In The Shadow Of Adaptation: To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Last year reading To All The Boys I Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You and Always And Forever, Lara Jean  by Jenny Han was one of the great pleasures of my reading project. And Netflix’s adaptation of To All The Boys was a breath of fresh teen rom-com air. Lana Condor and Noah Centino were pitch perfect and Lara Jean and Peter, with a kind of casual and cute chemistry that always makes these kinds of movies better.

I was very excited when it was announced that P.S. I Still Love You was going forward, and even more excited when the adorable John Ambrose McClaren was going to be played by the truly adorable Jordan Fisher, who was in Grease Live and Rent Live and who I’m in a little in love with anyway, so that was going to go great.

Obviously, based on choices made in To All The Boys I knew some changes were coming for P.S. I Still Love You, and some of them I liked. Removing the sex tape subplot’s recurrence was a good choice. There were others that I didn’t like. (emoving the Assasin subplot takes the comic spine out of the story, which exists in the first one by virtue of the screwball fake relationships stuff. Focusing on the emotions was a good call in certain ways, and extending John and Lara Jean’s reunion definitely worked.

As a movie I really enjoyed this, but as an adaptation I wasn’t crazy about it. It took too much of the stuff that I really enjoyed about the book out.

Of course it still gave me Jordan Fisher in a white dinner jacket and Lana Candor in a dreamy fifties ball gown so I can’t be too mad at it.

Apparently, Always and Forever, Lara Jean is coming next year, so we’ll talk about that then. It’s my least favorite of the three books so I’m meh on it, but I’ll be happy to see this cast again, they are completely charming. (I didn’t even touch on John Corbett as Lara Jean’s dad, being totally adorable and stuff.)

The next In The Shadow Of Adaptation will be Emma by Jane Austen which is getting a fancy new movie adaptation and I am SO excited for it.

The Series Series: The Old Kingdom Series By Garth Nix

“Does the walker choose the path?” Well, I chose this one and I’m pretty sure that I regret it. This is the first time I’ve pushed through a series I really didn’t care for except in fits and starts. I’m bad about putting down books I don’t particularly care for, but I usually don’t go for the sequels of something that I had to push through. Anyway, let’s dig deeper.

The Books

Sabriel

Lirael

Abhorsen

Clariel

Goldenhand

Author

Garth Nix is an Australian author. He studied literature at University and then worked in the publishing industry before writing Sabriel. He claims inspiration from classical fantasy as well as Middle Eastern and Asian mysticism. And despite my overall dislike of this series it is a nice blend of those traditions as I understand them. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two sons.

Series Structure

This is five books, the first three a pretty solid trilogy, with a prequel and then a sequel following. The initial trilogy actually reminds me a lot of Dune, telling the story of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone, an epic story in it’s own right, that leads to a huge shift in status quo for the world, the restoration of a great royal house, and a return to magic, (in Dune the restoration of an imperial house and a return to tech.) followed by two stories of what that means for their children and the next generation, which is what Lirael and Abhorsen deal with, Sabriel finding her new true apprentice and reaching a detante with the forces of “Free Magic.” Then we get Clariel which tells a largely free standing story about The Old Kingdom before the fall of the royal house, until we learn who it’s lead becomes. Goldenhand wraps a few things up but does end on a cliff hanger and apparently a sixth book is coming next year.

I will not be reading it.

Themes

I think legacy is a big theme here, it’s what I seize on the most. Which, again, it’s so weird that I didn’t like this series much. I love legacy as a theme, the curses and mistakes and triumphs of the past irepparably damaging the future. But it’s all in the execution, Nix’s characters don’t feel like they’re moving in the tides of destiny as so many heroes in these types of stories are, they feel bound by them and not in a fun, I’m gonna subvert that expectation way, just in a resigned shrug their shoulders way. It makes for dull reading.

Also the magic system is practically impenetrable and I was bored every time something got explained. I think I just don’t care for Nix’s writing.

