Did anything on this list catch your eye? Is there something important that I forgot?
 
 
Stay tuned for some more book related posts! Best Wishes.

December Updates

Well my lovely readers it has been a long time since I've posted anything and that is sadly due to the extreme work load of college. By the time that November rolls around everything just goes downhill. While many of you with enviable free time were taking part in NaNoWriMo I was taking part in something I like to call CoEsWriMo or College Essay Writing Month. It seems that during the month of November college professors all come to an agreement that an insane amount of reading and essays should be crammed into November to make up for the complete lack of work done in September and October. This leads right into finals at the beginning of this month. I'm pretty sure I could have written an amazing novella in the time I spent writing all of those stupid college essays. Anyway I'm happy to say that that part of my life is finally over with and I can enjoy the holiday season properly.
Now that I'm no longer bogged down by homework and assigned reading I have plenty of time to actually read some books for fun. In the next couple of days I will be making up for my complete lack of activity by posting some book reviews and even continuing my Jane Eyre watch-a-thon. I will also be doing some random book related posts that hopefully you will enjoy.

Additionally as any book lover knows Christmas is an amazing time of year because that means brand new books that you didn't have to pay for. I have my eye on a few new books this year and if I'm lucky there will be a new book haul post sometime after Christmas!

That's all the updates that come to mind at the moment, so keep a lookout for those posts and as always Best Wishes!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon: Jane Eyre (1983)

Hello my wonderful readers!! It has been rather long since my last post and for that I'm particularly sorry. My life is finally starting to get back to normal after midterms, so I found a few moments to watch another Jane Eyre adaption. For all those wondering I will be getting back to doing reviews on books closer to Thanksgiving when I have some free time away from college. In the meantime let's get on to this wonderful review.



Jane Eyre (1983)
Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester
Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre
This version clocks in at around 5 hours, but luckily is chopped up into 11 episodes.
Here is a link to the IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085037/

This was my second watching of this version and boy were there a lot of things that I missed when I watched this the very first time. I will right off the bat say that this is my second favorite adaption, but not a close second. I'll let the rest of my review explain why.

Normally I would start off with the cons, but I think it's time I switched it up. Pros first!!

  •  The first pro that I encountered in this version was the intro. The voice-over that Zelah does is word for word the first lines in the book. Like I mentioned in my Jane Eyre 1996 review I like having adult Jane provide the voice overs for the movie. By having her voice guide the viewers its almost as if Jane is telling her own story like the book. Quite a bit of the dialogue is also lifted right from the book and that is something in an adaption that I really appreciate 

  • Jane's childhood in this particular version is finally given the time and detail that it deserves. So many of these adaptions cut Jane's childhood short to get right to the Rochester action and I find that it doesn't give Jane's awesome character the respect that it deserves. Here we get every single event that happens at Gateshead before Jane leaves for Lowood. The Red Room scene is finally given detail and explanation so those who haven't had the time to read the book know exactly what is going on. Bessie is also a fully fleshed out character, which none of the other adaptions have managed to do.

  • Jane's time at Lowood  isn't cut short either. Viewers get plenty of time to see Jane as a student where her intelligence helps her gain the praise of all her teachers. The actress who plays Miss Temple in this version is complete perfection and her character gets all the scenes she is due. We see her provide food for the girls when their breakfast is inedible and the scene where she invites Jane and Helen to tea is also in here. Her marriage in the movie is what provides the transition from Jane as a student to Jane as a teacher and viewers actually get to experience Jane unhappiness as a teacher when Miss Temple, her only real friend, leaves.

  • Mr. Brocklehurst and the awful state of Lowood school are accurate as well in this particular version. While I would have appreciated more scenes with Mr. Brocklehurst in them, the ones that are present are completely accurate, compared to the ones they manufacture for their own purposes in the 1996 version. Like the book, the Brocklehurst here doesn't immediately call out Jane as a liar, he only remembers to do so on one of his few visits to the actual institution. In the 1996 version Brocklehurst seemed to always be hovering around somewhere and thankfully here he isn't. The bit about the hair cutting also isn't inaccurately emphasized and through a voice-over Jane explicitly makes reference to the Typhus outbreak which caused the deaths of many students.

  • Timothy Dalton as Rochester: His portrayal of Mr. Rochester is the BEST part of this adaption. That accent!!! He has a perfect range of emotions and captures Rochester rough, sometimes too rough, character. He also pulls off some pretty great chemistry with Zelah despite her slightly lackluster performance. He even accurately portrays the fortune telling gypsy, which is a scene that many adaptions either alter or cut out completely. If Dalton hadn't been in this adaption it would definitely not be my second favorite.

  • The scene where Rochester and Jane meet for the first time on the road is perfectly gothic and full of emotion. Rochester's accident was entirely believable and executed well.

  • This version is the only one to accurately portray the struggles that Jane encounters after she leaves Rochester. While the begging scenes were uncomfortable to watch and to read for that matter I feel that they are integral to the story. Viewers get to see how difficult it was for women to find work in the 19th century. Not to mention it really emphasizes the struggle that Jane's character is faced with the moment she leaves Rochester. I just hate it when other adaptions have Jane magically find her way to St. John. I'd also like to point out that these scenes were the only ones where I thought Zelah did a magnificent job portraying believable emotion.
Now how about we tackle the long list of cons that I managed to accumulate over the course of the 5 hours it took to watch this adaption

  •    Zelah Clarke as adult Jane: I found her performance as Jane to be incredibly weak and when I went over my notes to write this post the one con that I repeat over and over is the fact that she can't carry any of the emotional scenes. Aside from the begging scenes, every time Zelah is faced with an emotional scene she breaks the mood because it instantly becomes full of nauseating melodrama. This completely ruined the proposal scene for me and the scene where Rochester tries to convince Jane to stay with him.
               -Another problem I had that is tied to Zelah Clarke's portrayal of Jane is her age. In the book Jane is about 18 or 19 years old, but Zelah in this version looks to be about in her 30s. Now normally I wouldn't complain about the ages of the actors portraying Jane; In fact my favorite adaption has a Jane that isn't exactly the same age as she is in the book. The problem is that this version constantly makes reference to how "Jane is only just a girl of 19" or "Jane you are so young and inexperienced" and even "Jane, Mr. Rochester could be your father." If you are going to have an older actor portray Jane the least you could do is remove the numerous references to her age. When Mrs. Fairfax uses all of those sayings when trying to deter Jane from marrying Rochester I laughed out loud for a solid 5 minutes. Nothing quite like telling a 30 year old she is so young and inexperienced. By those calculations Rochester would have to be about 60 years old.

