The 2011 Book Polygamist Awards!

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the 1st Annual Book Polygamist Awards! (insert applause and cheering here)

Every year I look back at the books I have read and assign awards to those that have stood out in some way. Before now that acknowledgement has been for my eyes only in my treasured reading journals so I am happy to make them public for the first time!

The awards will be in two parts: the Annual Awards which are ones that I have given to books every year and will likely continue to do so; and the Special Awards which are awards that I have created especially for this years contenders.

I hope you enjoy ūüôā

Annual Awards

Shortest Read:

The Bro Code by Barney Stinson with Matt Kuhn, at around an hour

Honorable Mentions:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, at 1 day

Eddie Dickens Trilogy (Awful End; Dreadful Acts and Terrible Times) at 2 days for all three.

Longest Read:

Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter by D M Cornish, at 27 weeks and 3 days! O.o

Honorable Mentions:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, at 25 weeks, 3 days!

The Books of Blood: vol 1-3 by Clive Barker at 30 weeks and counting!!

Most Books Read by a Single Author:

 

4 by Kerry Greenwood (Urn Burial; Heavenly Pleasures; Devil’s Food; Trick or Treat)

Honorable Mentions:

3 by Charlaine Harris (Definitely Dead; All Together Dead; From Dead to Worse)

3 by Philip Ardagh (Awful End; Dreadful Acts;Terrible Times)

Best “New” Author Award:

Every year I make a list of authors I have discovered and who I want to read more of, so this year I thought I’d give an award to the author that I was the most impressed with and have since¬†researched several other books of theirs that I’m interested in¬†as well as a few other authors that get honorable mentions.

William Gay (Twilight)

Honorable Mentions:

Marianne de Pierres (Nylon Angel – Book 1 Parrish Plessis series)

Andrew Nicoll (The Good Mayor)

Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture)

Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

Catherine Webb (The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle)

Special Awards

The Best End to a Series Award:

Destiny (Trinity trilogy) by Fiona McIntosh

Honorable Mention:

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman

The Best Start to a Series Award:

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle (Horatio Lyle series) by Catherine Webb

Honorable Mention:

The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) by Kathryn Lasky

The Longest and Strangest Title Award:

The Travelling Death and Resurrection Show by Ariel Gore

Honorable Mention:

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

The “Graphic Novels are a Legitimate Genre” Award:

This is the first year I have read Graphic Novels and actually treated them like real books (i.e. included them in my book journal; wrote reviews etc.) so I thought the two fabulous Graphic Novels deserve their very own award ūüôā

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons AND V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The Short but Sweet Award:

This year has included a few short-story anthologies, a format I don’t generally read a lot so I have chosen the best short-story collection as well as the best individual stories.

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

Best stories: Family Business by Jonathan Maberry; The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky by M. B. Homler; The Storm Door by Tad Williams; Second Wind by Mike Carey; Weaponized by David Wellington.

The BRAAIINNS! Award:

This year stood out as the year I started to love zombie stories! It wasn’t the first time I read anything with zombies (in 2010 I read Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner which is about a zombie detective; the first Anita Blake book by Laurell K Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures, which involves zombie raising, and right before the dawn of 2011 I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan which is set in a zombie-apocalyptic world) but after Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead¬† I was hooked so the BRAAIINNS Award goes to:

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

with an honorable mention to Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carrol and Nickolas Cook ūüėõ

The Revisited Award:

This is a new award I came up with, given to a book I re-read and still loved in 2011:

Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn

The About Time! Award:

This award goes to a book that I had been meaning to read for a long time:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

Honorable Mention:

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

The Best Cover Art Award:

The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Honorable Mentions:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

The Misleading Cover Award:

Yearn: Tales of Lust and Longing by Tobsha Learner

(to find out why this cover is misleading see my review)

The “They’ve Still Got It!” Award:

This is another new one that I created purely to highlight two of my favourite authors whose newest releases I read this year and loved just as much (if not more) than previous favourites:

Joanne Harris for Blueeyedboy AND Tracy Chevalier for Remarkable Creatures

2011 has been a fabulous year for me, not just for reading but in many aspects of my life, and I hope for even more great reads and wonderful events now that its 2012!

I hope you all also¬†read some novels in 2011 that deserve awards and you have an amazing 2012 ūüôā

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Top 10 Reads of 2011!

I have been making a list of my fave books of the year for a while now, but before now they have only been chronicled in my reading journals¬†or on Facebook last year, so its pretty sweet to have it out in the blogosphere for the first time ūüôā

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

This was the first book I started in 2011 (on the 1st of January and all!) and was also one of a few books I read around that time that were the final instalments in major trilogies I had been reading for a while (the others are Destiny by Fiona McIntosh which is also in this list, and The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready that I finished on January 1st so it missed out being on this list :P). I read the first two of the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass)¬†and The Subtle Knife in 2009 and late 2010 respectively and each one was more gripping and imaginative as the story went on culminating with The Amber Spyglass which was just amazing. Philip Pullman brought everything to light and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed throughout the series and although many of these conclusions were heart-breaking, the ending felt right. I was left with a sense of awe at Pullman’s abilities and it certainly opened up my year of reading with a bang.

