Tag Archives: Books

Double Feature: Pages and Popcorn

Photo credit: Lynn Friedman via Flickr

Disclaimer: For this discussion, Mr. Gette and Ms. Nicolelli are limiting themselves to book series adapted to the big screen. This discussion will exclude one-off book-to-film adaptations, such as The Book Thief or Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.

JG: I blame Harry Potter and Frodo.

Sure, YA books and series were turned into movies before 2001. But the runaway success of both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Fellowship of the Ring ushered in an era of studios looking for the next big thing.

JN: Producers can expect a guaranteed audience, either book fans eager to see their beloved stories come to life. Or, book fans eager to disparage the film adaptation. Either way, money goes into pockets.

The money spent on early millennial series adaptations like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter was money well spent, on the part of readers turned moviegoers. However, I would argue that film series adaptation has been in sharp decline ever since.

JG: Film adaptations have been divided into two categories: hot new series like Divergent and The Maze Runner; or backlist favorites like The Dark is Rising (made into the absolutely dreadful movie The Seeker). But series are a two-edged sword: on the one hand, you know what your next few films will be; on the other, no movie really stands alone.

JN: It’s nearly impossible to execute a book-to-film series that is of high quality from start to finish. And this is when the book series is actually complete, not even taking into account the adaptation of book series that are not yet finished. Look at what happened to Divergent! Or Chronicles of Narnia.

JG: Another issue is length. Some books are just too jam-packed to make a regular-length movie without lots of cuts. Which leads making multiple movies from one book. Deathly Hallows Part I & II. Breaking Dawn Part I & II. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell if the decision is being made because of length or potential profit.

JN: And then there is the opposite problem of taking a normal-length book and unnecessarily dividing it into multiple films. Mockingjay I & II and The Hobbit (I can’t even keep track of the ridiculous number of installments). And only the most optimistic, naive book lover would see this as anything other than Hollywood trying to make money.

JG: It’s one book! ONE BOOK. The Hobbit  is shorter than each of the books in the Lord of the Rings series!

JN: Peter Jackson fell from grace quite a bit with The Hobbit adaptation. And seriously, Orlando Bloom?!

JN: But going back to adapting a book series before it is finished. JK Rowling always knew the Wizarding World and Harry’s story inside and out. The filming schedule did not back Rowling into any corners and the books did not suffer for the film adaptations. However, authors like Veronica Roth (Divergent) struggle under the pressure to churn out the finalized story. Just look to Allegiant if you need evidence. Blegh.

JG: It can be ok for a screenwriter to change or cut things. Some parts of books just don’t translate well to a film. Sorry, Tom Bombadil fans. The Lord of the Rings benefited from having hundreds of pages of traveling condensed into montages.

JN: Absolutely! Do you have a favorite book-to-film adaptation moment, Mr. Gette? Perhaps one where the screenwriter(s) changed the author’s version of the scene/event/character/etc.

JG: I honestly believe Jurassic Park is a better movie than book. Maybe because I saw before I read it, so that’s the version I know best. The Hammonds in the book and movie are VERY different, and that does a lot to change the whole feeling of the story.  But the moment when Grant and Sattler see the brachiosauruses for the first time and the theme swells is pretty great (and that, too, is different from the book). You?

JN: I saw the Lord of the Rings films prior to reading the series (I know, I know!), but I remember seeing the movie trailer for Fellowship like it was yesterday (the music and Cate Blanchett/Galadriel voice over!). While I had dabbled in the fantasy genre, Fellowship absolutely hooked me. Another memorable moment was seeing Diagon Alley come to life in Sorcerer’s Stone. It was when I knew the Harry Potter films would be excellent visual adaptations. My favorite single scene of adaptation that is different from the book version is the Order of the Phoenix showdown between Dumbledore and Voldemort. The book version details specific spells, while the film version mostly features the magical manipulation of elements. It seemed so appropriate for these two magical powerhouses.

JN: What is your least favorite book-to-film adaptation moment, Mr. Gette? It can be an entire film, film series, or single scene. Or all three!

