Sunday, August 31, 2014

Books to the Future # 1

There is a book I have been taking my time with for almost a year now.  If you follow me on goodreads, you can see it is a constant under my "currently reading" tab. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is the book in question.  I went out and bought this novel after I had lost my chance to own it during a book swap game for one of my classes.  Let me tell you, it was the first book people fought over to take home.

To get to the point, I have been working on it between classes and work for sometime.  I put it down not because it is a bad book.  On the contrary, it is an amazing book that has helped me expand what I read. I also went out and got the second novel after getting halfway through it.  I will get back to it I promise you, Patrick Rothfuss.  Soon.

What I want to talk about now is an upcoming book by the same author called The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  It is not the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicles series, however much we hoped it would be. 
Little is known about the girl named Auri that lives underneath the University.  Only she truly knows the tunnels of the place she calls the Underthing.  This short story is a glimpse into her world and life.  
I am so excited to read this new story in the Kingkiller Chronicles universe and read more about Auri.  She was one of my favorite things about the The Name of the Wind

This book is due out October 28th 2014.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Breaking the Ice: Snowpiercer

I went to watch the film Snowpiercer the other night and was totally blown away by it.  This movie has a limited release in my city, which means only two theaters are currently playing it. One of them will only be playing the film for two days.  The other asks for $12 per ticket.  I don't know about you, but I usually only go to the movies on cheap Tuesday.  This in turn might make the film inaccessible to folks in my city.

Anyway, I think this movie could have easily been one of the summer's biggest films. Not only did it have many familiar and beloved faces (i.e. Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer & John Hurt), but it also had a lot of the qualities people have been looking for in media lately.  I'm talking about that post-apocalyptic setting, the world after the disaster.  I also mean a story about humanity: what we do to each other out of selfishness, kindness, cruelty and desperation.  Who we are in the end and how we survive. 

We see it with people's love for AMC's The Walking Dead and the video game The Last of Us (sidenote: not actually a zombie game, ladies and gentlemen.  It features mutated and infected human beings.  There is a difference.) by Naughty Dog.

Something you might not know is that this film directed by Bong Joon-ho is based on a 1982 French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige (i.e. french for Snowpiercer) written by Jacques Lob and illustrated by Jean-Marc Rochette.  

This graphic novel was later continued by Benjamin Legrand seventeen years after the first graphic novel.  In total, Snowpiercer has two volumes:  The Escape and The Explorers.

Ultimately, if you get the chance to check out the film, do go and give it a chance.  It's a good movie and it is made so well.  I have also included the trailer below and a "the making of" video.  It has English subtitles in case anyone does not understand Korean.

UPDATE: The film comes out on DVD & Blu-ray in North America October 21st 2014.

"Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again."

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid: Cat Morland is ready for an adventure.  After being sheltered by her minister father for much of her life, Cat is only too happy to accept an invitation to a festival in Edinburgh from her neighbors the Allens. There, she becomes fast friends with Henry and Eleanor Tilney but she soon gets the feeling that the Tilney's have secrets.  Is Cat right about her friends or has her years of reading novels just given her a wild imagination?

I have been meaning to write up the review for this novel for some time but struggled with how I should go about it.  My hopes for this novel at the beginning were very high.  I was open to anything and everything and excited to read it.  However, by the last page, I was disappointed.  

Where do I begin?  Let us start with the positive.  

I loved the setting of Edinburgh and the festival.  Really got a feel for the place through the book and it was a perfect substitution for the social season in Bath.  The descriptions of places and the interiors of houses brought the story's landscape to life.  What I really cherished though was getting to see where the characters ended up.  Seeing where Cat and James' professional choices took them and how they found happiness was a treat.  Also getting the opportunity to see what happened to certain mean spirited individuals was a true gift.  I loved getting to know The Allens and Ellie Tilney.  They were my favorite bits of the entire story.

I liked that the cover design kept the silhouette theme like the one that was used for Joanna Trollope's Sense and Sensibility.  I hope the cover for the next book in the Austen Project uses the same theme so that all the books are connected in appearance. 

