day ten | 30 day book challenge

30 Day Book Challenge | Day 10 — Book-to-film adaptation(s): favorite(s), bad ones, ones you’d like to see

Fun! First, the good…

I mean, come on. Of course. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!! I will go to the mattresses defending The Godfather. This movie (and Part II) makes me an offer I won’t refuse. I will take the gun and leave the cannoli. Confession: I have not read the book! High on the list for 2013.

Many exist, but for this post I’m choosing one utterly cringe-worthy adaptation…

wild things are movie poster

<shudder> WHY did anyone think this would be a good idea? How do you make a nearly two-hour movie out of a book consisting of a mere ten sentences? Ugh. All the characters were insufferably annoying. Sure sure, the CGI was excellent and beautiful, but I found this film largely unwatchable.

A few I wouldn’t mind seeing on the big screen… IF done well, of course…

I’m sort of on the fence about Arcadia as a movie, though—mostly I think it would be better if it stayed in my post-read imagination, but on the other hand, I’d be curious to see how it would end up. I saw a fairly boring documentary on H.H. Holmes (the killer in The Devil in the White City), but I think Hollywood could maybe do the story one better. And I’ve read rumors that Gone Girl is actually in the works… so we’ll see how it goes!

What are your favorite book-to-film adaptations? What would you like to see made for the screen?

day five | 30 day book challenge

30 Day Book Challenge | Day 5 — The first novel you remember reading on your own

I read a lot as a kid, and the first author I remember being hooked on was Roald Dahl. I’m pretty sure I have read nearly all his books for children. I’m not exactly sure this is exactly the very first novel I read on my own, but definitely the first I remember was…

Matilda by Roald Dahl. I must have first read Matilda in about second grade, I think. I carried this book around with me and read it over and over again. Of course, as a little girl who read a lot, how could I not identify with Matilda? She is an inspiring character—imaginative, sassy, and her mind is the most important, powerful, and special thing about her.

day four | 30 day book challenge

30 Day Book Challenge | Day 4 — Your favorite book from childhood

There are so, so many to choose from! My folks read to me a lot when I was little, and I loved going to the library at my elementary school. I’m going to cheat and pick TWO books for this one!

But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. It is about an old woman who gave in and bought an animal every time the pet salesman stopped by her door. Finally the pet salesman had only the elephant remaining, but the woman refused to buy him. The salesman left town, so the woman relented and took in the elephant, who proved to be more than her household could handle until the time comes when he saves the day. Elephants were definitely a favorite animal of mine when I was a kid, so I’m sure that’s a big factor that drew me to this one. Also, I like the message of getting over preconceived notions, stubbornness, and prejudices.

I always loved The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, too. Who doesn’t? Activism, environmentalism, and who can resist that epic mustache??

[Runner up: Weirdly, another childhood favorite was Dr. Seuss’s You’re Only Old Once, too, even though it’s obviously meant for adults.]

day one | 30 day book challenge

Happy December! It is my favorite month, and not just because of my birthday (and ESPECIALLY not because of Christmas, ugh). I just like that halfway point in the season, we all get a little break, time to enjoy our families, and I do like the fun and celebration of the beginning of the new year. And who doesn’t love the cooler weather, being curled up on the couch under a comforter with a great book??

The 30 Day Book Challenge has been floating around lately and I’ve enjoyed following along on some others’ blogs. I thought December would be a good month for me to do it since my concerts, rehearsals, and jobs are all slowing down until January, and then on December 31 I can do a retrospective of the books I read in 2012.

I ended up making my own version of the 30 Day Book Challenge because each of the lists I found on the internet, while similar enough, had some questions I wanted to tackle that others didn’t, and they had some questions that were just ridiculous and I didn’t want to skip a day. So I compiled them and threw in some variations/random questions I found elsewhere online.

30 Day Book Challenge | Day 1 — Your favorite book(s)

Very difficult question for any serious reader. Do I list ten? Five? ONE? How am I supposed to pick just one favorite book; is that even possible? How can I answer this without duplicating and using the same book(s) in later answers (favorite non-fiction, favorite classic, etc.)? And of course, this is just for THIS moment in time. I’m certain there are many more “favorite” books of mine out there I haven’t read yet. Garrghh! Agony.

There are several that stay fresh in my memory and close to my heart, but I’m going to have to go with…

Le petit prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I just loved it—loved it as a kid, loved it when I read it in French in high school, loved it when I re-read it in college. Come to think of it, it’s due for a re-read soon. I have two copies of this book, a French edition and an English one. At least for me, it has a timeless feeling to it. Le petit prince is beautiful, philosophical, heartbreaking, and lovely.

the hobbit

A long time ago there once lived a young girl… who didn’t much care for hobbits…

Just kidding!

One summer in my childhood, I attended a summer school program, which I really hated. I don’t think I hated it because it was bad—in fact I’m sure it was a good program. I just wanted to be at home, so I was going to hate anywhere that wasn’t home. (Ironically… feelings not too different from Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.) Anyway, during that program the teacher read The Hobbit to us and I remember just loathing it. I can’t even remember anything about the book from then, only the serious hatred I had for the whole situation!

