Thursday, July 20, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: The Silver Chair

I have recently been on a The Silver Chair kick, thanks to talking about the upcoming film adaptation with some of the mods and members of NarniaWeb. It started with giving the audio book a second listen, after not going back to it for years because I hated Jeremy Northam's take on Puddleglum (read: it wasn't Tom Baker). Then I followed that up with the Focus on the Family radio adaptation, as well as the BBC Radio version. Due to that, this month's ThrowBook Thursday is a bit of a comparative review, taking a look at the different versions of the story.



The Silver Chair is perennially in my favorites of the Narnia books (to be fair, I love all of them), and with the production of the film adaptation moving forward, I'm hoping the production team really gets Narnia as a whole, not just this story. The movies till now have had a mixed vision of Narnia, falling somewhere between Lewis' Narnia and the average fantasy world of Hollywood (usually on the latter end of that spectrum). But The Silver Chair seems a more straightforward tale to adapt. That being said, I tend to fall back on a couple of scenes (and characters) that are my litmus test for how well an adaptation of this book does.

Jill Meets Aslan

Really, if you don't get Aslan, you don't get Narnia. But this scene is especially important to get right because it lays the groundwork for the rest of the book not only in tone but in theme. Jill's reactions to Aslan from this point to the end are the landmarks of her character development. The Signs (and the call to remember them) guide the story forward, and Aslan's character here is perhaps his most inscrutable appearance because Jill's encounter with him is the most fearful and unsure. So far, the best version of this scene is actually (for my money) the BBC TV version from the early '90s. Though its production value leaves a great deal to be desired, this scene comes across almost perfectly as far as Jill's and Aslan's characterization go. This is the only version to include Aslan's line about swallowing up "girls, boys, men and women, kings and emperors, cities and realms" and get the tone that Lewis describes ("it just said it") right. Neither Northam (who reads the audio book) nor David Suchet (who plays Aslan in the FotF version) quite get the tone right, whereas the BBC radio version elides this exchange altogether (likely because they spent nearly half an hour getting to it, filling in the gap between The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair with scenes in England and Narnia).


Puddleglum's Speech

This is perhaps the most well-known and iconic scene in the novel. Puddleglum is the character most likely to go wrong in any adaptation. On the surface, he seems to be nothing but an eternal pessimist, but really he is the sort who wishes to be prepared for the worst outcome. So far the Puddleglum farthest from the book is (for me) the FotF version; much of this comes down to his accent, but it's really the way his voice always sounds so doleful. He rarely gets the levity of the book's Puddleglum, and the one time when it really comes through, it falls flat and seems off. That moment comes in this scene, when Puddleglum says, "It's funny, if you think about it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right." And it winds up ruining the power of the rest of his speech.

In the BBC Radio adaptation, this scene is also truncated. There's no mention of the Sun or Aslan until Puddleglum goes into his speech, and the scene feels entirely too quick. The tension and power are undercut by the need to speed through the beats. And the best line, the one that pushes the speech into excellence, is dropped. There is no "Four babies playing a game can make up a dream world that licks your real world hollow." And that is disappointing.

For my money, Tom Baker's Puddleglum still does the best at delivering this speech, though Northam does it justice as well.


Other Points of Comparison

The BBC radio adaptation is the briefest of the four adaptations we've had so far, and its briefer length unsettles the flow of the story. Rather than begin with Jill and Eustace behind the gym at Experiment House, it adds scenes of Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy discussing Narnia and what's gone on since they've been back in England. These scenes (very clumsy affairs that shift the book's opening focus from Jill to Eustace) are interspersed with scenes from Narnia that follow Caspian's life from his marriage to Ramandu's daughter to her death and Rilian's disappearance. While the Narnian scenes (mostly) serve no more purpose than to present the prince's story upfront, they also make the opening of the story take a bit longer than necessary. The one shining moment of this sequence is the deft handling of Drinian's explanation to Caspian about Rilian's disappearance and Caspian's reaction. The BBC TV version, with its half-hearted drawing of a sword, makes this scene a laugh instead of a serious moment.

The BBC Radio adaptation also shortens the scene with Aslan at the beginning, and speeds over Ettinsmoor so that there is no encounter with the giants there to contrast with the giants of Harfang. The children and Puddleglum have no sooner set out than they reach the giant's bridge and meet the Green Lady and her knight. Other small things are dropped (such as Puddleglum's tipsiness and the sleeping Father Time) and the Signs don't recur and repeat as much as in the book. One other significant scene that is removed in this adaptation is the lunch scene in Harfang during which Puddleglum and the children realize they've been eating a Talking Stag. This scene is necessary because of how much it emphasizes the way the trio has strayed from Aslan's instructions by coming to Harfang.

