Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince {Book + Film}

{Warning: I tried my best to avoid spoilers, but it's basically impossible with this one.}

With the last book in the series, the Order of the Phoenix, I found that I enjoyed the book less and the film more than I remembered. But with the sixth book, things were reversed. :)

I've always considered the Half-Blood Prince to be one of my least favorite books in the Harry Potter series, if not my least favorite. So I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed rereading it this time. There isn't an awful lot going on plot-wise in the book until near the end...the memories and backstory of Voldemort are obviously the focus in this story. I loved those. Even rereading the book and knowing what's happening, it's still fascinating to read all of this information about one of the creepiest villains ever written. :)

Harry's obsession with finding out what Draco's doing gets a little old, and then there's the whole Lavender and Won-Won catastrophe. (Don't even get me started on that.) But there are still some great moments, like the Felix Felicis scenes, which are among my favorites in the series. And the end is so suspenseful and done really well, from the cave until the very end, which of course always makes me cry. How could it not?

Okay...now for the film. I'm just going to say from the start that this is probably the most disappointing adaptation in the whole series, in my opinion. There is so much emphasis on the relationships between characters and not enough on Voldemort's history.

First of all I'll mention the things that I don't like. Because there are a lot of them. :)

I felt like they dumbed down the whole mysterious Malfoy aspect for the film. By showing him with a cabinet in Knockturn Alley and then the matching cabinet at Hogwarts, they make things much too obvious. Then there's the discussion between Mr. Weasley and Harry about it.

As for the relationships, watching Lavender and Ron is painful, but it's awful reading it in the book, too, so I guess that's okay. :) Also, most of the moments between Harry and Ginny are just awkward in the film. Maybe they're meant to be, but I like their relationship a lot more as it played out in the books. I'm disappointed that they left out the whole Tonks bit and automatically jump to her and Lupin in a relationship.

I really like the young Voldemort casting, but I don't like the teenage Voldemort. I much preferred the guy they used in the Chamber of Secrets film. This one doesn't even vaguely resemble adult Voldemort...his face is too round or something.

The attack on the Burrow feels so random and unnecessary. It's like the filmmakers felt like they needed an action-y part in the middle, so they just stuck something in there. And later on, what's with Snape not even punishing Harry for using Secumsempra? Harry just ran off and Snape wasn't going to punish him for nearly (accidentally) killing another student?

Maybe I'm being nitpicky with those things. But here are my three biggest qualms with the film: 1) The Voldemort memory scenes are cut short and only a couple of them are even shown. There's so much more information in the book that it's almost ridiculous. 2) Dumbledore doesn't immobilize Harry during the confrontation scene. I know that Harry promised to obey everything Dumbledore said, and he was told to stay hidden. But in this case I think Harry would have broken his promise, unless he was magically unable to move, like in the book. He would not have just stood there and watched what happened! Seriously, this drives me crazy and is my least favorite part of the whole movie...maybe the worst change they made in any of the film adaptations. 3) There is no funeral at the end. Doesn't the character who dies at least deserve that? Instead, all he gets is a cheesy wand salute thing. While reading the book, the funeral makes me cry more than the actual death.

Whew...now on to what I do like. :) I like seeing the creepy place where Snape lives. Am I the only one who never really thought about where any of the Hogwarts teachers live when they're not at school?

The scene when they're trying to win the Felix Felicis cracks me up. I love how Hermione's hair gets progressively frizzier and how she reacts to not being the best in the class. :) That's definitely not something she's used to! I also love her friendship with Harry. It's so sweet how Harry comforts her in the canary scene. And I love when Harry takes Luna to the party! Luna is amazing, as usual. Probably the most perfect casting ever.

The film also contains two hilarious, lovely comedic bits from Harry and Ron: Ron under the influence of the love potion and Harry under the influence of Felix Felicis. Those scenes keep me laughing and it is so refreshing to see those two characters in a new way. :) I especially love Harry's carefree matter-of-fact-ness with Professor Slughorn.

So...yeah. I made it sound like I hate this movie, and I really don't. Like I said, it's just my least favorite of the films. I don't they did a very good job of translating it from book to film.

I promise things will be more positive in my last review, considering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is my favorite. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers.

I love Jane Austen. I love pretty book covers. So of course I'm smitten with this new book:

It is such a fun, charming, beautiful book. I knew that I would like it (see above), but it is just done so well. Basically, it's what the title says: an overview of different book covers of Jane Austen's classic novels. It begins with the first editions of Sense and Sensibility and goes up through recent editions that you can buy on Amazon right now. Obviously they can't include every single cover that's been released, but it's very thorough.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a bit like a coffee table book...you can read it little by little, browsing through, or you can read it all in one sitting (which is pretty much what I did). I liked the way that the covers were organized: first in chronological order, but then other editions were grouped into categories like foreign editions, bind-ups of all of the novels, and movie covers. (It made me smile to see that publishers have been releasing cheesy movie covers for over 70 years now!) The layout of the entire book is really nice...I loved the quotes and informative articles scattered throughout. And the book itself is gorgeous, from the colors used to the sturdy matte pages that have a really good new book smell. :) Just being honest here.

Can you tell that I loved this book? It was so interesting to see all of these interpretations of the same stories, and to realize that even though the stories stayed the same, the covers varied drastically because of the time period, the intended audience, etc. There are all sorts of book covers here: the good (some are gorgeous), the bad, and the ugly. They're all accompanied by interesting commentary, which at times is hilariously snarky. (There have been some weird Austen covers, you guys, and the author doesn't mind poking fun at them.)

