Monday, 30 July 2012

It's official! Peter Jackson confirms The Hobbit films will be a trilogy!

Though the on-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece The Hobbit was originally shot as two films, director Peter Jackson confirmed today that he will turn the double epic into a trilogy.

He writes:
We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance. The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.

So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of The Hobbit films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.

It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, 'a tale that grew in the telling.' 
You can read the entire message on his Facebook page.

Jackson is on record saying that although every major scene from the book has already been shot (shooting wrapped a couple of months ago), he's been interested in adding scenes that would depict additional notes on Middle Earth, written by Tolkien, at the end of the third Lord of the Rings volume, The Return of the King.

So, at least some of the actors will have to come back and shoot extra scenes to cater the third instalment.

From Entertainment Weekly:
As for where that material might come from, Jackson and his co-writers, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, are already drawing on sources beyond The Hobbit book itself — in particular, some 125 pages of additional notes Tolkien wrote at the end of Return of the King that expanded the world of The Hobbit, which Jackson has the rights to use. As Tolkien purists know, they’ve also taken a few extra liberties, inventing a couple of totally new characters, like Evangeline Lilly’s Elf warrior Tauriel. But Jackson has not yet revealed — and is perhaps still trying to work out — exactly what shape the story would take if, in fact, The Hobbit became a trilogy. 
What do you think? Are you excited about this news, or are you concerned that the films are going to take a few more liberties than are necessary? It does make a person wonder how much footage they actually shot. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was obviously three films because of the three volumes Tolkien wrote, but The Hobbit is just one book (and is much shorter than any of the three LOTR volumes at that). Perhaps, this way, The Hobbit films will be more true to the detail of the book?

Well, we can only wait and see.

The first instalment of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, is scheduled to be released worldwide on December 14th, followed by the second, There and Back Again, next Christmas. The third release is being aimed for the summer of 2014.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins [Hunger Games Trilogy, book 3]

Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But she's still not safe. A Revolution is unfolding, and everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - everyone except Katniss.

And yet she must play the most vital part in the final battle. Katniss must become their Mockingjay - the symbol of rebellion - no matter what the personal cost. (via Goodreads)

Spoiler alert! 
Don't read this review unless you've read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire!

Even though I haven't really been able to place just how much I liked or loved this series (weird, I know), I'm really sad that it's over! I've definitely got a post-series-reading hangover on my hands. So, though dystopian isn't usually my cup of tea, it's fair to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hunger Games.

Mockingjay is probably my favourite of all three. The intensity, while already high in the other two books, skyrockets. Situations become more unexpected, sometimes more unsettling, but ultimately satisfying. And though I still thought there were parts that dragged out, these were fewer and further between.

The basis of this book involves the full-scale war that erupted in the wake of Catching Fire's epic conclusion. What I've observed from reading it is that although it's a science-fiction/fantasy novel, the turmoil, losses, and emotion that Katniss endures are all very real themes that can be found in our world today. I couldn't help but draw parallels to situations in dangerous, corrupt countries such as Iraq, Syria, and even North Korea. And it makes sense because, to a certain degree, this is what Collins hoped to emulate. Here's what she has said in a Q&A session:
I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss's story came to me. One night I'm sitting there flipping around and on one channel there's a group of young people competing for, I don't know, money maybe? And on the next there's a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.
She goes onto to say that her father, who served in the US military, thought it important to teach his children the different aspects of war: wasn't enough to visit a battlefield; we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the concequences.
Indeed, there are many concequences for Katniss and those around her in Mockingjay. Some will warm your heart, some will break it, and some will probably leave appreciating your own life more. I know it did with me.

A very emotional end to a unique, well-rounded, and addictive series. My only wish now is for more!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Matt Bomer as Christian Grey? Do you really think so, Entertainment Weekly?

At about 3am last night, I was just about to go to sleep (try and get me to sleep before 2am, I dare you!) when I stupidly decided to search #MattBomer on Twitter.

Then I found the image above, and proceeded to have a coronary.

Matt Bomer as Christian Grey? Matt Bomer, the most beautiful man in the world (in my humble opinion), talking about the possibility of playing Christian Grey in the upcoming film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey?? Holy crap, that's perfect!

