Saturday, March 31, 2012

writers' bedrooms

Apartment Therapy recently posted photos of famous authors' bedrooms. Some are stark, some lavish (hello Victor Hugo), but all worth a look. 

I was hoping J.D. Salinger would be amongst them, but he was probably too much of a hermit for that. Fitzgerald would have been cool too. 

I'd really love to see where they all wrote though. Some (like Flannery O'Connor) did write in their bedroom, but most probably had a desk or office. I'd love to see what books they kept nearby, what trinkets decorated the shelves, if they had any inspiring images or notes displayed. It would probably be most strange and interesting to me if they had none of that at all- just a room, desk, chair, paper, and pen.

Ernest Hemingway 
Truman Capote
Virginia Woolf
Flannery O'Connor
Victor Hugo

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the hunger games movie

It's always exciting when a beloved book comes to the big screen. A week ago the first installment of The Hunger Games arrived in theaters and after hearing great things from friends, I decided it was worth the $7 and saw it yesterday night. It didn't perfectly match what I imagined after reading the books, but that's almost impossible to do. And I'm pleased to say, I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next two movies (if you were wondering, Catching Fire will come to theatres in November 2013).

Of course I prefer the book though. It's incredibly rare that I'll prefer a movie to its book version (unless I really disliked the book, like Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook). But at the same time, there were elements of the movie that really improved the story.

If you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want anything spoiled, don't read any further! I'm going to detail things I liked and didn't like about the movie. Here we go!


- Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Katniss. She really brought the character to life. I don't think I'd have changed a thing about her performance.

- Katniss deserved her own mention, but really all the characters were portrayed very well. Usually I have a lot of nit-picky criticisms for book characters in movies (like with Harry Potter, which I love regardless), but they did a wonderful job with the casting. Prim, Mrs. Everdeen, Gale, Haymitch, Effie Trinket, Rue, Foxface. Almost everyone was very close to what I pictured (my two small complaints are listed below).

- The one way the movie surpasses the book: multiple POVs. This probably wouldn't even have worked in the book, but it was great in the movie. We saw the games not only through Katniss's eyes, but through the eyes of the Game Makers as well. I loved seeing them create the arena and plant obstacles as they pleased. It brought a whole new dimension to the story.


- Peeta wasn't perfect for me in appearance, but Josh Hutcherson's acting had me mostly convinced of him by the end. Cinna too wasn't quite what I imagined (I didn't think he'd be quite so serious, I guess? And his appearance was more plain than I pictured), but it didn't really bother me.

- We lose Katniss's narration. Without it, we aren't able to really know what she's feeling. I understand why the movie doesn't include it (I would have made the same choice if I were the director), but this is one way the book surpasses the movie.

- No Avox. These punished citizens who are kept as slaves and have had their tongues cut out are not introduced in the movie unless you count a casual mention that the Capitol might cut out your tongue if you rebel. I have a strong feeling they'll make an appearance in the next movie though.

- The silly dog monsters at the end. They looked like funny dogs or warthogs, not vicious wolves like I pictured in the book (though I did dislike how they were supposed to be mutant tributes in the books).

- Glimmer is very annoying in the movie. I didn't imagine her so immature (laughing like a schoolgirl after a killing) when I read. Kato too.

- The shaky camerawork. Sometimes it helped convey the tone and I agreed with it, but other times it was annoying and distracted me from the action. Especially during fights when I wanted to see what was happening but couldn't.

All in all though, I really enjoyed it! I'm excited to see the next movie and can't wait to see the casting choices for Finnick, Johanna, and Beetee. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ttt: books to play hooky with

Today's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is "Books You Would Play Hooky With." This could be interpreted in so many different ways, but rather than commit to one, I'm going to split it into four categories: the good, the intimidating, the intellectual, and the crazy.


Top Ten Books I Would Play Hooky With


These are the books I'd skip work/school for purely for my own pleasure. Favorites that are always worth a re-read.

Harry Potter (any) by J. K. Rowling.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.


In the case that you got caught playing hooky to read, wouldn't it be nice to boast some great, rarely conquered book as the reason why? Thus . . . 

War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Ulysses by James Joyce.


Or if you can't brag about the length/complexity of the book, maybe you could show that while you were skipping class/work, you were doing it to improve your mind and finesse your writing skills. 

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.


And finally, just pretend you're bat-shit crazy. Your teacher/boss wouldn't dare confront you if they saw you spent your day off reading about psychos.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Well that was fun. And now it's time for work :P

Saturday, March 24, 2012

by joe dunthorne

I realize that most people won't find this funny if they haven't read the book, but I'm going to put it up anyway. I'm in the middle of reading Submarine right now and Dunthorne is a master of writing amusing (but not laugh out loud funny) bits. The following is from a conversation between (awkward, serious, hyper-analytical) narrator Oliver and his new girlfriend Jordana, both around 15-years-old. If it helps, and I think it does, they live in Wales and so must have fantastic Welsh accents.

