Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

The seventh and final book of the Chronicles was an excellent ending. The battle was great, but what came after was even better. The forgiving spirit of God (Aslan) was shown as well as His judgement. Essentially Judgement Day came for Narnia and we were taken through its end just as we were there at its birth - we then followed all of the characters through the Door into Lewis' vision of heaven. I especially liked Aslan's conversation with Emeth about his faith no matter what name he gave to his God.

Dated: 12/30/03

The Chronicles of Narnia was the first ever book series that I read through to its completion (I am not counting Lord of the Rings because J.R.R. Tolkien intended those three books to be one book, not a trilogy). My husband and I had started them together, but he lost interest along the way, which is what had happened to me in the past with book series that I had begun. 
After I read this book, "The Last Battle," I realized how much could be lost if not read all the way through. I enjoyed most of The Chronicles of Narnia, however, once I read book seven, I fell in love with the series. As much as I loved the seventh book on its own, I know that it was through the support of the six books that came before that it seemed to be such an amazing tale all its own.
What was the first book series you read through to its completion? 
Do you feel as though the last book was the "best" of the series?
Have you abandoned/forgotten series in the middle of reading them? What do you think would have kept you hooked? 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BOOK REVIEW -Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I have always had an affinity for books about stranded protagonists. When I was in elementary school, my father brought home an abridged copy of Robinson Crusoe for me and I was enthralled. After that, I read The Island of the Blue Dolphins with such a reader's joy that I started to daydream about being whisked away to a quiet island of my own. In high school, when we read The Lord of the Flies my passion for this fend for yourself and live off your wits type of literature seemed to be unparalleled. And then, as an adult, when I read Life of Pi and found my protagonist floating in the sea with a tiger as a companion, I was, once again, at the peak of my reading fulfillment.

It got me thinking... what other books like this have I missed? When I started asking around, one title seemed to resurface again and again. It was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Many were surprised I hadn't heard of it before given my affinity for this type of book, and even more were surprised I hadn't read it. I had put it on my infinite "to-read" list and had all but forgotten it when I stumbled upon the audiobook in my library.

This is how I finally came to read Hatchet, a book that surely would have fit in with a life long pattern of reading about lonely main characters.

In Hatchet we meet Brian, a teenager who is dealing with the recent divorce of his parents, just as he is taking a single-engine plane ride to stay with his father. The plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness leaving Brian to fend for himself with nothing but the hatchet his mother gave him attached to his belt.

From the beginning of this book I was torn about how I felt about it, but, to be honest with you, I think that had more to do with the audio production than the story itself. The particular edition of audiobook I had was produced in the nineties and it definitely sounded dated to me from the onset. How could this be? you may wonder. Well, for one, there was the music. This drove me absolutely crazy. It seemed that every time something dramatic or emotional happened to Brian, or if he thought of something that made him melancholy, some music would play in the background. I suppose this was to help set the mood. However, in my opinion, that is what the writing is for. The music actually had the complete opposite affect on me: I cracked up laughing every time it would play. I felt as though it was mocking the action of the story rather than complementing it.  After a while, though, I did get used to it. I was never quite comfortable with it, but I didn't burst into hysterics each time it played.

Once I trained myself to listen beyond the music and sound effects, I found Gary Paulsen's story and writing on the other end. And, in that, I found exactly the type of story I was looking for. Brian, only 13 years old, had his own difficulties in his life in dealing with his parents' divorce and his mother's "secret," but throughout his struggle to survive he learned to put all of those things in perspective and, in turn, appreciate that which he did have.

After finishing this book, I found out that Brian's story continues in other adventures. I am tempted to continue the journey with him as he ventures back into the wilderness, but I am unsure whether I will use an audiobook option for the next read.

