Monday, June 24, 2013

A New Podcast: Blood and Chocolate

Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf? 

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would. 

 Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?

We decided to test to go back in time and re-read a book we'd been happy with as teenagers.  We compared our old view of the book to our current one and then added in the movie. 
How did it hold up? Listen and find out!



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Preferences

Do you like the book-to-movie reviews I posted?  If you'd prefer a book only review, let me know. I'll make a strong attempt at writing the book before I watch the movie, or if I've already watched the movie, like Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey, do my best to talk about only the book. Let me know what your preferences are.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Princess Bride Review

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams? 

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears. 

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. 

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. 

In short, it's about everything

I read the abridged version and judging by what Goldman said took place in the chapters/sections that he took out, I'm glad I did. I don't think I would have read the entirety of Morgenstern's story if Goldman's descriptions are accurate. I don't read satire often, so I more than likely wouldn't have even seen those bits as satire. And given up, wondering "What is the Point?" of showing this?

The book and movie have a lot of similarities. They are pretty close.  However you get much deeper character understanding.  Fezzik's parents started enrolling him in fights when he was eight and dragged him from country to country to compete despite him hating fighting, until they died. You learn of how Inigo lived after his father died, along with the details of his father's death. Even Miracle Max has an interesting history that's revealed in the story.

Inigo and Fezzik did not have as easy a time getting Westley out of the Pet of Despair, which is actually called the Zoo of Death in the book.  After getting passed the Albino, they have to get past snakes, bats and other horrors.

The ending is different.  Everyone gets on the horse to escape, like they do in the movie.  However, that's not where the book ends.  The book ends on a cliffhanger, leaving readers to decide whether and how the characters get a happy ending.  After all, remember, Count Rugen did do a lot of damage to Inigo during their battle. So he's bleeding badly.  The 'miracle' Max performed on Westley is starting to reverse itself, which is reasonable with how it's written in the book.  Fezzik and Buttercup also get in trouble.  And Prince Humperdink and his men are in hot pursuit of all of them.

The book gives a lot more characterization, details and a few extra adventures than the movie does. In the book you get to meet the Princess of Guilder, Buttercup's parents and see how Humperdink ended up meeting Buttercup, among other things. I enjoyed this book. However, the movie is a good representation of the book. Or at least the abridged version. Unless you're wanting a deeper understanding of the characters or the world, you don't need to read it. But you won't regret it either.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Stardust: Book Review


Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victoria.n-English village on a quest for a fallen star in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest.

This is going to be more of a movie/book comparison than a book review. Hopefully you don't mind, but when homework requires the book, and the screenplay to be read and the movie watched, it's hard not to make the comparison.

To be honest, I think the way the movie tells the story makes a little more sense and is a little more realistic than what the book does. I'm not saying the book was bad. The movie kept to the book for the most part.  But unsurprisingly there were differences between the book and the movie. In the book,Tristan has a sister, whose 6 months younger than him, a fact that Tristan never seems to find suspicious, their is no Humphrey tormenting Tristan, though their is a Victoria and their relationship isn't quite what the movie suggests, but she does tell him to go after the star.

The way Tristan and his father cross the wall is completely different from the movie. No one gets hurt, though seeing poor Tristan get beaten up by a 90-something-year-old in the movie was funny. A minor point I suppose but one of the things I prefer about the movie is that Tristan is told about his mother before he crosses the wall.  In the book, he believes his father's wife to be his mother and he continues to believe that until near the end of the book. The movie, I believe, was a little more believable in that respect.

Since Tristan did not exactly cross the wall in the movie, we skip over a lot of elements that happened in the book and he lands on the star. I can see why the movie did this as it pushed the pace of the story along and you don't really lose anything for them having done it.  For in the book, a creature helps Tristan out. Tristan helps him out, etc. And eventually the creature gives Tristan a Babylon candle, which is how he finds the star.  The candle works in completely different ways between the book and the movie but the effect is the same. Again, the way Tristan received the candle in the movie seemed more efficient and more believable, especially since his Mother really did want to see Tristan again.

Nursery rhymes appear throughout the book. But they're real in the world Tristan finds himself in.  A unicorn and a lion are found fighting for a crown. That's how the unicorn is encountered in the book. The unicorn had significantly more screen time in the book than in the movie.

However the pirates have significantly less time in the book than in the movie.  The captain is also not named Shakespeare, he's not gay and he doesn't pretend to throw Tristan out a window..  He is very kind. I prefer the movie version. The captain and crew had a great deal more personality and I really enjoyed the contrast of Shakespeare being gay and a fierce pirate.

Their is no real showdown at the end of the book.  The witch approaches the star, asks hers some questions, especially about her heart and, after having tried to kill her several times before, wishes her well and walks away. As for Tristan's...uncles... Well, the last one dies in a way completely different from the movie. So, either way you look at it, the book has an anti-climatic ending.

He meets his mother. Travels for 8 years and then, finally takes the throne.

