Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Question of the Day (1)

Monday's Question of the Day is hosted by Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/

Question: What book are you reading right now and what's your favorite part so far?

My Answer: I'm still reading Pride and Prejudice. I'm not sure if I have a favourite part (plotwise), but I am enjoying it. I've seen numerous movie versions, so part of the fun for me is seeing what the filmmakers did and didn't include.

Musing Mondays (3)

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...

Do you buy books as gifts for children – either your own or those of friends or family? Would you buy books for all children, or only children who are already practiced readers?

I have done so, yes. A book makes a great gift, even if the child can't yet read to themselves. There are always the pictures to look at.

My mom also buys books for kids in the family. She's big on reading, too. Some of the gifts she's bought for my cousins... well, let's just say I wished those books had been for me! There are some truly awesome books for kids out there.

If I were buying a gift for a child I didn't know much about, I'd probably go with something by Robert Munsch. Perhaps Mortimer or The Paper Bag Princess.

And if I could find them, I might give some of Mary Rayner's books about the Pig family (for some inexplicable reason, these delightful books are out of print). We read them as kids, and they were just too funny. The ones I remember most were Mrs. Pig's Bulk Buy and Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady.

So... books as gifts for kids? I think it's a great idea. It's never too early to engender a love of reading.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Create A Cover

I saw this over at The Story Siren and I had to give it a go. Any excuse to play with Photoshop, right?

1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click

The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click

The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click

Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.

5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

And here's what I came up with:

If anyone wants to tell me what it's about, I'd be most obliged. I'm sure I have no idea...

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Write Your Very Own Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Note: This is just for fun. I'm not doing this to attack any particular book or series. I just noticed a pattern and I thought it would be amusing to write a little bit about it.

How to Write Your Very Own Young Adult Paranormal Romance

1. Characters

Since most of your readers will be young women between the ages of 13 and 21, you'll want to have a protagonist in that age group. Make her about 18 or so; this way, the younger girls will have something to aspire to, and the older girls will have someone they can relate to. Your protagonist should either be a) beautiful, but unaware of her beauty; or b) beautiful and aware of it, but full of false modesty. In either case, your protagonist should have fairly low self-esteem. This will allow her to complain about her looks, inviting others to tell her how beautiful she really is. Your protagonist should be a normal human (as opposed to some sort of supernatural creature). If she is something other than human (or superhuman!), this must be withheld from the reader until the last couple of pages. Dropping hints is okay, but realize that your readers are probably going to figure it out long before you think they will. They're not stupid.

Now for the main character's love interest. He should be tall; this ensures that your protagonist will have to gaze up longingly into his eyes. He should have a good head of hair that can be described as "thick", "lustrous", or "flowing". These guys are never bald. Their eyes should have some noteworthy characteristic (and even if they're just plain ol' brown eyes, make sure you mention them as many times as possible). And in paranormal romance, this is the place for a supernatural creature. Whether you decide to make him a vampire, a werewolf, a shapeshifter, or an immortal, there are a few rules to keep in mind:

Paranormal creatures (especially hot, sexy ones) don't have bodily functions. They never go to the bathroom, even if they eat. Have you ever seen a werewolf have to excuse himself because his dinner of deer and/or wayward Boy Scout didn't agree with him? Of course not. This is because normal bodily functions are decidedly not sexy, so any mention of them should be avoided.

These guys always have a tragic past. Maybe they were beaten and abused as children. Maybe they lost the love of their life years (or decades... or centuries) earlier. Maybe they were turned into what they are against their will. In any case, they're now a wounded character. Milk this for all it's worth. Shows of sympathy from your protagonist (preferably involving gentle caresses where she brushes his flowing hair from his face) are a good way to do this. But remember... these guys don't want to talk about it. If you make them spill the beans too quickly, they might come across as... well, a little too girly for a leading man.

Don't worry about keeping to a particular set of creature traits, either. In today's fiction, you can get away with pretty much anything. Your vampire doesn't need to drink blood, sport fangs, and turn into a bat. One attribute is enough, and you can use the term "vampire" all you want. The same goes for werewolves, shapeshifters, immortals, fairies, selkies, mermaids, or any other paranormal creature. After all, you want to put your own spin on it, and you can't do that if you're hemmed in by conventions.