2. Destiny by Fiona McIntosh 

Destiny was another wonderful conclusion to a gripping series, but one that I had been invested in for much longer. As I have said before¬†there was a big gap between starting the Trinity trilogy and finishing it as I read the first book, Betrayal way back in 2008, then the second book, Revenge a couple of months later but was unable to acquire Destiny until early 2011! It was lucky that I re-read the first two books before finding it but even still it was at least a year between the end of Revenge (which was quite a cliffhanger) and the beginning of Destiny so it took me a while to understand what was going on. However once I was caught up this final instalment certainly didn’t disappoint¬†with more twists and turns then¬† the most intense rollercoaster and countless moments that made me gasp in shock or burst into tears. There were so many satisfying conclusions to conflicts that had carried through the whole trilogy and the final ending was very emotional and riveting, showing Fiona McIntosh’s ability to weave a great ending that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and fall into the “happily ever after” trap.

3. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll 

This was a beautiful, quirky, charming little novel which was a surprise highlight of my year. Andrew Nicoll¬†described¬†the fictional Baltic town of Dot as well as all the unique characters inhabiting it¬†with loving detail that made me eager to read for hours on end. The¬†story was quite simple – a forbidden love story between the Mayor of the¬†town and his married assistant – but it was the execution of it that was so addictive to me, the dancing around the two did, never admitting their¬†feelings for each other¬†and by the end I was quite frustrated with them both (which made me want to read even more just to see if they’d ever get their act together!). Even¬†‘tho it took a really strange turn at its climax this only made me like the book more as it was so unexpected. A great read for someone who loves a good RomCom¬†but one that’s a tad odd ūüôā

4. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one was a big surprise because as I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris¬†and am use to her usual¬†fare of magic, food and small town politics (or other tight-knit communities like a college or nunnery), or as in her earlier works gothic styled historical novels with a touch of mystery and Blueeyedboy certainly doesn’t fit into those categories. Well and truly in the modern age, this novel tells its story exclusively through LiveJournal posts which gave it a creepy atmosphere of confession and mind games. It was a frightening, disturbing and unsettling book where the lines between fiction and reality and between online and offline personas was very blurred and I was constantly changing my mind about who was the “monster” and who was the victim. The twists were often very unexpected and sudden, so I found myself reeling through most of it, but by the end I was left impressed by Joanne Harris’ talent (to create a fantastic psychological thriller so different from her usual style) and even that early on in the year (I read it over a week in February) I knew it would be on this list as I stayed with me long after the last word.

5. Twilight by William Gay

I almost didn’t read this fantastically atmospheric book because of its title, but I am so glad a bunch of glittery vampires didn’t put me off as it was a fantastic, if quite confusing read. This is the first of my Top Reads that I have reviewed on this blog, and that review can be found here. Since I went into why this book was so amazing in that review I won’t go into it much here, but will just say that this book showed some of the finest writing of my readings this year as well as being one of the¬†more creepy¬†and vividly described novels I read in 2011. Not for the faint hearted or easily confused, but for lovers of language and spooky imagery this is a real treat.

6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is another book I reviewed¬†this year so I won’t go into too much detail, but as soon as I finished it I knew it would be on this list as it certainly made an impact on me. This is one of those novels that grew on me (like my friend Sarah would say, like a fungus :)) and the second half was read in huge devouring sessions as opposed¬†to the snail’s pace¬†of the first half. If any of you decide to give this little french gem a shot I would highly recommend that you watch the movie adaptation¬†afterwards as it cleverly takes the story from page to screen and was a lovely little film in its own right ūüôā

7. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

This one is definitely¬†not for those light of heart (or stomach!) as it is a classic Barker tale filled with gruesome¬†creatures, violent sexuality and lots of gore. I have yet to review it, even ‘tho I reached the end on the 20th of October (naughty naughty!) as it has been hard to find the right words to explain it. It is a blend of absolute horror in the craziest supernatural form that Clive Barker excels at, and a tale of the underbelly of Hollywood from its Golden Age of ageless movie starlets in glorious black and white and blissful silence, to the modern age of plastic idols. Not one I would recommend as an introduction¬†to Clive Barker (it would likely scare many away) but once readers are used to his work (maybe starting with lighter novels like Abarat and then moving on to his crazier stuff like Sacrament?) this is an excellent example of his expansive and very warped imagination. He’s a freak but I love ‘im ūüôā

8. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

This was a more light-hearted read of 2011. Although there was some murder mystery elements and other dark parts It was always easy and fun to read as opposed to some on this list which I dipped into less often. I love a good Historical Saga, especially one that is based on real events rather than just a certain time or place in history, and this little beauty was exactly what I was looking for. More details can be found in my review but be warned, this one may be a bit difficult to find. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library, but since reading and reviewing it a friend and fellow Library student has been trying to find it in bookstores to no avail. My best bet would be an online bookstore such as Book Depository or second-hand and rare book supplier Abe Books.

