Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday : Audiobooks!


It's fortunate that this topic came up now and not last year because the past few months I've been getting into audiobooks. I haven't listened to many, so I might not make it to ten...but here are my top picks! 

Uprooted written by Naomi Novak, performed by Julia Emelin



The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by L. Frank Baum, performed by Anne Hathaway


Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland written by Lewis Carrol, performed by Scarlett Johansson


Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte, performed by Thandie Newton


Classic Love Poems performed by Richard Armitage


The Seventh Bride written by T. Kingfisher, performed by Kaylin Heath


You're Never Weird on the Internet written and performed by Felicia Day


And that's a wrap! I've got some distractions distracting me this week so I can't add my thoughts below each pick like I normally do. My choices this week was based on the quality of the audio - the performer, the sound, the pace. Of course, all of the actual books being read are recommendations. :) 
What do you like to listen to?

Until next week, 

Jess

P.S. Honorary mention to Harry Potter series performed by Jim Dale!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery

Published: 1926 (Re-published - 1989)
Publisher: More than one. 
Page Count: 218 pgs (Paperback)
Genre: Classic, Women's Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction.
About the Author: Goodreads Page


"Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery's only novels intended for an adult audience, The Blue Castle is filled with humour and romance."


- Nabbed from the Goodreads Blurb. 
_______________

I love the name Valancy. I love many a V name. Valancy, Verity, Valentina, Victor, Vincent, Vlad! Why, why on earth did Valency Stirling's family decide to call her 'Doss'? Spoiler (not really) - Valancy's family is probably somehow related to the Dursleys. They're absolutely stifling, mundane, and horrible unoriginal and domineering. My favorite kind of villain(s) to see defeated! 'Mwahahhahaa!'

L.M. Montgomery was a huge influence on me as a child. Her books gave me hope and kindness and allowed me the space to be my true strange, little whimsy child. But, I had only ever read Anne with an E and (perhaps, if memory serves) The Story Girl. My best friend loves The Blue Castle. Has been talking of it's amazing-ness since she came across the story in Twilight FanFiction and read the real deal (long story, lol).

The Blue Castle is all about being trapped in a suppressive, hum-drum existence and by fate (or someone's mistake) being triggered into making light-filling life choices. Valancy is a GEM. She's witty, good-hearted, and decidedly unstoppable and independent when she decides to be. So basically, she's the capability of every woman. Yet, she's her own person. She's such a doll. Possibly another one of my spirit animals. (Although I'm pretty sure every L.M. Montgomery heroine is my own, personal spirit animal).

Montgomery draws out the storyline giving us piece, by piece, of her journey in her wonderful descriptions and dialogue. She creates a cast of characters to act as Lighthouses for Valancy. Giving her respite and sanctuary with each step she takes. It's important to distinguish that no one rescues Valancy (except that one time at the party she probably shouldn't have been at, lol). She rescues herself. She is the one that comes up with her decisions, her plans, and puts them in motion. There's a great deal of barriers for a woman in her position in that era but she makes do and comes out on top.  Montgomery creates a contrast with the unhealthy relationships she has with her family/old group and the healthy, mutual-beneficial relationship she builds with her chosen friends. Valancy has good taste. And it all works because she finds her Blue Castle.

What's a Blue Castle? The Blue Castle is the imaginary location residing in Valancy's daydreaming. It's her coping mechanism. A big, shining blue palace where everything is an entirely lovely fairy tale. With a ever-changing but always idyllic true love waiting for her. ;) And you would think that with such a fairy tale fantasy place in her head that she would want more material things. But, what makes her truly happy - her REAL Blue Castle is surprising but entirely expected.

There's no sequel to The Blue Castle and it is one of only works for adults (if not her only!). As an adult I can say that it's 'for adults' in the old fashioned way. As in - it's perfectly fine for tweens/teens. Little kids might not be interested in it though and there is a character death (beautiful written, of course).

Five out of five stars and that is no surprise. It's LM Montgomery, people. She's a literary Queen.

Until next time, 

Jess

Monday, September 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday : All Time Favorites...Chick Lit!


So, this week is ALL TIME FAVORITES in X Genre. The challenge is - I often pull out my top favorites in my most read genres and I like to keep my lists semi-fresh. Historical fiction? Fantasy? I usually like romance but I don't read it often. It's mostly secondary to the plot. Ok, not always...oh! I know! Chick Lit! 

Definition (as found on Wikipedia) -  “consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists.” The genre often addresses issues of modern womanhood – from romantic relationships to female friendships to matters in the workplace – in humorous and lighthearted ways.

Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb


Ah, my first introduction to Cathy Lamb. I remember being grabbed by the first scene of the book where the main character throws her emotionally (and physically) oppressive wedding dress up into a tree branch and going at it like it was war because the damn thing kept falling back onto her face. It made me laugh, cry, and all that good stuff. And absolutely chock full of female power and more importantly - friendship. Romance happens but the journey of the character comes first. 

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb


My second favorite Lamb! The backstory really squeezes the heart. I have this on my bookshef actually. (Recently re-organized my books and re-acquainted myself with my old and constant friendlies). 

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen


Sarah Addison Allen is one of my all time favorite authors and the Sugar Queen is my all time favorite. Mostly because there is a character who has the ability to always have the right book appear to her whenever and whatever she might need. And, the main character, has a secret closet of candies and magazines and wears a magic red sweater. :)


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Before there was Eleanor and Park - there was Fangirl. Fangirl also falls under the category 'New Adult' - a young woman off to college for her first year, she is a well-known fan-fic author, and has to adjust to all that college stuff and finish up her fanfiction while trying to figure out...can she write original work of her own outside of her fandom? Rainbow Rowell for the win, per usual. ;)


Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot


It's pretty much a crime against Chick Lit to have a list without Meg Cabot. From Princess Diaries to her Boy Series - I've pretty much read them all. And what's on my bookshelf? A former pop-star turned dorm manager/amateur detective. Don't check into her dorm building but don't be afraid to hire her to solve your case! 




Talk about the mystery solving! I haven't read the entire series (like twenty five books so far) but I have read the first one a couple of times. I love the voice in it, the way Evanovich brings to life the neighborhood characters and the action. 

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts


Oh, the heart strings be tugging. Where the Heart Is is more than the movie (although that movie is amazing) and reading the book is a must.

Phantom Waltz by Catherine Anderson


It's so very rare to find a healthy, accurately depicted romance featuring a disabled main character. It's mostly tragic tropes (ahem, Me Before You, lol), and inspiration porn. Phantom Waltz features a disabled (paralyzed) woman as the romantic lead. Anderson is completely adorable - it reads like a Hallmark movie - but she did her research and put her heart into bringing an authentic, heart-warming romance to the table. 



Kristen Ashley has been my secret guilty pleasure for a while and it started with the Dream Man series - in particular Motorcycle Man. She rambles quite a bit and the language structure of the characters is unique and takes a little adapting to but she does her genre well. 



And, to end this list - Anne Shirley striking it out on her own after University. My favorite of the entire series is Anne of the Island and Anne's House of Dreams. I'm in L.M. Montgomery mode right now. Ever since Netflix announced they were adopting her to adapt into a series. Windy Poplars is so dreamy of a read, I love her exploring what it's like to be on her own away from her friends and her home. :)

And that's a wrap! What do you think, what's your favorite chick lit? 

Until next week, 

Jess

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book to Screen - Outlander!

It's time for Outlander, darlings!

Since the television show has completed it's second season and it seemed like a good time to talk Outlander. That and when I tweeted my dilemma on what to post about next (Orphan Train, Outlander, or more love for L.M. Montgomery) - a little book slayer supported Outlander! I am doing a semi read-a-long with the show. I've read the first two books, they've completed the first two seasons, and by the time season 3 premieres I aim to have read the third book (but not beyond) so I can be properly book-prepped to appreciate (or not?) how they adapt it for the screen.

If you happen to be new to Outlander, considering watching the tv series, haven't picked up the books and wonder if you should - I shall give one disclaimer - it's like the historical fiction time travel Game of Thrones minus the incest, dragons, and looming ice-zombie apocalypse. I'll go ahead and say that I love both the book series and the screen adaption. I don't see this as a negative post in anyway and I would hope it encourages people to try out Outlander if they haven't already. I put in the disclaimer for two reasons - my sister (who lives in a tight, cramped apartment with young, impressionable children) had to stop watching Outlander because she was afraid her kids would catch inappropriate glimpses and be scarred for life. She's started back up but has to be careful when she watches or be well-warned for possible..."Mama, what are they doing??" And the second reason - my best friend doesn't have a stomach for graphic sex and violence. She likes to be warned about things so she may use her discretion. I think, for some of us (ahem, me), we're so used to the images and exposure on our screens that we forget that it isn't appropriate for some audiences for a variety of reasons. If you're squeamish or have other (possibly tiny, question-asking) reasons for being wary of graphic content - go for the books instead! As much as we all love our screen adaptions - books are better. 