The FotF radio version has high production values, thrilling music, and generally excellent casting recommending it. However, as I said, its Puddleglum is a bit too dour. There is also the issue of Suchet's Aslan. Many people I know often treat Suchet's Aslan in the same way they treat the outlandish costuming of the BBC TV serials: poking fun with a bit of love. While FotF has such high production values, Suchet's Aslan is decidedly not Aslan. His attempts to sound like a lion often result in strange enunciation and result in readings of lines that mar the meaning rather than supporting it.

The BBC TV adaptation is, though low in production value, a fine adaptation if you're looking for faithfulness to the book. With a few small exceptions (Puddleglum's panic attack in the Underworld, the moving of part of Aslan's speech from Voyage to the end of The Silver Chair), this is the closest adaptation to the book, taking much of the dialogue directly from the book. Tom Baker is still a fantastic Puddleglum in my estimation, and the shining point of this version.

The audio book, read by Jeremy Northam, is splendidly narrated. I can't recommend it enough.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cake Book Tag: Books for Dessert


This is a book tag that I'm nabbing (and modifying) from Cait at Paper Fury (who nabbed and modified it from #bookstagram). I'll try to go with more recent books in cases where there are many answers I could give.

1. Chocolate Cake: A dark book you absolutely love


Hmm . . . I don't usually "love" dark books. But V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series is one of the darker I've read recently, and I did love those. (Note: They feature vulgarity, violence, and the occasional mostly tasteful scene of human love-making, so if those aren't your cup of tea, or you're like me and appreciate knowing beforehand, this is your warning.)

2. Vanilla Cake: A light read



I just poked through my reading challenge for this year on Goodreads and . . . I've not read many books this year I'd deem "light" (and truth to tell, a lot more of them are dark than I'd have given myself credit for. I still put SoM as my answer for dark books.) Of this year's readings, I'd say Kathryn Lasky's The Capture is the lightest, although it certainly has its fair share of dark things. But it's also the book written for the youngest audience that I've read this year, so there's that.

3. Red Velvet: A book that gave you mixed emotions (Um. Red Velvet isn't mixed emotions. It is JOY.)


The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. I started out loving this book, and by midway through there was no mystery left except how quickly would the main characters catch up with what the readers know and act on it (spoiler alert: almost the end of the book). And then there's the small matter of the final chapter being more than an open ending: it practically says, "There's another book to be written!" while the author has yet to announce any such book. That sort of thing irritates me about as much as cliffhangers to TV seasons that might not be picked up for renewal (I'm looking at you, Galavant season 1).

4. Cheesecake: A book you would recommend to anyone


Narnia. Till We Have Faces. Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a more recent book I'd put on this list (though again, there is a caveat of a sex scene that honestly feels out of place and is more graphic than I care for. However, it's easily skipped without damage to the story.)

5. Coffee Cake: A book you started but never finished


The Man in the High Castle. I just. Couldn't. Finish. The style was so clunky and jarring. The roots of the show are there, but I couldn't be bothered to keep digging for them when there were a hundred other books calling my name that were more interesting.

6. Carrot Cake: A book with great writing


The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. It just gets better each time I read it.

7. Tiramisu: Book that left you wanting more


The Heart of What was Lost by Tad Williams. I wanted to dive into The Witchwood Crown as soon as I finished this one, but alas, it hadn't been released yet. (And I still have to reread To Green Angel Tower first.)

8. Cupcakes: Series with 4+ books


Harry Potter. The Wheel of Time. For series I've actually read at least part of this year: Narnia, Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief/Attolia, Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters, Tad Williams' Osten Ard/Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. All of them are worth the read.

9. Fruit Cake: Book that wasn't what you anticipated


Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I went in expecting a dark but hopeful book about games and carnivals and death traps. I got a romance. I still (mostly) enjoyed it, though, once the true genre emerged.

10. Lamington (favourite Australian books)


I don't know what that is. (Ok. I can mention Garth Nix because he's Australian and I love the Old Kingdom series, but really, I know nothing about Australian books so I'm going to make this one different.)

10. Strawberry Shortcake: Favorite American books


I'm going to list a couple here. Mary Robinette Kowal's Ghost Talkers (while not American-set, it does feature an American main character) is a phenomenal book. Dan Wells' John Cleaver books are very American and very chilling. Robert C. O'Brien's books are American fantasy and science fiction I've enjoyed. It's one thing I'd like to see more of: speculative fiction (anything fantastic, science fictional, or otherwise outside the "normal" realm) that is American rather than being pseudo-European/medieval and written by Americans. I realize that Albion Academy doesn't quite fit this (because I have too much fun mixing mythologies) but it's still something I'd like to see more of.



