Tag Archives: terry pratchett

{book list} n’s summer reading recs (pt2)

Yesterday, Natalya began her list of 20 summer reading recommendations, and today we list the second set of ten. These books are in no particular order, and they range across age and content. Enjoy!  ~L

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Yes! Your favorite contributor on the blog is back! (And will hopefully keep updating and more lists and reviews.) This time around I have created a list of some of the best reads for summertime. They are listed from first to twentieth using the criteria of how light (cheerful) or humorous, how thick, how easy to read, and how enjoyable the book is overall. All the books are fantastic, even the last one is great, so you just read them all, or pick the ones that seem to appeal to you. Enjoy and continue to have a wonderful summer!

11. Bridge to Terabithiaby Katherine Paterson (HarperCollins 1977).

I know I promised to stay light, but here I go, a horribly sad book. But it is truly a classic and is still the perfect summer book, a book about two children becoming friends, whose imagination that makes you truly believe in magic. So creative and inspiring, if not bitter- really, really, bitter-sweet, it still ends perfectly–happily even.

12. Alex and the Ironic Gentlemanby Adrienne Kress (Weinstein Books 2007).

A longtime favorite, as you already probably know, I find that this book is readable in every season! But fitting my criteria, it is once more on my list, as it is filled with odd circumstances. Adrienne Kress’ characters absolutely sparkle with extraordinary personalities and her plot never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times you read it–500 times for me and I still grin with pleasure, even though I’ve memorized most of it. It really is the perfect summer adventure story.

13. School of Fear(book1) by Gitty Daneshvari (Little, Brown Books 2009).

Despite its name, this book is a light, off-the-wall, and funny read about a group of children going to a “school” to “cure” their phobias. The school is peculiar and they are not impressed by its methods, as none of them are working, but when tragedy hits and they suspect foul play. Being the only ones that can help, can they set aside their fears? A truly hilarious adventure will make you glad you read it.

[N’s omphaloskepsis review]

14. Page by Paigeby Laura Lee Gulledge (Abrams 2011)

This book is on the line between a graphic novel and a notebook full of illustrations used by our main character to express herself, as she finds a path toward opening up to her new friends, learning to ask for help, and opening up more as they spread joy through art and creativity by projects throughout the city. The author’s own unique vision and creativity makes this book a very enjoyable read.

[omphaloskepsis review]

15. Remarkableby Lizzie K. Foley (Dial 2012)

This is a fun, wonky book where in the town of Remarkable, everybody is remarkable at something, except our main character. This book has a wandering plot, with random coincidences finding connection to form a mystery that only Jane can solve with her unremarkableness. This is just a truly fun story, something light to read.

[omphaloskepsis review]

16. Nationby Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins 2008)

This book is one of friendship and some love, of responsibility and faith towards a religion. After his clan is swept out by a huge wave, a young boy is left on his home island, alone. A young girl, from England is the only survivor of a shipwreck. Speaking different languages and having different cultures, they are speaking to each other only through pictures and motions. Once other survivors come to the island, the pair soon has their own clan to take care of, and with it problems. Reading the two’s interactions is enjoyable and the author has a way of keeping the story fairly light, while still having deep morals.

17. A Tale of Two Castlesby Gail Carson Levine (HarperTeen 2011).

When you hear Gail Carson Levine’s name, you know the story ought to be good. In this book, she creates an adventure where her main character, hoping to be an actor, has to solve a mystery in the castle with only the aid of the dragon. Her brave, witty characters make this read yet another success.

18. The Tiger Risingby Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick 2002).

Though I promised to keep this list light, I could not help but add this fairly sad story by Kate DiCamill. It is a beautifully written book, full of beautiful things and ugly lives and the connection of a girl and a boy held together by a beautiful discovery, and ending with a realistic action of love. A warning: if you want to avoid something sad, I would not read this this season. But it truly is elegantly written story, unfortunately, a little overshadowed by the brilliance and popularity of her other books. If you don’t mind a few tears, you should read this book.