If you haven't already read Hatchet and you are a fan of novels which throw young protagonists into the wilds of nature to fend for themselves, then Hatchet, a Newbery Honor book, will be a fun read for you. If you are, on the other hand, looking for a fast-paced, dialogue-packed read, then I think you already know that a story about one boy in the woods just isn't going to cut it.

What are your opinions about sound effects and music in an audiobook? When/where does it belong? Does it help you in the reading to capture the mood?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flash Fiction - The Invisible Resistance

"I can't," she whispers under her breath.

"What did you say? I can't hear you!" an angry voice bellows from above.

She stares at her hands before her, shaking. Her tears held on the precipice of her bottom eyelid as she becomes conscious of the words she just uttered. She closes her eyes and the tears fall into her outstretched hands. She says it again, this time knowingly, "I can't."

"You?" shock and awe with a tinge of mockery oozes from the response, "but I thought you could do anything?" He leans over her, "I thought you said nothing was impossible." His spittle sprays her cheek.

"I know," her cracked voice is muffled as she holds her head in her hands, "but now I know defeat." She bends tighter into her kneeling posture, "I am broken, you bastard..." she rocks herself on the floor, looking like she is in some sort of solemn prayer, when, in fact, she is merely holding on tight to all of her pieces ensuring nothing breaks off and gets lost.

As he begins to cackle and turn away, the fury in her rises. She wipes the tears from her face. In doing so, she feels the heat of its reddened state and knows this means that her blood is still flowing. Slowly, she rises to her feet and turns her tears into tyranny, "What is the point of this?! Is this a game to you?"

He stopped in his tracks and turns, glaring at her, but she didn't give him a chance to retort - not yet, anyway, "How long am I supposed to fight?"

He looked down and smiled. There was no malice in it which almost made it terrifying, "You fight as long as you want to..." he said softly, almost encouragingly.

"And what happens when I decide that I don't want to fight any more?"

"Darling," he said, as if he were speaking to a small child, "that is when you can't."

"So, I was right? Nothing is impossible?" she asked incredulously.

He tucked her hair behind her ear and gently leaned down whispering into her ear, "I don't know, do you think you can prove that?"

It sounded like a challenge. Well, it was a challenge. He phrased it that way for a reason; to intrigue her, to entice her, to drag her back into the arena. She thought long and hard about what she had done so far. What she had shown him, shown herself and the world. She wondered if the fates would allow her anything more past this point. She wondered if she had already stretched the limits of possibility. She looked at her broken body and wondered how many more battles it could face without being literally torn limb from limb.

She hated him for the challenge as her head swooned with pressure, her back twisted from past defeats and her insides crawled with what could only be described as tiny demons armed with glass shards. She loved him for the challenge when she felt her heart beat again and knew that her eyes must be twinkling: she was still alive. With both hands balled into fists, staring straight into the ground, barely loud enough for her own ears to hear it, she smiled and said, "Yes, I think I can."

I'm adding this story as my "short story" of the week. What do you think? Does it qualify as a short story? Is it even flash fiction? Is it too vague to be either? Is it just a scene from something else; a vignette? This was the "beginning to end" in my head this week (still working on a longer short that - thankfully - did not get lost with all of my technical issues!). Feel free to give me your honest constructive criticism in the comments. If you don't want your critique to be public, then email me! Thanks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Eustace returns to Narnia with a school friend, Jill, to save Caspian's son who has been kidnapped by the Witch in the Underworld. This is the sixth book (second to last) and I can see where the conclusion of the tale is going. I look forward to book seven The Last Battle.

Dated: 12/28/03

Based on my lack-luster interest in the book previous this one I *nearly* gave up on the Narnia series. However, I had purchased them all, and felt obligated to finish them to their conclusion. By the end of this book I was happy I had made that decision. Have you ever had a similar experience with a book series?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lost Memory

When I saw 50 First Dates I thought the premise was equally intriguing and ridiculous; a woman with a strange condition where she could not save any new experiences in her brain. She could pretty much get through a day with you, know your name, get to know you, have  a really good time, but then by the next morning *POW!* it was like it never happened.