Favorite Book

I liked Lirael best because I liked Lirael best. She seemed do be the only character who was active, who wanted something different than what life was giving her. She eventually swam with the tide, but she at least fought it and swam, didn’t let herself be carried.

Least Favorite Book

Clariel is a real slog. I don’t care how important Chlorr Of The Mask is to Lirael’s development, this book was not fun. Even though it has a DRAGON and a MAGIC SCHOOL and COURT POLITICS all tings that I usually love.

Favorite Character

You’d like Lirael after what I said above, but it’s actually Mogget, a free magic creature bound in the form of a cat who serves the Abhorsens. He rules, he’s surly, sarcastic, annoyed and bent on revenge on the family that bound him, even though he likes them well enough individually. I like cat guides, which is odd, since in life I’m much more of a dog person. But I liked Mogget, he felt in tradition with Faithful from The Song Of The Lioness and Luna and Artemis from Sailor Moon.

Reread Possibilities

I’m not rereading this, I had so much trouble getting into it.

The next Series Series will be on The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis, but there’s some stuff in between. (I’m rereading PS I Still Love You and doing an “In The Shadow Of Adaptation” as well as one for Jane Austen’s Emma.) 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Poe Dameron (Comics) by Charles Soule, Phil Noto & Angel Unzueta

Um, I don’t know if you know this or not, readers, but I really am fond of the character Poe Dameron.

That might be an understatement…

What’s the word for a character who’s life story you’ve dived into, who you’ve written tons of secret fanfiction about, who you’ve spend hundreds of dollars to create cosplay for, and who’s actor you’ve decided you must watch his entire filmography?

OH! Is the word, obsessed? Yes, I think that’s the word.

Never forget the tagline of this blog is “Saving The World One Obsession At A Time!”

And while my obsessions wax and wane and sometimes go away entirely. (I no longer feel the need to purchase every Billy Joel album, for example! And I never even got The Nylon Curtain or Cold Spring Harbor.) But ever since that night watching The Force Awakens five years ago, Poe Dameron and by extension Oscar Isaac’s have been pretty steady.

Poe Dameron the Comic series was written by Charles Soule who is very good at writing comics. (READ SHE-HULK! He made her comic into a David E. Kelley show and it was great and perfect) He was also very nice to me once at ACBC, so you know, there’s that.

Poe Dameron covers the time before and between movies. First we get the lead up to The Force Awakens where he is trying to find Lor San Tekka (Remember how Kylo Ren killed Max Von Sydow? That guy) because Leia said so.

Seriously, one of the best things about Poe, which is preserved here is that when Leia says jump, his answer is, “How high? Also can I do a barrel roll?” Anyway, our self proclaimed best pilot in the galaxy is not alone, he’s got a great group of friends in his Black Squadron. Snap Wexley (there’s a moment where Snap’s childhood droid friend, Mr. Bones from Aftermath makes a comeback and I said, “Oooh YAY!”),  Jessika Pava, Kare Kun and Suralinda Jones. They’re a good team, and also Snap and Kare are in love and great and now I am even more sad about how Snap died. (This is not even getting into the great tragedy of him being shot down right before his step dad Wedge Antilles showed up on Exagol. My friend Jess warned me of this, but it is ROUGH y’all.) There’s also a bunch of stuff about C-3P0’s spy network, which is BADASS, and BB-8 rolling around being the best.

The art is good. There’s something a little off putting about photo realistic art of characters who’s actors I know well, but the likenesses are quite good, and once I was used to it it got easier.

But mostly it’s a lot of piloting and character building which is cool. It makes Poe’s disposition in The Rise Of Skywalker make a lot more sense. He’s given up everything for this fight, he’s lost friends and he’s kind of done.

Anyway, I’m glad to have picked up this one. Our next visit to a galaxy far far away will be the novel Bloodline. First I’m going to be hanging out where no one has gone before…because y’all Picard starts tomorrow! New Clone Wars not far behind btw. Lot going on at the moment.