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book was a fairly recent read (I finished it on the 8th of December) but I knew from a few chapters in that it would be a highlight of 2011. I first heard about it from my mum who saw it reviewed on Australian morning show The Circle¬†and thought I would like it as before my Library studies I was a floral assistant and I have always been intrigued by the Victorian custom of courting lovers communicating through flowers. She then bought it from me as part of my amazingly generous birthday presents¬†and I was lucky enough to choose it out of my To Read pile at the beginning of November. I have yet to review it (I’ll get there I promise!) but it was a beautifully touching story with an interesting and solid background in the meaning of flowers and the effect the foster child/adoption system has on children even into¬†adulthood.

10. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

This last book almost didn’t make it on the list as when I started it on the 9th of December, even ‘tho I loved it from the first chapter I didn’t think I would finish it before the start of the new year. But thanks to some marathon reading, mostly due to the fantastic writing skills of Tracy Chevalier and my ardent wish to include it in my Top Reads I finished it the day before New Years Eve ūüôā This was a very interesting and touching novel that amerses you in a historical time and place perfectly. Tracy Chevalier is wonderful at capturing a time and place and inventing believable details surrounding a pivotal artistic (or in this case scientific) movement. I have loved every book she has ever released from the moment I read The Virgin Blue as they were all sound Historical novels with a backbone of facts and a great deal of heart. This one is based on the true story of Mary Anning, a working class girl in 19th century England¬†who discovers the first aquatic dinosaurs and sets the scientific world alight with talk of extinction and the age of the earth, but it is also about the friendship between two women (Mary Anning¬†and Elizabeth Philpot) who are from a different class and background and two decades apart in age but share a love of fossil hunting. I promise I’ll do a proper review as soon as I get through the 8 that are still backed up ūüėõ

Stay tuned for my other highlights of the year in the form of my 2011 Book Polygamist Awards! which I will post within the next couple of days, and I hope to see all my usual Bookbaggers as well as lots of new faces throughout 2012 ūüôā

In case you weren’t aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia, which libraries around the country are getting involved in with special activities and programs as well as extra storytime sessions, displays and the like, so expect some extra little tidbits this year ūüôā

One idea I had was to post a small quote from one of the books I’m reading every day as part of Project 365¬†but what with my last semester of study being this year as well as continuing casual work at libraries, and hopefully some form of social life, I don’t see myself keeping that up for longer than a few weeks, so maybe I’ll make it something more achievable like a quote once a week?

Let me know what you guys think in the comments and as always, HAPPY READING!!!! (in caps for added New Years emphasis :P)

Top 10 Book to Screen Adaptations

Hiya Bookbaggers! Welcome to the second set of Top 10s voted by you ūüôā This has been a fun list to compile because there is so much to choose from. Movie and tv adaptations of books (and graphic novels) have grown over the last few years to the point that¬†almost every movie that comes out seems to be a reincarnation of a famous book, and it looks to be a strategy that film-makers won’t be abandoning anytime soon.

So how was I to¬†pick the¬†top 10 out of this sea of candidates? ¬†Well, first I gave myself some guidelines: they all had to be movies/shows I had seen based on books I had read (obviously), and they had to be adaptations that I felt did justice to the original. In my opinion an adaptation doesn’t have to be exactly like the book – it some cases that would be nigh impossible, and besides, film is a very different beast to¬†the novel¬†so it is bound to be different. The adaptations I enjoy are ones that are reasonably faithful to the original while adding their own unique charm, but overall they capture the spirit of the book rather than trying to fit in ever detail.

