Books

Classic Novels I’ve Read This Year So Far

Do you remember my post about the top 10 classics I wanted to read? If you don’t, then you can read it here. Classics like Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby were on that top 10 post. I’ve read two of the four classics mentioned. Also, I read one other classic, one that wasn’t on the list. Here’s the list…

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

It chronicles the story of an orphaned boy named Pip as he becomes a gentleman with “great expectations.” Coming of age stories are one of my favourites; it’s the growth, the change, in the main character, due to their experiences that I find myself able to relate with. Charles Dickens wrote such a haunting, intriguing novel with a cast of likable characters that seem real.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina cover

It centres on the doomed love affair between the sensuous, rebellious Anna Karenina and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. I thought it to be both sad and amazing. It saddens me that Anna couldn’t be with Vronsky without being ridiculed by society. I must say that the final part was disappointing; when I was expecting the reactions of Anna’s close ones, it was instead something else; one of the only times she’s mentioned is through disrespect by Vronsky’s mother. Despite that, I will read the book again and see the film starring Keira Knightley.

Jane Eyre coverJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Surviving her harsh and lonely childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre takes up a post as governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the dark and sardonic Mr. Rochester, who hides a terrible secret; one that forces Jane to follow her moral convictions—even though it robs her of her happiness. I admire and respect Jane for being strong throughout her childhood, as well as for her independence. Novels with strong women appeal to me immensely. One line I loved was: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” I loved Jane Eyre!

There are plenty other classics that I want to read: The Count of Monte Cristo; Les Miserables; Pride and Prejudice. Next to be read will be a Jane Austen, The Iliad, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

—Luke

Advertisements
Books

Luke’s End of Year Reading Round-Up

AllegiantNow that the year is done for me, I have spent more time reading. So, I thought I’d write a round-up on the books that I finished more recently.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Tris and Four, along with a few others, decide to travel pass the limits of their world, where their faction-based society was shattered. But what they discover beyond the fence is an outside world just as dangerous as their old one. The conclusion to the Divergent Trilogy—where do I even begin? Firstly, Allegiant, just like its predecessors, was amazing; it was epic, action-packed, compelling…and heartbreaking. And it’s more than the fact that it is the final book. Veronica Roth has done it again, has astounded me, and I can’t wait to read her future novels. In the meantime, I am excitedly waiting for the Divergent film (March 21, 2014).

The Maze RunnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner

Imagine this: You wake up in a lift, remembering only your first name, and join a community of kids in a place known as the Glade, surrounded by a maze with half-animal, half-machine creatures. But wait, there’s more: the very next day, a girl—who, like you, can only remember her first name—arrives with a note, and you discover a dark secret is trapped deep in your mind. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? The Maze Runner was also thrilling, intricate, and full of mystery. Looking forward to the movie next year (September 19, 2014).

OriginOrigin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

At the end of Opal, Katy was taken by the Daedalus after the raid on Mount Weather, and while trapped, questions arise: who is the real bad guys? Daedalus, mankind, or the Luxen? Meanwhile, Daemon will do anything to get Katy back—no matter what. Origin, the fourth book in the Lux series, takes the series into a more dangerous direction than its preceding instalments. It’s my favourite in the series so far. I didn’t want to put it down—at all—but do you know what the consequence of that is? Reaching the end. And waiting until the next book, Opposition, comes out in August 5, 2014.

Wait For YouWait for You by J. Lynn

All Avery wants is to escape her old life—especially what happened at a Halloween party five years ago. So, she attends a college far away from home. But there, she gets the attention of Campbell Hamilton—and even falls for him. Then she receives threatening messages from somebody who refuses to let her move on from that night. Unlike the first three books, which are Young Adult, Wait for You is a New Adult. J. Lynn (the pen name Jennifer L. Armentrout writes under for her Adult and New Adult novels) wrote a stunning, gripping, and unforgettable novel. I can’t wait to read Trust in MeWait for You in Cam’s point of view, and Be with You, Teresa (Cam’s sister) and Jase’s story (out February 4, 2014). 

Books

Luke’s Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble Review

Don't Let Me Go★★★★★ – excellent!

It’s been over a year since Nate and Adam started their relationship. But when Adam graduates, he takes an off-Broadway job in New York. Through Skype calls, Nate catches glimpses of Adam’s shirtless roommate. Then Nate starts a blog. He also becomes the centre of a school controversy. On meeting a new boy, Nate must confront who and what he really wants.