Are there any books you'd categorize differently from mine? Any you'd like to add? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Bookshelf Tour of the Mossflower Library (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Mossflower library tour. We left off in the tail-end of the Gs last time, which means this installment picks up with the Grimm brothers.


Lots of myth and folklore on this shelf.



Moving on from Beowulf (just kidding; we never move on from Beowulf), there's Tony Hillerman's Navajo mysteries. These books are infused with Southwestern Native American/Amerindian/First Nations culture, including folklore and religious beliefs. Also, Robin Hobb lurks at the end of the shelf.

This shelf seems to exemplify my reading habits: literary non-fic, sci-fi and fantasy, mystery, with a dash of poetry for good measure.

Robert Holdstock (Mythago Wood is a must-read!), Hosseini (still need to read this one), and lots of Bunnicula.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of books? The Vashta Nerada, that's who. Count the shadows.

From Howe to Hugo to Jacques.

Yes, that is a copy of Fractured Fairy Tales. Yes, the Rocky and Bullwinkle "Fractured Fairy Tales." Yes, Edward Everett Horton still narrates them in my head. No, I can't read them aloud in his voice (yet).


Behold the gloriousness of my (nearly) complete Redwall collection. (I'm not exactly eager to add all of the later books as I feel they petered off in quality after Taggerung/Lord Brocktree or so.)

Side note: Voyage of Slaves is signed because BJ came near enough to where we were living when it released for us to actually go see him and get his autograph.

The Bowers Files and a few random Js, including the wonderful Jim Henson biography.

Steven James is brilliant. Read him.


Diana Wynne Jones. Need I say more?

Shout out to my brother who got me a VW bus for Christmas one year. One day, maybe he'll get me a human-sized one.


The beginning of The Wheel of Time. (Technically, the first two books are missing because my brother is borrowing them. I'm sure I'll have them back before Samwise finishes elementary school.)

The mask on the spine of The Dragon Reborn is even creepier in the shadows.


The rest of the series, in two parts (ironically, my favorite books in the series are at the bottom of the left and the top of the right):



The end of the Js, some Stephen King, and the first Wheel of Time companion book.

Also, the time books in the middle are Alexander Key's Witch Mountain books.

Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling. Same difference, right?

Kidding. Kipling is better.


About half of my Dean Koontz collection. The other half is at my parents' because they were acquired during a period when Mom basically took home my McKay's purchases because she'll read them faster than I.
If you haven't read Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey, go out and do so. It's a wonderful spin on Austenian England with just a touch of magic.


Speaking of England + magic, Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series is a fun place to go if you like fairy tales and history. Also, I own a lot of unread Stephen Lawhead books.

I do love that the children's book of Arthur rests next to Lawhead's Arthurian saga.


More Lawhead, along with To Kill a Mockingbird (❤), Ursula LeGuin, and Madeleine L'Engle.

This reminds me: I need to reread the Time Quartet.

A prime example of books I own because they were cheap at McKay's: the complete visual companions for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy:

My preciousss . . .

L'Engle and Lewis: not a bad combination. Also, I have a few wands.

From back to front: oak, elm, hawthorn, and cedar. I think the dogwood wand (my Pottermore wand) is buried.


More Lewis (because there is never enough Lewis on the shelves), along with Lois Lowry and George MacDonald.

The sword is one made by my grandfather. If he's good, Samwise may get to carry it when he's older.


Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley (as if I don't mix them up enough, they're next to each other on the shelf!), along with Sarah, Plain and Tall and two books I really need to read: Birdwing (a sequel to "The Wild Swans"!) and The Wand in the Word (a book of interviews with some of my favorite fantasy writers).
Also, this shelf will probably be entirely McKillip and McKinley in a few years' time.



I Spy books, Moby-Dick, and an assortment of Ms.

I spy with my little eye . . . books that will consume many hours of searching.

The end of the Ms and the beginning of the Ns. Oh, look. Mirriam's here.

I really need to order a physical copy of Monster to place next to Paper Crowns.

That's all for today. Next time we'll finish the Ns and (maybe) get through the other half of the library. This might be a 4-part series. Any comments, questions, or reading suggestions? Let me know down below, on Facebook, or wherever you can find me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Art Wednesday: July Sketch Dump

I'm not calling this a Watercolor Wednesday because, while this post is filling that slot on the schedule, no watercolors were used this month. I do have some sketches for you though.