2. Plot

Whatever you do, don't come up with your own story! Stick with the tried-and-true. (There are no new ideas anyway, right?) The basic formula can be summed up in the following:

A hot new guy shows up at the local high school and seems to have eyes only for your protagonist. Your protagonist is both attracted and repelled by this mysterious teen hottie, who, of course, turns out to be some sort of supernatural creature. By the end of the story, they will be madly in love, and the girl will have been turned into one of her love interest's own kind.

The protagonist should vascillate between loving this paranormal cutie and wishing he would just go away. Don't forget, though: by the end of the book, she should have cycled back into loving him (if this hasn't happened, you need to add some more padding, some banal incident that will bring her back around).

Oh, and don't forget: all books in this genre must include a reference to Wuthering Heights. It's absolutely compulsory. The easiest way to do this (especially in young adult fiction) is to have the characters read the book in their high school English class. Then, let the dysfunctional relationship comparisons begin!

3. Writing Style

Write your book in the first person point of view (i.e., as if your main character is telling the story). You get bonus points if you write in the present tense. It just makes everything seem more immediate. With this point of view, the protagonist doesn't know any more than we do.

Make sure that your characters do strange things with their eyes. Have their eyes caress their lover's body, graze their surroundings, and bounce around the room. This adds an element of humour to the story, since such wording can be interpreted in a couple of ways. On a related note, break out your thesaurus when you're writing your speech attributions. Your characters should never "say" anything. They should murmur, whisper, screech, laugh, stammer, sigh, and shudder their words whenever possible. This helps give the reader an idea of how the character is feeling, and it cuts down on wordiness. Plus, it's fun for your reader to imagine what shuddered sentences actually sound like.

Finally, you'll want to create your own style and voice. An easy way to do this is to write incomplete sentences, repeatedly use that cool word you found in your dictionary and just had to incorporate, make up words, and use original punctuation. If you do these things, your readers will remember your book and your work will stand out.


Review - Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)
by Beth Fantaskey
Date: 2009
Publisher: Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 351
Format: hardcover
Source: Indigo

The undead can really screw up your senior year...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Yes! Finally a paranormal romance that doesn't make me want to hurl the book across the room in disgust. Took me long enough to find one...

Jessica Packwood is a seemingly ordinary teenager living in rural Pennsylvania with her quirky vegan parents. But the arrival of a mysterious "exchange student" from Romania turns her life upside-down. Lucius Vladescu is intelligent, arrogant, imperious... and a vampire. Even worse, he claims that Jessica is a vampire princess, that they have been betrothed to each other since infancy, and that if their pact isn't fulfilled with their marriage, their families will go to war. Jessica suddenly has a lot more to worry about during her senior year than final exams!

I actually heard about this book from my mom, who'd heard the title in a TV segment on good books for teens. The title was immediately intriguing, and when I looked around a little more, I found mostly favourable reviews. I was worried that I might be in for another Twilight copycat, but I didn't really need to be concerned. Fantaskey's vampires are about as different from Meyer's as you can get. And that, for me, was part of what made the book work.

The characters are strong -- even the minor ones (I loved the vampire Dorin, with his striped mittens and affinity for specialty coffees). The story is told from Jessica's point of view (first person), and we do get a good feel for who she is. Through her eyes, we also get to know Lucius (whose name means "light"... how deliciously ironic), who, though he is mysterious, can't help but wear some of his emotions on his sleeve. He also has vulnerabilities, which is refreshing in a world of vampires and immortals who are difficult (if not downright impossible) to kill; where's the suspense if there's no kryptonite for your Superman? Fantaskey's vampires seem more like an offshoot of humanity rather than an entirely different species, which is perfectly okay. It works here.

My complaints with this book were few. First, nobody ever "said" anything. The speech attributions were kind of crazy. I'm not sure how someone "shudders" a sentence, for example. But it didn't bother me as much as it might have, partly because this seemed to fit with the way Jessica might talk (after all, she was a math whiz... not a grammar freak). My only other complaint was with the pacing. It seemed a little off to me, with some of the more exciting moments coming earlier in the story. The climax and resolution, while satisfying, seemed a little rushed.

Overall, though, this is a fun read for fans of YA paranormal romance. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to teens who love a good vampire tale.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins (3)

Friday Fill-Ins:

1. He was a cad, all swagger and flair from the tips of his shiny red boots to the sparkly hair bow perched atop his rather bulbous head. (What?)