What influenced me to read Don’t Let Me Go was the review by Brigid Kemmerer, author of The Elemental Series, on Goodreads. I agree with her: it was amazing.

Nate is an awesome character. For one, he could’ve told Adam to stay, but that’s not what he did; instead, he insisted Adam to pursue his dream, not wanting to hold him back. All he wanted was for Adam to be happy. Also, in the present events, he isn’t afraid to show anyone who he really is. The t-shirts are a symbol of this—and he also wears them to piss off his English teacher.

I found the slogans on Nate’s t-shirts amusing. Closets are for brooms, not people, the first one says, then there’s the second one: I can’t even think straight. But wait, there’s more: Your gaydar should be going off right about now; the rumor’s right. But, unless I’m [bleep]ing you, it’s none of you business; HOMO, “the O’s were actually pink hearts
”; I kiss boys; and Sexy [bleep].

Overall, Don’t Let Me Go was an awesome read. It really shows the difficulties of a long-distance relationship. Also present, as the blurb says, is timely discourse about bullying, bigotry, and hate in high schools. I love the writing—it’s quite witty.

Books

Melissa’s The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler Review

16058645Esme Garland, an English PhD candidate in New York, has a passion for art history, books and a man who is unhealthy for her. Unfortunately her plans of a challenging academic life are sidetracked when, just as she is about to tell her boyfriend about their unexpected pregnancy, he dumps her, claiming boredom with their sex life. She sets about trying to balance her PhD, a job at a local secondhand bookstore and her imminent baby.

The Bookstore, as stated by a cover quote, is a love song to books and to Manhattan. It is a beautifully written exploration of a young life changed by startling circumstances.

The relationship with her boyfriend bothered me so much, that when she takes him back for a time, I put the book down for a while. He and his family are repulsive.

The secondhand bookstore where she works, The Owl, is expertly rendered, I feel as if I have been there, perusing the shelves of secondhand treasures myself. The team who work at the store are a lovely, eclectic bunch who become Esme’s second family and teach her many lessons about life and books.

The ending is left open, I have my hopes for what happens next for Esme, but it is delightfully full of hope.

Overall, what kept me reading was Meyler’s writing. This was her debut novel and I am excited to read what she produces next. I adored the character Esme and Meyler’s narrative voice. The plot wasn’t captivating in a way that compels you to continue reading, but it was a great story.

Books

Luke’s Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell Review

Rating: ★★★★☆ – great!

UndercurrentAfter Callum Harris tumbles down the waterfall, he wakes up in an alternate world of his own. One where his parents aren’t separated. One where his brother, Cole, is paralyzed. One where he is some big sport star. One where more than just his former best friend wants him dead.

“Well, if everything stays the same forever, you stop enjoying what you’ve got. And stop appreciating people.”

A couple of months ago, I came across Undercurrent while I was looking at the books coming soon list on the HarperTeen site. One aspect that reeled me in was the alternate reality. Fascinating, I thought.

When it arrived at the library, I got excited—the way I usually get after waiting, you know, ages. Then, when it came to reading it, I was immediately gripped. There was always questions running through my mind, and they propelled me to read.

However, I feel like there were some unresolved parts, but maybe a sequel can resolve them.

Overall, I thought Undercurrent was intriguing, gripping, and thrilling. I especially loved the sci-fi. Now I’m hoping there will be a sequel.

Books

Luke’s A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger Review

A Trick of the Light

★★★★☆ – great!

A Trick of the Light follows fifteen-year-old Mike Welles, who is losing his sense of direction; then a voice in his head tries to guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before—to get rid of everything that holds him back.

Like the author, I never knew boys could get eating disorders. It is described as a “girl’s disease,” but the males with eating disorders are understudied, as I found out in the Author’s Note. In this book, I learnt that 10 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, but about 10 percent—which is about 1 million—of those are male.

I found the choice of narrator interesting. Rather than the narrator being Mike, Lois Metzger decided to narrate from the point of view of Mike’s eating disorder, which is a nagging presence in his head. It knows Mike better than he knows himself. It even thinks it has Mike’s best interests at heart. I found this voice creepy and unsettling at times.

