Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just a quick note... let you know that my internet connection is down and I'm stuck with dial-up. This means I won't be able to visit and comment on other people's blogs. You can always reach me by email though. I will be fully back after I sort this mess out on Monday.



Sunday, September 20, 2009

Book to Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I know I am probably very, very late to participate in praising of the newest Harry Potter installment. The reason is that the biggest cinemas in my town had closed down about a year ago, due to renovation. Needless to say, I was completely depressed this summer when Half-Blood Prince came out, since I had nowhere to watch it. Yesterday, my mom (who by the way is another Potterhead) tells me that a small art cinema is playing the movie. It is totally unlike them to play such a commercial flick, but hey, it was good enough for me!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a complete triumph from start to finish. I am now certain that a Harry Potter movie can't miss the mark - sure, they've experimented with different visual styles and direction, but every single one of these movies I've loved. With the sixth, based on probably the most depressing book in the series, they have taken most liberty with. Scenes are added, certain things are omitted, but it works thanks to the talented people involved. For example, a lot of the movie revolves around Ron and Hermione's flirtatious behavior, and those scenes really showcase the talents of the young actors, who are obviously having a lot of fun in the roles, but never fall into farce. The same goes for the adults, most notably Michael Gambon in the role of Dumbledore. He completely understands this character and plays him in a detailed and controlled manner.

Finally, the direction is perfect. David Yates, the director of both Order and Prince seems to really understand that what holds these movies together and ensures their popularity is the human factor. Special effects, magical monsters and enchanted locations look wonderful, but are not a challenge. And in the very first shot of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Harry is being photographed by paparazzi, Yates is smart enough to subtly focus on Dumbledore's hand on Harry's shoulder. If this isn't a great movie, I don't know what is.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Awards! #2

Yay, I got another fresh batch of awards from other fabulous bloggers! Some of these are not so fresh - I feel bad and apologize for taking me so long to post about these awards and assign them to other bloggers. But here they are now, as well as my nominees!

Awarded by Jessica. My nominees are:

Awarded by Cynthia and Ryan. I have already nominated people for this award.

Awarded by BrownGirl. I have already nominated people for this award.

Awarded by Alyssa, Jake & Gregory. My nominees are:

Awarded by Ryan. My nominee is:

Awarded by Ceri. My nominee is:

Thank you to all the wonderful, talented book bloggers who have awarded me. I look forward to more reviews, debates, giveaways and other book-related fun!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: The Diary by Eileen Goudge

Good romance reads will never go out of style. Books that feature star-crossed lovers battling the world that doesn't understand them will always strike a chord with the audience - both with those who have experienced unparalleled stings of love and/or lust, or those who wish they could go through all this. Either way, The Diary is a book to recommend to those around you who need a little romance in their life.

The Diary tells the story of two women who find their dying mother's diary and uncover a big secret. It turns out that the love of their mother's life was not their father, but instead a footloose, charismatic young man. By reading the diary, the sisters slowly bond and realize that although every child keeps some secrets from their parents, it is usually the other way around as well.
The diary is essentially a beach read. It doesn't take long to finish it, and since it is always emotional, always in medias res, it does not take long to get into it. The lady and the tramp story is reminiscent of some other popular ones (namely, The Notebook), but Goudge also flirts with themes of maternity, small-town mentality and the passing of time, although she never diverts the reader's full attention away from the central romance. All in all, The Diary is everything it should be - a light, entertaining book that will strike a chord with all you hopeless romantics. It is a great novel in its niche.


Big thanks to Eileen Goudge for sending me an inscribed copy of The Diary.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wish List Wednesdays #2

Wish List Wednesdays is hosted by Jennay at My Tea Time is Book Time. It's a weekly meme and anyone can join in!!! All you have to do is list a few of the books on your wish list (and all book lovers have one of those...right?). Come and share, so other readers can add more books to their growing wish list!

As can be seen in the picture on the right, Peter Schafer's drama Equus is at the very top of my wish list right now! I have heard so many great stuff about it, and am planning on seeing the film sometime soon. Of course, I didn't have the chance to see the Broadway performance starring Daniel Radcliffe, but I would give anything if I could just have this book in my hands right now!

For other items on my wish list, feel free to check out my Amazon wish list!

And what book are you craving?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meme: Me and My Reading Habits

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Whereas tea and coffee are my beverages of choice when it comes to reading, I also like to snack from time to time. Fruit is the best solution, because it never leaves you too thirsty, meaning you don't need to take a break in your reading so you could go get a glass of water.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I would never do it. However, I have been in situations where I had a library book with notes in it, and I felt as if I was having a conversation with whoever it was that had read the book before me. Sometimes I felt he or she had great insight, and sometimes I just hated them. :)

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?

Bookmarks all the way! Dog-ears are okay I guess, if you really can't find anything to put in the book, but I find it too much fun to collect bookmarks! I always buy a bookmark as a souvenir wherever I go!

Laying the book flat open?

