December's Books to Film

Steven Spielberg directs the animated film adaptation of The Adventures of TINTIN. This first of a planned triogy is base on a very popular comic book series created in 1929 by a Belgian artist who called himself Hergé. Clever and ever-curious, TINTIN is a reporter-turned-detective whose pursuit of villains, criminals, treasure and the occasional artifact takes him all over the world, along with a colorful cast of friends. Hergé based his stories on real-world events and cultures - from space exploration to Arab oil wars.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's critically acclaimed novel in which 9 year-old Oskar Schell embarks on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York in order to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

I was perfectly happy with the original film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in his Millennium Trilogy. But I could be persuaded to take in the American remake coming this month with some irresistible big names (Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer) and a sizzling newcomer (Rooney Mara).

Benjamin Mee's memoir is adapted in the feature film We Bought a Zoo. Benjamin Mee, a former newspaper columnist, known for his humorous "Do It Yourself" column in the UK’s Guardian Weekend moved his family to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. Nothing was easy, given the family’s lack of experience as zookeepers, and what follows is a magical exploration of the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy.

Of Dragons and Singing Ships...

Anne McCaffrey, author of nearly 100 books, and best known for the Dragonriders of Pern series, died of a stroke on Monday at her home in Ireland. She was 85. She will be remembered as the writer who created magical worlds full of daring female characters whether riding dragons or navigating ships. The way women were portrayed in scifi/fantasy was transformed by her. Some of her books were written as a response to how women were unrealistically portrayed in the mostly male-dominated genre of scifi/fantasy at the time. McCaffrey was the first woman to win a Hugo Award, for her first Pern novella "Weyr Search"(in 1968) published in the magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and the first woman to win a Nebula for her 2nd Pern story, Dragonrider (in 1969). These two stories plus a third ultimately became her first Pern novel, Dragonflight. Her other book, White Dragon was the first hard cover science fiction book to make the New York Times bestseller list. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006. Other series she will be remembered for include the Crystal Singer series, the Petaybee series, and the Acorna series, to name a few.

Skyline High: Into the Woods

If you're looking for something fun to see this weekend Nov. 18-20, check out Into the Woods at Skyline High School. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this show is sure to be delightful. If you go, keep an eye out for Prince Charming -- who has a roving eye -- and the witch who raps. Sounds like great fun!

November's Books to Film (You KNOW! the season is upon us)

Brian Selznick's charming Caldecott Medal winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures (2007) is one for the whole family to hit the big screen on November 23rd. In this moving and entertaining film adaptation, an orphaned boy secretly lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station and looks after the clocks. He gets caught up in a mystery adventure when he attempts to repair a mechanical man. Martin Scorsese directs a star-studded cast of Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law.

Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is the highly anticipated next chapter of the blockbuster The Twilight Saga. The new-found married bliss of Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen is cut short when a series of betrayals and misfortunes threatens to destroy their world. Wide release on the 18th, savvy fans know the drill.

The gritty noir novel London Boulevard (2001) by Ken Bruen has been adapted into a feature film starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone. An ex-con hired to look after a reclusive young actress finds himself falling in love, which puts him in direct confrontation with one of London's most vicious gangsters.

In A Dangerous Method, adapted from the book by John Kerr, on the eve of World War I, Zurich and Vienna are the setting for a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery. Drawn from true-life events, it explores the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the beautiful but disturbed young woman who comes between them. Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen.

George Clooney, Judy Greer, and Matthew Lillard star in The Descendants, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Wealthy Hawaiian landowner Matt King has his life upended when his wife, Joanie, is involved in a boating accident. King struggles to reconnect with his two daughters as the three of them take a journey to deliver the news of Joanie's imminent death to the man with whom she was having an affair.

My Week With Marilyn, is based on Colin Clark’s (played by Eddie Redmayne) controversial memoir. The film centers on the tense relationship between Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl. In the early summer of 1956, 23-year-old Colin Clark, just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. In his diary, one week was missing, and this is the story of that week when Colin introduced Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life.

On Amazon: Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini

Excitement is building toward the Tuesday (Nov. 8) release of Inheritance: Or, The Vault of Souls by Christopher Paolini. This is the fourth and apparently last book in the Inheritance series, which started with Eragon and was followed by Eldest and Brisingr. On Amazon, the hardcover edition of the soon-to-be-released concluding novel ranks #1 on the current list of Best Sellers in Teen Books, and the Kindle edition is #5. At AADL, 89 readers are waiting for the book and 23 for the BOCD. Place your hold on the book here.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs' first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is a sci-fi/adventure/fantasy novel as weird and wonderful as the cover, on which a young girl is levitating. As the story begins, 16-year-old Jacob Portman is lonely, alienated, and bored in coastal Florida, unaware he is a “peculiar“ with an undiscovered gift. He adores Grandpa Abe, the only member of his family to have escaped the Nazis, and spends hours listening to Abe’s stories about having lived among weirdly gifted children on an island.

