Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy 200th Anniversary Pride & Prejudice!

Today marks the 200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.  This book has stood the test of time, been adapted many times and is still an all time favorite.  Some people call it one of the greatest love stories. It's a love story that even I, the non-romantically inclined tomboy, love and appreciate.

For my favorite adaption I chose to re-watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  To be honest, I'm surprised at the accuracy.  Little things that I'd completely forgotten and even thought were exclusively LBD are actually authentic Pride and Prejudice.

Here are a few examples:
  1. Everybody always describing Darcy as tall. Very true.  I'd never realized how much the book talked about his height. He must be gigantic. 
  2. Bing Lee showing up at Pemberley.  I saw fans who said that wasn't accurate because they thought that Bingley was gone until the end.  I'd forgotten about those scenes but apparently he shows back up and tries to casually pump Lizzy for information about Jane. 
  3. Charolotte predicting Darcy's feelings for Lizzie is 100% in the book.

There are lines of dialogue that are almost exactly the same as the book.  It's uncanny how precise they were with certain sections of the storyline.  Clearly someone re-read the book or had it memorized beforehand.  

Updating a classic is always a challenge.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries team has done an excellent job.  They've managed to find ways to translate the problems of old England to modern America while staying basically true to the story.  For example, Mr. Collin's proposal is not a romantic proposal but job related.  Pemperley is not a fancy smancy house but a company.  

There are some things that haven't happened yet.  Lydia's downfall is coming at us fast.  They've expanded upon the character of Lydia.  Honestly I like the expansion, but from a completely textual standpoint it's not always accurate to the novel.  For example the Lydia and Mary friendship has no basis in the book. In fact the book says Lydia never pays any attention to Mary. Also it feels like Lydia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is somethings different from Lydia in the Lydia Bennet Diaries.  To be fair there's very little about Lydia (until the downfall) in the actual book to work with.  Gigi is also not completely book-accurate being as she's supposed to be shy. Does Gigi seem shy to anyone? Anyone? 

So like any adaption it's not perfect.  However as a modernization it captures the spirit of the book while staying as true to text as possible with the new setting and tie period.

Re-reading Pride and Prejudice was so much fun. It's amazing how relevant the book still is.  Everything from the slow building relationship, to the girl-on-girl hate, Pride and Prejudice is something we can all still relate to.  Maybe that's why it's lasted so long, not because Darcy is super hot (he is) but because the emotions and feelings still ring true 200 years later.  That is a feat not many books accomplish.

If you're participating in the read-a-long please post the link to your post in the comments.  After work I'll collect them all and put in the blog post for everyone to see.

Heidi from Bunbury in the Stacks did a re-watch too. Check out her post!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Follow Friday - Kept me up

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What's the last book that kept you up late into the night just to finish it?
Honestly I think it's Pride and Prejudice which I just finished. This is my 5th time reading the book and I absolutely love it more each time.  This time I noticed things that I never had before (probably because I was reading it for my blog).  It's interesting that all these years later we still love Mr. Darcy and Pride and Prejudice is still relevant.  I'm actually doing a read-a-long for the 200th anniversary Jan. 28 if you want to do a quick re-read this weekend. (Or you should just re-read it anyways because it's good)

Before Pride and Prejudice, you'd probably have to go back to The Assassin's Curse which I read way back in September.  Through November and December a lot of my reads were just okay or audiobooks that I listened to while driving.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Wednesday Wars (review)

4/5 stars

Holling Hoodhood's seventh grade year looks like it's going to be a challenge.  His teacher Mrs. Baker isn't his biggest fan and he's not even a troublemaker.  But he is Presbyterian while all the other kids are Catholic or Jewish. On Wednesday afternoon, all of his classmates leave for classes at the church or the synagogue, leaving him alone with Mrs. Baker.  Needless to say Mrs. Baker is not happy with this arrangement.  What do you do with one student for the afternoon?