The Book Series

Published: June 1sth, 1991
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Word Count: 896
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Find the Author: Website

"The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives." 
- Nabbed from the Goodreads blurb. 





The next book in the series - Dragonfly in Amber - included, of course. 

The Screen

Outlander (2014- )
Cast: Caitriona BalfeSam Heughan.
Channel: Starz

 "Follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire's heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives." -Nabbed from the IMBD blurb. 











Let's Talk Outlander


Outlander has been around for decades as a book series. The Outlander fanbase has been waiting FOREVER for their favorite series to be ushered onto the screen. Anyone with the balls to tackle the beloved series had to come in knowing that they better do a damn good job. You don't mess with romance time-travelling historical fiction fan-ladies. That being communicated - Outlander has some tricky stuff to pull off. Time-travel, in itself, is tricky. And Outlander doesn't just time-travel once - it time travels in the plural sense, time-jumps, and flashbacks (and flash forwards? Is that the right word for it?). It all makes sense with the author's meticulous, expressive writing. But, how do you translate all that in a form that makes sense on a screen? 

If you think about it logically - the authenticity and accuracies of the time-periods, the cast, the way the book is converted to screen - are all incredibly important to pulling the adaption off. Mess with one and the rest don't hold up as shiny. I don't care how many times Heughan takes his shirt off and gets all sexy with Balfe - if he's not dressed period-appropriate...it's just ruins the whole deal. You can have the greatest cast, work your ass off on set and costume design - but if you omit a event from the books held sacred by the fans - that built in fandom that supported you so much?...will be pissed. There are lots of lines to tow (toe?), elements to balance, and greatness to achieve to satisfy the masses. 

Thankfully, there are a ton of resources for historical accuracy in regards to costuming and set design. And as for the time-line and historical environment? The book series is a resource unto itself because Gabaldon did an amazing job keeping up with the historical times she was writing in. Starz and all the minds and bodies behind Outlander (TV) use what's available to them well. They bring to life an authentic world that enhances the well-loved story. 

As with all fandoms - casting loved characters is...unbelievably crucial. One wrong casting and it throws it all off. There will be twitter-rioting - possibly petitions, and you will never ever have another day in your life when it is not at least unintentionally mentioned.

In the books, Claire is described to have lighter hair (think more dirty blonde, mousey brown, mildly tawny) and her eyes golden. She is average height (but above average height for the time period she travels to). Jamie has thick, wavy red hair, blue cat-shaped eyes, and a figure like a basketball player. She is older than he is. And within the book series there is a twenty year jump. They go from being in their twenties to being in their mid/late forties. That alone was probably why it took so long for Outlander to find its way to the screen.

Credit Fan Art - Huang Nguyen (Claire) & Alex Oliver (Jamie)

Balfe doesn't quite match her character's literary description and Hueghan doesn't pull off 23 very well. (I'm not sure that above illustration does him justice. It actually might be a illustration of him aged a little. But, I'm not sure). Both are acting twenties when they are both in their mid-thirties. Considering that they had to choose talent that can act and somehow pull off a twenty year time jump if the show goes well...they give it their all. There's only so much hair and make-up can do, you know? Balfe embodies Claire's spirit, her legendary pale skin, and brings to life the narrative woven into the episodes with Claire's exact voice. She was meant to be play someone defying the test of time.



Hueghan doesn't quite pull off early twenties, especially at the end. But - he's going to have to be nearing around fifty in Season 3 (time jump!) - there was no way he was going to effectively look 23 and then 47-ish (bad at exact ages, sorry!). On a amusing note - Hueghan has said he thought about getting a bit out of shape for The Great Time Jump. I AM SURE HE'S KIDDING. I hope... And he is Jamie. He pulls off that rogue-ish, traditional, time-traveling believing kilt-wearing Higherlander Charming we have all come to daydream about.



And as for the plot and how they translated the novel to the television series...I feel, so far, that they've done a pretty bang up job. Of course, and maybe I should have mentioned this above, I don't consider myself a Outlander super-fan. I love Outlander but I only picked up the books after I learned about the TV show coming out. I might not be as picky as some in regards to the differences between book and screen. Over-all - the big points (especially in the first season) and the favored, moments and...the traumatic, horrible events - were kept and the plot remained true to it's novel origins.

The differences usually are chalked to the limits of television and perhaps - creative license on the characters. In the finale of Season 2 a death that is caused by one person is caused by teamwork with two people. It wasn't about production cost, limitations, or the like - it was because it felt right to have the two characters unite and kill this character. As a fan of both book and show - I didn't mind this deviation. I really didn't. However...I can totally see another fan - more long-time than I - being upset.