2. The noisy neighbour kids going back to school is what I look forward to most this time of year.

3. My best friend is, I sometimes think, just putting up with me.

4. It's difficult to be honest with you.

5. Appearances can be a turn-on. At least in the beginning.

6. The last person I gave a hug to was my dog. Let's not question my definition of personhood at the moment.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching "Lost in Austen", tomorrow my plans include reading and Sunday, I want to take a trip to Europe and visit some castles!

Booking Through Thursday (3)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

I'm still reading it (geez, I'm slow). Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is hardly a "heavy" book. I'm quite enjoying it, though. How refreshing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Be Friends!

Thanks so much to Jessica (BookLover) for nominating me for the Let's Be Friends Award!

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.

I'm going to deliver this award to:
  1. Juju @ Tales of whimsy...
  2. Mon @ chewing a leaf
  3. Kay @ The Infinite Shelf
  4. Kate @ The Neverending Shelf
  5. Lenore @ Presenting Lenore
  7. Shakespeare's Muse & Elise @ Reading Rocks
  8. Steph Su @ Steph Su Reads

Musing Mondays (2)

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...

Do you prefer to read stand-alone books, or books in series? Do you stick with a series the whole way through or stop after the first installment? Are there any particular series you enjoy?(question courtesy of Elena)

I touched on this in a previous post, but I'll give a more complete answer here.

In general, I prefer stand-alone books. If I start reading a series, I usually feel like I have to keep going... even if I'm not loving it. So I tend to steer clear of series in general... unless I've heard really good things about them.

However, if the series is known to be finite, I might give it a go. Everybody knew that Harry Potter was going to be seven books, so that was okay. And I have fewer problems with reading a trilogy, because I know that there will most likely be a satisfactory conclusion to the story.

What I don't like are series that just keep going and going and going... If the books can be read individually, and out of order, that's not so bad. But if the series forms one long story, that just seems like the author (and/or publisher) is stringing the reader along. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't like sequels for the sake of sequels. It makes me feel like the author (and/or publisher) is more interested in making money than in telling a good story.

Do I stop after the first installment of a series? Not if I'm enjoying it. The problem for me usually comes with the second book, though. If the first book acts as an attractor, the second book often acts as repellent. I've been disappointed with series where I really liked the first book but just couldn't get into the subsequent ones. The Queen's Thief, His Dark Materials, and Abhorsen series come to mind; awesome first books... but I never finished reading the series because the following books didn't hold my interest.

As for series that I actually finished (and liked), I can only think of a couple. The first is the Willowmere Chronicles, which I've mentioned before. The second is Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. The His Dark Materials trilogy is far more well-known, but the Sally Lockhart books (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess) are captivating as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why I Hate Twilight

Warning: This post includes spoilers on the series, so if you don't already know what happens in all the books, don't read this!

It's come to my attention that I may come across as a Twilight hater. Well... yeah. I am. I despise the series. But it didn't have to be that way.

I didn't start out hating the Twilight books. I was never a die-hard fan, but I didn't outright hate the series, either (I wouldn't own copies of all four books if that were the case). I reviewed all four books on Amazon, and my star ratings were as follows:

Twilight - 3
New Moon - 3
Eclipse - 2
Breaking Dawn - 1 (zero, really... but Amazon doesn't let you give zero stars)

I had hoped to be able to give Breaking Dawn a higher rating. Sadly, that wasn't the case. The author dropped the ball. She blew it. And I, as a reader and a consumer who paid money for that book, have every right to be annoyed.

There's a book on writing by Bill Johnson called A Story Is A Promise. I think that phrase is very appropriate here, as it underscores the reason why Breaking Dawn failed to live up to people's expectations. Multiple promises were made throughout the course of the "saga" that led readers to expect certain things. When those things didn't happen, people were understandably upset. It's not a matter of being old, bitter, unloved, or a happy-ending-hater (all excuses I've seen Stephenie Meyer's defenders throw about). It was a betrayal on the part of the author.

