Anyone caught in the inferno?

For those of you who’ve ridden the Dan Brown wave from Digital Fortress in 1998 (can you believe it was fifteen years ago?) to The Lost Symbol in 2009, it might be of interest (or hysterical joy) to know that today is the day of his most recent book release. I announce this as if you don’t already know, courtesy of the thousands of Facebook ads (specifically tailored to YOU – and you all no doubt Google books on a regular basis) or else through your equally nerdy friendship circles or perhaps, you stumbled across the ginormous posters plastering the windows of bookstores as of late. Nevertheless, I expect you to all react to this post as if it is the first to deliver the ground-breaking news. Thank you.

So, Ladies and Gentleners, without further ado, here is the long-awaited fourth installment of Robert Langdon’s adventures:

Dan Brown Inferno

I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet because a) if I do, it is one hundred percent assured that my philosophy paper, due Monday, will not be written, b) I was in a such a ridiculous rush today that even though I actually SAW touchable copies of the book in my university’s bookstore, I was compelled by my disorganization to ignore it for the sake of handing in a form before five o’clock and c) I promised myself that I’d finish all two hundred-and-something unread books on my shelf before I bought any new ones.

So, I pose to you, faithful readers:

Have you bought it yet? Have you read it front to back already because you’re just that much of a fan? What did you think? Worth the hype? Worth the buy?

P.S. This is a spoiler free zone and I will enforce this with the frightening wrath of a scorned reader if I have to.

Thank you!

Advertisements

What are your New Year’s Literary Resolutions?

Do you know what I only just realised? It’s the 1st of February already and I haven’t even made a list of books to read in 2013! Well, I’ve started one now after just about punching myself in the face for my own stupidity. I deserve it. But, let’s move on, shall we?

Tell me! What paperback novels, hardback plays, collections of essays, intriguing biographies, dirty memoirs or non-fiction investigations haunt your to-read list for this year? My list is so far short because I’m determined to ensure that every single title that earns a spot on it is worthy of my very time-poor attention.

On my Books to Read in 2013, I’ve featured titles that have caressed my current obsession with adventure journalism, the third world, media-fueled changed and incredible feats of writing. While since the wee age of eleven I’ve pranced around with the notion in my airy-fairy head that I’m the next Meryl Streep, about a dozen epiphanies as of late have culminated in a redirection of my passions and talents…the writing world. But neither novels nor plays for let’s just be frank here: plotting is not my forte. But rather of the creative non-fiction sort, investigating those cobwebbed corners of the globe, splattering the world with my uncoordinated footsteps and writing about the people, the places, the ideas and the change that I see and possibly even one day orchestrate. This is why the four books on my list all feature either journalism or travel.

I am still eager to hear your own reading resolutions, however, whether they be academic, for the purpose of guilty pleasure or just because no one can not love Harry Potter. What are you reading? Oh, and if you have any recommendations for me, fire away, friends!

Blind Date With a Book

Loyal readers! I stumbled across a very neat concept today on the site Tumblr and thought I’d share it with you! 

Blind date

“My local library branch started doing this “Blind Date with a Book” thing, thought you guys might like it. The shelf was full when we got there, but was like this as we were leaving. The books are wrapped in paper and have different designs on them, and then a few words vaguely describing the subject matter of the book. Things like “Drama”, “Plot Twists”, “espionage”, etc. The only thing exposed on the book is the barcode that you use to scan the book out. I thought it was a pretty cool idea.”

Through the Lens

Ladies and Gentelnerds!

As most book loving, novel reading, quote devouring nerds know, those with an affinity for one medium of the arts (in this case, literature), are usually rather partial to many of the other mediums as well. It is for this very reason that I extend my cross-disciplinary arm over to the photographic world to present to you with a very dramatic ‘voila’ gesture,  my little brother’s amateur photography website. He’s actually very good and I implore you to casually browse his initial collection of shots. AND…if you’re feeling even the tiniest bit angelic or saintly, you might even be compelled to leave him a comment or two! If so, you’ll sleep well tonight knowing your halo is sparkling!

His website can be find by clicking this link!

Thank you!

Some VERY good advice.

Quote

Writers, will you listen? Will your change your ‘very good’s for ‘excellent’s? Will you surrender your ‘very hot’s for ‘scorching’s? Will you swap your ‘very confused’s for ‘bamboozled’s?

I think this quote speaks volumes to writers about how we can tweak our words just the tiniest bit to yield very big (woops…I mean enormous!) results.

