Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book: Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

"You have to be brave to be an artist...It takes a fearless knight to imagine something and then let it out into the world. You never know what might happen to it. You never know what you might discover. Don't be scared. Go make something new."

Imagination is a wonderful thing, right? But what happens when you imagination takes on a life of its own? This is something Henry Penwhistle is about to discover when he draws a mighty dragon...that runs away.

Henry has a wild and crazy and wonderful imagination. He finds it hard to fit in at his school and meet the demands for conformity there. But he loves to draw and he draws a glorious chalk dragon on his door that makes its escape and heads for his school. Now Henry, his friend Oscar, and his whole school must face the consequences of Henry's imagination. Henry will learn very important lessons about chivalry, art, creation, and friendship in the process.

I really enjoyed this book! I am outside of the target age zone, but I can easily see this being a delightful read aloud book as some reviews suggest. I love Henry's imagination, and how exciting everything is with it on the loose. It's such a fun concept and so...kid. But at the same time, the book addresses real issues about creativity and friendship that make it even more special. It's wild, adventurous and fun, has a sweet and gentle sense of humor, and when I finished I just felt a warm glow in my heart.

Not all of the characters are who you think they are at first and there's a deep sense of generosity that hums in the bones of this story. But lest I go off on a tangent of how happy the heart of the book made me, the tale itself is clever, fresh and fun. More than anything, it's the kind of book that makes you feel generally better about things when you finish.

The physical book itself is absolutely gorgeous, perhaps one of the nicer physical books I've held in awhile. There are some illustrations in the book as well, delightful drawings by Benjamin Schipper that add to the overall experience of the story.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Some Recent Book to TV News

I recently devoured the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I had read the book many years ago (and it's interesting to go back and read my thoughts now!) and was interested to see how the series would be. I liked the series a lot. I would venture to say it's one of the best teen series I have ever watched. I think the format of a series helped to flesh out the story in ways the book couldn't quite manage. It reminded me that all adaptations aren't evil. (I understand there is some controversy around the show and I would never tell someone they have to watch it or suggest a teen watch it on their own. However, with this type of media I really shy away from broadbrushing it as all evil or all good. What speaks to one person may harm another and that's the nature of art and story)

Books remain a big source for TV so I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the recent news surrounding book to TV adaptations.

Of course, one of the most exciting is the news that Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle is being adapted. I know Stiefvater wanted this as a TV show which makes sense as there's certainly a lot of room for story. However, there is a lot of fantasy stuff that will need to have a budget to look good, LBR. From the announcement, I can't see that a network is attached, so it could end up anything in the NBC Universal family if I understand correctly. (I'm not a TV expert, though I do read a lot of press releases so this is just a guess!) I think a cable channel would be the right call. Catherine Hardwick is directing the pilot (I have no opinion on this) and Andrew Miller will be the showrunner. Andrew Miller was the showrunner for The Secret Circle, another YA series I loved and that showed died fast. It had promise, though, so hopefully The Raven Cycle will be good, become a series, be dearly loved, and change all our TV lives forever.

Another intriguing possibility for a show is You based on the book by Carolyn Kepnes which has already been ordered straight to series (which means we don't have to bite our nails during a pilot process to see if we get the show) by Lifetime. I looooooved this book. It's funny, smart, biting, and such a great commentary on our cyberstalking culture. But...it's also really quite...well gross? I mean it's twisted as described in their press release, and I have to hope they'll tame some of that stuff. Also, the second person POV is so key to everything, it's hard to imagine the humor coming across in quite the same way. This show was originally set up at Showtime which might have been a better a fit, but I'm hoping we get a more watchable show on Lifetime.

Netflix has started developing the series, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is most exciting news as horror is one of my favorite genres. There aren't a lot of awesome horror shows, and this has the potential to be really good with horror director Mike Flanagan behind the show. Definitely keeping my eye on this one.

Not a novel, but a comic, and not something I've read, but worth noting because of the involvement of Scott Derrickson. (while Derrickson has come under a lot of fire in recent times for whitewashing Doctor Strange; I've been a longtime fan because of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister) Hulu is developing an adaptation of Joe Hill's Locke and Key. Carlton Cuse would be showrunner and he's worked on two of my favorite shows of all time, Lost and Bates Motel. So I have to admit this is something I'm rooting for.