Had Meyer kept her promises to the reader, Breaking Dawn would have turned out very differently. There would have been no baby. There would have been at least one instance of newborn bloodlust on Bella's part -- maybe she would have attacked Charlie or one of her high school friends. One or more major characters would have died. All of these things were explained, hinted at, or foreshadowed in the first three books. Vampires can't have babies (it's part of the reason Rosalie's so... bitchy); newborn vampires can't be trusted to control their urges (look at the havoc Victoria's army of the undead wreaked in Eclipse); the Volturi are dangerous and could eliminate any vampire at any time if they disapprove of their actions (we see this with minor characters throughout the series). To foreshadow these events and then not follow through is breaking a promise to the reader. Those events then become pointless, just empty words to take up space and increase the page count. The conclusion is ultimately hollow, and the ending doesn't make much sense.

Another reason I hate Twilight is the whole phenomenon that's sprung up around the series. There are proms, conventions, tours of Forks, bookmarks, board games, t-shirts, movies, and school curricula (don't even get me started there; the only reason anyone should be studying Twilight in an English class is as an example of how not to write a book). There are the endless comparisons with other books, trying to convince readers that if they like Twilight, they'll love this other book, too. To me, especially in the case of Wuthering Heights, it just seems like a money grab. It doesn't matter if it's "Bella & Edward's Favourite Book". It's still Wuthering Heights, and it's not that easy to read. And while it is about a very dysfunctional relationship (as Twilight is), it's not at all geared to the same reading audience. All an endorsement like this will do is get people to buy the book; it won't necessarily get them to read it. Poor Emily Brontë. She's probably spinning in her grave.

Finally, I just want to clear one thing up. Just because I hate Twilight does not mean I hate people who like Twilight. My opinion of the series does not necessarily equal my opinion of the people who like it. But I will not apologize for having an opinion on the books, nor will I temper that opinion. I have as much right to hate the books (and say so) as someone else has to love them (and say so). And that goes for any book... not just Twilight.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Meme for Saturday - Part Two

Too many questions for one entry, I thought. So here's the second part:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Anything that favourably compares itself to Twilight. That should not be our new benchmark for good literature. I've yet to read anything that said, "Fans of Stephenie Meyer will love this book!" and actually be impressed. It's okay to like vampires... but there are much better vampire books out there.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Hmmm... That's an interesting question. I don't know if I'd want to hang out with any characters, to be honest. Most of them seem to fit in best with their own friends and love interests. I'm so anti-social that they'd probably become bored with me.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding. I was supposed to read it in university. I just couldn't... though I tried really, really hard. I wrote my essays using the Coles Notes (hey, I passed the class!).

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
Tess of the d'Urbervilles. It was required reading in high school, but I fudged my way through all the essays after listening to the class lectures. I was so tired of reading books about male characters (and when we get a female MC, she gets raped?!). I kind of avoided it in protest.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
Hmmm... I don't think that's happened to me.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP.)
I have no idea what I'd recommend. Everybody's tastes are different! Maybe Jane Eyre. It's a classic (and it's a good classic).

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
Klingon! Ha, ha. Just kidding. Maybe Chinese. Then I could read all the signs around here (and make sure t-shirts with Chinese characters aren't actually saying something offensive).

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It's cute and (perhaps more importantly if I have to keep rereading it) it's nice and short.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead—let your imagination run free.
If I could have anything? Well, let's see... I guess the books would all be hardcover and all the same size. The covers could be different, but all the spines would be white (so they'd look pretty sitting on the shelves). Either that, or every book I ever wanted to read would be available on a Kindle (and the Kindle would be available here in Canada). Then I wouldn't have to worry about dusting my bookshelves.

What author do you own the most books by?
Diana Wynne Jones.

What book do you own the most copies of?
I only have one copy of each of my books.

What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore! Seriously, though, I can't really think of anyone. I kind of had a crush on Josef Kavalier from Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay when I read the book... but that was a while ago.

What book have you read more than any other?
Probably one of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.

What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
When I was 10, I think I was into series books like The Baby-Sitters Club. Not very profound or meaningful, I know.

What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Breaking freaking Dawn. It still makes me want to vomit when I realize how much time I wasted on that trash.

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
I tend not to finish the difficult ones.

Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I prefer French dressing to Russian on my salad. As for books, I haven't read enough of either to form an opinion.

Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
I wouldn't know. I've only ever read Shakespeare.

Austen or Eliot?
Again, I wouldn't know. I've yet to finish a book by either.

What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I've never read any Dickens. Not start to finish, anyway.

What is your favorite novel?
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith or Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.