In my late night/early morning state, I was convinced this was a leaked cover image from a future Entertainment Weekly issue. It certainly looks authentic. But various things started refusing to add up, and that other thing called 'reason' began taking over.

First of all, the cover story says, "The wait is over. Matt Bomer talks about changing the white collar for a grey tie." Doesn't that sort of imply he's already taken the role? Before they've found a director, or even written the screenplay?

This isn't something he would do. How do I know? Well, here's what Matt said in an article on HitFix, where he talks about another risque role – playing a stripper in the film Magic Mike:
Bomer says he was "terrified and confused" on why he was considered for the film, but Soderbergh's involvement sealed the deal.

"He's a bucket list director. He's someone I dreamed about working with for my entire life. I knew he'd be the right person to do it and he'd be the right person to tell the story. I read the script and it didn't shy away from the real aspects of this world," Bomer says. "He said, 'Jump off a cliff and I'll catch you.' And we just dove in 150%."
Who knows, perhaps they've written the screenplay and found the director, but are keeping it all a big secret? Hm, seems very doubtful. And, as far as I know, casting comes after both of these are ticked off the list.

Not to mention, what's this about an Oscars pool on the cover? It's a bit out-of-season, isn't it? Add in the fact that season 4 of White Collar has just begun, so why would Matt be showing up on the cover of a magazine talking about a film in the very early stages of development, instead of the TV show in which he currently stars?

Anyway, enough analysing, I think I've convinced myself of its inauthenticity now! But hopefully we won't be waiting much longer for more legitimate Fifty Shades movie news. In the meantime, just enjoy this photoshopped EW cover and continue watching Neal Caffrey out-pretty and out-smart everyone on White Collar.

What do you think of the cover? And who would play your Christian Grey?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins [Hunger Games Trilogy, book 2]

Suzanne Collins continues the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen in the phenomenal Hunger Games trilogy.Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. (via Goodreads)

Spoiler alert! 
Don't read this review unless you've read The Hunger Games!

It's pretty incredible how fast I read Catching Fire – I think it took me just over a day! Usually, when I read a novel this fast, my enjoyment is almost palpable. I'll enter a review spewing out how much I loved reading every second of it, saying that I finished so quickly because I couldn't bear to put it down.

The second statement is more than true. Much like with the first book in the trilogy, I felt compelled to read on, and it had a lot to do with the punches that come at the end of each chapter. They're mostly magnificent revelations or discoveries that come to Katniss one way or another, urging the reader to move forward and find out what she's going to do next.

But even with all these twists and cliffhangers, I still found Catching Fire dull at times. Some of the novel repeats a lot of what happened in the first installment, only adding in different circumstances. It didn't pick up and become truly exciting until around the last sixty/seventy percent.

Katniss also has a tendency to get on my nerves. While I admire her enormous strength and courage, sometimes her stubborness is frustrating. But I understand why she needs to be tough, and why she needs to put up walls: for self-preservation. Living in a nation overwhelmed with turmoil and fear, who can blame her?

The ending is what saved Catching Fire, because what happens is highly unexpected and spectacular. It's definitely worth sticking through some of the monotony of the earlier pages to reach it. There are even sections that I've highlighted so that I can go back and revisit them later on, which is something I didn't do with the first book.

Altogether, Catching Fire is good, even though the first half lets it down slightly.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

The review for Mockingjay (book 3) will follow in the next few days.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Where has Quote of the Week gone, you ask?

Just as a bonus, here's the king of quotes!
I've decided to change Quote of the Week to Quote of the Month. On average, I publish up to three posts a week of reviews, articles, and the occasional guest post, interview, or giveaway. And I've started to notice that, because of this relatively low number, all these weekly quotes tend to overwhelm the blog and compromise its appearance.

So, from now on, I'm going to post a quote at the beginning of each month when I know there'll be a fairer amount of content between each one. Makes more sense, right?

Also, if you'd like to see one of your favourite quotes featured as the QOTM, let me know.

Happy quoting!

