Tuesday 31 May 2011

Challenges: Books to Movies and Books I Should Have Read By Now

Because I totally don't have enough to do (*cough*), I've decided to take on a couple more book challenges! Since I started this blog I've only signed up for the Aussie Author Challenge, which is hosted by Booklover Book Reviews, and I've read three out of 12 Aussie books so far.

There are so many fun challenges listed over at A Novel Challenge, but I was particularly drawn to two - I think because they're both things I'd do on my own, anyway.

The first is the Books to Movie Challange, created by Two Bibliomaniacs. As you can probably tell if you've read this blog before, I'm kinda obsessed with adaptations, and pretty much always watch the movie versions of books and vice versa, so this is the perfect challenge for me. Here are the deets (BTW, I'm aiming for Oscar Buzz):
"The rules are SIMPLE.  Read a book.  Watch the movie.  Both milestones must be completed in order to receive full marks.  There are 4 levels of participation to choose from.
Straight to VideoRead 2 books and view the film adaptations.
Limited ReleaseRead 4 books and view the film adaptations.
Blockbuster Read 6 books and view the film adaptations.
Oscar BuzzRead 8 books and view the film adaptations.
The challenge begins June 1st and will finish December 31st." 

The other challenge I've decided to sign up for is Books I Should Have Read By Now, hosted by Gabriel Reads. Considering my TBR pile of books that I own (not including books I want to read, but don't own) was 112 at last count, and has grown considerably since then, I think I seriously need to get cracking on this challenge. Here are the deets:
"My goal is to read two classic books each month from June 1st to December 31st, 2011. That adds up to twelve classics between now and the end of the year... Now for the fun part: I'm inviting any interested book bloggers to join in on this challenge. The books you choose don't have to be classics, but they do have to be books that you own that you should have read by now. Any of those tomes that are collecting dust on your shelf are free game.There are three levels that you can take on for this challenge:
Casual Reader: At least 1 book a month
Avid Reader: At least 2 books a month
Voracious Reader: At least 3 books a month"
I'm going to try for two books a month for this challenge, sticking to either classics or books that everyone raves about. Here's what I'm thinking:
  1. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  2. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.
  3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  4. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.
  5. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
  7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
  8. Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  9. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.
  10. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  11. Delirium by Lauren Oliver.
  12. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
Phew, I better get reading!

Updated to add: As Molly from Quirky Girls Read pointed out, quite a few of Books I Should Have Read By Now are classics that can double up towards their Classic Bribe challenge. So I'll be participating in this one, too! It involves reading at least one classic by September 5 - I think I can do that!

Mini Reviews: Ghost Child, Dash and Lily and Jade Green

I only managed to finish two books while I was away (in my downtime in the hotel, I tended to be totally distracted by the trashtasticness that is TLC). I also finished one right before I left for the USA and didn't have time to review it. But because I finished them all couple of weeks ago (I've been slowly reading The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens since then) and Im still kinda in holiday mode (well, my brain is, at least), Ive decided not to do full reviews on these ones. Here are some general thoughts, instead!

Ghost Child by Caroline Overington
The gist: Told from multiple perspectives, it follows the fallout of a young boy's death and the effect it has on all involved, from the police who investigated the crime and arrested the boy's mother and her boyfriend; to his siblings, who are rumoured to be less innocent than they seem; to the foster families that take them in after their family falls apart. 
My thoughts: I read this for Aussie Author Month but, as I mentioned, with all the craziness of preparing for my trip/a month off work, I didn't have time to review it. I DID, however, make time to read it, because I literally couldn't put it down (I'm talking book in one hand, trying to pack with the other). I was tempted a few times to read the last page, because I was dying to know what really went down that caused the boy to die, but I'm so glad I didn't. The twists and turns and the varying points of view of the same event - and it's after-effects - were completely compelling. Overington does a remarkable job of creating a unique voice for each character and crafting a suspenseful and intriguing plot. I'd definitely recommend it if you love a good mystery and a character-driven story. 4/5

