Friday, August 29, 2014

"Ernest Hemingway: Complete Poems" edited by Nicholas Gerogiannis

If you're surprised to learn that Hemingway wrote poetry, well, I was too!  In fact, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know he wrote poetry.  But then I stumbled on this book, or mention of it somewhere, and promptly got it from the library and read it.

If you're not interested in Ernest Hemingway as a writer or a person, you probably don't need to read this book.  As a window into what he was thinking and feeling at different times in his life, these poems are interesting, but as poetry they range from thought-provoking to silly to odd.  I found the notes on the poems, what was going on when he wrote them and such, more interesting than most of the poems.

My favorite was a very short poem that made me smile.  I'm going to reprint it here and hope I don't get into copyright trouble.  If I do, I'll take it down.
"[I'm off'n wild wimmen...]
I'm off'n wild wimmen
An Cognac
An sinnin'
For I'm in loOOOOOOOve.
And if that makes you think, "Hmm, that doesn't sound like what I'd expect from Hemingway," let me assure you most of the poetry is not at all like that.  That's just the one that I liked best.  It's from around 1922, in Paris, and so boyish and sweet I can't help but smile at it.

Some of his poetry was easy to understand, some of it was hard, some was traditional, some was very modern.  A very interesting mix, for sure!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for language and themes of war and violence.

This is my 14th book read and reviewed for the I Love Library Books Challenge.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Classics Club Monthly Meme: August 2014

I wish I remembered to do the monthly meme from the Classics Club more often.  I think the last time I did one was... March?  Oh dear.  Anyway, here's this month's question:

What are your thoughts on adaptions of classics? Say mini-series or movies? Or maybe modern approaches? Are there any good ones? Is it better to read the book first? Or maybe just compare the book and an adaptation?

This is a subject that has come up a LOT in the last couple of years, since I really began interacting with other bloggers.  I've seen flame-wars erupt over people attacking or defending various adaptations.  While I do think it's great that people can take books so very seriously that they become irate over what they feel to be "unfaithful" adaptations... that's not me.  I love movie and TV show adaptations.  I can't get enough of seeing how someone will take a story and show me a new twist on it, bring out themes I hadn't noticed before, even give minor characters more development than they got in the books.

Don't get me wrong -- I don't love every adaptation.  There are times when filmmakers take things in a direction that I really wish they hadn't.  Or skip something I really loved in the book.  But the number of adaptations I love far, far outweighs the number I don't.

And maybe this is partly because of Hamlet.  I've seen probably ten different versions of Hamlet, and liked all but three so far.  But nearly every version of Hamlet cuts things out.  If you do the full text, you end up with more than four hours of story.  And Kenneth Branagh did a magnificent job of keeping audiences engaged with the full text, but not everyone can convince a studio to make a four-hour film, or convince audiences to see it.  So they trim the play.  The 1990 Mel Gibson version clocks in at 130 minutes, and it tells the whole story.  They cut out pretty nearly half the scenes, reordered several events, and the story is not only still there, it's still beautiful.  The 2000 Ethan Hawke cut is only 112 minutes long!  And it's so powerful it might be my favorite film version.  The 2009 David Tennant is a much more modest cut, running a full 180 minutes, but even there -- a whole hour of play is missing.  And is that a bad thing?  No!  The 2009 is brilliant.  Do I sometimes lament when a favorite scene or line is missing?  A little.  I'm much more likely, though, to cheer when a favorite line gets used, and not waste my time thinking about the ones that aren't there.

I believe an adaptation needs to be its own thing.  If you're just going to recreate a book, word-by-word and minute-by-minute, then what is the point?  That's what the book is for, or the play, or the poem, or the radio drama, or the amusement park ride, or whatever your source material is.  An adaptation should bring something new to the table, whether it's in period, in tone, in social commentary, in theme.  Otherwise, there's no reason to make it, other than thinking the book has a lot of fans and will make you buckets of money.  I'd much rather see stories and characters from a new angle than watch the same thing over and over and over.

The truth is, I'm fine with making changes to a story when it's adapted, as long as those changes serve the story being told in the adaptation and aren't just made because they felt like changing things.  You want to take Dr. Temperance Brennan from Kathy Reichs' books, put her in the DC area instead of North Carolina and Canada, make her socially inept, give her a completely different back story from the books, make her single instead of divorced with a daughter, and give her an FBI agent for a crime-solving partner?  Does that serve the story you're telling?  Go for it!  In fact, I love the TV show Bones, but I have quit reading the Kathy Reichs books it's based on because they annoy me.  That's probably the biggest example of me liking an adaptation better than the original, though there are others.