At the end of this road, when I compare the novel and the tv series, I see the best outcome for a book to screen adaption. There's very little way an in-depth book series can be translated to the screen with absolutely everything intact. Adapting (and I can so go on and on about this topic) book to screen is about enhancing the world and viewpoint of the story that is loved by its readers. Expanding the Fandom. Finding actors that can carry the characters, creating the world people have imagined in their heads, bringing to life the events. It's trying to communicate and express through the language of film what's been (literally) described in detail with words.

I'm leaving out a lot! Maybe, in the future, I'll do a Outlander Pt. 2 post. I want to talk about the amazing cast of characters, the actors that bring them to life (THEY CAST BRIANNA SO WELL. I LOVE HER), the scenery, the sets, the historical context. My main focus was to hit up the main elements of a book to screen adaptation.

Outlander TV embraced it's origins, keeping close to the beloved plots and the integrity of the main characters, and enhanced the fandom with it's adaptation of the book series. They listened to the author of the book, did their research, cast it well, and (how could I forget this part?) made sure to have an epic soundtrack to bring the scenes to life. Bear McCreary anyone? Balfe and Heughan go all in for their characters. I admire their acting skills to no end. They clinched my love for Claire and Jamie. And all the minds and bodies behind the adaption - did their work well. I'm hopeful for the future seasons. I know a little about whats going to happen and I'm curious on how they'll adapt it. I mean, I'm pretty sure Claire and Jamie are in their sixties now (in the book series). How they are going to pull that off? Will they deviate from the timeline? Will they invest in the best actor-aging costume/make-up (whatever they call it) that Hollywood could offer?

Only time can tell, 

Jess

P.S. Get it? Only time will tell? ;)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday : Current TV Shows I'm A Fangirl For


This week's TTT is all in honor of Fall's TV and the special time of year we hunker down and start exploring (or continuing) our screen obsessions. Summer has faded, winter is coming, and we have been waiting too long. As usual there's flexibility upon one's interpretation of the weekly theme but I have, alas, been unable to find a creative twist. Mostly because I'm exhausted from Labor Day weekend. I spent four hours at Barnes and Nobles and the morning of going through books and setting up my new bookshelves. Fantastic time. Completely tired.

So I'm going with the tried and true - Current Shows I'm Obsessed With!!! (With a slight leaning towards the less-than obvious choices - such as Game of Thrones)


The 100


MY TOP SHOW. Based on a book series that I never got into (like seriously) this show defeats all the odds. Literally. Some reasons why it just sings to my soul and keeps me up at night - badass women on an un-argued level as their male counterparts, the heartwretching decisions and twists, and the magical way they seem to pull off complex, unique post-nuclear world with a CW budget. Also #Bellarke and #RavenReyes. 

Poldark


I've watched the first season like five times. Probably more. Poldark returns home after being forced to battle it out with those pesky Colonial rebels when he gets in trouble with the law and finds his Dad has kicked it, the estate is in shambles, and his girl has latched onto his cousin. What will a brooding, rebel hero do in such circumstances? Make mining look like the hottest, noblest thing to do since damsels stopped being trapped in towers, seduce the kitchen maid into his marital bed, and routinely stick up for the impoverished working man (while his hair is blowing in the wind). 

iZombie


This show made me LOVE zombies - and I was already a fan of the Walking Dead. In fact, I wouldn't mind being one. If it meant having natural Khaleesi hair and have major bromances without the complications of writer-forced romantic entanglements. (There is romance, of course, but several male-female friendships that untouched by the usual 'forced under-current attraction'). Plus - it's funny. But also serious when it needs to be. Heartstrings are tugged and then you laugh and then you cry and then you text your best friend and spoil it because you always end up watching the episodes first....

Orphan Black


The first rule about Clone Club is you don't talk about Clone Club. So click the title link, Sestra! You won't regret it...



Another I talked about extensively this weekend. This might be an obvious choice because since it recently came out - it's been a huge success. For good reason. Those little guys (and girl) up there? THEY BRING THE FEELS. Winona Ryder is back, people. And the eighties live on in it's unabashed, perfectly executed homage to eighties cinema. Also, watch out for the Demigorgon - he's for real and ate poor Barb. (Sorry, spoiler...maybe?)