This is one of the most intriguing, original, and insightful books I have ever read. You don’t read about males with eating disorders every day. It is a short (190-page) and complex book. I am glad to have found it, and I can tell you that it is a much recommended read.

Books

Melissa’s The Watsons By Jane Austen and Another Review

Rating: ★★★★★ – excellent!

Imagine if your favourite author wrote six novels (masterpieces, really) and passed away with a few unfinished pieces. Then imagine someone took one and finished it, adhering to the style as best they can. I have been reading The Watsons, by Jane Austen and finished by Another. It has been a great read!

Emma Watson is an unusual heroine for an Austen novel, she is the only protagonist who must work (or contemplate it) for her income. Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) is taken in by her cousins and Jane (Emma) is not a main character. The Bennet sisters (Pride & Prejudice) need to marry well to be secure, but they do not talk of finding work.

Emma is a gentle, nurturing young woman who has been bought up in luxury with a wealthy aunt and uncle. She is deposited home with her invalid father and sisters after her uncle’s death and her aunt moving overseas to marry a foreign man. In true Austen-style, she is noticed for her beauty and her intellect. The story begins with her settling in to her family home, after a long absence she is more like a stranger. But she manages to befriend her older sister and father, becoming indispensible to the latter.

After many trials, including the death of her father, Emma is nearly sent to work as a governess. However, fate intervenes when she is called to stay with a friend who helps along the process of courtship with a local parson. True to the formula, there are misunderstandings and we watch with breaths held, as the pieces finally fall into place for the match.

There was no way I was going to dislike this book. I was able to get lost in the fact that it was another Austen novel. While there was no escaping that it just wasn’t as deep – the plotting, the wit or the character development, it has taken a place in my heart beneath the other six treasured books.

Books, Fancy, Movies/TV series, Writing

Adaptations: Every Reader’s Dream?

By Luke Parkes

It’s every reader’s dreams to see their favourite book on the big screen, but would it leave you disappointed?

The fact is the alterations made from novel to screen can be either a huge hit or an epic failure. It really depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. I will delve into the reasons behind changes and how readers can interpret the film adaptation as its own entity.

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Corrie says to Ellie in the film Tomorrow, When the War Began that her book is “better than the movie,” to which Ellie comments, “Yeah, books usually are.” I have to agree with Ellie there; books are usually better than the movie. Yet you’ll be surprised how many films are based on literature.

In the article Adaptation: From Novel to Film, it was estimated by John Harrington that if you include all the literary forms—such as novels, drama and short stories—the percentage of film adaptations might well be 65% (or possibly even more). It shows that most of the films are based on literature.

Most of the classic novels have been adapted to the screen at least more than once, such as Sherlock Holmes, which has over 200 adaptations. Some of the classic novels have been adapted to both a different time and setting, such as Cruel Intentions, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which is set among wealthy teenagers in modern New York. Filmmakers decide this so the film can be more appealing toward younger and older audiences, as well as for both sexes.

Many people in the world, including myself, rave about a favourite book being adapted into a TV series or movie. I am excitedly anticipating the film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (out February 14, 2014), which is based on the first book in the six-part series by Richelle Mead. If the author says the movie looks great, then it’s going to be great, right?

Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters

However, many other people fear that screen adaptations won’t do the book justice. All the omitted scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details are the most troubling aspects in adapting from novel to screen. Changes, though, are made for several reasons. In the case of adapting a novel, the filmmakers have to cut scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details to make a two hour long movie. Also, sometimes the filmmakers will make other changes to make it slightly—or possibly a great deal—different to the novel, so they get more than just the readers on board.

Some adaptations stick closely to the novel. I have seen many adaptations that only have very minor changes from the original novel, such as the film Tomorrow, When the War Began. None of the alterations made a difference to the plotline, like the omission of Ellie’s confused feelings for Homer in the film, which is “A-OK with me, as that was my least favourite part of the book,” says Aftran from Aftran’s YA Book Reviews.

Other changes can be major. I have seen many adaptations that divert from the book, like the television series The Vampire Diaries, based upon the novels by L.J. Smith. Excluding the first few episodes, it has developed in its own way, making it seem more like its own entity. Characters’ personalities and roles are different and the storyline takes on a completely different direction. One difference that anyone would notice is that in the show Elena has brunette hair and is really “sweet and caring and tough,” says Jenny from Forever Young Adult, while in the book she is blonde and “whiny and mean and snobby,” says Talya.