Sure, I've done it.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Fiction, but I also love memoirs of certain interesting people.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard copy. I cannot stand audiobooks.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

Sure I'm able to put the book down, but I hate doing it in the middle of a chapter!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Not really. It would just damage my reading experience. Chances are, it's not too important, and even if it is, you can usually figure it out from context.

What are you currently reading?

Two books. Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, and The Diary by Eileen Goudge.

What is the last book you bought?

Probably The Fire by Katherine Neville.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I usually have to read more books at the time, since I have required reading for university, but I also read books for pleasure.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Not really. I am just happy whenever I find the time!

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

I prefer books that have literary merit. Usually, series books don't, since they are too concerned with plot, cliff-hangers, etc. That said, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and there are certain other series books I just adore.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Yes. Michael Cunningham is my all-time favorite author, hands down.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

I don't. I love my books to be a hot mess!

Teaser Tuesday #3

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MiZB at Should Be Reading.

Here are her instructions:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!(make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here is my teaser this week...

The Diary by Eileen Goudge (soon to be reviewed):

"So that story she used to tell us about Dad being the one to rescue her was all a lie?" Emily frowned down at the diary, from which Sarah had been reading aloud, as if it had offended her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ms. Taken Identity by Dan Begley Giveaway - WINNERS!

Wow, what a turnout! Seems like the talented Dan Begley really is on the road to become a bestselling novelist. His lad lit debut Ms. Taken Identity is in stores now, but these two people were lucky enough to each win a copy (drawn by means of!

Congratulations to Michelle and Neas Nuttiness!

The winners are required to respond to their email in the next 48 hours. In case this doesn't happen, someone else will be drawn.

Big thanks to Dan Begley for making this giveaway possible!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Booking Through Thursday #2

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly book meme that changes every week (you can find them all here).

This week's question: What's the most informative book you've read recently?

Although many wouldn't agree with me, I find chick lit books very informative. I believe there is always a reason why some book sell well, whereas others don't. The reason why chick lit books are flying off the shelfs surely has to do with sociology, as well as with different target audiences. For example, a lot of chick lit books have lately depicted women dealing with poor economical climate. Also, the focus from earlier chick lit books has been changed - today, it's not about getting a man, it's about focusing on yourself while occasionally going for romance. To cut the long story short, the most informative book I read recently was Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle, since it offered a peek into the competitive, scary life of female career builders, what women have to sacrifice in order to have a career, as well as the difficulties women have when it comes to business. Read my review of Lipstick Jungle here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Interview: Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is the author of the controversial young adult novel, Hate List. This emotional YA book deals with the traumatic experiences revolving around a school shooting, offering a glimpse into the minds of everyone involved and blurring the lines between bullies and victims. Jennifer stopped by Nikola's Book Blog to chat about the book.

What was the overall reaction to your book?
So far, the reaction that I've been seeing most is that it's making people stop and really think. I've also heard from a lot of people that the end is a bit of a tearjerker. I'm really glad it's making people think. I like books that make me think, so it feels good to have written my favorite kind of book. It's not a light read, emotionally, but is worth investing yourself in the end.

Hate List deals with the all-too familiar topic of school shootings. Were you inspired by a real-life school shooting, and did you research them in order to write the book?
No, Hate List was not inspired by any particular school shooting. In fact, I held off on researching school shootings until after I'd written my first draft because I didn't want to be influenced by the particulars of any specific shooting. It was definitely a weird way to do research -- write the book first and then go back and research and change things according to what I learned during my research -- but it was the process that felt right to me during the writing of this book.
Hate List is more about the main character's emotional journey than it is about the shooting itself, so the bulk of my research (all done before I started writing) was along the lines of finding out what my main character would be experiencing emotionally and how those feelings would manifest.

What do you think makes these young people decide to execute such a terrible thing?
Wow, I wish there was a cut-and-dried answer to this question. Certainly knowing the answer would be the first step in preventing school shootings from ever happening again, which would be a wonderful thing. My sense is that there are a lot of possible answers to this question. The easiest answers are, of course, that they're bullied and are outcasts or that they're just plain evil. But I don't really like either of those answers. I think those answers are too easy and, quite frankly, aren't fair to either the shooter or the victims. Or their families, for that matter. I think we can all agree that a young person who shoots up a school is a very troubled individual. But how they got so troubled... is a much tougher question to answer. And why they dealt with it by killing? Again, I just don't think there's a pat answer for that.

Valerie, the protagonist of Hate List, is both an accomplice and a victim. Would you elaborate on this?
Valerie is guilty of two things: Starting a "hate list" of people she hated, and not seeing that her boyfriend, Nick, was going to act on that Hate List by killing people. Because she was the one who started the list and even encouraged Nick by talking about how cool it would be for those people to just not exist anymore, she is an accomplice of sorts to the shooting. But the problem is... to Valerie... it was all just talk. Not real. A way to blow off steam. She never meant for any of those people to actually die. And now, with Nick gone, she has to "pay the price" for the hate list, which is now very public. She also gets shot while trying to stop Nick. So she stops the shooting she inadvertently set into motion with the list. She's both hero and villain, which has got to be a really tough spot to be in.

