11 Apr 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: From book to film

How many great books out there have been ruined by being made into a film? It's like the stars, you can keep counting but you will never get to the final tally because there are so incredibly many. However, there are a few successes as well and I have to admit that I often get really excited when it is announced that a book I like will be made into a film. Today's Top Ten Tuesday topics is just that: books that I would like to see made into films!

10) The Eleniad series by David Eddings. An absolute favourite series of mine that features knights, stubborn horses, cool ladies and lots and lots of action.

9) The Book, The Film, The T-shirt by Matt Beaumont. Advertising agency filming a commercial with two divas, lots of crazy assistants, a boss with a major ego and PA who is doing more than her share of the work. And that is only the beginning. Would be a great comedy!

8) The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff The history of the mormon church and the mystery of a murder.

7) The Exception by Christian Jungersen Adult women in an office environment bullying each other... Could be made into a really thrilling, dark movie.

6) Anything steampunk. I am only just getting to know this genre but already I can see that there is huge potential for great films here!

5) The Fingersmith by Sarah Waters Who's fooling who? And why? Set in a dark England full of crooks, this could be a great costume drama.

4) The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce. When Ariel is abducted by a huge winged creatures and taken to his castle to serve as maid to his ghost wives, Ariel has to overcome to her own shyness and fear to help the ghosts become free of their captor. One of the best paranormal/fantasy romance/action books I have ever read.

3) The Sopranos by Alan Warner. A Catholic girl school choir on a crazy road trip - should make for a great movie!

2) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Harry Potter for adults - what more can you want?

1) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver The nature or nurture dilemma is at the heart of the scary novel about a child who becomes a high school killer and his mother who seeks to understand why.

Which books would you like to see made into films?

10 Apr 2011

Review: "Soulless" - Steampunk with soul

Steampunk. What a cool word! Even before I knew what it meant, I knew that I loved the word. It sounds so full of energy, dynamic, cool, rock'n'roll. So of course I had to give the genre a go. Now for those of you (who like me a short while ago) do not know what steampunk is, I found this definition on Wikipedia:
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy.

My first attempt at the steampunk genre is "Soulless" by Gail Carrigan, the first book in a series about Alexia Tarrabotti, a parasol-loving old maid with tan skin and a slightly large nose. Alexia is a preternatural which means that she has no soul and therefore has a neutralizing effect on supernaturals such as vampires and werewolves. Now in this story, Victorian England is a country where vampires, werewolves and humans live side by side in an atmosphere of some tension and reluctant acceptance on both sides. Alexia is a spinster - she has turned 26 years without managing to catch a husband, something that she herself doesn't regard as a problem but which means that she is treated as a burden by her mother, stepfather and two stepsisters, all of whom seem to be exceedingly silly. Alexia is a practical girl with a lively temper and a thirst for knowledge. She has a mind of her own and when a vampire tries to feed on her, she kills him with her umbrella. Investigations into this episode is done by Lord Maccon, a very manly werewolf with whom Alexia is constantly fighting - and as you know love and hate does not lie far apart... So as werewolves and vampires begin to disappear mysteriously, Alexia and Lord Maccon's relationship begins to sizzle.
I have to say that this was an entertaining read. Alexia is a great heroine with lots of personality - she seems to be a sort of mix of Sookie Stackhouse and your average Georgette Heyer heroine which I have to say is a really interesting mix! Stubborn, courageous, headstrong, prickly, cake-lover who is not easily scared by society ladies' opinions or hives of vampires.
So if you like a bit of romance mixed with some paranormal creatures and lots of drama, this should be a book for you.