I intended for this scary-looking person's eyes to be closed, but even in a closer view, it still looks like a person with glowing eyes.


Lots of ear sketches to go with my pages of eyes from last month. Also a random Djinni-esque person in the corner.


More ears, a vague and poor attempt to draw a horse skull from memory (don't do it, kids; use a model photo), a French Elf (in the words of Mirriam "Rock that guyliner, monsieur Elf."), and a lady who isn't impressed by your shenanigans.


Another Djinni-ish person in the upper left corner, a faun without his horns, a pair of horns without a faun, and a man with a mustache far less fancy than Poirot's.


That's all for now. Tune in next Monday for more of the bookshelf tour!

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Bookshelf Tour of the Mossflower Library (Part 1)

You asked for it (well, some of you did), and now it's here: the tour of my bookshelves! There are so many, we'll have at least two or three posts in this tour, so if you don't see everything you hoped for or expected, stick around. It might be coming later.

[Disclaimer: some books got switched from the bedroom shelf to the library and vice versa and escaped being photographed. What's more, I did a small-ish book purge after taking these so the current library is not wholly represented by what you see here (to say nothing of the shelves not featured such as Samwise's books).]


These first two pictures are the As and the beginning of the Bs (including Barron, Baum, and Beagle).

I have a mild obsession with owls.

The beauty of alpha by author is that Austen sits on the same shelf as all these fantasy books.

Moving into the Bs with the Bradbury shelf . . .

No, I don't love Bradbury much. Why do you ask?

Random stack of books because there are never enough shelves for proper upright storage.
And now we see two more obsessive authors of mine: Burroughs and Butcher. (I still need to finish both of these collections [both in the sense of getting the rest of the books and of reading the books I have]).


Notice the Norse sagas supporting the middle stack.

We now interrupt the tour to admire the sheer number of books Agatha Christie wrote and published, of which this represents a small portion.


I'm still trying to read my way through all the Poirot stories, slowly but surely.

Susanna Clarke, Susan Cooper and Michael Crichton.


The beginning of the de Lint collection:

Yes, Albion Academy is on the shelf. No, I am still not used to that.
(Pay no attention to the Muppet at the bottom.)
The end of the de Lint collection (and some assorted other Ds):


There are stacks of books moving in and out of these pictures with every blink. Also, these Christies are on the wrong shelf (which error was shortly corrected once the photos were done).


SHERLOCK HOLMES (and friends).



Es and Fs, featuring The Neverending Story and the brilliant Thursday Next series.


Robert Frost and the Inkheart books. (Plus Neil Gaiman lurking in the shadows.

And let's not forget the handy-dandy Companion to Narnia.

More Gaiman (still shadow-lurking) and more Gs.

Also, the My Side of the Mountain series, which was my childhood.

The end of the Gs, and the end of Part 1.

Featuring Old Yeller, a book Disney managed to make even sadder on film.

Is this a kissing book?


Stay tuned for the next part of the series, wherein we'll dive into Hillerman, Jordan, and Jones.


See anything you've read and want to talk about? Chat in the comments below! Anything missing I should look for? Let me know that too!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Beautiful People: Author Writing Process

It's time for another Beautiful People link-up! This time, we're talking about the writing process, which will either prove very entertaining or very frightening.



How do you decide which project to work on?

Usually this is determined by one of two things: deadlines and what's occupied my creative attention lately. This often leads to lots of diversionary writing wherein I novel-hop before finishing a book.


How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

Define "project". Drama team sketches take me less than a week usually. Short stories take anywhere from a week to a month. Novels are more complicated. My first novel took 4 or 5 years. The second took 3 months (and currently stands as my only completed NaNo novel). And the third novel I finished was Albion Academy, a project that took 7 years from inception to final draft. I'm not a fast writer on long works, something I'm trying to improve.


Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I like having writing music going. Sometimes reading a good book puts me in the mood to write. I'm always thinking about my books even when I'm not actively writing. But music and just beginning the work seem to be the best methods for kickstarting my process.


What time of day do you write best?

First thing in the morning and last thing at night. Which may explain the slowness of my process.


Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

I've been told I write like Ursula K. LeGuin, but I really can't say I have noticed a continual similarity between my writing and another author's. (I welcome any comparisons you lot want to make. It will give me an idea of what to change or keep.)


Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

Because I love making up stories and worlds. I started writing novels because I wanted to write something that would impact others the way Narnia impacted me. I keep going because I still love making stories and worlds, and because I can't stand the idea of not telling them.