The overall tone of the book was fun and light, which was a nice contrast with some of the heaviness I experienced while reading the retelling of Sense and Sensibility. 
Now onto the second part of this review. The things that bothered me about this book and ultimately hindered my enjoyment of it were things happened continuously throughout the story.  Firstly, the language was sometimes bothersome.  Cat's manner of speaking changed depending on who she talked to.   I compared how she spoke to Bella and to Ellie and she sounded different with each person.  Maybe it was intentional, but I don't think Cat is the type of girl to tamp down her personality around one trusted friend and not around another.  And while I do understand that Val McDermid wanted to give us a 21st century Isabella Thorpe, the cliches of how idiotic self-absorbed girls act and speak got so incredibly intense that it became painful to read. 

While I did love Cat's suspicions about the Tilney family, I just wish there had been more build up to it that made it seem like it could have been plausible.  In the Austen novel, while ridiculous to believe so and influenced by Gothic novel reading, I got the sense that General Tilney was a cruel man that could have been capable of anything really.  With this retelling...I didn't get the feeling that there was even a possibility of anything being strange about the Tilney family.  In the end, the big reveal was disappointing and awkward. 

I was so ready to love this novel and enjoy seeing Val McDermid step out of her psychological  crime thriller comfort zone but sadly, it wasn't that great of a reading experience.

Title quote from:
Austen, J. (2006). Northanger Abbey.  New York, NY: Knopf Publishing Group.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Alphabet Critters

Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book by Teagan White

This item is an alphabet book with some of the prettiest art that I have ever seen.  The characters are soft and cute.  Teagan White is really talented.

This picture book also rhymes and the illustrations move through the four seasons.  Fall was my favorite season in the book (i.e. letters Q TO V).

But what I really love about this book is that you can go beyond the little blurbs for each letter.  You can find things to discuss and name with your child in the scenes for each letter like the mouse in the bucket for the letter B.  There is a lot more to this book than the individual letters because it is about exploring the whole image on the page and not just the letter and the word it corresponds to.

It is a beautiful book and a wonderful adventure through the seasons with the Barefoot Critters.

You can also check out Teagan White's website .  She blogs and has other pieces of her wonderful artwork posted there.

Chu. That's my Name, Man.

Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman & Illustrated by Adam Rex: A day in the life of a little panda bear named Chu and what he can do.

Chu's Day is a great introduction into the world of this picture book.  You get to go with Chu and his parents to the library, a diner and to the circus. It is such a cute little book and a delight to open up and read.  It exudes happiness.

Adam Rex is also fantastic illustrator.  Every animal and scene in the book is so lovingly drawn that it steals your breath for a moment.

Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman & illustrated by Adam Rex: It is Chu's first day of school and he is worried about that one thing he can do.

In Chu's First Day of School, we get to see a little panda bear who is not only nervous about meeting other animal children but also worried about that special thing he can do.  It's a hopeful book and I love how it ends with saying goodnight to little Chu.  The perfect book for parents to share with their kids who are about to enter kindergarten.

Adam Rex is again the illustrator of this book and it really would not be the same without him.  Gaiman and Rex make a great team and I hope they never part where Chu is concerned.

Friday, August 15, 2014

“Men are men, vows are words, and words are wind.”

The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch: Raim has had a knot around his wrist ever since he was young but does not remember ever making the promise attached to it.  In Raim's world, to ever break a promise leaves a mark on a person and they are cast out and left to wander the desert.

But on the most important night of Raim's life, the knot around his wrist bursts into flame.  He broke his promise without knowing how.

Firstly, I loved the world building in the novel.  It is done so well that you can picture it perfectly and you are not given details that do not connect. However, it sometimes became a little overwhelming.  It is the first book so maybe the author felt she needed to get in every last detail so she would not have to revisit it later? I'm not sure. The landscape and people McCulloch describes are rich and colourful and they feel different from anything I have ever read before.  This made for a refreshing reading experience.

I also really loved the entire idea that breaking an important promise to someone could have a physical manifestation and that it could set you apart from everyone else you know.  We have read many books before this one where a broken promise leads to a curse and this novel presents an interesting take on that.

The novel seemed to drag in some parts.  I think this may have been in part due to the overwhelming detail and because a second book was already planned.  I expected that by the end of the first book I would have more answers than I was actually given to a lot of the mysteries in the story.  Ultimately, I just ended up with an understanding of the world's history and the people in it.

I was also saddened by the fact that we had to part ways with two female characters that I was not ready to say goodbye to.  I am hoping that one of them plays a bigger role in the second novel and shares the stage with Raim in being the hero of the story.

