31 March 2011

Time to check in, readers of Jane Austen


I really should post about this challenge regularly.
I think I will begin doing it at the end of each month from now on.

Has anyone completed any goals toward this reading challenge?

I did! I finished reading Emma in early March. It is the second Jane Austen title I have read. The other title I've read is Pride and Prejudice. I loved Pride and Prejudice and very much enjoyed reading Emma.
I wonder which title I will choose to read next...

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska

Miles Halter has chosen to go to boarding school to finish out the remainder of 
his high school education. He isn't leaving much behind except for his parents 
who love him. He is leaving so little behind that he describes his reason for 
leaving in this manner: "I go to seek a Great Perhaps" ~Fran├žois Rabelais's 
last words. Last words...they happen to be something that Miles is drawn to 
and he has a propensity for memorizing them.

Miles makes some friendships pretty quickly upon arriving at his new boarding 
school. It seems as if there was a spot there awaiting his arrival. Chip is Miles' 
new roommate. Chip's friends, Alaska, Takumi and Lara, readily accept Miles' 
presence and the nickname Chip bestows upon him: "Pudge".

(There is a major plot element that I am going to attempt to avoid so that I do 
not give away the story line.)

Pudge and Chip, by the end of the book are looking for some answers that 
are hard to find. A teacher they have grown to really care for assigns them 
final paper for his world religions class. The assignment is: 

    "How will you-you personally-ever get out of this labyrinth 
    of suffering? Now that you've  wrestled with three major religious    
    traditions, apply your newly enlightened mind to ******'s question.

    And so that is the question I leave you with in this final: 
    What is your cause for hope?"

The "labyrinth of suffering" are part of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's last words (according to the story line and according to some actual accounts): 

    "Damn it, how will I ever get out of the labyrinth!"

The final pages of the book close with Chip's final paper. It was a touching tribute to more than what was taught in his class. It was written having experienced a life-changing event and is, at least in part, his response to that as well as what he hands in to his professor. 

This is a part of that paper and my favorite part of the book:

    "...awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we   
    believe ourselves to be. When adults say, "Teenagers think they are 
    invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know 
    how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can 
    never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because 
    we are. ...that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannon begin
    and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."

To tell the truth, this is another example of a book I would not have chosen to read if I'd known what it was going to be about. I bought the book simply because it was written by John Green and I enjoyed his book "An Abundance of Katherines". In the end, I am glad I read it; glad enough that I would like to assign it to our two teens as part of their summer reading if they aren't too busy with their summer school classes. "Looking for Alaska's" major plotlines are ones that I feel merit discussion by teens and parents. 

My favorite lines from the book are:

     "More than anything, I felt the unfairness of it, the inarguable injustice of loving   someone who might have loved you back but can't due to deadness, and then I leaned forward, my forehead against the back of Takumi's headerest, and I cried, whimpering, and I didn't even feel sadness so much as pain. It hurt, and that is not a euphemism. It hurt like a beating.
This book has strong, mature themes. I would not recommend it prior to high school.

A film adaption is due to be released in cinemas in 2013.

30 March 2011

Have you read Water for Elephants?

I read this in March 2007.  I really enjoyed this peek into circus life in the early 1900's. It was a very enjoyable book to read. It read very much like a memoir as it was based on fact.

22 April is the film release date.


Have you read it?


29 March 2011

Are there any book-to-film adaptations that turned out very similar to the way you pictured as you read?

I love it when a film adaptation ends up much as I envisioned it as I read a book! It's really quite amazing when that happens. When it does, I credit it an author who writes vividly enough that one captures the story line as it was truly meant to be. Of course the producer and director have to see it the same way in order for it to come to fruition in the final product.

One film that I can watch over and over again is The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH. The book was written by Terry "Tuff" Ryan. Both the writing and the film take you back to the era in which the original story occurred. Simple and beautiful. (I wrote a review of the book here previously if you missed it: http://boundtogetherforgood.blogspot.com/2010/08/prize-winner-of-defiance-oh-how-my.html )

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or LessThe Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Another adaptation that I envisioned much as the film turned out is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. ( http://boundtogetherforgood.blogspot.com/2011/03/time-travelers-wife-by-audrey.html ) Perhaps I was able to envision it a certain way because we live near Chicago. I also feel that Niffengger's writing voice is dreamy and picturesque.
The Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler's Wife

Can you think of any book-to-film adaptations that pleased you because they seemed so similar to the book?