The Wednesday Wars starts as the story of of their Wednesday afternoon battles.  Holling doesn't want to be there. Mrs. Baker doesn't want to be there. Everything changes when Mrs. Baker introduces Holling Shakespeare.  She wants to teach Holling about life, he wants to learn Shakespearean curses. It's a win-win situation.

Gary D. Schmidt writes about junior high in a way that feels so authentic.  Holling Hoodhood is very much a middle school boy, talking about sports, girls, pranking the teachers, etc, but he's a heartfelt middle school boy.  He cares about others and cares about the world around him even if he doesn't realize it himself.

I read this series out of order, starting with the 2nd book Okay For Now but that doesn't actually matter.  You can read them in whatever order you like. Both stories have main characters that are so believable, simple small town stories set in the past but that don't feel like a "historical novel."  Vietnam is in the background but this isn't a story about the Vietnam War.  It's a story about a boy growing up and discovering himself. The timeline just happens to coincide with Vietnam.  (Not to say this book ignores the war either, some of the best moments happen between a Vietnamese girl and a lunchlady.)

This book is absolutely hilarious at times, then heartbreaking at others.  It took me from laughter to tears more than once.  This book is heart-felt, well written and funny.  If you're an audiobook reader like me, it's also exceptionally well narrated.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Follow Friday - Best Villian

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What is your favorite villain from a book?  
This question is harder than I thought.  I was like YES A QUESTION FOR THE VILLAINS  Then I realized all my favorite villains were on TV shows.   For some reason when I think back to the books I've read I don't remember the villains very well at all.  And it's not because they're not there but for some reason in the sea of books I've read I've lost the pieces of their backstory.

The notable exception is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named so I suppose he must be my favorite villian.  What makes him so interesting?  While he seems like evil incarnate, he started as a lonely, sad and confused boy.  We get to see the path that made him evil.  I hate hate hate when villians are just evil without any reason or character development.  I prefer when you can see where everything went wrong.

So I'm not sure why I remember villains so well on TV shows. Who knows!  My favorite of them all is Ben Linus from Lost. I love the "Is he evil or is he good" debate we constantly had.  I'm also very much enjoying Regina and Mr. Gold from Once Upon A Time because part of them once to be good but parts of them just love magic too much. It's an interesting dilemma.

(This is a quick answer. There are probably much better answers but I could not come up with one sorry)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boys, Girls & Books

In the book lover world, 2012 seemed a bit dramatic.  Something was always wrong, someone was always mad, etc, etc.  Most of the articles were link bait seeking attention. Most of those I'm so beyond caring about anymore.

But one topic sticks out.  The fate of the poor boys with no books to read.  Curious, I decided to look the number of Boy vs. Girls protagonists in the books I read in 2012.  I just wanted to look at the plain numbers themselves for the purpose of this chart, not jumping into which books were "boy books" or "girl books" because that's always debatable.

I was actually surprised by the number of books with girl protagonists that I read.  But taken into consideration by those narrow definitions these books are solidly in the female protagonist category.

But then should that really be surprising? Part of the goal of my blog is to find positive female characters that girls can look up to.  So I actively seek books that sound like they might have that.  On the other hand I'm a tomboy and really enjoy male protagonists.  But I don't go looking for books with male main characters. I just read what interests me.

The point of looking at the numbers for me, was to say yes there are books with boy protagonists.  Nearly 1/3 of the books I read last year featured boy main characters (if you count books that multiple POVs the number gets higher).  That's without any effort, and with my reading being partially controlled by whatever publishers wants to give me and whatever the library has.

I'm not going to give you a list of my recommendations because Readadventurer has already done a wonderful feature.  I just wanted to look at some of my stats and share the results.  There were actually quite a few books that I could not remember the sex of the main character, not necessarily because the books weren't memorable but because nothing stuck out as "girly" about those books.