I tried to imagine what this could possibly feel like - not only from the woman's perspective, but for everyone in her life.

This week I got a tiny little technological taste. In the middle of writing last week's short story (I was already a week behind...) for the #52stories challenge, my laptop seized.  In that moment, so did my breathing. I calmly decided to Force Quit all of my programs and restart the machine (it had recently been yelling at me about StartUp memory or something...). When everything came back on there was an "AutoRecovery" version of my story waiting for me. I opened it and it had everything but the last sentence I had written! What glorious luck! I thought. I saved it, then typed my next sentence and clicked "Save" again, just to confirm my wondrous luck. Well, the laptop was not having it. It simply could not handle saving that one sentence.

I was literally OUT OF MEMORY.

I spent the rest of the day exporting files to my external hard drive, deleting duplicate or unnecessary files. Without boring you with every nitty gritty detail, I have to just inform you: I zapped everything I could. For some reason, my MacBook is still angry with me and I can't even work on it.

I am now seeking professional help!

Tomorrow is my appointment at the Apple Store, where I anticipate we will be resetting my little laptop back to factory settings. So the GOOD NEWS? It's going to be like having a brand new laptop all over again! Yay! Of course, there's the BAD NEWS too: It's going to be like having a brand new laptop all over again. Boo!

I hope to have this all resolved by Monday night, but I may have to spend some time Tuesday reinstalling - ie rebuilding - my technical play-space, so, unless I get some Desktop time in between, there may be a couple of more days of silence!

Therefore, if you don't mind:


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The fifth book of the Chronicles is, so far, not my favorite. This does not surprise me since I am rarely intrigued by Royal ships at sea. Of course, Aslan was wonderful as usual, but I do not feel that the story has movd forward in any way. Eustace and the Dufflepuds were interesting new characters, but not much more than that. Sad news - Lucy and Edmund are now also too old to return to Narnia, but Aslan told them he is in our world too, only with a different name.

Dated: 12/14/03

I'm beginning to think I have not given shipboard stories a fair shot. Do you have a recommendation for me?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Jim Henson's A Tale of Sand

Way back in October 2011, while I was readying for New York Comic Con, I first heard about what sounded like a dream to this muppet and book-loving girl... The Jim Henson Company's archivist, Karen Falk, unearthed a Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl a previously unheard of screenplay. There were three drafts for a feature-length film entitled Tale of Sand that had been developed between 1967 and 1974 which was just about the time Henson, and his long-time writing partner, Juhl, were making their moves in children entertainment with Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. The screenplay went into the company vaults where it remained "the only feature-length screenplay written by Henson that he was never able to produce during his lifetime."

This was all I needed to know.

I am a life long Henson fan. I needed to see what this was all about.

So I waited...

and waited...

and waited...

For what was coming next.

With the permission of The Jim Henson Company and Henson's daughter, Lisa Henson, Archaia Entertainment set to the task of bringing this screenplay vividly to life.

Except they weren't making a movie. They were going to transform the screenplay into a graphic novel with the help of the incredibly talented Ramón Pérez. This book, now completed and available to us all has been nominated for five Eisner Awards. Well, after finally getting my very own beautiful, hardcover edition of the book and reading this great news, I sat down to read.

From the first page of Tale of Sand, I believe one can tell that this book stands out from the rest. Heck, the yellow hardcover with the cool purple band gives you a clue on first sight! Like all the Archaia books I have had the pleasure of reading Tale of Sand is a complete work of art.

The Introduction describes the story as "a surrealistic comedy-drama." Surrealistic is a perfect word. While the story seems to start in a normal enough celebratory fashion, it doesn't take long for the reader to be swept up in a world of confusion and mystery along with the protagonist.