I still have lots of movies to see that are based on books I’ve read and vice versa so this list may be a bit lacking for some of you, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway ūüôā

1. Coraline (2009) 

Based on Coraline (book and graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman

I knew I wanted to see this dark fairy tale directed by Henry Selick (who also directed Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach) as soon as I saw the trailer, and at that point I didn’t even know that Neil Gaiman wrote the original tale. When I did go see it with my little bro, I was in love with the style and spooky/quirky story from the moment the opening titles started and I knew that I had to read the book asap! However it wasn’t until early this year that I finally got around to reading Coraline and realised how great the movie was. The movie achieved something that most adaptation don’t even come close to: it embraced the feel of the book and enhanced it with added detail. A film has a unique opportunity when recreating a story from print – it can visually show elements of the story previously only available in the imagination of the reader – and this can be done badly if the creators assume too much. I personally thought Coraline showed a love and real understanding of the book – its whimsy and darkness and humor – and using stunning visuals and talented voice actors created a cracker of an animated film.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Based on Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I have said several times before that I saw the movie Howl’s Moving Castle well before I even knew there was a book, and it still remains one of my favourite anime films (along with several other Hayao Miyazaki¬†films). When I read the book by Diana Wynne Jones I realised that the movie was quite different – it was a bit less creepy and a bit more cute, as can be expected from an anime motion picture – but the differences made it a better movie than if it had been a carbon copy of the original. Miyazaki created a grand anime fantasy saga that showcased the magic of the book, while also showing his brand of humor and a different fantasy element. The steampunk¬†inspired flying machines¬†in Miyazaki’s¬†film were completely his own creation, as was the wartime setting but these elements wove together to make a great film. If Diana Wynne Jones¬†can love it despite its differences¬†(quoted here) then I certainly can ūüôā

3. Chocolat (2000)

Based on Chocolat by Joanne Harris

This movie was a rare one that I saw after reading and loving the book. Normally my prefered order is adaptation then book, because the book is usually better so that way I will be pleasantly¬†surprised rather that possibly really disappointed. In the case of Chocolat I thought the movie looked really well done and in the right vein as the book so gave it a go. Yes, there¬†were some differences, such as the Mayor and vicar¬†being separate people in the movie when he was one commanding character in the book, but the differences didn’t really bother me because at the heart of it, it was the same magical, delicious tale. Chocolat was asking for a visual representation – there was something about the sensual mixing of the chocolate and the descriptions¬†of the quaint french town that needed to be on film, and the way that it was shot definitely¬†didn’t disappoint. On top of this I thought the actors, namely Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and ¬†Johnny Depp were perfect choices for the characters (they looked almost exactly like I imagined them) and the music was a¬†atmospheric finishing touch.

4. Watership Down (1978)

Based on Watership Down by Richard Adams 

You’d think with how much this book has come up in my Top 10’s I would be sick of it, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon ūüėõ I made a terrible mistake when I borrowed this on video (video!) when I was a kid. Not because it wasn’t amazing – because it was. Not because it was too scary for my age group – hmm maybe a little. No, it was a mistake because I saw it when I was a chapter or two away from finishing the book and it kinda ruined the end for me. That’s the problem with book-to-screen adaptations –¬†no matter how good it is, if you see it before you read the book, be ready¬†for spoilers…and vice versa really. Anyway, despite my bad timing I was glad that I watched Watership¬†Down because it was amazing. The movie is very true¬†to the original story, including the harsher realities that easily could’ve¬†been omitted¬†so as not to scare the kiddies, and a good thing too! I was young when I saw it and I would’ve been able to smell the bullshit if those horrible parts from the book had been glossed over. The movie was so well done that to this day, scenes from it come to mind when I think of the book…as does Bright Eyes playing heartrenchingly in the background.

5. James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Based on James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 

The first time I saw this movie was when I was at an adult party with no other kids, so my mum put me in a quiet room with a tv and played the only kids video that was there. I can’t remember If I had already read the Roald Dahl book, or just other stories of his, but I do remember that I was quite underwhelmed about being on my own watching a film I wasn’t interested in. That is, until the movie really started and I got so into it that I didn’t even notice when other kids arrived and wanted to play (play? are you serious? This movie is way too awesome!). What I loved most about the movie (besides the generally awesome story of a young boy flying across the world in a giant peach pulled by birds, with a cast of colourful bug characters) was the style of animation – those rough scratchy looking stop motion figures that can found in most Tim Burton related animations. The style just fit Roald Dahl’s work so well, especially since I was so used to the sketchy illustrations by Quentin Blake that¬†adorned all his books. Whenever it was that I read the book (maybe I even read it again after seeing the film?) I also noticed that the film was quite faithful to the original, but at that point it didn’t even matter. I¬†just knew that I loved it, and it is still one of my favourite “children’s” movies.