I'll tell you something that might shock you:  I prefer to see the movie first, then read the book.  If I read the book first, then sometimes I do get a little miffed over things that are left out.  Maybe not miffed -- more like I spend time thinking, "That's not how I would have done this."  But if I see the movie first, and like it, then I can go read the book too, and it's like getting an expanded version of a story I already like!  Like watching a three-hour director's cut of a favorite movie.  More to love!

Now, with all that being said... I can get especially excited when an actor precisely fits my concept of a character.  But I can get equally excited by seeing a new and original take on a beloved story.  As long as the story works, I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"The Art of Detection" by Laurie R. King

This is not one of Laurie R. King's books about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.  It's actually part of her series about a modern-day San Francisco cop named Kate Martinelli.  However, it involves Sherlock Holmes a lot -- Martinelli and her partner Al Hawkin have to solve the murder of an extremely dedicated Sherlockian.  There's story-within-the-story too, a hundred pages about Sherlock Holmes prowling around San Francisco in the 1920s-ish era, solving a mystery.  That smaller story fits into the timeline of King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books -- the pair are in San Francisco in her book Locked Rooms.

The Sherlock Holmes story and the murder that Martinelli is investigating dovetail a little too neatly for my taste, but that's a minor quibble.  I'm not going to spend time fussing over a too-neat correlation between different parts of the story, or over the fact that there was too much info-dumping at the beginning of the novel regarding a bunch of ancient gun emplacements.

What I am going to spend most of this post discussing, though, is whether or not I should have read this book.  You see, Kate Martinelli is a lesbian.  The story-within-a-story involves transvestites and gay men (though Sherlock Holmes is never portrayed as being either).  And by the end of the story, Martinelli and her partner have become some of the first San Francisco gay couples to get legally married. 

And I'm one of those people who believe that homosexuality is a sin.  Not a worse sin than murder or lying or dishonoring your parents or committing adultery.  But still, a sin.  As I read this book, I wondered... should I be reading a book which condones sin?  What would my blog readers think when I reviewed the book?  Would they be shocked and saddened to think I'd slid down some sort of slippery moral slope?

Then I read a blog post called "How Big is Your Child's Bubble" at the excellent Lutheran blog Don't Forget the Avaocados.  And then I read another post there, one called "How to Train a Discerning Reader."  And I remembered that one of the reasons I love reading fiction is that it helps me understand people who are very different from me.  A gay cop in California is quite different from me.  And thanks to this book, I now understand some of what life is like for that character.  

I read books about liars.  I read books about murderers (generally ones getting brought to justice, but still).  I read books about people who disobey those in authority over them.  Heck, my favorite book ever involves a would-be bigamist.  None of those sins are any more or less worse than homosexuality, in the eyes of God -- a sin is a sin, that's it.

Is this a carte blanche invitation to read any kind of dreck?  No.  In fact, the same week I read this, I quit reading another novel after only 3 or 4 chapters because it had too much objectionable content.  If The Art of Detection had written-out love scenes, for instance, or too much bad language, or major violence, I would have put it down too, favorite author or no.  

Every person needs to draw their own line of what "objectionable content" makes a book unreadable, of course, but I realized by the end of this book that the reason I did read to the end was that this book wasn't challenging my faith or making me think, "Hmm, maybe this is okay."  I knew I didn't condone of Kate Martinelli's sexual choices, but I wouldn't have condoned them if she'd been living in a heterosexual non-married relationship either.

Particularly Good Bits:

Ancient metal doors surrounded by equally worn concrete were set into the hillsides, remnants of a race of particularly warlike hobbits (p. 20).

"The world of the Sherlockian is littered with pastiches, most of them either bad or just plain silly" (p. 117).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R for language, violence, and non-graphic sexual content.

Since I reached my goal of 12 books for the I Love Library Books challenge, I'm going to extend my goal to 18 (the "middle grades" level).  This is my 13th book read and reviewed for that challenge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Left-Hand Kelly" by Elisabeth Grace Foley

This was the perfect book to read last week when I had a cold.  Quick, fun, and great to read in little sections when I needed to sit down and rest for five minutes.