What have you been up to lately? Writing a new book, perhaps?
I am working on a new YA project. It will be similar in tone to Hate List, but a very different subject, of course. I kind of have this weird superstition about giving out details of a writing project before it's been written, so... *makes zipper over mouth motion*...

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Are You Reading Monday? #2

What Are You Reading Monday? is a weekly event hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week.

My past week or two have been really hectic, especially since I've had a bunch of stressful exams I had to study for... I have, however, finished Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and wrote the review. I am still (!) reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, which I have to rea for school. The problem is not the book itself, although I must admit it's not the most exciting book around, but the fact that I cannot find a physicial copy, which means I'm reading this lengthy book on my laptop. Not pretty.

I am probably going to start reading Philippa Gregory's White Queen one of these days - I am excited about it, so I don't want rush it! I want to enjoy every sentence of it. I have also applied for a huge number of giveaways, and hopefully, I'll see at least a book or two coming my way in the next couple of weeks.

What are you reading Monday?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giveaway: Ms. Taken Identity by Dan Begley

If you've read my review of Dan Begley's Ms. Taken Identity, you know that this is a funny, funny book with bits and pieces of universal truths sprinkled throughout. Now, the wonderful Dan Begley has chosen to present two of my readers with a copy of his debut novel. Read my review here, or go ahead and leave a comment to enter. Here are the contest rules:

1. The giveaway is open only to addresses located in the USA or in Canada.
2. The giveaway will have two winners, each winning a copy of the book.
3. The giveaway will be open until September 15th.
4. In order to enter, leave a comment with your email address (no email, no entry!).
5. Get special entries for doing the following:

+2 for following (never too late to start!)
+2 for tweeting about the contest
+2 for posting about the contest/putting it into a sidebar (+4 if you use the graphic from my sidebar)

6. The winners will be announced on the blog, as well as contacted by e-mail. If they do not respond in 48 hours, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck everybody! Let the games begin!

The contest is now closed.

Review: Mr Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice has since it was first published back in 1813 sold about 20 million copies worldwide and has also been adapted for various silver screen projects, thus appealing to wide audiences. It is not surprising that the novel has been unofficially continued numerous times, usually depicting the main characters' lives after their wedding. And with the recent craze for all things supernatural, it was only a matter of time when this beloved story would get a vampiric makeover, which is exactly what Amanda Grange does with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.

The novel begins in the year 1802, with Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy getting married and immediately going on their wedding tour. Elizabeth is surprised to hear that they are not going to see the Lake District, as planned, but that they are instead travelling to France. Soon enough, they find themselves in a variety of mysterious and frightening situations. Not even the beauties of France and Italy can comfort Elizabeth, who has no one to turn to and fears she might as well be losing her mind.

The major problem with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is that it does not know what it wants to be. It fails greatly as a romance, with characters so out of synch with their originals, written by Jane Austen, one could almost fall asleep of mediocrity. Gone are the witty exchanges of the two lovebirds, no more tension one could cut with a knife the readers would expect of Austen's characters! Instead, Elizabeth and Darcy are given mediocre dialogues that range from empty to ridiculous, and are mostly no longer than a few lines. As a paranormal story, the novel suffers from what just might be the biggest spoiler in recent literature - its title. Anyone who chooses to read this book will surely know its title and suspect that Mr. Darcy might have grown fangs, but the author treats this information as if it is top secret, revealing it only after you've read more than 200 pages. During this time, Elizabeth is served rather obvious clues as to the nature of her husband, but she seems not as quick as she used to be. Finally, there is not much of the plot, with bad guys only serving the purpose for the Darcys to swiftly change locations. The final scene is probably the worst too, packed with cliches and standard B-movie moments, at the same time failing to give much needed answers.

It would not be fair, however, to say that Ms. Grange has not done anything right. When it comes to linking the events in this novel to the original, the solutions the author comes up with are nothing short of genius. There is not a single ambiguous moment in Austen's novel not elaborated here, and as the events unfold, Austen fans will surely be able to slowly figure out some of the twists based on their knowledge of Pride and Prejudice. Another thing Ms. Grange should receive praise for is her depiction of European royalty. Although these characters may not fit the story at all times, they are sometimes much more interesting than the title character, especially when the author cleverly links their vampiric isolation with the recent French Revolution. Finally, the novel often captures the reader's attention with its lush descriptions of nature, vistas and cities, almost serving as a travelogue of sorts.

If you want to know whether Mr. Darcy, Vampyre will be to your taste, there is a simple test. Austen purists, who loathed the infamous ending of the American version of the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, will not be happy with this continuation. On the other hand, people who simply liked the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy and would like to see the characters in a different light (or, technically, in the absence of light), will probably enjoy this interpretation. There are things to like about this novel, and it will surely become a best-seller.


Thanks to Danielle Jackson for the ARC.