Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Near Impossible Choice -- Help Me Decide!

As I mentioned in my Harry Potter fangirl post this past weekend, I'm really itching to re-read the series. The only *problem* is this isn't the only big reading project I've been itching to start. And once I commit, I know it's going to be a while before I move onto anything else, so I'm being very indecisive about the whole thing and sticking to lower commitment reading at the moment. Looking ahead to Bout of Books 11 though, I'm thinking that might be the perfect week to jumpstart one of these *projects*. I'm very much a mood reader, so ultimately that will be a big factor in my decision, but I'm really curious to hear input/suggestions from my lovely readers, if you would be so kind. The potential options, in no particular order:

1. Re-read the Harry Potter series

2. FINALLY read the Game of Thrones series (My goal is to do this sometime before season 5 airs on HBO in the spring of 2015)

3. Re-read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander #1-6 + Lord John #1-3 so I can read Outlander #7 & #8 + Lord John & the Scottish Prisoner for the first time

All these books & there's still one missing!

4. Read Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy now that the final book has been published

My knee-jerk reaction is to lean toward the All Souls Trilogy simply because it is the least number of books and I know it won't take as long before I can move onto other things. However, all the books on this list (particularly the ones I've read before) are definitely worth savoring, so the time any of these *projects* would take isn't really an issue, it's just a bad habit to reach for whatever I can finish the quickest. Seems I like both quality AND quantity which has left me in quite a conundrum.

So, given these options, what would you choose first? There is always the option of choosing none of these and pulling a stack of shorter stand-alones I've been meaning to read, but I think I'm ready for something BIG. Something EXCITING. And if nothing else, all of these options are both of those things :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Release Day Review: The Major's Daughter

The Major's Daughter, by J.P. Francis
Series? No
Publisher: Plume
Date: August 29, 2014
How did I get this book? free from the publisher for my honest review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

In three words: Conflicted. Romantic. Tragic.

I'm not much of a romance-novel reader, but I am still a sucker for a story about star-crossed love. And what could be more star-crossed than a young American (the titular Major's Daughter) falling for a German prisoner of war?

Inspired by a real little-known POW camp in New Hampshire, I was at first taken aback to realize just how close to home this camp was. WWII novels taking place in New England tend to be about those who've been left behind and don't typically feature German soldiers on American soil. While it is believed that the German prisoners were treated humanely, the author notes in her Afterword that prison life was much more difficult than she portrayed in this book. Her main focus was on the characters, so those aspects were intentionally softened. If you are looking for a gritty, 100% realistic portrayal of the time period, this may not be the book for you. But if you are looking for a literary tale about forbidden wartime love, than this definitely is a book I would recommend.

I read this while away on vacation and it was a perfect beach book -- I felt completely transported to a bygone era. The story is very character-driven and the main characters as well as the supporting characters felt very real to me. For better or worse, they are a product of their time and more than once I wanted to throttle a few of them. They are real and flawed and far from perfect, but I think that makes for very interesting reading. I didn't like everything that happened or agree with every decision, but felt the story was very fleshed out and the relationships and consequences were realistic. There's no neat little bow tying this one up, but I think I would have felt cheated if there was.

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Historical Fiction
Review Pile

Saturday, July 26, 2014

In Which My Inner Harry Potter Fangirl Emerges

I don't usually do book haul posts mainly because I have a love-hate relationship with the acquisition of new books. I'm always excited for a new book (or two, or three, or well, you get the idea...), but my TBR pile is pretty out of control so I can't help also feeling a bit guilty when I add to it. HOWEVER, I am unabashedly excited for what the UPS man delivered to our house yesterday (in a massively heavy box, by the way):


Over the years, I've had a rocky relationship with the Harry Potter movies. When the first movie first came to theaters, I refused to watch it because I knew no film representation could ever come close to the magic I felt reading (and re-reading...) the books. I finally caved when a high school friend invited me to her birthday celebration which was dinner and a showing of, you guessed it, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Well, I wasn't so vehemently opposed that I would blow off a friend for her birthday, so off to see the movie I went. I had to admit the movie was good even though nothing will ever replace the novels in this bookish heart of mine.

As we ran out of new books in the series, there were still movies to be released, so the movies were something Harry Potter-related to get excited about. My husband and I saw several of them at midnight showings with friends and we always had complaints about the adaptations, but we've (mostly) learned to enjoy the movies separate from the books. My husband is still a bigger fan than I am -- he wore out his original copies of #1 and #2 and they are the only movies he has purchased duplicates of in both DVD and Blu-Ray.