What is your favorite play?
Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare.

What is your favorite poem?
I like parts of William Blake's Auguries of Innocence. But Bad Sir Brian Botany by A.A. Milne makes me smile, too.

What is your favorite essay?
Eh. I'm not into essays.

What is your favorite short story?
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry.

What is your favorite non-fiction?
Probably The Fall by Steve Taylor. It's sort of history/anthropology/religion... Very interesting book.

What is your favorite graphic novel?
I don't think I've ever read one.

What is your favorite science fiction?
The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. Although, that may be classed as romance or fantasy as well.

I really enjoyed Roald Dahl's memoirs.

Favorite History/Historical Novel?
I enjoyed Willa Cather's novels, but they weren't really "historical" when they were written! Any book that's old enough becomes historical. So I'm going to say something like... anything by Jane Austen.

Favorite mystery or noir?
I don't really read this genre.

Favourite romance?
Again, I don't really read this genre. Not in the Harlequin sense. I liked The Time Traveler's Wife, though. Does that count?

Favourite teen book?
I don't know! There are too many options... *head explodes*

Who is your favourite writer?
I don't really have one. I was really impressed with Laura Whitcomb's writing in A Certain Slant of Light, and I thought maybe I'd found a new favourite author. But her second book didn't live up to the high standards of the first.

Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Stephenie Meyer.

What are you reading right now?
I already answered this in Part One.

What book do you wish someone wrote so you could read it?
I don't really care, as long as it's something original. I'm tired of copycats.

A Meme for Saturday

I saw this over at Steph Su Reads, and I thought it looked interesting. Plus, I don't have anything to review at the moment (I'm in the middle of a book):

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
I think I'd have to say that I like hardbacks the best. Trade paperbacks are okay, sometimes. I find that a lot of mass market paperbacks smell funny, so I don't really like them (I think maybe it's the cheaper paper or something).

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Neither. I live in Canada, so we have Chapters and Indigo (same company, slightly different look to the stores). They both have in-store Starbucks, though, so it's all good.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Bookmark. Dog-earring is like... book abuse.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?
Amazon. The prices are better, and you don't have to put up with inane background music or screaming babies (the customers around here seem to think that the bookstore is an appropriate place to take a hungry, soiled newborn... the last two times I've been in the bookstore, I've had to hide in certain sections to protect my eardrums as these people stroll around with their screaming bundle, apparently trying to annoy as many people as possible).

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
I tend to alphabetize by author. Plus, my bookshelf is divided into sections (fiction, reference, art, etc.). Maybe I should just learn the Dewey Decimal System so I can organize my books like the library does...

Keep, throw away, or sell?
I usually keep my books. I haven't really bothered with selling (except at the occasional garage sale). If I want to get rid of a book, I usually donate it to the library. I never throw a book away. If anything, I'd at least tear the pages out and put them in the recycling bin (if I could bring myself to do that to a book!).

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Keep it. Why on earth would you throw it away? It's not meant to be disposable packaging.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
I've done both. I have a bad habit of using the dust jacket flaps as bookmarks, though, so it's probably a good idea for me to remove it.

Short story or novel?
Novel. Usually.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
I guess Harry Potter, even though I'm not a huge fan. At least I read all seven books. I tried to read the first Lemony Snicket book and didn't get very far.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
When I'm tired. I'd prefer to stop at a chapter break, but sometimes the chapters are too long and I'm too tired...

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Either. (I don't think I've ever actually read a book that started with the first phrase. I wonder how many there actually are...)

Buy or borrow?
Buy. I've had too many "poo books" from the library. You know, those books that have unidentifiable brown smears on the pages. You think it might be chocolate, until you remember that a lot of people like to read in the bathroom...

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
It's a combination, I guess. I don't rely 100% on reviews or recommendations; I've been burned in the past. If I hear about a book that looks interesting, I'll have a browse through it at the bookstore... and then I might decide to buy it. Even then, though, I sometimes end up with a dud.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
That depends. If it's a stand-alone book, I don't want a cliffhanger! In a series, though, a cliffhanger is perfectly acceptable (as long as it's not at the end of the final book). I like cliffhangers within books, too (like at the end of chapters). They help draw you forward through the story (which is good, especially if the story itself is lacking in some way).

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Nighttime reading. I do almost all of my reading before I go to bed. No wonder it takes me so long to get through anything!

