Thursday, July 23, 2009

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Ever wonder what would happen if a Fairy Godmother got power hungry? Who polices someone as powerful as a Fairy Godmother? Apparently witches do; three of them to be exact.

Another volume in Pratchett's Discworld series, Witches Abroad chronicles the journey of three witches out to stop one particular happy ending from occurring (because not all of them are meant to be.) With great humor and wit, Pratchett sits the reader on their own broom alongside the witches as they fly through the air to lands unknown all to prevent Princess Emberella (rhyme with someone else you've already heard of?) from marrying her Prince Charming. Pratchett doesn't stick to just one fairy tale though and the witches' journey is interrupted by encounters with munchkins, a vampire, and a little girl in a red cloak.

Although it took a little while to get the three witches straight - they talk over each other a bunch - Pratchett weaves an exciting and strangely familiar adventure story that addresses the concept of free will and people's propensity to "go with the flow" no matter what the consequences could be. He expertly takes all the components of a fairy tale (witches, good/evil, royalty, magic, and talking animals) and uses them to teach his reader that the best ending doesn't always have to be a "happy" one. This was my first trip to Discworld and I'll most likely be returning repeatedly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Actual Book vs Movie Version

I like lists. What overly organized person doesn't like lists? When I don't have a list of chores to do or a shopping list to make, I like to think up informative lists to share. Here's probably one of many that will sit on this site.
Book vs Movie - which is better?
(in no particular order)
  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien) - BOOKS
  2. The Shipping News (Annie Proulx) - BOOK
  3. Catch - 22 (Joseph Heller) - MOVIE
  4. The Lost World (Michael Crichton) - BOOK
  5. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving,) movie title: Simon Birch - BOOK
  6. In Her Shoes (Jennifer Weiner) - MOVIE
  7. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (Tom Robbins) - BOOK
  8. Practical Magic (Alice Hoffman) - MOVIE
  9. Vanity Fair (William Thackery,) 2004 movie version - BOOK
  10. Dracula (Bram Stoker,) 1992 movie version - BOOK
  11. Running with Scissors (Augusten Burroughs) - MOVIE

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The First Assistant by Clare Naylor & Mimi Hare

This book is actually a sequel to The Second Assistant. One's rise in Hollywood, of course starts at the bottom, and everyone has more than one assistant, so in the first book, our main character, Elizabeth Miller, is hired as the second assistant in a Hollywood agency. Now, Lizzie, who has grand hopes of becoming a Hollywood producer, is a first assistant. That's really all you need to know.

Both books are pure escapist reading and pretty disappointing if you're looking for a heroine with a backbone. Lizzie's neurosis, while entertaining, are so highly magnified that it seems all she has going for her is dumb luck as she climbs the Hollywood ladder. Her character has this competing duality that is quite frustrating. She was smart enough to go to a good college and initially begin a career in politics in DC. Then, she moves to LA and becomes this insecure mess, making silly mistakes reminiscent of a person without common sense. Argh.

In The First Assistant, Lizzie is "rented" out to an up-and-coming actress to serve as an on-location assistant. While on location, the conniving second assistant back in the office attempts to get Lizzie fired and Lizzie's famous boyfriend gets photographed kissing an ex-girlfriend. This is actually enough to make her life fall apart (for a short time.) In the end, it all works out (a Hollywood ending?), but the authors rush to get her though to that happy ending. The writers cram so much in so quickly, you finish chapters craving more detail while not really believing that any of the events in the book could actually happen. The rush of the writing and the lack of depth int he story made this anything but a calming, escapist book to read (and I found serious typos too.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Science Fiction / Fantasy Series worth reading

These are just a few fantastic series I feel are worth reading

1. The Baroque Cycle - Neal Stephenson
This is a trilogy: Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World
Stephenson has been one of my favorite authors since I read Snow Crash many years ago. The Baroque Cycle is closer in style to Cryptinomicon than Snow Crash, but even that comparison doesn't begin to describe the series. The first book, Quicksilver is slow to get started, but the payoff when you reach the end of the 3rd book in the series is nothing short of amazing. You'll meet famous people in history throughout the book; Isaac Newton, King Louis the 14th, several members of the English Royalty, and almost every great mind of the Enlightenment. And for those of you who appreciate a beautifully-bound hard cover, this series is available in a special edition that looks amazing.

2. The Bas-Lag Books - China Mieville
Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council
Another trilogy of books, but the stories are not connected. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they all take place in Mieville's vivid and fantastical world, Bas-Lag. The world has everything a monster fan could ask for; giant consciousness-eating moths, deadly trans-dimensional spiders, killer disembodied left-hands, and all the political strife you can handle. His books are a trip to another world. Start with Perdido Street Station, move on to The Scar, and wrap it up with The Iron Council. And if you want even more, you can get one more little taste of Bas-Lag in the short story Jack.

3. The Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin
A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons
This series is the Tolkien killer. The characters are packed with good and bad aspects. None of them are perfect, and most of them make you want to tear your hair out. Martin isn't afraid to treat his characters with a ruthlesness that can only be found in real life. He kills them off in fantastic ways that you REALLY don't see coming. The only bad part of this whole series's not done yet.

Here is a series that MAY be worth checking out, if the follow up books tie up some loose ends.

4. The Prince of Nothing - R. Scott Baaker
The Darkness that Comes Before, The Warrior-Prophet, The Thousandfold Thought
This series starts out incredibly strong. Baaker's world building is on-par with China Mieville; the world is fully realized with a history that is as mysterious as it is vibrant. The title character, The Prince of Nothing, is absolutely fascinating. He is part of a monastic group of people who have lived in isolation for centuries using breeding practices to create an individual with inhuman speed and perception. My only complaint about this trilogy is the ending. The Author left FAR too many loose ends dangling. The next book, which is not part of the original trilogy, has just been released and while I haven't read it yet, it seems to wrap up many of the plot strands that I felt were left dangling. This series is unique in tone and style and worth checking out, I am looking forward to reading the follow-up books to see the conclusion of the story.

That's all I have for now, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Top 5 Books of All Time

To get a little conversation going and to trade lists of Must-Read Books, I'm putting my Top 5 Books of All Time out into the void.
  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  3. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  5. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

These are in no particular order. What are your Top 5?