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Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Book to Movie Adaptations


armchairbeaDay 4 of Armchair BEA… sadly, the week is coming to an end. For those of you at BEA 15, hope you had a great time! For those who have been posting from the comfort of their favorite chair, like me, hope you enjoyed the conversations. So final post:

Book to Movie Adaptions

What books do you want to be made into a movie or television show? What are some of your favorites? We’ll explore more about this topic, especially what works and what doesn’t.  Are there any upcoming shows or movies that you’re excited for? What are your recommendations?

 

What books do I want to be made into a movie?

  • The last book I read, A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett, would make a great movie. I was already pairing actors and actresses who I think would play each character’s role well. (Maisie could be played by Rachel McAdams; Aunt Augusta could be played by Jennifer Connelly?)
  • I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe could make a cute movie based during the Civil War.
  • Basically any Gillian Flynn can be turned into a plot-twisted thriller of a movie.

Book to move adaptations:

  • They did a very good job sticking to the story in the Gone Girl movie.
  • I started watching The Pillars of the Earth mini-series first, then stopped a couple of episodes in to pick up the book. I thought the series was good (although I never finished it after it inspired me to start reading the book); the book was great. Now I’m Ken Follett obsessed.
  • Duh Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit… great casting, great portrayals… mostly good scripts. Although there were parts of the books I missed seeing in the movies, like Tom Bombadil’s character in LOTR and quite a few things in season 5 of GOT… and I was not a fan of how they portrayed Beorn in The Hobbit (just wasn’t what I envisioned… I envisioned more bear, more hair, more gnarly face…)

Sometimes it’s refreshing to see a different portrayal from book to script. However, I have found I really enjoy seeing the book played out exactly as it was written on television on many occasions… I especially have learned this while watching the new season of GOT. I sit here and comment the whole time about what was different in the book. I have found I have a “book loyalty” that gets me frustrated with directors and screen writers sometimes… I want to see what was originally created, now a different interpretation. But I know I should have a more open mind and I’m working on it… but COME ON GOT… stop killing people I was not ready to die/aren’t supposed to be dead yet!

Upcoming movies or TV shows I’m excited for… I need to think about this more. While it is inspired by a notorious book series, I am really excited for the new 007 James Bond: Spectre. I have started Ian Fleming’s series and intend to slowly read through the books. I intend to run to the theatre opening weekend when Spectre comes out.

What movies or TV shows do you recommend that are adaptations from books? Any coming up you can’t wait for? Please share! I’m always looking for new reads and new flicks. Now where is the popcorn…

pj - christina

Christina’s Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is the popular meme created and run by The Broke and Bookish.

Christina’s Ten Authors She REALLY Wants To Meet

Ok… this list can be much longer than it is but these were just the first authors off the top of my head as I looked at my bookshelf. I geek out any chance I get to meet an author, talk to them, and have them autograph my copy of their book. To be able to speak with them and hear where they came from, what inspired them, learn about their aspirations and hopes (not just for a book but future writings and life in general) GAH! I love it!! The last author I was fortunate to meet and listen to speak was Richard Leahy, author of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines. Below is the start of my list of authors I would like to meet, with two authors who are deceased whom I would love the opportunity to go back in time and have coffee and a conversation with…