And finally, for frothy summer fun, Lifetime Movie Network is premiering two movies this summer based on Harlequin books and offering an immersive experience. This seems like an ideal fit to me and I look forward to checking out the movies! They will air June 2nd and include Naked Pursuit: The Wrong Bed by Jill Monroe and Thornwood Heights seems to launch the book series, as the book companion released the same day. There's a full website to get you pumped up though. I'm going to check it out, it's certainly an interesting idea!

Is there any book to TV news you're excited about?


Friday, April 14, 2017

Book: Still Mine by Amy Stuart

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher (Touchstone/Simon&Schuster)

Still Mine is a quiet sort of thriller. Clare is hired to find a missing woman in the mountains by a mysterious man. Clare herself is mysterious, it's hard to understand exactly where she came from or why she feels this is the best course of action for her in the beginning. Despite all of that though, Stuart quickly drops you into her reality. Clare is on the run and is looking for a woman who may be on the run, may have been abducted, or may have been killed.

The setting really adds to the overall creep effect; it's isolated, creepy, and dark. The town is still recovering from tragedy and pulses with desperation. These all reflect Clare's own internal state of mind, barely surviving tragedy herself.

She gets drawn into the townspeople and regularly questions who she can trust as she continues to investigate Shayna's disappearance. Her own instincts fly in the face of what everyone is telling her.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot despite the fact that it had a certain "unreal" quality to it. Clare's situation on the surface was certainly real enough but her whole mysterious employer was harder for me to buy. Still, the circumstances of the town and her quest to find Shayna were enough to keep me with this book and come back to it when I had to set it aside for some time. The ending is also worth it! The writing is also a touch above what you might find a general thriller.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

I received a copy of this book from the publisher years ago.

Sophie Hannah is one of those authors I've been meaning to read for ages. I'm currently culling books in a huge fashion which means many plans and intentions and hopes of what I will one day read are dying. But I'm also chucking some books into a "read soon or else" pile (if they are slim novels they have a better chance to land there!) The Orphan Choir is one of those books since it was billed a horror novel and so I finally had a chance to read it this past week.

The novel starts out well with a great emphasis on the protagonist Louise experiencing a kind of noise pollution from her neighbor. As the novel progresses, her neighbor's actions become seemingly more sinister and aggravating. Louise can't cope. Additionally, she's struggling to come to terms with renovations her husband wants to do on the house and the absence of her son from her life. Her son is staying at school where he's a part of a prestigious choir and it's hard for Louise to deal with his daily absence as well as the control the choirmaster has over their life.

Things escalate as the noisy neighbor problems continue and Louise feels unsupported and overwhelmed with grief.

This is a horror novel, and while it started out promising enough, I have to admit it ended up falling a little flat. The beginning was stronger than the end which ended up feeling a bit rushed and confusing. And even now, I think even the dread, the misery, and the torment of the beginning could have been developed even more. Still, it was a quick and entertaining read, and I liked Hannah's style and will try some of her mysteries in the future!


Monday, March 20, 2017

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

*I received a review copy from the publisher with no expectation of anything other than an honest review.

Suggest a thriller or mystery (or a horror story!) to me and chances are I'll be interested. I love the kind of reading that keeps me gripped, guessing, turning the pages. So when a pitch arrived in my inbox for My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry, I was interested.

The tagline reads, "an eye for an eye, a wife for a wife." I mean come on. How intriguing?

I did enjoy the book. It's the story of Lily a young woman who is recently married. She's also a lawyer who is starting out in the trenches and taking on a case of a man accused of murdering his girlfriend. It's a difficult case, but because he reminds her of her brother she's drawn to him and feels an increased connection and sense of empathy for him. Her own marriage isn't what she wishes it was--she and her husband struggle, but she does try to make it work. And baby-sitting for a little girl next door, Carla, who is from Italy (this book is set in England) helps to bond them in some ways. The girl herself is struggling to come to terms with her own life but enjoys sitting for Lily's husband Ed to draw.