19. The Princess Brideby William Goldman (Ballantine 1973).

You might be familiar with this movie, it has originated from a book, and it is equally enjoyable, I can assure you. The book is a bit lengthy, exceeding one of my criteria, but it is a book of true love, and has some of the best characters and plots I have read.

20. Kingdom Keepers series (Disney After Dark, book 1) by Ridley Pearson (Disney Press 2005).

This adventure does have a little bit of a sinister side, but as long as you are not scared easily and don’t read it before bed you will be fine. The creativity of the author of the conflict is amazing and it is truly a classic, but different adventure.


skulduggery pleasant

“Before I introduce you to a life of crime, I get to introduce you to the Elder Mages.”

“Crime sounds more fun.”

“As indeed it is, though I would never condone crime in any of its forms. Except when I do it, naturally.”

“Naturally. so why are we delaying the fun? What do these Elder Mages want?”

“They’ve heard that I’ve been dragging a perfectly nice young lady into all manner of trouble, and they want to admonish me for it.”

“Tell them it’s none of their business.”

“Well, while I do admire your moxie–”

“What’s moxie?”

“–I’m afraid that won’t work too well with these fellows. One thing you have to remember about the Elder Mages is that they’re–”

“Really old sorcerers?”

“Well, yes.”

“Worked that out all by myself.”

“You must be so proud.”

“Why do you have to report to them? Do you work for them?”

“In a way. the Elders pass the laws, and they have people who enforce the laws, but there are only a few of us who actually investigate the breaking of those laws–murders, robberies, a couple of kidnappings, the usual. And while I may be freelance, most of my work, and my money, comes from the Elders.”

“So if they want to wag their fingers at you…”

“I have to stand there and be wagged at.”

“So why do they want me to be there? Aren’t I the innocent young girl being led astray?”

“See, I dont’ really want them to view you as the innocent young girl. I want them to view you as the rebellious, insubordinate, troublesome rapscallion who has made herself my partner. Then maybe they’ll take pity on me.” (138-9)

Skulduggery Pleasantby Derek Landy

HarperCollins, 2008.

Paperback (w/ “Extras”), 416 pages.

ages 10 & up.

Have you hugged a book lately? Everytime I had to set down Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant I had to give it a brief hug first, I was so happy to be reading it. Yes, this could be attributed to the fact that the daughter was out of town and I was missing a hugging of someone intelligent and humorous and just flat-out brilliant and the book had to do. Although there was Sean and he is all those things… I suppose the book earned the hug on it’s own merit. Actually, I don’t suppose, I know it did. Skulduggery Pleasant is a fun, smart read.

Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton and a detective, and he was a good friend of 12 year-old-Stephanie Edgely’s late uncle Gordon. Stephanie Edgely is an only child residing in a small town in Ireland who wishes life were not so boring. Her problems are replaced by  the mystery of a murdered uncle, the Scepter of the Ancients, and of Skulduggery Pleasant himself. I mean, who is this living skeleton who can talk without lips and see without eyeballs? And is he the only one capable of magic?

Skulduggery’s world isn’t merely the fiction upon which Uncle Gordon’s successful novels were based. Its characters are as brilliantly realized as anyone could hope for; and the dialog is better than one should expect. As I was caught up in the banter between Skulduggery and Stephanie, I couldn’t help but think about Rose (Billie Piper) and Doctor Who (David Tennant). The comparison’s didn’t quit with the quick- and sharp-witted exchanges. Stephanie has a similar penchant for getting into a scrape and getting herself back out of it; and she has a fierce loyalty for those she comes to love. As for Skulduggery and The Doctor, it is the incredible energy and the enormous ego. Needless to say, fans of Doctor Who must read Skulduggery Pleasant.

“Stephanie and Skulduggery’s witty repartee is most enjoyable, and the pacing is fast, with constant action and fight scenes during which the author neither sugarcoats the violence nor revels in it unnecessarily.” Voya

The villains are quite scary and the peril is pretty intense. Yet it is as Voya notes in their review, “the author neither sugarcoats the violence nor revels in it unnecessarily.” People are murdered by heinous creatures, one is made into a monster in one the most disturbing parts of the book–and you see what evil’s consequences are, the threat compels the reader to cheer on the heroes and wonder at the outcome. Again, I am thinking of a Doctor Who episode; but I can’t disregard the originality of Derek Landy’s inventions. If I think Doctor Who or Terry Pratchett, it is that Skulduggery keeps good company. For Eoin Colfer fans, you’ll likely find this book a recommendation as well. Dark and evil things are scary, the wit has the reader laughing out loud, and the heart within each character (that has a heart) that is irresistible. I am glad Skulduggery Pleasant is a series. I want to read more.