28 March 2011

Have you ever known a film adaptation that you liked better than the book from which it was adapted?

All of us are lovers of great books, right? I wonder if most of my readers also love great films, as I do...
It only stands to reason that the book, as the source of inspiration, will be better. It also stands to reason that a book is envisioned differently by every reader and, therefore, a movie adaptation will not please everyone.

Can you think of a film adaptation that you enjoyed more than the book? In such a case did you actually read the book first or did you perhaps see the film first?

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High AdventureMary Poppins (Odyssey Classics)I can think of two instances in which I loved the film and didn't care so much for the book. In both instances, however, I saw 
the films first and later read the books. I do wonder if that has skewed my perception in each case.  The titles are: Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers and The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I feel that both films are classics. I am not convinced that I'd have seen the treasure in either book; we are fortunate that someone did.

Here is an interesting article about someone else's feelings on the idea that the books is always better than the movie.


So...what do you think? Can you name any instances where you enjoyed the film more?

26 March 2011

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 This book was recommended to me by a friend from school. We have both read other of Shirley Jackson's books. The titles I have read are both non fiction; accounts of her life: Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. I find myself wondering if perhaps we were assigned this book in middle school as it seemed as if I'd read it before...  

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

The essence of this book is that it gives a picture of small towns and small minds. The telling of the story holds a mystery and the pieces of it are put together as the story is read. Everything is tied up pretty satisfyingly; at least the dots of the mystery are all connected by the end of the story. The main characters in this novel tend a family garden plot but also nurse more than a garden variety of mental and emotional issues. If gothic mystery is your "thing", you should read this book. 

25 March 2011

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

The Magicians and Mrs. QuentThis is 510 pages of Victorianesque reading, folks. I enjoyed that aspect very much. The characters are very well developed and enjoyable. While there seems to be a lot of characters to follow, it is a long book, so it becomes fairly easy to remember who everyone is, if only because there are many pages devoted to each scene of the book. The author does a wonderful job of not jumping around too quickly.

Ivy is a book lover. She has two sisters, Rose and Lily. In order to keep them straight I remembered "IRL"; that's the abbreviation for "in real life". That reminded me Ivy is the oldest and Lily the youngest. From there on it was pretty easy to remember the characters because they were interesting.

The book was written on the premise of the author wondering "what if" the social circumstances written of in Victorian books were due to a specific reason. Now that I know that I find it very interesting. However I also feel that the author could have developed many of the details of the storyline more fully. The plot felt, to me, very "sci-fi"  for a book set in the Victorian era. The tale involves magicians and witches and animated, living trees that seem to have a will of their own. 
The setting is "Altania", a fictional land.

There are three parts to this book. The first and third are written in the same voice. The second part is written as Ivy writing missives to her father who suffered an indecipherable breakdown prior to the beginning of the story. While this part feels somewhat less sophisticated than the other two parts, it was still enjoyable to hear Ivy's thoughts as the story progressed.

Overall, I believe I am happy with the story. That's a lot to say of a book that is 510 pages long. I certainly had no preconcieved ideas, aside from the fact that two women to whom I have similar reading tastes enjoyed the book. I would have been even happier with it though if the author had explained more fully some of those things that are very specific and peculiar to the plot. I felt he allowed us to just suspect some things...to be intuitive of them. While it was possible to intuit, I also sometimes find that dissatisfying; I want to know what the author was thinking as he wrote the story. I want to see his vision for it. I also felt he ended the story a bit abruptly too, whereas, I felt he could have added much greater depth to the very ending. The summation felt rushed. 

 The House at Durrow Street is the sequel to follow The Magicians and Mrs. Quent.

