Confessions of a Host lover

thehostmovieposterThe Host is premiering in theaters tomorrow. And as someone who has been using this book to justify Stephenie Meyer to non-reader-movie-goers ever since the Twilight movies took inhumanly-beautiful vampires and made them pale-beyond-belief with whacko hair and emo lighting… well, I’m nervous.

I really, really want this movie to be good.

Really.

Aside from a few little issues that I have with The Host, the book (like the weak-sauce pipsqueak they turn the main character into in the epilogue, and Meyer’s ongoing belief that being carried around by others makes for a romantic heroine) I really love this book.

I’m the first to admit that I have a complicated opinion of Stephenie Meyer. I love the Twilight trilogy. And I hate it. I especially hate Breaking Dawn. Except for Jacob’s chapters. And Renesmee, annoyingly enough (I hate that I loved Renesmee by the end of the book). I hate that so much of Twilight is about giving up any power you have in the name of love, and how being a supernatural creature made you sterile if you are a woman. I’m fairly convinced that, at least fictionally, Stephenie Meyer hates her own gender.

But that’s all besides the fact that I love Jacob Black. I love Charlie Swan. I love Alice Cullen. And when I write these names, I’m talking about the book versions of them, which in my mind look nothing like their movie counterparts.

And, I love The HostThe love-triangle-that-isn’t appeals to me in ways that I can’t fully explain without delving into my long-ago, fanfic-obsessed days, where I reveled in stories that questioned the hows and whys of love, instead of just having the same two characters fall for each other in some new quirky way.

Maybe the thing that makes me truly worried about The Host  coming out concerns how it is being advertised absolutely everywhere online. It is trying really hard to make it as big as the Twilight movies. And it even has a few well-known actors thrown in that are legitimizing it.

But I don’t know what I will do if the movie doesn’t do the book justice. I don’t care if it’s spot-on-accurate; I gave that wist up with Harry Potter. I just want the feel to be the same. And if this movie is bad? If it is as bad as the Twilight movies, so that it almost becomes its own parody? Will I have as much difficulty separating the badness of the movie from the goodness of the book, the way I do with Twilight now?

Because so far as I’ve seen, the movie doesn’t feel like the book. I can’t tell yet if it’s made a mockery of it. But Jared is a little too pretty, and they’re showing him kissing her a little too much, and Jamie—Melody and Wanderer’s MAIN priority in the book—has not been mentioned at all.

These things, they worry me. I want to trust that this will make a decent movie… but I don’t know that I can until I see it firsthand.

What about you? Are you looking forward to The Host?

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Warm Bodies Film Review

warmbodiesMost of the time I like to read the book before I see the movie, but I have to admit it, when Nicholas Hoult is involved… all bets are off.

Besides, zombie movie that I wanted to watch? I knew The Mr. would agree to that.

So here’s the basic premise of Warm Bodies (based on the book of the same name by Isaac Marion): R is a zombie. With a pension for vinyl and collecting  things. He goes by R because he can’t really remember his name. He can’t really communicate well, either.

He shambles around feeling very disconnected to people—until he sees Julie. He decides to save her rather than eat her, which starts a change that makes all of the zombies a little bit… warmer. More human. (And maybe just in time to stop Julie’s dad from trying to wipe out zombies entirely).

I was utterly enchanted with Warm Bodies. It was a little unconventional how R learned about Julie’s past, and a little odd how quickly she got over the how (can’t really explain that without giving a lot away) but I guess I can understand it in the fact that you don’t have a whole lot of time for storytelling in a two-hour movie.

This was a surprisingly sweet love story, and the idea that love could cure zombie-ism was fresh and fairytale-ish. Just exactly the type of zombie movie to make up for all of the depressing, there-is-no-hope scenarios out there (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead.)

The side-characters were great, too. John Malkovich was convincing as a man taking grief over his wife against unsuspecting zombies, and Rob Corddry was memorable as M, R’s best friend (who he shared growling sessions with).

My favorite moment was at the beginning of the movie, when R was wandering around the airport with other zombies, thinking about how wonderful things must have been before, when people could communicate with each other, and enjoy each other’s company. Meanwhile, in his fantasizing of this better world—every single “normal” person was on a cell phone, texting or playing, ignoring everyone around them. Symbolism? Loud and clear.

All in all, this is a movie I highly recommend. Fun, sweet, with just the right number of scares.

What have you seen lately?

Five Things I Love about The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The_Scorpio_RacesRemember how I said that I was going to read books by my favorites this year? Well my first go at that was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I have long loved Stiefvater’s work. I adored Shiver, then was entranced with Linger, was almost disbelieving when I loved Ballad more, and thought the rounding out of the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy was wholly satisfying and beautifully written, to boot.