  1. Ellen Crosby – I love Ellen’s Virginia Wine Country Mystery series! As a book club, we have read The Merlot Murders and are reading The Chardonnay Charades in June. I would very much like to hang out with her for a beautiful afternoon at the winery to talk to her about the series and hear about her inspirations (and, of course, to talk about Virginia wine!)
  2. Ken Follett – AHHH I love Ken Follett! He’s my favorite author (I’m currently reading his book A Dangerous Fortune). I would love to meet Follett and talk to him over coffee or visit a history museum with him… he’s such an innovative, creative writer who can bring together multiple story lines and characters and tie them together in the end. His writing style and stories, with so much history built in, hook me… after writing this, I will go back to reading A Dangerous Fortune. (stay tuned for my book review on that coming soon)
  3. J.K. Rowling – Who would not want to meet the creator of Harry Potter?! I don’t think anymore explanation is needed here…
  4. George R. R. Martin – Again, who would not want to meet the great mind behind A Song of Ice and Fire series?! Although, if I ever had the honor to meet this brilliant mind, the first thing I would ask is “When is your next book coming out? Tell me when your next book is coming out? WHY IS YOUR NEXT BOOK NOT OUT YET!?!”
  5. Gillian Flynn – OK, her books are crazy… but I would love to meet the mind behind Amy and Camille… How does she come up with those story lines that are so NOT ok, but hook people and keep them craving more?
  6. Dan Brown – He is another brilliant mind. While his books are not my favorite to read, I still respect them and know he has a huge following. He puts a lot of thought and history into his writings. I would love to ask him more about his background and how he approaches writing. I feel like there is so much I can learn from him…
  7. Erin Lindsay McCabe – Loved Erin’s book, I Shall Be Near to You. I would like to meet her and learn more about her history background and research she did to prepare for this book! As a history lover, I really respect her writing style and how it was so well researched and the story told to make me feel so attached the characters and storyline.
  8. James McPherson – Another brilliant author of history. There is so much research that goes into his books (thinking of Battle Cry of Freedom alone had to take years of research and hundreds – more like thousands – of sources he poured through to compose this history thoroughly, accurately, and clearly/enjoyable for readers)
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien – I would have loved to have met this brilliant creator of Middle Earth. Tolkien inspired me and was one of the first authors I truly loved and whose books I dove into. His world of elves, men, dwarves and hobbits… Magic, power, deception… I am fascinated by his world and would love to immerse myself in its creation. (And yes, I have thought about it, and I would want to be an elf… possibly of Rivendell)
  10. Herodotus – The father of history. I would have loved to have met this man who was far ahead of his time as he recorded the histories of ancient Greece and the surrounding world and told their story for all to remember, forever.

Wow… re-reading this I noticed a key-word I used was “brilliant.” These authors are all brilliant minds, and are the reason I love to read, re-read, talk about, and write my thoughts down about books. Thank you to these authors and all others who are an inspiration to me and so many others each and every day. Without you, life would be dull.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming


Christina’s Review: Casino Royale by Ian FlemingCasino Royale by Ian Fleming
Published by Asterix040173 on 1954
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
three-half-stars
Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly ruthless and very deadly. This, the first of Fleming's tales of agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply 'Le Chiffre' - by ruining him at the baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spy masters to 'retire' him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James - Le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond's attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected savior.From Library JournalThe allure of James Bond was best described by Raymond Chandler, who insisted that 007 is

I have wanted to check out the James Bond series for a while… the movies are some of my favorites so I added the books to my to-read shelf to see their inspiration. The books are fairly short and full of action. I started with book one, Casino Royale and found it to be a quick and fun read on the infamous 007.

The reader meets James Bond as he is assigned to a mission designed to attack Le Chiffre where it would hurt: his money. Bond is sent to play against Le Chiffre in baccarat at the Casino Royale. The casino game is suspenseful… expensive buy-ins… all-in bets… can Bond accomplish his mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre? With the help of Mathis, Vesper, and Felix Leiter, Bond enters into the casino game of his life. Progressing from the casino game, Bond is thrown into additional adventures with his mission. Fleming filled his book with car chases, torture, romance, and mystery. There was never a dull moment for Bond.

I found the overall book to be enjoyable and a quick enough read that I will probably continue through the series gradually. At first, it took me a couple of chapters to get into through the coding and issuing of orders. I was hoping the whole book would not be written in that style… after a couple of chapters it opened up and into a flowing story. Naturally, one cannot have James Bond without a “bombshell” of a woman as I have learned through the movies and “Bond girl” legacy. Fleming started this trend as he introduced Vesper in Casino Royale. Fleming concluded the book quickly and with a nice twist. He also left the hook there for the next book and mission Bond was ready to set out on. I appreciated this carry-on and connection through the series.

While it was a quick read, I do want to mention there were a couple of things that tried my attention during the book. The beginning was very casino-technical as Fleming walked as through the rules of the game… this was still somewhat lost on me as I am not a gambler and do not see myself playing baccarat in the casino anytime soon. After getting through this, the story picked up and carried me through. Then when Bond goes to have his “relations” with the woman towards the end, I felt this was dragged out some as well. There were quite a few chapters on their courting and love-making that were not of interest to me… I was waiting for the action, the twists, and the adventures to come back in.

Overall good book and fun read. I am glad I finally had the opportunity to start the infamous series Fleming has gone down in history for. This is a great summer read (or mass transit read in my case). Enjoy!