  • Helen Burns: For some strange reason it seems that much of Jane and Helen's relationship made the cutting room floor and that made me so disappointed. Viewers get a glimpse of her piety, morality, and kindness, but we hardly get to see their friendship blossom. Additionally for some strange reason they cut her death scene entirely, which robs everyone of a tender and emotionally wrought scene. With so much detail added to Jane's childhood  I have to wonder why the most significant part of her childhood is left unexplored.

  • The transitions between scenes are rather jerky and confusing...that is when the filmmakers decide to put them in at all. In fact many scenes completely lack transitions at all, which makes it all the more annoying when they cut out scenes and jump forward in time. I was positively angry when there was no semblance of a transition between Fairfax warning Jane away from Rochester and the veil tearing scene. If you've read the book you know there are a ton of events that happen in between that are confusingly cut out like when Rochester takes Jane shopping in the new coach. The complete lack of helpful transitions ultimately made the action in the movie very choppy and jarring.

  • Blanche: The portrayal of Blanche in this movie was positively weak and I never saw her as a romantic rival to Jane. Blanche's lines are cut down to the bare minimum and she hardly ever appears on camera. I miss her annoying upperclass haughtiness and privilege. Not to mention the fact that the scene in which she condemns governesses had no emotional impact and could never have realistically reduced Jane to tears.

  • Mrs. Reed's Illness and Death: The scenes involving the ill Mrs. Reed were entirely overacted and melodramatic. Not to mention I just love the highly descriptive line "I am ill" *sarcasm hand*. The cherry on top of this crappy scene sundae is that Mrs. Reed is dispatched rather quickly and we never get any significant moments where Jane interacts with her cousins.

  • The awful soundtrack: It seems that both this version and the 1996 version have something else in common. The soundtrack to this film was SO AWFUL. The music was incredibly annoying at times and it was so intrusive. For some reason the makers of this film had the stupid idea that blaring the soundtrack between scenes somehow constituted as transitions. Additionally, there are numerous times where perfectly crafted moods in some of the scenes are completely shattered when the background music starts playing. It even ruins the ending of the film completely for me. When Jane and Rochester finally reunite and she agrees to marry him, I'm so happy for them and that is the emotion that I want to maintain right up until the movie fades to black. Instead, while Jane is giving us an expositional voice over at the end, the music for some reason turns ominous and completely ruins all of my happiness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On that exclamation filled note that is all the cons I have for this particular adaption. After considering this movie in general it seems that the true merit of it lies in its faithfulness to the book and the excellent acting of Timothy Dalton. While this isn't the version that I would break out when I have the urge to watch Jane Eyre, its still an adaption worthy of people's time and I don't regret watching it.

I hope to get around to watching another adaption of the fabulous Jane Eyre sometime soon, but until then Best Wishes!        
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jane Eyre Watch-A-Thon: Jane Eyre (1996)

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I would eventually be getting around to doing another watch-a-thon and finally I got a little bit of free time in my schedule. Last night I cuddled up with a cup of tea, my notebook, and set out watching the first in many adaptions of the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Sadly, I didn't have the time to watch one of the amazingly comprehensive adaptions, so I ended up settling for one of Hollywood's renditions. So without further ado let's get started.




Jane Eyre (1996)
Starring William Hurt as Mr. Rochester, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre, and Anna Paquin as Young Jane Eyre
Runtime: 116 minutes (About 2 hours...which is typically the norm for all Hollywood adaptions)
Here is a link to the IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116684/  

Right off the bat I'd just like to say whoever gave this movie 4 stars really needs to be their head checked out pretty fast. Upon revisiting this adaption I found myself not liking this version as much as I had when I first bought it. That being said this isn't the worst adaption of Jane Eyre but it's a far cry from the best as well. As per usual with the movies I don't quite enjoy, I'll start with the pros because there are so few of them.

Pros:

Jane Voiceover: While some people might find this a bit tacky, I rather enjoyed the voiceover that Gainsbourg as Jane provides at the beginning and end of the movie. It gives audiences almost the same feeling as reading the book because Jane is narrating her own story. So many of these adaptions get lost in the romance of Jane and Rochester that they seem to forget that this is Jane's story, her Bildungsroman that we get the chance to experience with her.

Setting and Attire: Everything seemed to be historically accurate to me, but there were a few moments where I was questioning what Rochester was wearing. That green velvet coat he wears half the time made me want to vomit.

The Red Room: I was so happy when I found out this scene actually made it into this version. Usually this makes the cutting room floor in most adaptions despite the fact that it really is a significant event in young Jane's childhood. I just wish that they would have pointed out in the movie that it was the room that Mr. Reed died in because for audiences who haven't read the book I can bet they are a little confused about why Jane is freaking out so much.

Anna Paquin as Young Jane: Out of all the versions I've watched her performance as Jane sticks out for me and I love it so much. None of the others really can compare to it and had this movie lacked her performance I might have considered it one of the worst adaptions. Paquin portrays a feistier Jane than what is represented in the book, but I still love it. She perfectly delivers the line about how she must keep well and never die to avoid hell.