6. The Colour of Magic (2008)

Based on The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 

This is the¬†only tv adaptation on the list and also the¬†only miniseries! The “movie” is actually in two parts and covers the plot of the first two Discworld books. It was coincidently only a little after I read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic that I saw the DVD for this in my local rental place (which I never go to anymore since I get all my DVDs from libraries or Quickflix) and I was pretty excited to watch it as I loved Hogfather, which is another Terry Pratchett adaptation by the same creators. The miniseries is¬†missing some details from the books (it’s just¬†too hard to put some of Pratchett’s crazy words into a visual format) but the uniqueness of Discworld was left intact, and what I really liked was some of the actors that were chosen. David Jason¬†was a perfect Rincewind, Sean Astin¬†was surprisingly¬†spot-on as Twoflower, Tim Curry¬†was great (as always :)) as the evil Trymon, and Christopher Lee¬†was born to be the rumbling voice of Death. I would’ve also included Hogfather, as I think it was a better “film” in general, but since I’m not up to that book yet (I’m being pedantic and reading them in order even ‘tho they don’t really need to be) it doesn’t meet my guidelines ūüėõ

7. Oliver! (1968)

Based on The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

This musical classic was one of my favourite movies when I was a child. I didn’t really realise it at the time, but it was pretty amazing that a cheery musical extravaganza could be made from a story that’s quite bleak and depressing. When I did read the book (In a bumper classics collection that also included Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows!) I saw how sad the story of little Oliver Twist was and I was impressed with how close the movie got to the original story while adding some happiness and colour in the form of song and dance ūüôā

8. Alice in Wonderland (1999)

Based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll¬†

There has been many adaptations of this classic story that remains one of my favourites, and while I enjoyed them all to some extent this one was the closest to the book and is also an entertaining film in general. The movie covers all the important parts of the book, including parts that are often omitted (i.e. when Alice encounters the Griffin and Mock Turtle) with a bit of Through the Looking Glass thrown in for good measure. The costumes and special effects are accurate without being too flashy giving the movie a nice literary feel rather than looking like a big blockbuster like other adaptations (being a Tim Burton fan I did like his version, but it often strayed into blockbuster territory). I also thought the characters were well cast, with Tina Majorino playing the wonderfully sweet (and brunette!) Alice; Miranda Richardson as the bossy and self-important Queen of Hearts; Martin Short as the quintessential Mad Hatter; Gene Wilder as the melancholy Mock Turtle; and the fabulous Whoopi Goldberg grinning away as the Cheshire Cat.

9. Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

Based on Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This is a beautiful film that fully captures the original story Рa fictional telling of Dutch painter Vermeer during the period when he painted his famous work Girl with a Pearl Earring and the relationship he formed with the maid that posed for him. The movie perfectly illustrated the tension between Vermeer and the other characters; the beauty of Delft; and the intricate process of mixing paints in that period Рall the elements that I loved in the book but in a visual form! I also thought the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the beautiful maid Griet was flawless as she looks remarkably like the girl in the original painting and played the coy but curious character very well. I especially liked the effect in the movie where a shot of a famous Vermeer painting would start the scene and then would blend into a live action shot which mirrored the painting Рvery clever, and emphasised how well they recreated everything.

10. The Hedgehog aka Le Hérisson(2009)

Based on The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 

I told you a while back that this movie may get on this Top 10 list Рand this was before I had even seen it! As soon as I was a few minutes in to watching, I knew that It would get in even if that meant that another selection was knocked out (that selection was True Blood, the series based on the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I figured since I had expressed my love for both the book and tv series many times before it could afford to be bumped off :P). The thing that really endeared me to this movie was how it was adapted. The book is told in first person through the eyes of two main characters, and one of these characters РPaloma Josse Рcommunicated solely through a series of journal entries, so I was wondering how they would do that in a movie, and do it well. The clever way that the creators got around this story-telling device was changing the format in which Paloma told her story Рinstead of her recounting what she planned to be her last days and a final examination of mankind around her, the Paloma in the movie was shooting a film where she narrated her thoughts about the world. I found this very clever and sophisticated of the film-makers Рinstead of forcing the written form into the film they embraced their own format and it fit really well. Another element that was added that I really dug was these little sketches and collages that Paloma creates that transition into quirky little animations that were the perfectly at home in this movie.

Well there you go you guys – I had heaps of fun compiling and writing this list and I’m glad you voted for it ūüôā

And sorry it’s a tad late – I almost finished it on the 29th of October and was planning to post both lists before November began but then I was overwhelmed by study and work. I will post the second half¬†asap but as I’m still pretty busy, it may not be up for up to a week. But stay tuned – I hope to do a small post or two soon also, as well as a few reviews that have backed up, so my¬†recent absence will be rectified!