Cruel Intentions

Changes can have bad effects on movies, as well. Most reviews on the film Eragon, based upon Christopher Paolini’s debut fantasy novel, talked about the lacklustre acting, dialogue, and lack of pace, with a reviewer saying, “The only solid piece of real acting comes from the voice over work of Rachel Weisz.” An alteration from the book is when Eragon and Brom kill the Ra’zac, who aren’t actually killed until Brisingr, book three. Of course, not all reviews are negative; in fact, there are plenty of positive reviews, such as “It’s still a pretty good movie though.”

Always look to the positive side. When it comes to reading, you can visualise a movie playing in your head; whoever you’d cast in the movie, however the locations would look, that power is in your hands. For an adaptation, it allows everyone to see someone else’s interpretation, which gives readers an opportunity to compare and contrast to their own.

It’s true: every reader’s dream is to see his or her favourite book on the big screen. The question is: will it leave you disappointed? Yes, there will be disappointments, I admit, but you know what? Changes are inevitable, and it depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. Readers, like me, should enjoy the book and film for their own qualities.

Adventures, Books, Movies/TV series

Mortal Instruments and Fatigue

Never judge a book by the movieWhen I’m super tired and struggling with my neck I tend to crave “quiet” weekends and retreat into other worlds.

Last Saturday, I went to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones with my brother, Luke. It was a great movie of itself, but movie adaptations are rarely a good translation of the book. Especially where there are complex storylines that span several books, things are left out or altered for time and end up falling flat.

In saying that, they did portray the world/setting admirably. I adored the two main characters and I look forward to seeing Lily Collins in Love, Rosie, the movie adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was based on the first book of the same name, in a six book series by Cassandra Clare. I picked up the third book right after, wanting to be transported, in the way only YA Urban Fantasy seems to be able to do.

mortal instruments city of bonesClare has created a fantastic world filled with delicious characters. She weaves the subplot and main story together building toward an inexorable climax. Her protagonist—a young, powerful girl whose journey of self-discovery leads her to the centre of the action and the solution—is delightfully flawed. The conclusion was satisfactory in the kind of way that leaves you pleased and settled. When I told Luke how I felt—not compelled to read book four right now—he informed me that Clare originally intended book three to be the conclusion of the trilogy.

I don’t thoroughly hide during periods of increased fatigue; I’ve still walked the dog everyday and carried on, with a slightly reduced schedule. But I find inhabiting another’s psyche to be a nice holiday from my foggy brain.

Books

Luke’s Dare You To Review

Dare You To

Dare You To follows Beth, who first appeared as a minor character in Pushing the Limits (review here), as she overcomes the obstacle of learning how to trust—not just in others but herself. It also follows Ryan as he risks everything for Beth, who won’t let him get too close.

“You’re a lot like that bird in the barn. You’re so scared that you’re going to be caged in forever you can’t see the way out. You smack yourself against the wall again and again and again. The door is open, Beth. Stop running in circles and walk out.”

—Ryan to Beth


Both Beth and Ryan have their struggles. Beth finds it difficult to trust as when she was younger, her father walked out on her and her mother. Also, her uncle, who was in his late teens at the time, said he’d come back for her, but he hadn’t. Instead, she had to fend for herself and her mother, who remains a wreck since Beth’s father left.

There is tension in Ryan’s family, as well. His brother walked away after coming out to the family. It’s mainly because of the father’s reaction—which wasn’t good. Also, he doesn’t know what he wants. Does he want to play ball? Does he want to go to college? His father wants the former. His English teacher wants the latter, because of his creative writing skills.

The struggles Beth and Ryan have together involved learning to trust one another and falling in love. My favourite part is the ending, but my lips are sealed.

In Pushing the Limits, Beth wasn’t a likable character. She didn’t react so positively when Echo came into Noah’s life. However, in Dare You To, I completely understand why she’s the way she is. Ryan is a great character himself. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks when he risks everything for Beth.

Overall, Dare You To was awesome! The writing style was brilliant, just like Pushing the Limits. It was different because it was written in first person present tense rather than past tense, and I love present tense a lot! Katie McGarry has impressed me yet again. I can’t wait to read Crash Into You, Isaiah’s story.