Pros/Cons
These are the aspects that I really couldn't place in either the pro or con category. You'll see why.

Mr. Brocklehurst: This particular incarnation of Brocklehurst has some hits and some misses. I applaud the fact that the actor has his annoying sermonizing down pat and his particular brand of pious carelessness. In this version Brocklehurst is always hovering around, which is not something he does in the novel. The movie also ignores the hypocritical nature of his character. They make the haircutting scene rather prominent about how the vain girls shouldn't have braids or curls, but the makers of the movie completely missed the opportunity to include the scene where Brocklehurst's family shows up and all the ladies have prettily curled and braided hair.

The Jane and Helen Friendship: I found the representation of their friendship to be incredibly lacking, but I think that has to do with the limited time allotment. So much more could have been included to make the friendship more tender and believable. I do have to say though that I liked the scene with Jane and Helen before she dies. It was really heartbreaking and made me feel incredibly sad for Jane...that being said I think the success of that scene was due to Paquin's great acting.  

Here's the part where I list all of the cons, so you better get comfy. Maybe get a cup of tea or coffee :) I do have to say that most of these cons are related to the fact that with a limited time allotment, so much was cut out or edited for the worse. Since there are so many points I'll just be putting them in a bulleted list for convenience.

  • The childhood scenes are cut down to the basic essentials. So many significant events are cast aside to be able to devote more time to the Jane and Rochester romance and that sucks. I missed the book scene where John antagonizes Jane and she gets punished for it. Her time at Lowood is also rather spare and lacking detail.
  • The musical score for this movie is SO OBNOXIOUS. In the first 5 minutes of the opening sequence I thought it was rather beautiful and then it just went downhill from there. Every scene begins with a crescendo of the same score over and over again and it really takes away from the action. The soundtrack to a movie is supposed to heighten the mood not completely destroy it.
  • The highly emphasized hair cutting scene is not exactly like it was portrayed in the book. Neither Helen nor Jane get their hair cut off and Jane isn't so overtly defiant as she is portrayed in this scene. I feel like there were some many interesting childhood scenes in the book that the creator of the movie didn't need to basically invent one to keep the plot during the Lowood scenes from being stagnant.
  • The quickness of the story telling was also pretty terrible in relation to Helen's character. We barely get introduced to her and then she gets dispatched rather quickly. I feel like the audience should have been given more scenes with her that way when she dies we can get all emotional over it.
  • The representation of the Lowood school is pretty tame in this version. Aside from the frozen water scene we don't see anything inherently wrong with the school. If you've read the book you know it really was lucky of Jane to have survived that place what with the shortages of food and the mass typhus outbreak.
  • Here Helen gets a pretty substantial gravestone whereas in the book Helen has no grave marking. When Jane finds out she has inherited her uncle's money she goes back and gets her a gravestone. Speaking of the gravestone, it's also the site of the worst transition I think I've ever experienced in a movie. Not only is it disorienting, but it cuts out SO much of the story. We never get to see Jane grow up or become a teacher. We never see how Helen's death affects the young Jane.
  • Miss Temple's character is also cut back pretty substantially and even changed. One of the factors that causes Jane to advertise for a governess position in the first place is because Miss Temple is getting married and leaving Lowood. This would leave Jane without any real friend at the school. Their friendship also goes beyond Miss Temple giving her lofty advice. I also want the movie to show me that Miss Temple and Jane have developed a great friendship throughout the years not have Jane tell me "Oh Miss Temple you are my one true friend." The whole point of the movie is to show me what I've been reading. If it can't do that I might as well read the book instead.
  • Gainsbourg as Jane: While Gainsbourg does look like the same age as Jane should be, she is rather gangly and awkward in some of her scenes. Not to mention she severely lacks inflection in her voice. Every line is given in that same hushed voice that does nothing to help the mood of the scenes. Some variance of emotion would have been lovely.
  • Fairfax is a little too chipper and overly friendly in my opinion. She is more like a lovable grandmother.
  • There is barely any chemistry between Jane and Rochester. I wrote this con in my notebook 3 times over the course of the entire movie. The problem I have is if you are going to make the conscious decision to cut out a ton of stuff to make room for the Jane and Rochester romance, the least you can do is make sure your actors can pull off some fantastic romantic scenes. So many of them went completely flat. The scene where Jane saves Rochester from burning in his bed had no chemistry whatsoever. I think they tried to compensate for the lack of chemistry by zooming in super close and playing that awful romantic music in the background. They also lack the witty back and forth that characterizes their relationship. This movie also never allows their friendship to develop either:(
  • The first encounter between Jane and Rochester also completely lacked drama and chemistry. Rather than having it be an ominous foggy day with Jane posting some letters, she randomly decides to abandon Adele in the classroom with ONE math problem while she decides to take a walk. Rochester's accident was so terribly staged that I actually laughed out loud when he fell down. Rather than have the horse buck or have Rochester hit a patch of ice, Hurt's Rochester awkwardly looks back at Jane, conveniently rides his horse into the soft grass and then randomly topples over. It was so awful and unbelievable.
  • There was no gypsy scene, so it's yet another opportunity missed the ratchet up the chemistry between Jane and Rochester. Not to mention that would have been a great way to have some character development for Jane.
  • St. John's character is completely screwed up and is hardly recognizable from the book. Apparently now he doubles as a lawyer who tells Jane that she has inherited from her uncle and he only has one sister. Not to mention the fact that Jane comes to him when she finds out her aunt is sick?!?
  • There is no struggle for Jane when she leaves Rochester after she finds out about Bertha. She doesn't wander the moors. Instead she purposely rides a carriage to St. John's house where she melodramatically collapses. Because St. John already knows who she is there is no lying about her name. Instead he gives Jane her inheritance, thereby eliminating the storyline where Jane works as a schoolteacher. The movie even fast forwards so we don't get any relationship building between St. John and his sister. We get a voice that again that tells us and doesn't show us that the three of them are friends.
  • Remember the scenes after Jane leaves to see her dying aunt. I mean the random montages of Rochester and Adele. I ask you WHY must there always be a STUPID CLIFF scene to indicate that the characters are thinking deeply. Can we all just agree to end that stupid cliché and find something different. Good?...good.
  • Jane's awesome speech, you know the one that everybody connects with this book. The speech where Jane asserts her independence while revealing to Rochester that she has come to care for him, well that gets cut short!!! I love that speech and it really pissed me off that it was spat on by the creators of this film. Jane just whines and blubbers her way through part of the speech before Rochester interjects. Not to mention that this romantic scene is supposed to take place by that iconic tree that gets hit by lightning and it doesn't.
  • What follows that scene is the creepiest kissing scene that I have ever encountered in my entire life. It's like he molests her face and she really doesn't look like she's enjoying him slobber all over her cheeks and eyelids. When she kisses him, it's so painfully awkward and lacks any sort of passion that I ended up looking away until it was over.
  • There are no scenes after Jane accepts his proposal. He doesn't take her shopping nor does he buy her anything. They also don't have any cute post proposal interaction.
  • There is no veil ripping scene with Bertha and at the wedding yet again Jane has no emotion when she finds out about the existence of Bertha. In fact all of the emphasis for some reason is placed on MRS. FAIRFAX!!! HUH. We get like a solid two minutes of Fairfax looking all emotional when this moment is not about her!!
  • Additionally to cram more plot events into the limited time frame the fire at Thornfield happens as Jane is leaving Rochester. As a result, logically she should have known about it. Don't you think she would have looked back at least once and saw the ton of smoke in the air. A giant estate burning would be pretty hard to miss I'd expect.
  • The whole scene where Jane hears Rochester is also completely messed up. The scene takes on particular significance because even far away the two of them are connected and Jane can't help but run to a suffering Rochester. Instead she hears him and leisurely talks to St. John about marrying him which if you stop listening for a few seconds you'll never know happened.
  • Rochester is never at Ferndean. Instead he seems to inhabit an unburnt corner of Thornfield where Mrs. Fairfax takes care of him rather than John and Mary. 
  • Rochester's injuries are also not accurately represented and nobody tells Jane what happened. She walks in to find the house is burnt and Rochester is blind and she doesn't ask a single question. I have no suspension of disbelief at this point.
  • The final scene is so full of clichéd dialogue and complete lack of chemistry yet again that it ends the movie at the lowest point possible. As if that wasn't enough, the terrible movie soundtrack kicks in again to remind you that there is no possible way you will get any enjoyment from Jane and Rochester finally getting together.   
As you can probably tell from the substantial list of cons, I didn't particularly enjoy this version. I acknowledge that some of the plot has to be cut in order to make the 2 hour limit, but I hate that at some points in the movie the story is unrecognizable. If you are looking for a movie adaption to introduce you to the story of Jane Eyre or like me you read the book and want to see a movie adaption, I urge you not to pick this one up. It doesn't do the book justice.