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In the “Extras” section at the back of the edition I read, there is a short story of a Skulduggery adventure called The Lost Art of World Domination. You can find it on-line here.

the Skulduggery Pleasant website.


Another Tour of Discworld

To continue in the vein of the bizarre. We found* another made for television film based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Vadim Jean directed the Hogfather in 2006, which was adapted for television from book 20 of the series. In 2008, another two-part movie directed by Vadim Jean aired on Sky One–The Color of Magic. This movie is based on Pratchett’s first two Discworld books, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. While I say bizarre, The Color of Magic is less so in comparison to Hogfather. And it is also likely the most palatable of the two, appealing to wider audiences as well as younger ones.

A brilliantly comedic David Jason returns in a new role as Rincewind, a failed Wizard who can’t even pass his first levels after several years of trying. Expelled from the Unseen University of Wizards, Rincewind is at loose ends and he happens across Discworld’s first Tourist, Two Flower, who is wonderfully played by Sean Astin. Two Flower is in Ankh-Morpork to see the sights, naively placing himself in dangerous situations and Rincewind is obliged to help him survive.

After a devastating fire, Two Flower and Rincewind flee, setting off to explore potential Tourist Destinations. What follows is an adventure that highlights many of the wonderfully odd things on the Discworld. Two Flower stumbles rather innocently into trouble and is nonplussed about the chances of escaping unscathed. In character, he is amusingly optimistic  and marvelously self-referential, “Losing my Luggage is part of being a Tourist.” You will like Two Flower’s luggage. Rincewind, the less courageous of the two, is ever at the edge of panic and despair, constantly placed by Two Flower into near-death experiences.  And speaking of death, Death is a character (voiced by Christopher Lee) in The Color of Magic. And he as exasperated by Two Flower and Rincewind’s antics as Rincewind is, “I think I’ve just had another Near-Rincewind Experience.” Death shows up and Rincewind just won’t die.

Death: Your lifetime is up, Rincewind. I can’t hang around all day.
Rincewind: I can. What have you done with the tourist?
Death: Nothing. He was lured by the attraction of the Wyrmberg.
Rincewind: So at least the Patrician won’t be sending out his men to kill me just yet then?
Death: There is a distinct possibility that he may not need to.
Rincewind: What are you grinning at?
Death: Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Now, would you be so kind as to let go? It won’t hurt.
Rincewind: Being torn to pieces by wolves won’t hurt?
Death: It would be over very quickly. And of course, they are an endangered species.

As in Hogfather there are story lines running parallel one another, but in The Color of Magic the two main lines are earlier and more evidently linked. Rincewind’s expulsion from the Unseen University was amidst a power struggle. The climbing of the ladder to the top meant positions had to be vacated, necessarily by means of murder. Tim Curry plays Trymon who has his eye on the top position of Archchancellor.  The wit along this vein of the story is dark humor and deliciously carried off. It is no distraction to a central course which involves getting Rincewind back.

A third line, involving astronomers and “astrozoologists” seem to bookend the movie and one must wait to the end to draw that one together and into the greater story. It is as an Astrozoologist that Pratchett has a cameo. The brilliant start to the film involves the astronomers and astrozoologists is that shoot off over the edge of Discworld to have a closer look at the turtle on which the four elephants who in turn carry the Discworld on their backs. (We had wondered at this possibility when watching Hogfather.)

The special effects are put to greater use in Jean’s The Color of Magic and the transitions are more fluid, otherwise the film feels similar to Jean’s earlier effort, Hogfather.  The sets and costumes are rich. The vision is carried off beautifully. The adaptation to the books is fairly close, to my understanding, but I’ve yet to read any of Pratchett’s Discworld series.