30 Day Book Challenge….in one sitting.

1. Your 10 favourite books of all time.

Let me hear your best groans: my favourite books of all time are without a doubt the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. To a degree unparalleled by any other work of literature, the Harry Potter books had me hanging on for every word, waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, going to sleep at night and literally dreaming of Hogwarts and incessantly tempted to read and read and re-read in spite of my ever-growing pile of other unread books. But back to the actual question, my ten favourite books of all time:

  • The 7 Harry Potter books – J.K. Rowling
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel

That was so difficult, it was actually painful and I feel deeply sad for all of the books I had to exclude.

2. Your 5 least favourite books of all time.

  • Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

3. Your favourite characters and which books they’re from.

  • Dobby and Hagrid – Harry Potter
  • Julie Powell – Julie and Julia
  • Red – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
  • Ellie Linton – Tomorrow When the War Began
  • Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons
  • Natalia’s grandfather – The Tiger’s Wife
  • Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Scout – To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Characters you hate and which books they’re from.

  • Jessica Stanley – Twilight
  • Nanny – The Nanny Diaries
  • Alaska – Looking for Alaska
  • Tybalt – Romeo and Juliet
  • Lucius Malfoy – Harry Potter
  • Demetrius – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • John Tate – DNA

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you? Include one reason for each.

  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho – I would take this book with me as a reminder that you can achieve anything at all that you desire if you focus your thoughts in the right direction and believe in the possibility of their fruition. I think this would be especially useful information given the momentous task I would be faced with of escaping the island.
  • Julie and Julia – Julie Powell – I would take this book because although it may seem, to the unsuspecting eye, to be just another culinary biography, it’s in truth and without exaggeration the funniest book I’ve ever read. And humour, on a desert island, would be a necessity.
  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen – I read this book as part of a reading competition when I was in grade seven and I remember making a very clear decision that if I were ever to be faced with a situation of man versus nature, I would call upon this book. As the story of a young boy, the sole survivor of an aeroplane crash in a forest, and his journey of fighting the elements of nature, this little novel is simply brimming what handy hints for basic survival.
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel – Well, Pi got stranded in a life boat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger and he managed to survive. A book to put the wee issue of a desert island in perspective.
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin – This book happens to be the fattest of the unread books on my self and although I have no idea yet whether or not it’s any good, if I were to be stuck on a desert island, I would definitely be in need of as much fresh material as possible.

6. The best book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

7. The worst book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

8. Your favorite quotes from books.

Oh my goodness, there are just so many quotes from books that I’ve collected over the years and have adored!

  • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” – Looking for Alaska – John Green
  • “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  • “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” – Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

9. Your favorite quotes about books.

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “That is a part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.” – Rudyard Kipling

10. Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.

This category is totally brilliant because there actually are some films that represent their literary counterparts in pure style.

  • Into the Wild – directed by Sean Penn
  • Fight Club – directed by David Fincher
  • The Shawshank Redemption – directed by Frank Darabont
  • The Blind Side – directed by John Lee Hancock
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Directed by David Yates

11. Name three absolutely awful film adaptations of books.

  • My Sister’s Keeper – directed byNick Cassavetes
  • Eat, Pray, Love – directed by Ryan Murphy
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – directed by Peter Weir

12. Your favorite authors.

  • Mitch Albom
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Mark Twain
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Yann Martel
  • Tea Obreht
  • Markus Zusak

13. Your favorite book from childhood

  • I’m Glad the Sky is Painted Blue: Poems of the Very Young

14. A book you regret not having read sooner

  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

15. A book you haven’t read but is on your “will read” list.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

16. A book you haven’t read and have no intention of ever reading.

  • The Host – Stephenie Meyer

17. A book you want to like, but can’t get into for whatever reason. Why can’t you get into it?

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathon Safran Foer – I’m not sure why I can’t get into it…I have tried but perhaps not hard enough. I just find the style prohibits my ability to become absorbed by the story.

18. A book that you think is highly overrated.

  • 1984 – George Orwell

19. A book that you think is woefully underrated

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

20. The environment you most enjoy reading in

  • In transit – on a train, on a bus, on a plane with nothing to do but drink warm liquids, eat salty snacks and read juicy literature.

21. The most disturbing book you’ve ever read

  • Roxy’s Baby – Catherine MacPhail – granted I read this book when I was twelve and so its themes, which may seem relatively mild to you, were quite intense for me at the time and I therefore remember it as disturbing. Excellent, but disturbing.

