Favorites Friday: Movies from Books

In certain circles, movie adaptations of beloved books are a highly controversial subject!  My expectations are usually low for movie versions of books, because I’ve been disappointed too many times.  But…sometimes the movies do justice to their books–or, dare I say it, even do better!

I visited this topic once before, but I must have been watching (and reading) some good things in the last few years, because I find myself with a few more to add to my own list of great movie adaptations.  In no particular order, and with links to reviews…

sherlock1BBC’s Sherlock

Well, no particular order except for this one!  Something amazing happens here because it’s a huge departure from Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes (like being in a different century) and yet it’s so true to the original too.  I think the key is that the window-dressing (gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages) has changed, but the characters still feel the same…just told through modern story-telling.  Besides, I went on a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour in London, and the guide pointed out that at the time of writing, Holmes was set in the present-day–and it was actually several decades before retellers stopped modernizing, and started placing him in his original decade.

Catching FireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I liked the first movie in this trilogy too, but it was the second that really impressed me.  With some very careful character tweaks, the movie stayed true to the book but made me like Katniss so much better.  What had felt like a girl flailing helplessly became a girl trying her best, and that’s a character I can enjoy much more.

Return of the KingThe Lord of the Rings

I made a conscious decision when I finally read the books to rewatch the movies at the same time (each movie just before the book, in fact).  I enjoyed every book and movie, but I have to give the edge to the movies.  Sorry, Tolkien.  Actually, he might not mind–the movies brought the characters to life for me much more, but since Tolkien’s focus seems to have been on the lore and the history anyway, he might not see that as an issue.

Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey (Masterpiece Theatre)

This is my favorite Austen novel, and the movie is delightfully frothy and fun.  Colin Firth makes us wait six hours for a smile, but Mr. Tilney grins throughout this whole movie.  It also features the wonderful Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe, not to mention one of moviedom’s most adorable first kisses.

Princess BridePrincess Bride

I’m not sure I can think of any other book/movie combination where they feel so completely like they’re exactly the same thing.  It may help that William Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay.  There are some extra details in the book–but the movie has the adorable frame story–and really, everything that’s most important is in both!


Neil Gaiman was being complex and innovative and subverting expectations with some aspects of this story.  The movie decided to be funny and romantic and, yes, more traditional in its pay-offs.  I respect Gaiman, but the movie makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and happy!

Your turn!  What movies do justice to their books?

Sinking Into Gaiman’s Ocean

Ocean at the End of the LaneI have finally read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  If you’ve been following along, you know I was in line at the library for several months!  It’s an odd book, almost a novella, not quite sure if it’s adult or juvenile.  If you’ll let me wax metaphorical for a moment, the book is not unlike the ocean of the title–small yet vast.

The frame story gives us a middle-aged man who comes back to the place where he lived as a child.  He goes out to visit a neighboring farm, and becomes lost in memories by the duck pond–which Lettie Hempstock called her ocean.  He remembers being seven years old, and having a glimpse of a strange, vast world very different than anything he knew.

It’s very hard to explain the plot of this book.  To tell you that it’s about a fight with a monster who slips into our world would be true, but somehow minimize the strangeness and wonder of it.  It is about a monster, and about eleven-year-old Lettie (though she won’t say how long she’s been eleven years old) and about an unnamed narrator who takes comfort in books and eats a lot of delectable meals at the Hempstocks, in between world-shattering terrors.

Maybe it’s hard to talk about the plot because the plot isn’t really the point here.  Rather like some Hitchcock movies, it’s much more about the atmosphere and the character depth.  It’s not really the plot that mattered most to me here (though it’s thoroughly creepy and engaging).  It’s the mysterious Hempstock women (never fully explained) who intrigued me, and it’s the boy-narrator who lives his life in books who drew me in.  And if I read this book again, it’s going to be because of the odd bits of philosophy and little sparks of wisdom and observations about life.

Even though the narrator is seven, don’t come to the conclusion that this must be a book for children of about that age.  Even though it comes in at the child-friendly length of 170 pages, the writing style is sophisticated and mature, and there are at least a few moments that are not child-friendly at all.  And it didn’t feel like 170 pages–it’s not slow, but like Lettie’s ocean, it felt bigger than it looked.  I’ve seen this described as a children’s book and as an adult book; I’ve no idea what Gaiman intended, but I’m calling it a short but lengthy book for adults about a child.

A fun note for Gaiman fans: Lettie went to a magical market at one point, and I like to think it must have been a related franchise to the one you can find in London Below, and the one that goes on near Wall.  A fun note for Doctor Who fans: I spotted at least three ideas that I’m convinced Gaiman must have picked up from Doctor Who episodes.