I tease my husband quite a bit for being addicted to Twitter, but his habit came in handy last week when he spotted a tweet from MuggleNet alerting fans to an Amazon Lightning Deal on the Collector's Edition Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey -- List Price $1000, Amazon Price $600, Lightning Deal Price $129.99!!

Neither of us could resist that kind of a deal on a Harry Potter collector's set even if the main focus is the movies rather than the books. It is now proudly displayed in what has affectionately been dubbed our *Library Room* along with all our other HP goodies including our Collector's Edition Tales of Beedle the Bard and our box-set of the gorgeous new paperback editions.

The set itself is gorgeous and includes clothbound and (faux?) leatherbound copies of:

Movie Magic: Practical Props and Exciting Effects

A Guide to the Graphic Arts Department: Posters, Prints, and Publications from the Harry Potter Films 

Ten Years Later: Life on Set with the Harry Potter Cast and Crew 

The Paintings of Hogwarts: Masterpieces from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Sets 

Harry Potter: Page to Screen

Wizard Wear and Muggle Attire: Costuming the World of Harry Potter 

The Creature Shop Compendium: Flora and Fauna from the Harry Potter Films 

Environments Envisioned: Building Fantastic Sets and Scouting Dramatic Locations 

There is also a replica of The Monster Book of Monsters film prop and a set of prints we'd really like to frame if we can find a place to hang them. I've only peeked inside the new books, but I am so excited to dive in and read them all. I've been doing quite a bit of reading poolside this summer though and these beauties will NOT be leaving our house or going anywhere near water.

A side effect of the excitement over this new set is that I am now really itching for a re-read of the whole series. Julie over at Smiling Shelves recently did a marathon re-read which already had me thinking about it, so I just might have to carve out some time for it soon :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#29): Made For You

I still have a few unread Melissa Marr books on my shelves, but does that stop me from getting excited about her upcoming release? Of course not!

Expected Publication: Sept. 16, 2014

It is described as a "Southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder" and, well, that's pretty much all I need to know!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Required Re-Reading #2 - #4: Beowulf, Oedipus the King, & The Crucible

Required Re-Reading is a feature here at Buckling Bookshelves where I revisit books I read for school -- grammar school, high school, and college are all fair game. Most of the books I choose will be ones I didn't enjoy the first time around, but think deserve a second chance now that I am older, more interested in the classics, and can choose to read them of my own free will. I will also re-read books I did enjoy because not all of my assigned reading needs an attempt at redemption! I don't always make enough time for re-reads, so I see this as an opportunity to also revisit some of those favorites, hoping I will enjoy them just as much now as I did the first time. Thanks for following along with me on this reading journey :)

* * * * *

I'm grouping my next three re-reads together because they have two things in common: 1. They are classics that were originally meant to be performed -- whether read aloud or on the stage. 2. Because they were meant to be performed, I re-read all three as audiobooks.

Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Date: 800
How did I get this book? borrowed from the library
Original Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Required Re-Reading Rating: 3 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

I remember severely disliking this book when I first read it and probably only gave it two stars instead of one because I knew intellectually it was a significant piece of literature despite my own personal feelings. My World Lit professor (whose class I really enjoyed) assigned the Seamus Heaney translation because he felt it was the best one available, so I sought it out again when doing my re-read. Unfortunately, the only audio version of this particular translation is abridged, but it is narrated by Heaney himself, so I decided it was definitely still my best option. There is an exact listing on the CD's jacket of which lines are included and while there were certainly sections left out, I didn't feel like I was missing a whole lot. I vaguely remember there being a lot of repetition anyway, so I got the impression most of what was left out were those repetitive sections to streamline the narration a bit. I don't find abridgement ideal, but I don't think it hindered my understanding or appreciation in this particular case.

This was definitely a much better experience on audio and listening to it felt very true to the original spirit of the story. I was able to follow along more easily and could really understand how this epic poem was passed down orally through the generations before it was ever set in print. I still didn't love it the second time around, but I had a greater appreciation for its history and significance and how it influenced later writings.

* * * * *

Oedipus the King, by Sophocles
Date: 442 BC
How did I get this book? free download from the summer Audiobook Sync program
Original Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Required Re-Reading Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

I don't really remember why I didn't care for this one in high school to be honest -- maybe the whole "kill your father and marry your mother" thing was just a little too much for me at the time? The audio was a really excellent way to experience this play though, especially since it was performed by a full cast. I imagine watching it on stage would be even better, but listening on audio was far better than reading it in print. There was a lot of nuance and feeling that was better conveyed in this medium than reading what is essentially a script, complete with stage directions and notations for the actors. There is also a huge difference between hearing a Greek chorus perform their lines and reading them on the page. For me, plays are not like novels where the writing can really paint a picture -- printed plays seem more utilitarian and are really brought to life by the performers. Oedipus is of course a tragedy -- and a pretty twisted one at that -- but it is a fascinating story that I appreciated much more as an adult than as a teenager (and as a performance rather than in print!)