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Christina’s Review: Water for Elephants by Sara GruenWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Published by NY Books Pages: 375
Format: Paperback
two-half-stars
Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.

In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all...

 

I found this book in the library book sale and had heard high raves about it. Naturally, I bought it and added to me to-read list as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the book…

Water for Elephants follows a man in his nineties as he reflects back on his time with a traveling circus around the 1930s and the Great Depression. Jacob was training to be a veterinarian when unexpected events guided him onto a train carrying the circus to town. Readers will meet many different animals, circus entertainers and the crew behind the circus set-up, the ring master himself, and other wonders of the circus. The circus wonders mix with a little romance, scandal, “business,” and trouble for some. Overall, a story is created that brings the reader behind the scenes of the traveling circus and its people.

To begin, I have to say I liked the seamless transitions between present day and the past circus days. Jacob is in a nursing home when the circus comes to town. The hype behind the circus causes him to reflect back on his time spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. This cross between time added another element to the story I enjoyed. In the end, I did not much care for the story of the circus, but I did like Jacob’s character (both young and old). I wish I could have sat there with him in the home and spent the afternoon listening to his story.

Although the book was a fast read overall (I finished it in only a couple of days), for me, it took a while to build up to the main story. Once it did reach its climax, I thought parts were predictable and the story was familiar to others told. Quite frankly, I thought there was too much animal abuse for me to really get into the story and fall in love with it. In addition, I felt there was a lack of chemistry in the romance that was supposed to be building. It felt forced and not natural.

If you are looking for a book on the circus, I would go back to recommending The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. There was a more mystical factor to this book that brought the magic of the circus alive with its characters and drama.

Water for Elephants was not the worst book I have read recently, but it was far from the best. I could not grasp what the “bestseller” aspect of this story was… it was not the best story told on a circus, it was definitely not the best romance love-story, and the ending was unrealistic. This book makes a good fast-read for the poolside or beach, but I would not recommend it outside of that. (I’m sorry!!)

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe


Christina’s Review: I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabeI Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Published by Crown/Archetype on 2014-01-28
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Historical, Romance, War & Military
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-half-stars
An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband in the Civil War.Rosetta doesn't want her new husband, Jeremiah, to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. When Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta decides her true place is by his side, no matter what that means, and follows him into war.Rich with historical details and inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is a courageous adventure, a woman's search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love.

I very much enjoyed the book, I Shall Be Near to You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe. I received this book from a friend for Christmas because she thought it was right up my alley… she knows me too well. (Thanks Cassie!)

I first met the characters Rosetta and Jeremiah in their hometown in New York during the early start of the Civil War. I instantly felt a connection to Rosetta – she was a passionate, strong woman, one-of-the-boys and loyal.  McCabe does a nice job opening the story and introducing these characters whom I instantly fell in love with. The farms needed working on, mending needed doing, and early news of the war started coming into the town… death, duty, honor, and camaraderie. Jeremiah is ready to go into war, and Rosetta is ready for them to take the next step to marriage before he leaves. After their vows are said and Jeremiah leaves to fight for the Union, the real story of the hardships and brutality of war begins, and the evidential love between Rosetta and Jeremiah blossoms and pulls the reader in.

All I kept thinking from the start was “don’t you dare make me cry in the end.” I felt like I was there with Rosetta and Jeremiah in the story. Their love and travels kept me hooked and pulling for them throughout. If there was ever a moments hesitation in their love for each other, McCabe continued to make me fall in love with them over and over again. For example, the lake scene at night (you’ll know it when you get to it)… my heart melted for them.

Overall, I felt McCabe did a nice job keeping the characters’ voices, which allowed for me to stay invested and connected with the story. She also did a good job sharing the brutality of war… it was not all picturesque and romantic. The war was harsh. There was blood, a lot of blood. There were limbs severed off, bodies obliterated, letters that never made it home, and people that were never found. The war was cruel, and McCabe captured these details.

Looking at my collection of Civil War books from when I was working on my MA, I found a few I felt reconnected with reading McCabe’s book. Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable was a book that really kept the brutality of war in the forefront, like McCabe’s battle and camp scenes. For Cause and Comrades by James M. McPherson is another great read on why men went to fight in the war – the comradeship, duty, honor, letters home and even the desertion and post-traumatic stress that followed. One last read that really resonated throughout McCabe’s read and was clearly well researched by her was An Uncommon Soldier by Lauren Cook Burgess.  Did you know there were women who went into battle and fought along side men… not as nurses, not as camp followers and laundresses… there were real women who changed their appearance – cut their hair, put on men’s clothes, and marched into the camps to join up and fight in the war. These reads are worth the reference before or after you read I Shall Be Near to You.