Top 10 Books that made me Cry

Before I start I should tell you all that I am a giant softie. I cry at¬†movies (both sad ones and happy ones, even cartoons),¬†TV shows (including the Simpsons a couple of times) and of course, books. I guess I’m just a sensitive soul ūüôā So, while these 10 books are ones that made me cry (amongst others) that doesn’t mean that any of my loyal Bookbaggers would tear up. Also, the reason these books have made me cry is normally some shockingly sad event which would be a huge spoiler, so while I will try not to mention the event, sometimes it will be vital to do so. So, just in case *Spoiler alert!*

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I touched on how much this book affected me in my Top 10 Books of All Time post, and how it made me cry and gasp many times because I became so involved in the characters’ stories. What I didn’t say was that at a certain point near the end of the book (in fact over the last couple of chapters) I didn’t just cry a couple of elegant tears but did what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” (I’m not a huge Oprah fan but I love that description!). I spluttered, I made little gulping noises, there was some snot action, the whole ugly cry show was in full effect. The reason I cried that much was that¬†there was a¬†very traumatic event that involved the main character, and while I had been warned that it was coming (at the end of a chapter when I was meeting people for lunch and so couldn’t read on!) it was still a big shock. The tears then turned to those of relief and happiness when the following chapters turned the event into a satisfying and happy conclusion. I won’t say anymore, but if you want a read that really connects you to the characters and draws you in to a beautiful world of its own then I’d recommend The Shadow of the Wind. it would also make a great Book Club book ūüôā

Winner of the Ugliest Cry award

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s easily to see that a book set in Nazi Germany whose main character is a little orphaned girl would be a sad one, but it was not so much the subject matter that made me cry during this book but the way this subject matter was conveyed. As I have said previously¬†the narrator of this book is Death and it is a very fitting voice for that time and place in history. At many points during the book I found myself close to tears because of the fear and death that hung over the small village that the story is set in, but it wasn’t til the end, when there was a series of dramatic and sad events that I actually burst into tears. A beautiful book that made me grateful to be alive and that I didn’t live through World War II.

Because Nazi Germany is so damn cheery!

3. Mister God This is Anna by Fynn

I praised this book in a review a while back and most likely it will pop up again as it is one of my favourite books, but it was one of the first books that came to mind when compiling this list, coz oh boy did I cry! This was another one that warned me about the sad ending – in the first paragraph and all! – but it was still such a shock that I started to sob on the train (how embarrassing :S). Possibly it could’ve been that I was already going through a hard time, or possibly it was the way the ending happened, but either way it was like a floodgate had opened, and at the time I didn’t even care that I was on the train (tho I was in an almost empty car so it wasn’t that bad). If the possibility of crying puts you off a book I can assure you that even ‘tho Mister God This is Anna does have a heartbreaking ending, it is also very hopeful and uplifting throughout and does end ultimately in that way.

4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I only read and reviewed this book recently, so it was fresh in my mind when I started to make this list. I won’t go into it that much because I have already reviewed it, but I will just say that this was another time I cried on the train but I was much more restrained as there was more people. Even with restraint a few tears did manage to escape as I read the end of this book that was a complete surprise and was one of those endings where you keep thinking “no no! It’ll change at the last moment right?…..right?”. I won’t spoil it, but even ‘tho It was a sad and tragic ending, it did wrap up the story in a more natural and poignant way so in the end I was glad for it to finish that way, even if it did make me the crying chick on the train again!

5. Charlotte’s Web¬†by E B White

We’re now getting into the tear-jerkers from my childhood, when I was a fledgling softie ūüôā I read Charlotte’s Web when I was in Year 3 as part of a school project we were doing. The project involved reading excerpts from the book (which I then found and read completely); doing activities based on the book; watching the movie (the original not the one with Dakota Fanning); and then putting on a¬†play/musical number based on a scene from the movie for the school assembly. If you haven’t read this children’s classic then be warned, I am going to spoil the ending because It’s too tricky to explain otherwise. I cried twice during this book. First when Wilbur had to be given to the Zuckerman farm, because as an animal loving kid it broke my heart to think of having to give away¬†a beloved pet. And then at the end when¬†Charlotte died ūüė•
Even ‘tho this book made me cry (and probably still would now) I still think it¬†is such a beautiful little book that teaches kids about life and death and the truth behind farm animals, as well as teaching them to be whatever they want to be and follow their dreams.

6.  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

This is another book that we read at primary school and them performed at assembly, but it is about a much sadder subject – the bombing in Hiroshima. The basic plot of the book is based on a true story of a young girl called Sadako¬†who develops leukemia after the bombings. She is hospitalised and spends her time folding origami paper cranes because it is said that if you¬†fold a thousand cranes you are granted a wish. Unfortunately, after folding 644 cranes Sadako becomes too weak and dies shortly after. Her friends and family fold the remaining cranes and Sadako is buried with the full thousand, and a statue of her is erected in Hiroshima Peace Park. Understandably this story brought tears to the eyes of most of the children in class and the teacher when she read it to us, and I also struggled to maintain composure when we performed it at assembly because I was one of the kids that narrated Sadako’s tragic tale. Even ‘tho it’s so sad¬† it is a wonderful book for kids to read, especially for¬†new¬†generations that may not know much about Hiroshima or the effect of nuclear bombs.