So if you don't think it's funny, that's okay. Go read Submarine! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ttt: spring to-read list

I have an obsession with making lists, to put it mildly. I would count up the lists I have in Word documents on my desktop, but I don't want it to get embarrassing . . .

And really who doesn't love a good list? They're great for so many things: organizing, prioritizing, time-management, clearing one's head, procrastinating, remembering things to do or read or buy.

So when I found out about the Broke and the Bookish blog's weekly Top Ten Tuesday list, I couldn't resist joining in. Anyone is welcome and all the blogs involved are listed on the Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is "Top Ten Books on Your Spring To-Read List."

(And yes, I realize it's Wednesday today. Won't happen again).


Top Ten Books on Your Spring To-Be-Read List

1. Submarine by Joe Dunthorne. When I studied abroad in Greece last semester, I happened to come across Joe Dunthorne doing a reading for a tiny (but beautiful!) bookshop's mini literary festival. He was also on my flight back to Athens the next morning. I don't think I'd ever seen a real, big-time author before in real life, so it was pretty cool. Needless to say, his first novel, Submarine was immediately added to my to-read list. It's supposed to be hilarious, plus it's set in Wales, plus they've already made a movie version (which I can't wait to watch). I only wish I'd gotten Dunthorne's autograph.

2. I'm Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti. This has been at the top of my to-read list forever and I'm getting tired of seeing it there (the curse of an A last name, Ammaniti). It's been at least six years. It needs to be read.

3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Since I read The Handmaid's Tale a few years ago I've been meaning to read another book by Margaret Atwood. I have a funny feeling she's going to become one of my favorite authors someday.

4. Vixen by Jillian Larkin. It's been forever since I read a historical fiction. Or a love story. Or anything involving a flapper (I don't think I've read about any flappers outside my class on Fitzgerald and Hemingway, actually). 

5. The Meaning of Night Michael Cox. Another good looking historical fiction. I've missed them!

6. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue. And yet another. Can you tell what I'm in the mood for? Plus, I know Miss Donoghue made a splash last year with her novel Room, another book I need to read.

7. 1984 by George Orwell. Nope, I've never read 1984. And apparently, it's a travesty for an English major to graduate without reading it (or so I've heard).

8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Because last night I dreamt of Manderley and I don't even know what that means.

9. The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. Revolutionary Road was pretty great, so I'd love to read another by Mr. Yates.

10. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. I'm not big into nonfiction but this one sounds interesting. From what I've heard, it's about society's obsession with the internet and how it's making people's attention span for longer reading shrink (that may be all wrong- just what I've heard). Obviously, some of us still like to read long novels (ahem!) but it does sound pretty fascinating.

Do I think I'll read all these this Spring? Definitely not. Did I enjoy making this list? Definitely so. Can't wait to participate in future Top Ten Tuesdays.

b*tches in bookshops

Because reading is BA.

Monday, March 19, 2012

the fantastic flying books of morris lessmore

The Academy Award for best animated short film this year went to The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore. And fantastic they are.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children

Man, was this disappointing! For at least a year now I've seen this book at bookstores and libraries, and the pictures (both on the cover and inside) were so strange and interesting, I assumed it had to be a great book. I was shocked when I heard it was YA (just because it looks so creepy), but that only lowered my expectations a tiny bit. After all, lots of YA books are read and adored by adults. But now that I've finally read it, I can tell you it's really meant for kids. Don't be deceived by the creepiness of those little clown boys on the back. It's meant for kids. 11-13-year-olds. And maybe I would have liked it if I were 11. I can't be sure. I can only tell you that as an adult, I didn't.

It started off okay. Jacob's grandfather has always told him strange stories about the house he lived in as a child when he was escaping the Holocaust. "Peculiar children" lived there- children with incredible talents like floating (the girl on the cover), creating fire out of thin air, lifting very heavy things, etc- as well as horrible monsters. Jacob once believed in the children and the monsters, but his belief fades. After his grandfather dies, Jacob sets off to find the house and learn the truth.

The whole story is pieced together with the strange photographs. They're real and very intriguing, but the author doesn't do a great job fitting them into the story. He has to introduce every one with these awkward intros ("I remember this one photograph of my dad on Halloween . . . ") that never flow as they should. And some of the pictures just don't fit. Like there are multiple photos of the character Emma but she is obviously not the same person in all the photographs. (view spoiler)

After the okay intro, the plot slips downhill quickly. Too much time is spent with Jacob just wandering around and nothing happening. When the big surprise comes, it's nice but nothing amazing. Plus, there were a number of unexplained details. (view spoiler) The climax feels like a kid's action/adventure book and the ending didn't seem completely resolved to me.