One last note to compliment the book and a little side fieldtrip I took during the read: I am currently taking a Business of Wine class for fun through George Mason University. We had a fieldtrip this past week to The Winery at Bull Run, where they really do embrace the Civil War and preserve its memory. I highly recommend a trip to taste their wines if you are in the area and touring the battlefields. As I finished McCabe’s book, I needed to think on it some more so I poured myself a glass of their peach wine from The Winery at Bull Run. Excellent wine made with 100% peaches… not too sweet or syrupy like many fruit wines come off. Light, great chilled, and made a perfect glass to allow me to sit back and reflect on what I had just read.

Overall, great book by McCabe I highly recommend for the historical fiction lover. I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book and reconnect with our country’s past. Enjoy!

pj - christina

 

From The Pages to the Screen: Outlander Review by Ellen


From The Pages to the Screen: Outlander Review by EllenOutlander by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Doubleday Canada on 2010-12-22
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 613
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
five-stars
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an

It’s no secret that two of my favorite things include history and time travel (I’m a bit obsessed with Doctor Who), so I’m not sure how it took me this long to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I’d seen Michelle rave about the books and knew about the television show, but somehow it took forever to convince my stubborn self to give the series a chance.  I’m happy that I did.

Outlander follows the life of twentieth-century girl Claire Randall as she unexpectedly and accidentally finds herself in the eighteenth century Scottish Highlands.  Throughout the story you find a blend of action, humor, and romance as Claire learns how to survive in an unfamiliar environment.  Ultimately, she must make the decision between staying in the past and finding her way back to the future.

I thought Outlander was a great read.  It’s a nice change to read a story where the female protagonist doesn’t set out on an adventure to discover romance, but instead, romance discovers her.  Instead of giving a typical review – you can find Michelle’s here – I thought I would compare how the story translated from the pages to the television screen.

Starz released the first half of Outlander in 2014 with plans to continue the TV next month.  The show has remained true to the book so far excluding one major piece.  In Outlander the book, we do not receive glimpses into the life that Claire left behind.  We have no idea whether time has continued onward or whether she would return to the same moment in which she left.  From the author’s perspective, it would not make sense to add snippets from the twentieth century because it would disrupt the overall plot.

The show answers any questions concerning time.  Outlander the show creates scenes surrounding Claire’s husband Frank Randall.  We are able to see the mental struggle that occurs following Claire’s disappearance and learn about Frank as a person.  He is a relatively undeveloped character in the book unsurprisingly because he is absent for most of it.  Instead of Frank, we have Jonathan Randall, who is Frank’s ancestor and doppelganger.

An oft-debated discussion occurs with character casting.  When you read a book first, you develop your own idea of how the character should look and act.  Sometimes your vision is captured in the show or movie, and sometimes you develop an irrational disdain towards the actor because he or she does not match your vision.

This is a very subjective topic, but for me the show falls flat on capturing the characters correctly.  In the show, Claire, portrayed by Caitriona Balfe, looks as I imagined but does not seem to be as strong a woman as in the book.  Sam Heughan on the other hand does a fantastic job portraying Jaime but, in my mind, is not how I pictured the character.

Where the translation from book to screen excels is the setting.  Outlander is filmed in Scotland, so we are able to see the natural Scottish beauty that Gabaldon details in the book.  We hear Highlanders speak Gaelic, we see castles, and, of course, we see wondrous kilts.

In my opinion, Outlander is one of the better page-to-screen stories that I have encountered.  I was so happy with the book that I binge watched the show.  My hope is that the show creators continue to follow the story as true as possible.  With the second half of the season beginning in a couple weeks, Starz has released a couple exclusives.  An important difference that will occur is that the show will now feature episodes told through Jaime’s point of view.  I can understand this need, as Jaime has a complex history, but I don’t want the story sacrificed just to give the lead “hunk” more screen time.