P.S. I remember reading this in an anthology where it was titled Oedipus Rex, but find it listed almost everywhere else as Oedipus the King, especially when published on its own. Not sure what accounts for that difference!

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The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Date: 1953
How did I get this book? borrowed from the library
Original Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Required Re-Reading Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

I've always found the Salem Witch Trials fascinating, so this was one I did like when I first read it for high school. Just like Oedipus, this play was much enhanced when performed by a full cast. When I decided to re-read it, it was short enough that I actually listened to it twice! There were a few parts that got a little confusing, but I realized on my second re-read that those parts were meant to be confusing to convey the hysteria the witch trials created.

I also watched the 1996 film starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis which has to be the most faithful adaptation I have ever seen. There is obviously a big difference between turning a play vs. a novel into a movie, but it was really incredible to see an almost exact representation of what I had just read show up on the screen.

* * * * *

In case you missed it:
Required Re-Reading #1: The Joy Luck Club

Reading Challenges:
The Classics Club
Back to the Classics
Book to Movie
Lucky No. 14: Once Upon a Time + Freebies Time

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones

Sooo, I have a backlog of no less than 20 books I've read and not yet reviewed, but which one do I want to talk about right this minute? The one I finished last night, of course!

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones, by Bryan Cogman
Series? Yes; 2nd volume to publish Nov 2014
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: 2012
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

Let me say right from the beginning that I have not yet read The Game of Thrones or any of its sequels. I cannot comment on how anything in this book (or on the HBO show) compares to George R.R. Martin's actual novels. My husband got me hooked on the series and I am completely and utterly addicted. I'm sure the books are even better and I intend to catch up on them before the next season airs, but I'm a little afraid I will start the first one and not come up for air (or any other books) until I finish all five of them. So for now, I keep reaching for other titles on my TBR pile and have been reading up a storm this summer. I still have plenty of time, right?

ANYWAY, as a fan of the HBO series, I really liked this book. I'm not the best with names, history, and family trees, so having all this information in one spot was a nice review for me. It helped filled in a few gaps in my understanding of who's who's and how everything is all related (a real challenge in a series of this scope, for me anyway!) I also really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at all the work and creativity that goes into creating each episode. It's easy to forget how much time, money, and expertise goes into a project like this when it all looks so effortless on the screen.

Reading the thoughts of the actors and other people who work on the show was truly fascinating to me. I rarely use quotes in my reviews, but there is one from actor Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion Lannister) in the final paragraph of the book that really struck me:
"I actually don't see it as a genre piece anymore. These characters are as vibrant and real as anything I have come across in more traditional great fiction. I think it is narrow-minded to put things into separate categories or dismiss them for being in the far corner of your local bookstore." -- Peter Dinklage
With silly YA-shaming articles circulating the net lately and the persistent (yet ridiculous) idea that genre fiction is somehow *beneath* or *less than* literary fiction, this quote really resonated with me. As if I needed any more reasons to love Peter and Tyrion!

Reading Challenges:
New to Me

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Re-Readathon & Shelf Sweeper Sign-Up Post

Hosted by Shae Has Left the Room & Beauty and the Bookshelf

There are so many books I'm excited to read this summer and I've already read a few from my Summer TBR list, but when I heard about this July event, I just knew it would be perfect for me! Summer seems like the perfect time for re-reading and/or dusting off the books I've been dying to read, but keep passing over for one reason or another (OK, the reason is usually review books, but those look so good too! What's a bookworm to do?!)

I'm not going to make an official list because what I most love about this event is the *excuse* it gives me to read whatever the heck I want. I am leaning more toward the Shelf Sweeper portion of this event and am thinking about FINALLY attempting A Game of Thrones while away on vacation. I also plan to read Gayle Forman's If I Stay for book club which has been sitting on my shelf FOREVER, sadly neglected. Other than that, I'm just going to wing it and if those ones don't work out, I will pick up something else instead. And yea, I'll probably sneak a review book or two in anyway -- I am in the middle of one right now after all -- but I'm excited to mix things up this month.