The story revolves around a cowhand passing through the town of Clemson, Oklahoma, who stumbles on two young men involved in a scuffle that ends when Bob Reeves shoots Lew Kelly.  Reeves flees because the Kelly family are a real tough bunch, headed by a father who used to be a gunfighter.  Not people you want to tangle with.  The narrator takes the wounded boy to the Kelly ranch, helps them fix him up, and then leaves.  A few years later, he passes through Clemson again and gets inadvertently involved in Lew Kelly's affairs again.  Lew's right hand was crippled by the bullet Bob Reeves put in him, and is now derisively called Left-Hand by the people of Clemson.  The narrator steps in to help him once again, and finds himself drawn deeper and deeper in to Lew Kelly's problems.

At first, I was a little bit put off by the way that the narrator, Colvin, stuck his nose in other people's business, gossiped with the local barkeep, and conveniently had all sorts of people confiding things in him.  But then I realized that he kept making me think of Jimmy Stewart, and that if this was a movie and Stewart was in the role, I'd believe people would tell him their troubles and that he'd be just politely curious and nosy.  So then I was no longer annoyed and moved on with the story.  And that's the only criticism I have of this book:  it does hinge on a few conveniences, Colvin being in the right place and talking to the right people on several occasions.

All in all, though, this is a charming western, with nary a bad word or hint of objectionable content.  Should my kids get into westerns (with me as a mom, they have a good chance, right?), I'll gladly hand them this to read when they're old enough to understand it.

Particularly Good Bits:

The train didn't come rushing in as you'd expect something late to do, but steamed in ponderously, as if it had had quite an experience and was pretty proud of itself for getting there at all (p. 58).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some violence.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Do you like pirates?

I like pirates.  Love the fictional ones, am fascinated by the real ones... so much so that I'm throwing a Piratical Blogathon on my other blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy.  Click here or on the picture to learn more and sign up for the voyage!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sean Bean Statement Regarding Boromir's Death

In this lovely interview, Sean Bean spoke briefly of Boromir's death in The Fellowship of the Ring.  I love how he puts this:

"And it was the way I kind of imagined it, a very worthy death. He kind of turned into the man he once was, before the Ring made him crazy and corrupted his weaknesses. He was allowed to become Boromir of old."

Perfect!  Exactly what I feel!  Just wanted to share cuz you know how much I love Boromir and everything.  

"The House of Silk" by Anthony Horowitz

Sigh.  I finished reading this almost a week ago, and I realized today that I've been putting off writing my review because... I didn't love it, and several bloggers recommended it to me, so I'm afraid they're going to be disappointed that I didn't love it.  I didn't hate it either, but I had enough issues with it that I can only say I liked it okay.

Partly, of course, this might be because I'm spoiled by Laurie R. King and Nicholas Meyer, whose Sherlock Holmes pastiches ring so true to the original characters.  If I hadn't read and reread their books, I might have liked this better.  Or if I wasn't super picky about dialog.  Because my biggest issue with The House of Silk is that the dialog so often didn't strike me as very Holmesish or Watsonish.  If I also hadn't just read the whole canon last year, I might not have been bugged by that either, I'm not sure.  Their actions were pretty in-character, but I struggled to get a lot of the dialog to fit with them in my head, and that shouldn't happen.

My other issue is the icky nature of the House of Silk itself.  About 3/4 of the way through the book I started to suspect that something sexual would be at the center of the intrigue, but the final reveal disgusted me so thoroughly I won't be re-reading this ever.

Also, Horowitz makes it clear through Watson that Sherlock Holmes has died at some point, and... that's not how I personally play The Game, so I'm not going to exactly hold that against the book, but I disagreed with it, nonetheless.

So.  This was well-plotted and well-written except for my above-mentioned feelings.  It definitely kept me engaged and involved, and spending time with Holmes and Watson is always delightful.

Particularly Good Bits:

Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child (p. 52).

Put simply, next to Holmes, any detective would have found it nigh on impossible to make his mark and even I, who was at his side more often than anyone, sometimes had to remind myself that I was not a complete idiot (p. 65).

His eyes were bright but the bones in his cheek drew dark lines below them and I thought not even the angel of death would appear quite so menacing when finally we met (p. 252).

"Every crime that I have ever investigated has had what you might call a narrative flow -- it is this invisible thread that my friend, Dr. Watson, has always unerringly identified" (p. 285).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R for violence and sexual content and situations that are not described in detail.