JG: When I was 10 there was nothing I loved so much as My Side of The Mountain. In the book, Sam tames a falcon, Frightful, who helps him survive. There are sequels based around Frightful. In the movie, she gets shot by a hunter. Maybe she survives – I don’t know. I shut it off after that, and never finished the movie. What’s yours?

JN: I could say everything about the Divergent or Golden Compass movies, but I was not necessarily in love with those books. Perhaps the biggest adaptation betrayal was The Giver. Just, no.

JG: Just like all movies, ones based off of books can be great or terrible. And while it’s disappointing when a favorite becomes a bad movie, at least you still have the book.

JN: Books > Movies.

JG:jurassic-park-t-rex

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Summer Reading Survey Results 2016

So Long Sweet Summer

Courtesy of Meg Bisson, Katie Slater Photography

Hello and welcome to another exciting year at Hopkins! Here in Calarco we’ve got new textbooks waiting to be pulverized, fresh notecards itching to become memorization rectangles, and librarians gazing wistfully at beautiful summer photos instead of shelving books.

Three years running,  we librarians asked you to tell us about the best part of your summer – that’s right, summer reading. A whopping 198 of you responded, recommending 139 different books. There was a lot of turnover this year – two of the top three books from 2015 (Paper Towns and To Kill A Mockingbird) weren’t mentioned at all. In fact, no John Green books were recommended for the first time since we began this survey.

 

2016-summer-reading-inforgraphic

What is it about The Da Vinci Code? Is it the ciphers, the fast-paced thrills, Tom Hanks’ rumpled (no, not rugged) good looks? Whatever the “it” factor, The Da Vinci Code is Hopkins’ most recommended book of Summer 2016! Seven respondents wrote that it was “exciting,”  “incredibly suspenseful,” and that it “keep[s] you at the edge of your seat.”

Almost as popular were The Great Train Robbery and The Apothecary, both of which benefited from being assigned books. Other favorite books (or movies) were Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – perhaps because of their film counterparts. David Levithan’s Every Day and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood were the other two unassigned books to make appearances on the “most read” list.

This was the first year we asked for your thoughts about your favorite book(s). In doing this, we discovered that even faculty and staff enjoy ALL CAPS. Please see some of our favorite commentary below.

The Godfather

It was AMAZING. I went in thinking it would have a pace similar to other books of its time, with lots of description and thoughtshots. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it moved like an action film, and it kept me going despite the length.

The Girl on the Train

Unreliable narration is key. What made this book so excellent was how you couldn’t trust anyone — even the protagonist with her flawed memories.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves was the weirdest book I have ever read and it invokes mild paranoia.

Americanah

This was an amazing book about African immigration. As a child of to Nigerians I found many similarities with their struggles. When many people think of Nigeria or Africa in general, they may think of thick jungles, aboriginal tribes, and no electricity. It is seen more as a charity case. This books lets you in on the lives of the people. The struggle to make it to America and become something. The stress of stereotypes and myths continually reminding them that they do not belong. The fear of coming back to their homeland and catching “Americanah.” And international love. How years and miles cannot erase true bonds. Wow. I wrote more than you probably wanted. Sorry about that.

[editorial note: no such thing as saying too much about a book you love]

The Apothecary

I thought that this was a great book and I could not put it down. I also would have never chosen this book if it was not required.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It was great because it was kind of like a lot of kids dreams written out on paper. (Running away from home with your friends.)

An Officer and a Spy

It’s a great account of the Dreyfus Affair and is riveting from start to finish. My Dad forced me to read it, and when I finally gave in and started reading it, I was hooked.

[editorial note, again: good job, anonymous Dad]

Below you will find a list of every book recommended this year. Thanks to all of our respondents, and happy reading!