There is practically no dialogue in this book, however it is full of action, intensity and unique storytelling page after page. Ramón Pérez's artistic interpretation of the screenplay is magnificent. His skill in drawing a myriad of settings, all in the desert, but unveiling, as the Introduction describes, "incongruous situations" is mesmerizing. By using a palette of pastels, the dry, white-hot setting of the desert is always present. Pérez's ability to draw any number of characters with full expression, as well as to fill up the page with any bizarre detail necessary to fill the tale's need is compelling. Finally, the layout of the book, page by page complements the surrealistic style of the story as well as the fast-paced forward momentum of the action. 

Beginning to end you will find yourself on a fun-house roller-coaster designed by Ramón Pérez and operated by the team of Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl. You will be whipped back and forth, racing toward the finish and wondering what twist is coming next. Make sure you keep the lap-bar down all the way through the ride, by the finish you may want to just ride it again!

This review can also be found on Word of the Nerd.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Love Around the Net

This year I started the Book Love series on this blog. While it is an idea that solidified in my mind this past holiday season, upon reflection I can now see where the true inspiration for the entire series came from. I shared this story today in a guest post entitled When Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder for the blog A Girl Named Michael (you may remember Michael from when she participated in the Book Love Series just a couple of weeks ago). After writing the post, I realized it was one story I really wanted to tell.

It seems I was not the only one talking about Book Love this week. Über-famous author, Neil Gaiman answered all types of fantastic book-loving questions in a New York Times interview this past week such as "What book is on your night stand now?" "What was the last truly great book you read?"and "What book has had the greatest impact on you?" just to name a few. Perhaps, if I am really, really lucky I can ask Neil Gaiman, myself, what his first book love was, but for now, reading this interview comes close to satiating my curiosity about this cool cat!

Is there someone whose reading habits you'd love to know about?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review - The Avengers

Here is the movie review I shared today on Word of the Nerd.
Fan made poster of the Avengers
WARNING: What you are about to read may come across as biased. 

 It's not my fault, really. You can't tease and talk to me about a movie for over four years, linking it to almost all of the great comic book book movies that have happened within that space of time and then put Joss Whedon at the helm and expect any different from me. It's as though my critical eye was obliterated before The Avengers even began. 

In short, The Avengers was so amazing that I am concerned that it will be my favorite movie of the 2012 movie season before the season even gets going. 

But, before you dismiss me as a fan-girl gone googly, I'd like to defend myself. The Avengers offers everything a comic book, super hero movie should offer: there is action, extraordinary battles, seamless special effects to enhance the setting(s) and action, a sense of fun and depth of character. It is this final point that I believe separates the good comic book movies from the great ones. In terms of The Avengers this depth of character was not only demonstrated with one main-stage hero, but, rather, a team of them, four of which had previously had the silver screen all to themselves. No opportunity was missed within the 142 minute film to showcase who each of these characters were - whether it was through a witty remark, a look, a perfectly timed punch or even an amusing recognition of one's place out of time - even if you hadn't been reading their comic books all your life, or if you had somehow missed the last five years of blockbuster Marvel movies, you could have a full scope of who each of these characters were from this film alone. 

While I could write about the character development and presentation of each of the Avengers, I will only take the time to mention the one who has been given a second chance in this film: the Hulk. For all those who have waited for it, in The Avengers you will finally see the Hulk done right. Perhaps it is the nature of the story - the fact that he has powerful enough beings to contend with - but I think credit should be given to Mark Ruffalo and the writing team for making this character believable and one to root for. After watching the film I can fully understand where the confidence to sign the Ruffalo-six-movie deal with Marvel came from, and I can't wait to see where the Hulk ends up next. 