If you liked this post well you're in luck. There are still plenty of movie adaptions to cover, so stay tuned for my next Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon post.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Books You Hate, But Also Respect

Well hello there! It has been quite some time hasn't it. My sad absence was not intentional, but rather has been due to the loads of reading I've been assigned these first couple of weeks at college. Oh English Major problems. That being said the only books I have time to read are the ones assigned to me:( It will be a little while before I can get back to posting about the books that I actually derive some pleasure from reading, so bear with me and we will all make it to midterm break unscathed.

Strangely enough though the books that I've been reading thus far have sparked this post. I was in the middle of reading D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow for the second time and thinking to myself that it really doesn't get better on the second read. I REALLY don't like this book, but the intellectual discussion it sparks in class is really rather interesting. I ended up coming to the astounding conclusion that while I hate this book with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, I can't help but respect what Lawrence was trying to do with The Rainbow.

Let me first discuss why I really can't stand reading Lawrence's book. Throughout my life I and maybe even you have been conditioned to expect a few things from everything you read. Naturally I expect the book to have a discernible plotline; something that I can trace throughout the course of the novel. I also expect there to be a modicum of character description and development. I have to know the characters and be willing to go on their developmental journey with them. The character's thoughts, feelings, and actions also have to be believable and rational.

You would think that a novel without any sort of real plotline, irrational characters, and little to no character development would never be allowed to be published and should not in fact exist....well you are SO WRONG. This is exactly the description that I would give about The Rainbow. The plot (if that's what you would like to call it) is about following the Brangwen family through the generations. Each of the characters just sort of meanders their way through their lives without really developing in any sort of way. Oh and let's not forget the book is literally drowning in details about what twisted sexually deviant thoughts the characters are dealing with. When the author decides to get around to actual plot descriptions, they are pitifully sparse. Frequently a character's death with be dispatched in one sentence without any real description.

The relationships between the characters are also highly irrational and often uncomfortable to read at times. One moment a couple will feel intense passion for each other and then without any sort of justification are consumed with an intense hatred for each other. I'd rather not discuss at length the creepy father and daughter relationships that go on during the course of the novel. I would tell you to find out for yourself, but I wouldn't wish this book on even my worst enemy.

Now that I've ranted about the book that has made the past two weeks of my life torture, let me get on to discussing why after all that do I still manage to respect Lawrence. I can see that he was going for a different type of novel. His novel is not wrapped in plot points, but instead deals with the psychology of his characters. He tries to make the point to his audience though his weird characters that people have this unconscious center of their self that they really have no idea about and completely differs from who you are in your conscious mind. His characters are constantly wrestling with ideas of who they think they are without ever really coming to any concrete solution. Not to mention Lawrence deals with the conflict between the individual and society. As individuals we strive to have our own distinct identity separate from society around us, but in reality we can't help but be shaped by the world around us.