 

The Series Series: The Chronicles Of Prydain By Lloyd Alexander

Hail and Well Met Friends! We’re back to The Series Series, this time picking up The Chronicles of Prydain, which I’d missed as a kid (I don’t know how? Gendered bullshit maybe? How no teacher or librarian didn’t see me devouring The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce’s books and didn’t hand me these, I’ll never know) but saw people buzzing about online a bit lately, due to talk about a Disney+ adaptation (Disney made The Black Cauldron largely considered to be a terrible adaptation and movie) and Kristi mentioned reading them aloud to her newborn son, and I love talking about stuff with her, so I decided to give these a shot.

I am so glad I did.

The Books 

The Book Of Three

The Black Cauldron

The Castle of Llyr

Taran Wanderer

The High King

Author

Lloyd Alexander was born in Philadelphia, and served in World War II, the experience shaped him and he spent some time Wales, and fell in love with their language and mythology, which is why he decided to write his own version. He passed away in 2007.

Series Structure

This is a series of five books each telling it’s own standalone story  but with the same cast of characters. The story revolves mainly around Taran, an orphaned Assistant Pig Keeper to an ancient enchanter named Dalben. (The pig in question tells the future. Her name is Hen-Wen) Taran accidentally begins adventuring with the great hero Prince Gwydion, befriends a mysterious and kindly beast creature called Gurgi, a bard who is actually a king Flewdeur Flwam, and the fiery and magical princess Eilonwy.

Taran becomes a hero himself, after many trials and obviously marries Eilonwy. (Look it’s an old series and there’s only two people around the same age. They were either gettin’ hitched or secretly siblings) 

Themes

Alexander largely based the series in Welsh mythology, which is cool. I don’t know Welsh myths, like at all, but it shares DNA with the Arthur stories I love, and the Celtic myths I know the broad strokes of, and so this shares those Campbellian cycles that I love so much. Calls to adventure, mysterious caves, confounding conversations with goddesses that become clear with time, chosen ones who’s choices are more important than being chosen. All that jazz.

They’re executed well, almost perfectly. Taran is a really good hero, you guys, I don’t know how else to say it. I love him. (I’ve mentioned I love a protagonist in over their head, right? God, I love it so much.)

Favorite Book

Taran Wanderer is a marvel of a book. It’s so stunningly written and the themes (searching is more important than finding also your birth matters less than your character) are well laid out without hitting over the head with them. Taran himself really matures here, though he also uses a lot of the well worn wisdom of The Castle Of Llyr before choosing his long journey to find himself, and to make himself worthy of the girl he loves.

This also lets me talk a little bit about Eilonwy. I adore her, though she’s a bit underwritten, her determination and personality actually remind me quite a bit of my beloved Annabeth Chase.

Least Favorite Book

I suppose The Book Of Three although I loved the entire series. I think I was just shocked by the way the books just start, there’s not a lot of wind up, you’re just there in Prydain, with Taran, it’s cool.

Favorite Character

Taran, hands down. I like everyone here, even Gurgi, who is probably the most “kids bookish” thing and even though to the end Eilonwy has a bit of a “not like other girls” thing going on, (which is why she’s not my pick, I just can’t abide that anymore) His growth is wonderful, his conscience is great, I like him, a lot, I want to spend more time with him and I’m sure he’s a great king in the future we don’t get to see.

Reread Possibilities

Oh I’ll be rereading these. Maybe not soon. But I’ll return to Prydain, probably as often as I return to Hogwarts and Middle Earth, so every five years or so. It won’t be like my yearly pilgrimage to Camp Half Blood, but I’ll be back. I’m sure there’s things I missed in these stories that I’ll get the second time, or even third time I read them.

Our next series (though we have some Star Wars Comics and non fiction in between) will be the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, I started Sabriel once and dropped it. I don’t remember why. Frankly I remember very little about it, there was a wall? And a missing father? And boarding school? Anyway, it’s five books and they’re relatively thick so it might be a minute before we check back in.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig

This is my first dive into the Star Wars extended universe. (OK, I read a few comics) and I figured this direct sequel to Return Of The Jedi which is meant to bridge that time with the new era of The Force Awakens and beyond seemed like a good enough place to begin.