This is my twelfth book read and reviewed for the I Love Library Books Challenge.  And twelve was my goal, so yay me!  I finished a challenge!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lots of Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered all the book giveaways -- I'm so excited to get to share some of my books with you!  Here is a list of all the books and who won them.  Congratulations to all the winners!  Please check your email, as you should have a message from me by now asking for your mailing address.  I hope to have these sent off by the end of the week :-)

Selected Poems by Robert Frost -- Emily H.
Sonnets of Love and Friendship -- Ainsley P.
The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr -- Miss Dashwood
The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout -- Lydia
Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker -- Kiri Liz
This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone -- Lydia
Every Living Thing by James Herriot -- Emma Jane
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury -- Hannah W.
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara -- BatZion
Shane by Jack Schaefer -- Heidi P.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare -- Kiri Liz
King Arthur's Death/Morte Arthure/Le Morte Arthur translated by Brian Stone -- Lydia
King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard -- Ashley
Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe -- Ruby Danderfluff
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens -- Heidi P.
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron -- Kiri Liz
Fast Fiction:  Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Roberta Allen -- Lydia
Perfect Pairs by Hulton Getty -- Emma Jane
The Portable Irish Reader edited by Diarmuid Russell -- Ashley
Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill -- Joanna

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Last Chance!

Don't forget!  My six book giveaways end at midnight tonight, so today is your last chance to enter!  Also, I totally forgot to specify that these are open world-wide.  Oops!  They are.

I'll pick the winners, post their names, and contact them tomorrow :-)

Monday, August 4, 2014

"The Mother-Daughter Book Club" by Heather Vogel Frederick

I liked Pies and Prejudice so well when I read it last year that I knew I wanted to read more of the series.  But I wanted to begin at the beginning, and this was never in at the library, so I picked this up at the used book store a while ago and finally got my chance to read it now.

I may have liked it better than Pies and Prejudice, to be honest.  It's about how the titular book club forms, and they spend their first year reading Little Women.  That was particularly fun since I just watched the 1978 mini-series last month and am contemplating reading the book again soon.  Also, the series is set in Concord, where Louisa May Alcott lived, so Frederick was able to include lots of stuff about Alcott and so on.  And the girls are 12 in this, so there's less boy-girl drama going on, and more about young friendships and emerging mother-daughter conflicts.

I was surprised to discover that the girls weren't already friends when the club formed -- their moms all went to the same yoga class, where they cooked it up, and the girls were not particularly in favor of the idea.

I'm glad I picked up my own copy of this, and I'll be keeping an eye out for the rest of the books too.  Maybe by the time my kids are old enough to enjoy them, I'll have the whole series.  Speaking of kids, I'm not sure if this should be considered Junior Fiction or Young Adult -- it's 245 pages, so a bit long for Junior Fiction, but it's about 12-year-olds, so a bit young for YA.  Hmm.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G for good, old-fashioned fun.

This is my tenth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Tales for Little Ears" by Heidi Peterson

This is a collection of seven sweet stories about chivalry and courage.  I would have loved them if I'd read them when I was a kid, and I'm going to give this to my son to read to see what he thinks of it, because they're just the sort of kind, gentle stories he loves.  Some of them have a more fantasy-oriented feel, involving things like dragons, but others are very reality-based.  Here's a little of what I thought of each one:

"The Test of Honor and Courage" has a lovely moral about  seeing things through and not cheating.

"Of the Loyalty of Sir Brian" was nice, but I wish there was a bit more to it, like how the king chose Sir Brian and why he decided to test him.

"The Tale of Sir Francis Bumble" is my second-favorite story in the book.  Sir Francis amused me, especially the way he couldn't always tell his numerous nieces and nephews apart.

"How Hugh Came to the Golden Realm" had a nice moral about hard work, though I wish it was a little longer.  I wanted to know what happened next!

"Eric and the Gifts of the Elven King" had lots of excitement, and I liked the interaction between the brother princes.

"How Ian Found True Nobility" was lots of fun, and although it includes quite a bit of Scottish dialect, I never had a hard time understanding what was being said.  

"The Test of Beauty" is my favorite story here.  It's sweet and funny, and I was very pleased by the ending.

I read an e-copy of this, but if my son really enjoys these stories, I'll be ordering a paperback copy so he can reread them more easily.  Like me, he's a big fan of re-reading stories he likes :-)  

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Nothing worrisome whatsoever!