The book has more characterization in it, more character depth and more complications in it than the movie does.  The movie sticks to the major plot points and has more action.  The book, however, has more sex scenes and more cuss words. Both are worth checking out if you haven't seen them.  But I much prefer the faster-paced movie.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

JR Wards Lover At Last Review

Qhuinn, son of no one, is used to being on his own. Disavowed from his bloodline, shunned by the aristocracy, he has finally found an identity as one of the most brutal fighters in the war against the Lessening Society. But his life is not complete. Even as the prospect of having a family of his own seems to be within reach, he is empty on the inside, his heart given to another.... 

Blay, after years of unrequited love, has moved on from his feelings for Qhuinn. And it’s about time: The male has found his perfect match in a Chosen female, and they are going to have a young—just as Qhuinn has always wanted for himself. It’s hard to see the new couple together, but building your life around a pipe dream is just a heartbreak waiting to happen. As he’s learned firsthand. 

Fate seems to have taken these vampire soldiers in different directions... but as the battle over the race’s throne intensifies, and new players on the scene in Caldwell create mortal danger for the Brotherhood, Qhuinn finally learns the true definition of courage, and two hearts who are meant to be together... finally become one.

JR Ward has, unfortunately, lost me as a paying customer.  She keeps my attention just enough that I'll pick her book up at the library but not enough for me to spend any amount of money on her books.  The Black Dagger Brotherhood seems to have lost its spark and Ward is beating a dead horse by allowing it to live. The books I keep re-reading are her first three. After that...well...

Lover At Last is the story of Qhuinn and Blaylock.  They've been playing hard to get with each other for several books now. Their story a subplot that was nice. Their love story should have remained as a subplot.  I'm all for reading about a gay relationship.  However, in this case, their wasn't much to their story.  The book would have been a hundred, may-be 200 pages long if all the secondary romances hadn't been intertwined in the book.  The book is okay.  But I was more interested in everything that did not involve Qhuinn and Blaylock getting together. 

Their are several subplots  in these later books, often with characters I don't see the relevance of or how they really relate to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  In one subplot, the story ends with a character being kidnapped and needing rescue. Another subplot stalls after the male horribly flubs the first conversation he has with someone he really likes and is convinced he'll never have a chance with her.  The one minor plot I really like, the only one that feels like it should be in the story and be focused on feels really neglected...

Layla is pregnant with Qhuinn's child.  She and he wanted to have a child.  They don't desire or love each other.  And since they both wanted a child they decided to see about conceiving one. They do! This was set up at least a book ago. However at the very beginning of this book, Layla is on the verge of losing the child.  Despite medical science being unable to save the fetus, the miscarriage stops with some magical help and Layla continues to carry the child.  What was the point? I would have been more interested in seeing how Mother and Father handled the loss, especially when both parents desired another. Instead, the rest of the book allows Mommy and Daddy to simply go:

"How are you?"
"I'm well."
"The baby?"
"Doing well."
*snooze*

Anyways, the neglected plot point I mentioned above is that, Layla desires another male.  The male she desires is a traitor to society.  He has attempted to kill the King of vampires.  I think his name is Xcor.  She wants to keep the king where he is.  And Xcor will die if the Black Dagger Brotherhood catches him.  Layla lives with the black dagger brotherhood.  This is what I want to read!!!

What would make the baby thing more interesting, considering the situation Layla and Qhuinn are in with each other.... What if Blay didn't want a baby? If he were in a relationship with Qhuinn then Blay would have to be around the baby at least some of the time once it was born.  And what if it was the same for Xcor.  He may not want to have a child.  But no one seems to consider this.  No one seems to consider the child as anything more than a "Is Layla still carrying it?" question.  And with the whole prophecy/vision thing, that question is kind of redundant.  I mean, we know what the child will grow up to look like.

To me, poor Ward has lost what once made this series un-put-down-able. I'll borrow the next book, like I did with this book.  But if the story doesn't improve....I may stop reading all together.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writer's Retreat in McCall, Idaho coming up.

A photo of where we'll be staying at.
 The picture was taken off of rental website. 
The Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writers of America is having their annual Writer's retreat this month.   Last year was my first year and I enjoyed it immensely. I learned a lot, got a lot of writing done and had fun.

We will be going to the same cabin in McCall we went to last year. As you can probably tell from the photo we are in a pretty remote location during retreat.  However several members last year went into town to enjoy the farmers market, the old-fashioned chocolate factory, the beach and so much more. The cabin came with a television, a dvd play and other electronic toys, but as far as I know they remained unused during our stay.  The one thing members probably wanted but didn't have was internet access.  However, the lack of internet access and power hours was what allowed one member to write 20,000 words during her internment. Instead of getting online to do research and suddenly losing four hours, you write a note to do research in an area and continue writing.

A photo of the living room.
 The picture was taken off of rental website. 
Power hours, for those who don't know, are especially helpful. They were offered several times throughout the day. Someone kept track of when the hour began and when it would end.  During that hour everyone participating focused solely on writing. No editing. No researching.  No plotting.  Just editing.  It's a great exercise and you really learn how much writing you can get done in a short amount of time, especially if you find someone to compete with--word count wise.