Also Chuck Wendig is fun on twitter. So there’s that.

The Aftermath trilogy tells the story of Norra Wexley (mother of Greg Grunberg’s Snap! He’s in the books too!) a pilot with the Rebellion, now the New Republic and the waning months of the Galactic Civil War against the Empire. Norra finds herself in the general orbit of Princess Leia and Han Solo, as they prepare for the birth of their son. (Watch out for onion ninjas when all conversations around Ben ensue. But also RED FLAGS all over the damn place regarding the kind of parents Leia and Han turned out to be) She also puts together a rag tag crew of a bounty hunter, an ex imperial torture officer, a clone descended rebel soldier (COOL) and her kid. Her kid Temmin Wexley, who is nicknamed by the one and only Wedge Antilles (who Norra falls in love with) Snap.

On the Imperial side there are various people vying for power though we follow, mainly Grand Admira Rae Sloane. Sloane’s a pretty great villain and I like that we’ve got women as our main antagonist and protagonist.

The book took some getting used to. The use of third person present tense is a lot for someone who does as much reading as I do. I understand this is a hallmark of the EU and does create a sort of propulsive immediacy, but it’s also, a lot. First person present tense is tough enough to take, but third person…oof.

Anyway, the books were fun, from a Star Wars perspective, seeing how the hold the Rebellion had on the Galaxy was shaky from the start, as well as the political differences between Leia and Mon Mothma, really does help solidify the shaky ground that is the New Republic and Resistance schism. They work in concert, but they’re not the same. It makes some sense. Or more sense. It’s still not great.

Also, Sloane ends her journey travelling on The Emperor’s ship towards the unkown reaches. So we know what that’s all about now. Again, kind of.

Overall, I think this was a good place to start. If only for sweet little Temmin, who I continually pictured as Greg Grunberg but small. Not young. (Was Grunberg ever young? He came off middle aged even on Felicity!) Just small. Shrunk down. This was an extremely amusing visual and if you decide to read these books you are welcome to it. He also has a droid friend named Mr. Bones who is also great. Seriously, Disney Era, kicking it out of the park with the droids. from BB-8 on they’ve each been all time.

The rest of the team didn’t quite do it for me. I like Sinjin, the ex imperial, but his narrative of finding his conscience was interesting if a little slow compared to everything else. Wendig writes a damn good Han and a not as good Leia. The visions that Leia gets during her pregnancy are incredible, (including her own birth, though she doesn’t realize it’s that) as well as her connection to Ben in utero and beyond. I liked that.

Up next we’re reading Charles Soule’s Poe Dameron comics series, I mean, not right next, a few things in between, but next for this feature.

In The Shadow Of Adaptation: Little Women

I’ve been joking around about how every angry nerd bro was about to get their revenge from me, as Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was announcing. If this movie wasn’t good, I was going to scream and yell and throw things. I was going to CREATE A YOUTUBE channel just to make videos dismantling the movie. I was going to every single time any cast member came up change the subject to how Little Women was crappy.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is my favorite book ever. I read it every few years, most recently, two weeks ago, and I find something special and new in it each time I read it. I’ve built my personality around The March sisters. I love it so much. I’d heard it was good, I’d heard the ending was “controversial.” (It shouldn’t be, Gerwig figured out how to fix the ending of Little Women to have her cake and eat it too, and it’s genius. I sat down in the theater and crossed my arms, saying, “OK, show me.”

I was shown. The choices that Gerwig made are clear and concise, choosing to move between the timelines of the parts of the story really worked for me. So many adaptations of Little Women are top heavy, leaning on the childhood portions and leaving the grown up portions bereft (Beth’s death is the exception.) But here, begining with Jo’s return to Concord when Beth’s sickness develops and Amy and Laurie’s reconnection in France, and moving through their memories from there let’s each story breathe. Meg still gets short shrift, which is a shame. I hope someone delves into her dreams of a happy married life and the way she struggles a bit more some day. This did more with it than the 1994 version, so we’re getting somewhere, but still.