Ellen

Christina’s Review: The Exchange of Princesses by Chantal Thomas


I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Christina’s Review: The Exchange of Princesses by Chantal ThomasThe Exchange of Princesses by Chantal Thomas
Published by OTHER PressLLC on 2015-07-07
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 329
Format: ARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Set in the French and Spanish courts of the eighteenth century, this novel is based on a true story about the fate of two young princesses caught in the intrigues and secrets of the moment   Philippe d'Orléans, the regent of France, has a gangrenous heart--the result of a life of debauchery, alcohol, power, and flattery. One morning in 1721, he decides to marry eleven-year-old Louis XV to the daughter of Philippe V of Spain, who is only four. Orléans hopes this will tie his kingdom to Spain. But were Louis to die without begetting an heir--the likeliness of which is greatly increased by having a child bride--Orléans himself would finally be king. Orléans tosses his own daughter into the bargain, the twelve-year-old Mlle de Montpensier, who will marry the Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne.   The Spanish court enthusiastically agrees and arrangements are made. The two nations trade their princesses in a grand ceremony in 1722, making bonds that should end the historical conflict. Nothing turns out as expected.

Before beginning, I wanted to note I received this review from the publisher, The Other Press, which has no effect on my review. This book is set to be released in the United States on July 7, 2015.

The Exchange of Princesses is a historical fiction by Chantal Thomas set in France and Spain, 1720s. The main characters of focus include: Louis XV (to become King of France) and Luis I (to become King of Spain); and the princesses Mariana Victoria de Borbón (to become the Queen-infanta of France) and Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans (to become Queen of Spain).

The story is one of: politics, scandal, love, hope, passiveness, deceit, and a touch of disease thrown in during this tumultuous time of history in the two countries. The Exchange of Princesses started off so politically with the marrying off of children (the two princesses; one of whom was only four years old) and the crossing of the border between France and Spain to exchange the two of them. The children did not seem to grasp the full meaning of this exchange at first. It was so interesting to compare the attitudes of the children with those of the parents during the performance of the exchange.

It took me a couple of chapters to adjust to the writing style (it is a book that has been translated by John Cullen from the French) and to pair out the characters. It may have helped if I had a background in French or French history from this period to help with the titles and small formalities, but after a few short chapters in, that was no longer an issue for me. I found myself enjoying the book and especially looked forward to reading the chapters on the infanta, whom I had grown attached to.

It was startling for me to discover how protected these princesses were from the outside world, which added to the comprehension of the politics behind their marriages off. In one chapter on the infanta, it was noted in her travels that she would cover her eyes from the outside world of her carriage because “[t]he outside world is too ugly.” (61) This line really caught me and caused me to linger for a moment on the page. Leading up to the exchange of princesses itself, it was so ceremonious. Within seconds, it was over as the princesses crossed each others’ path over the border of the two countries.

Continuing the read, Thomas alternated chapters between Mariana Victoria and Louise Élisabeth. Following each character and their interactions with their princesses (soon to become Kings) and their new surroundings, I started to sense the difference in relationship perceptions of the princesses and their future kings. For example, when reading the infanta’s chapters I sensed the child-innocence and the little girl’s infatuation with her future husband and King. She was the youngest of the four (and her betrothed was eleven).

As the story progressed, I discovered the relationships and behaviors were not all that was hoped for in each relationship. Could two people in a political arrangement come to love each other? Would the age difference have any effect? How would these exchanges affect the futures of the two countries? For myself and other readers, did one feel sympathy for the two princesses, the kings, or the couples in general? The story was a fascinating one. Thomas did a wonderful job transitioning between the two princesses and their developing situations. I found myself growing attached to the book as I continued to read and infatuated with how the story would end and what would happen to the two relationships.

Outside of the formalities, the writing was different – more straight-forward and to the story. Whether this was with the translator or the original story, I cannot say. But I found it easy to play the story out in my head and attach myself to certain characters. (I may have almost cried at one point too…) In the end, there was a note on the sources from the author, including the fact that “[a]ll of the extracts and correspondences quoted in this book are authentic.” I appreciated this addition and found the history-lover in me grow all the more attached with the book. One thing I would have liked to have seen, although I do know I had the “Advance Uncorrected Proof” copy that was not for sale, was the addition of footnotes. To see where these sources came from and piece out what exactly were the authentic quotes would have been more enjoyable and helpful for me. Following this author’s note was also a brief history of the main characters (the two Kings and two Queens). I loved this addition as well – it allowed for both a good history refresher as well as a satisfying end to their stories. Do not read these until you have finished reading the book itself or the story will be spoiled.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. The writing style took me a moment to adjust to, but once I did I found it difficult to put the book down. It was a tale of politics and arrangements, differences in emotions and in how things can be unpredictable and be changed. I have already recommended this book to two friends I think would enjoy the story very much. I cannot wait for the book to be released in the U.S. this July and see what others have to say. For me, it was a captivating, refreshingly different, and a unique read I will continue to recommend for both the historical fiction lover and the casual reader.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.   When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

