Saturday, June 27, 2009

What We've Been Watching

Having recently signed up for Netflix, my sister and I have been watching a lot of movies. What have you enjoyed recently? What did you think of something I list here? (Please, no major spoilers in the comments!) For some reason I have a harder time reviewing movies than books, so here are a few mini-reviews:

BBC's North and South
Starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe
Based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

I was unfamiliar with this lovely and moving story--set in England during the industrial revolution--before watching this adaptation, but it won me over quickly. Very powerful acting and lots of attention to detail in the production. North and South might just be a new favorite of mine.

Fan-made trailer:

Lost in Austen
Starring Jemima Rooper and Elliot Cowan

This was quite original in that the plot isn't based on Pride and Prejudice, but around modern-day Amanda Price appearing in Elizabeth Bennett's world. Where not everyone is as Austen wrote them, and Amanda's popping into their lives doesn't help anything. Soon everybody's falling for the "wrong" character--including Amanda herself.

ShakespeaRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
Starring Sarah Parish and Damian Lewis
Based on Shakespeare's play

Delightful retelling of the classic Much Ado About Nothing story, set in modern times. Although little bits of the original language appear, the dialogue is completely modernized--but still quite clever. I loved noticing references to the original work and also being able to enjoy how the scenes were modernized. Damian Lewis was a completely believable Benedick, and he and Sarah Parish played off of each other very well.
Highly recommended, though their version of A Midsummer Night's Dream is not. (The plot was hardly retold at all and the way the scenes were shot and setting were both very odd. It's presumably the 21st century and yet "Theseus" doesn't believe he's going insane when the king of the fairies comes out to talk to him? Come on.)
We have yet to watch The Taming of the Shrew, and decided to wait on watching Macbeth until we were more familiar with the original story in order to enjoy it better.

And we're currently in the middle of watching BBC's
Robin Hood
TV series
Starring Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood, Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Lucy Griffiths as Marian, and Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne

This version of the legend includes "modern elements," but is still set in medieval times. A lot of the classic scenes usually depicted in the legends--like Robin's meeting with Little John--are done differently, which is actually quite refreshing. Of course the Sheriff is evil and Guy is his minion and Robin is good and Marian is his lady love, but so many stories can be made out of that setup. The series squeezes in more characterization into the roles and completely different plots, but expect the usual corny implausible escapes--but you have to forgive it; he is Robin Hood, after all. The first season was really good, and excepting the first couple episodes *shudders*, the second one has been, too (although I've heard season 3--not yet out on DVD--goes downhill).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

"Waiting on" Wednesday was created by Jill of Breaking the Spine, and is a way for bloggers to share the upcoming books that they're longing for. This week I'm waiting on...

by Sarah Beth Durst
Published October 6th, 2009

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairytale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth to become a prisoner of the trolls. Now that Cassie is older, she knows that this was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, she is determined to become a scientist, and she has no time for make believe.

Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face to face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned in the troll castle. And that he can bring her back--if Cassie will agree to be his bride.

That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairytale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knew will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her--until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.

Why I'm waiting:
Sarah Beth Durst's previous novels, Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, were great fun and very imaginative. The cover and summary of Ice makes it look like it will be an equally as well written book, but aimed at an older audience. And while I've already read two retellings of East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Edith Pattou's East and Jessica Day George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow), I think Ice will still be original--for one thing it's set in modern times, while the other two were not.

Monday, June 22, 2009

TLC Blog Tour: Starfinder

by John Marco

A new fantasy series from the author of The Sword of Angels.
Steam trains and electricity are rapidly changing the world. Moth of Calio is obsessed with the airships developed by his friend Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, and dreams of taking to the air one day like his heroes, the Skyknights. But not everyone is happy to see humans reach the skies. For thousands of years, the mysterious and powerful race known as the Skylords have jealously guarded their heavenly domain. But Moth and Fiona are about to breach the magical boundary between the world of humans and the world of the Skylords.

My thoughts: (which may be added to later)
Although it wasn't really meant for my age range, and it isn't usually the type of book I like especially, Starfinder was cute and original enough to stay interesting. Certain characters and ideas were particularly intriguing and unique (such as Alis and the rest of the Redeemers).
I think it would be most enjoyed by 9-12 year-old boys who are ready for a full-fledged chapter book, but not some of the more mature elements that often appear in high fantasy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott

"Waiting on" Wednesday was created by Jill of Breaking the Spine, and is a way for bloggers to share the upcoming books that they're longing for. This week I'm waiting on...