 

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling Trilogy (so far)

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Kelsea Raleigh grew up in hiding, training for her future on the throne as Queen of the Tearling. Although she received the best education any fledgling Queen could hope to receive, Kelsea grew up in ignorance of the problems that plagued her realm. She wasn’t surprised when the Queen’s Guard came for her, after all, she was always meant to take the throne back from her uncle. What Queen Kelsea did not anticipate were the dangers she would encounter before she even ascended the throne. Dodging the elite assassins hired by her uncle become the least of Kelsea’s worries when she enters the Tearling capital and discovers the internal chaos and corruption destroying her realm. But even this pales in comparison to the threat of neighboring Mortmesne and its leader, the Red Queen.

Kelsea may have Queen’s blood in her veins and questionably magical sapphires to prove it, but is her cunning and strength enough to save the Tearling from internal chaos, making ready to face the Red Queen’s impending attack? How is Kelsea supposed to rule when she falls victim to pre-Tearling flashbacks, rendering her catatonic for hours? Can the Queen’s Guard set aside its own internal disputes to support Kelsea Raleigh in her attempts to bring justice to her realm? And who is the mysterious, handsome Fetch? Why does he show up precisely when Kelsea needs him most?

The Queen of the Tearling trilogy is being hailed as the YA version of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, to you HBO watchers). However, the comparison is not made to belittle Erika Johansen’s work as little more than a rip off. The Tearling‘s similarities lie in its complexity and uncensored approach to medieval-like rule. George R.R. Martin refuses to create wholly good or wholly bad characters, asking questions like: what happens to the realm when the war is over, after the “good guys” win? Johansen’s characters and their motives defy easy categorization. I think what makes this book a YA fantasy novel (rather than high-level fantasy, like Martin’s work) is Kelsea Raleigh’s POV, which naturally leads the reader to root primarily for her cause. However, Tearling‘s hero and her world leans far closer towards Westeros than Hogwarts. Despite initial appearances, there’s few clear good and bad guys in this series.

My main complaint for Tearling was world building. I use was purposefully. Although I was enamored with the story in Johansen’s first installment, I was disappointed in the lackluster and unclear depiction of the Tearling. I was wistfully remembering the fantastic world building of Seraphina or Harry Potter. Then I read the second Tearling installment. As Johansen further reveals the mysterious crossing to the reader, more world building falls into place. I can’t say much more without being spoilery, but I want to suggest being patient with a couple world building holes in the first novel.

Overall, two thumbs up for the Tearling trilogy. Shout out to Hollywood for nabbing film rights and for the rumors that Emma Watson will play Kelsea in the film version!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is also reading A Song of Ice and Fire and is starting to wonder why her world is so suspiciously fantasy-free)

 

Summer Reading Survey Results 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back: to Hopkins, to the library, and to the Calarco Library Blog!

Once again, the librarians sent out a summer reading survey to the whole school, asking you to pick one book out of everything you read this summer – required or not – as your very favorite. We received about 250 responses from students, faculty, and staff, which proves just how much you like reading. Or us. Or how accustomed you are to filling out surveys.

You continue to read a large variety of books: nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, classic novels, contemporary fiction, poetry, and John Green.Untitled Infographic

Last year, The Fault in Our Stars was by far and away Hopkins’ favorite summer read with 15 votes. The playing field is a little more even this year, with the top three books getting 6 mentions apiece. John Green continues his domination of the YA landscape with Paper Towns. Next, proving that the Pulitzer committee knows what they’re talking about, we have All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. And rounding out the top three is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Whether it’s the release of Go Set A Watchman, its status as a required summer reading book, or if Mrs. Riley just answered the survey a bunch of times, the story of Scout and Atticus remains popular.

Other popular books include:

5 votes: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

4 votes: The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; and Watchmen, by Alan Moore (shout-out to my adviser group!)

3 votes:  And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (+1 “All the Agatha Christie books on the list”); The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon; Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee;  and Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

We’re exceedingly pleased that most respondents (133 of you!)  read 5 or more books this summer, although we have some questions for the two seniors who admitted to only reading two books. Let’s hope at least one of them was The Tragedy of Arthur.

Book Survey Recommendations

Below is a spreadsheet of all the Summer Reading Survey favorites. Any items made available by the Calarco Library are color coded: blue = regular book, yellow = kindle book, green = both.