When Grandpa Abe is murdered, Jacob comes mentally unhinged, is sent to a psychiatrist, and travels with his dad to the island off Wales where his family hopes he will learn there is no basis for Abe’s crazy-sounding stories. Instead, Jacob’s home life -- in which he is the sole heir to a chain of SmartAid stores -- fades fast toward a spectacularly strange and infinitely dangerous new one. Jacob befriends other peculiars suspended in a time loop, while learning the truth about Abe’s past and his own remarkable future.

The novel is fast-paced, darkly strange, entertaining, and filled with compelling characters and exciting scenes. I enjoyed the bewitching black-and-white photographs throughout, although the story would have been great even without them. The novel is recommened for teens and young adults.

Dance With This

After finishing George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons, the fifth installment in the Song of Fire and Ice saga, my only thought was “I wish I had the next book in my hands right now.” The Song of Fire and Ice series is nothing short of fantastic (and this is coming from a staunch non-fantasy reader). If you haven’t started reading the books yet, begin with A Game of Thrones and get to it.

I hadn't heard of George R.R. Martin until the HBO television series, “Game of Thrones”, made its debut. The show was incredible, but left me with a sense that the story had been altered. I read the first book to get a sense of what was missing; the writing drew me in until I finished all five volumes.

What makes this saga different from the typical fantasy novel is its initial portrayal of a civilization similar to our own. There are no supernatural elements to consider. Politics have become irreversibly complicated. The government is ineffectual at best. Religious factions are in competition to recruit followers. Magic is non-existent in daily life. But, in Martin’s world, the magic is slowly seeping back into society. Each kingdom is feeling the metaphysical shift, whether through dragons hatching or fires showing the future.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #289

Erin Morgenstern's debut novel The Night Circus * * * * won't be out until this coming week but the queue has been forming for sometime, and rightly so. This is my Fantasy PICK OF THE YEAR and I won't be surprised to see it on a couple of award lists.

Without warning or fanfare, Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams) would arrive (and leave) at the edge of town under the cover of night. But in between, well, expect to be amazed and enthralled, intrigued and perplexed, confounded and confused, but royally entertained as no circus could (for you, the readers as well).

Celia and Marco, two young illusionists are not only tied to the running of the circus, but are locked in a contest of skills. As the acts grow more elaborate, imaginative, and fantastical, they fall hopelessly in love, only to find that the challenge is an ultimate one. Only one will survive. And the game must play out.

Multiple plotlines and perspectives; inventive and cinematic settings; engaging secondary characters; lush and seductive prose all build towards a breathtaking and stunning (and the reader a bit stunned, I expect) conclusion, with reckless fearless love at the center pulling strings and casting spells.

"A literary Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,... completely magical".

"A feast for the senses and the heart."

Rights sold in 22 countries. Film rights to Summit Entertainment. 175,000-copy first printing. When you get it in your hands, lock the door, turn off your phone, and tell your Mom not to worry - you'll call her later, much later... You wouldn't want to be disturbed.

* * * * = Starred reviews

World Fantasy Award Nominees

And the nominees for the World Fantasy Awards include: 2 debut writers (both just happen to be women...) and 2 set in Africa

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes-my personal favorite from this South African writer

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin-she has written plenty of award winning short fiction,this is her first novel & part of the Inheritance Trilogy (the third book comes out in October)

Silent Land by Graham Joyce- genre mashup mostly of suspense fiction and a bit of fantasy thrown in; compared to writers Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay- not unlike the fantasy writer George R R Martin did with his Song of Ice and Fire series, Kay tries to do with one book set in a world not unlike 8th Century China; lots of kudos from reviewers

Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord- another first fiction retells a Senegalese folktale

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor-known for her young adult fiction, this book takes place in a postapocalyptic Saharan Africa where a young girl must use her magic to end the oppression of her people, the Okeke

Lifetime achievement awards go to Peter S. Beagle (of Last Unicorn fame) and Angélica Gorodischer.

The winner will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention held this year on October 30th in San Diego. So get your geek on!

Author Birthdays: Potter, Ashbery, Davis

July 28th marks the birthday of authors Beatrix Potter, John Ashbery, and Jim Davis.

Beatrix Potter was an English author known for her children's books, most notably The Tale of Peter Rabbit. There are actually over 20 tales of Peter Rabbit and his fellows, like Mrs. Tittlemouse and Mr. Tod.

Potter's other works include The Fairy Caravan, about a guinea pig who runs away from home to join the circus, and the sort-of-autobiography Letters to Children From Beatrix Potter, edited by Judy Taylor.

John Ashbery is an American poet. According to the Academy of American Poets, he has won nearly every major American award for poetry, and has quite a few other awards as well.

Ashbery's collections include the Griffin Poetry Prize winner Notes From the Air, and the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle and National Book Award winning Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.

Jim Davis is an American cartoonist. You've probably at least heard of his most famous strip, Garfield. In addition to the actual strip, he also helped to write and produce the many TV shows, specials, and CGI movies starring the lazy cat.

While his main cartoon is Garfield, Davis also wrote U.S. Acres, also called Orson's Farm, which you still might recognize if you have ever watched the animated series Garfield And Friends.

If you're looking for Summer Game points, try taking a look at some of those titles!

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