Stand-alone or series?
I prefer stand-alone books. Series are okay if they're finite (trilogies, series of 7 books, etc.). I don't like series that have no end in sight. In those cases, I feel like the publisher/author is just viewing the reader as an ATM.

Favorite series?
The Willowmere Chronicles by Alison Baird. The three books are:
  1. The Witches of Willowmere
  2. The Warding of Willowmere
  3. The Wyrd of Willowmere
Favorite children’s book?
My favourite books for little kids are The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. For older kids, my favourites are probably the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.

Favorite YA book?
Gosh... How can I pick? I'd probably say Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Come on. At least somebody has heard of most books (they're on the shelves, aren't they?). I'm going to stick with The Willowmere Chronicles. I've never seen them mentioned on anyone's book blog. They're by a Canadian author, so that may be why.

Favorite books read last year?
Last year was a terrible year for me with books! The only good ones I read were A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, and three books by Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, and Fairest).

Favorite books of all time?
There are too many! My top three:
  1. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
What are you reading right now?
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. And Pride and Prejudice (still!).

What are you reading next?
Probably Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?
Hmmm... Maybe The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Or Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.

Favorite book to re-read?
I don't re-read. There are so many books out there. I won't have enough time to read all of them, so I don't want to waste time re-reading!

Do you ever smell books?
I try not to. If they smell, I'll probably avoid them.

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?
No. But if I came across some really interesting ones, I might.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins (2)

Friday Fill-Ins:

1. I remember, I remember when music came in cassette form and people had to be at home to receive a phone call. Yes, I'm that old.

2. Dear Mother Nature, I want you to know that you seem a little unbalanced this summer. I never know whether to wear a tank top or polar fleece.

3. Is that my belly button!!??? Wow... linty.

4. I'm trying to resist the temptation of starting to read more books than I have the intention of finishing.

5. I'm saving a kiss just for you! Are you ever going to come and claim it?

6. If I made a birthday list not much would definitely be on it!!! I'm not big on birthdays.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading the book I just started, tomorrow my plans include eating and Sunday, I want to go to Hawaii (hey, that's what I want... it's not necessarily what's going to happen)!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday (2)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
(Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

It's been a while since I read a book that I really enjoyed. Last November, I read Laura Whitcomb's A Certain Slant of Light. I'd just come from reading Charles de Lint's Dingo (I usually love the author's work, but that book was just bad) and Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn (do I really need to explain?), so it was so refreshing to read something that was just... well, good.

The first thing that grabbed me was the cover. Doesn't this cover make you curious?

When I actually got my hands on the book, though, it was the writing that sucked me straight into the story and kept me reading. I thought the characters were interesting (even the supporting ones), and the story was compelling. My complaints were few and minor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays (2)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Today's Teaser:

My chest clenched, and I swallowed hard. Who stands under a tree at the crack of dawn, in the middle of nowhere, wearing a black cloak?

~ page 1 - Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Well, at least it looks like stuff happens right away. I can't stand it when you have to read 40 pages before something significant happens!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Musing Mondays (1)

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...

How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?

In general, I look forward to seeing movies (or TV series/miniseries) that were made from books... particularly if I've read those books. I enjoy seeing someone else's take on the story, and whether the filmmakers saw the same thing in their head as I did when they were reading the book. Harry Potter (especially the first movie) was a good example of that. So much of what I saw on screen matched really well with what I'd seen in my head (scenery-wise, anyway... the characters themselves were another matter).

If it's a book I like, I'm going to be more critical of the movie. I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books. The movie was just so-so for me. It wasn't horrible, but for whatever reason, it didn't really capture the magic of the book. Jane Eyre is another favourite, and I've seen a few movie versions. I haven't really seen one that I hated; most of them are pretty good (I especially like the newish Masterpiece Theatre version starring Ruth Wilson as Jane). And I tend to like most Jane Austen adaptations... even though I haven't read any of the books in full. I got through half of Sense and Sensibility back in 1995 or so, and I'm in the middle of Pride and Prejudice at the moment. The 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility is one of my all-time favourite movies... and it makes me want to pick the book up again at some point.