I like to think that since Sadako was buried with a thousand cranes she still got her wish and is having a beautiful afterlife ūüôā

7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book had many moments that had me close to tears because it is told through the eyes of a teenage girl who was brutally raped and murdered and is watching her friends and family from “heaven” as they¬†deal with their grief. This makes for a very contemplative and melancholy story, but it was the scene where the main character is killed (which happens quite early on) that really made me cry, mostly out of shock and anger. Despite making me cry and get pretty angry, The Lovely Bones was a great book, and I also keep meaning to see the movie¬†(which I’ve heard mixed reviews about).

8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

Yes, I cried at a Harry Potter book – I told you I cry at everything! – and actually I cried at the last one as well, but this one made me cry more and the reason….Dumbledore ūüė¶ I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one because¬†this spoiler has been spreading around since before the book came out, and now that the books and movies are finished I think its well and truly out there. However, If you somehow have missed the spoiler and you plan to read the book or see the movie in the future, then just close your eyes and scroll down for a few lines and everything will be fine. So…Dumbledore dies. In fact Dumbledore doesn’t just die but is murdered right in front of Harry. So yeah, I¬†shed a couple of tears, and yeah, I sat there for a while in shock convincing myself that in the next book it would turn out ok and he wouldn’t be dead. Don’t judge me ūüėõ

NO!! Not Dumbledore!!!!

9. The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

This was another one that involved a shocking event at the end, and it was so upsetting (especially because it was right after everything coming together really nicely, as all the tricksty writers/moviemakers love to do!) that I laid awake for a couple of hours, not sleeping and feeling a tad maudlin and I have yet to read the next book in the series because I’m afraid that it’ll be too sad. However, the event would not have been so¬†upsetting if Philip Pullman hadn’t¬†developed the characters and setting so well so you care about their well-being, so props to him….even tho at¬†the time I wasn’t¬†so understanding.

Damn you Philip Pullman for writing such likable characters!

10. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Oh my gosh! I had forgotten how sad this book was and how much it made me cry when I was little, until my brother gave me the movie on DVD for Christmas a few years ago. My brother hadn’t seen it before or read the book, and I had forgotten the plot so at a certain point (which I won’t say) we both blubbered away like little girls. Bridge to Terabithia is a lovely tale of friendship and childhood imagination, but be warned if you want to give it to your kids – at some point near the end they will probably come to you crying or looking shocked and ask some awkward questions. Just so you know.

There you go folks, the Top 10 books that really made me blubber. Sorry it wasn’t up right after the Top 10 Books that made me Laugh as planned, my Internet cut out halfway through writing it and I was only able to get it back today :/ Join me next month for¬†my Top 10 Book to Screen Adaptations¬†and the Top 10 Books I would like to see Adapted for the Screen, and in the meantime I will review The Secrets of the Chess Machine and probably lots of other Book Polygamist stuff ūüôā

Happy Reading!

REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I finished this novel nearly a month ago, but have been too busy to give it the full review that it deserves – before now. Before I start it should be known that it took me nearly 4 months to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book of a mere 359 pages, and in fact I have started and finished 5 books in that time. The main reason for this is I didn’t really like The Elegance of the Hedgehog in the beginning and found it a bit grueling to read, especially compared to the others I was reading at the same time. The reason I found it grueling is that it is a very intellectual book with many literary references and words that were unfamiliar to me. Now, if you have been reading my blog for a while, or you know me, you will know that while I do enjoy a great work of literature I also enjoy a variety of more low-brow fiction and so am not as widely read as I would like (I try plus¬†I’m still young! plenty of time yet to get to all those classics!), so at the start of this book I was forever stopping to refer to my trusty dictionary, or google something which left me feeling quite the dunce ūüė¶

I don’t really enjoy feeling stupid while reading (who does?) , so I often found myself putting this one aside for days or weeks on end after one session. This was until I started to take it in my bag to classes and prac, a strategy I use on books I’m avoiding because the time on the bus and train forces me to give them a try. This strategy certainly worked on this little number and I found my feelings toward it quickly changed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a french book that was originally published in 2006 under the title L’√©l√©gance¬†du h√©risson then translated into English in 2008. The book revolves around a central location – 7 Rue de Grenelle, a swanky apartment building in Paris – and only a handful of events happen anywhere else. The¬†narrative¬†is told through¬†two main characters¬†and narrators:¬†Madame Renee Michel, the middle-aged concierge; and Paloma Josse, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the wealthy families that resides in the building. Madame Michel is a 54-year-old widow who has worked at 7 Rue de Grenelle for 27 years, and she is a self-confessed autodidact¬†(yes this was one of the words I had to look up :S) in areas of literature (namely Tolstoy), art, music and film. However, she has kept the secret of her cultured self for all these years and played the part of the simple concierge as she fears loosing her job or being condemned by the uppity residents of the building. On the other hand Paloma Josse is disgusted by the bourgeois lifestyle of her family and others in the building and feels there is nothing to look forward to in adulthood. Therefore she has decided to kill herself and set fire to the building on her 13th birthday to avoid the future of the adults around her. However, Paloma is an incredibly intelligent and ¬†logical young lady, so in the time leading up to her suicide she has decided to keep records of things in the world around her that may be worth living for – titled “Journal of the Movement of the World” and “Profound Thoughts” – and it is through these journal entries that her sections are narrated.