And while I was moving half a dozen times and spent a year or so while jobless and dirt poor, not to mention as I said in my last post, guilting myself into reading books I’d had longer but wanted to read less first (that’s a mouthful!)… Maggie wrote two books that I hadn’t read. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. She wrote four. I didn’t read Linger or Forever until after both books were published. In any case, I was still playing catch up. So finally, despite the fact that I was already reading half a dozen books according to Goodreads… I just picked up Scorpio RacesAnd I ran through it. Here are the things I loved most:

1) The setting is 100% solid. Thisby felt like a real place. A place you could charter a boat to, and find it not much changed from when the book was set… which is not entirely clear, but hardly needs to be.

2) The horses. I was never one of those girls who drew horses and read horse books and wanted a horse for my birthday when I was a little girl… I wanted a unicorn. But seriously, while I would have relished the chance to learn to ride or spend time with horses, that just wasn’t in my life or something my family could afford, so it wasn’t something I thought about much. But it wasn’t the fact that there were horses in the book that impressed me. It was how they were written. I had a professor who said once that the hardest characters to write well are babies and animals, and that is something I’ve always believed, too. The horses in The Scorpio Races rang true.

3) The small-town feminists. Oh Peg Gratton and Dory Maud, I enjoyed every word out of you two. These are women who lead men around by the nose by pretending to be part of their game, and they had their eye out for young, eager, gender-role-challenging Puck. I loved how, rather than taking Puck under their wing exactly, they pointed her in the right direction and pushed her forward.

4) The family relationships. Puck’s relationship with her brothers, more to the point. Finn reminded me of my own little brother, not in his character, but in the feelings he evoked in me—protective, parental feelings, where you are sometimes surprised at the ingenuity and different person-ness of someone you helped raised. And Gabe. While I spent a good majority of the book being angry towards Gabe, I ended up empathizing with and even sort of loving him. It was so easy to understand, his desperation to leave. To have a life that wasn’t constant work and challenge and monotony and death. I can understand that.

5) The love story. This was exactly what I want out of a love story. Which is to say, nothing like most young adult romances (or adult, for that matter, as to the few I’ve read) are like. It is not about physical attraction or even romantic tension. Instead it is about finding someone who is so in tune with how you see the world that they become a part of you without you ever meaning for them to be. It is about respect and mutual understanding and being driven in just the same way. It was so, so satisfying.

These are not all the reasons to read The Scorpio Races, but they are what I loved best.

And since you’ve probably read it well before me, what did you think?

My Year of Favorite Authors

bleedys-icons-dockjpgI have a terrible habit.

I’m not talking about anything dark or sinister… just something that is self-frustrating. On the surface, it doesn’t even sound so bad, really. It is this: I like to save the best for last.

This is something I learned at a young age, as a dessert loving foodie. If you save the best bit until last, you don’t have the memory of that taste marred by something lesser.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t always leave this philosophy to food, and it makes much less sense in most other forms. For example: books. Every book lover knows that as readers, we work on a sort of hierarchy  and that hierarchy looks more or less something like the following:

  • Books I have to read right now
  • Books I want to read
  • Books I should want to read
  • Books I want to want to read (You know what I’m talking about. “Why don’t I want to read this?”)
  • Books I have to read (Okay, maybe this is just in school)
  • Books I don’t particularly care to read but that everyone else are reading that I don’t want to be behind on

You all have a hierarchy something like that, yes? Is that just me?

Anyhow. I have, many times, kept books from my favorite series or by my favorite authors in reserve after books of a lower order, as a sort of “treat.” In fact, this started out in school when I had to read books. I would read a “fun” book alongside it and allow myself the pleasure of something I wanted out of the fiction world after reading a chapter or two of what I was supposed to be reading. Somewhere along the path, it morphed into me reading something I sort of wanted to read alongside the book that I really wanted to read, so that I got both books done.

And then it flipped into something I can’t really explain… me keeping books by beloved authors beholden in some sort of guilty way, because I had so many other books that I hadn’t read yet, so I felt as if I didn’t deserve to read the newer books that I really wanted to read. Yes, I became a reader weighed down by her (unspeakably huge) to be read shelf. I was getting to the point where I was barely reading anything. The last handful of years I have read fewer books than ever before in a year, just passing twenty last year.

Just recently I decided this sort of practice was, in a word, ridiculous. It has led to me both being behind the times on books and authors I care about, and has dragged down the enjoyment of reading anything less than stellar. Not even that. Anything that had less than a stellar expectation point for me. Meaning I was stopping myself from discovering new book and author loves that really were stellar.