Remember, just because summer’s over (boo!) doesn’t meant reading is (yay!). Stop by Calarco Library for a book or Kindle – maybe one recommended above!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette, who both recommend The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

Summer Reading 2015!

JG: It’s almost summer! Time for sun, sleep, and – of course – reading. Last summer I read a lot, but it was mostly within my comfort zone; lots of sci-fi, mysteries, and YA. This year, I’d like to stretch myself a bit.

So here are the rules for the self-imposed summer reading challenge:

1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List

2. Fulfill the Summer Reading requirements: three books I haven’t read before, plus the books for my grade. Since my advisees will be 10th graders next year, I’m going to read along with them.

3. No genre books. No fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, or graphic novels. There is nothing wrong with reading and loving these kinds of books, but I read them all the time, and the point of this is to try something new.

So what am I going to read?

I’ve read The Great Train Robbery before (as a 10th grader), but it’s been long enough that I plan to re-read it.

After this, the list gets a little murkier. I plan to read one classic novel, one work of contemporary fiction, and one nonfiction book. Here’s the short lists:

There. Nine options which will condense into three books (though I can read more if I want to!), plus the two grade-required books for a total of 5.

…That’s not enough.

So here’s the other books I’d like to read this summer. No restrictions. Which means ghosts, murder, and explosions.

  • Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie.
  • The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler.
  • The Alienist, by Caleb Carr (yes, this is on the Summer Reading List. But it’s a mystery, so it doesn’t count for my personal challenge. But you can read it!)
  • All of the Peter Grant books, by Ben Aaronovitch. I’d read the first one (Midnight Riot) a couple years ago, but on a recommendation from Ms. Ford I’ve been listening to it on audiobook, and it is fantastic. This summer I am going to walk everywhere and listen to the whole series. Or at least the next few books.

No plan survives the first encounter with the library catalog, so I’m sure there will be additions and subtractions as the summer goes on. But as of right now, I’m pretty happy with this list!


JB: We aren’t counting down the days until summer (25) or anything, but seriously, summer. While some consider sunscreen to be a summer necessity, I carry a book/kindle/device with kindle app at all times. Last summer I did not have as much time to read as anticipated, but this summer I feel cautiously ambitious. I don’t have any challenges, per se, but I do hope to read more diversely than usual.

Here are my 2015 Summer “Challenges”:

  1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List.
  2. Read more dudes (I tend to read a lot of female authors).
  3. Read fewer white people. I usually do O.K. with this, but I am making a conscious effort this summer.
  4. Don’t restrict by genre or type. I want to mix in some older stuff, non-fiction, and genre with my FAVORITE type of book – the modern fiction novel.

What will I be reading? Take a look

    1. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.
    2. The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi.
    3. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
    4. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
    5. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

As Mr. Gette said, I have free reign for anything I want to read off the summer reading list. To also cite Mr. Gette, I doubt I will follow this list as closely as a needlepoint pattern.

  1. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
  2. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
  3. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
  4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
  5. The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
  6. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

What are you planning to read this summer? Did you set any goals or challenges for yourself? Tell us in the comments!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette (the former already suntanned, the latter already sunburned)

My Summer Reading – The Outcome

I also posted a list of what I was hoping to read over the summer vacation. I was less ambitious than Mr. Gette, so I only chose 12 Calarco Library-owned books (I read other books that were separate from the list).

Here’s the recap:

Summer Reading Recap

Here is a ranking of books I read this summer:

5 Stars

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Why did it take me so long to read this book?! A must read in the modern-novel genre.

Feed by M.T. Anderson. I originally rated this as a 3 star book, but as time passed, the book creeped into my list of all-time favorites. Published in 2000, this satirical YA book can also be read as a cautionary tale. Read it in one sitting.

4 Stars

The Bees by Laline Paull. Allegories everywhere. Reading about a beehive society from the point of view of a bee was exactly as interesting as I expected.

3 Stars

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind by Gavin Edwards. Even though the writing was mediocre at times, the story was enormously interesting. An excellent biography for any 90’s child (or 90’s fanatic)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Be still my heart, Rainbow Rowell. A good story that can easily be read in a day or two.