19 March 2011

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Fraction of the WholeThis is the 711 page tale of Jasper and his father, Martin. Fractions of stories are related; those stories are fractions of their lives, and their lives are fractions of the greater world. All of this was inspired by a quote from Emerson "The moment we meet with anybody, each becomes a fraction." 

The plot twists and turns so many times it would seem unbelievable if I tried to list some of the things that happen in this book. The whole thing is a bit on the dark side, but with humor throughout. Toltz manages to poke fun at modern day Australian society through the telling of his work of fiction. The main part of the book is Jasper telling the reader the story of his life but to do so he must also tell us of his father's life, and to do that he must tell of his father's brother's life too. At times, the point of view is changed and the story is taken over by Martin's voice. The pace rolls furiously; the reader doesn't lose interest. 

I was a bit worried at the length of this book, wondering if maybe I would find the whole story pointless. I actually liked it. I liked the way the author connected a lot of different threads of the story. It speaks a lot about relationships and philosophy but what it says is interesting and I can believe that some people do feel the way the characters felt even though I don't. Toltz manages to take some pretty crazy characters and cause the reader to empathize with them. The story is, at the same time, funny and tragic. I think I picked this book up because of the cover and the title initially. I probably then read the blurb on the back cover and decided to give it a try. I read the whole book during a week's holiday in Portugal in October 2009. It was a great piece of fiction for a beach vacation.

17 March 2011

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

I very much enjoy reading books written by Bill Bryson. I have also tried listening 
to one of his books on cd, read by him. Let's just say I'd rather read the book; 
he reads a bit slow and dead-pan for me. Don't get me wrong, I know it must be 
difficult to read for a recording! I feel the writing just flows better for me if I am 
reading. I'm not much given to listening to books on tape but do it once in a while.
The Mother Tongue

I enjoyed Mother Tongue. I very much enjoy learning about language and what 
affects it and causes it to change. The differences between American and British 
English intrigue me and they were discussed in this book, along with many other 
things. (We happened to be living in England at the time that I read this book in 
January 2008.)

He also discusses dialects and spelling changes. Ever wonder why the word 
"doubt" is spelled the way it is? As always Bryson can write about a very serious 
topic while managing to infuse it with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. (For those 
interested in language but with a taste for anything that isn't banal he even 
discusses swear words.)

             Why do "knife" and "knight" and "knowledge" begin with a "k"?      
                                  Bryson knows; I know; do you know?

15 March 2011

The Color of Water by James McBride

Born in the early stages of America's civil rights movement, James McBride faced some unusual circumstances during his life; more unusual than most people faced. His birth father was a black man, his mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant. James had seven siblings older than he. His father died from lung cancer during James' pregnancy. His mother married another black man and gave birth to four more children. Life carried on.

James' mother, Ruth, although Jewish, converted to Christianity and, with her first husband, started a church. Faith played a central role in their lives and does so throughout this memoir. McBride uses the book as a means to describe his own life but tells it along with the story of his mother's life. As difficult as it might be to be born to a black man during a time of great racial tension, I imagine Ruth faced even greater difficulties. Can you imagine the isolation she must have felt? Her family turned their back on her when her first pregnancy occurred out of wedlock and with a black man. Of course she was also an adult during the civil rights movement so she was very aware of the tensions around her, and the need to protect her young children. Even facing all of this she had a wonderful way of looking at life. Ruth was always an advocate for bettering one's self. She taught her children the values of faith, hard work, and motivation. Her children are a testament to a woman who plunged forward during radically difficult times; all twelve completed college and went on to successful lives. James became a journalist as well as a jazz musician and, obviously, an author too.

Though growing up was rough, later in life James could say that it was a blessing to have come from two worlds.

The Color of Water 10th Anniversary Edition

Oh, what is the color of water?  Ruth had the answer...read and find out.

Ruth McBride Jordan died at age 88 on 16 Jan 2010.

I read this book in November of 2006. I will read it again.

