Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Kidlit’ Category

More reading! I must admit, I’m enjoying this…it’s been awhile since I put reading on my priority list. It’s helped that I’ve been a bit sick the last few days, so I’ve done nothing but read!

#8 – Leslie Darbon‘s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced. A play! Yes, I’m sure I’ll read a few more in the coming weeks. I do enjoy plays, the theatre and the like – as evidenced by my other blog, Theatrical Thoughts (also a bit neglected unfortunately). This one we had around because my husband had been in it years ago…and to be honest, I didn’t know the story. Turns out, it’s a Miss Marple story, so there was an added bonus!

#9 – Ronald Millar’s Abelard and Heloise: A Play. This one I’ve had hanging around for a bit, waiting to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fascinated for awhile about the tragic story of Héloïse D’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard. The play dramatizes events of the story, with a strong philosophical/religious angle. Not bad, in that it humanizes the characters a bit more, and gives Heloise a very strong role.

#10 – Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (now a movie!) A friend loaned me this absolutely delightful, cinematographic novel, and I can see (get it?) why it was snapped up as a film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will soon. It’s truly a wonderful little novel, although at 500+ pages it seemed far more daunting than it was! Selznick, being an illustrator, has drawn a goodly part of the book, so it was really a matter of a couple of hours of looking and reading.

#11 – Roger Ebert‘s Life Itself: A Memoir. The first movie reviews I ever paid attention to were his and Siskel’s – how could I not pick up a copy of his memoirs? Some things stand out in a book full of interesting moments and pithy observations:

“The main thing wrong with a movie that is ten years old is that it isn’t thirty years old. After the hairstyles and the costumes stop being dated and start being history, we can tell if the movie itself is timeless.” (page 157)

“There is a test for an actor who, for a moment, is just standing there in a scene: Does he seem to be just standing there? Or does he, as John Wayne did, seem to be deciding when, why, and how to take the situation under his control?” (page 253)

(Regarding his inability to eat/drink/speak) “What’s sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at a midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involved talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments, and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment’s notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that why writing has become so important to me. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.” (page 383)

Overall, a highly enjoyable, meandering memoir. I didn’t realize that they’d made a documentary of this book, and his life. Now I have to look that up!

That’s 11 books in a month, at this rate, I should be able to finish 95+!





Where do you pile your books? My hubby and I have piles on our bedside tables mostly, then some in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room…and they all live in the basement library/movie/party room (technically the ‘family room’).

The other day I was tidying the bedroom, and emptied the already-read and not-going-to-get-read-soon books off the two bedside tables:

Putting books away...

Then, I pulled books from the living room and kitchen to complete the tidy:

More books being put away..

This post for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

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A co-worker and I have discovered that we both read fantasy novels. She took it upon herself to lend me a rather silly series, by a writer I’d never heard of before — Tamora Pierce. A quick Google search tells me that she is a fantasy author who writes books for young people. That just tells me that publishers don’t think young people can handle any richness to their writing. Here’s her motivation for writing, from an interview (quoted here):

I got into this to write about girls who kick butt. In the mid-’70s, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sheri Tepper, C.J. Cherryh, that crowd particularly, started to change the field. For me, there was a problem that a number of these characters were gay or celibate female warriors, and I was neither. So I wrote fantasy with female warrior heroes who like guys. Robin McKinley and Barbara Hambly both started to publish their fantasy at the same time, so I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Is she comparing herself to Robin McKinley? Author of The Blue Sword? Funny though, how Pierce’s heroine, Alanna — who isn’t a lesbian, no way no how! — has a series of adventures very similar to those of Harry/Harimad-sol in McKinley’s book. Desert adventure, finding her powers…

Thank goodness, she’s not comparing herself to Bradley, Tepper, or Cherryh!

What problem do I have with this writer?

  • She takes absolutely no time to develop her characters beyond the bare minimum.
  • She tells, and tells, and tells, and never once shows.
  • The plot points are so transparent it’s annoying — since she doesn’t take any time to develop the world or the characters, when someone blinks, you know it’s significant.
  • Three words: Deus ex machina. Magic is unexplained, it just bang! is there to save the day.
  • Each of the 4 books in the series I read (oh yes! All 4…I’m not complaining on the strength of only reading one — not too onerous, they were quick reads), had enough action for 3 or 4 books. Huge quest material, dealt with in 4 chapters. Move on to the next with a “And they all went back to the city.” Come up with another 3 adventures, some innocent shtupping (’cause remember, she’s not a lesbian. NO. Not a lesbian!), some more ways for Alanna to be utterly wonderful and perfect and strong and the best fighter and . . . ingredients for one more Tamora Pierce book, 3 more for any other writer with a modicum of talent for exposition.

I wish I could say I was exaggerating. But if I’d been introduced to this as a pre-teen, I would have been scarred for life, my ability to appreciate good writing forever damaged.

I’ll go back to Lois McMaster Bujold (or Sheri S. Tepper or . . .) any day.

I interrupted my reading of this tripe to pick up one of Bujold’s latest, that I’d been trying to ignore, trying to prolong the anticipation — The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. (Read the first couple of chapters here!)

Bujold really takes the time to develop her characters, and their world. In one sequence, 2 of the characters ride 3 hours into town…it takes 15, beautifully written pages.