As nice and comfortable as the place is, there are things that I'll need to remember to bring with me this time around, beyond the necessities. I'd like to bring a small pillow to use as a cushion for when I'm going to sit at the table for extended periods of time.  A throw to hang over my shoulders for those days when my body seems to have a different temperature than everyone else in the cabin. Plus, I'll bring different snacks.  No one seemed to have even touched the homemade cookies I brought, but then, their was an overabundance of desserts there.  Alcohol was also readily available. Those who know me well would probably gape at the fact that I had a glass of some kind of alcohol every night.

As social and collaborative as the retreat can be, the cabin was usually pretty quiet, which allowed people to sleep in, nap or write until their fingers and pencils were stubs.  It's also highly productive and relaxing. Why wouldn't I be looking forward to retreat?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Art Of Wishing By Lindsay Ribar Review

He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life. 

Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else's hands? 

But Oliver is more than just a genie -- he's also a sophomore at Margo's high school, and he's on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him. 

A whole lot more.

So, since I'm trying to give my reviews a more even feel to them I thought I'd be extremely obvious about the positives and the negatives in this book.   

The Positives.

Ribar seems to make a strong attempt at abandoning a lot of the tropes that are common in recent paranormal Young Adult novels.  Margo, our heroine, has hobbies. She loves theater and wants to become a song writer. She has friends and during the novel her best friend and her fight, not over a guy, but because her friend believes Margo...betrayed her. Margo isn't defined by her relationship with Oliver-- or her relationship with any guy. She's had boyfriends before. Oliver is far from her first...interest.  Margo does not wait around to be rescued.  In fact, she rescues Oliver twice. Margo has realistic doubts about Oliver.  When she realizes that Oliver can transform himself to suit his mater's wants, she questions how he really feels about her.  Is it all an act?  Something that's against his will because of the master/slave genie thing?  Or is it genuine.  She also freaks out when he finds out how much of an age difference between them their truly is. Margo has issues with her parents, which are seen consistently throughout the book and not just in one or two throw-away scenes.

She's snarky and witty.  So we get some interesting lines like:

(....) Oh god. I'm one of those girls."
"What girls?" he asked, perplexed.
"Those girls. The ones in all those books and TV shows. Some dumb high school girl falls in love with some supernatural guy and he's all, 'Behold, I am five million years old!" and she's all, "Oh my god, how can you ever love pathetic little me!" and he's like 'Because of destiny!' or whatever. It's just so...ew. You know?"
There was a pause. When I finally chanced a look up at him, he was biting his lip, like he was trying really hard not to laugh.
"What?" I said defensively.
"You're in love with me?"
"Pffft. No. I've known you for like a week." Another pause. "You're a really good kisser, through."


Ribar also has some passages in her book that poke fun of other books of various YA genres.

A minute or so passed by--not long but long enough to make me wonder whether Oliver was setting up mood lighting or hiding dead bodies. Or if someone was up there awaiting to stab me again. o r is someone was up there to hand me a crown and tell me I was the long-lost princess of Genovia. Or if I'd tumble into a pit of lava, only to get saved at the last second by a flying carpet.

The hero, Oliver, is not a certifiable jackass.  He is deeply into photography, waffles and getting a reaction out of Margo. He seems to be a genuine good guy and a role model for how boys should treat a girl and what a girl should expect from a boy.

The Negatives.

Although Oliver didn't come across as flat to me, I felt his character, especially his past could have been deepened significantly in this book. We get the gist of his story but it's obvious their could have and probably is a lot more.  

Their were areas in the book that I wanted clarification on.  Genies can have genies for masters? How does that work?  And areas where I wasn't sure of the time rush.  Why was Xavier in such a rush to get the ring? I mean, 3 wishes and he can have it again.  The only reason I can think of was that the book needed some tension and Xavier was convenient   Honestly, Xavier reminded me a lot of Akasha (in the book, not the movie) or even Yaksha who was after Sita, goal-wise anyways. I didn't know the character quite well-enough to understand his deeper goal so he came across as cartoonish. 

Although Margo and Oliver did not have "love at first sight",  their was some "insta-love" in the book.  At first they were awkward, "Shit you're a genie," moments between them.  Then they became friends and then all of the sudden they're kissing and in love.  I suppose considering how short the book is that's the only way they could get to the "love" state.  But it seemed too sudden for a realistic relationship.

The ending....
Without ruining anything the ending was...well...a trope.  

Can't say anything else without ruining it.  But it ends in a place where it makes it obvious a sequel is on its way.  But if this had to be the last book you read...you'd be...okay with it.  Their was enough of a conclusion, a sense of what would happen to consider it a stand-alone.

Overall

I found the book entertaining.  I read it while in an airport or on a plane.  It's a simple, light-hearted read. I have issues with aspects of it, but that's expected with a debut novelist and, I'm hoping that those "issues" will be addressed in the sequel. I will be picking the sequel, The Fourth Wish, up when it comes out. It's a cute book that takes a step in the right direction of where books needs to go.