13 March 2011

The Tent, the Bucket and Me: My Family's Disastrous Attempts to go Camping in the 70s by Emma Kennedy

We moved to the UK in August 2007 and our family took many holiday trips. Some were even psuedo-camping (hiring a stationary caravan at a campsite) and therefore I can truly picture everything this book is about.
The Tent, the Bucket and Me: My Family's Disastrous Attempts to go Camping in the 70s

This was an hilarious but painful look at a decade of holidays gone hellish for Emma Kennedy and her parents. Their desires for a happy holiday took them to Wales, other parts of England, and to France.
Somehow the holiday faeries never seemed to find them and protect them.

Reading this you keep waiting for just one glorious moment of sunshine, or luck, or even a pain-free moment at least. And, always, just as there is the faintest hint that things are beginning to go right...out falls the bottom! Poor Emma, Brenda and Tony. The story chronicles their travels from when Emma was age three until she turns thirteen.

Since adulthood Emma has refused, hands down, to go on holiday with her parents. It really isn't any wonder.

11 March 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

     Winner of the Caldecott Award in 2008, this interesting story is most 
creatively told through the use of not only words, but also pictures. The pictures are nice clear pen and ink drawings which add to the story line quite effectively. Not long after I began reading it all of our children were compellingly engrossed, even my husband and the drivers of the coaches we toured in while on a holiday in Paris, France in 2008. 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

     The novel is set in Paris, in a train station. The story focuses on some truths in history regarding the beginning of film making, as well as automatons. Our family happened to be visiting the Musee d'Orsay, an Impressionist museum, in Paris. The museum is housed in a former train station. That added great meaning to the book for our family and created a lasting memory for all of us.

     Don't let the size of this book scare you. Yes, it is 533 pages, but it is a combination storybook and novel, all in one. In thinking back, I would guess it only took a matter of hours for us to finish it; maybe 3-5 hours. I feel it is well worth one's time.

10 March 2011

The children's Blizzard by David Laskin

It was a milder than usual morning on the 12th of January 1888. North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska...the people are happy for a break from the winter weather. They begin to go about their day with little care.

Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20. The weather to come later that day brought utter disaster.
The storm that is the subject of this book is the same storm written about by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in her books.

This book gets a bit heavy with weather terminology in a couple of chapters. But the author also weaves MANY stories of various immigrants lives throughout the book...don't try to keep them straight, just keep reading. Actually, the second time I read this book I read it aloud to two of our children, ages 11 and 10 at the time.

Skip the weather terminology if you must, don't let it stop you from hearing the events of the blizzard and how it affected the people it struck. This is a piece of unpredictable, fascinating, American history.
The Children's Blizzard (P.S.) 

08 March 2011

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I was amazed by this book when I read it.

How could the author have been had the insight to be able to write it? Wow.

The Book Thief

Death is the narrator. But not in a creepy way. This 'Death' has as much compassion as he is able to have
as he collects the souls of the departed; and boy, was he busy during WWII. What a shame.

If I had known what would happen in this book I'd have probably not read it. Gee, how can a war book NOT include lots of death... Well, it did...the funny thing is that each time "Death" warned me of it with just enough of a lead-in so that I could absorb the fact and accept it and then the story progressed through the death and I could cope with it!

This was a lovely way to write a very touching book about the plausible (historic fiction) life of some very strong and unfortunate people.

07 March 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Wow! I used to hate anything related to time travel as I got way too confused trying to make it all make sense! I only became a little confused in one part of this book and a friend straightened me out! This story is phenomenal and really has you thinking "What if...".

The Time Traveler's Wife 

The essence of this book is that Henry DeTamble has a rare genetic disorder which is ultimately named Chron-Displacement. Henry jumps through time to places he has or will have been, in time. Clare Abshire is destined to meet, and fall in love with, Henry.

Can you imagine being married to a man who  is there one moment, and quite literally, gone the next? Miss Niffenegger will make you imagine it and she'll have you practically believing it by the end of the book. Her vivid imagery pulled me in. I finished reading the book in November 2004. In August 2005 I listened to it on audio cd. I also convinced my husband to listen to it. I convinced my best friend to read it. Both of my brothers read it on my recommendation. I told everyone about the book. I even REread the book, which is a big deal for me. I missed recording the date that I reread it but it was while we were living in England and before the film version was released so it was in 2008 or 2009.