Don’t open this up looking for a sweet story about a boy on a farm–but if you’re open to a mysterious fantasy with dark undertones, much strangeness and beautiful writing, then it’s well-worth the read…if you can get a hold of it!  At last check, my library still had a hold list 250 people long…

Author’s Site: http://www.neilgaiman.com/

Other reviews:
Bookshelves of Doom
Escape Pod
Mission to Read
Book Riot
Acid Free Pulp
And many, many more.  Tell me about yours and I’ll add a link!

Buy it here: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

What Are You Reading – Mad Excitement Edition

What Are You Reading - ExcitementThis is clearly the most exciting week of the year in reading.  Last week, Shadows by Robin McKinley and Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce both came out.  My library already got me Shadows, and I’m #9 in line for Battle Magic–and the library system ordered ten copies, so I expect to receive it momentarily.

Next Tuesday, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente comes out.  That one I have pre-ordered from Amazon and I’m #1 on reserve at the library, so someone will get it to me quickly (not that I’m obsessive of anything…)

Just for fun, the new Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I’ve been waiting on the library hold list for since June, picked this weekend to finally reach me.  And the list was vastly shorter for his newer book, Fortunately the Milk, so I expect that at any time as well.

To top the whole thing off, I got the proof copy of my own novel, which I’m self-publishing in November (more on that here), so I’m reading through that for typos, weird formatting, and final-final-final edits.

So this week I find myself with a large stack of must-be-read-now books, all competing and clamoring for attention.  It’s such a good thing I don’t have many evening plans coming up… 🙂

What Are You Reading, RIP Edition

What Are You Reading RIPThis past week saw the launch of the latest reading challenge from Carl at Stainless Steep Droppings: the Readers Imbibing Peril autumn reading experience.  This one focuses on the darker side of books, like mysteries, gothic and horror.  Read my launch post here.

I expect my reading to get a bit more shadowy in coming weeks…though not so much just yet, because I have to get some of my shadowy reads from the library still!

Right now I’m midway through The Professor by Charlotte Bronte–because it’s Charlotte Bronte and I madly love Jane Eyre.  So far, I’m not quite sure if I like The Professor, but I like reading it…if that makes any sense!  There’s just something about how Bronte puts words together, and I can’t explain it beyond that.  I’m also reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  It’s a little heavy on the science but is still very readable and has really interesting insights, particularly about how society tends to favor the extrovert ideal…which may not be the right fit for all of us who like curling up alone with books!

Next up I plan to reread the wonderful, amazing, incredible The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, to be followed by its sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  This, of course, is to prepare for the release of Book Three next month: The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  I LOVE those titles!!  I’m counting these books for RIP too, with a creepy autumn scene in the first and lots of shadows in the second.

If it arrives soon enough from my library, I think I’ll read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in between the two Fairyland books.  I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I went to Notre Dame to see Quasi’s gargoyles–and even more since reading Les Miserables.  It’s another good one for RIP too, and for my goal to read more long and intimidating books!

A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde (new) and The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (reread) are a couple I have on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to–and which ought to keep me busy if I finish the others while still waiting on the rest on my library’s hold list.

Speaking of which–I’m up to #44 in line for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  I was #125 when I joined the list, and it’s since grown to 266…not that I’m keeping track or anything.

So much for me!  Visit Book Journey for other What Are You Reading posts.  And…what are you reading?

What Are You Reading, Mostly Montgomery Edition

What Are You Reading - MontgomeryRegular readers know that I’m kind of a fan of L. M. Montgomery.  So it may surprise you that I haven’t read her Emily of New Moon trilogy since I was sixteen!  I’ve reread plenty of others, but it’s been a long time for that one.  So this week I am deep into correcting that oversight.  I’m almost done with the first book, and plan to go right along into Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest.

I find it fascinating to read these after reading Montgomery’s journals, as there are a number of incidents in Emily’s life lifted directly from Montgomery’s own life.  I also find it fascinating that long books always give me qualms, yet I can contemplate reading three books directly in a row, 900 pages total, without batting an eye.  Although since it’s a reread, I do know what I’m getting into too…

After Emily, I plan to jump to another reread and read The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, another favorite I haven’t visited in too long.

Meanwhile at the library, I’m #75 in the hold list for Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is not bad considering I got in line at #125, and there’s currently a hold list of 237.  I’m also planning to continue my series reading, and have on hold Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, and The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, the next book in the Pink Carnation series, which releases on Tuesday.

So much for my reading plans!  Visit Book Journey for other What Are You Reading posts.  And…what are you reading?