Knowing that this is two books helps. The film felt long to me**–was any adventure/incident excluded from the book? The Color of Magic felt shorter than Hogfather (though both are ~185 minutes) but I don’t think it would be bad to spread it out over the course of two days.  A lighter hand was taken with any philosophical musing, but the pacing is as patient as the previous–a warning to those with attention span issues, or exhaustion. For everyone else, the humor will be enough. The acting across the board is good and there are some fantastic characters. Cohen the Barbarian (David Bradley) is hilarious.

It goes without saying that if you enjoyed Hogfather you will enjoy The Color of Magic. However, even if you didn’t care for Hogfather, you will still likely enjoy The Color of Magic. Fans of The Princess Bride will have a good chance with this one. And again, fans of British humor, and medieval/magical settings.

The Color of Magic (2008)

Director/Screenplay:  Vadim Jean.

Based on Terry Pratchett’s The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, (Discworld Series Books 1 and 2).

Out of the United Kingdom.

First broadcast on Sky One (Official  Website).

185 minutes, 2 parts.

IMDb link.

Wiki link.

 

*Thank you Netflix Streaming.

**the husband and daughter did not seem bothered by the length. N was completely absorbed.


…bizarre

While you are adding Dragon Hunters (2008) to your Netflix Instant Que. I have a really bizarre one for you: director Vadim Jean’s Hogfather (2006), a two part television movie based on Terry Pratchett’s novel of the same name. In fact most places title the movie Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather .

“Expect the Unexpected”

We were browsing Netflix for a family-friendly film we could all agree on; which is sometimes difficult. Netflix has a feature that suggests films using its data on what you’ve watched. So when Sean read  ‘because you watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, The Princess Bride, and Serenity’ we were done browsing. We were going to watch Hogfather. What followed was a long and strange 3 hours. Afterward, all I could say was “bizarre.”

I haven’t read any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and I was still able to enjoy the movie. However, watching the movie, I did get the feeling that there are all sorts of interesting stories to hear about Death and his granddaughter Susan. I think we will check out the series.   I understand that the movie was mostly faithful in adaptation, primarily because Pratchett helped create the movie and even provides a cameo (the Toymaker Isme of the shop Toys Is Me).Understanding that there is a series does help with the introduction of the film, because otherwise that first part is–odd. The introduction to the Origin of Discworld should seem familiar, as if it is used at the entry of every Discworld book. On a film that you have little history on, a series you are unaware of, it comes off as potentially irrelevant and certainly overdone.

Seeing the Discworld rendered, Natalya (10) wondered about the Elephants, “why 4 Elephants?” and Sean (34) wondered, “If you took a boat and sailed to the edge would you fall off? and if you had a grappling hook could you catch the edge of the discworld and swing under to see the elephants?” Then the conversation turned to Turtles and their inability to smile, except on Finding Nemo (2003).

It is good to be in the frame of mind for Fantasy and in a state of good humor. There is a charming level of ridiculousness that references back to the Dr. Horrible, Princess Bride, and Serenity, but if that is not your kind of humor, I think Hogfather will somewhat painful.

It is good to just go ahead and trust that Pratchett knows how to tell a story (I am less familiar with Jean). The seemingly unrelated will find relations sooner or later. The wizards are not solely there for comedy and bafflement.

Oh, right, the story: “It’s Hogswatch (equivalent to Christmas) on the Discworld and the Hogfather has gone missing, requiring Death to take his place while his granddaughter Susan endeavors to find out what has happened.”~IMDb. Wow, that is quite straightforward,  isn’t it…

At first, it is not understood how much of a terrible thing it is for the Hogfather to have gone missing. The mystery and the adjustment to everything going on is enough. The complications are layered on in time and the movie takes its time progressing. On Netflix it is still the 2 episodes, don’t be afraid to take the two nights with this one. The pacing is somewhat uneven—course this could be because I was more eager for certain scenes and characters than others. There is also a lot of philosophizing about Fantasy and Believing. “Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape”—Death (Ian Richardson).