I’m in love with this movie. It’s a wonderful adaptation, I love the cast. I am obsessed with Florence Pugh, but mostly I just love that it felt right. As teenagers, the characters felt like teenagers. Their emotions felt true, the barely contained chaos of the March house felt like home.

Let’s talk about the ending, if you’re new to Little Women, because of this movie, welcome, come inside. I’ve made some blanc mange but I swear I used sugar not salt! Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women as a lightly fictionalized (very lightly) version of her childhood. Famously, she only married Joe to Freidrich Bhaer at her editor’s insistence, Alcott herself never married, and she didn’t want Jo to. Gerwig takes this fact and makes Jo’s actual fate ambiguous. We see her argue the ending with her editor writing, “Under The Umbrella” where Jo and Bhaer agree to marry, in real time. But we also see Jo’s school at Plumfield, and Friedrich is there, so which is it? The choose your own aspect is wonderful. 

I have a lot of feelings about this movie, about Little Women in general, and about how to adapt older work, about feminism in this story, about female characters, and I’m very happy to point to this movie forever and say, “Look at Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, just DO THAT!”

I think I’m going to continue this sporadic feature. I don’t know if any books that I love a lot are getting high profile adaptations this year off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’ll be at least a few. It was really rewarding rereading Watchmen, His Dark Materials and Little Women. (I still have to finish HBO’s His Dark Materials, which…probably speaks to how I feel about that adaptation) we shall see.

The Series Series: The Vampire Chronicles, The New Vampires & The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches By Anne Rice

Hello! Happy New Year and welcome to the 2020 reading project! (And beyond probably!)The Series Series, where I read book series, at the moment of the speculative fiction variety, and talk about plots, themes, author details, whatever it is about the series that gripped me. We’re starting a little idiosyncratically, with a finishing of a series I’ve been reading in bits and pieces over the past year or so. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (And related The New Vampires and The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches.) Hooray!

The Books (Books That I’ve Reviewed Individually Are Linked):

Interview With The Vampire

The Vampire Lestat

The Queen Of The Damned

The Witching Hour

The Tale of The Body Thief

Lasher

Taltos

Memnoch The Devil

Pandora

The Vampire Armand

Vittorio The Vampire

Merrick

Blood And Gold

Blackwood Farm

Blood Canticle

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis

Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat

Author

Anne Rice wrote these books. My opinion of Mrs. Rice as a person is that she is a mixed bag. She was raised in New Orleans, and lived there for years with her husband, the poet Stan Rice. After his death in 2002 she moved to California. In the late 90’s she found Jesus, then lost him again. There’s kind of a lot going on with her there. In her older age now she seems to have mellowed on a few things. (Criticism, fan fiction, people talking about how her characters are super gay) But I also know she used to dox fans? Which is among the worst things that you can do. Alas, she’s a fine writer and I gave her $0 in this project as I took each book out of the library. I think I’d be comfortable buying her books though. Also, I want to go to New Orleans and do one of the tours based around her work REAL BAD.

Series Structure

This is three ongoing series. Kind of. It’s really one series, and two spin offs, that all get braided together. But when thinking about it, it can be broken down into a few different series

The Original:

Interview With A Vampire

The Vampire Lestat

The Queen of the Damned

Lestat Does Adventures And Other People Get To Talk

Tale Of The Body Thief

Memnoch The Devil

The Vampire Armand

Blood And Gold

The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches

The Witching Hour

Lasher

Taltos

The New Vampires

Pandora

Vittorio The Vampire

Witches And Vampires

Merrick

Blackwood Farm

Blood Canticle

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis

Blood Communion

Rice continues to insists she’s done and then ten years later, out pops a vampire book. We shall see moving forward if we get more. (I kind of hope so, because Blood Communion is quite good.)