The Maze Runner was our book club read for March. I was not too excited to read the book (not my genre) but I was shockingly surprised and so glad I read it because I LOVED it.

The author did a brilliant job keeping readers engaged from the start. Reading chapter one I was instantly hooked and my brain was working to piece together everything and try to figure out what was going on. It was a mysterious adventure, and I felt as though I was finding answers and making the discoveries with the characters.

The story follows a teenage boy, Thomas, who is brought up in the box to the Glade. The other boys in the Glade, like Thomas, have no memory of their past. They live in this home-environment they created and have assigned jobs and rules to make life run efficiently and keep order. Thomas sets his eyes on the “Runners” – a group of the fittest guys who are quick at decision making as they run the maze outside of the Glade every day searching for answers and a way out. There are some catches: the Maze changes every night; the door to the Glade shuts every day at the same time; and outside of these doors at night the Grievers come out… nobody outside of the great doors during the night have ever survived the Grievers. What is this place? Why are these boys all here? Why can they not remember their past? Are they in prison?

And then, everything changes…

Something about the book made me think of past reads and movies I have seen, including: The Shining, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Village. This book was a serious page-turner. My thoughts and questions aligned with Thomas’… there were so many mysteries, I could not wait to get the answers and solve them.

This book was a great science fiction read… typically, not my style with the mechanics and apocalyptic style. However, I very much enjoyed the book Lexicon, and this book reminded of the read and kept my attention. I highly recommend it, even for the reader not so into sci-fi. The author’s writing style and mysterious nature of everything kept me hooked. I give the book a 4.5 out of 5 stars (although closer to the 5 star side than 4). I cannot wait to read the second book of the series, hopefully soon.

Now, onto the movie… I was so into the book I finished it in less than two days. We went out to rent the movie and watched it immediately after. Boy oh boy was I disappointed after finishing such a great read. I had so many images in my head and could not wait to see how they would portray them in the movie. I did not mind at all how they portrayed the maze, the Glade, the Gladers, the Greavers, or even the actors… all that was fine. It was the details they left out or just totally changed. There were too many liberties taken and caused the story and whole mystery and suspense to change for me. I wish I could vent a little more on the details missing, but I am afraid that would ruin the book for others who have not read it. Feel free to email me: playingjokersblog@gmail.com to chat more.

Back to the book, again, I highly recommend it. I have a feeling it will be a great read for our book club with so many questions and probably different interpretations that developed. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

pj - christina

Playing Jokers: a collaborative book blog


You know that phone app, TimeHop? I probably use it too often to bug my friends on Facebook with reposting the various inane statuses that I am alone in finding clever. It’s just fun to look back and see where you were on a particular day in the past. (It also serves as reminder that perhaps it’d be helpful to have less of a social media presence…)

Today on TimeHop, it showed that this very day last year, I was introducing Christina as a new contributor to the blog. Calvert was already contributing reviews by that time and the growth of our community was very exciting. Some people like to maintain full and complete control of their project. But for me, I like to share the fun and responsibility. I’m neither a prolific reader nor writer so to have any kind of activity on a blog, it should not be just me coming up with content. And besides, how boring would that be? I think part of the fun of blogging is hearing the different takes on things and the various communities that grow from blogs. That community doesn’t have to be limited to blog-to-blog, blog-to-reader. It can also be internal to a blog.

Having Christina and Calvert and a few others contribute to the blog has been a lot of fun. We are always looking to grow the team too and have probably become the pests of our social circle as we bug them to write a review or to discuss different parts of the reading and writing experience.

As you’ve probably noticed between my post last week about being busy and in a reading and reviewing slump and the sheer number of posts by Christina, that she has totally gone far and beyond what was expected of her. So if you check out our About page, you’ll notice a change. Instead of introducing her as a contributor like last year, let me now introduce her as my co-blogger!

