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Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Life in September: Elizabeth Wein, the Kobo Aura, and Keeping Busy

Where did September go? This month has been such a blur for me, it's passed by so fast. In August, I experienced some major homesickness after moving away from home to the other side of the country. In September, I found out that the best cure for homesickness was keeping busy. And busy I was. Which unfortunately meant a lot less time for the blog and reading - I totally broke my goal of posting at least twice a week. Boo!

But there really wasn't anything for it. Between dealing with my particularly shitty landlord (unfortunately, I have yet to find a way to break my one year lease), preparing for my first ever teaching gig (I'm teaching two ecology labs with 50 students in each class! I was SO nervous, but somehow, I found that it actually wasn't so bad... and also, I might actually like this teaching thing), and settling into grad life and researching my master's thesis, I had very little time for much else! I do hope things will quiet down a bit now that I have my routine... we'll see.

Even though I had much reduced spare time this month, I still made time for a fun author event - the Toronto Word on the Street! Thanks to Christa of More Than Just Magic for letting me know about it (who I also got to finally meet!). I might have missed meeting one of my favourite authors - Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire - if not for her!
(photos from my Instagram)
She read from Rose Under Fire - which I STILL haven't read yet, eek! - and talked mainly about the research that went into writing her excellent historical fiction novels. It was super interesting! And she is so lovely.
Elizabeth Wein and me
Because she is now living in Scotland, she was familiar with my Scottish Gaelic name and knew how to spell it immediately when I told it to her! I can count on one hand the number of times someone has been able to spell my name - actually, one of them was Beth Revis. (Side note: for those not in the know, Eilidh is my real name; I decided to spell it phonetically when I started my blog - "Aylee" - so that people wouldn't think my name was pronounced eyelid or something!).

I am always so starstruck and shy and excited when I meet my favourite authors! I was pretty flustered around Elizabeth Wein. I hope I didn't say anything too embarrassing in front of her... I honestly can't remember, I was so excited!

Some more excitement this month arrived in a very exciting package from Kobo!
I mean, WOW! I actually thought it was a scam at first when I received the offer email. It's not everyday that I get offered a free eReader, after all. And because I had been saving up to buy one of my own (up to this point, I've been reading my eGalleys off my laptop and iPhone), I jumped at the chance to receive a Kobo Aura. I think finally owning an eReader is really going to revolutionize the way I read. So HUGE thanks to Kobo!!
As for the Kobo Aura - I wish I could speak as someone who is experienced in eReaders and could compare and contrast the Kobo Aura with other eReaders. But as someone who has never owned an eReader before, all I can say is that it is AWESOME. It's on the smaller size of eReaders, which is perfectly convenient for me as it is very light and fits in my hand nicely. I love that it is easier on my eyes than a backlit screen, but that it also has the option of turning the screen on when reading in the dark! I can also track my reading speed, which is kind of cool. I can already envision myself buying tons of cheap eBooks now that I finally have an eReader - let's face it, it's inevitable.

Among my limited spare time this month, I somehow found time to watch the entire first season of Orange is the New Black - and I was obsessed from the start!
In some instances, the show absolutely terrified me - I would not be able to last even one minute in prison!! For real, I am nowhere near strong enough. But the reason I loved Orange is the New Black so much is that it had an unbelievable capacity to make me feel empathy and compassion for each of the inmates - and that's impressive.

Blog Posts in September (not many... boo!):

My Life in August: Homesickness, Ontario, and a Train Ride Across Canada
Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie
Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Adaptation
Review: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson - 4 Stars

Oh man - only one review written this month! That's terrible. I'm going to try harder in October, I promise.

Best Book Read in September:
I haven't had time to do a lot of reading this month, but I have had a lot of time for listening to audiobooks in the mornings and evenings while getting ready for school and bed, and while performing various menial tasks. Enter The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a free audiobook that I picked up from SYNC this summer. What fun! And it made me want to re-watch Sherlock real bad...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Adaptation

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

Jo is truly full of surprises. Although I think this latest piece of news is even more surprising than the announcement of The Cuckoo's Calling, the book she published under a pseudonym.