Lawrence also puts his imagery and allusions above a plotline as well. Peppered in all of the chapters is this recurring reference to Noah's Flood (heck even the title relates to that story). We constantly get the descriptions of characters feeling like they have endured a flood and come out somehow clearer minded...that is until they are exposed to the outside world again. This coincides with other post apocalyptical imagery. So yeah...pretty complicated stuff right.

Hopefully you see what I mean when I say that this just happens to be one of those books that I can't stand to read, but somehow manage to have some respect for what the author was trying to accomplish. I can hazard a guess and say that many of you have encountered the same feeling that I seem to be having. Was there a particular book that you thought of the moment you read the title of this post?

All I can say with certainty is I'm looking forward to writing my analytical paper on this book and then chucking it into some dark corner, where come December I'll happily sell it off to some poor soul who will be forced to read it next semester.

Well that's all I have for today, so until my next post try to read something fun for me and always remember to be totally awesome!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth


Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Page #: 487
Name and # of Series: Book 1 in Divergent Trilogy
Rating:     
 
Book Blurb: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review:
So many people have been talking about this book and I had a number of friends tell me that I had to read this book. As everyone knows by now I have a weakness for popular books and the minute I saw a used copy of Divergent I snatched it up and finally began reading it.

Some of you will notice that I have already marked this book as finished on Goodreads and I neglected to post a review there. This was consciously done obviously. If you take one look at the reviews that have already been written, you'll basically see a gigantic mess of people either professing their eternal love for the book or those who profoundly hate it. I don't want to get involved in that, so I figured I would post my own honest review here where there is less chance for drama.

I would just like to make it clear right away that I belong to neither of those camps. I both enjoyed the book for its entertainment value and couldn't help but notice some of its glaring flaws, flaws that I will completely address in this review. * I am warning you here and now there will be spoilers, so please don't read on if you don't want to be spoiled*

Let's start off with the fact that Divergent is a YA Dystopian novel that solidly follows the typical tropes of the genre. The minute that I started reading, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins popped into my head. I tried hard not to think about it, but "factions" defined by one characteristic seems pretty similar to "Districts" defined by one occupation. I also felt like Tris' initiation had the same flavor and push for survival as the hunger games.

The main problem I think this book suffers from is the fact that the Dystopian genre is currently the "it" genre of the moment and a story has to be very original in order to stand out in a positive light. Roth would have been successful in this aspect had she provided more backstory or "world building" as other reviewers like to call it. I wanted to know more about this war that convinced people to make the illogical decision to split into factions (which makes no sense in a futuristic society where history has shown that societal rifts based on race, religion, and differing cultures has always led to war...but suspension of disbelief right?) Not to mention the fact that repeatedly the Dauntless have been referred to as the protectors from some outside threat. What threat? It's never mentioned and I'm of the opinion that its not some detail you should leave to be explained in the rest of the series. I also want to know more about the society before the war. Have they had any technological advances and how far into the future is this factioned Chicago? All of these plot holes prevented me from becoming truly immersed in Tris' world.

My next complaint is the lack of skilled foreshadowing. The minute Four was introduced I knew he was really Tobias because of the completely out of place and obvious discussion held about Marcus's son earlier in the book. I honestly think that if the pre-story had been cut out, the revelation that Tris has about Four being a previous abnegation member would have packed more of a punch. I obviously knew that the society was going to fall apart and that Tris would choose Dauntless based upon that awkwardly long moment where she gazes at the Dauntless train jumping.

Another small complaint that I have is the missing chapter transition between the Dauntless initiation ceremony and the brainwashed Dauntless attack on Abnegation. Tris surprisingly (not surprisingly) realizes that the injections will influence the Dauntless to fight for Jeanine and then I turn the page and the fighting has already begun. I was so confused due to the time gap that I actually checked to make sure I hadn't missed a page or a whole chapter for that matter. As much as I hate the going to bed and then waking up transitions, had that been better integrated I wouldn't be complaining.

Speaking of the decline of the factioned society, did anyone else feel slapped in the face with religious undertones? No? Just me? I'm going to rant about it anyway. I don't mind when books integrate religion into their plot, but it really has to be done tastefully and with tact. Not all of your readers are religious or even Christian for that matter. I almost considered taking this book down to 3 stars because of the overt religious references. "Valuing knowledge above all else results in a lust for power, and that leads men into dark and empty places" What does that remind you of...oh yeah... the fall of man and the story of Adam and Eve. Here we have the Erudite faction that values the quest for knowledge and SHOCKER it's headed by a woman whose knowledge has corrupted her and caused the whole downfall of a society.  Nothing quite like making the Eve figure the villain of an entire series.

There also were a whole lot of unnecessary deaths at the end of the book that carried no real shock power because readers never had a chance to connect with those characters in the first place. Character deaths are only useful when they generate emotion and it's possible to carry it out in one book. Take for example Rue in The Hunger Games. She was only in that book for a small portion, yet her death managed to make me pretty sad while reading it and it made me teary eyed when I watched the film. The death of Tris' parents were just uneventful blips that even she brushes off.  Speaking of Tris...

While I loved the continuous inner struggle that Tris has over her faction choice and her inability to be selfless, that awesome character development took a long walk off a short pier and disappeared the moment she becomes interested in Four and he reciprocates those feelings. She went from this strong kickass heroine to a sad Bella Swan-esque incarnation. All she ever does is comment on how unattractive she is and how completely undeserving she is of the hot boy's attention. Not to mention the fact that she stops spending time with her friends and keeps secrets from them in favor of devoting all the time she can on Four. She isn't even the one to resolve the central conflict of this book, which is what the heroine should do. No, instead she saves Four, who then saves the day by ruining the program controlling all the Dauntless. I'm crossing my fingers that this is remedied in the next book in the series.