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The gist: Dash is spending Christmas in self-imposed solitude - until he finds a red notebook on the shelf of his favourite New York bookstore, The Strand, and dares to follow the instructions inside from a mysterious girl, Lily. To Lily's surprise, he leaves a dare of his own, and what ensues is a completely cute epistolary romance that leads both Dash and Lily to discover more about the amazing city of New York, each other, and, of course, themselves (aw)!
My thoughts: This was a really fun read, made doubly so by the fact that I read it during my trip to NYC and could picture, right down to the bookshelf, Dash and Lily on their travels. It totally made me wish I could have a book of dares with someone, though I don't know if I'd be game enough to follow through in real life. I loved Lily - loved that she was quirky but not in an off-putting way, loved that she loved to bake and read, loved that she loved her family, and loved that she LOVED Christmas. Dash took awhile for me to warm to - he was a tad snarky for my liking, and I like snark - but he came good in the end. It was refreshing to read a relatively angst-free, triangle-free teen romance! 4/5

Jade Green: A Ghost Story by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The gist: Set in the 1800s (I think, it's never specific), the orphaned Judith is taken in by her uncle on the condition that she doesn't bring anything green into the house. Judith thinks one little green photo frame, with her mother's picture in it, won't do any harm... until she starts hearing and seeing spooky things. She begins to wonder if she's being haunted by her uncle's previous ward, Jade Green, who died by her own hand (or did she?! DUN DUN DUNNNN).
My thoughts: I picked this up randomly at a secondhand bookstore in NYC, because it looked like a quick, easy read and I haven't read a good ghost story in aaaaaaages. Well, it was a quick, easy read - perfect for a holiday - but unfortunately it wasn't very scary. Mainly because it was completely predictable, even if Judith was a bit slow on the uptake (wake up, girl!). Although the year is never explicitly stated, it's implied to be set in "ye olde times", so I found the language and some of the characters' actions to be a bit jarring and inauthentic; for instance, the way everyone addressed everybody else - even people they'd just met, and elders - by their first names just seemed off to me. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't great. 2/5

Sunday 29 May 2011

Note-worthy: I'm ba-ack!

Yes, after more than four weeks of travelling around the USA, I've returned safely to OZ, refreshed, happy, a little bit tired and more than a little bit poorer than when I left (but with a helluva lot more clothes, shoes and souvenirs). I had an amazing time, but it's definitely good to be home. I have to say, I really did miss blogging and I'm super excited to get back into it. I just have to switch my brain back on! I also have a month's worth of blog posts and internet gossip to catch up on, so let me know if there's any particular awesomeness I should see (links welcome!).

Regular posting will return shortly - in the meantime, here are some of the highlights from my trip (just a few of the 2000+ photos I took... I'm not even kidding)!

The Grand Canyon - amazing (and a little bit scary).
I went through a lot of money in Vegas, but only gambled about $15. The rest went on shoes...
I absolutely LOVED New York, and pretty much everything we saw there was exciting. But a particular highlight was the Empire State Building, which we went up at night (we did Top of the Rock during the day) - the view was just magical, and photos definitely don't do it justice.
I also had the opportunity to meet Betty Freakin' White at her book signing in New York. Awesome doesn't come near to describing how it felt.
After reading Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (a very fun read, BTW), I knew I HAD to visit The Strand. I could have spent days there.We also visited the New York Public Library (where Carrie and Big were supposed to get married), and I think I could have happily stayed there forever.
San Francisco was an absolutely beautiful city - just VERY cold.
We had so much delicious food during the trip, but San Fran was a particularly tasty city.
We woke up to snow in Yosemite! Although it meant we couldn't see much of the park, it was pretty thrilling. I'd only ever seen snow once before and had never seen it actually snowing, so it was a real treat.
DISNEYLAND. Oh my goodness. I think it's my favourite place ever. It really is the happiest place on Earth. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet the real Belle, but I DID see Ariel - my other favourite princess - twice, so that (almost) made up for it.
We saw heaps of our (mostly my) fave TV/movie/book sites in New York and a few in San Fran, but LA. was particularly fun for all the TV and movie history. The Warner Bros studio tour was a highlight - as you can see, we got to see (and touch!) Central Perk, plus Star's Hollow (I sat on the steps of Lorelai's house, ohmygosh) and a bunch of other cool locations/costumes/props.
All in all, it was a fantastic holiday! But tell me, what have I missed while I've been ignoring reality and suffering minor internet withdrawals?