For other reviews of this delicious debut novel, please visit:
Pensieri Persi: http://greenyellowale.blogspot.com/2011/04/review-soulless-by-gail-carriger.html

Wondrous Reads: http://www.wondrousreads.com/2011/03/review-soulless-by-gail-carriger.html

Reading in a Single Sitting: http://www.readinasinglesitting.com/2010/05/27/review-soulless-by-gail-carriger/

Review: "Princess Margaret - A Life Unravelled"

While reading "Past Imperfect" by Julian Fellowes, I was intrigued by the narrator telling how the youth of the 1960s aristo milieu would flock to a nightclub if Princess Margaret was known to be there on the night. In this day and age "hunting" royalty and celebs clubbing is something the tabloid press (no names mentioned, none forgotten) seems to spend an exceptional amount of time on, however, I somehow hadn't imagined that that was already done in the 1960s. So in my curiosity I picked up Tim Heald's "Princess Margaret - A Life Unravelled" to learn more about this modern party princess, the sister of HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

First thing first: I love the cover. The look in her eyes, the crossed arms. Taking by the amazing Cecil Beaton - apparently in the loos in Kensington Palace... - the cover tells a story in itself and only encouraged me to read the biography.

Princess Margaret was born in Scotland between the wars and her father was brother to the future king. However, as you know Wallis Simpson then showed up on stage and an abdication meant that Margaret was now daughter of the king and sister of the future queen. This meant that growing up in the austere Britain during the WWII years, she was a very special girl but what Heald seeks to uncover in this book is how Margaret reacted and developed as she grew from being the spoiled daughter of a king to being on the outskirts of the royal family. Princess Margaret's life seems to have been no dance on roses - she fell in love with a man she could not marry and went on to marry and divorce Lord Snowdon. They are both alleged to have had several lovers both during and after the marriage and what I really really like about this biography is that Heald seems to pay no heed to gossip. He sometimes refers to rumours and gossip but always makes sure to underline that this is just rumours.
The biography could so easily have focussed more on the rumours and the gossip about Margaret but instead the author keeps a sober tone and distinguishes between known facts and rumour. He could probably have written a much more colourful biography but the focus is on being true to the subject of the book - Princess Margaret - and what the people around her remember about her and who includes lots of excerpts from letters and other written sources. It is a really fine biography that made me interested in reading about some of the princesses contemporaries such as John Betjeman and which gave me a glimpse into the past.

1 Apr 2011

Review: "Past Imperfect" - Reliving the past

Julian Fellowes, the author of "Past Imperfect", first came to my attention years ago when I spotted his book "Snobs" at the library. A cool title - and fitting - and really cool cover as well meant that I had to read it. Now I own not only a copy of "Snobs" but also of Fellowes' second novel "Past Imperfect".

"Past Imperfect" is all about the imperfect past and about how one person's memories of what happened is not necessarily the same memory that his close friends had. What you experienced is not what people around you experienced. Thought-provoking and interesting. The narrator is a moderately succesful author who has never found love but has carved out a good life. His present is very much influenced by his past, especially about what happened in his late teenage years and early twenties. In the sixties he was part of a set of aristocrats and high-profile teenagers where the girls were debutantes and the boys provided good, appropriate dancing partners and possibles future spouses. He was on the outskirts of the inner circle and by chance he introduced his Cambridge friend Damian Baxter to this circle by the start of the season and suddenly Damian is everywhere. Damian ends up being a shaping force and they fall out, something big happens, something dramatic.
Many years later, Damian calls the narrator to his deathbed asking him to revisit the past. Damian maybe has a son or daughter, an heir to his vast empire and he wants the narrator to go back to the women that Damian had affairs with an investigate. Immerse himself into the past and see if he can find out if Damian has fathered a child. One of the women the narrator has to face is Serena, the love of his life, the girl for whom he would die and who never returned his feelings. The journey is a long one and a painful one for the narrator but for the reader it is a journey through time.

Going back to the sixties, flown there by the words of Fellowes, was a great experience. I imagined it better than ever before and his characters are full and come to life. Dagmar, the meek princess. Serena, the goddess. Damian, the interloper. They seem to real and the narrator - though flawed and full of pride - is lovable none the less. And that is one of the reasons why I can read this book over and over again. It is a great escape into another time and it is entertaining and well-written. A pretty perfect piece of fiction about a reality that once was.