This book made me want to reread all of Jane Austen's novels and finally pick up the biography about her that I own. Even though the focus is on the actual covers, I still learned a few new things about one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed the book so much and highly recommend it. I think that any Austen fan will love it, and if that Austen fan also happens to appreciate pretty book covers, then you can't go wrong with this one. :)

*Quirk Books kindly sent me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Outlet finds.

Late last year I found Book Outlet, with their temptingly cheap prices on brand-new bargain books. Of course I don't need more books right now, but it seems that I can't resist cheap books.* I've ordered from them several times this year, but today I thought I'd share what I found for their big Black Friday sale. Everything on the website was 30% off, plus you could get a coupon for $10 off your order, no minimum.
Like I've mentioned before, I feel a bit weird posting "book hauls." But I personally love reading them or seeing them, so maybe some of you will enjoy it, too.

First of all, I got two Christian historical fiction novels by authors who I always enjoy: Karen Witemeyer and Siri Mitchell. These are both very recent releases...Stealing the Preacher came out last year and Love Comes Calling was released early this year.

I stumbled across these books through the recommendation feature on Book Outlet. I was drawn in by the fact that they were illustrated by Brett Helquist, who also illustrated A Series of Unfortunate Events. I specifically got them both in paperback so the covers would match, but apparently they ran out of copies of the first book and had to send me a different cover. It's pretty ugly and I'm a bit disappointed that they don't match, but oh well. The story still sounds good. :) By the way, this was the first time with a Book Outlet order that I didn't receive the exact cover that I ordered, though I've heard it happening with other people.
Two more middle grade books. I'm pretty sure that The Princess Curse is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and I've heard it recommended for fans of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine (who happen to be two of my favorite authors and have been since I was a kid). As for A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E., isn't that cover wonderful? Something about it reminds me of Peter Pan. Anyway, the story sounds like a mix of Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre, and Harry Potter, so that sounds awesome.
Then I got a YA novel, Meant to Be. I don't know much about it except that the cover is pretty and maybe part of it is set in London? I also got Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time! I feel so uncomfortable buying new store-bought clothes because of the conditions in which they're made, but I want to be more informed about it all.
And lastly, a couple of random books. I think I've mentioned this before, but I collect picture books. It started during my early childhood education program in college and snowballed from there. I basically already have my future children's library of picture books, stored in boxes under my bed. I'm especially fond of quirky picture books, and when I heard this one was set up like a silent film, I really wanted to read it. It's such a funny little book with an interesting twist at the end. :)
I also got a craft book of stuffed animal patterns, which to be honest, I'm the tiniest bit disappointed with. Most of the animals are really cute, but they all have a homemade quality to them that I personally like, but that some people wouldn't appreciate. Which means I'd be hesitant to make them as gifts. Also, I think they seem more decorative rather than toys for children, because I don't know how well they'd hold up. (All of the patterns have to be enlarged by 200% before you can make them. And even then, the animals are tiny...just a few inches tall. So they'd really have to be enlarged even more.)
Lastly, I bought a little copy of Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech, because it's pretty inspiring.
About a month before, I had ordered four books, so I'll throw them in here, too. (This was before I knew about the upcoming sale.) I got Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (I've read most of her books and enjoy them), Dangerous by Shannon Hale, a biography of Beatrix Potter (which I got from the library last year but didn't get very far before it had to be returned...I'm looking forward to reading it all!), and Ginger Roger's autobiography (now I just need to find Fred Astaire's because I love that duo, and they redid these covers to coordinate with each other).

I highly recommend Book Outlet, but be warned that it's a dangerous place. :) The prices are amazing and you can find some really good stuff if you take the time to look. They often have newer releases for less than half of what they'd be on Amazon. They also offer scratch and dent books for even less, and in my experience, with hardcovers there's usually nothing worse than the corner of the dust jacket being torn. With paperbacks, the damage might be more obvious, like the cover being bent down the middle or something.

You do have to pay shipping, but you can usually find at least a $5 off coupon online if you look hard enough. And do know that sometimes a book might be a bit dirty (the Neil Gaiman speech was, but I just wiped it off) or have some sort of sticker on it...just in case you're really picky about your books looking brand-new. With these prices, though, you really can't complain!

P.S. I'm in no way affiliated with Book Outlet. I'm just a bookworm on a budget and a happy customer. :)

* I know I have a problem. I'm going to try not to buy so many books in 2015 and focus on shrinking my "own but unread" list. But I say that every year, and you see how that turns out...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: Here to Stay, by Melissa Tagg. I never know exactly what to call this genre, but it's basically a Christian romantic comedy, with a bit of family drama thrown in. It's set during late fall into Christmas time, so now seemed like the perfect time to read it! I'm really enjoying it so far. :)

Knitting: A pair of fingerless gloves for my mom for Christmas. I can mention that here because she knows about them. :) I spun this yarn to use for her gift, because she loves pink and I don't. She also picked out the pattern.

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

I know I haven't been around the blog much this month, but I haven't had a lot to post about. Since I've been knitting Christmas gifts, I can't share those projects. I do have a few things lined up, but hopefully I'll get back in the swing of things after Christmas. I have some exciting new ideas and plans for the new year, including the possibility of a new Etsy shop! :) Anyway, more on that later.

I spun this yarn from some fiber I bought at the fiber festival last spring. I don't know what kind of wool it was, but it's pretty soft. I spun it as a 2 ply and ended up with approx. 162 yards of worsted weight.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Christmas tune.

Here's something to brighten your Wednesday! Just another reason to love Jars of Clay. :)

{It cracks me up when the camera falls.}