As I've previously stated these are quite a lot of obvious flaws that I couldn't ignore while reading, but I have to acknowledge the fact that I still enjoyed reading the book. Its fast paced and action packed plotline kept me interested and I never encountered a boring moment. The ending also had enough of a cliffhanger to make me want to read the next book in the series and I plan to as soon as I get around to buying a copy. I'm also looking forward to watching the movie adaption and was pleasantly surprised to see the guy that played Pamuk in Downton Abbey is playing Four. If you enjoy fast-paced YA Dystopian novels, I would recommend that you give this book a chance and see how you like it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

FIRST REVIEW!!! WOOO!!




Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Page #: 486
Name and # of Series: Book 1 in El Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados
Rating:


Book Blurb: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Review:
It's not a coincidence that this book is my very first blog review. The minute that I started reading it I just knew that I had to talk about it to anyone and everyone that would listen. The Shadow of the Wind wholly deserves the 5 star rating that I gave it and maybe bonus points for being so much better than I expected when I bought the book.

It has been quite a long time since I've read such an amazing adult novel and it's a refreshing change from the disappointing adult books I've read of late. The concept drew me in immediately because who doesn't want to read a book about characters whose lives are also affected by the written word. Not to mention the fact that the edition I own has a cover and spine printed to look like an old leather bound book, which is AWESOME and got my attention the moment I saw it.

The prose is wonderfully written and has such great description, which is completely shocking considering this was translated from Spanish. Normally some books lose their quality in translation, so I think we should all give props to the translator, Lucia Graves. In my mind I could completely envision post war Barcelona and I desperately wished that The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (the title of the series for all those who don't understand Spanish) actually existed.

In addition to the beautiful writing style, this book is full of perfect lines that make memorable quotes. For example on page 484 Daniel recalls something Bea (his romantic interest and best friend's sister) said: "Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day."

How completely true and amazing is that?!!?!?!?!

As for the tempo and plot of the book, it isn't fast-paced. In any other book that would be an aspect that I would complain about for hours, but here it completely works. The story never gets stagnant; it just skillfully and delicately unfolds. Had this been a plot driven book about Daniel discovering the mystery of Julian Carax's past, I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite so much.

Another aspect that firmly plants this book in the 5 star category is Daniel's point of view/narration. What Zafron did perfectly was give his character a unique voice that made him engaging and relatable. I don't know about you, but I could see a little of myself in Daniel and I bet other book lovers will as well. Not the whole navigating the transition from child to teenage boy (which was great character development by the way), but discovering a book and possessing the need to know more about the author. When I was in elementary school, I discovered a love of Roald Dahl and by the time I hit middle school I had to know more about the author whose words gave me so much entertainment, so I read his biographies Boy and Going Solo. The same goes for Agatha Christie, only I went farther by choosing her life as the topic of my 9th grade research paper. This similarity was what kept me so interested in Daniel's story and Julian's for that matter...which brings me to my next point.

I loved the subtle similarities between Daniel and Julian. From their difficult romantic relationships and the threat of being drafted into the army right down to them both possessing the same exact pen their lives seem to mirror each other. Their relationship is more than just a reader obsessed with a mysterious author.

By the time I reached the end of the book I realized that I was interested in more than just the gothic toned mystery of Julian's life and the burning of his books. I cared about the numerous characters and how their lives progressed, thus proving again that fantastic books are character driven with an intriguing plotline to back it up.

As soon as I can I will most definitely be picking up the sequels to The Shadow of the Wind and reading them as fast as possible. I highly recommend that you read this book. You won't regret it.

End of August Updates!

Hello! I dragged my sunburnt and exhausted self back to my computer for a few minutes to give you some updates on how this blog is moving forward.

I few posts back I was considering doing some full length book reviews for this blog rather than forcing you to go to Goodreads and now that possibility has turned into an awesome reality. If you look on the left side of the page and scroll down just a tad you'll notice my brand new rating system. This is the system that I will refer to in my future reviews. Should you wonder what those random colored stars mean, that rating system will always be there for your reference.

I've recently finished two books over the course of the past week and I have plans to write reviews for the both of them. I won't reveal the titles just yet, but keep a lookout for those in the coming weeks.

How about we switch gears again. In another past post I hinted that I was considering doing an additional Watch-a-thon because I enjoyed the past one immensely. I've decided to carry through with that plan!! For all those wondering the next book that I will commit to watching all of the adaptions is..........Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

That really wasn't much of a surprise was it? I LOVE this book and over the years I've tried to watch all of the movie adaptions released. Like Pride and Prejudice I have my favorite adaptions and my not so favorite adaptions. I've just never taken the time to figure out exactly why I like or dislike an adaption. The only difference is that I won't be able to quickly release all of my reviews like the last time. I don't have all of that summer free time nor do I have every adaption readily available. Despite those setbacks there will be reviews released sporadically throughout the coming months. I'd like to think of them as random surprises.

Well that's all I have for today. Look out for those reviews and as always, Best Wishes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Used Book Haul #3

Surprise! I got in one last book shopping trip before heading back to college and I found a whole bunch of amazing books...which means that I won't be able to do a Murder Mystery Monday post.

 As a side note if you have been following my Goodreads, you've probably noticed I haven't been doing much reading as of late and that would be due to my video game addiction kicking in. I morphed into my weird teenage boy persona when I got my hands on a copy of Saints Row 4. For 3 days straight I basically played that game. I was determined to beat it before going to college on Monday and I did. Now I've come back to reality and the mound of packing I still have left to do.

For all those wondering, yes you should pick up a copy of Saints Row 4. It was SO AMAZING!!! The fourth installment of the franchise completely redeemed itself and helped ease the pain of the poor quality of Saints Row 3.