I do like to read a book before I see the movie. That's probably one of the reasons I've never watched The Da Vinci Code. I wanted to read the book first. But it's sitting on my shelf, mostly unread. I got as far as the main character trying to escape from the Louvre, and it just went on and on and on... and I got really, really bored. (Yes, I know that was in the first few pages.) So I may just watch the movie and forget about the book; I've heard the movie doesn't follow the book that well, anyway. The Time Traveler's Wife is a movie that I'd love to see. I read the book years ago and loved it. Oh, and The Lovely Bones is coming soon, too. I hope these movie versions can live up to the books.

Sometimes, though, movies just go wrong. The prime example for me is Howl's Moving Castle. A Hayao Miyazaki version was made in 2004. I've never been a fan of that style of animation anyway, but when I saw the movie -- based on one of my favourite Diana Wynne Jones novels -- I almost cried. It was so bad. The characters were nothing like their book counterparts, huge (and interesting) portions of the plot were left out and replaced with some strange shapeshifting nonsense and anti-war commentary, and the voice casting was just atrocious. Perhaps it was better in the Japanese version, but the dubbed English version was laughably bad. Howl was drawn as a bishōnen sort of guy, and then was given a voice that sounded like a bear on steroids.

And then there's Twilight. I saw it in the theatre shortly after reading Breaking Dawn (which ultimately soured me on the whole series... after being bored silly by New Moon and Eclipse, I'd hoped the last book could redeem the series; it could not... and I think it just made things worse). So I went mostly for interest's sake. I wanted to see how the story would be adapted to the big screen. Just like the whole series is a great example of how not to write a book, Twilight (the movie) was a great example of how not to adapt a book into a movie. I highly doubt that Stephenie Meyer intended for any of her characters to be comedic, but that's how they came across. Whether it was the poor casting, the bad wigs, or the questionable acting, the movie was causing a lot more giggling than swooning in the theatre where I saw it. Jasper, who I always saw as a dangerous, reserved, and somewhat tragic character, was reduced to a bit of comic relief, a character who walked around with an expression that alternated between a deer in the headlights and someone with a bad case of constipation. And when Carlisle, supposedly supermodel-perfect Carlisle, walked on screen for the first time looking like the pasty victim of some strange wasting disease, there was a collective snicker from the whole theatre. Perhaps Twilight tried too hard to stay true to the book. Some things just don't translate very well to the big screen. (A lesson to be learned: if hair colour isn't crucial to the story, don't be such a stickler about it. That's probably half the problem with these characters: horrendous wigs and dye jobs. It's hard to take them seriously when you're distracted by that much weirdness. Not everyone can pull off platinum blonde hair *cough*PeterFacinelli*cough*.)

Is that enough musing for Monday?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins (1)

Friday Fill-Ins:

1. When will I ever finish Pride and Prejudice?

2. Say Anything was the last good book I read or movie I saw or tv show I watched. (It was on TV last night. Can you believe I've never seen the whole thing until now?)

3. Everything has its beauty but beauty isn't everything.

4. Pasta is what I had for dinner.

5. I'd like your calm, unflappable nature.

6. Hawaii is where I want to be right now.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep, tomorrow my plans include reading and Sunday, I want to do something at least moderately interesting!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Many Have You Read?

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

I saw this on Nikola's Book Blog:

Instructions: Copy this into your blog. Look at the list and put an 'X' after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (X) I'm reading it right now... and I will finish it!

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien ()

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (X)

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (X)

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X)

6 The Bible ()

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte ()

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell ()

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (X) Only the first two books...

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (X) Sort of. I was supposed to read it for school. I read bits of it.

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (X)

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy ()

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller ()

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ()

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier()

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (X)

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ()

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger ()

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (X)

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ()

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ()

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald ()

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ()

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ()

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams ()

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ()

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky ()

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck ()

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X)

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (X) I don't remember if I finished this one. I tried to read it when I was 10. So boring!

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ()

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens ()

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis ()

34 Emma-Jane Austen ()

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ()

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (X)

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein ()

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ()

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ()

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (X)

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X)

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown ()

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving ()

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ()

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (X)

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ()

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood ()

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding ()

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ()

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel ()

52 Dune - Frank Herbert ()

53 Cold Comfort Farm ()

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen ()

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ()

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ()

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens ()

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley ()

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon ()

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (X)

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ()

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ()

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (X)

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas ()

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac ()

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ()

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding (X)

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ()

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ()

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens ()

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker ()

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (X)

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ()

75 Ulysses - James Joyce ()

76 The Inferno – Dante ()

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ()

78 Germinal - Emile Zola ()

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ()

80 Possession - AS Byatt ()

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens ()

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ()

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ()

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ()

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert ()

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ()

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White (X)

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ()

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ()

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ()

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad ()

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery ()

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ()

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams ()

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole ()

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute ()

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas ()

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X)

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo ()

I've read 22 (if I counted correctly). What about you?