Outlander



This might be an obvious choice too - especially since this is a book blog and I've talked extensively about it. Outlander - based on series written by Diana Gabaldon. Scottish Highlands, Time-Travelling World War 2 nurse, two age-less actors, and all the history. Plus sexy times. AND THAT FINALE. I, honestly, wasn't entirely sold on this season. I missed the Highlands and then when they got back there it was so grim (for an obvious reason) and I was disheartened by the looming doom. But, the finale brought it home for me in a big way. I'm beyond excited for the next season. 

Once Upon A Time


For all the ups and downs I've had with this show - I keep going back to it. In the paraphrased words of my best friendly - it's hard to keep up with a show where the whole premise is that they can't/struggle with having a happy ending. It means that they'll never truly be happy until the show ends. lol. That being said - the layers that are brought to the characters, the unique twists on the fairy tales we've grown up with, and the main core family at the heart of the show draws me in everytime. Plus. The creators of Lost are behind it.

Shameless


I will put this show on the background and it'll make me feel right at home. It's what I watch when I want to get in the right headspace. (Even though there's no way I could make some of the life choices in their lives). There is something entirely relatable and universal about the characters. Fiona is my spirit animal. I'm massively in love with Lip. I've stuck with Ian through his up and downs and then gave up when he broke it off with Mickey, lol (Not really but sort of). I'm incredibly concerned about Deb and Carl and Liam. And I want to be tight with Kev and Veronica. I will literally bawl when this show eventually comes to a close. 

General Hospital


Speaking of being shameless...I am completely unashamed about my love for General Hospital. I know, I know - it's a soap opera. But, that's there in lies the magic - anything can happen. Like anything! Mobsters with hearts of gold, ridiculously over the top medical conditions and events, legacy couples forever (until they're forced by the writers to cheat on each other and consider quitting the show and then go back with gusto when they reconcile), and COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD. No character is truly ever dead. THERE'S ALWAYS HOPE. It takes years of commitment when you're a soap fangirl, its not for everyone, but this is a list for my top tv obsessions...and Port Charles (hometown setting) takes a big chunk of my television loving heart. #Jasam. #Lante. #CorinthosClan. #NOSHAME. lololol. ;)  


I'd like to give honorable mention to - Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and all things Marvel-Netflix. I didn't list them because they've gotten a lot of coverage in the larger context of social media or I couldn't pick which one to put down (ahem, Marvel-Netflix). 

I want to hear about what you've been watching, what twist did you put on this week's topic, and do you too fangirl for some of the above mentioned???

Until next week!

Jess







Mini Book to Screen - Anne of Green Gables!

This week (and weekend) has been busy and I haven't had the time to write up the many blog posts I have planned. Labour Day Weekend! However, I do have some great news to spread.

Ahem. 


Anne of Green Gables is being adapted by Netflix.

I'm just going to assume that you know what Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is. (It's only one of the best piece of children's literature ever written). Back in the eighties Sullivan adapted the books into a trilogy (and a couple of spin-off shows not featuring Anne but in her home Island). I had a copy of the first on VHS back in the day and borrowed the rest from the library. (Remember borrowing VHS's from the library?) However, now that I'm an adult and spend too much money on books - I've never gotten around to investing in the trilogy. I have the entire book series and in my opinion they're better than the trilogy. Because. Well. Books. 

Sullivan keeps the series under lock and key. As in - it's not available anywhere to stream. I've looked. My sister has looked. We've come up with nothing. It always made me sad that something that I loved so much was held back from the current generation. Ya know, kids nowadays, all about those tv shows and movies. ;) I'm a big believer in a good book-to-screen adaption. Anne is a comfort, a beautiful and unique expression. She's all of us in some way. 

So, the news that Anne is being adopted by Netflix makes my day. I really enjoy their original television shows and I have such high hopes for the potential gorgeousness of what they'll do with Anne. L.M. Montgomery is an eloquent, descriptive writer and Anne is such a romantic, eternal dreamer - both could translate so well for a film adaption of modern abilities. The news goes that the eight-episode series written by Moira Walley-Beckett who has previously gotten acclaim for writing...Breaking Bad

Some are kind of panicking about that because Breaking Bad is dark and Ann with an E is not. And if you're in the same boat - let me throw down some good old fashion logic. Breaking Bad was probably a emotional draining project to be a part of. Writing such dark content was probably costing to a degree. After such a project, it makes sense for someone to want to switch to a lighter tone. What's more emotionally nurturing than living in Anne's world? She's a good writer and I'm hopeful for what she's done with our Ann with an E. 

Here's a link to a more informative article courtesy of the NY Times : Oh, Gilbert! 'Anne of Green 

Until next time loves, 

Jess



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