Themes

The Vampire Chronicles might be unique in the way a book series operates in that it encompasses most of it’s writer’s life and shift in perspective. Because of it’s subject matter it’s grouped with Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but in reality and structure it’s closer to the pulp “dad fiction” of guys like James Patterson and Tom Clancy. Lestat, much like Jack Ryan or Alex Cross is whatever Rice needs him to be book to book. He’s a villain in Interview, an incorrigible anti hero in Lestat and Queen Of The Damned, a pulp searcher in Body Theif, a prophet in Memnoch, Merrick and Blackwood, a great uniter in the Prince Lestat trilogy and always a doomed Byronic Lover mixed with that.

Which means I think metamorphosis is the word of the day. Lestat changes from book to book, he grows and evolves and becomes something different. Which isn’t to ignore some of the other major themes at work here. Queerness and Catholicism being paramount. Rice doubles down on her vampires as doomed guilty Catholic kids who make blood consumption a literal part of their practice. It’s a natural fit for the way vampires work, but I’ve never seen any writer adopt fiction to explore their pet obsessions the way Rice does, or to such stunning effect.

But the main thing here is change, no one, not even the ancient vampires are unchanging, the morph to the times around them, to the people around them. It’s a stunning message for twenty or so books.

Favorite Book

From purely literary standpoints, Interview With A Vampire and The Witching Hour are head and shoulders above the others. They’re original and creepy and well developed and their stories are solid, individual and their prose is top notch. It’s hard to argue with either of them. The Witching Hour is also probably my favorite of the books.

From a fun standpoint, any of the books where Lestat is the narrator is the way to go. Lestat is a delight of a protagonist. I’m particularly fond of The Vampire Lestat and The Tale Of The Body Thief. I also liked Merrick quite a bit, but mostly because it scared me and I’m hard to scare in print. The stuff in between gets a little rough but Blood Communion is an excellent return to form, so I really hope that Rice decides to continue. We shall see.

Least Favorite Book

Mother fucking Lasher you guys, I mean, Taltos too, they’re both pretty bad. Memnoch The Devil is a good book made ridiculous by it’s context, and I was disappointed by Blood And Gold because I’d enjoyed Marius’s appearances in both Lestat and Armand and even Pandora but his own story was pretty dull.

But it doesn’t get worse than Lasher, which is such a terrific letdown form how wonderful The Witching Hour is.

Of course I wrote that before I got to Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis where we learned that Amel, the evil spirit who inhabited Queen Akasha and created vampire kind, is an alien ghost. So that sucks. It sucks even more than the explanation of the Taltos. (Who come back in Blood Canticle in a much more effective fashion)

Favorite Character

I love Armand. I’ve always loved Armand and I think I always will. I’m fond of Michael Curry as well, and I love my little fledglings. David Talbot and Quinn Blackwood are the best examples of that, but it’s always going to be Armand. I love his paintings and his clear decision to be the bad guy. He hates himself so much (and so much of that is Marius and Santino’s fault, but a lot of it is just who he is) and he’s so damn dramatic. (Even more so than Lestat) He can’t help himself. (Also, I’m looking forward to the upcoming TV show, because the ship wars are going to be epic. Personally I am deeply Lestat/David and Louis/Armand. Think of the ADVENTURES, and the ENNUI!)

But it’s impossible to like this series at all and come away anything but totally in love with Lestat. Rice is enamored of him, and so we have to be too. He is wonderful, the “other people talk” books are great, but when Lestat takes things over again in Blood Canticle I audibly whooped. And, last week, when discussing fandom with friends, I mentioned that when/if the rumored TV series ever hits, the Loki/Snape girls are going to be nigh unbearable. Lestat will consume them completely. It’s going to be glorious.

Reread Possibilities

I think I’d revisit my favorites, Interview, Body Thief, Witching Hour, Armand, Blood Communion, but I’d never touch the lows  of the series again and don’t feel particularly compelled to even revisit it’s more middling chapters. This was a big commitment and I’m glad I broke it up as I did, but also, oh boy, this series has some serious lows.

My other reading project is non fiction, so the next thing I’m reading is The Race  To Save The Romanovs by Helen Rappaport but the next series is going to be The Chronicles Of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.