Warner Brothers has announced that they have made an agreement with J.K. Rowling for her to screenwrite a movie series adaptation of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie adaptation will tell the story of Newt Scamander, the fictional author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (one of Harry's textbooks and also an actual book written by J.K. Rowling for charity):

"Warner Bros. announced on 12th September 2013 that J.K. Rowling would be making her screenwriting debut with 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', the first in a new film series which is part of their expanded creative partnership with J.K. Rowling. The films will be inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook of the same name, and will feature the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander.

“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of 'Fantastic Beasts', realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.

As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros."

Jo goes on to say that while this proposed new movie series will take place within the wizarding world, it will NOT be a prequel or a sequel to Harry Potter, but will follow Newt's story, 70 years prior to Harry's, in New York:

"Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.

I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”

So, could this news be any crazier?! I mean, it's pretty much one of the last things I would expect to come out of Jo, after a secret book written under a pseudonym. But I'm not complaining - as you might expect, I'm pretty freaking excited actually!

There are a number of strange things about this news that I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around though: a) Jo will be writing the screenplay for a movie and no book will be involved; I'm so curious to see how her authorial skills will translate to screenplay writing rather than regular fiction book writing, b) the movie series will take place 70 years before Harry's time (so, in the 1920's); most of the characters and references will be unfamiliar (it's a completely new story!), and c) the movie will take place in New York; this will be incredibly strange for me because I wholly associate the Harry Potter series (not to mention her two post-HP books) as being completely and utterly British.

This movie has great potential though. For one, we know that J.K. Rowling has intricate and intriguing backstories for many of her secondary characters that we never learn about in the original series; Newt Scamander's (brilliant name, by the way) story is no different: he spent 10 years researching and exploring the globe for magical creatures in order to write Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Second of all, readers of Fantastic Beasts know that there are a myriad of fantastical beasts that Jo describes that are inventive and eccentric; it would be so cool to see these beasties come to life! Third of all, Queen Rowling herself will be writing the screenplay; there is no way I would be on board with this if another screenwriter were to be writing the script.

So in summation, a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie is a bit hard for me to wrap my head around, but on the other hand: it's J.K.-freaking-Rowling!! Writing a movie. About a beloved character who probably has an interesting story to tell. I absolutely cannot wait to hear more about this project - it's going to be GOOD! Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: September 10, 2013
Pages: 368
Source: For Review from HarperCollins/Edelweiss
Rating: 4 Stars

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.
There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

In short: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson is a whimsical and light-hearted story that never takes itself too seriously.
You got to bet this one caught my eye immediately because a) I love cute middle grade books with cute middle grade covers, b) I love fun titles, and c) I love pirates. And Magic Marks the Spot delivered exactly what it promised: a whimsical and light-hearted story that had me chuckling at its brilliant tongue-in-cheek humour. Hilary desperately wants to be the most fearsome pirate of the High Seas, but when The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates says that no girl is to join their ranks, she sets out to find her own way to make it happen by looking to uncover the most prized treasure known.

The humour and the characters are what makes a book like Magic Marks the Spot shine. The pirates were basically parodies of what pirates are thought to be - scourges and scallywags - and debut author Caroline Carlson adds a lot of comedy poking fun at the stereotypical pirate image. The characters are all a bit two-dimensional, but I guess I don't expect much complexity from such a light, easy book. Even though the characters weren't complex, they were plenty vibrant. Magic Marks the Spot is one of those books that makes you wish you were listening to it via audiobook instead because you know a narrator could have had a lot of fun with these quirky characters.

I think my only complaint stems from one of the book's strengths: it's light-heartedness, while totally fun, kind of took away from any suspense in the book. I know pirates to live dangerous lives, and there are certainly pirate ship fights in Magic Marks the Spot, but at no point is any character in any real danger at all; there are only mild troubles here and there. And you can't tell me it's because it's an MG book and they needed to tone that down. You can still have a clean book for MG readers and have a little more tension there!

Ultimately though, I really enjoyed myself while reading Magic Marks the Spot. It garnered a number of chuckles out of me and I had a lot of fun with the cast of characters - especially the talking gargoyle. It reads as a standalone, but is really apart of a greater series entitled The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates. I would definitely recommend this book to MG fans who are looking for something that never takes itself too seriously.

Other Reviews:
Sweet Tidbits

Author Links:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie

This week's topic is...

Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie
(set in a perfect world... in which movies don't butcher the books we love)

1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (My Review | Goodreads)
2. Blood Red Road by Moira Young (My Review | Goodreads)
3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (My Review | Goodreads)
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (My Review | Goodreads)
5. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (My Review | Goodreads)
6. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (My Review | Goodreads)
7. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (My Review | Goodreads)
8. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (My Review | Goodreads)
9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (My Review | Goodreads)
10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (My Review | Goodreads)

When I think about what books would make the most exciting and visually interesting movies, I think of speculative fiction books with epic world building (either fantasy or dystopian) and strongly atmospheric settings, and I think that the above ten books exemplify those qualities and would make for excellent films.

HOWEVER. And this is important: they would only make for excellent films IF DONE RIGHT. In a perfect world, in which movie adaptations didn't butcher the books we love, these ten would have the potential to be beautifully atmospheric and visual masterpieces. I certainly felt they all had a distinctly cinematic feel to them. But as we all know, book-to-movie adaptations can be tricky and they are not always adapted in a manner that satisfies and pleases the fans. Alas, it is pretty rare that I am completely satisfied with book-to-movie adaptations!

How about you? Are you generally satisfied with movie adaptations of your favourite books?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Life in August: Homesickness, Ontario, and a Train Ride Across Canada

I moved three thousand miles this month, so that I could return to school to get my master's degree in palaeontology! So that was a major life event and thus my life in August revolved entirely around that.

I opted out of plane or vehicle travel for the chance to utilize my favourite method of travel: the train!
(photos from my Instagram)
GUYS. I embarked on a journey across the country to go to school: I was exactly like Harry on the Hogwarts Express!! Except my trip took two and a half days, which some people might question the sanity of, considering I could've done the trip in a few hours by plane for the same price, but for me, there is no method of travel that is more pleasant. I had a bed, three meals a day with full and varied menus (all of which were superb), and loads of time to chill out and read. I even got to take a shower! And it was the perfect way to be able to experience this beautiful country of mine.
Dining Car
Cozy Bed

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where my relaxing vacation ended. The rest of August was pure STRESS. I have never lived away from my family for any length of time and homesickness set in swiftly and deeply. And my homesickness and melancholy affected both my preparation studying and my just-for-fun reading as I found I could not focus. Which led to more stress. Which led to two very bad panic attacks, which were incredibly unpleasant. Blah.

So at the moment, I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and trying not to worry too much about what's ahead. I can only do my best, give 100%, and that will just have to be good enough. I'm sad that this may mean less time for blogging and reading :(

Otherwise, I've been trying to make the most out of my new life in Ontario. My first impressions of Ontario are:
1. It's really humid. And wet heat is so much worse than dry heat!
2. Everything is more expensive here. I've never had to pay provincial tax before!
3. There are loads of pretty, clean lakes. That's Shield Country for you!
4. There is a much greater diversity of life here. I'm loving exploring all this new flora and fauna!
5. The squirrels are MONSTROUS. Like, more than twice the size of the ones in Alberta!
6. They drink milk out of plastic bags instead of cartons here. It's super weird O_O

In one month's time I have lived in five different locations, and thus have had to move four times. I am le tired. But finally, FINALLY, I have reached my destination.

I didn't get much time to enjoy TV or movies this month, but I did see one highly anticipated movie:
So, it wasn't a super faithful adaptation of City of Bones, but I did still like it on the whole. It was entertaining anyways and the action scenes were pretty stellar. I think the 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is way harsh (that would rank it close to The Host and that movie was much worse in my opinion). I definitely had some issues with it though... namely Bach being a Shadowhunter and Valentine sporting dirty rat-tail dreadlocks for no apparent reason. What did you think of the movie?

Blog Posts in August:

My Life in July: Moving, Goodbyes, and Acting the Tourist
Two Major Life Changes... And What It Means For The Blog
New Blog Design!
Stacking The Shelves: Three Months In The Making
Waiting On Wednesday: Random House Fall 2013 Catalog
Muggle Monday: The Last of the Newly Redesigned Harry Potter Covers!
Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling - 5 Stars
Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick - 4 Stars
Review: The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke - 3.5 Stars
Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - 3 Stars

Best Book Read in August:
This was a reread, but I think I somehow liked it even better the second time! I think it was because I had an easier time following the politics this time around. But ohhh, how I love Ismae and Duval!! I'm still bummed that Dark Triumph doesn't continue their story, but rereading Grave Mercy has made me realize that Sybella's story will be very interesting indeed! Hopefully I can read Dark Triumph soon...