22. A book you once loved, but don’t anymore. What changed?

  • Twilight – Stephenie Meyer – I know, I know, I’m ashamed to admit that as an impressionable thirteen year old, I had a love for Edward Cullen. However, I can honestly say that having actually gone back to re-read this global phenomenon, I’ve been horrified to realise how poorly written it actually is and how little appeal it now holds for me.

23. A book you once hated, but now love. What changed?

  • Macbeth – William Shakesepare – I truly despised this play when I had to study it at school. But as I’ve grown older and have explored more thematic elements of literature and theatre, I’ve come to realise how poignant and juicy and loaded with subtext much of this play actually is.

24. Your favorite series

  • It be incredibly boring and cite my very first answer: the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

25. The nerdiest book you’ve ever read.

  • Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – nerdy because I read it in French.

26. Your favorite type of nonfiction book

  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Philosophy books

27. Your favorite genre

  • Literary fiction

28. The first book you can remember reading on your own

  • Hi Fella – Era Zistel

29. An author you wish was more well-known

  • Yann Martel

30. The book you’re reading right now.

  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Sorry, Queen Rowling.

The Casual Vacancy Launch

As I’m assuming much of the novel-reading world knows, J.K. Rowling recently released her first book outside of the Harry Potter empire. The Casual Vacancy, specifically aimed at an adult audience, is about the small town politics of Pagford, England and is, to the great dismay but not surprise of all her fans, totally void of wizardry. From a woman of humble beginnings but fabulous, deserved success, we are bequeathed with what is essentially a very straight-forward book about the life and times of the English working class, the nastiest of corners included…

Although I consider myself an avid and loyal fan of the Harry Potter books and do, on the odd occasion, hope to find my mailbox stuffed with Hogwarts letters, I did not await the release of Rowling’s new work with the kind of fervour I did the final Harry Potter instalment. I braced myself for what I knew would invariably be something vastly different to the story of magic that has captured and held us all for the last fifteen years. I did not get my hopes up.

I was however, incidentally browsing through a Dymocks Bookstore in Melbourne (on a wee little holiday!) on the day of The Casual Vacancy‘s release and, having just finished reading the novel I had taken with me, I decided to deposit a little more gold into J.K.’s Gringotts vault. I bought the whopping great boulder of a book and lugged it around in my handbag for the return trip home (involving taxi, plane and bus…plenty of reading time.)

Although I had been incessantly reminding myself that this was not Harry Potter, I did expect to be entertained and interested by she who has become known as the greatest living author. I began its first page with a melange of trepidation and excitement but found myself, a three hour flight and five chapters later, quite under-whelmed. To put it bluntly, I knew at the sixty page mark that I would not at all be impressed by The Casual Vacancy. 

My very honest thoughts:

The entire spectrum of swear words and adult themes (sexuality, domestic violence, drug use and adolescent disobedience) had been either directly included or at least alluded to before I had even read my way through the first quarter. Now, I’m nineteen and am therefore no stranger to profane language and rule-bending behaviour, but I cannot say I was impressed by The Casual Vacancy‘s flood of irreverence. When it comes to the use of profanities in literary works, I personally find that less is one hundred times more – not because I’m at all bothered by it but because after you read the word ‘fuck’ twenty times, you become immune to its impact. If used only once or twice, it knocks the reader back for a moment with its poignancy and isn’t that the point of using it at all?

From my perspective, Rowling’s overuse of mature language was a blatant attempt to get her foot in the door of adult literature, to shatter her image as ‘the author of Harry Potter’ in favour of a more general ‘best-selling author’ title and to prove that she really can write outside of the children’s fiction genre. However, by using certain literary techniques for the sake of her author’s reputation rather than for the sake of serving the novel’s actual content, I found she missed the mark.

Another aspect of The Casual Vacancy that I found less than impressive was its structure: numerous characters, multiple perspectives, countless sub-plots and too grand an array of themes – all of which happened to be exhaustingly dark. The plot felt scattered and unfocused and, although many books successfully include an abundance of different characters, in this instance, I felt torn between too many perspectives and was therefore unable to ever really get into the book.

To J.K. Rowling’s credit, she did not compromise the filthy truth of lower class English life for the sake of entertainment. Exposing the dirty underbelly of small town life and politics, Rowling painted quite a shocking picture and I applaud her for her bravery and honesty. However, that’s where my praise ends.

Although I wasn’t expecting another Harry Potter, I was thoroughly disappointed by J.K. Rowling’s newest literary venture. The Casual Vacancy, for me, left much to be desired in all literary arenas, inclusive of plot, character, style and scenery. Sorry, Queen Rowling, but I simply cannot recommend your latest read.