So here is a list of the books with male protagonists (not counting multi or ambiguous). Please note that my numbers for any of this could be off because I was just looking through my "Read in 2012 shelf" which is an imperfect system. But I think the main point stands. There are plenty of books with boy protagonists and even more books that boys would enjoy.

  1. Deadline
  2. A Monster Calls
  3. Big Country
  4. City of Thieves
  5. Under The Bridge
  6. Fitz
  7. Sleeping Freshman Never Lie
  8. Shadow on the Mountain 
  9. A Beautiful Lie
  10. Black Heart
  11. Blood Rites
  12. Throne of the Crescent Moon 
  13. Alif the Unseen
  14. Lies Beneath
  15. Hammered
  16. Blackout
  17. The Schwa Was Here
  18. Jasper Jones
  19. The Final Four
  20. Street Dreams
  21. Hexed
  22. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  23. Carter Finally Gets It
  24. The Lost Prince
  25. Midnight City
  26. Dead Men Kill
  27. I am (Not) the Walrus
  28. Tortured (Bridge Novella for Birthmarked series)
  29. Be More Chill
  30. The Evening Hour
Note: These are not all Young Adult novels or even recently published.  Same for the girl books.  The only books I took off the list were nonfiction. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Navigating Early (review)

4/5 stars

Navigating Early is the story of three boys.  Jackie, the protagnoist, a Kansas transpant who finds himself in a military boarding school in Maine after the sudden death of his mother. Jackie feels guilty about his mother's death, disconnected from his father and unsure about the world.  He's learned some tough life lessons too young. Early, a strange but intelligent boy who lives more in his own head than reality.  He too has experienced a loss.  Instead of balling everything up inside like Jacky, Early is left to his own devices.  He roams the school, lives in a janitor's closet and rarely comes to class.

The third boy is Pi, as in the never-ending number everyone studies in math class.  Within this novel, Pi is seemingly a figment of Early's imagination, his  personal coping mechansim.  But as Early tells the story of Pi, following the numbers, what's reality and what's imaginary begins to blur. The story of Pi runs parallel and interwoven with the story of Jacky and Early.

Sometimes I struggle with journey books because they often have a forgone conclusion that you expect from the outset.  But this book surprised me.  This story is not sweet and innocent but I wouldn't call it dark either.  The tone reminds me of the movie Stand By Me, a story where characters are standing on the line between adulthood and childhood facing both sides.

The way this book is written is beautiful and effortless.  A lot of writers try to be poetic and it comes across as forced, but Vanderpool does it expertly.
"We're part of the same constellation, your father and I," Mom said that day, the day of the camping trip. "It's just not one you find in any textbook."
"That's a nice story, Mom, but it's not exactly going to help me find my way out of the woods," I told her." 
The story moves slowly.  At times I wondered if it moved too slow, which perhaps may be the book's only flaw.  But when everything comes together, it really comes together.  All of the details of this book matter.  Tiny things I barely noticed came back by the end of the novel, creating a well-crafted and eloquent story. The conclusion really resonated emotionally.  In the end, when a story is this well told, the slowness didn't matter at all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Follow Friday - Real Supernatural Creature

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: If you could choose one supernatural beings/creature to really exist what would it be and why?
I'm trying to think of something harmless.  Unicorns don't hurt anyone do they?  The more you read about myths and faerie lore the more you realize that cool creatures are very likely to kill you.

In all honesty I wouldn't mind having a Brownie.  Supposedly they clean and do chores and will stay as long as you don't offer any "payment." I'm terrible about cleaning so a Brownie would be rather handy don't you think?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Splintered (review)

2/5 stars

Splintered is one of those books that has a great concept --the family of Alice Lidell (from Alice in Wonderland) is cursee with a special kinda crazy as a punishment for Alice's mistakes in Wonderland. Alyssa is only the latest in a line of women who hear the conversations of flowers and insects.  Alyssa tries to hide the voices, killing the bugs and creating artwork while her mother wastes away in an insane asylum.  Then she stumbles on a website about the rabbit hole and someone from Wonderland offers her a way to cure her families curse.