The book looks at all aspects of life, therefore there are a few scenes that depict sexual activity. Some are pretty integral to the story. There was one scene and the particularly heavy use of one word in particular that my brother, Scott, and I both felt could have been left out without any detriment to the story. Overall, I feel it is worth it to either press on and read those portions of the book or to try to ignore them and skip over them if you feel you can't read such things. The book is definitely not okay for children to read. I would allow our teens to read it but I do think that parents should make that decision themselves.

I have, since, seen the movie that was adapted from the book. I know that most book lovers do not like movie adaptations. This was a tough book to pack into a film. I have to say, though, that the producers did a wonderful job. Much of the film ended up being very much the way I envisioned it. Our kids very much enjoyed the movie too, especially our ten year old son.

The Time Traveler's Wife [Blu-ray]
As a book lover I love the fact that Henry works for the Newberry Library in Chicago. I want to tour it! Here is some information on the library:  http://www.newberry.org/collections/timetravelers.html  

Believe it or not, I know I will read this book again.
And I will watch the film with my hubby soon too; he hasn't seen it yet.

Henry and Clare...

One Day by David Nicholls

The premise of this book is to follow one couple, looking at a particular day of the year for them, every year for 20 years. Touted as the 'best weird love story since The Time Traveler's Wife' by a reviewer, I would heartily agree. It holds the same special place for me somehow. 

Dex and Em, Em and Dex. 

One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original) 

They belonged together. 

Heartbreaking, really. But so true to life. Read it.

The book begins on July 15, 1988. Some descriptions of the day are simple and short while in other years the day is practially momentous. 

Em is sweet and funny and full of wit. Dexter, ah, Dexter. He is charming and witty and gorgeous and rather full of himself. Around Em, though, he is sometimes able to pull his act together. She is certainly a motivator for him at times. As a reader you find yourself pulling for the two of them as a couple. The story was completely enveloping for me. I found myself absolutely wrapped up in the story line of "The Time Traveler's Wife" and found the same to be true for "One Day".

I have to warn you that I hated the very ending of the story but the author/editor was a genius and didn't really end the book there. He ventured back in time to the earlier parts of the book and brought us deeper into the earlier happenings. That redeemed it for me. My brother, Duffy, told me to expect to hate it because of the 'ending'. I am so glad I ended up loving it.

I Loved this book.


My casting call... 
(This is where I list the people I envisioned as the characters in the book as I read it.)

I pictured Em as a dear friend of mine from England. She has dark, shoulder length hair and the slender body of a dancer.

I pictured Dex as Kurt Russell.


For news of the expected release of the film, 
click here> One Day to be released as a FILM

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

I haven't read many mysteries...but this one has to be my hands-down favourite.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery
Set in England, I could truly picture the happenings. Flavia de Luce is the cheeky, chemistry-loving deducer of the identity of the murderer of the man she found dying, and then dead, in the garden of her family's estate. Doesn't take long to fall under her spell. A reader's delight. You won't want to put it down if you pick it up! I dare you!

One of my favourite quotes from this book:

'I detected instantly that she didn't like me. It's a fact of

life that a girl can tell in a flash if another girl likes her. Feely says that there is a broken telephone connection between men and women, and we can never know which of us rang off. With a boy you never know whether he's smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in the first three seconds. Between girls there is a silent and unending flow of invisible signals, like the high-frequency wireless messages between the shore and the ships at sea, and this secret flow of dots and dashes was signaling that Mary detested me.'


'What kind of poison could work that quickly? I ran through the most likely possibilities. Cyanide worked in minutes: after turning blue in the face, the victime was asphyxiated almots immediately. It left behind a smell of bitter almonds But no, the case against cyanide was that, had it been used, the victime would have been dead before I found him. (Although I have to admit that I have a soft spot for cyanide-when it comes to speek, it is right up there with the best of them. If poisons were ponies, I'd put my money on cyanide.)'
This book is followed up by "The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag."
The third book in the series has been eagerly awaited and was set to make its debut on 8 February 2011: "A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Mystery."

It will be one of the next ebooks I purchase.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery
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