If you want to join in the fun, click on one of the links above and sign up. Happy summer reading everyone!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Books + Movies: Noah

When the movie Noah came out in March, my husband and I saw it together in the theater. From what I have read, a lot of people were upset about how accurately the movie did (or rather, did not) portray the Bible story. I took it all with a grain of salt and must say that I really did enjoy the movie for what it was: a reimagining and reinvention for a different (entertainment) medium. I honestly don't know how a feature-length movie about Noah could have been made without embellishment given how short the original story is. It is also my understanding that some inspiration came from other writings excluded from the Bible, namely the Book of Enoch and the Book of the Watchers. I haven't done further research on this, but if I get a chance, I think it will make for interesting reading. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the two related books I have read since seeing the movie:

Darren Aronofsky's Noah, by Darren Aronofsky
Series? No
Publisher: Rizzoli
Date: March 25, 2014
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

I don't know how I could possibly rate this book, so I'm not going to. When I picked this up from the library, I thought it was going to be about the making of the film and provide a behind-the-scenes look. As it turns out, that's not what this book is about at all (which is probably my own fault for not realizing!) It's basically a book of photographs from the movie, plus a few pages of artwork from the Noah graphic novel along with some Bible quotations throughout. In trying to tell the bare bones of the story through these passages, they left quite an important one out -- a mention of the animals! There's a bonus booklet of the full script is included as well, but since I had just seen the actual movie, it seemed a little silly to read the script. I appreciated the artwork and the beauty of this book, but if I'm completely honest, it took about 10 minutes to "read." I think of this as more of a keepsake or an item to add to a collection if you are a big fan of the movie.

* * * * *

Noah (graphic novel), by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel;
illustrated by Niko Henrichon
Series? No
Publisher: Image Comics
Date: March 19, 2014
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

I read this one back in May during Bout of Books. I found it fascinating to read a graphic novel tied into a movie that was actually created (at least in part) by the filmmaker himself. It is my understanding that this graphic novel was created from an early version of the script, and was therefore somewhat of a preliminary vision of what the movie would look like. Some of the artwork depicts things differently than in the final movie, but that seems understandable considering the limitations of print illustration vs. film. (It seems I am far more forgiving than for text-only books adapted into movies!) I would recommend this to anyone who liked the movie or likes to read graphic novels (assuming you have any interest in Biblical stories taken with a grain of salt.)

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Book to Movie

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#28): Last in a Series Edition

With so many unread books on my shelves, I've been trying to hold off starting new series until all the books are published. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part I've been deciding to wait. So here are a few series-enders I'm eagerly anticipating so that I can dust off the earlier books and binge-read from the beginning:

Expected Publication: July 15, 2014
All Souls Trilogy #3

Expected Publication: Nov. 4, 2014
His Fair Assassin #3

Expected Publication:
winter 2014-15 (UK) / US??
Advent Trilogy #3

Friday, June 20, 2014

Goodnight June

Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio
Series? No
Publisher: Plume
Date: May 27, 2014
How did I get this book? free from the publisher for my honest review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

I absolutely love books-about-books, so when I first heard about Goodnight June I knew it would be right up my alley. When June Anderson inherits her great-aunt Ruby's children's bookstore, she travels to Seattle to settle the estate quickly and return to her high-power, high-stress banking career in New York. But when June finds a letter from Ruby with a cryptic reference to all the secrets the bookstore holds, her plans begin to change. As she tracks down a string of correspondence between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, June finds herself on a path to discover the inspiration behind the classic children's book.

I absolutely adored all the bookishness in this novel -- the love for the written word and brick-and-mortar bookstores gave me a major case of the warm and fuzzies. This part of the story was so well done and really shines as its strongest element. However, you should be aware that this book falls pretty firmly in the "chick-lit" category -- as much as I hate that term, it really does apply. While the mysterious origin of Goodnight Moon is at the core of this novel, the rest of the story is about an unhappy, stressed out woman making big changes in her life -- there's family drama, work drama, and a love interest -- you get the idea.

I am totally fine with a degree of predictability in these types of stories, but I must admit I saw a pretty big twist coming from a mile away. I am usually completely awful at figuring anything out ahead of time, so I was definitely disappointed to not have that element of surprise. Despite some weaknesses, I still loved reading this book. From the first page to the last, the bookish love pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. It was a pretty fast read and if I had more free time, I could have easily read it in a weekend. I think it is perfect for summer or beach reading, particularly if you like books-about-books. And if you  fondly remember reading Goodnight Moon as a kid, I think you will enjoy it even more.

My own memories of Goodnight Moon were fuzzy, so I borrowed it from the library to re-read and am so glad I did. Having the original story fresh in my mind and beside me for reference as I read Goodnight June really made the descriptions in the novel come to life.

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Review Pile
My Kind of Mystery