Sounds interesting right? I know! Except the book completely lost it's own plot and instead turned into a poorly done paranormal romance without any real focus.

Instead of focusing on Wonderland, which you know is kind of interesting, Alyssa is absorbed by Jeb--the best friend she's secretly in love with.  All of their interactions and conversations just feel artificial.  He constantly calls her "skater girl" as a pet name.  Just a hint, taking your pet names from an Avril Lavine song is not cute.

Everything feels forced.  Jeb has a girlfriend who is less a character and more of an obstacle to the central relationship. She's a prop not a person.  The moment Alyssa and Jeb pass into wonderland she's only brought up to create conflict (and this happens continually).  There is drama, otherworldly creatures, pursuing armies, but the characters continually stop to argue about their relationship status.

The arguments don't even make sense. Near the beginning before she goes into wonderland she tells Jeb finds out she's trying to get a fake passport from a guy who works at the skating rink (seriously those things have microchips now folks, it's not that easy) and he confronts her.  She tells him to stay out of it.  This is his eloquent and intelligent response.
"Out of what?" The pain in his voice rips me apart. "Stay out of your plan to hook up with some random loser, or stay out of your life."
You may be wondering where he got the idea that Alyssa was going to hook up with a random loser. So am I.  In the context of the story his accusions came out of nowhere. Alyssa is a virgin and there's no evidence pointing towards that that changing anytime soon.  It's just an unnatural way to create another obstacle.  Once they're in Wonderland he also accuses that a "perv lured you here via a magical website" showing his winning intellect once again.

It was over-descriptive to the point of being purple prose, elaborating describing clothing hair and make-up, describing taste and scent in a way that didn't really make sense. The description was bothersome and at times downright confusing.
"The minute I'm free, I catch his thumb and nuzzle it. He tastes like grass  and icing and all the flavors of Jeb, magnified."  
First off the nuzzling is weird. Second she's tasting him. Third, grass and icing? Really?  Later he tastes like chocolate and salt.  At least the salt makes sense, but chocolate?  I know they say to use the five senses when writing description but it needs to make sense.

Overall this book just did not work. I can't include every groan-worthy quote.  The flaws, clumsy writing and shoddy storytelling overwhelm a good idea.  Without the romance and some self control with descriptors this could actually be a good book.  Unfortunately it's not.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pride & Prejudice - 200th Anniversary Read-a-long

January 28th is Pride and Prejudice's 200th Anniversary.  Hard to believe we're still crushing on Mr. Darcy, pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet and wondering what in the world was Lydia thinking all these years later.  But we are!  Mr. Darcy is still my #1 fictional boyfriend and sometimes I still like to pretend I'm Lizzie Bennet (excuse me while I go take a walk around room).

If ever a book deserved a BIG birthday bash it's Pride and Prejudice.  So me and Ash over at Typing Tiara decided to throw it a birthday bash blogger style.  And not just because Mr. Darcy still makes us swoon.  Let's talk about the fact that Jane Austen was a female author in a time that wasn't very friendly to females, the fact that her heroine had a mind of her own (heck yeah!) and that this is one of the only women-written novels studied in most high schools (YAY for it, BOO for the education system).

What does this call for? A READ-A-LONG of course!  During January let's all read Pride & Prejudice together.  Since it's almost impossible to review Pride and Prejudice for those of us who have read it over and over and over and over again, I thought it might be fun to also watch your FAVORITE adaption to compare the stories. Or if you're more capable than me you can just review the book.

For me that means I'll be rewatching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (see what I did there? See how I found an excuse to watch them again? Not that I need one but this "time wasting" will now be legit blog business).