(Full disclosure:  Heidi Peterson gave me an e-copy of this book so I could review it.  This post is my honest opinion about this book.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Towering Book Giveaway

Inspired by Miss Laurie's recent giveaway on Old-Fashioned Charm, I've decided to share some of my book collection with you.  Literally, not virtually.  I'm having a yard sale with some friends next month, and so I'm once again going through my possessions, taking a good hard look at everything I own and figuring out if I need/want them, or could be happy without them.  I'm including my book and movie collections in this endeavor, and I've got a tower of twenty books that I no longer want to own, but that I think my blog friends might enjoy.

I'm breaking them up by genre, since I know people who like poetry might not like mysteries, and so on.  You can enter as many or as few of the giveaways as you want.  I'll be drawing one name per book, but obviously some people might win more than one book.  Also, if you choose to blog about this giveaway to earn an extra entry, you can just blog about it once -- that counts just fine for multiple giveaways.  You don't have to post six different times if you want to enter all six giveaways :-)

This giveaway runs through Sunday, August 10th.  I'll draw the winners on Monday, August 11th.  PLEASE be sure you provide a CURRENT email address so that if you win and I email you to ask for your mailing address, you get the message.  Any winner who does not respond within one week (by Monday, August 18th) will be disqualified, and I will pick a new winner.  

Be aware that all these books are USED, and some of them do have things written in them.  I bought some of them new and some of them used, and one I won in a giveaway myself.  If I've reviewed a book here, I'll link its title to my review so you know what I thought of it.

Enough.  Here are the books.

Selected Poems by Robert Frost -- hardcover, 300+ pages of poems by my favorite poet.  I have his Complete Poems now, so don't need this smaller selection anymore.

Sonnets of Love and Friendship -- hardcover collection of romantic poetry by people like Browning and Wordsworth and Shakespeare and a bunch of poets I'd never heard of before.

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The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr -- adventures "based on unsolved cases from the original stories" that are readable and enjoyable, but I don't think I'll want to re-read them.  Hardcover.

The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout -- NOT a Nero Wolfe mystery, but an enjoyable mystery nonetheless.  Stars female PI Dol Bonner, who does pop up in the Wolfe mysteries sometimes.  Some mild language, IIRC.

Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker -- Chandler wrote the first 4 chapters before he died, and Parker finished it thirty years later.  It's about Philip Marlowe, and it's been years since I read it, but the back copy mentions "greed, lust, and murder."

This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone -- about a female PI named Faye Quick in NYC during WWII.  I never finished reading this because I didn't like the dialog style, so can't speak to the content.

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Newer Classics
Every Living Thing by James Herriot -- I love this book, but I have another copy now.  Stories of a country vet in Scotland, sometimes a bit of mild language.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury -- lots of short stories about Mars and Martians.

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara -- a boy and a horse become friends.  Another one I have two copies of.

Shane by Jack Schaefer -- a boy idolizes the gunman who works for his father.  This novel is the basis for the Alan Ladd movie by the same title.  I love this book, but I have another copy.

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Older Classics
Hamlet by William Shakespeare -- full confession?  I have twelve other versions.  I can share.

King Arthur's Death/Morte Arthure/Le Morte Arthur translated by Brian Stone -- I love stories about Camelot, but Arthur's death is too sad and I don't want to read about it anymore.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard -- all about treasure hunting and adventures.  I enjoyed it, but not enough to read it again and again.

Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe -- I realized I really don't love Poe, and so when my kids need to read his stories for school when they're older, we can get them from the library.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens -- if you don't know what this is about, you should.  Again, I have another copy and realized having two is silly.

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The Right to Write by Julia Cameron -- this was used as a text book when I took Creative Writing in college, and I realized I haven't referred to it for years, so time to pass it along to another writer who could benefit from Cameron's excellent advice.  I wrote and underlined in it, just so you know.

Fast Fiction:  Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Roberta Allen -- got it for the same class, wrote and underlined in it a bunch.  Lots of prompts and exercises and info on how to write short-shorts.

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Perfect Pairs by Hulton Getty -- a little hardcover book full of pictures of famous movie pairs, with info on the movies the pics come from and famous quotes about love.

The Portable Irish Reader edited by Diarmuid Russell -- 1946 hardcover book full of Irish letters, essays, speeches, plays, stories, poems, and more.

Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill -- a fun book, but I realized that I probably won't want to read it again, and I'm really trying not to keep books I won't re-read or refer to a lot.

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That's all!  And that's enough, right?