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [Hunger Games Trilogy, book 1]

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

 Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (via Goodreads)

Obviously, The Hunger Games is a hugely successful series. Why has it taken me this long to read it? Well, part of me wanted to rebel against another trend, and part of me was afraid that I'd become as addicted to it as I did Twilight. Why the latter was a bad thing exactly, I don't know.

But the trilogy is impossible to ignore – it's everywhere. Even one of my very good friends, who usually dislikes reading and says she hasn't read a book in years, bought the complete trilogy and absolutely loves it. She's about to finish the third book less than two months after she got the box set, which is pretty amazing for her (she knows that's true)! So that gave me enough reason to stop avoiding The Hunger Games and read the copy I'd purchased for my Kindle.

My expectations were high. Was I impressed? Yes. Was I blown away? No. Don't get me wrong: the plot is extremely unique, well-written, and the characters are completely original. But I felt Part One dragged on slightly and, also, I don't think dystopian fiction is for me. It's just too disheartening. While there were light moments in The Hunger Games, a lot of them were overshadowed by the many dark moments. This is no doubt the intention, but it didn't sit well with me. I like a fair dose of happiness in my books.

In spite of this, I read the book fairly quickly so I must have enjoyed it somewhat. I found myself caring for many of the characters, and this drove me to read on. It's impossible not to feel for them when they've been forced into this grotesque situation.

I'll definitely continue reading the trilogy. I'm even debating whether I should start Catching Fire now or read a more 'uplifting' novel first. Oh, decisions...

Rating: 4 / 5

Friday, 20 July 2012

Many rooms with views

My hands are raised. I'm guilty.

My reading of A Room With A View by E.M. Forster has stalled. It's not that it isn't capturing my attention...

...okay, that's exactly what it is! But this is one of those novels that mustn't enter my did not finish column, and here's why.

A few months ago, I did a short creative writing course and our final assignment was to write a short story. My story was set in a Tuscan town, and revolved around one character observing a particular stranger from the balcony of their apartment. After I submitted it, my tutor gave me some valuable constructive criticism, also asking me who my influences were. He name-checked A Room With A View, stating that my stranger on the street was reminiscent of a character in Forster's novel. Even though it had been patiently sitting on my bookshelf, I hadn't read the book, and now it was willing me to open its pages more than ever.

I had intended to polish my short story a little more and then post it on my blog to get some opinions, but after reading my tutor's comparison, I decided against it until I could read A Room With A View. I need to find these similarities myself, and see how much of my short story I can improve from that perspective.

But A Room With A View is testing my patience. I've said enough times during my reviews that I really am not a patient reader, and for a book to keep my interest the plot has to be steady, but group intriguing incidents close enough together that I'm not going to get bored. This rule usually bends for the classics – Jane Austen takes her time, but her wit and observations reel me in – though it's often the case that I need to spend a longer time-frame reading them.

So, I've had an idea. Every month, I'm going to pick one classic novel from my shelf and spend four weeks reading it alongside contemporary books. That way, I'm not going to get frustrated that I'm spending so much time waiting for a story to evolve when I could be reading something with more immediate gratification. And my reviews won't stall!

I'm also thinking of starting a monthly classics reading group on this blog, much like the Sense and Sensibility read-along I did last summer. Let me know in the comments section if this is something you might be interested in.

For now, though, I'll spend the next few weeks with A Room With A View. And, hey, maybe you'll finally get to read that short story of mine!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Guest post + giveaway: Luba Lesychyn, author of museum mystery Theft by Chocolate

Please welcome Luba Lesychyn, author of the delectable mystery, Theft by Chocolate. She's here to fill us in about the creation of the novel, and also give the chance to win US$150 towards a very satisfying chocolate stash! Read on to find out more about Luba, read the blurb, and enter the giveaway.

You can also visit Luba's blog to stay updated and purchase a copy of Theft by Chocolate.

A cinemaniac’s journey to writing a museum mystery
Anyone reading my bio would conclude it was a no-brainer for a person who had worked in Canada’s largest museum for more than twenty years to write a novel set in a museum. Ironically, it was actually my love of movies that led to the writing of Theft By Chocolate, a sassy museum mystery about a woman looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places. So how did I get from Point A to Point B? Well, it occurred via what seemed like a lot of wrong turns. But as I look back, I realize I was always headed in the right direction and ended up in the most perfect of destinations.