List of potential Pride & Prejudice adaptions:

  1. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
  2. BBC Mini series with Colin Firth
  3. BBC Mini series I just discovered on Netflix
  4. Lawrence Oliver
  5. 2005 version
  6. Bride and Predjudice (because why not)
  7. Bridget Jones Diary
  8. Lost in Austen
(Give me more and I'll add them to the list)

If you're participating use the button belowand add me and Ash over at Goodreads. On January 28th come back to Galavanting Girl Books and post you're links to your Pride & Prejudice blogs and we'll all come together to swoon over Mr. Darcy and pretend that we're Elizabeth Bennet, again.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Follow Friday - Blog/Writing Resolutions

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.

GUESS WHO IS FEATURED THIS WEEK???????? Any guesses? ME!!!!!!!!! Yeah, I'm excited!
Question: What New Years Blogging or Writing resolution have you placed on yourself?
It's kind of funny I get selected the week of this question because I normally avoid New Year resolutions because I know most of them fail. I've never been a big fan of failure.  However, the New Year has coincided with my new life (new job, new city, etc) and I actually have resolutions this year.
  1. Write regularly - This is more of a writer's resolution.  I've gotten really off track with my writing.  Some of that was my previous job's weird schedule but a lot of that is being easily distracted. But during NanoWriMo I wrote part of a story (over 50K but not done) and it's a concept that I really like.  I'm planning to continue working on it.
  2. Show other people your writing. You need help. Quit being a pansy.
  3. Don't request too many galleys or fall behind.  I'm partially behind because moving consumed about a month of my life but I hate being behind.
  4. Read more for myself.  One of the pitfalls of blogging is reading lots of galleys while accumulating a never-ending to read list.  In 2013 I want to read some of the books that are waiting on my Kindle.
  5. Be more consistent and creative. Be better.  Everyone should always aspire to be better at what they do.  I feel like if you're not learning and improving, you're falling behind.
  6. Cleaning up my likes on Tumblr & Pinterest is not being productive. Quit pretending it is.

As long as your'e in the following mood why don't you visit me on twitter. I'm *almost* to 700 followers and would love to chat with more bloggers (just tweet me to say hello so I know to follow you.)

Any new followers (or old followers) say hello and I'll be sure to make it back to follow you! It may be after work on Friday but I'll get there eventually.

Happy New Years everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful, exciting, productive and mindblowing year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Summer of the Mariposas (review)

3/5 stars

Summer of the Mariposas is the story of 5 sisters, abandoned by their father, left to run wild by their well-meaning mother who's trying to keep the family afloat.  The sisters find a body in the Rio Grande and decide to return it to Mexico.  The story is a very classical quest plotline.  The girls find the body, decide to go on an adventure, meet magical help, face magical adversaries, etc.

Their magical guide and helper is Llorana, known as The Weeping Woman.  This is a very interesting choice to use as a magical guide.  Llorana is known as the woman who drowned her children to be with the man she loved.  Legend has it she kidnaps disobedient children (which the Garza sisters most definitely are).  Rather than kidnapping the girls, Llorana serves as a guide offering them magical assistance and advice, maybe as penance for the death of her children.

This book isn't bad.  I always find it interesting to venture into different folklores that I don't know much about.  But the book is a little jumbled and drags in section.  Even though I knew it was a fantasy it took forever to introduce Llorana, then near the end it took forever to get to the obvious conclusion.

I enjoyed that this book chose to follow 5 sisters and how important their bond was to the story.  Outside of Odila the characters never really felt very developed though and I think the book suffered for that.  Velia and Delia, the twins, were nothing more than the girly bossy sisters, Juanita was easy to forget about and Pita was just the little crier.  I would've liked more characterization which is difficult with that many sisters.

The melding of Mexican and American culture, the insertion of just enough Spanish and the Mexican folklore were what made this book worthwhile.  I know some readers don't like foreign languages in their English books, however I'm the opposite.  I feel like just a dash of Spanish makes a book interesting.  I think it's important for books about the children of Mexican immigrants to acknowledge the mix of Spanish and English that they use.

This book felt a little younger than YA to me.  If the plot was tightened and the characters more developed it would really shine, especially for a middle grade audience.