2 Stars

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I didn’t get anything out of this book, but I will give it 2 stars. The writing was technically excellent and other reviewers swear by this book. Although Mr. Gette and I missed the boat on this one, maybe others will love the Southern Reach Trilogy.

1 Star

NONE!

So there it is. Although I read other books on my non-Calarco list, I was definitely hoping to read more than 6 off of this list. Want to share what you read? Want to disagree with my commentary? Leave us a comment below!

-Signing off, Ms. Barrows (who had to re-read The Magicians, is now reading The Magician King, and is super excited to read the recently released conclusion The Magician’s Land)

Summer Reading Survey Recap

Hello everyone, and welcome back: to Hopkins, to the library, and to the Calarco Library Blog! In the coming days we’ll be filling you in on what we read this summer, but we wanted to kick things off with what you read this summer!

As you know, the librarians sent out a summer reading survey to the whole school, asking you to pick one book out of everything you read this summer – required or not – as your very favorite. We received about 300 responses from students, faculty, and staff, which proves just how much you like reading. Or us. Or how accustomed you are to filling out surveys.

To misquote one of this summer’s favorite reads: all books are popular, but some books are more popular than others. By far and away the most favored book was The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (you can read our review of TFIOS here). Fifteen people (14 students and 1 faculty member) said that it was their favorite book they read this summer. John Green was more widely popular as well: seven students said Looking For Alaska was their favorite summer read, two preferred Paper Towns, and one discerning individual liked An Abundance of Katherines best. And two students simply answered “John Green.” Overall, that’s 27 members of the Hopkins Community who liked a book by John Green best.

George Orwell also had a good summer: both 1984 and Animal Farm were beloved by 5 respondents. Also in the “five people love me” category are Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and If I Stay, by Gayle Foreman, which may have gotten a boost from the August release of a movie version.

The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton, I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak (of The Book Thief fame) and Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, got four votes for favorite book. (You can read our review of I Am the Messenger here.)

And rounding it off with three votes apiece were And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie; The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara; On the Beach, by Nevil Shute, and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Infographic facts are the best kinds of facts

Infographic facts are the best kinds of facts

 

Although the survey reveals which books were most popular this summer, it also demonstrates the enormous variety of interests and tastes that illustrate the Hopkins community. For example, the Class of 2015 read non-fiction survivalist memoirs (Into Thin Air, Alive, Unbroken), “young adult” fiction (Every Day, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Eleanor and Park), classic novels (Catch-22, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Sun Also Rises), modern fiction (Little Bee, The Goldfinch, Hologram for a King) and a slew of other styles and genres. The trend permeates every class and is best reflected in the faculty and staff respondents. Is anyone surprised that the Faculty/Staff group (almost) did not list a single repeating title as a favorite?

So, Variety – check. Summer Favorites – Check. What does this mean? Looking at the respondent totals, the most interesting observation we can glean is that reading tastes overlap, despite enormous age gaps. Yes, 15 respondents like The Fault in Our Stars best. No, they were not all Junior Schoolers – every group had at least one TFIOS fan. Was TFIOS the only “age barrier breaking book”? Definitely not.

Let’s be honest, we librarians were moderately thrilled (or enthusiastically fist pumping) when we saw that 300 people responded to our survey. The moderate or wild celebration only continued when we realized how many people read multiple books this summer and how well our current collection matches what Hopkins loves to read.

Whether or not you took the survey, please check out the final fact-spread. Don’t see any of your favorites? Interested in reading a book that we don’t have? Please let us know if there is a book you want to read or you think we should own. The Calarco Library takes book requests and also downloads on-demand titles to our Kindles (see the full Kindle Book List here).

Book Survey Recommendations

Below is a spreadsheet of all the Summer Reading Survey favorites. Any items made available by the Calarco Library are color coded: blue = regular book, yellow = kindle book, green = both.

NEXT UP: Find out if Mr. Gette and Ms. Barrows held good on their promises and completed their summer reading lists