One of my earliest childhood memories is cuddling in my mother’s arms in a movie theater during a screening of a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. The proximity of a cinema to the family homestead meant it was a regular stomping ground, and as soon as my big brother and I were old enough, we were hitting the Saturday double-header by ourselves.

As for my writing, the first time I realized I loved to write was when a short story I had penciled was a big hit with my grade four classmates. But after primary studies and high school, I passed on English Lit due to my dislike of and clear inaptitude for literary analysis. Instead, I majored in history and minored in art history. I did write my first book then, namely my Master’s thesis about a ruling family in a tiny principality in Renaissance Italy, but for some reason it failed to become a bestseller. It did, thankfully, fulfill the requirements of my program. (BTW, I recently Googled it and was shocked to find you can actually access the work on line through my university’s eLibrary. A must-read for anyone with masochistic tendencies!)

After graduate studies, I landed in the offices of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and other than completing a magazine journalism program in the evenings, the only writing outlet I had consisted of drafting marketing materials and descriptions for courses, lectures and workshops for the Museum’s Programs Department quarterly brochure.

But then I discovered the Toronto International Film Festival and for the next twenty plus years I took vacation time to attend the Festival full-time. And when the beloved friend who introduced me to TIFF moved abroad, I began writing emails to her reviewing my screenings and reporting on festival adventures. Many more friends were interested in the annual journal, and they told their friends, and they told their friends. My list of recipients grew exponentially and each year, the size of my reportage amounted to a small book. When platforms such as web sites became user friendly for techno idiots like me and blogging became a norm, my journal took on new forms.

I loved reporting on TIFF to my audience, but I finally had to give it up to save my sanity and salvage my film-festing enjoyment. But what was a writer to do? Well, I enrolled in a screen-writing program and completed a screenplay. Then I started Theft By Chocolate in a summer writing workshop, later completing it in a creative writing program.

Movies will forever be my first love and no matter what the subject matter of future novels, I will always find a way to use film as a motif in my stories. The art form is embedded in my soul. But how perfect was it that I was able to intertwine so many of my passions in one work – film, chocolate, museums and writing? I hope readers will enjoy the film references as well as the homage I’ve paid to movies like To Catch a Thief with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn’s and Peter O’Toole’s How To Steal a Million. Theft By Chocolate is a modern story, but it’s told with a bit of that Old Hollywood charm and humor.

Blurb: Theft by Chocolate
Chocolate addict Kalena Boyko wasn’t prepared for this. Heading to work at Canada’s largest museum as an administrator, she hopes for quiet and uninterrupted access to her secret chocolate stash. Instead she’s assigned to manage the high-profile Treasures of the Maya exhibition with her loathed former boss, Richard Pritchard.

With no warning, her life is capsized and propelled into warp speed as she stumbles across an insider plot that could jeopardize the exhibit and the reputation of the museum.

After hearing about a recent botched theft at the museum and an unsolved jewel heist in the past from security guard and amateur sleuth Marco Zeffirelli, Kalena becomes suspicious of Richard and is convinced he’s planning to sabotage the Treasures of the Maya exhibition.

Her suspicions, and the appearance of the mysterious but charming Geoffrey Ogden from the London office, don’t help her concentration. The Treasures of the Maya seems cursed as problem after problem arises, including the disappearance of the world’s oldest piece of chocolate, the signature object in the exhibit.

Theft By Chocolate is inspired by a real-life and never-solved heist at a Canadian museum in the 1980s.

The giveaway
Do you love chocolate as much as Kalena, the heroine in Theft By Chocolate? Here’s your chance to indulge in $150 US worth! The Giveaway Grand Prize is a gift certificate to a delectable chocolate online retailer. Winner chooses from one of three sites:, , or . To be eligible for the Grand Prize, enter the Rafflecopter below. Remember to sign up for Luba’s email announcements (worth five entries). On occasion she’ll send out exclusive announcements for special events, blog posts, giveaways and free swag! On July 31st, the winner will be chosen at random and notified via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Review: Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Our journey began in fire...