Pierce would have done it more efficiently: “They rode three hours to town.”

Gads. I don’t usually write negative reviews, but I need something to show for the wasted time!

It is an unusual day over at Raincoaster’s blog that I get all nostalgic. Today, she was off on one of her normal rants, and she mentions Il Palio.

No, I’ve never been to Italy (although I want to go). I’ve never dreamed of attending any horse races. Nor am I really the least bit horsey. But, I was a girl who grew up devouring the Marguerite Henry books.  They were good books. And there was always another one to read.

One of my favourites, the plot points still dancing around in my head, was Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio.

What were your favourite kid’s books? And how have they stood the test of time?

How can I resist an //engtech contest?!? Especially one where I can talk about my other favourite thing — movies!

Okay — on to the list. Let’s assume that LOTR is in the list somewhere, but that it’s been over-blogged in the last couple of years. And when I say ‘memorable‘, I mean my memory!

No. 1

I Capture the Castle. The Dodie Smith book of the same name is a delight. It’s in diary form, written by 17-year-old Cassandra, who lives with her rather eccentric family in a broken down old castle. The strength of this rather quiet movie lies in Smith’s background as a playright (and writer of The One Hundred and One Dalmations) — I’ve never seen a movie capture the characters, plot, setting, and essence of a book so well. At no point does it slap you in the face and say “hey! I’m literary! Can’t you tell?” (Unlike the first Harry Potter film…which I watched, anticipating each scene: “Ho hum…now we’re going to get ___ scene.”)

No. 2

A Little Princess (the 1995 version). From the book by Frances Hodges Burnett. Okay, so they added a little dramatic ‘hanging-from-the-eaves’ scene — I don’t mind. At that point in the movie, you’re really in the mood for it. The Miss Minchin character is wonderfully done by the great actor Eleanor Brun. You feel for her and hate her at the same time — brilliant! The story-telling, the ‘magic’, and the relationship between all the girls is beautifully represented. And the colours…each scene is shot with either a dark, earthy green that menaces, or a sunny golden glow that, well, glows.

No. 3

The Power of One. Is this a great movie? No. It’s got some brilliant moments, but overall, I wish it had been more…meaty. Gutsy. Longer. The treatment of the material was sketchy — it’s obvious that Bryce Courtney’s greatest book needs to be made into a BBC mini-series (a la Dune or Gormenghast), not relegated to a shortish Hollywood film. But, they manage to get some of the best bits right in this one — it definitely captures the feel of the book, even though they totally botched the story.

No. 4

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. Is this movie based on the biography Dorothy Parker: Oh What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade? [ooo…a triple whammy. A movie based on a biography of a famous writer!] It doesn’t say that the movie’s writers used the book, but it is the most common biography on Parker, and many of the anecdotes from the book are reproduced verbatim in the movie. (Of course, that means nothing, as all of her friends were literary, everyone in that crowd wrote everything down…) Anyway, it’s a great film, representing the life and times of a great if tragic woman, played with utter perfection by the indomitable Jennifer Jason Leigh!

No. 5

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Okay, I’m cheating on this one. In a sense, the movie came first. But, the author of the movie (and the supposed file cabinets full of material on this character), Earl Mac Rauch wrote a ‘novelization’ of the movie, like no other I’ve ever seen! Usually, a book-from-a-movie is a scene-by-scene rehash of the action. Cheesy. Badly written. Who reads them??? (Okay, I admit, the first book I read in Portuguese when I was living in Brasil was the novelization of ET…and I highly recommend them to language learners because of their screen-to-print regularity.) But this one is different — written from the point of view of one of the main characters, it’s his version of events. And, it’s as wonderful as the film. (If I have to convince you, you’re really not a geek.)

What are your movies?

How long has it been since you read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid? Disney ruined it by giving it a happy ending, of course.

Reading it now, I realize it must have been years and years and years since I read it…but I did, because I just came to a section that I remember vividly:

At last she reached her fifteenth year. “Well, now, you are grown up,” said the old dowager, her grandmother; “so you must let me adorn you like your other sisters;” and she placed a wreath of white lilies in her hair, and every flower leaf was half a pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great oysters to attach themselves to the tail of the princess to show her high rank.

“But they hurt me so,” said the little mermaid.

“Pride must suffer pain,” replied the old lady. Oh, how gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur, and laid aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden would have suited her much better, but she could not help herself: so she said, “Farewell,” and rose as lightly as a bubble to the surface of the water.

The eight oysters attached to her tail — Oh, how I felt for her when I was 7! Now, as an adult, I wonder just how aware of the trials and tribulations of women Mr. Andersen was…

For another couple of weeks, the World eBook Fair is allowing free access to their collections, celebrating the beginning of the Internet online library:

July 4th to August 4, 2006 marks a month long celebration of the 35th anniversary of the first step taken towards today’s eBooks, when the United States Declaration of Independence was the first file placed online for downloading in what was destined to be an electronic library of the Internet. Today’s eBook library has a total of over 100 languages represented.

A lot of these books are actually available through Project Gutenberg, at least the ones the average person is going to want, so look for the ones that aren’t available for free elsewhere. Links to audio books, video archives…and the Children’s eBook Collection which is scans of original books — very cool.

Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!