*****

Death: “It was some time after its creation when most people forgot that the very oldest stories of the beginning are, sooner or later, about… blood. At least, that’s one theory. The philosopher Daedactalus has suggested an alternative hypothesis: “Things just happen. What the hell.”

The above quote from the introductory narration (and later) is temporally disturbing but quickly lost in the wonder of the world/story building.  The story has its audience contemplating the movie’s topical concerns before the movie/story more overtly explores the more complicated (like myth origin).  Why do children believe in the Hogfather? Why would his disappearance be such a threat? What is Death’s role in all of this?

Death is the most amusing character, and at his heels is Susan (Michelle Dockery) who reminds me of Wednesday from The Adams Family all grown up and playing Mary Poppins. Her reading to the children:

And then Jack chopped down what was the world’s last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant’s children didn’t have a daddy any more. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you’re a hero, because no-one asks inconvenient questions.

Back to Death. Death relays all sorts of interesting observations about humans, “Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.” His fumbling replacement as the Hogfather had me at times thinking of Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas, earnestly trying to create a plausible exchange while still retaining his own personality.

Though Death needs his (also very funny) helper Albert (David Jason) to finesse the traditions associated with Hogswatch, he does understand why Hogswatch needs to succeed; which is a mystery some viewers will need the full 3-hours  to understand but may fail to wait for it. Hogfather makes a case for holidays and believing in Fantasy that is interesting no matter how you might lie in that argument, but in a way it is a Fantasist trying to convince a Fantasist. I am curious how well received the movie is by those who don’t usually care for Fantasy, or Mythical Figures like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  Death makes for the perfect protagonist in this sort of story, he is the most universally agreed upon figure, though how he is portrayed might vary. In the film, he is the iconic grim reaper…though his grimness is suspect.

I mention the Tooth Fairy, and Hogfather does, too. The Tooth Fairy’s place in the story is a wonderful devisement. I would say more, but I’d hate to spoil this one.

A villain, Teatime (Marc Warren) is terribly creepy in that deliciously perfect way. “You were the kind of kid who couldn’t see the difference between throwing rocks at a cat and setting it on fire”—Susan to Teatime, “pronounced Teh-ah-tim-eh, sir.”

The humor in Hogfather balances nicely with the creep-factor. And the weirdness provides just enough separation to make the discussions that find otherwise apparent relevancy for non-Discworld inhabitants engaging.

Neil Gaiman fans will be drawn Hogfather. Fans would likely know that Gaiman and Pratchett are great friends and have collaborated on more than a few projects.  They share an interest in Myth/Lore, the occult, and its trail back through Time.  “The very oldest stories of the beginning are, sooner or later, about… blood.” The Hogfather isn’t just about contemporary traditions and their subsequent amusements. As was alluded to in an earlier quote, humans need for fantasy or their ability to fantasize at all, is a fascination in the Hogfather. How Hogswatch and its modern trappings might still be “about…blood” is something I am thinking on. Feel free to share your ideas after (& if) you’ve seen the film; which is another thing about seating the story in Fantasy—it facilitates much safer conversations. Hogfather addresses Consumerism, but would not ignore deeper and more “primitive” motives; which is a much less comfortable topic of conversation for most.

As for the movie itself. I don’t recall much in the way of spectacular affects or frame-able art. The sets are nice.  The transitions are like flipping to the page or the next chapter. The imagination is carried off into remarkable realization. Yet, the presentation is, and it hardly overwhelms the story or the cast.  And the cast is great, by the way.

The film is family-friendly. Responses to it will vary. If you do like films such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, The Princess Bride, and Serenity (Logan) than Hogfather is up your alley. Also, any other names/titles referenced are of similar suit. If Fantasy or Belief in Mythical Creatures or even celebrating Holidays using them, is not your thing—Pratchett is still worth the interest, certainly your curiosity. If you like British films/humor, you’ve already added this to your que—where else with you find a character Bilious, oh-god-of-hang-overs…

Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (2006).

Director/Screenplay:  Vadim Jean.

Based on Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, (Discworld Series Book 20).

Out of the United Kingdom.

First broadcast on Sky One (Official  Website).

185 minutes, 2 parts.

IMDb link.

Wiki link.


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