Aside from loving a few Roald Dahl books when I was in elementary school (and my favorite of those I read was Danny, Champion of the World… one of the least “fantasy” of them), I have never really been attracted to fantasy/adventure stories in general. That’s not to say I didn’t have an active and crazy imagination, of course, just… eh. Dwarfs and kings and magic swords and epic battles were not my thing.

I never had another thought about Tolkien after that traumatic summer program experience until I was in college and got dragged to the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, by a friend of mine who was a big fan of the books. Well, I thought the movie was great and totally engrossing, and that cliff-hanger ending got me (even though I knew it was coming). I ended up reading (and enjoying) all three Lord of the Rings books before the second film came out a year later.

Next month, a new movie version of The Hobbit will be released, the first of a trilogy of films to precede the LoTR storyline. So I figured I should finally get around to giving reading The Hobbit a real chance. I have a <ahem> “borrowed” copy from my mother—a tenth-edition printing of the revised version from 1967 (cover pictured above). I think I have had this copy on my bookshelves at least since I saw the LoTR films almost a decade ago, possibly longer. Within the first 20 withered, water-stained pages, I found an abandoned, yellowed coupon for a liquor store from the 70s. Nice!

I did like The Hobbit… but I’m not sure I can say I loved it. Fantasy, apparently, is still not really my thing. However, I do think the story is a wonderful classic and I’m so glad I read it. I loved many characters and scenes, and Tolkien’s thoughtfully detailed world- and history-building makes for extremely “real” mental imagery. His writing is delightful, lyrical, matter-of-fact, and laced with sarcastic humor. Bilbo is fun as a reluctant hero—gentle, sweet, humble, clever, and somewhat snippy. I don’t remember Gandalf being quite so curmudgeonly in LoTR, but maybe he was… it’s been about ten years since I read them. I have to admit my mind wandered during certain traveling scenes and the conclusion with the dragon and ensuing parts were a bit anti-climactic for me. But every pivotal moment before the climax will really stick in my mind—the trolls, the escape from the goblins in barrels, Bilbo’s interaction with Gollum, etc. Tolkien is brilliant in using these characters and the fantasy genre for deeper commentary on human behavior and society. “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (pg. 273) Indeed.

I think fantasy just works better for me personally on screen than in writing. Looking forward to seeing what they do with the new film trilogy!

Read from November 4 to 11, 2012.

tuck everlasting

The last audiobook I listened to on my trip a couple weeks ago was Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. At three hours long, it was just right for the last bit of the drive. This is another one I came across on iTunes, and I thought it would be an interesting trip down memory lane.

Winnie Foster is a precocious, curious, and bored ten-year-old whose family is stern and protective, but they do love her. One day, Winnie decides to run away and is exploring the woods near her home when she comes across a boy gulping water from a spring. She says she’s thirsty and wants a sip, so the boy, Jesse Tuck, spills his family’s secret—that they are immortal after drinking from the spring. His family takes Winnie back to their home to explain their story, and why they’ve found immortality to be more a curse than a blessing. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger has been following Winnie, plotting to make a fortune off bottling and selling the magic spring water.

As I was listening, I realized I had nearly completely forgotten the story. I remembered the characters vaguely, and certainly Jesse proposing to Winnie, asking her to drink the water when she turns seventeen so they can get married and she can live forever with the Tucks. I also remember the ending… which—although it’s an old book—I don’t want to spoil… but I remember thinking it was an affecting and heartbreaking yet appropriate conclusion. Tuck Everlasting still had the same wistfulness that I enjoyed in my childhood, with its thought-provoking premise and magical realism. Babbitt’s writing is lovely, with beautiful imagery of the surroundings and good use of metaphors.

I did not remember the plot much, even the lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of immortality and the Tucks’ history. I had especially forgotten the intense conflict between the Tucks and the man in the yellow hat. It is a rather dark story for a children’s book, but anything dealing with immortality must also touch on the reality of death. As an adult hearing it again, I was a bit shocked by Jesse’s boldness in proposing to Winnie—merely ten years old—when, even in the body of a teenager, he was actually over one hundred years old. Are we to believe that although their bodies stopped aging, their personalities didn’t naturally age? That Jesse’s scores of decades in this life had no effect on his maturity? That seemed odd to me. This is a problem with the length, I believe. Perhaps if it were a longer book, with the Tucks visiting Winnie over several years—that would give Jesse and Winnie time to develop a real relationship. Maybe it was just Jesse, though—the rest of the clan seemed wiser. A longer story would allow for more plot and character development.

The narrator of this audiobook version, Melissa Hughes, has an expressive and articulate voice. She was pleasant to listen to and capably handled the multiple characters with slight nuance. My one minor complaint with her interpretation, though, is making Mae and Angus Tuck sound perhaps more elderly than needed.

Listened to audiobook on July 16, 2012.