This first book sets up a good foundation and puts some interesting things into play.  I am so excited to revisit this world and see how things turn out.  Amy McCulloch, you have me hooked.

I thought I would also include the book's trailer as well as a video featuring the author herself talking about some of the places that inspired the landscapes of her novel.  Check them out.

Title quote source:
Martin, G.R.R. (2011). A Dance with Dragons. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e

One of my favorite manga series is Hana-Kimi by Hiyasa Nakajo.  They have been releasing the story in the 3 -in- 1 format for a while now so you get double the story for the same price you used to pay for the single volumes.  This, in my opinion, was a brilliant idea.  Saves readers money and gives you more for what you pay.

Hana-Kimi is a story about the mishaps and adventures of Mizuki Ashiya  as she poses as a boy at an all-boys Japanese high school.  She does this in order to track down her crush and inspiration, the champion athlete Izumi Sano.

I know it sounds ridiculous and fluffy but if you are looking to laugh and just find a bit of happiness then this is the manga for you.  Really and truly.

If you are looking for a break from reading and want something different, I have news for you.  There are 4 adaptations of this manga floating around.  I watched the early Japanese and Taiwanese versions and I love them both.  My love for Ikuta Toma and Oguri Shun is showing.  If you want something less dated there are more recent Japanese and Korean versions.  I have included some videos of  all 4 versions.  I could not find a trailer for the Japanese versions so I put up two fan made videos. If you can track them down in shops or if you subscribe to a Korean drama or Japanese drama site, check them out.

Taiwan (2006): Hanazakarino Kimitachihe

Japan (2007): Hanazakari no Kimitachi e

Japan (2011): Hanazakari no Kimitachi e

Korea (2013): To the Beautiful You

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

News on Comics from Comic Con

There's a lot of mixed feelings with the titles that were announced in the video.  Some people think that DC Comics is running out of ideas (maybe they are) and that these new ideas do not make sense for the universe or the characters (possibly true).

All I have heard about it is the doom and gloom side to the news.  I have chosen to be optimistic.  I am excited for Gotham Academy  (because of Becky Cloonan, who is attached to the project) and the title involving Klarion the Witch Boy.  I first encountered Klarion in Volume 3 of Batgirl and I enjoyed his oddness so I am happy to see him come around again.

Speaking of Batgirl, I think the redesign of her suit is pretty nice.  The artwork also seems to be a bit more upbeat instead of leaning towards the dark and gritty.  I have no idea what direction DC is taking her in with this new chapter in her story, but the artwork may help or hinder them.  It feels weird though, as if they are trying to fit Barbara Gordon into a mold she is not meant to be in.  I always got the sense that out of all the Batgirls, she was the most serious and this just feels more like Stephanie Brown but with Barbara Gordon's face all over it.  That is just me though.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest in Peace: Lauren Bacall

The last two days have been filled with the passing of some great actors.  The recent recent being  Lauren Bacall.  This post is in tribute to a woman who commanded every scene she was in and exuded a quiet strength.

For those of you who don't know of her, this post will act as an introduction.  

One of her greatest projects was the 1946 film, The Big Sleep, where she starred alongside Humphrey Bogart.  The movie follows private detective Philip Marlowe as he tries to solve a case that features more twists and turns than anything he's ever faced.  The story involves blackmail, kidnapping murder and even love.

The film is also based off of the hardboiled detective novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler. It's the first in a series featuring detective Marlowe.  The language in the old detective novels is something to behold because it's so different from what we have now.  They are not just novels but also, slices of the time they were written in.

Lauren Bacall also did voicework for Studio Ghibli's adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle.  She played the Witch of the Waste.  

When Sophie is cursed by a witch and turned into an old woman, she must find courage and bravery and travel to find someone who can break the spell. However, her search leads her to the wizard Howl and his moving castle.
The film is based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones.  Howl's Moving Castle is also the first book in a trilogy and is followed by Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.

My hope is that this post will make you want to go and see what else she has been in and discover her legacy.  She was a mighty actress and she will be missed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Maze Runner Trailer #2

I am super duper excited for this movie and the more I get to see about it, the more interested I get.  When I read the first novel in James Dashner's series, I had no idea what to expect from the eventual film but I'm finding out that the look of it so far matches the ideas I had built up in my head.  Of course, this is just my initial impression so far but I can hardly wait to see how the film delivers the story.

 And it comes out around my birthday so it'll be like a serendipitous treat for me.