The Pale Assassin (Pimpernelles, Book 1)
by Patricia Elliott
Released November 15th, 2009 (US), July 2nd, 2009 (UK)

Eugenie de Boncoeur is growing up in Paris, unaware that her guardian has contracted her to marry the sinister spymaster known as 'le Fantome' when she turns sixteen. She finds herself falling for the handsome lawyer, Guy Deschamps, but there is little time for romance; France is descending into chaos as the Revolution takes hold. Soon Eugenie is fleeing for her life. Her brother Armand has become involved in a plot to save the King from the guillotine, the mob is searching for aristocrats, and le Fantome, the pale assassin, is on their trail - desperate for revenge.

Why I'm waiting:
While this sounds like quite a different genre, I have previously really liked Patricia Elliott's other books and hope this one will be fun and amusing if nothing else. Besides, the time of the French Revolution is a period I find quite intriguing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nothing but Ghosts

It came on a gray December Wednesday afternoon, the postal carrier’s loud knock startling me out of my seat. Opening the door I found a package, flipped it over, read the return address. “It’s my book!” I practically shrieked, so loud I’m sure my sister heard me upstairs. My first ARC copy! Signed! By an awesome author who writes beautiful books! Ms. Kephart had graciously offered me a copy after I posted Nothing but Ghosts as one of my "Waiting on" Wednesday books in November.
I tore open the envelope immediately, I could hardly wait to crack it open! But at the time I was currently in the middle of Gary D. Schmidt ’s Trouble and felt it was an inopportune place to stop reading. Soon though, my eagerness to read Ms. Kephart’s newest work won and I sat down and read the entire novel in almost one sitting. (Unfortunately I’m still rather busy and must again use the publisher’s summary instead of my own if I ever want to review this.)

Ever since her mother passed away, Katie’s been alone in her too-big house with her genius dad who restores old paintings for a living. Katie takes a summer job at a garden estate, where, with the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, she soon becomes embroiled in decoding a mystery. There are secrets and shadows at the heart of Nothing But Ghosts, symbols hidden in a time-darkened painting, and surprises behind a locked bedroom door. But most of all, this is a love story—the story of a girl who learns about love while also learning to live with her own ghosts.

I don’t feel like I can do justice to this lovely novel because it was so beautiful. I guess I’ll go for short but heartfelt and say: Nothing but Ghosts includes a little mystery, a little romance, a touch of sadness, and many images of hope and summer. And, as always with Ms. Kephart’s books, beautiful writing that makes me want to linger in the novel as long as possible. Nothing but Ghosts is perfect for a lazy summer day, the plot unhurried but wonderful and the images as crisp as a glass of ice-cold lemonade.

Nothing but Ghosts will be available June 23rd, 2009.
Read the story of the cover at Reading Keeps You Sane’s “On the Outside” feature, and check out Beth’s own trailer:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein

And you thought I'd died, right?! Nope. I've just been extremely lazy about reviewing or posting anything recently, even though I have two lovely books sitting at home that I've read but haven't written thoughts about yet and I feel terrible! One of them is as part of John Marco's TLC Book Tours for his new MG book, Starfinder, so look for my review of that on June 23rd.
Anyway, on to what I'm waiting on!

Lady Macbeth's Daughter
by Lisa Klein
Released October 13th, 2009

Albia has grown up with no knowledge of her father, the powerful thane Macbeth, and her mother, the grief-wracked Grelach. Instead she knows the dark lure of the Wychelm Wood and the moors, where she’s been raised by three strange sisters. The ambitious Macbeth seeks to know his fate,and Albia’s life becomes tangled with that of the man who leaves in his wake nothing but bloodshed. When Albia learns that she has the second sight, she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees—or to change it.

With only the shepherd Colum to aid her, Albia sets out on a journey fraught with peril. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? Can she forgive her parents their wrongs, or must she destroy them?

Why I'm waiting:
Lisa Klein's Ophelia--a retelling of Hamlet--was amazing and gorgeous and I loved it! Her Civil War novel, Two Girls of Gettysburg was also very good, only not as original. Lady Macbeth's Daughter has GOT to be original since I don't think most people even knew that Lady Macbeth says, "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me," muchless imagines her having a child. So I'm thinking it looks very exciting!