To speak to the action of the film, well, let's just say the Earth - represented by one bad-ass eye patch, trench coat wearing, Nick Fury - pulls together a group of beings with powers beyond our human scope of understanding to defend against a seemingly unstoppable offensive force brought to ground by one very misguided Loki, and, once again, my city is torn asunder. That's right, Nerds, you are in for some major New York City SMASH in the ultimate battle on the screen. However, that is hardly the first battle in this film. Do not be late to this movie, because, in true Whedon style, the action and forward momentum of the story begins before you even get your straw in your soda! And if you happen to be blessed with as active an audience as I was, this means raucous applause and cheers every step of the way. 

One other thing you may notice from the audience, whether they are raucous or not, is an inordinate amount of laughter. Remember I said this movie was fun? Well, part of that fun can be found in the funny. This is isn't your typical, "Oh-ho! If you knew Tony Stark, you'd get how funny that is!" type of funny where a fraction of the audience is left nervously giggling in confusion. What you'll find in The Avengers are honest-to-goodness funny lines and situations understood by everyone in attendance. As I said, it's fun. 

So that you know my critical eye was not completely obliterated as I might have once feared, I will tell you my two issues with the film, minor though they are. My first point is, while the action began at step one, I felt a sense of unease about the film in the first two or three scenes. To be honest, I will have to see the film again to pinpoint what might have been missing there, but something was amiss. However, this turns into a minor fact as it is quickly forgotten by all the wonder that follows. The second reservation is that I did shell out the extra bucks for the 3D version of the film and I am not sure I needed to. This could be due to the showing of The Amazing Spiderman trailer in 3D, after which I'm not sure anything else could measure up to that swinging fun! 

To wrap it all up, I already told you not be late to this movie, now I have to warn you: don't leave. You will, in true Marvel fashion be treated to that teaser scene we've all come to love and adore. However, in this film, you will get two. One is a teaser and another is full of that fun I spoke of, but both are worth sitting through the credits. 

 So, get out there Nerds! Assemble! Get to the movies and don't miss out on the buzzing excitement of the opening weekend crowds... but don't forget to come back to let me know what you thought of the movie!

  Image Source

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

BOOK CLUB Announcement from Word of the Nerd

I know it's Wednesday and today is supposed to be Reading Journal Day and I promise, next Wednesday there will be a brand new entry from my Reading Journals past, but today I have an exciting announcement and invitation I want to share with you here on Rivera Runs Through It:

Today we launched a brand new online book club at Word of the Nerd online! 
This is big news and I have been planning it for a long while (so long ago, in fact, in my original plans I was going to launch it in April!), so I am happy to finally be able to spill the beans.

While all of the information can be found on the Word of the Nerd website, I'd like to give you guys and gals a sneak peek into what the whole book club is about. Like all book clubs it is about books and community. We want to find some really great reads (some book to movies before we go to theaters, some graphic novels, and some nerd classics written by the masters of our imaginations), and we want to meet our Nerd Nation. Each month, a new book will be announced in the first week of the month, I'll do some check-in posts throughout the second and third weeks and, by week four it will be time to discuss. Our discussions will take place on the Word of the Nerd Facebook page or on Twitter by following the hashtag #WOTNBC. (You know how much I love those hashtags!!)

So, guess what?
That's right! I'm double-dipping here, I'd like to chat it up with my RRTI readers too during this wonderful meeting of the minds over some yummy literature (I know there are some in the closet nerds out there)! If you think you are interested, then come check out the Official Word of the Nerd Book Club Page and then RSVP either in comments section here, or at Word of the Nerd on the post announcing May's read.

 Wondering what May's read is? I really should make you read my post on Word of the Nerd, but I love you and I think you will do that anyway, later, so here it is: 
In an effort to read the book before the movie, and knowing that this is the last month to actually accomplish that in (since the movie arrives in theaters this June), our read this month will be none other than Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. I'm extremely curious about this book, particularly after reading and enjoying Taft 2012 so much, I guess I'm just in the mood for turning American history on its head! 

Readers are you ready to join?
Have you read Seth Grahame-Smith before?
If you coud put one book on the Word of the Nerd's Book Club reading list, what would it be and why?