Back to the book haul. Here is what I picked up a couple of days ago.



Agatha Christie Omnibus: I came across this and immediately snapped it up because I haven't read A Pocket Full of Rye nor do I own a copy. The rest of the stories included I've previously read and own. The thing about my Agatha Christie love is that I refuse to pay full price for her books. They have gone through so many reprints that I can always find at least one copy of anything she has written in every used book store.

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak: When I read this book for the first time I completely and utterly fell in love with it. The story was so inventive and captivating and I couldn't put it down. Sadly, that was a library copy and I've always wanted to own the book since then. I never got around to buying it at a bookstore and when I saw this used copy I snatched it up. I'm planning on rereading this book sometime soon because I want to relive the awesomeness. A movie adaption of this book is already in the works and I'm crossing my fingers that they don't ruin it. A teaser trailer is already out, but it's so disappointingly vague that I refuse to make any judgments on the movie just yet. If you haven't read this book you need to drop whatever you're doing and read it.

Sweep by Cate Tiernan: I'm always happy when publishers decide to make an omnibus of a series because they are cheaper than actually buying every single book. The blurb of this series sounded interesting, so I grabbed this copy. Hopefully it will turn out to be a great series.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron: The spine of this book actually caught my eye when I saw it (further proof that cover and spine art are incredibly important). I read the blurb and immediately wanted to start reading it...so it did. I'm about 150 or so pages in and this might actually be the book that I do my first real review of.

 The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon: Not a whole lot to say about this book. The blurb sounded interesting and I bought it.

Daphne Du Maurier Omnibus: For years now I have been wanting to read Rebecca and I was completely willing to pay full bookstore price, but the Barnes and Noble near my house never carried a copy. I can't wait to see how good it is with the added bonus of being able to read more of Du Maurier's writing when I'm done.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: I've heard nothing but great things about this book and I'm a bit ashamed that I haven't read it sooner. My friends have been raving about the series and I can't wait to see what all the hype is about. On the bright side I can immediately pick up the sequel if this turns out to be great.

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan: I've always been a fan of Duncan's work since middle school and that love is still strong well into college. This is a title I haven't read yet and I just know it will make for a nice afternoon read.

Well that's it for my haul. I hope some of these titles intrigued you like they did me. I'm off to update my TBR pile. Best Wishes!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Murder Mystery Monday #4

Shocked? I actually managed to read another mystery before today and that means it'll be a good week.  If you remember I was part of the way through Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie when my Summer Read-a-thon challenge. I decided to finish the rest of it and talk about it for this Mondays post.

Quick Summary: Hercule Poirot encounters a man named Mr. Shaitana who tells Poirot that he collects interesting objects, a few that in the same line of work as Poirot. Those particular rare "objects" that he is referring to are people who have managed to get away with murder. Shaitana invites Poirot to a party where Shaitana plans to show him the murderers who got away with their crimes. Poirot arrives and discovers that in addition to the four murderers, Shaitana has invited Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Battle, and Colonel Race, all sleuths in their own right. As the evening progresses, Shaitana arranges two bridge games: one with the sleuths and another with the murderers. Then he leaves the sleuths and stays in the same room as the murderers. When Poirot and the other players wrap up their game, they go to check on the other bridge game only to discover that Shaitana has been stabbed and is now dead. The four sleuths work together to determine which of the murderers has decided to take another life and in order to do that they must look into the pasts of the murderers.

This book intrigued me because I've read on a number of occasions that this particular case was Poirot's favorite and I finally figured out why. As Agatha Christie mentions in the preface, this is a purely psychological murder. With barely any physical evidence and no eye witness, Poirot insists that the murderer of Shaitana would have committed it in the same way as they had in the past. This book is also unique in that it only has 4 suspects, but despite that Christie keeps you confused over who really killed Shaitana. In fact I suspected one person from the get go and was convinced to suspect another person only to have it turn out that my first instinct was completely correct.

To continue on the topic that I discussed in my last Mystery Monday post I am even more convinced that Ariadne is actually Agatha Christie herself. In this book readers learn that Ariadne has a finnish detective character named Sven. Ariadne talks about how she doesn't quite appreciate her character and regrets making him foreign without knowing much about his culture. I have to wonder if this is how Christie feels about Hercule.

My one problem with the book has to be the fact that Shaitana is referred to again and again and again as having a Mephistophelian look about him. I got the allusion the first time and I didn't need it repeated throughout the story. I'd like to think it would be even more annoying for readers who haven't read Faustus.

This book has a movie adaption starring David Suchet that does vary quite a bit from the original plotline. While the murderer and the death of Shaitana are the same, some of the characters names and backgrounds have changed. Despite the fact that it does differ from the book, it was an enjoyable movie.

This was a quick read and I highly suggest that you check it out the next time you're looking to read a good mystery novel


Changing topics quickly, in these last few days before my sad and inevitable return to college I will be trying to read a few more books so that I have something interesting to discuss that isn't Chaucer, D.H. Lawrence, or the Romantic poets. My goal is to make sure that I read another mystery novel before next Monday rolls around and write up my fifth Murder Mystery Monday post. I'm also considering starting up another watch-a-thon, but more on that later on in the week.

Also you may have noticed that I'm currently reading another Agatha Christie book that won't be in one of my Murder Mystery Posts. The surprising reason for that is because The Golden Ball and Other Stories isn't a mystery short story collection. Some of them have a romantic tone to them while others show off Christie's ability to dabble in the supernatural genre. I'm really enjoying this new side of my favorite author and I wish that she had written a full length novel in the supernatural genre.

In other mystery news, did any of you catch the season finale of Whodunnit? That would be the show that I recommended a week ago. I wont spoil it for those who haven't had a chance to see it, but I found the ending to be incredibly disappointing. Maybe it was because I was rooting for an underdog to win, not the annoying and conniving prick that did win. Even with the crappy finale, I still hope that this show can come back for a second season.