Last year, my goal was to read something more challenging. I picked up Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but I am a faithless lover when it comes to books, so I also picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky… and I overwhelmed myself. I’m pressing pause on two of the three, because I am still, yes STILL in the middle of all three of them. I’m some three-fifths done with Bleak House and honestly enjoying it, I just cannot read Dickens fast and enjoy it.

So this year I am going through my books and I am reading first and foremost the unread books I have by authors that I love, like Maggie Stiefvater and Jasper Fforde and series that I really enjoyed the beginning of like Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse, and anything else that I’ve been eyeing. I will still keep Dickens by my side for glances when I feel like it, but I’m not pressuring myself when it comes to reading things I don’t particularly care to this year. Maybe next year I will feel differently, but that is to remain to be seen. For now, I’ve finished one book I’d been dying to read for an age (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, more on that later), and am looking forward to more.

Do your reading habits change? Do you ever find yourself resenting the book you’re reading, because you want to be reading something else?

Tarzan of the Apes, or Why my Mother and I Like Different Books – And also, a winner!

tarzan-of-the-apes-tpThe past few weeks, I’ve been listening to Librivox audiobooks of the Tarzan books. Partially because I’ve always meant to, and partially because they go down easy at work, and heavier stuff, not so much.

And I have a confession: besides being fairly sexist and a bit more than fairly racist (it was just how thought processes were in the day), I actually have been really enjoying these books.

In case you haven’t read them, let’s get one thing straight: the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” version of Tarzan from the movies is not from the books. Tarzan is the son of an English Lord, who teaches himself to read with the books left in a cabin built by his dead father. He wins himself the kingship over the Bull Apes (not gorillas, these are a fictional species Burroughs thought up that were smarter than gorillas, though not as smart as man).

He manages all of this due to his “higher-than-average intellect.” And of course he is faster and stronger and has better hearing and vision than any normal man, because of his upbringing with the apes. In fact, they use the words “super man” to describe him more than once.*

Now… this is once in a while seems a little contrived, sure. This might have been a problem, if not for his higher-than-average intellect. Okay, this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but that is how most problems in the first two books are solved. I can forgive this, though because usually there is a good explanation. For example, he doesn’t just automatically teach himself to read. He spends staring at “little insects” on the page (letters) and starts to figure out that they make names for things because of an illustrated dictionary. And he doesn’t go from learning how to read English words to knowing how to say them. In fact, he learns French first. Of course.

But there is a lot of action, there is a lot of Escapism (um, hello, dark African jungle full of dangerous animals?), and the hero takes action. I know I’m using the word action twice, but it is relevant. There is fighting AND decision making! And all of the above makes the books very fun to enjoy.

And while reading through the first book, I had a realization. This was a book my mom read when she was a kid. She read a lot of the Tarzan books, actually. There are two dozen of them, after all. But my point is, this is the type of hero she grew up with. The strongest, smartest, bravest guy around who goes out and gets things done, and who always knows more or less what to do.

This is not the type of hero I grew up with. Most of the books I read when I was young were about fairly normal people, facing huge obstacles. They were usually not the strongest or bravest, and while probably a lot of them were pretty smart, some of them weren’t even that. They didn’t always immediately know what to do, or if they did, they didn’t always choose the right thing first.

And let’s be honest, in my moonier times, I read and loved a lot of books where nothing earth-shaking happens on a big scale, they were all about character – losing friends, and what not. Judy Blume books.

So it’s not too much of a surprise that my mother and I don’t really enjoy the same books. It’s not much of a surprise that she reads action- and plot-driven stories, and that I lean more towards character-driven novels. We learned what made a good story in vastly different circumstances. By the time my mom was the age I was when I started reading feels-y young adult novels, she was reading adult stuff—because young adult novels didn’t exist.

It’s interesting, though, because at the moment she and I are somewhat reaching out towards each others’ reading habits. I’ve been reading Tarzan, and she’s been reading Les Mis (which I haven’t read, but I’m sort of considered the Classics reader in the family). And surprise, surprise, we’re both enjoying each other’s worlds.

*Interesting fact, Tarzan of the Apes was published in 1914 while Superman was introduced in 1932).

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In other news, I have to send out a late THANK YOU to everyone who participated in Books are for Lovers and bought a book on Valentine’s Day. I bought A Tiger’s Destiny by Colleen Houck, and The Mr bought Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, which we’d been looking for in hardcover for a long time.

And last but not least, we have a winner for the Books are for Lovers giveaway thanks to random.org, and that is SHELLY BROWN! Congrats, Shelly! 🙂