The story starts out kind of bleak, with both main characters feeling pretty melancholy about their lives, but everything changes when a distinguished Japanese gentleman moves into the building. It was at this point that my interest accelerated because the plot really started to develop when previously the chapters were mainly character development. The groundwork that Barbery¬†had laid down in the earlier chapters meant that I was emotionally attached to Renee and Paloma by the time their stories and characters grew and I wanted to know more. The addition of the Japanese gentleman – Kakuro¬†Ozu – also lightened the story a fair bit because he is a very kind and deep person that appreciates the same art and culture as Renee. Ultimately this book explores a lot of themes, but mainly it explores the¬†philosophies of life and how people find comfort in the world¬†and people arround them, and that really appealed to me. However, it wasn’t all serious cultural references and philosophy, in fact there was some real laugh out loud moments, especially¬†the times when¬†Renee¬†is having tea¬†with Manuela, a maid who cleans many of the building’s apartments and always brings delicious pastries.

I¬†became so entrenched in the story and characters of The Elegance of the Hedgehog¬†that by the end (when an event happens that I won’t spoil) I was struggling not to burst into tears on the train, and I failed a tad. This is a real gem of french literature and would make a great book club book for a group that isn’t afraid to read something so peppered with references, because it provides a lot of fuel for discussions. Despite the fact that it took me forever to read, I’m glad I persevered with The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it is sure to be on the list of my favourite reads of 2011. I also have borrowed the film that was based on the book – The Hedgehog¬†– and look forward to watching it soon. Who knows, it may even make an appearance¬†in a future Top 10 on book to screen adaptations ūüėČ

I give The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery:

4 ¬Ĺ / 5 stars

Playing with Fire, Alice and Zombies

Two weeks ago I finally finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery which I had been reading since April (I ‘ll post a review soon to explain why it took so long) and so I chose a new book from my towering “To Read” pile.

The Girl returns

The book I chose through my usual process¬†was the second book in the Millenium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire by the late Stieg¬†Larsson. I was slow to join in on the craze of these books, because I had so many other books I wanted to read, so I only read the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo late last year. I thought it¬†was a bit slow¬†to begin with¬†but once I got into it I found it highly engrossing so I was pretty excited to get stuck into the second one. However, from the tone of its predecessor¬†I knew The Girl Who Played With Fire was going to be pretty heavy reading and for that reason I wasn’t ready to jump into it as most of the other books I’m reading are also pretty heavy: 2 Clive Barker’s¬†and a very involved fantasy. The only exception is The Secrets of the Chess Machine¬†which is great, but something I don’t¬†want to read all the time.

So, even ‘tho I did start The Girl Who Played With Fire the other day, I have been craving something different, something a bit funny or ridiculous that I could easily read on the bus or train and have a bit of a giggle….and then I saw this book on the “New Books” display at Joondalup:

Now, regular readers of this blog (my beloved Bookbaggers) will know of my love for anything based on Lewis’s Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass¬†as well as my recent love for zombie stories, so you can just imagine my delight upon seeing this title while I was tidying. I couldn’t borrow it at the time of course coz I was in the middle of work, but I put it neatly back on the display shelf and prayed that it would not be snaffled up by another Alice/zombie loving freak before 5 o’clock. Luckily the book gods smiled upon me and it was waiting for me when I finished and I made such a direct beeline to it and plucked it off the shelf that one of the staff commented in amusement.

I plan to start it tonight and you are sure to hear one heck of a review once Its been devoured ūüôā

Happy reading and may the book gods smile upon you also!

A Hedgehog, a little girl and God

I broke a bit of a rule this week when I chose new books. I still did my little eeny¬†meeny¬†miney moe¬†ritual but I¬†had too many books, so by the time I¬†had done the final moe I¬†still had two left, and two that I really wanted to read: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which I have been wanting to read for a while, and Mister God, this is Anna by Fynn, a book that I¬†borrowed off a friend of the family years ago and made a big impact¬†on me…. so I started them both ūüôā

I’m really looking forward to reviewing Mister God, this is Anna because it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve¬†ever read, and I had a hard time finding it¬†a) because I couldn’t remember the exact title and b) it isn’t a very well-known¬†book, and from what I’ve read of The Elegance of the Hedgehog (the first few chapters) it is a beautiful book also.

Stay tuned ūüôā