If you are bored in these last few moments of summer I highly suggest that you check out these two books or if you are in the mood to play some video games you should look into those based on Christie's books.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Read-a-thon: Day 7 & Wrap Up

Well it looks like we made it. A week of reading has finally passed and I can say I'm no worse for the wear. I managed to finish 5 books that I wouldn't have normally read this quickly under different circumstances. While I didn't enjoy all of the books I read, I'm just glad to get them out of my TBR pile.

Now on to todays page counts. I finally finished Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie, which adds 96 pages to my total and brings it up to 1425 pages. I forgot to mention this in my Murder Mystery Monday post but for all those interested in the different adaptions of the book there is a fun hidden object game based on the story with the same title and there is currently a movie adaption starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot (I can't tell you how it is because I refuse to watch it. Ustinov is a terrible Poirot). For all those like myself who see David Suchet as the one and only Poirot, there will be an adaption of Dead Man's Folly starring him which is slated to be released sometime this year. I just wish they would hurry up and release it already.

Moving on. After that I picked up the book Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie and managed to read 60 pages.
 Factoring in those last few pages my final total for the entire Summer Read-a-thon challenge is..... 1485 pages!!

Now that this week is finally behind me I will sadly have to face reality and read my other summer reading book (not the fun kind, the college kind sigh). Maybe just one more Downton Abbey episode before then... :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Murder Mystery Monday #3

I'm taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming (reading of course) to bring you my next installment in my Murder Mystery Mondays as promised. I was planning on discussing two books today, but sadly I am only about halfway through the book I was intending to present. but have no fear. This will still be a double Mystery Monday. How about I start off with the book I've been reading for the past two days or so and that is Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie. As usual I will provide a quick synopsis for those who haven't read the book and I promise no spoilers.

The premise of this book is Sir George Stubbs is putting on a fete at Nasse Hall, where one of the attractions will be a murder hunt organized by the wonderful mystery writer and friend of Poirot named Ariadne Oliver. The only problem is that is the process of organizing the hunt, Mrs. Oliver has the sinking feeling that an actual murder might occur. Acting on her instincts she calls in Poirot under the pretense of handing out the prizes for the hunt. When the designated victim of the hunt, Marlene Tucker, is actually murdered and Sir George's wife Hattie Stubbs has gone missing it's up to Poirot to discover who the murderer is and where exactly Lady Stubbs has disappeared to.

In usual Christie fashion my hunches were completely wrong and I was pretty shocked by the ending. On the way though I did make a few observations other than the ones I pointed out yesterday.

The first is I have to wonder if Ariadne Oliver truly is Agatha Christie writing herself into her novels and giving her two cents on the issues at hand. Here Ariadne talks about how difficult it is to put together a mystery that makes complete sense and doesn't have an plot holes. She also talks about how she has a hard time keeping everything straight in her mind. This seems to be an accurate description of Christie herself if you've ever taken the time to read Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran

This book discusses all the of the notebooks that she kept where she organized all of her plotlines and is a must read for anyone that considers themselves an Agatha Christie fan.

Another aspect of this book and the genre in general is the distrust of foreigners. Agatha Christie is known for using this to her advantage. She taps into the psychology that people seem to distrust people or cultures we are unfamiliar with and then promptly manipulates that suspicion by making the actual murder someone that we would normally trust or rule out like a meek woman, a gentle grandmother, or even a child. In Dead Man's Folly most of the suspicion falls on Etienne, Hattie's foreign and mysterious cousin while the rest of the characters suspect some outside person from the hostel nearby. If you're lucky and refuse to fall into that trap, it becomes easier to discover who the true murderer actually is.

Another trick that I love about Christie's works, which always causes me to guess the wrong person as the murderer is that fact that she makes sure that every suspect says something peculiar to make you think that they did it. For example in this book Poirot is talking to Mrs. Folliat who was the previous owner of Nasse Hall and he tells her that it must be hard to see other people living in the house you used to own. Rather than just giving an affirmative answer she says: "So many things are hard, M. Poirot." Throws suspicion now doesn't it?

The second part of this Murder Mystery Monday post has to do with a tv show that I have been watching recently called Whodunnit.


While the season finale of this show is next Sunday, I still suggest that you check out the entire series. The premise of Whodunnit is that it's a reality tv show where a group of people are invited to Rue Manor, where they must stay for the entirety of the show, and must compete against each other to win a quarter of a million dollars. The catch is that a murderer is among them and in order to win the money they must correctly guess the murderer's identity and stay alive. In the first episode there is an initial "murder" and Giles the butler informs the contestants that they must deduce from clues left by the murderer how exactly the person dies. If they guess correctly they are spared for the next day and if they fail to get it right they receive a scared card and are in jeopardy of being "murdered", thus taking them out of the running for the cash prize.

What attracts me to this show so much is the fact that it resembles my favorite Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. In that book a group of people are murdered one by one at an isolated manor and are forced to fight for their lives by trying to find out who is the murderer among them.

Lets make something clear about this show though that I annoys the crap out of me. Everyone knows that nobody will actually be murdered and that the person designated to die is taken to special effects where they are made up to look dead. Sounds simple right? Instead the people in this competition freak out and cry at the prospect of receiving scared cards and dying...even though they AREN'T ACTUALLY GOING TO DIE! I know I would get pretty upset at losing the chance of getting a quarter of a million dollars, but I certainly wouldn't cry about it.

Aside from that I like everything else about the show. I'm always constantly speculating who the murderer is based on their observations about the crime scene or how they react. This is the kind of murder mystery show that I want on tv. In fact I vote that we get rid of NCIS or CSI or any of the other shows and replace them with shows like this. I know I would be glued to the tv.

So I hope that you will check out both the book and the show that I've talked about. You won't regret it.