But let’s not limit the collaboration to just us! What are some other great collaboration book blogs out there? Who does it well? Which blogs should we check out and follow?

Christina’s 15 To-Reads of 2015


Christina’s 15 To-Reads of 2015

As we enter the new year, I already have a list of to-read books in order of priority that I must read from my book shelf. Now that I have finished graduate school, I have more time to start reading these books and others. Here is a look at the top 15 books on my to-read shelf for the 2015 year you can expect reviews on:

  1. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin – Even though I started it the last week of 2014, I intend to focus on this book as the first completed book of 2015. The last of the Song of Ice and Fire series published for now… I am so excited to be caught up!
  2. Defending Jacob by William Landay – This is our January book club pick, and the next book I will be taking on after A Dance with Dragons. This book was nominated by a couple of book club members, and I am looking forward to reading it. A father defending his son against a murder conviction… this book is supposed to be suspenseful.
  3. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This book was listed on the New York Times top 10 of 2014 list and voted on as the best historical fiction of 2014 by Goodreads readers. It supposed to be good, and the historical fiction lover in me is excited to read it. I received the book during our white-elephant book exchange for our book club holiday party… bring it on!
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker – I have wanted to read this book for so long. I was obsessed with the NBC TV series and I love Dracula movies. I can’t wait to read the classic tale of the man.
  5. The Hunger Games books 1-3 by Suzanne Collins – I am embarrassed to say I have not yet read this series! After coming across book 1 recently at a book sale at the local library, I bought it and asked for books 2-3 for Christmas. I intend to start these soon to see what the excitement is all about!
  6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – I loved Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. Flynn’s writing-style is unique, suspenseful, and wickedly twisted. Looking forward to reading her third book in the new year…
  7. The Chardonnay Charades by Ellen Crosby – The first book of our book club was The Merlot Murders by Crosby. The Chardonnay Charades is the next of her series, and I heard she incorporates a lot of Civil War history into this book. Her series is based in Virginia wine country, a fitting location to go along with the VA Wine and Book Club!
  8. A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett – My book shelf would not be complete without a new Ken Follett book! I chose this one as the first of my to-read from him in 2015 because I came across it at the library book sale and did not already own it. Set in 1866 London, the story sounds suspenseful and full of Follett’s tricks and twists.
  9. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt by Mark Will-Weber – The history lover in me was so excited when I saw this book. New in 2014, follow the presidents and the role alcohol played in U.S. history. I enjoyed The History of the World in Six Glasses and imagine this has a similar take. Looking forward to finding out!
  10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – This is a different book on my list from the above… More of a self-help, how-to. My boss gave me this book, and it is on my list for books to start and finish in early 2015. This book has been around since 1936 and is supposed to be a good and helpful read to lead to success in business.
  11. Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara – Another set of authors I love (Jeff and Michael Shaara) for their historical fictions that take place during the American Revolution and Civil War. I came across this book in a library book sale and instantly picked it up. This one is on the American Revolution, a period of history I focused on in grad school and find fascinating to study and read about. Looking forward to see what Jeff Shaara has in store for us this time!
  12. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – A classic I received this past Christmas. It has been on my to-read list a while, and 2015 is the year I intend to tackle it!
  13. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern – This is one of my favorite movies, and I am looking forward to reading the book to see how it compares. I came across this book at the thrift store and added it to my book shelf… now it’s time to read it! I am especially looking forward to the tales of Ireland… after visiting the country for about three weeks, I have been meaning to go back. It is a beautiful place, and probably one of the reasons the movie is one of my all-time favorites. Maybe the book will become one of mine as well.
  14. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – This book has been on my to-read list for almost a year. I also came across this book at the thrift store and have been meaning to read it. After reading The Night Circus, I have been meaning to read this one (another circus-placed book).
  15. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – Another book that has been on my to-read shelf for over a year. I have wanted to pick this book up for a while because of my love for hiking at the Appalachian Trail. We live so close to the trail and have a couple of camp spots along the trail we would like to visit more. Now that school is over, there is nothing holding me back from reading this book… finally.

So there you have it… 15 books I am planning on reading this 2015! I am not much for new years’ resolutions, but I will try and hold true to this list to make sure I tackle all of these books this year. Cheers to the new year and happy reading! pj - christina