There's an event and then a huge time jump and then some more stuff happens! I hate to give away too many plot details. But the premise of the book was interesting and kept me with it which made up for the fact that the writing itself was very serviceable. There were times I felt the tension could have been drawn out and the language is basic and functional but doesn't necessarily draw the reader deep into the characters or action. Even still, I finished the book.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

TV Rec: Timeless

We live in a time where there are more TV shows than ever before to watch. It can be really hard to make a choice--many shows have shortened seasons and yet there are so many to choose from. And there's only so much time. We like to read, see movies, and have a life as well!

In any case, I will from time to time still write about some shows I'm watching that I think are worth checking out. Over the past couple of weeks, I finally got a chance to watch Timeless. Timeless has already completed it's first season (at 16 episodes) and there is no guaranteed of a second season at this point. Still, you can watch the full first full season on Hulu or NBC.com. And watching on these platforms at this time is the best thing you can do to help bring about a second season!

What makes Timeless such a fun show is the history. It's a time travel show and I'm not for a second going to pretend there's a lot of logic to the way time travel works. If the past is "changed" there is often very little consequence to the world in the present of our characters. The premiere episode introduces this concept with very real consequences, but the subsequent episodes very rarely reflect this. So with that out of the way, the history is FUN!

The premise of Timeless is pretty straightforward, there's a bad guy going back in time to change history with a stolen time travel ship and a small team (a pilot, a military man, and a historian) are assembled to chase after him in "the Lifeboat" another time travel ship and stop him from causing too much damage. The cast is great led by the wonderful Abigail Scott of Rectify and Suits and have a very enjoyable chemistry and banter. They visit many familiar and known times in history to varying degrees of success. They have a full wardrobe of authentic costumes at their disposal for their trips and they interact with many famous and known characters from history as well as those who are lesser known.

Understandably, a woman going back in history will find certain restrictions on her freedom and Rufus, the pilot, is a black man. Which is important because it allows us to access history from his viewpoint. His reluctance to go back in time is established in the first episode and it's also possibly true that the show doesn't make things as difficult for him as it might be. (however, I think that's true for all the characters, this IS fiction) Still, through Timeless we learn about important characters in the past--often women and people of color.

The show also utilizes enjoyable guest stars to play the characters in history. And...it's just a lot of fun.

There is a huge overarching conspiracy theory and still a lot of questions about how time travel works. The show is a good time, though, and I flew through all 16 episodes rather quickly.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly Givewaway!

Thanks to Disney for providing me with a copy of Lost in a Book and Belle's Library as well as providing this prize pack!

Are you excited for the Beauty and the Beast live action film? It has certainly been exciting to see many iconic scenes come to life. One of the things I always loved about Belle and the reason she's one of my personal favorites is that she's a bookworm!

In celebration of this wonderful reality and the upcoming film, Disney Press is releasing several Beauty and the Beast books. I'm excited to offer a giveaway here!

About the book: Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast's castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast's castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore's world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

About the Author: Jennifer Donnelly is an award-winning, best-selling author of books for young adults and adults, including the Waterfire Saga: Deep Blue, Rogue Wave, Dark Tide, and Sea Spell. Her other young adult novels include These Shallow Graves, Revolution, and A Northern Light, winner of Britain's prestigious Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and a Michael L. Printz Honor. She has also written Humble Pie, a picture book, and the adult novels The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can visit her at www.jenniferdonnelly.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jenwritesbooks.

Visit the official site for Lost in a Book to learn more about the book. You can also follow Disney Hyperionon Twitter to keep up with all the news about these books, as well as follow Disney Books on instagram for some extra visual bookish beauty in your life.

Another great book included in this pack is Belle's Library which includes a lot of really great quotes in a beautiful little book.

Here's the full list of books included in the prize pack:
Lost in a Book
Belle’s Library
Art of Coloring: Beauty and the Beast
Tale as Old as Time
A Twisted Tale: As Old As Time
The Beast Within
The Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost
Kingdom Keepers: The Return (3-book series)
Star Wars trilogy (3-book series)
Percy Jackson & The Olympians (5-book series)
Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume 1

To enter, you must be a resident of the United States and fill out the following form. Entries must be received by March 17, 2017 at midnight EST. Winner will be notified via email.