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness—beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I'd never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily...

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other's most private wounds... and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn't tear us apart... (via Goodreads)

I've seen Bared to You being mentioned as 'the next Fifty Shades of Grey', and this is what immediately drew me towards it. And considering how much I adored the latter, it was very difficult for me to be objective when reading Sylvia Day's novel so expect a lot of comparisons between the two as you read on!

I will say, firstly, that I didn't enjoy Bared to You nearly as much as Fifty Shades. While it is a much shorter book in length, the writing isn't as clever and this made it drag out. I felt like there were many scenes that could've been shortened, or maybe cut altogether, to make space for character evolution that appeared rushed and underdeveloped in places. This included the two main characters, Gideon and Eva, whose intimate relationship seemed choppy because of it.

Then there were the character's friends and relatives. There was Eva's friend, Cary. The reader is supposed to feel the bond between the two as they support each other through their various emotional struggles, but I just found him obnoxious and, at times, unnecessary.

Then Gideon's friend, Magdalene. She showed up disapproving of Gideon's new relationship with Eva, but she ended up being another character whose personality seemed to jump from one confrontation to another with limited grace.

The sex scenes in Bared to You are also far more explicit than they are in Fifty Shades. While Fifty Shades' erotic moments are described in equal amount of detail, the language E L James uses is subtle and more tasteful, which is why I think those books can appeal to such a wide mainstream audience. Bared to You, however, uses language that can be considered 'more typical' of an intense erotic novel (lots of harsh expletives).

I think Penguin have picked up Day's novel in the wake of Fifty Shades, hoping that fans of Christian and Anastasia will be left with enough of a craving to, ahem, desire some satisfaction from Gideon and Eva (I should mention that Gideon Cross, much like Christian Grey, is a famous, young CEO billionaire. The notable difference? Gideon lives in Manhattan!) Certainly a smart move from the publisher's standpoint, but I can't help but think that they've rushed out and grabbed the first erotic novel with enough similarities to Fifty Shades to be able to churn out some attention. And, seeing as Bared to You has made it onto The New York Times bestseller list, it's obviously worked.

Fans of Fifty, perhaps give this a go, but don't expect to be blown away again. There's no clever inner goddess or classy subconscious here!

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review: The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner

It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, kept afloat by the flask in his glove compartment and the open bottles in his Flint, Michigan home.

Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. He cruises and steals, running from, and to, the police, compelled by reasons he frustratingly can’t put into words. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by. Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives hurtle toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called “one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”

In this rich, beautifully crafted story, Weesner accomplishes a rare feat: He’s written a transcendent piece of literature in deceptively plain language, painting a gripping portrait of a father and a son, otherwise invisible among the mundane, everyday details of life in blue collar America. A true and enduring American classic. (via Goodreads)

When I was contacted about providing a review for The Car Thief, I was immediately intrigued. It's not often a book is called 'an undiscovered American classic' (well, unless it's just me that hasn't heard it all that much!)

It begins with a lot of promise. In chapter one, we're instantly presented with Alex driving his latest steal: a 1959 Buick Riviera. He's guiding the car through a cold, snow-covered winter's day, aimlessly drifting from one place to another while he tries to decide where to go next.

That opening immediately sets the tone for the novel. Weesner has written it in such a way that suggests the protagonist is confronting deep personal depression. Alex goes through the motions with a lot of apathy, as if he's trying to protect himself from realising the extent of his difficult situation. The result is deceptively basic, methodical prose.

Unfortunately, though, as I moved further through the book, I began to lose interest. It isn't a fast-paced novel and sometimes I found the level of detail quite mundane. While I recognise and appreciate the techniques Weesner has employed to achieve a somewhat tragic and despairing effect, it just wasn't enough to sustain my attention.

Even though The Car Thief wasn't exactly my cup-of-tea, I can certainly see it appealing to others. If you have the patience that I don't seem to possess, and enjoy stories that deal with deep, personal affliction, it's definitely worth picking up.

Rating: 3 / 5

To learn more about The Car Thief and to purchase a copy, visit the Astor + Blue website.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Quote of the Week

“I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
- Lewis Carroll