Tag... you're it! (If you want to do this, great. I look forward to seeing how many books you've read.)

Booking Through Thursday (1)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

I haven't read that many books recently. Unfortunately, most of them have been dismal. But I'm going to say Blue Moon (you can read my review of it here).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Please Pass The Lemonade...

I got my first award today! It was the Lemonade Award from Kate (thanks, Kate!) at The Neverending Shelf.

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude. Here are the rules for accepting this award:

Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.

Wow... 10 blogs! Well, that shouldn't be too hard. I've found so many great ones out there. Here goes:
  1. Khy at Frenetic Reader
  2. Paradox at Paradoxical
  3. Lenore at Presenting Lenore
  4. Kelsey at Reading Keeps You Sane
  5. Alea at Pop Culture Junkie
  6. Casey at A Passion For Books
  7. Sara at The Hiding Spot
  8. Prophecygirl at Wondrous Reads
  9. at Tales of whimsy...
  10. Steph Su at Steph Su Reads

Sunday, August 9, 2009

In My Mailbox (1)

This is the first time I've done this. That's mainly because, at the moment, not many new books are coming my way. I'm still trying to finish Pride and Prejudice. I've got other books waiting, but I refuse to let myself start them before I've finished P&P (because I know that, if I set aside P&P, I might not come back to it... I tend to do that with some classics).

So, in my "mailbox" this week, I only have one book. And that book is:

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

I'm looking forward to reading this one! I've heard lots of good things about it.

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays (1)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Today's Teaser:

"Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, "is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I daresay, it succeeds; but, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."

"Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed, "there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable."

~ page 33 (probably varies by edition) - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Meow! I guess catty women aren't a new phenomenon. And yes, I know that was three sentences; I didn't want to cut Mr. Darcy off in mid-thought.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Book Was Better!

That seems to be a common lament after the screen adaptation comes out. But it seems to be a bigger issue if you've already read the book. I'm finding that there are quite a few movies or TV series that I've seen or watched where I haven't read the original book first. I saw Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring without having read the book (I still haven't read those books... but I have read The Hobbit, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with Middle Earth). I watched The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story long before I read the books they were based upon. And I've just finished watching the first season of True Blood... without ever having held Dead Before Dark in my hands.

On the flip side, there are plenty of movies or TV shows that I've watched where I'd read the book first. More often than not, they're a disappointment. I suppose it's the inevitable comparisons, and the fact that you can cram more into a novel than you can into a screenplay. Plus, some moviemakers feel the need to put their own spin on the story, which can often be disastrous... at least in the eyes of the fans of the original book(s). I was very disappointed with the movie version of Howl's Moving Castle (one of my favourite books). I'm not an anime fan anyway, and I really didn't think that style suited the story. I can only imagine how awesome it would have been if someone like Tim Burton had done it, or if it had been given a treatment similar to that of the movie version of Coraline. I Capture the Castle was another disappointment. On its own, the movie is fine. But for me, it failed to capture the magic of the book.

As someone who likes to read books and watch movies, it seems that it's almost better if I watch first and read second. Then there are fewer expectations. The comparisons are still there, but there's also the fun of reading the book and discovering great little bits of the story that weren't included in the movie version (I'm experiencing this now as I'm reading Pride and Prejudice). I don't hate the movie if I enjoyed the book more... at least, not if I watched the movie first. However, if the book was awesome and then I'm disappointed by the movie, I'm liable to be more critical of the movie. So I'm a bit nervous about The Time Traveler's Wife. I read the book years ago, and I've been eagerly awaiting the movie version ever since. I guess we'll see if it can live up to people's expectations. At least the casting looks fairly good (that's pretty much how I imagined Henry and Clare)...

Anyway, after seeing a movie (or TV show) I enjoy, I often want to read the book it was based on. So I guess I'm going to have to add Dead Until Dark to my TBR pile. How many books are in that series again?