What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

Any one of my short stories because I have a hard time keeping story ideas contained to less than 10,000 words. The opening chapter of Albion Academy gave me fits.


Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

My modern Pinocchio. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready.


Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!




What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I wanted to finish Albion Apparent and There's No Place Like Home? I'm still working on the first; TNPLH? is my motivation for getting through Albion Apparent sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday: Disney Movies

My apologies for not getting a post up yesterday. It was a busier Monday than most, and with the holiday weekend I just didn't plan ahead as much as I needed to. On to this month's Top 10, inspired by our recent viewing (and rewatching) of Moana.

Here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Disney Animated Films (No Pixar because that's a whole 'nother list):

Mulan

This is here partly because it's my wife's favorite of the princess movies and partly because I just love it. The music is great, Pat Morita as the Emperor is brilliantly cast, and the strength of the central characters is phenomenal. (Here's hoping the live action adaptation doesn't ruin it.)



Tangled

One of the newest films on this list, Tangled is here for two reasons: "Mother Knows Best" and the beautiful way Rapunzel and Flynn's relationship goes from antagonistic to grudgingly cooperative to mutually respectful to sacrificial love. Also frying pans. (Okay, that's three reasons.)



Aladdin

Easily one of my favorites as a child, Aladdin does a good job of showcasing the wit and humor of Robin Williams while still being a story that teaches viewers about the value of self-worth. Knowing that others' words (though hurtful) do not define you is an important thing to remember in life, and this movie does a fine job of presenting that moral wrapped in a high adventure. (Again, here's hoping the live action film gets it right.)



Sleeping Beauty

While this film gets a lot of flack for the lack of agency on Aurora's part and the whole marrying someone you just met that day fairy tale trope, let's be honest: none of us came to this movie for the princess. We wanted to see the fairies duke it out, work their political machinations, and play out an epic battle with their humans pawns. Or was that just me? *ahem* The magical-loving child that I was will still come back to this movie time and again because the fairies are so interesting. There's a reason Maleficent was made one of the primary antagonists of Kingdom Hearts.



Beauty and the Beast

This is my all-time favorite fairy tale and (most days) my all-time favorite Disney film. Transformative love, redemption, and learning to put others first. What's not to love? (I will refrain from expressing my disappointment in the live action film. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but it still doesn't hold a talking candlestick to the animated film.)



The Jungle Book

The last film Walt Disney worked on before he died, I have to forgive the many licenses The Jungle Book took with the source material. It was my favorite Disney film for a long time; I couldn't help love the songs and the characters, the way it moves so smoothly from episode to episode until finally, everyone has reached their appropriate destination. (The quotation from the Gospel of John doesn't hurt things, either.)



The Great Mouse Detective

This film was partially responsible for my childhood obsession with all things Sherlock Holmes. Featuring the debonair but frightening Professor Ratigan, purportedly Vincent Price's favorite film role, this movie was just fun and exciting. Please, Disney, do NOT remake this one. It's just fine as it is.



Moana

The reason I chose this category for today, Moana is Disney's latest animated film. Like Mulan before it, it centers on a female character whose strength comes from her character rather than her ability to beat up any male she encounters. Moana is a role model for children, period. Likewise, Maui's shortcomings are not presented as endemic to the male sex; instead, they are his own issues to work through, just as Moana must face her own self-doubt and ignorance in order to become who she was meant to be. Aside from a couple of songs in the middle that don't do as much for me as they could have ("You're Welcome" and "Shiny"), the soundtrack is gorgeous and I could put it on repeat for several weeks.



Treasure Planet

An oft-forgotten or ignored Disney film, Treasure Planet is easily my second-favorite adaptation of Treasure Island (after the Muppets' take, of course). It's imaginative and does a fine job of adapting the source material to the solarpunk (is that a thing? It should be) setting. Jim is lovable and given room to grow through the course of the story, and the films commitment to Mr. Arrow's death makes the film carry more weight than the Muppets' version (which simply has him row to the island because kids' movie).




The Lion King

The Lion King is the first film I remember seeing in theaters. I can still recall my young self's reactions to some of the lines (though oddly enough, not to Mufasa's death). It holds a special place in my heart, if for no other reason than that Simba and Nala are the Disney couple that best reflect my wife and me. (Not to mention, this is also her favorite Disney film ever.)



Honorable Mentions:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Little Mermaid

101 Dalmatians

Bolt

Tarzan 


By the way, if you are an audio book narrator or know someone who is, the audio book for Albion Academy is open for auditions over at acx.com. Click here to see the listing and submit your audition!