The author had an intriguing idea to use the photographs in a novel. He just didn't do a good job of it.

TITLE: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
VERDICT: 2/5 stars.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

moby dick

Oh Moby Dick.

I'll say this first: I'm glad I read it-- I had to, of course. It was for a class-- but still, I'm glad I read it because I'm glad to add any classic book to my list of "books read." Reading it in class and with a teacher who clearly thinks a lot of Melville, I probably enjoyed it more than I would have on my own, but still it was hell.

It begins like a sort of adventure story, like what I was expecting. Ishmael and his new friend Queequeg meet and seek out a whale ship for work. They come upon the Pequod and despite warnings that the captain is crazy, they join the crew. A few weeks pass before the strange, reclusive Captain Ahab reveals the true purpose of their journey: to find and kill Moby Dick, the white whale that bit off his leg years before and, to put it simply, made him go crazy. The novel changes dramatically after that. Ishmael and Queequeg rarely come up. The sea-faring, adventure novel becomes a slow, laborious piece of work. Half of the chapters are just about cetology (the study of whales) and the other half are incredibly boring. We're just waiting for Moby Dick to show up so Ahab can have his big chance at revenge.

It's not a bad idea for a story and some of the writing is really good, but the book suffered from a serious lack of editing. If this book showed up at a publishing house today, the editors would rip it to shreds and piece it back together again with major deletions and additions. The chapters about cutting whale blubber, the kinds of whales, what a whale looks like, the whale's penis (no joke) should be greatly shrunk and integrated into the action of the plot. Ishmael needs to have a larger part in the middle/end of the novel. Queequeg, too.

I'm just happy to be done with it, honestly. I couldn't take another chapter on how to thin sperm . . . or what a whale's head looks like . . . or how a whale's foreskin can be used as a sort of rain-jacket . . .

Oh Moby Dick. Oh Melville.

TITLE: Moby Dick
AUTHOR: Herman Melville
PUBLICATION DATE: 14 November 1851
VERDICT: 1/5 stars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the book of lost things

Is this a children's book or an adult book? It's a very strange mix. It felt young adult at the beginning, with the angst and 12-year-old David. Then it felt like a kid's book since it incorporates so many fairy tales and has a certain childish whim about it. But there are lots of adult bits too, mostly in scenes that are just a little too ghastly, gross, or disturbing.

The story revolves around David, a young English boy living in London during WWII whose mother has recently died. When his father quickly remarries and David's half-brother is born, David is upset and starts acting out. He doesn't like his new stepmother and doesn't care about the new baby. He just wants everything to be like it was before his mother died. Caught up in his emotions, he starts to see and hear strange things (like books talking) and has fainting spells. And then one night in the midst of this, David ends up in another world, a fantasy world. In his quest to reach the king of this fantasy kingdom and find his way home again, David meets several guides that aid him and several monsters that test his courage and make him think about the life he left behind.

Some of the characters we meet are twists on old fairy tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin), but the stories are always much darker than the originals. I didn't mind the use of them because they were always so different and I was curious to see how the author had changed them. There are also a few little plot surprises involved that I enjoyed. Finally, the writing was really well done at the beginning (it was never bad, but it didn't strike me much as the book went on).

Overall though, it was just okay. I wish the age group had been more clearly specified in the writing because it bounced around a lot and the story could have had more impact if it'd gone just one way. If it's an adult book, it could have had more mature themes and stories (and the childish voice that comes in at times could be eliminated). If it's a kid's book, obviously take out the scary bits.

TITLE: The Book of Lost Things
AUTHOR: John Connolly
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2006
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. I enjoyed it but was a bit underwhelmed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

don't call me, ishmael. all you ever talk about is whales.

(I didn't make up that title; I just thought it was really funny. It comes from this guy's Goodreads review.)

For the past month, I've been laboring through Moby Dick with the rest of my Senior Seminar class. It was difficult, to say the least, and I learned a lot more about whales than I ever knew or even wanted to know. For example, did you know sailors once used whales' foreskins as rain jackets? I am honestly not making that up.

When I get around to it, I might post a longer review on here, but for now I'm just posting a quote. It's the last line of the novel (not including the epilogue) and one of the few sentences I liked a lot (partially because it wasn't squeezed between needless cetology information and partially because it meant I was done, I'm sure!). But still, it's a nice line and great way to end a sea-faring novel.

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